After news of his passing, a makeshift Robin Williams Memorial appeared below the Parrish Shoes sign on the building at the corner of West and Main Street in downtown Keene. A keepsake remaining from the filming of “Jumanji,” the Parrish Shoes sign was an appropriate spot for mourners to pay their respects to Williams. The memorial was not only unexpected, but also poignant. Residents and visitors brought candles, flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals to the memorial, along with handwritten notes thanking Williams for his humor and kindness.
In 1994, Keene, New Hampshire, was the backdrop for numerous scenes in “Jumanji,” one of Williams’ many films. The story about a 12 year-old boy who gets trapped inside a board game transformed Keene into the movie’s fictional town of Brantford and featured the likes of Frank’s Barber Shop, about 150 locals who served as extras in the film, and computer-generated animals rampaging through Central Square and down West Street.
But it was Williams who dominated the screen as “Alan,” the character who was confined inside a board game for 26 years, released by two young children who found the game in the attic of Alan’s old home. Now an adult, Alan had a chance to finish playing the game, and in doing so, to alter his own course and that of others—all with the simple roll of the dice.
According to Keene’s Sentinel.com, “[Williams] left a city and its residents in stitches, whether joking with a young child dressed in blue — ‘Look, a Smurf’ — or answering questions after shooting a scene.”
After filming the movie, Williams was presented with the keys to the city by Keene Mayor William F. Lynch. “The mayor of Munchkinland,” Williams said, according to Sentinel.com. “If you hear a noise at your door tonight, it’s me. It’s a big key and somewhere there’s a big lock.”
Williams had the crowd at City Hall in stitches as he accepted the keys and launched into his unique brand of comedy, honoring all who were in attendance with his talent rather than merely being an honored guest. When a big star comes to a little town, people tend to notice. But when that star happens to be Robin Williams, it’s the people in the town that get noticed.
In remembrance of the four days in 1994 when Williams shot scenes in Keene and in nearby Swanzey, there will be a free screening of “Jumanji” at The Colonial Theatre on Main Street on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 2pm. Tim Horgan, the theater’s director of audience services, told Sentinel.com, “We thought it might be a good idea for us to do something good for the community in response, not only to commemorate Robin Williams because he was so impressive, but also because a little bit of our city is in the movie.”
Donations made in Robin Williams’ memory at the screening will go to MAPS Counseling Services, which provides mental health counseling to patients in the Monadnock Region. Williams left this world much too early. But while he was here, he brought laughter with him wherever he went, he entertained millions with his talents, and he granted his audiences an escape from realities that were often too troubling to bear. From his debut on ABC’s Happy Days as Mork from Ork, to Dr. Sean Maguire in “Good Will Hunting,” we have enjoyed Williams’ range of manic hilarity and dramatic depth through decades of film, television, and stand-up comedy. And visitors to the memorial below the Parrish Shoes sign are sending the message out to the world that Robin Williams will be sorely missed.