Volunteer cast, crew sought for Bates film project

Paul Kuritz, a professor of theater at Bates College, seeks volunteer actors and film crewmembers to join him and members of the Bates community in creating a screen adaptation of “A New Life,” a short story by Mary Ward Brown.

Kuritz, who has taught at Bates since 1978, is the film’s producer, director and screenwriter. Shooting for the 20-minute piece begins this spring. To volunteer for the production or learn more about it, contact him at this pkuritz@bates.edu or write him at Bates College, 302 Schaeffer Theatre, Lewiston, ME 04240.

Author of three well-regarded books on acting and theatrical history, Kuritz in recent years has studied filmmaking and film directing at the International Film and Digital Video Workshops in Rockport. “A New Life” will serve to test his abilities as part of the process of developing a new Bates course on acting and directing for the camera.

“More people watch films and make films than watch or make theater,” he says. “More students are interested in film, in how to make films. So I think I should take my knowledge and skill in directing for theater and see how it can be shifted over to film.”

Brown, author of the short story that Kuritz has adapted for the film, was born in 1917 and is a lifelong Alabaman. She uses understated language and minimal word counts to achieve a surprising eloquence in her explorations of the culture clash between the old and new South. “A New Life” was published in the 1986 collection “Tongues of Flame,” which won the 1987 PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award.

The story of a young widow whose grief drives her to seek comfort from a group of Christians, “A New Life” lent itself readily to screen adaptation, Kuritz says. It’s short, with a small number of characters and settings, he explains, and “it’s pretty cinematic in its imagery. There’s a lot of dialogue already, and very vivid but brief character descriptions.”

In addition, the rural Southern setting “translates pretty well to parts of Maine,” he says. “I was looking for a story that could be set realistically in Maine.”

Kuritz will take as his cinematic model the classic Hollywood style of such directors as John Ford, Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock — steady camera work, a measured pace and rich compositions. He will shoot the piece in digital video.

Volunteers are crucial to the production of “A New Life,” for which Kuritz has virtually no budget. The situation is ideal, he says, for “people who like making movies and want to network with a place that will be making movies in the future.”

While Bates has no formal film/video production program and few fiction films have been produced at the college, Bates students and faculty have created a number of documentaries. “For the Love of Small Scale,” a documentary about Maine agriculture created by four Bates students, was one of 10 winners in the 2005 Maine Documentary Film Competition, part of the annual Maine International Film Festival.

Kuritz teaches stage acting and directing at Bates and directs one of the theater department’s two annual productions. In fall 2005 he directed “The Taming of the Shrew,” and his previous directorial projects include the musical “Swingtime Canteen” (2004), Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (2002) and a stage adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” (2001).

A Lewiston resident, he is the author of “Fundamental Acting: A Practical Guide” (Applause Theatre Books, 1997), “The Making of Theatre History” (Prentice Hall, 1987) and “Playing: An Introduction to Acting” (Prentice Hall, 1982).

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