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Pine Tree High School theater students prepared Tuesday to shoot a short historical comedy about legendary inventor Thomas Edison, with a special audience member in attendance.
Actress Linda Gray, best known for her role as Sue Ellen Ewing on the television drama series “Dallas,” took in the technical rehearsal Tuesday and had glowing things to say about the theater department merging of stage and film acting. “I think it is phenomenal,” Gray said. “For me it always starts with the words. It makes people think. How are they going to project it? It’s innovative. I love schools that give students a chance like this. The human spirit is being conveyed.” Gray said she had never been to Longview before Tuesday. “Seeing all of the grass and the trees excites me,” she said. “It is so much different than being in Dallas.”
As an actress who has had success in film and on stage, Gray said she thinks aspiring actors and actresses should be involved in both forms. “An actor should aspire to do both stage and film so you are not locked into one medium,” she said. “The stage gives immediate feedback, and I think it is more lifelike. With film, you have edits and take after take, and sometimes you don’t know what the finished product will be. But we are all projecting to give audience entertainment.”
Tailoring her actions and words for both stage and film acting for the first time, Pine Tree senior Bethany Irvine played the role of a newspaper reporter tasked with interviewing Edison, played by Robert Valentine.
“It is slightly strange because, as a stage actress, you are trained to focus on the audience, but film is more about facial expressions and being realistic,” she said. “But this is something we have been working toward for the last two weeks.”
Senior Steven Mick played Edison’s assistant. “This has been pretty fun,” Mick said. “It’s different but it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Mick said he plans to attend Stephen F. Austin State University and major in film or theater. The chance to meet Gray, he said, was a pleasant surprise. “It’s good to meet someone who is doing something you want to do,” he said.
Pine Tree faculty member Allen Morris said the goal for Tuesday’s production is a made for YouTube movie. Morris has helped Pine Tree theater director Travis House in directing the movie.
“This is a look into Mr. Thomas Edison’s lab as he works on one of his inventions,” Morris said. “I asked him (Valentine) to rework this show to include students. This is us teaching ourselves the process to make other movies. But this is the first time to do this shtick in front of a camera.”
The cast and crew filmed the movie at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Pine Tree High School theater as part of the district’s first Innovation Showcase. While Irvine and Mick were in front of the cameras, junior Arthur Dixon and others were behind them. “We have been doing camera work for a few weeks,” Dixon said. “But we are doing a three camera production for the first time. A lot of TV shows have three cameras to get different angles. It has been very fun.”
Pine Tree ISD Superintendent T.J. Farler said the production represented the district’s push to enhance the abilities and knowledge of its students. “We are really working to create unusual and engaging experiences for our students,” she said. “To create unusually well rounded students is the goal.”