Silent film making its comeback on Provo stage

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Photo courtesy of Melissa Leilani Larson
Photo courtesy of Melissa Leilani Larson

It is difficult to imagine films without an abundance of special effects, let alone an era in which films were absolutely silent apart from the ramshackle sounds of a film reel and piano accompaniment.

Set during this silent film period of the early 1900s, a new production titled “A Flickering” will be performed by a UVU-dominated cast at the Provo Theatre April 8—19. The brainchild of Melissa Leilani Larson, award-winning playwright, screenwriter  and teacher in the UVU Theatre Arts Department, the play introduces audience members to a bygone era full of dilemmas and comedic drama similar to what we experience in modern times.

“I think the fact that the play takes place in a period we don’t often talk about — it’s set in Brooklyn and New York City in 1916 — will be enjoyable to people, as it can serve as an introduction to that time and place. Movies are so much a part of our pop culture that it’s nice to take a step back and look at where things started,” Larson said.

Spoiled by today’s cinematography, one might wonder “Why the first stages of film? What does this period have to offer us when we have progressed so much further than they were able to initially?” Larson no doubt sees value in early cinema because it not only gave birth to contemporary film but also required more from those involved.

“I have been fascinated by silent film for quite some time. It’s so very different from what we see and feel in the movies today. It’s actually very theatrical — meaning that watching old films feels like watching a play — because so many of the actors were professional theatre actors and had that training. It’s a really interesting period to explore academically and creatively,” Larson said.

Responding to the appearance of unnecessarily “tacked-on” multimedia forms in recent productions she’s seen, Larson was inspired to dissent from the trend and create a production about film without relying on film or other mediums to do the job of the cast.

“We have some very talented actors who are able to take the comedy and drama that I hope is inherent in the script and bring it to new levels that a wide variety of people can enjoy,” Larson said. “We’ve had a very effective rehearsal process, and I think people will be impressed by the level of talent that this show is putting forth, and that so much of it is coming from UVU.”

Focused on the ethical questions that commonly surface within artistic lines-of-work, the production is said to inspire introspection with lighter tones of humor throughout.

“There were several potent messages at the front of my mind while drafting the play; if an audience member hits on any of those, if they take it away with them to chew on it for a while, then I’m happy,” Larson said. “The hope is that people are also entertained by what they see. The show is a lot of fun; everyone from the director to the designers and cast have worked very hard on this production. And, ooh — we have a live piano! It’s going to be great.”

Tickets are available at the box office one hour prior to the show or online at Tickets are $12 with exceptions made for students, seniors, and educators for whom tickets cost $10.

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