Honors Northeast movie features life of Barbara Conrad

The Northeast Texas Community College Honors program recently wrapped five days of filming for their latest project Pressed but Not Crushed: The Story of Barbara Conrad. The film will tell the story of Conrad, a native of Camp County, who was at the center of a discrimination case at the University of Texas during the mid 1950s, who later went on to enjoy a career as an internationally-acclaimed opera singer. When completed, this will be the seventh feature-length film researched, written, shot and produced by members of Honors Northeast.

In 1956-57, Conrad joined the first cohort of African American undergraduates at the University of Texas. After winning a star role as Dido in a famous Purcell opera, she was yanked from the cast by University of Texas President, Logan Wilson, because she was opposite a white male.  The film contains segments that allude to the historical context of this discriminatory decision. The victory of a segregationalist Governor, Price Daniel, the passage of a tough anti-miscegenation law in Texas, and the actions of East Texas State Representative, Joe Chapman, contributed to this momentary defeat of integration in Texas.

This is the first time that an honors production has made a call for larger community involvement. The casting of film was crowned with the willingness of Mary Carter Lloyd, a graduate of Southern Methodist University and resident of Pittsburg, to become the heroine, Barbara Conrad. The cast included three other non-honors students, Alexis Porter as Barbara’s sister, Connie Smith; Tyrese Rhymes as Barbara’s father, Conrad Smith; and Serenity Mitchell, as a ticket taker. Honors Professor, Dr. Mary Hearron, assisted with casting.

The scholars of Honors Northeast researched and developed the script, assumed the leadership roles of the film’s production, and rose to the technical challenges in cinematography, and audiography to complete the shooting. The Director was Jordan Whelchel, of Daingerfield. Two other sophomore Presidential Scholars, Matthew Chambers and Rhylie Anderson, led the cinematography. Jacob Lambie sequenced the filming as the Unit Production Director. Karla Fuentes served as Director of Audiography, upgrading the system for the first time with the use of a recorder. Hannah Dickson served as Director of Costumes, Peyton McClendon as Makeup Director, and Karla Fuentes as Director of Props.

Additionally, several honors scholars were cast in the film. First-year honors student, Courtney Baldwin, assumed the maternal role of Jerrie Lee Smith. Jacob Lambie played the important role of President Logan Wilson, while Verania Leyva-Garcia, played Conrad’s roommate, Cindy Chavez. Karla Fuentes played Barbara Smith’s voice instructor, Edna Gustafson. Other members of the cast included: Hannah Dickson as Joann Thompson, President of the University Religious Council, Mercedes Collins as Carol Cold, and Mr. H.E. Howard, Peyton McClendon as the girl who was co-casted for the role of Dido, Martha Ann Kelly, Rhylie Anderson as Student Council President, Maurie Suttle, Matthew Chambers as Dean Arno Nowotny, Jordan Whelchel as John Silber, Daniel Landaverde as Dean H.Y. McCown, and Dr. Andrew Yox as Regents Chair, Tom Sealy, and Northeast Texas Representative, Joe Chapman.

Pressed but Not Crushed: The Story of Barbara Conrad was made possible thanks to backing from a Whatley Employee Enhancement grant and patrons Jerald and Mary Lou Mowery. The project was also supported by many local friends of Honors, members of the NTCC staff and administration,  Jo’s Coffee Shop, Glenda Brogoitti, East Texas Journal publisher, Hudson Old, NTCC Theatre Director, Martin Holden, pre-med student, Cruz Gallegos, and Mark Lesher, Esq.

Honors Northeast conducted two days of filming at the campus of NTCC thanks to help from many.  The program completed three days of filming in Jefferson, Texas at five Bed and Breakfasts which were all amenable to the student film project: The Azalea House, the Benefield House, the Carriage House, the Delta Inn, and the Steamboat Inn.

“This was an amazing project both because of the difficulties, and because of the way people and circumstances appeared just in time, miraculously in our favor.  I know I am neglecting to mention some, who after all our efforts at acknowledgment, at some point, made the film possible,” Dr. Andrew Yox, NTCC Honors Director, said.

The film scholars who researched the primary documents of the Barbara Conrad case at UT in May at the Dolph Briscoe Center included Mercedes Collins, Jacob Lambie, Verania Leyva, Peyton McClendon, and Yox.  Freshman Presidential Scholar, Miguel Paco, from Mount Pleasant will serve as Producer.  A trailer is scheduled for production by October, and the premiere by February.

Each year since 2011, Honors Northeast has completed a feature-length film project on a topic of regional historical interest. The previous six films, on the father of prohibition, Morris Sheppard; the populist from Hughes Springs, Wright Patman; the Lake Caddo heroine, Harriet Potter Ames; Texas Governors Ma and Pa Ferguson; Sam Houston and the End of the Texas Cherokee; and the cosmetics CEO, Mary Kay can all be viewed in their entirety from the honors website: www.ntcc.edu/honorsfilms.