See silent film stars and farm animals
The Plaza Cinema’s silent film screening last year drew a crowd under the stars. It’s being repeated this year.

Courtesy photos

See silent film stars and farm animals


Lots of stars will be at The Plaza’s annual outdoor screening at Isabella Rossellini’s farm on Saturday, Sept. 16.  

Of all kinds.

Silent films “The Pawn Shop” featuring Charlie Chaplin and “The Electric House” with Buster Keaton will provide the belly laughs. “Trolley Troubles” and “Oh Teacher,” featuring Walt Disney’s character Oswald The Lucky Rabbit before Disney became famous, are the draws for the little ones.

The accompanying music by renowned silent screen musicians, pianist Donald Sosin and singer/percussionist Joanna Seaton, will engage the audience in some of their playful melodies. Son, filmmaker and musician Nicholas Sosin is joining them this year.

Get ready to do the Charlie Chaplin walk; you’ll be encouraged to try it. 

“Donald has to be familiar with the film and improvise the score,” explained Rossellini in a phone interview, of their collaboration in choosing the films.

The actress was en route to Los Angeles to film the second season of the Hulu original series, “Shut Eye,” in which she plays a dishonest clairvoyant, the head of a Romani-American crime dynasty. It debuts Dec. 6.

“Sometimes these films didn’t come with a score, so it was up to the pianist to improvise with scary or fun music, and Donald follows that tradition,” she said. 

Sosin wrote an orchestral score performed by himself with 25 members of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra last year for “The Pawn Shop.” 

It is bouncy, jaunty, bright. “I’ll be playing some version of that,” he said. 

Travels have taken Sosin and Seaton regularly to film festivals in Europe, including Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato and also in the U.S., most recently at the Telluride Film Festival. 

 “’The Electric House’ is a movie we’ve done a number of times, but we’ll still be collaborating,” explained Seaton. “I do percussion and get to hit buzzers, ring bells and all kinds of fun things on that one.”

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — a story by Walt Disney, who also directed it, with animation by Ub Iwerks and others — gets into all kinds of scrapes. Nicholas Sosin, who plays trombone and guitar, will improvise with Seaton.

The backstory about Oswald is that Disney never trademarked the character and learned from the experience after the 1927 cartoons. The “Trolley Troubles” premise has Oswald directing a trolley and the evolving mishaps along the tracks, including a stubborn cow, whose obstinate stance causes fun dilemmas. “Oh Teacher” has too many adorable situations to chronicle here — amazing, as it is only about five minutes long.

Rossellini said the other criteria for choosing the films is to make everyone happy, from ages 3 to 99. “We ensure there are comical films and included Disney,” she said. “Charlie Chaplin has a very special place in my heart, and with ‘The Electric House,’ it shows all the difficulties the Buster Keaton character encounters with electricity; the change that took place with the transition of candlelight to electricity was enormous,” Rossellini said, commenting it was a good metaphor between the introduction of the computer and its revolution in our lives. 

Proceeds from the silent film evening will fund the Patchogue-based Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center to further more programs and classes, said Plaza MAC executive director Catherine Oberg. “We’re doing a lot more animation and documentary filmmaking classes,” explained Oberg, whose summer workshop on Rossellini’s farm was a big success.

Other stars to appear include the farm animals; those who come to the silent film evening can commune with them up close and personal.

Rossellini explained the Plaza Cinema partnership. “We want to open the farm to the community,” she said. “I can’t open it as a public park because I would have to get insurance, so the only thing I can do is to have people come to an event. In a way, I’m bringing in all these interests together.”