JACKSON, Tenn. - As part of the Jackson-Madison County Library’s NEA Big Read program, the community will have several opportunities to experience free live theatre in Jackson this October with four full-length performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised] and a one-night performance by the Tennessee Shakespeare Company of their original production, Shake(s) Rattle and Roll.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised] will be performed outdoors Oct. 19 – 22, with three evening shows at 7:30 pm in the courtyard at The Suites of Larue Oct. 19 – 21 and a 3 pm show at The Amp on Sun., Oct. 22.
Directed by Leah Fincher and starring David Lundgren, Ontoni Reedy and David Stutzman, The Complete Works features all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed in 97 minutes by three actors. Fast paced, witty, and physical, the show is full of laughter for Shakespeare lovers and haters alike and is one of the world’s most frequently produced plays.
Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy this comedic performance of Shakespeare under the stars. Parents with young children should be advised that the show includes innuendo, physical humor, mildly crude language, some bawdy humor and irreverent foolery.
Also in October will be a one-night performance by the Tennessee Shakespeare Company, based in Germantown, Tenn., of its original production entitled Shake(s) Rattle and Roll at 6:30 pm in the Tigrett Auditorium at Community Montessori School on Thurs., Oct. 26. The show creatively links the music of the Memphis sound to the works of Shakespeare and has been performed throughout Memphis and Shelby County for school children and adults. Attendees will discover chart-topping, foot-stomping Shakespeare in a musical 45-minute performance. This is a fun show for all ages and admission is free.
“Even after 400 years, Shakespeare is still as relevant today as he was when he was alive,” says Jenci Spradlin, Adult Services Librarian. “While most people’s exposure to Shakespeare involves reading his plays or poetry in school, his plays were meant to be performed. We hope that by offering these opportunities for audiences to experience Shakespeare through these light-hearted performances, that they will be inspired to learn more about his works and his life.”
These Library sponsored performances are made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest for The Big Read, a program that aims to inspire conversation and discovery through the joy of sharing a good book.
The Big Read in the Jackson-Madison County area has focused on the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, with weekly activities and events throughout September and October. As part of the program, copies of the novel have been made widely available throughout the community, as well as through the schools for use by teachers. In addition, two companion books for younger audiences, Blackout by John Rocco, and The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, have made The Big Read something the entire family can enjoy together.
“The goal of The Big Read is to encourage people to take time to enjoy a great book,” said Jenci Spradlin, adult services librarian and project coordinator for The Big Read. “Our programs and events play off key themes within the novel and offer something for everyone, including children and teens. We hope this combination of book discussions and events will inspire people to take part in this exciting program.”
The Library is one of 75 nonprofit organizations to receive a NEA Big Read grant to host this community reading program, providing the community the opportunity to connect to one another in a variety of creative ways around a contemporary novel that was named one of the best books of 2014 by more than a dozen publications, including winning the Arthur C. Clark Award and being a finalist for the National Book Award.
Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel that tells the story of a small band of actors and musicians 20 years after a flu pandemic has wiped out 99% of the Earth’s population. Calling themselves the Traveling Symphony, they roam settlements of survivors performing classical music and Shakespearean plays, dedicated to keeping art and humanity alive. When the Traveling Symphony returns to reunite with a couple and their baby who were once part of the troupe, their lives are threatened by a dangerous prophet and head of a doomsday cult. Station Eleven is ultimately a hopeful book and it’s a reminder that art – a play, a comic book, a musical interlude and even an apocalyptic novel – can be the best means towards cultivating a civilization and preserving our humanity.
“With the Jackson Arts Council celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year, it is a wonderful time for the community to come together to read the novel and to talk about the importance of the arts and how the arts make the area a better place to live,” continued Spradlin. “The motto of the Traveling Symphony and what Mandel calls the thesis of the novel is taken from an episode of Star Trek Voyager: ‘Survival is insufficient.’ The arts remind us of our connection to one another.”
All programs are free and have included multiple opportunities for the community to gather to discuss the novel in book discussion groups, as well as having our Family Book Club and Teen Book Club enjoying City of Ember this month. Area professors will present a panel discussion on the novel’s themes at a Keynote Roundtable at the University of Memphis Lambuth at 6 pm on Oct. 10 and fans of comics and graphic novels can learn about their favorite series an event at Nerdvana from 1 – 4 pm on Sat., Oct. 21.
The entire listing of special events and book discussions, as well as details about The Big Read and Station Eleven can be found on the new Big Read website at www.JMCReads.org. The site was created as a special project of four local high school students as part of the Dev Catalyst program at TheCO.
The Library has partnered with many local organizations to create and promote The Big Read. These partners include the Jackson Arts Council, the Jackson Downtown Development Corporation, the Jackson-Madison County School System, The CO, the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus, the City of Jackson and Freed Hardeman University.
Matching funds for the NEA Big Read grant are being provided by the Jackson-Madison County Library, the Library Foundation, the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation, the Friends of the Library and the Joseph E. Martin Shakespeare Circle, with numerous in-kind contributions of venue space, promotional assistance, professional expertise and volunteers.
ABOUT THE NEA BIG READ
Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $19 million in grants to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past eleven years, grantees have leveraged more than $42 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 4.8 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 79,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 37,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. Last summer, the NEA announced a new focus for the NEA Big Read Library on contemporary authors and books written since the NEA was founded 50 years ago. For more information about the NEA Big Read, please visit neabigread.org.
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.
Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit artsmidwest.org.
The Jackson-Madison County Library is located at 433 E. Lafayette St. in downtown Jackson. For more information, visit the Library’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/JMCLibrary or The Big Read website at www.JMCReads.org.