Coffee and TV, anyone? On Thursday, September 12, Skidmore College will be hosting a free public screening of a brand-new WHMT Public Media-produced Caffè Lena documentary, Lena: A Life in Folk.
The film follows the life of Lena Spencer, legendary co-owner of the Saratoga Springs-based folk venue, which has hosted folk music luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Don McLean, Emmylou Harris and Ani DiFranco throughout the years. After her husband and co-owner, Bill, left her in 1962, Lena helmed Caffè Lena through the venue’s formative years until her death in 1989, molding it into what has become the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America. “With all the buzz about woman-led arts organizations here in Saratoga, it’s good to remember the lady who started it all,” says Sarah Craig, executive director of Caffè Lena. “Lena Spencer was an anchor of the Capital Region music scene all the way back to 1960, and a significant figure in the national folk scene, too. She ran her venue as a single woman for nearly four decades. She’s a Saratogian of tremendous influence, and I think we’re all about to get to know her a lot better.”
The venue, which has since expanded its capacity and undergone a $2 million renovation, is still hosting the best and brightest of the folk set, including recent performances by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Sebastian, Grammy Award-winning folkie Judy Collins and Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen. “For the last couple years Caffe Lena’s focus has been on a new look for the venue, new music and lots of new audience members in the seats, says Craig. “We’ve been averaging 250 to 350 first-timers every month. It’s important for all these new friends to understand that everything we’ve built stands on decades of history.”
The film will be screened at 6pm on September 12 in the college’s Gannett Auditorium, and is open to the public. But space is limited, so interested parties must RSVP for a seat at the screening by Friday, September 6. (RSVP here.)
In addition to the screening, there will also be a discussion about the film led by public historian Field Horne, who is also a founding trustee at Caffe Lena. Refreshments will be served.