Delicate snowflakes fall, sticking to a 1965 Chevy Nomad as a group of theatergoers gather underneath the Everett Theatre’s marquee, each letter made up of round yellow lights that reflect on the window of the vintage automobile. Or at least that’s what made it into the final cut of the movie “Dead Poets Society.”
Here’s the real story: The snow was made of sawdust bits propelled through the night air with fans, and shrubbery was lined with cotton to give the appearance of winter. The people were all actors, and the theater wasn’t in an idyllic New England town—it’s the Everett Theatre in Middletown, right here in Delaware.
A photo taken during the making of the film.//
“‘Dead Poets Society’ was one of the biggest events that’s ever happened here,” says Michael Dove, who serves on the board of directors for the Everett Theatre. “(Like) big Hollywood in Middletown.”
The beloved film, which was released in 1989 and set in the late ’50s, features Robin Williams as John Keating, a new English teacher at an elite, all-male prep school, the Welton Academy (aka St. Andrew’s School in Middletown). The students quickly learn that Keating isn’t an average teacher. He instructs them to rip pages from their textbooks, stand on desks, and carpe diem. “Seize the day,” Keating whispers in the film as the boys look at the pictures of Welton graduates from decades ago.
It’s been 30 years since film crews filled Middletown’s Main Street and took over the preparatory school, but the state still remembers the Academy Award-winning film’s impact. It inspired residents to enter the film industry, and it fueled the Everett’s success and fundraising efforts in the years that followed. Because of “Dead Poets Society,” the theater is still a thriving hub of Middletown and promises to be so for decades to come.
Inside the Everett Theatre today, there’s one black seat; it stands out among rows of cabaret red velvet seats that otherwise fill the room. The seat, near the center of the auditorium, is where Robin Williams once sat, a sober reminder of his death five years ago.
But it’s also a reminder of the important lesson Williams—and Keating—imparted on Middletown, on Delaware, and on viewers around the world to use the time we have on Earth to make our lives extraordinary.
HOW TO CELEBRATE
Gather for a two-day special showing of “Dead Poets Society” at the Everett Theatre in Middletown, where the historic venue is celebrating its participation in the film with a party on Saturday, April 27 and an extra film showing on April 28. On Saturday, dress up in your theater-best and chat with special guests over a cocktail hour, then enjoy the film on the Everett’s big screen. Tickets for Saturday night are $45 for an individual and $80 for a couple, or $10 for just the showing on Sunday.