Film poster

Film poster

Friday, September 30, 2011

New England: Victories and Crisis

Manchester airport--Tim and Mary
(production assistant )
As we left for NH, Maine, and Massachusetts, the weather prediction was rain all weekend. But amazingly, after rain and drizzle the first night, the sky kept clearing when we needed to shoot footage, and it was actually beautiful for parts of some days--yielding some really great footage! 

Green Acre hall, before we presented
Arrival at Green Acre: I kissed the ground, as usual, and ran into so many special people I thought my heart would burst!  We were invited to present something on our film on Fri. evening, and the people there (gathered for authenticity weekend) were quite receptive! 
Diane, in communication mode
Staying with Diane and Stephen Brandon was a real treat, their hospitality so nurturing. . . . 

Tim had envisioned a scene with an antique car driving through Eliot. Finding a car was challenging--but finally I knocked on the door of a man we had heard of--and he was quite willing to take us down dirt roads in his 1930s car. I told Tim it wouldn't matter--it still looked old. But he said everyone would know the difference between a 1912 car and a 1930 car! So he just shot from the inside. 

We shot the old trolley depot, which used to be at the entrance to Green Acre (now in field next to Rosemary Cottage).  
We went to the "Pines" where early Green Acre classes were taught. 

Left, the "Persian pine"--now a stump.

We shot in Abdu'l-Baha's room . . . 
                                                                                       went to the Eliot Festival. . . . 

and drove on to Dublin, to stay with Nancy and Michael Reimer. I realized as we were driving there late at night, I had forgotten to tell Nancy that Mary was with us. "Oh, there's three of you!" she said, when she came out to the car to greet us. "We picked up a hitchhiker," I joked. If you can imagine doing this late at night in the fog on a small, dark New Hampshire road in 2011, you can imagine the surprise on Nancy's face, but I quickly explained and apologized. Mary was fine on the living room couch!

Our day in Dublin was truly one of the best days of my entire life. We were greeted by Ruthie and Phil, caretakers of the Dublin Inn. They had prepared lavender tea and cornbread for us--and the table was graced with dried herbs.  Four of us dressed up and took photos in the house and on the grounds. 


The Inn was magnificent--and the church as well. At first it seemed we were too late to get into the sanctuary (though we had gotten prior permission), but then magically one of the church people showed up and let us in. It already seemed to be a synchronous confluence of aspects--and then a friend of mine, Julie Swan, happened by and stopped to meet us. 

Then, wonder of wonders, a model T pulled into the general store and Tim and Mary sent me over to ask if the owner would be willing to come over to the Inn to be videotaped. He agreed!  His wife came into the Inn for tea and cornbread, and the husband donned a costume and drove back and forth up to the Inn, in our little scene with the car.  What timing! Was it Agnes Parsons or 'Abdu'l-Baha arranging things for us? 

We got shots of Agnes' boat dock and also her grave, then went to the train depot at Harrisville, where Abdu'l-Baha arrived . . .

Grave of Agnes Parsons 
Depot at Harrisville

 Worchester: we managed to find and get footage of Clark University--the building where the Master spoke, just before sundown, after our stunning day in Dublin, NH. 

We had exquisite hospitality with Ramin and Diana Abrishamian in Needham and then with Carol and Dave Weigert in Malden. This was a blessing--and such a support!
Brookline: Ramin took us to the White Mansion, where there is a plaque commemorating Abdul-Baha's visit. A curious and rather miraculous series of events occurred there, while Tim was taking footage of the building and grounds.  I had climbed the steps up to the bench on the hill behind the house and felt a special presence there. Then, a little dog came out of nowhere and was following us around. Concerned it was lost, we started meeting some of the residents until one of them suggested we talk to the facility manager. Mary knocked on his door. 

He came out & found the dog's owner, then asked about our project.  He lit up when we told him--he said he had been keeping the grounds special because he knew that one day the Baha'is would come to have commemorations there. He knew a Baha'i in Florida (Cap Cornwall--also someone I know) and had heard that Abdu'l-Baha had given a talk on that spot--the bench is actually like a small amphitheatre with a raised platform, and a voice projected there is amplified and resonant. 
John Nolan
He said that we should stand there and see how it sounded, which we did. He said that Abdu'l-Baha had given that powerful quote "so great is the light of unity . . . " on that spot. He quoted it! His name is John Nolan--and I am sure he can be reached through the condominium association!  He feels that the Baha'is should partner with the current owners to preserve the mansion. 

Art Institute of New England
(We also visited the Art Institute of New England--my sister school there--where I would love to teach!) 

