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Vol #1, Issue #4
"Stand By For Mars!"
April 2006
Con-tact: Science Fiction Convention Previews and Reports

Cadet's Log: 2006 Williamsburg Film Festival - FRIDAY
by Caroline Miniscule

Page 1 of this day:
1) Mala Powers' talk after The Storm Rider
2) Talking with authors Doneen Key and Susie Coffman
3) Tom Corbett, Space Cadet radio play: "Project Enigma"
Page 2 of this day:
4) More 1950s science fiction TV episodes
5) Mala Powers and Beverly Garland panel

Mala Powers
On Friday morning, the Mala Powers film The Storm Rider (1957) was shown, and after it Ms. Powers spoke and answered questions for about 20 minutes.

Mala Powers is perhaps most famous for her portrayal of Roxanne in Jose Ferrer's Cyrano de Bergerac, (1950) but she has had a long career in both movies and television. My own particular favorite is Flight of the Lost Balloon (1962), in which she starred opposite Marshall Thompson, and The Colossus of New York (1958).

Most of the questions dealt with her role in The Storm Rider, of course. I slipped in a question about Flight of the Lost Balloon, and she spoke warmly of it. She mentioned a cliche that Beverly Garland would bring up in her talk on Saturday - it didn't matter how slow the villain/monster was, a fleeing heroine in a movie would always trip over something, enabling her capture, so that she could be rescued by the hero.

Ms. Powers studied under Michael Checkov and worked with him for the last seven years of his life, and currently teaches his acting method. She gave the history of Checkov and how he came to flee the Bolsheviks and establish his school, first in England and then in America. She also gave a brief demonstration of one aspect of the technique.

Checkov Technique vs Stanislavsky "Method"
"...So Checkov's idea about theater - a lot of it is what [early] Stanislavsky talked about - of people really working from something that was coming from inside them, but the means of getting there for the Checkov work was more to do with using the physical body.

For example...we can't command emotion: we can ask it, we can coax it. But one of the means for coaxing it - rather than thinking, "Oh, how did I feel when I was fifteen years old?" and, "do I remember this?", and "can I dredge up those personal feelings?" which Checkov always considered too narrow, because they were only my personal feelings. So what he used instead, for example, was moving.

We all know what it's like to move with the quality of sadness, if you're trying to call up sadness. So if you really [she was standing and started to hunch and cringe her body into a picture of total despair] you begin to really move and let your whole body tell you what it feels like - it tells you what it feels like [her voice starts cracking and sounding like she's about to burst into tears] to move sadly, and if you do that, just for a minute or two, and you really practice it, suddenly you get the sensation of sadness, and then, really, the feeling of sadness. But it's done through how you move, you don't have to think about "what happened to me when my dog died."

And her voice recovered on the last sentence, she resumed her normal posture and smiled and was completely transformed, and the entire room laughed appreciatively and clapped.

[Such actors as Marlon Brando and Paul Newman are famous for asking directors, "What's my motivation?" They are devotees of "The method." Then there's the famous story of Dustin Hoffman, who was to play a man who'd been kept awake all night in The Marathon Man. So he stayed awake all night the day before they were to do the scene, so that he could come to the studio looking appropriately haggard. Laurence Oliver, with whom he was to play the scene, simply asked him, "Why don't you just try acting?"]

Actors and Authors
While there were Western movies being screened in the two film rooms for the next several hours, I was too keyed up waiting for "Project Enigma" to watch them. I wandered around the Dealer's Room for a while. All of the guest stars were present for another round of autographing and meeting their fans, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Throughout the festival, I frequently visited the Solar Guard table to chat with Cadet Ed, his wife, and other Solar Guard Cadets. They were all enthusiastic about the 1950s TV shows that inspired them, and ready to prosletyze it to anyone who showed an interest.

Many visitors stopped by to admire the Space Patrol cockpit that Cadet Mike Turco had built, complete with working light switches and moving dials, so lifelike you could believe you were heading for outer space. (After the radio play performed as described below, Frankie posted for photos at the cockpit.)

