News Column

Residents flock to casting for Rhythm Night Club film

September 1, 2013


Sept. 01--NATCHEZ -- Closure is sometimes found in unexpected places.

Natchez resident Tamathy Franklin found the beginnings of closure for her family Saturday at the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel. Her family lost two relatives in the 1940 Rhythm Night Club fire.

Franklin was one of approximately 50 people who came to the hotel for a casting call for a trailer of a film Natchez native Mychal Mitchell has written about the fire.

Mitchell, who lives in Chicago, is seeking funding for the film, which he hopes will mainly be filmed in Natchez. A couple of scenes will be filmed in Chicago, where Mitchell lives.

The Rhythm Night Club on St. Catherine Street caught fire on April 23, 1940, and resulted in the death of 209 people.

Two of those victims were Franklin's third cousins.

"It was very devastating to (the victims' mother) to lose not one, but two children," Franklin said.

Franklin, 42, who acted in plays in college, said she believes acting in the film is a way to pay tribute to her cousins.

"I just feel like this film will make it come full circle for us," she said.

Lenifer Adams and seven of her relatives came out to the casting call.

"We're a very musical and theatrical family," Adams said.

Adams and her family members have acted in multiple productions at the Natchez Little Theatre.

Adams' 29-year-old niece Shabilla Adams said the Rhythm Night Club film is more than just about showcasing Natchez's talent.

"The history is very important," she said.

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat -- More than 40 Miss-Lou residents showed up for the casting call.

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat -- More than 40 Miss-Lou residents showed up for the casting call.

Natchez High School freshman Spencer Adams said he knew a little about the fire before coming to the casting call.

"But I've learned a lot today," he said.

Mitchell took the group of potential actors for the film through scenes of the movie, including a church scene and scenes from people who came to the club as it was burning.

Lavonne Lee, 49, screamed out for her children trapped in the fire.

Lee, who has never acted before, heard about the movie on Facebook.

"I just felt like I could do it, like I could play a part in this," she said.

Mitchell is looking for more than 200 actors and extras for the movie and will likely have another casting call.

Mitchell began writing the film in 2009 and hopes it will result in the Rhythm Night Club fire tragedy's inclusion in history textbooks.

"And we want to pay homage to the victims as best we can," he said.


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