Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Karen Thorsen back on SC Tour with Joe Papp

Winder, GA -- 9/9/12
by Karen Thorsen

Hard to believe!  After a two-decade hiatus, I’m back on the Southern Circuit.  The first time was to present my first film, the feature-length documentary, James Baldwin:  The Price Of The Ticket (a co-production with Maysles Films and the PBS series, American Masters).  This time, I’m presenting the feature-length documentary, Joe Papp In Five Acts, a collaboration with my Co-Producer / Co-Director Tracie Holder.  (Papp is also a co-production with PBS/American Masters, in partnership with ITVS and the Papp Project).  In the interest of both logistics and budget, Tracie and I decided to split our Southern Circuit screenings, four for her and four for me.

The first stop for me was Georgia.  I got up at 4AM (yikes) in Connecticut to make an early flight out of NYC to Atlanta, then headed Northeast in my Ford Focus rental (I mention the car model for a reason, to be explained later). The drive was long but relaxing, through Georgia pinewoods and rolling farmland, with a quick stop at Shane’s Rib Shack:  BBQ for breakfast!  I finally arrived in the small city of Winder just after 2PM. 

My hosts were waiting for me in their Cultural Arts Center, an ex-furniture factory turned into a magnificent 225-seat theater and TV studio, complete with dressing room, prop room, and huge spaces for set-building – a perfect setting for a film about Joe Papp and the importance of making the arts accessible for everyone.  Even better, the Center’s Executive Director, Don Wildsmith, turned out to be a retired Navy man who had done plenty of theater while in uniform (just like Joe Papp, who did his first productions on board a WWII aircraft carrier in the Pacific) … and the TV Studio Director, Chris Childs, was (and still is) a recent film studies graduate who had spent months in New York interning with my old alma mater, Maysles Films!

Then came our 3PM screening, a Q&A emceed by Chris Childs and a festive reception for all who attended:  not enough to fill the theater, but apparently the largest crowd they’ve had yet for a film.  Many attendees were theater buffs, excited to discuss Joe Papp because they’ll be doing their own Shakespeare play (“Much Ado About Nothing”) in just a few weeks.

It was a very satisfying first screening–  Right up until I laid my keys, purse and phone on the front seat of my car, turned to give one last hug to my hosts, and the car locked itself shut!  After a fruitless hour on the phone with National Rent-A-Car – who admitted that this happens often, because all 2011 Ford Focus models have a self-locking feature … but who had no quick solution, because Winder was far from any National service center – my hosts finally persuaded a local locksmith to come out on a Sunday.  The result?  A balloon device was inserted in the car’s door frame, the balloon was inflated, a hook was inserted through the space created by the balloon, the door handle was captured – and I was once again ready to make my departure, first to my night’s lodging and then on to the airport, a 4:30AM wake-up (yikes again) in order to catch my flight back to New York in time to prepare for a Monday night screening there.  Moral of the story:  beware the Ford Focus … or think twice before you shut the car door!