Photo by Chris Krieg
Tom Corbett meets Space Patrol

Author Doneen Key
In addition to the dealers selling movies and movie memorabilia, there were a couple of authors present.

I spoke briefly with Doneen Key, a young woman born with rare birth defects collectively called Apert Syndrome. She has written an inspirational book about her life called Do You Want to Take Her Home?, (available from and has also recorded a CD.

I then spoke with Susie Coffman, author of Follow Your Stars, a collection of short stories starring the Western icon Hopalong Cassidy.

She recounted a touching story of how William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy) met his fifth and final wife, Grace Bradley, and she revealed that she had written three of her short stories featuring Grace as a character back in the past. I thought her comments rather poignant and so have transcribed them. Hopalong Cassidy fans, Western fans and just plain old romance fans please read about it here: .
Read about
Follow Your Stars

The performance of the Tom Corbett radio play "Project Enigma" was not scheduled to start until 3 pm, but I secured my seat fully an hour ahead of time. The entire front row was taken up by various cameras which would film the performance from various angles. (A DVD of this performance will be available for sale from the Williamsburg Festival website).

I have long been a fan of "The Theater of the Mind," otherwise known as Old Time Radio, and know the craft and skill that goes into the form. I was really looking forward to seeing the performance.

Author Susie Coffman

Jan Merlin had written the script especially for the occasion, and although he and Frankie Thomas (and on occasions at other conventions in the past, Al Markim and Ed Bryce) had performed such productions before, it would be the first time I would see them live and I knew it would be something memorable. (And it was!)

Read about
the performance
"Project Enigma" and the panel afterwards
The room gradually filled up, with the audience consisting not only of Solar Guard members but general Festival attendees as well. It was a very enjoyable performance from beginning to end, and I discuss the complete performance on the "Project Enigma" page.

Jan Merlin was kind enough to write a few words on the production of "Project Enigma" for me.

Photo by Ed Pippin
Frankie and Jimmy Lydon are stoic, Jan and Chuck Lassen are trying not to "corpse." Ben Cooper must be doing the Raisan Bran commercial.
"When we discussed doing another Tom Corbett, Space Cadet script at Williamsburg, I suggested writing a new one because of the special occasion: it being the Festivals' 10th Anniversary, and the Fifth Reunion of the Solar Guard.

Frankie agreed for me to do that, but asked that we let the women have larger roles so that he and I could sit for the most part and watch the fun ourselves.

I had hoped to get Johnny Fiedler to do his own role, but was unsuccessful at contacting him. In the weeks approaching March, we learned of his passing.

Having caught Ben Cooper at the last SPERDVAC [The Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy] convention, doing Archie in a recreation of Duffy's Tavern, I knew he could do a crackerjack job of taking over the role of Cadet Higgins, and when I asked him to do it, he was delighted to accept. And he was first rate!

The two female roles had been reserved for Mary Orozco as Professor Rose Rowan, and for my wife, Barbara, as Dr. Dale. As for the rest of the casting, it was a matter of using a committee member of the Festival, Mitch Weisberg as Commander Arkwright, Chuck Lassen of the Solar Guard as Astro, and other celebrities willing to take part, the aforementioned Ben Cooper as Higgins, Jimmy Lydon as Captain Strong, Dick Jones, and Ted Reinhart.

It was terrible to learn that our sound man suffered a stroke just before coming to the Festival... and though fearful for his recovery, we did what would have been done in New York during those days... we tried to get one of the other radio people to sub for him... and were unable to accomplish that.

Photo by Ed Pippin
Jan and Frankie during opening lines

So we chose to do the show as it might have been a first reading...with Dick Jones, our director, reading the sound effects and cues where they appeared in the script. Combined with Ted Reinhart's dramatic reading of the narrative portions, we managed to get the idea of the story presented to our amused audience."

With great success, as I recount in my article on the production. See link above.

Please continue to page 2 of this Friday coverage.

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