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'Copperhead' screening to raise funds for historic home restoration

Published 9:07 am, Sunday, April 21, 2013
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A special advanced screening of the movie "Copperhead," which will give history buffs an early opportunity to learn a regional and intimate story from the Civil War era, will take place on Wednesday, May 1.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Ronald F. Maxwell, director of the movies "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals," has turned his attention to telling a Civil War story from this region of the country, according to the New Canaan Historical Society.

The screening, which is a fundraiser, takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the Bow Tie Cinemas New Canaan Playhouse, 89 Elm St. Maxwell will introduce the movie, which stars Billy Campbell, Peter Fonda, Augustus Prew and Angus Macfadyen.

Funds raised will support restoration of the Hanford-Silliman House Museum, the family home of Justus Silliman, a New Canaan private in the Civil War.

Immediately following the movie, the audience is invited to a private red carpet celebration at Le Pain Quotidien, 81 Elm St. From 8:30 to 10:30 p.m., guests will meet and mingle with Maxwell, the screenwriter and the producers. Wine, beer, artisan cheeses, antipasti, petite sweets and more will be served.

"We are thrilled to present this film to our community ahead of the national audience," said Janet Lindstrom, executive director of the New Canaan Historical Society. "With the event located just steps from the New Canaan train station, we hope commuters and residents throughout the area will enjoy a midweek opportunity to experience this special evening. Our thanks to Le Pain Quotidien for helping to make this event possible."

"Copperhead" is a film of the war at home, of a family ripped apart by war, of fathers set against sons and daughters, of a community driven to an appalling act of vengeance against a man who insists on exercising his right to free speech during wartime. A story of the violent passions and burning feuds that set ablaze the homefront during the Civil War, "Copperhead" is also a timeless and deeply moving examination of the price of dissent, the place of the individual amidst the hysteria of wartime, and the terrible price of war -- a cost measured not in dollars but in fractured families, broken loves, and men dead before their time.

The idea for "Copperhead" was conceived on a March evening in 2010 at the New Canaan Historical Society and further discussed at the Roger Sherman Inn. Maxwell was in New Canaan to speak to the historical society about his epic Civil War films. During the question-and-answer period, when asked when to expect his next movie about the war, he replied that he was always studying books and reading stories about the era, but that he had not yet found the right story yet.

The next morning, over breakfast, screenwriter Bill Kauffman asked Maxwell if he'd ever read a novel by Harold Frederic called "The Copperhead," which is about an upstate New York farmer in 1862 who is opposed to the Civil War, and the consequences of that stand. A movie was born.

This cinematic event is the culmination of a series of Civil War programming this season at the historical society. Kauffman, author the "Copperhead" screenplay, lectured at the society in March.

Tickets for the movie only are $50 per person and for movie and reception: $100 per person. Space is limited so early purchase of tickets is encouraged. For tickets, visit www.nchistory.org or the historical society, 13 Oenoke Ridge Road.