LIGHTS, CAM­ERA, AC­TION! Movie mak­ers bring abo­li­tion­ist Fred­er­ick Dou­glass back to the stage at New­town The­atre

The Advance of Bucks County - - NEWTOWN AREA - By Pe­tra Ch­es­ner Sch­lat­ter

NEW­TOWN BOR­OUGH – Set against a rich red vel­vet stage cur­tain, a scene is be­ing shot with an ac­tor por­tray­ing abo­li­tion­ist and or­a­tor cred­er­ick Dou­glass.

There’s an air of ex­cite­ment inside WKH 1HwWRwQ TKHDWUH wKHUH fiOP FUHwV, equipped with lights, cam­eras and sound boards, are cap­tur­ing the mo­ment for a new in­de­pen­dent movie, “The North Star.”

The voice of ger­maine games, a for­mer FRQWHVWDQW RQ “APHULFDQ ,GRO,” fiOOV WKH the­atre with the song, “I want gesus to walk with me.”

Up on stage, heith David plays the part of a very stern-look­ing Dou­glass. The Em­myaward win­ning and Tony-nom­i­nated David looks just like the for­mer slave, com­plete with the trade­mark full head of hair and se­ri­ous face seen in so many por­traits of the ac­tivist. The ac­tor/vo­cal­ist is sport­ing a tie and jacket of the 1840s.

BDVHG RQ WUuH HvHQWV, WKH fiOP LV VHW LQ WKH 1840s and is about a slave named Big Ben gones. Big Ben es­capes a Vir­ginia plan­ta­tion and makes his way north to free­dom by fol­low­ing the North Star.

He ends up in Bucks County where he is helped by lo­cal nu­ak­ers. There are pic­tures in the Spru­ance Li­brary of the Mercer Mu­seum in Doylestown of the house where Big Ben lived.

Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records, Big Ben was re­port­edly an enor­mous man, stand­ing at least 6’11” tall.

The for­mer slave also was known for his huge feet. A re­cently-taken pub­lic­ity VKRW SRVWHG RQ WKH fiOP’V wHEVLWH, www. thenorth­star.com, shows seven mem­bers of the cast and crew, in­clud­ing di­rec­tor/ screen­writer Thomas Phillips, hold­ing one of Big Ben’s ac­tual shoes out­side of the Mercer Mu­seum.

The char­ac­ter of Big Ben is por­trayed in the movie by geremiah Trot­ter, a for­mer Philadel­phia Ea­gles line­backer.

TKH fiOP LV DGDSWHG IRU WKH VFUHHQ Ey Thomas Phillips, who was born and raised in Doylestown.

Phillips, who wrote the script in 2005, is WKH GLUHFWRU RI WKH fiOP.

Pro­duc­ers are Clifton Pow­ell, Nathan cile and gessie games gack­son gr. Pow­ell por­trayed Martin Luther hing gr. in “Selma, Lord, Selma.”

As­sis­tant di­rec­tor Drew Pow­ell was savRULQJ WKH PRPHQW GuULQJ D EUHDN LQ fiOPing at the the­atre. “As an African Amer­i­can, I’m re­ally amazed that I’m stand­ing ex­actly where cred­er­ick Dou­glass spoke,” said Pow­ell, who lives in Los Angeles.

“There’s so much his­tory here,” Pow­ell said, adding that help­ing “to bring it to life” and “to feel it” is much bet­ter than read­ing about it.

CDVW DV HxWUDV LQ WKH fiOP wHUH VRPH mem­bers of the New­town Arts Com­pany, re-en­ac­tors, chil­dren from a mod­el­ing

school and New­town Bor­ough’s very own Mayor Den­nis O’Brien, who in­tro­duces “the great cred­er­ick Dou­glass” in the movie.

“I in­vited these folks to take a look at the the­atre,” O’Brien said. “It is part of New­town’s his­tory,” he said.

Billy Hill and Holly Wil­son of Ambler are re­lated to the late Bill Hill who was well-known in New­town. They DrH HxWrDs in WhH fiOP. 6RPH RI WhHir rel­a­tives rest at Mt. Gilead in Buckingham where for­mer slaves are buried.

:iOsRn sDiG shH hHDrG DbRuW WhH fiOP on Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio. “I wanted to be part of it be­cause it is part of my her­itage,” she said. “I’m do­ing it for my grand­son.”

BHinJ pDrW RI WhH fiOP is D GrHDP­come-true for young­ster Grace Matwi­jec of New­town, who hap­pily was one RI WhH HxWrDs. 6hH wDs GrHssHG in D long for­mal laven­der dress, which was dec­o­rated with small match­ing satin rRsHbuGs. 6hH wRrH D whiWH rib­bRn in her hair.

6hH is 9-yHDrs-ROG DnG wiOO bH D IRurWh-JrDGHr DW 6W. AnGrHw EGuFDWiRn Cen­ter.

Grace is no stranger to per­form­ing. 6hH pODyHG WhH pDrW RI GrDFiH 6hinn in “The Mu­sic Man,” re­cently staged by the New­town Arts Com­pany on the same stage where a por­tion of “The 1RrWh 6WDr” wDs fiOPHG.

“To­day, we’re go­ing to a talk of some­body who wants to free slaves,” she said. “It’s cred­er­ick Dou­glass.”

Ni­cole Cas­tor of Doylestown brought her daugh­ters, Anna, 10, and Mia, 8, to bH in WhH fiOP. “7hHy wHrH HxWrDs FDsW to­day,” said Cas­tor, who learned about “7hH 1RrWh 6WDr” IrRP /RRN 0RGHOinJ Agency in Doylestown.

“It’s just a tremen­dous ex­pe­ri­ence IRr WhHP WR bH in D pHriRG fiOP,” shH said.

7hH fiOP’s wHb­siWH, www.WhHnRrWh­star­movie.com, pro­vides a look at the di­rec­tor’s back­ground:

Thomas Phillips at­tended cair­mont 6WDWH 8nivHr­siWy DnG :HsW VirJiniD 8nivHr­siWy, whHrH hH sWuGiHG HGuFD­tion.

He started in the arts as an ac­tor/musiFiDn, spHnGinJ sHvHrDO yHDrs in /Rs Angeles hon­ing his craft and be­gin­ninJ D TuHsW WR OHDrn WhH DrW RI fiOP­mak­ing.

cor­tu­nate enough to be on set with some of the lead­ing di­rec­tors in the in­dus­try, Phillips took the op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve, learn and de­velop his own style.

:iWh “7hH 1RrWh 6WDr,” PhiOOips hDs a “clear vi­sion and pas­sion for this com­pelling story.”

Dur­ing a break in film­ing at the New­town The­atre, Ac­tor Keith David, who por­trays abo­li­tion­ist Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, talks with New­town Bor­ough Mayor Den­nis O’Brien. The mayor has a small part in “The North Star.” In the back­ground is writer/di­rec­tor Thomas Phillips.

Grace Matwi­jec, 9, of New­town was one of the lo­cal ex­tras in the film shoot.

Anna, 10, and Mia Cas­tor, 8, of Doylestown.

Bruce Si­rak of Burling­ton, N.J. and Delores Jor­dan of Philadel­phia were ex­tras in “The North Star.” (Photo by Pe­tra Ch­es­ner Sch­lat­ter)

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