It’s been just over a month since Northampton’s iconic Pleasant Street Theater closed its doors. I’ve gone on record already with my take on the whole affair—it was a foregone conclusion, always a matter of “when” and never, ever, “if.”
But over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself stopping now and again in front of the old theater, a bit like someone recently bereaved might visit some favorite place of the person they lost. It doesn’t really change anything, but it reminds me of what had been, and makes me wish for one more show. This week, that wish is granted.
On Friday, July 13, the “For Lease” posters come down for a one-night-only event of movies, music, and more than a few surprises, all thanks to the support of former Pleasant Street owner Bob Lawton (disclosure: that also made him my boss during my tenure at PST). This may well be the very last chance you have to see any art in the old theater space before it’s leveled to make way for the next tenant.
Headlining the event is Black Francis, the lead singer of indie-rock legends the Pixies. He’ll be performing songs from his long career (including his solo work) in the upstairs theater; downstairs the infamous Little Theater will host a screening of The Golem, a 1920 German silent movie that Black Francis scored for a film festival in San Francisco a few years ago. This version of the enduring Jewish myth—the Golem is a clay figure brought to life to protect Jews from persecution—is set in 16th-century Prague, where a Christian emperor is bent on destroying the Jewish ghetto. Shot by Karl Freund, the same cinematographer who lensed Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis, it’s sure to be an entrancing take on the tale.
But that’s not all, as they say. Lawton has also invited some old friends of the theater to make some noise. Former Pleasant Street Video owner Dana Gentes will be on hand with Andrew Greto to present their “Bell and Howl” multimedia show—an unmatched collection of 8mm and 16mm found footage curated by the pair that will defy any attempt at description; it must be seen to be understood. Also making an appearance will be Jim Armenti, well known locally for playing more instruments than just about anyone else in town—and for his long run of entertaining filmgoers with his solo clarinet repertoire before Pleasant Street’s Wednesday morning matinees. Throughout the rest of the night, other acts (including, rumor has it, Lawton himself) will take the stage.
Perhaps the biggest draw of all for locals will be the chance to take home a piece of Northampton history: Lawton will be selling off the theater’s seats—all that remain of the old place—at fire-sale prices. You may need to find a friend to help you carry them home, but by next weekend you could be watching your Netflix feed from an authentic theater seat instead of the sofa. For advance tickets, visit Turn It Up! in Northampton or Artifacts 20th Century in Florence.
Also this week: Amherst Cinema continues its Woody Allen marathon with two films. To Rome With Love is Allen’s latest bit of romantic comedy, this time with a bit of Italian dressing. In it, a famous architect (Alec Baldwin) comes across a young couple whose travails remind him strongly of his own past mistakes. So strongly, in fact, that one wonders if Baldwin’s architect isn’t literally revisiting his youth. Also screening this week is Annie Hall, the 1977 breakout hit that cemented Allen’s reputation. The director stars as Alvy Singer, a neurotic writer whose on-again off-again relationship with Annie (Diane Keaton) provides a jumping off point for discourses on dating, the value of movies over television, and much more. Keep an eye out for a young Christopher Walken as Annie’s brother Duane; he’s only in there for a few minutes, but he makes the most of it. Enjoy it before it’s over.
Jack Brown can be reached at email@example.com.