Tremont Temple 

BOSTON: We saw Joy Street but didn't get a chance to stop there to find the former Metaphysical Club, as we had an appointment at the Tremont Temple. We found Tremont Temple and shot the outside, but could not get permission to shoot inside the sanctuary, even though I had asked in advance; the minister had never gotten back to the secretary. Our parking, for the hour we were there, was $26.  

We felt impelled to go on to Malden--but a terrible thing happened on a bridge--we were rear-ended in our rental car. We had to wait for a police report (and yes, there were firetrucks and an ambulance that arrived), so this really set us back.  The whole trip home for me was in "recovery mode." 

Wilson House today
Wilson House, then
Malden: We arrived at Wilson House, and Tim shot that and Madame Morey’s house.  I had to go on the airport, but Tim and Mary enjoyed spending time with Dave and Carol and attending Feast. There was definitely a special presence there in Malden!

We did not get to find several sites in Boston we had wanted to--such as the lions in front of the Copley Plaza Hotel whose ears the Master whispered into. 

Seashore: Tim found an ocean spot and took footage there, rather than going back into Boston.  They had a lovely last day--the whole trip yielding such victories (along with crisis--is that a necessary part to offset all of the wonders?) 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Collaboration on Script!

Note Photo of Abdu'l-Baha in mirror
 We have a new collaborator--Gary Lindberg from Minneapolis!  He flew down to spend the weekend brainstorming on the script and will help construct it. Such a productive day, today! But daunting--the whole of our endeavor. . . .

Monday, September 5, 2011

Magic Lantern

As we were filming at Staples, Rosanne (Eliot archivist) and I were looking at the original photo we were trying to replicate. We noted that in the photo were several of the lanterns that were hung to welcome Abdu'l-Baha to Green Acre--along the road leading to the Inn and on the porch of Staples. 

As we were wishing for a lantern to hang, a box was put in my hands. I opened it, and it was the only ORIGINAL lantern that we know exists,  brought over by Mara & Paris Khavari, who own it. 

The amazing thing is that we hadn't needed it before that moment, and we didn't need it on other shoots--only then!  I knew that the Khavaris had the lantern, but not that they would be bringing it over. 
 It seemed miraculous, how it was delivered right at the moment we needed it!  
Surely this is a confirmation the film is meant to come to fruition. . . . 

Fred Mortensen

Of course one of the most interesting stories of people who met `Abdu'l-Bahá at Green Acre is the story of Fred Mortensen. A man with a rough past, Fred learned of the Faith from his lawyer Albert Hall when he was in jail--and when he heard about `Abdu'l-Bahá determined to see Him. So, he rode the rods--under and on top of trains--to get to Boston and then up to Green Acre. I won't divulge the whole story here--but as you can imagine, the Master asked how his trip was and Fred, reluctant to tell Him how he came, did so. `Abdu'l-Bahá showered him with love and acceptance and even kissed his dirty hat.

We shot a scene in the Inn re-enacting just a suggestion of this--the society men and women showing disapproval of Fred, and Fred's encounter with `Abdu'l-Bahá--suggested, of course!  We found a great actor to play Fred--a "Canadian" from Iceland!

interpreter gesturing for "Fred" to go in to see the Master

"Fred" at his meeting with the Master

Fred getting hair gel

Directing the scene (Fred with society people) 
shooting Fred's dirty hat


Green Acre Days

My visit to Green Acre this year coincided with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit of 1912!  If only I had come 99 years earlier . . . or could re-visit, in a proper time machine, not just through research and imagination!

As usual, I kissed the ground upon arrival, as did my cohort, Louise King, who had flown with me.  It was well past midnight, and the dew upon the grass was a welcome balm after the drought of Texas.  My knees got wet; I assume hers did, too.  Kissing the earth there was sweet indeed--I have experienced that in every season, through mud, through snow. . . . A strange ritual, but as the Master calls Green Acre the "Acca of the Western world," I fall into an immediate entrancement there.

Louise with costumes
I was staying in the new hall--named after Harry Randall--and had a large room with three beds, which I promptly filled up with books, papers, hats and costumes!  Louise was on the fourth floor of the Inn, so we carried her bags up the stairs in that beloved old building.

I was there to give classes--but so much else occurred! Calvin came up from Baltimore, to shoot video. We created "historic" recreations--at the Inn, at Ole Bull, at Staples.

Can you recognize any of these "early" believers?

 My dear friend Don Alusic came, with his camera, and we shot some interviews.  Kathy Hogenson, below, who wrote the new book, Lighting the Western Sky: The Hearst Pilgrimage and the Establishment of the Baha'i Faith in the West, did a great interview!

Nancy Aldrich Reimer also came and did an interview on Dublin, which was marvelous. Don Streets was interviewed as well!

                                    Calvin and I were a good team for this part of the journey!