LILY DALE - Just outside Cassadaga is found one of the most remarkable and unusual communities in our entire state.
Lily Dale has a small year-round population, but like the more familiar Chautauqua Institution, it springs to life during a brief summer season, from late June through the last Sunday in August, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Recently, a New York City-based production company named Stick Figure Productions, made a documentary film about the Chautauqua County community. The documentary is titled ''No One Dies in Lily Dale,'' and it is scheduled for broadcast on the Home Box Office cable television network on July 5 at 9 p.m.
A new film about the Spiritualist community at Lily Dale has been created for the Home Box Office cable network by director Steven Cantor. It will have a local premiere before broadcast in the 1891 Fredonia Opera House.
Area residents who don't subscribe to HBO or who just have an interest in the film, are invited to attend a World Premiere showing of the film on Friday at 7:30 p.m., in the 1891 Fredonia Opera House. There will be a question and answer session, following the showing, with the film's director, Steven Cantor. There is no admission charge.
There will be a New York City premiere of the film at HBO headquarters, on June 22, which is by invitation only. Other showings at film festivals across the U.S. and in other countries are intended.
ABOUT THE FILM
''No One Dies in Lily Dale'' is a 90-minute documentary which includes beautiful photography of the community's old-growth forests, lakes, and green leafy streets. It also tracks three visitors who came from long distances and checked into Lily Dale hotels or Victorian rooming houses, or camped at the assembly's camp site, in the hope of resolving questions which they have about loved ones who have passed away.
Lily Dale is the world's largest center for spiritual development and the practice of the spiritualist religion. Spiritualism, according to the Lily Dale website, is the belief - as a core basis of one's religious faith - in the continuity of life, beyond biological death, and in individual responsibility.
The site says that some, though not all, Spiritualists are Mediums and/or Healers, and that Spiritualists endeavor to find the truth in all things, and to live their lives in accordance therewith.
The film's focus is on these three visitors: Ron Holt is a Chicago police officer whose teenaged son was riding a city bus when gang violence broke out, shots were exchanged, and he was killed, as an innocent bystander. Officer Holt is tormented by guilt that he deals with crime and criminals every day, but he wasn't present to protect his own son.
Susan Hinrichs is a born-again Evangelical Christian, whose 18 year old son died of a deteriorating and horribly painful form of cancer. His death has caused her to question her faith, and she seeks to reconcile her beliefs with what has actually happened in her life.
Rebekah Fabricious is a young woman from Ohio, whose fiance was found dead in the midst of his open farm field, on the day they planned to announce their engagement. His autopsy indicated that he had died from blunt force trauma to his head, yet there were no trees nor buildings nor stones nor anything near him which could have caused that trauma. There also were no footprints and no sign of a struggle to indicate that a person or an animal might have attacked him.
The young woman feels she cannot move ahead in her life until she resolves the mystery of his death.
We see these people and a number of others whose stories are less fully described, attending group meetings, spiritual healings and other public activities. We also see them attending sessions with individual mediums who seek to get them into direct contact with the spirits of their loved ones, in hope of answering their questions. There are more than 40 mediums who are registered with the Lily Dale Assembly, with whom appointments may be made for individual sessions - typically approximately 30 minutes in length - in return for a fee.
The film also shows some of the demonstrators who sometimes come from very long distances away to picket the assembly. They believe that the religion practiced there is evil or fraudulent, and seek to discourage visitors from entering the assembly's gate or participating in its classes, assemblies or other events.
The film deals respectfully with the various programs at Lily Dale, but it does not advocate nor disparage the practices which it shows.
Those who have a curiosity about the small community and the activities which take place there will find this a painless and visually beautiful way to glimpse inside its gates.
Steven Cantor, the director of ''No One Dies in Lily Dale,'' is a graduate of the celebrated University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television. He is a founding partner in Stick Figure Productions.
A number of films and television programs which he has created have been nominated for prestigious awards, including a win for his film ''Still Is Still Moving,'' about singer Willie Nelson.
His film ''The Devil's Playground'' is about young Amish men and women who leave their traditional communities to experience more modern lifestyles, because the faith believes that members must choose their way of life of their own free will, and not because they were born into it and don't know anything else.
Cantor has created a number of cable entertainment programs, and has created commercials for a wide variety of national advertisers, including Porsche, Desani, and United Way.
The director lives with his wife and daughter in New York City.
ABOUT LILY DALE
To reach Lily Dale from Jamestown, drive north on Route 60. Not far past the only traffic signal in Cassadaga, you will see Dale Drive on your left. There is a clearly-marked, green traffic sign, indicating the direction.
Turn left and drive until the gates of the assembly appear on your right. The assembly is located directly on one of the Cassadaga Lakes. Gate fees are required between June 25 and Aug. 29, and are as follows: A full day pass, good for 24 hours, costs $10 per person.
