Thursday, August 29, 2013

Do hard time for Labor Day weekend with the Shawshank Redemption Reunion in Mansfield, Aug. 30, 31 & Sept. 1

Event preview by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Want to end the summer the way so many Ohioans do - by going to prison? Then the smart way to do it is to take advantage of the Mansfield Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Shawshank Trail” and 20th anniversary celebrations of the filming of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION in and around the region.

Directed by Frank Darabont, 1994’s SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION concerns a mild-mannered Maine banker, Andy (Tim Robbins), convicted of murdering his wife, who is incarcerated for life in the dreaded Shawshank Penitentiary, where his intellect, kindness and refusal to give up hope affects the other inmates, especially lifer Red (Morgan Freeman). The picture is, of course, one of the better moves based on a Stephen King story – some may say that’s not much of a compliment, but the critically praised cellblock drama earned additional attention not too long ago when a poll of computer programmers and web designer-types named it their surprise favorite film (well, THE SOCIAL NETWORK hadn’t come out yet, so there).

And it’s a regional favorite, as Darabont generously shot much of it in and around Mansfield in 1993, with Robbins and Freeman utilizing the Bissman Building, Malabar Farm, Wyandot County Courthouse, the Huntington National Bank Branch - and, most of the all, the forbidding, grey Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. An astonishingly grim fortress-like building,  largely emptied of actual convicts since 1990, the prison has remained a prime location for atmospheric film shoots and overnight “ghost hunts.” One can argue that nobody used the 1886 structure to better advantage than Darabont.

A commemorative 20-Year Reunion of the filming will be held August 30, 31 and September 1, with special events and tours throughout Mansfield, Ashland and Upper Sandusky. Guided and self-guided tours can take gawkers through the dreaded State Reformatory, as well as the downtown Renaissance Theatre (which held a premier of the movie in 1994) and other locations. There will also be guest appearances by actual actors from the film, notably Bob Gunton, who played the prison’s duplicitous, church-pin-wearing warden, meeting fans and signing autographs at a special screening of SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION at the venerable Renaissance.

The weekend ends Sunday night with an encore screening of the movie in the open air in downtown Ashland - weather permitting, although there is a famous rainstorm-escape scene, so maybe a torrential downpour with lightning and thunder would be fitting.

Several area hotels offer package deals for accommodations. Certain sites and events are free of charge, while others are ticketed. For more information go online to

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