Saturday, March 20, 2010

Support Your Local Arts

Today I spent some quality time down at the local library. This was the day for the annual “Alabama Bound” event hosted by the downtown branch of the Birmingham Public Library. Every year the event brings in Alabama authors (or authors with Alabama roots) who have published recent works. We get to hear from these writers about their experiences and about the art and craft of writing. It is always an inspirational day for me.

This year was especially inspiring. To tie in the state-wide Big Read promoting The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Alabama Bound event today focused on Mark Twain. I cannot remember a time when I was not delighted by Mark Twain. I wrote a little piece about him in my blog on 1-17 10, "A Place for Saints, Sinners, Doubters and Jilted Lovers.” Today’s event began with Mark Twain impersonator, Will Stutts. Mr. Stutts brought Samuel Clemens to life. He gave us the man in his own words, white suit, white hair and white mustache, bringing us much laughter as well as insight into the human condition.

We also heard some local High School students present their own poetry. The three winners from the “Word Up Poetry Slam” competition presented their winning pieces. I was truly inspire to hear what these young people were thinking and writing in their poetry. One cannot despair of the future when one hears the voices of young poets.

After lunch we heard from four authors who told of their fist encounters with Tom Sawyer and the influence of Mark Twain. Alan Gribben, Twain scholar from AUM and authors Ted Dunagan, Faye Gibbons, and Chandra Sparks-Taylor each gave the audience insight into the life and works of Mark Twain. We heard how a boy growing up in south Alabama in the 1940s would later put his write about that boyhood, just as Samuel Clemmons did 100 years earlier. We heard how a young girl whose family could conceive of nothing greater in her future that getting a job in the local mill was inspired to greater things by reading about a world opened up by Mark Twain's writings. A young African-American writer told of her hopes that her fictional characters would exhibit the kind of relationships and friendships found in Tom Sawyer.

The close of the day brought a superb presentation from storyteller Dolores Hydock. If you ever get a chance to hear Ms. Hydock, mark it on your calendar and be there. She gave dramatic recitations from some of Mark Twain’s works. With no stage props, only her storytelling skills, we were able to visualize Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer debating on the best cure for warts (Huck with a dead cat in hand). We heard Mark Twain's stories come alive and learned of events from his life. We heard about Clemens' knack for bad investments and we learned of the tender loving relationship between him and his wife, Olivia. Laughter abounded and then I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room as we heard “The Californian’s Tale.”

If you live near Birmingham, watch for Alabama Bound when it comes back around next March. In addition, there are many other profitable offerings throughout the year from all of our libraries and other local arts venues. Find out what is happening and support your local arts events.


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