An evening pass, good from 6 p.m. through midnight, is $5 per person. A week's pass costs $50 per person and a whole season pass costs $195 per person. Admission is free for people who are older than 80, It is also free for those younger than 18, if they are accompanied by a paying adult. Active members of the military are admitted without charge upon presentation of proper I.D.
Once inside the grounds, many activities are free of additional charge, including some lectures, the Healing Temple, the public sessions at Inspiration Stump and the Forest Temple, where mediums claim to offer messages to visitors from those who are ''on the other side.''
There are history displays from the assembly's past, a Fairy Trail, a pet cemetery, and a library, among other features.
Some lectures and conferences require admission fees and/or pre-registration. Individual meetings with one or more of the registered mediums usually last about 30 minutes, and are priced by the various mediums. Typically the minimum fee is $40.
A list of registered mediums is available on the assembly's website at www.lilydaleassembly.com, and there are directories to be found inside the gates. There are phone numbers for scheduling appointments and most of them will communicate with you by e-mail. Those who will have their addresses on the assembly's website, as well.
Anyone may enter the assembly's grounds, upon payment of the appropriate gate fees. Hotels, rooming houses and tent and recreational vehicle camp sites are available for rent. Homes on the grounds are not owned, but leased through purchased leaseholds. It is a private organization, and only members of the assembly may apply for a leasehold. Anyone wishing to become a leaseholder must apply to the assembly's board of directors and be accepted, before making any legal commitments.
Those desiring to become members must first join a recognized Spiritualist Church and be a member in good standing for at least one year, before applying. There is an application fee, annual dues, and other requirements, which can be found on the website, along with telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses, or from a personal visit to the offices of the assembly, during normal business hours.
It is not our intention to either advocate or disparage the community of Lily Dale, nor the religious activities which take place there. It is our intention to inform you of a public, non-profit showing of a film which has been made in our community, and to give you background information about the subject of that film. I hope you've enjoyed learning about it.
Those who love the music of the Buffalo Philharmonic, but who may have difficulty paying the orchestra's admission feels will be happy to note that the orchestra has a long tradition of giving back to the community by presenting outdoor concerts free of charge in parks throughout the Buffalo area.
All of the concerts begin at 7 p.m., and are presented, depending upon appropriate weather.
Free summer concerts will be conducted by the orchestra's associate conductor, Matthew Kraemer.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park will open their 35th season of presenting free public performance of plays by the Bard of Avon, on Thursday.
All performances take place on Shakespeare Hill, in Delaware Park, next to Hoyt Lake, not far from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
The first production will be the romantic production ''Much Ado About Nothing,'' which is noted for the comic bantering between characters Beatrice and Benedict. The play has been re-set during World War II, and the production includes popular romantic music from that period, which will be performed during the play by an on-stage, live chorus.
See it between Thursday and July 11, every evening except Monday, weather permitting. There are two exceptions, June 18 and July 4.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
The second production will open July 22, and run through Aug. 15, on the same schedule as ''Much Ado.'' It will be ''Macbeth,'' the playwright's famed tragedy of murder, magic, and self-delusion. This production reverses a historical tradition.
It is well-known that in Shakespeare's day, women were prohibited by law from appearing on stages. That meant that all of his great female roles, including Juliet, Cleopatra, and Lady Macbeth were originally performed by young boys.
The Buffalo production will reverse that curious history, by presenting women in all the parts.
For additional information about the Shakespeare in Delaware Park organization, or about either production, go by computer to www.shakespeareindelawarepark.org, or phone 856-4533.
Squeaky Wheel, the Buffalo organization for artists who work in media, is offering a most interesting contest for filmmakers.
There is, in Buffalo, a young man who pedals around the city with an ice cream cart, which is mounted on a bicycle. He has often been known to wear buffalo horns on his head as he pedals and peddles.
His name is James Karagiannis, and he has been celebrated on television and in newspapers as the Ice Cream Cycle Dude.
You do not have to be a member of Squeaky Wheel to submit a video, although they offer a number of incentives for participants to join, including equipment for borrowing, 10 hours' use of their computer lab for editing the video, etc.
First prize is $300. Videos must be eight minutes in length or less. They must be submitted and received by Squeaky Wheel by July 24, and must feature the Ice Cream Cycle Dude's cart in some prominent manner. All films must state the logo and the web address of the Dude, at both the beginning and the end of the video.
Make arrangements to take out the cycle by phoning the Dude at 948-4316.
All entries must be appropriate for viewing by audiences of all ages. For complete rules and to receive answers to questions, phone Squeaky Wheel at 884-7172 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization's offices are located at 712 Main St., between Tupper and Goodell streets, in downtown Buffalo. The organization is also a participant in Facebook.