Literature festival gets LIT

By Roo Rusk, Staff Writer

Ye olde bookworms gather ‘round... tonight Newman’s English department will be kicking off its 20th annual Literary Festival.

This year, the theme is “Beowulf,” so many events will be centered around a classic English theme. The two-day-long extravaganza is set to feature a wide range of activities from keynote speakers and workshops to a Sloppy Joes show and live performances. Not only are Newman students welcome, but also the event is free and open to the public. Lit Fest will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday and continue all day Friday in Jabara Flexible Theater in the De Mattias Fine Arts Building.

One of the guests this year is award-winning Kansas Poet Laureate, Dr. Kevin Rabas. Students may attend a poetry reading by Rabas right at the start of Lit Fest at 6 p.m. As the Poet Laureate of the Kansas, Rabas said his agenda is to discover new poetic talent across the state and that he hopes to focus on “finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, finding the beauty and value in everything around us.”

Guests are typically available for questions afterwards.

Another notable attendee will be the New York Times Best Selling author of young adult fantasy novel, “The Mere Wife,” Maria Dahvana Headley. Headley will be delivering a keynote address titled “Beowulf: Story, Faith, Identity” directly following Rabas’ poetry reading at 7 p.m.

Headley’s work “clearly has a novelist/fantasy realm that is connected very closely to the folklore and mythology of Beowulf, which I think is pretty exciting,” said Director of Theatre Mark Mannette.

Performances at the festival will be given predominantly by Newman’s own students. Professor Marguerite Regan’s Shakespeare class will be presenting scenes they’ve prepared from Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.” Mannette’s class will perform a scene from his new, original play “The Confessor.”

“Every year, I try to fit the theme as much as possible. This year, I’m doing a scene from my play ‘The Confessor’ which is set in the 11th century and it’s really back in Anglo-Saxon times. The culture of ‘The Confessor’ is grown out of the culture related to ‘Beowulf,’” Mannette said.

The Sloppy Joes Improv Troupe will be at the festival to give an hour-long show at 9 p.m. on Friday.

English professor Bryan Dietrich will share readings from his latest work, “Demeter Diaries.”

A presentation of the newest edition of Newman’s literary journal, the Coelacanth, will also take place. The journal is an annual publication of original, student-submitted work such as poetry, short stories, plays or creative non-fiction.

Editor-in-chief of the Coelacanth, Amy Emerson, says the book owes much of its success to Dr. Susan Crane-Laracuente.

“I’m 98% positive that she has put even more work into these events than she lets on. She has also been a huge supporter to me throughout the process, as this is my first year to introduce the Coelacanth journal as editor-in-chief,” Emerson said.

A full schedule of Literary Festival  events is available on the Newman website.

PHOTO: THE SLOPPY JOES will be closing out Lit Fest with a show at 9 p.m. on Friday. Courtesy photo, Sloppy Joe Improv