Charter Books, JPT will present Buster Keaton’s “The General” and a conversation with author/critic Dana Stevens on February 10

Charter Books and the Jane Pickens Theater present: Dana Stevens, Slate film critic and author of Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the dawn of cinema and the invention of the 20th century.

On Thursday, February 10 at 7:30 p.m., Dana Stevens discusses her new biography of Buster Keaton, followed by a screening of Keaton’s best-known film The general with live musical accompaniment by composer and keyboardist Jeff Rapsis. After the film, Dana Stevens will sit down for a chat with Professor Matt Ramsey, head of the film department at Salve Regina University.

Newport’s newest independent bookstore is proud to present this unique event in partnership with the Jane Pickens Theatre, where Buster Keaton’s silent films have previously been shown to local audiences.

In her genre-defying work of cultural history, the leading film critic of Slate places the unique creative genius of comedy legend and acclaimed filmmaker Buster Keaton in the context of his time.

Born the same year as the motion picture industry in 1895, Buster Keaton began his career as the child star of a burlesque family act reputed to be the most violent in vaudeville. Starting in his early twenties, he enjoyed a decade as director, star, stuntman, editor and all-around mastermind of some of the greatest silent comedies ever made, including Sherlock Jr., The general, and The cameraman.

Even in his dark middle years as a severely depressed alcoholic finding work on the fringes of show business, Keaton’s life had a way of reflecting the changes taking place in the world around him. He found success in three different mediums during their creative heyday: first vaudeville, then silent film, and finally the early experimental years of television. In his seventy action-packed years on earth, his life trajectory has intersected with such influential figures as escape artist Harry Houdini, pioneering black stage comedian Bert Williams, legend of television Lucille Ball and literary innovators like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Samuel Beckett.

In cameraman, film critic Dana Stevens draws the lens from Keaton’s life and work to examine concurrent developments in entertainment, journalism, law, technology, the political and social status of women, and popular understanding of the addiction. With erudition and sparkling humor, Stevens moves from one discipline to another to take us to the present day, where Keaton’s breathtaking (and sometimes deadly) stunts remain more popular than ever as they circulate on the Internet under form of viral gifs. Much more than a biography or a work of film history, cameraman is a vast meditation on modernity that paints a complex portrait of a one-of-a-kind artist.

Charter Books owner Steve Iwanski says: ‘This is exactly the kind of event we were hoping for in Newport when we opened our store last year, and the Jane Pickens is the perfect venue for such an evening. Entertainment. After so many months locked in streaming movies on our devices, the opportunity to see a classic movie with live music and conversation really can’t be missed.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at or at the door. There are two types of tickets: admission plus a signed copy of cameraman by Dana Stevens ($40) and admission only ($12). There will be an opportunity to purchase cameraman and have it signed by Dana Stevens in the lobby after the movie.

Dana Stevens is a film critic at Slate magazine and a regular on the magazine’s weekly culture podcast, Gabfest culture. She lives in New York.

Dr. D. Matthew Ramsey is Chair of the Department of English, Communications and Media at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI, where he is also Head of the Film Program.

Jeff Rapsis is a writer/editor, educator, composer, and performer who specializes in creating live musical scores for silent film screenings. He is also an award-winning journalist, newspaper editor and owner of several dogs. He lives in Concord, NH.

About Marcia G. Hussain

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