Another sign of the growing reach of Upper Valley art is that Thanksgiving week will offer both global and local art associated with the area.
Global first: Devotion, which can safely be called a “major movie”, is being released in Lebanon and Claremont. The story of the friendship of two Korean War fighter pilots was adapted for the screen by Jake Crane, a Woodstock Union High School graduate in 1999.
And the local is an adaptation of the Northern scene Railway kidsA classic British novel set in the White River Crossing during the Great Depression, a production designed to revive the theater company’s tradition of putting on grand holiday entertainment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Living in the Upper Valley through middle and high school, Crane was more interested in basketball and math than art. But a lecturer at Phillips Exeter, where he went to graduate school the year before college, and a screenwriting professor at Vanderbilt University, taught him the power of the written word.
“I never thought there was a career in this,” Crane, 41, said in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and three children. He changed his major from mathematics to economics and took all the theater classes he could. (Vanderbilt didn’t have a film program.)
After graduate school at Columbia University, he worked in New York City reading scripts while working on his own. He adapted a book about World War II, but that script ended up in a drawer after the reorganization of Sony Pictures.
But this led to someone giving him, through his manager, a copy DevotionAdam Macos’ 2014 book about the friendship of two fighter pilots, one a Yankee WASP and the other the son of a Mississippi sharecropper and the first black aircraft carrier pilot in the US Navy.
Having hidden one historical scenario, he did not want to consider another. Screenwriters are paid for what they write, but they also want to see their scripts on screen. Historical films are difficult to make; creating all these scenery and visual effects is expensive.
But he read the book over the weekend and changed his mind by Monday. “It had an effect on me that I did not expect,” he said.
He and his then-writing partner provided a treatment, and the producers preferred their version over the others they received.
They were hired to write two drafts, which they completed by the end of 2018. It may have ended there, but Crane’s agent also represented J.D. Dillard, whose father was the second African-American from the Navy’s famed Blue Angels. precision flight team.
Crane and Dillard wrote a new draft of the script, and Crane was hired as an on-set writer, which was a new experience for him.
“I’ve never been so scared as I was reading at the table,” he said. Hearing what he wrote coming out of the mouths of the actors was unnerving. “Even on set it’s ‘Oh no, I wrote this and it doesn’t feel right.’ ”
Devotion opened nationwide on Wednesday, and publicity for the film was inevitable, backed by the blockbuster’s marketing budget. The book was full of action and Crane was told to think big when he adapted it.
The script he’s working on now is definitely smaller, an adaptation of sportswriter Bill Plaschke’s book about the Paradise, California, high school football team that spurred the city’s rebuilding after a devastating 2018 camp fire that burned it to the ground.
Crane’s family is still in the Upper Valley, including his brother Noah, who owns the Upper Valley Nighthawks, a college summer league baseball team. He hopes to host a local screening Devotionjust as Hanover native Julian Higgins brought his recent film, God’s Countryto the Hopkins Center for viewing and questions and answers.
Staging of the Northern Stage Railway kids already here, in previews ahead of the premiere on Saturday.
Carol Dunn first encountered Edith Nesbit’s 1905 short story while in London with students at the Dartmouth Theatre. She read it to her children when they were little.
For the 25th anniversary season of the Northern Stage, the company wanted to do something special, and this story came to my mind. The company has discovered that the book is now in the public domain, meaning it can be adapted without the high cost of buying the rights.
Dunn brought in Jane Shaw for sound design, while Shaw suggested Mark Hartman, with whom she was working on another project. While Dunn and Eric Bunge adapted the play to the White River Crossing location, Shaw and Hartman wrote the songs.
In its own way, the result is as global as Devotion: The play written here with original music has what can rightfully be called a world premiere.
Railway kids also explores how global events affect small places. It tells the story of a family moving from the city to the countryside and is meant to pay tribute to the Upper Valley’s resilience during the pandemic.
“It’s such a close-knit community that we wanted this play to parallel what we’ve all been through the last couple of years,” Dunn said.
Dunn noted that this game and season is a challenge. It is estimated that 30% of theater workers have left the profession in the last two years, especially in the technical field. The North Stage is still understaffed. Therefore, she is especially grateful that this show will see the light of day.
Theater companies rarely tell stories about their communities, partly out of fear that the play won’t travel or be staged elsewhere.
“We really didn’t want to think about it right now,” Dunn said.
It is enough to think about the house during the holidays.
For more information about the Northern Stage production of Children of the Railroad, visit northstage.org.
The anonymous coffee shop returns to Lebanon’s First Congregational Church at 7:30 p.m. Friday with performances by Nashville-based singer-songwriter Sam Robbins; The Rough & Tumble, husband and wife folk duo; and Jaded Ravins, another married duo who play electrifying folk rock. Admission is free, musicians are given a headdress.
Third issue of the magazine Almanac of Vermont should be in local bookstores, according to the announcement of the Corinthian edition. In the absence of other publications explaining the state and its ideals, Almanac A must-read, featuring the work of over 70 writers and artists. Go to vermontalmanac.org for more information.
Alex Hanson can be contacted at [email protected] or by phone at 603-727-3207.