Blog : May 2010

RIP, Dennis Hopper

Posted by eddie

 | in Theatre

Dennis Hopper was one of my heroes. I had the good fortune to know him a bit – Rick and I made a documentary about him (Autobiography>Dennis Hopper).  He was an original thinker, an artist to the core, and he had a big heart.

He’s also a towering example of the importance of school and community drama programs. Growing up in Dodge, Kansas and then going to high school in San Diego, Hopper got involved with acting at an early age by participating in children’s and local theater. (His mother helped push him.)

Hopper went on to star in some of the biggest and most important movies ever made: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956), Easy Rider (1969), Apocalypse Now (1979), Blue Velvet (1984), Hoosiers, (1984).

Sure, he was a controversial and outspoken character. But he also lived life to the fullest. I remember asking him if he’d do anything different, if he had a chance to live life over again. He said, “What’s the point? I mean, I did what I wanted, didn’t I?” And then he laughed his crazy Dennis Hopper laugh.

Hopper died last week, age 74. Rest in peace, Dennis. You will surely be missed.

Local Actress, 13, Featured in BIFF Program

May 27, 2010


Elizabeth Gale, a resident of Hillsdale, is one of the brightest stars of the family documentary ‘School Play’, screening as part of this year’s ‘Free Films for Kids’ program at the Berkshire International Film Festival. Filmed when she was in the 4th grade, Gale is the youngest of five featured actors seen struggling through their elementary school production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

While ‘School Play’ was Gale’s first film, it’s not likely to be her last.  Now a seventh-grader at the Hawthorne Valley School in Harlemville, the diminutive Elizabeth is represented by a New York City agent and goes on frequent auditions (most recently she was seen for the new Coen Brother’s film ‘True Grit’). But theatre and dance remains her first love: she’s a veteran of five plays, and is a regular fixture at ‘The Pulse’ dance studio in Housatonic.

“Elizabeth lives for the arts”, says her mother, Julie Gale, who gives gourmet cooking classes from their Hillsdale home. “She’s been seeing art shows and theatre and dance performances virtually since the day she was born. It’s just a part of her DNA.


The value of the arts in education is one of several themes that run through ‘School Play’. While on the surface it’s a film about the trials and tribulations of the ‘Oz’ production, the filmmakers take us into the home of each child, allowing us a first-hand view of how this multi-dimensional mix survives the pressure of growing up. We quickly see that the interior lives of these 'tweens are as complex and chaotic as any adults (except adults are rarely so honest or so vulnerable in their musings). Ultimately what is confirmed is the utter power of art to transform and illuminate life.

“Audiences around the country really love the film”, says co-director Rick Velleu, “and I think Elizabeth–who’s utterly charming–is a major reason why.  That, and I think people are surprised at how funny and entertaining a documentary can be.”

Of ‘Free Films for Kids’, BIFFMA Executive Assistant Lauren Ferin emphasized the importance of hosting the program at the Mahaiwe Theatre. “We’re really trying to grow the next generation of film lovers”, Ferin said. “So this year we not only have a great lineup of films, but we want kids to be wowed by the beauty of the venue”. Showing just before ‘School Play’ is a series of animated shorts entitled ‘Kid Flix Mix 2009’.

‘School Play’, which has garnered three ‘Best Documentary’ Awards at festivals nationwide, will be screened at Great Barrington’s historic Mahaiwe Theatre on Sunday, June 6th at 12:00 pm.  

Tickets are free, and Gale (along with the directors and several other cast members) will answer questions following the film. 

To view a trailer of ‘School Play’ go to


Posted by rick

 | in Education

"The current rage in education is STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But creative types are working valiantly to turn STEM into STEAM – with the A standing for the arts. At the Boston Arts Academy, for instance, the arts are infused in every subject. While creative pursuits are often the first to go when budgets are cut, this high school continues to innovate as it engages students through the arts."

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