“We were waiting to see, ‘Does this work?’ The answer is ‘Yes!’ We sold out in every city. The people really enjoyed it and gave us long standing ovations.” So says Shanti Lowry, who has the distinction of being a silent film star in the 21st century. She and Jackie Earle Hayley play the leads in the new silent film “Louis,” which has just concluded a five-city test outing, complete with a live musical score performance — Wynton Marsalis playing his own composition with a complete band.
According to her, another sweep of cities for “Louis” is soon to be scheduled, now that the first shows have succeeded.
Lowry plays a 1907 New Orleans prostitute who’s had a baby via the corrupt governor (Hayley) in “Louis,” which was lensed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. The enterprise was especially exciting for her because she’s been a fan of silent films for years and owns a collection of Charlie Chaplin movies. “It’s not that people don’t appreciate the art form. It’s that they wonder, ‘How commercial can it be?’ … In our case, this is art, this is beautiful. We went in with the attitude that, ‘We’re going to do this at a real high level of quality, and maybe, just maybe, we can change people’s minds.’”
As far as changing her acting style for the silent film – she didn’t. Lowry notes that in silent film classics of the 20th century, “the damsel is not the caricature that Chaplin was….They would get across the point of the scene in a real way. They didn’t want to overact or be melodramatic.”
Lowry was on hand for the performances in Chicago, Detroit, Bethesda, Philadelphia and Harlem. She says, “Magic is the best way to describe it. It’s sort of unbelievable, really. I think it’s ground-breaking entertainment.”