Author/playwright David Paterson, B.A. 1989, visited Washington, D.C., on Feb. 1 to speak to CUA drama students and give his fellow alumni and their families an advance screening of his film, “Bridge to Terabithia.” It is based on the Newbery Award-winning novel of the same name by his mother, Katherine Paterson. David co-wrote the screenplay and produced the major motion picture for Walt Disney Pictures. The film opened nationwide in mid-February.
Approximately 400 alumni and family members packed the AFI Silver Theatre — the largest advance screening the movie had received to that date. CUA was prominently displayed on the marquee of the theatre, which is located in the heart of recently revitalized downtown Silver Spring, Md. David Paterson spoke before the film and, after the movie concluded, took 15 minutes worth of questions from the audience. Asked if the character Jess in the book was anything like himself, Paterson joked, “As I grew up I was shy, got beat up a lot, loved to draw and was in love with my music teacher. Does that sound familiar?”
Paterson talked emotionally about his boyhood friend who died when he and his family lived in nearby Takoma Park, Md. It was that relationship between Paterson, then 7, and his friend, Lisa, then 8, that his mother patterned the book on. According to Paterson, the novel has sold more than 7 million copies since its publication in 1977. Nevertheless, he told the audience, he had to spend 17 years fighting to get the movie made.
Vera Kaczmarskyj Rozwadowski, M.A. 1997, remarked after hearing Paterson speak that he was “refreshing in his refusal to be ‘the big producer.’ He remained the guy with a true story to tell, hoping he did it justice. It’s obviously an inspired film about a very special friendship, filled with imagination, simplicity and spirit.”
The event was “an all-around great time,” said JoAnn Humphreys, B.A. 2002, particularly the chance to get “a small glimpse of the behind-the-scenes making of the film.” Another alum, Laura Graham Fetters, B.A. 1985, watched with 13 family members and “had an outstanding time. The event was fun with a contagious spirit of family and community.”