Behind the scenes of The Zephyr Theatre’s film nights

The Gazette, May 3, 2019

Behind the scenes of The Zephyr Theatre’s film nights

The Zephyr Theatre is a professional organization that produces a wide range of its own performing arts events and productions, while also fostering artistic partnerships. Soon after the Zephyr’s Artistic Director Calyssa Hall set up headquarters for live theatre and music in Stillwater in 2016, film enthusiast Jerry Clark founded the St. Croix Film Society in 2017 and was looking for a home.

“I had this idea of starting up an independent film theatre for a few years, but struggled to find a space that was economically viable,” said Clark. “Through a mutual friend I found Calyssa and we discussed the idea of having films screened at the Zephyr. I love their mission and wanted to help round out the programming!” Thus, the union of stage and screen was born at The Zephyr Theatre.

Clark said he fell in love with classic and independent film as a young man, developing a passion for the works of directors Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa, and John Ford, among others.

“I think film is quite possibly the most powerful art form,” said Clark. “Combining the visual aspects with language and music brings in all the key components of human communication. It has the ability to be well planned so that the artist can most clearly present their vision. It only lacks the beauty of the live performance aspect where the artist can directly interact with the audience. That being said, I still hold my belief that film is the truest execution of a singular artist’s vision.”

Clark added that he has “found so much joy in film, I wanted to share that with the people of Stillwater.”

Clark was raised in Stillwater by his mother, a music teacher, and his father, who taught shop class. He graduated from Stillwater High School in 1995, and earned a degree in journalism with a minor in physics from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. While at the university, he “had a blast” as a DJ, as well as a music and news director, for WRFW radio.

His skill set also includes being a freelance journalist, wood and metal worker, photographer, pianist, and trumpet player. He has also done a bit of independent film making himself.

Besides managing the film society at The Zephyr Theatre, Clark works for Andersen Windows in an administrative position, and is a member of St. Johns Masonic Lodge in Stillwater.

After the completion of Stillwater Summer Tuesdays’ run of films at dusk in Lowell Park, July 9 through Aug. 20, Clark said he is considering screening family films on Tuesdays at The Zephyr Theatre during the winter months, while continuing classic and independent films on Wednesdays.

Inspired by the film world from many angles, one of Clark’s favorite quotes comes from “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” a parody and homage to Jacques Cousteau. Here, Clark connects to Zissou’s wonder of filmmaking: “Well, we don’t know what’s going to happen, and then we film it—that’s the whole concept!”

Upcoming film nights

The St. Croix Film Society presents films on the second and fourth Wednesdays from August to April at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N. in Stillwater. Film nights start with a 6 p.m. social hour with free popcorn, a 7 p.m. short film and a 7:30 p.m. feature film. Clark chooses themes for the screenings each month that showcase certain film genres, works of specific directors, or chosen stars.

There are also special film showings to be scheduled throughout the summer months, including screenings of local independent films.

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May Zephyr Theatre events

First Anniversary Celebration: One year ago The Zephyr Theatre purchased the former Zephyr train depot/restaurant in Stillwater. Patrons and friends are invited to the anniversary celebration Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4, from 7 to 10 p.m. Guests will be treated to hors d’oeuvres, plus a cash bar, prizes, and live music starring Jen Burleigh-Bentz, performing Broadway cabaret songs. Tickets are $25.

Audition Workshop: This class will be offered for ages 8 to 16, on Sunday, May 5, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Students will learn skills required for a successful and fun audition experience. Class fee is $60. To register, call 651-342-1542.

When Writing Meets Art: A literary reading featuring nine area writers will be held Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. Writers will read their works of poetry, memoir and fiction. The event is free with complimentary appetizers. Beverages may be purchased at the bar. Donations are appreciated to benefit The Zephyr Theatre.

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