A San Anselmo student film explores race and class in the early 1900s Marin

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  • Actors star in a scene from “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

  • Dora Zhang stars in a scene from “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

  • Fiona Martin, left, and Oona Clark perform in a scene from “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

  • Lily Cline runs to China Camp in a scene from “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

  • Nina Polyakova stars in a scene from “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

  • Actors star in a scene from “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. From left to right: Olivia Williams, Brooke O’Connell, Sinead Murphy, Lily Broll. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

  • Lily Broll stars in “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

  • Xiaoyang Wang stars in a scene from “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film directed by students from San Domenico School in San Anselmo. Erica Smith, a dance and drama teacher at the school, led the project. (San Domenico School)

The premiere of “Forgotten Voices”, a musical film shot on location in Marin, is scheduled for this weekend at San Domenico School in San Anselmo.

The production, which includes scenes from China Camp State Park in San Rafael, Angel Island and the school’s bucolic campus, was written, produced and directed by 14 students under the direction of Erica Smith, director of arts at the school. dance and theater of San Domenico.

“It took 14 months to do it,” said Smith, who came up with the idea for an original musical in August 2020. “We started in September 2020.”

The students created the show and film while attending Smith’s class on making musicals. Neither Smith nor the students had done anything like this before.

“We met three times a week for an hour and a half each time,” Smith said. “We had to stage it outside because of COVID. “

Due to the pandemic, classes were held on Zoom. To avoid the actors having to wear masks during the final cut, the cameramen filmed each actor individually, then glued the shots together in the editing room, according to former student Marlena High, production manager and stage manager of the film. .

“For me, the hardest part of creating ‘Forgotten Voices’ was trying to tell the story and create the movie without being held back by COVID,” High said this week from Chicago, where she is. at film school. She graduated from San Domenico in June.

“It was difficult to have an image in mind that it would be impossible to take safely and to have to completely abandon the idea or find ways to get around it,” she said.

Six students wrote songs and music for the production. Phil Schroeder, a professional songwriter, helped polish the songs – even incorporating a ukulele from a student’s song into a musical tour de force, according to Smith.

“It’s beautiful,” said Smith, a former professional dancer and actor who has been in San Domenico for 18 years.

The film tells the story of four families – some of the upper class Marin, inmates during the Chinese burial at Angel Island. Family figures intersect as they struggle to cope with the racial and political turmoil of the early 1900s, Marin.

“The Zoom class quickly became a passionate workshop of debate and discussion that crystallized into three topics: Chinese immigrants detained on Angel Island, the last of the villagers of Camp China, and the high society of San Rafael in the early ten. -nine cents, “Smith wrote. in a letter to parents.

For example, one story tells the story of an upper-class resident of San Rafael who was ill and secretly arranged to see a Chinese doctor at the Chinese camp.

In another cross-cultural story, an upper-class white Marin woman goes against her family’s standards to get engaged to an Asian man.

“This is my first time writing the melody, the screenplay and participating in the creation,” said Xiaoyang Wang, a student actor in the film. “Especially when I was playing my great-grandfather, it made me feel connected to home in a foreign country.”

Wang added that the making of the film was culturally significant to him.

“As I write the stories that I have learned that have been left behind, it becomes a responsibility,” he said. “A responsibility to bring forgotten voices to the attention of all.”

He added that he felt “real nostalgia for the land” when he saw Angel Island again after finishing the film.

“Forgotten Voices” is scheduled to screen once Friday and three times Saturday at the school’s Carol Frank Buck Hall of the Arts. Theater capacity is limited to 25% due to pandemic restrictions. The Friday show is sold out.

Ticket information is available at sd-forgottenvoices.weebly.com.


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