Rising Star premiere
Friday, Aug. 3, (The 7 pm screening is sold out, but another is scheduled for 9:15)
The Connecticut Science Center, 250 Columbus Blvd., Hartford
Rising Star, the independent, locally produced film by Newington's Marty Lang, makes its red carpet premiere at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford Friday night. The movie partially takes its title from a 2005 marketing campaign, "Hartford: New England's Rising Star." The title is also incorporated into the lives of the movie's two lead characters, Alyza and Chris, played by Bristol native Emily Morse and Prospect native Gary Ploski. However, the title can furthermore be applied to other members of the cast and crew, a group of young, talented, local film buffs.
Take for instance the character of Brent, a co-worker and best friend to Chris, played by Durham resident Michael Barra. He's been acting professionally since his junior year of high school, when he took a role in Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors at The River Rep. More recently, he's been seen on TV ("Law and Order"), and his voice is heard as one of the sharks in a Snickers commercial.
"My big line was 'Steve was delicious!' — the second shark that talks," Barra says on an early (11 a.m.) call from his home. More recently, you may have seen him in The Amazing Spider-Man, currently in theaters. "I play a store clerk who is kind of a jerk for no reason to Peter Parker. Because I'm a jerk to him, I am tied in a small way to one of the biggest plot points in the Spider-Man universe. I won't let him use my take-a-penny-leave-a-penny tray."
For Barra, 11 a.m. is early these days because he's back on theater time. Surprisingly, given the range of his experience, he doesn't have a preference for one realm or another. "Each has its benefits. Right now, I'm doing Hairspray in Connecticut [at the Ivoryton Playhouse], and getting the live reaction and laughs every night; that's the draw of theater. But then getting to do a scene over and over again and perfect it on film and make sure you have the exact performance you want, that's the draw of film."
Writer, director and producer Marty Lang could be another rising star. His credits include co-producer of 2007's Fog Warning, co-producer of the satire Being Michael Masden, starring Masden himself, and writer/director of the comedy Cheap as Hell: A Christmas Story, which won "The Precious" award at the 2005 New Haven Underground Film Festival.
Having maintained a professional relationship with Lang, Barra knew what he was getting into reading the script, and the decision to take the role was an easy one. "A lot of times, when you get scripts for films done on an indie budget, you don't know what to expect," says Barra. "You get everything from something you can't even decipher to a good, well-rounded script. Luckily, Rising Star fell towards the trump end of that."
Filmed entirely in Hartford, the movie incorporates the city, its iconic parks and historical landmarks, into several scenes.
"I thought it was a very cute story, and I'm a hometown Connecticut guy, so I like that it was very Connecticut based, using Hartford as another character in the movie," says Barra. "I thought there was a good amount of humor, but even more heart, with the conflict of the lead character deciding whether to work to live, or live to work."