Moviehouse film is a ‘family affair’

Left to right: Michael Rhodes, Keith Kupferer, Tara Mallen and Katherine Mallen Kupferer during the talkback after the screening of “Ghostlight” at The Moviehouse in Millerton on July 2.

Natalia Zukerman

Moviehouse film is a ‘family affair’

MILLERTON — The Moviehouse in Millerton hosted a special July 2 screening of “Ghostlight,” a film that blurs the lines between fiction and reality blur in the most intimate of ways.

The screening was followed by an insightful talkback session with the cast, a family in the film and a family in real life.

Keith Kupferer (originally from Millerton), Tara Mallen, and their daughter, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, breathed life into their characters with a familiarity, authenticity and depth that perhaps only a real family could, transforming their on-screen interactions into a genuine exploration of love, loss, and healing.

“Ghostlight” centers on Dan, a construction worker wrestling with the profound loss of his teenage son. Struggling to articulate his grief, Dan’s emotions manifest in frequent outbursts of rage, pushing him further away from his wife, Sharon, and daughter, Daisy.

In a twist of fate, he stumbles into a theater rehearsal and is coaxed into joining the cast. This unexpected involvement in the local production of “Romeo and Juliet” becomes a powerful mirror for Dan’s personal journey, allowing him to confront his grief and find solace.

Through the transformative power of theater, Dan discovers a renewed sense of community and purpose, slowly mending the fractured bonds with his family.

The title “Ghostlight” refers to the single light left burning in a theater after everyone leaves, serving both practical and superstitious purposes.

In the Q&A, Keith Kupferer explained, “It’s for practical reasons so that when someone comes in to turn on the house lights, they don’t fall off the edge of the stage. But in a more superstitious or folkloric sense, it’s to either appease the ghosts in the theater or to repel them, whichever way you want to look at it. Kelly (O’Sullivan, the screenwriter and co-director) looks at it as an appeasement. Sort of an invitation to come.”

Tara Mallen noted, “There are several ghostlights that appear throughout the film actually,” explaining that the recurring ghostlights act as beacons in the narrative’s darkness, guiding the characters and the audience alike.

During the talkback session, moderated by Michael Rhodes, artistic director of the Tangent Theatre Company in Tivoli, New York, the cast shared their experiences and behind-the-scenes stories. Rhodes, who has known Keith and Tara for nearly 35 years, expressed how surreal it was to see them in such a deeply personal project.

The family now lives in Chicago. Keith shared that being a family “made the job easier because we didn’t have to establish those relationships, they were already there.”

Describing the connection the audience feels from the intimacy only a real family could provide, he shared, “It’s the kind of stuff that is intangible, you know? That isn’t in the script. It’s more of a behavioral thing that we have with each other. It’s nothing you could ever have with two other actors. It’s always there. Hopefully it comes across in the film.”

Katherine spoke about her experience playing their daughter on-screen.

“Because I was working with my real parents, I felt safe with them in a more unique way than acting with someone else. I could try new things.” She continued to describe a particular scene in the film where she ad-libbed lines that weren’t in the script.

“I don’t think that those moments would have come about if I’d been acting with people I didn’t, you know, go home with,” she explained to raucous laughter from the audience.

The film delicately weaves themes of irremediable loss and the therapeutic power of theater. The film also serves as a love letter to the Chicago theater scene, with its unshakeable bonds and supportive community.

Keith Kupferer reminisced about the unwavering support actors feel for one another, a sentiment beautifully captured in a scene in the film. “We’ve all had those moments that we know whoever we are on the stage with has our back. I absolutely love that about the film,” added Michael Rhodes.

“Ghostlight” is a gentle yet profound exploration of a family’s struggle to stay together amidst tragedy. The talkback provided a unique glimpse into the making of the film and the personal connections that brought the poignant story to life, reminding us that even in the darkest of theaters, a single light can guide us home.

“Ghostlight” is on Amazon Prime and Peacock.

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