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Lewis Center for the Arts presents When Pages Breathe, a series of events highlighting oral interpretation of literary works

originally published: 11/21/2023

Lewis Center for the Arts presents When Pages Breathe, a series of events highlighting oral interpretation of literary works

Lecturer in Theater Chesney Show, organizer of the When Pages Breathe series. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chesney Snow.

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Theater and Music Theater at Princeton University presents When Pages Breathe, a series of three events that highlight the oral interpretation of literary works. The series is conceived in collaboration with the Princeton University Library's current exhibition, In the Company of Good Books: Shakespeare to Morrison, and Lecturer in Theater Chesney Snow's fall course, "The Oral Interpretation of Toni and William."

On November 28 at 4:45pm, a solo performance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, adapted by Kelvin Grullon for Literature to Life, will be presented in the Drapkin Studio followed by a discussion with the creative team. This event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required, available through University Ticketing. On November 30, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok, who wrote the book for an upcoming musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby, will discuss the process of literary adaptation with Snow in the CoLab, an event that is free and open to the public. On November 29 through December 7 a multimedia oral interpretation of literature installation will be on view in the CoLab and is free and open to the public daily 10:00am to 8:00pm.

Lewis Center for the Arts presents When Pages Breathe, a series of events highlighting oral interpretation of literary works

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and 2018-19 Princeton Hodder Fellow Martyna Majok who has written the book for a new musical of The Great Gatsby. Photo Credit: Brian McConkey

The Library’s exhibition, which honors the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623, draws from the Library’s diverse collection of English language literature and many of the writers and readers who brought life to English literature around the world, such as a 1598 first edition of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Toni Morrison’s handwritten manuscript drafts of Desdemona. The exhibition, on view through December 10, is curated by Jennifer Garcon, Librarian for Modern and Contemporary Special Collections, Gabriel Swift, Librarian for American Collections, and Eric White, Scheide Librarian and Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts.

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Snow’s semester-long course is a performance lab that examines speech as an aspect of fine art through the exploration of the literary canons of Morrison, Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitgerald and others and utilized the Library’s archives and exhibition in their research. Morrison served on Princeton’s faculty from 1989 to 2006 and Fitzgerald is a member of Princeton’s Class of 1917.

When Pages Breathe: An Oral Interpretation of The Great Gatsby will be presented in collaboration with Literature to Life (LTL). LTL is a performance-based literacy program that presents professionally staged verbatim adaptations of American literary classics. LTL’s mission is to perform great books that inspire young people to read and become authors of their own lives. LTL was founded more than three decades ago as the educational program of the American Place Theatre. Now an independent organization, this collective of artists and educators brings the voices of diverse authors to thousands of students and audiences nationwide, giving them the tools to become the empowered “voices worth hearing” of the future.

The adaption of The Great Gatsby to be performed by actor Bryce Foley is LTL’s newest title in their Signature Performance series. The performance, adapted and directed by Kelvin Grullon, transports audiences to the Roaring Twenties—a time of opulence, jazz, and the complexities of the American Dream, exploring social stratification, the stark contrasts between ‘old money’ and ‘new money,’ and the intricate dynamics of gender, race, and environmentalism that are woven into the narrative. The event will also include performances of oral interpretations created by students in Snow’s course. Elise Thoron, the co-founding artistic director of LTL will be joined by Grullon and Foley for a post-performance discussion about the adaptation, moderated by Snow.

Lewis Center for the Arts presents When Pages Breathe, a series of events highlighting oral interpretation of literary works

Actor Bryce Foley who will perform Literature to Life’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, adapted and directed by Kelvin Grullon, on November 28. Photo courtesy of Literature to Life.

On November 30 in When Pages Breathe: Adaptation of Modern Classics, Snow and Majok, a 2018-19 Princeton Hodder Fellow, will take a deep dive into the art of adaptation. Majok’s book for a new musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby with a score by international rock star Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine and Oscar and Grammy Award nominee Thomas Bartlett will have its world premiere in May 2024. The event will include more performances of oral interpretations created by students in Snow’s course.

From November 28 through December 7, an installation titled When Pages Breathe: Immersive Elocution of Literature will be on view. This multimedia installation by Snow and students in his fall course examines speech as an aspect of fine art through the exploration of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, as well as the works of Morrison and William Shakespeare. The installation also includes work by visual artists Brian Gonzalez and AK Lovelace and New York City-area high school students, live music by AJ Khaw, and projection design by David Bengali.

Free tickets for the November 28 Gatsby performance can be reserved through University Ticketing. All other events are free with no tickets required.

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Snow, who has organized the series, is a Drama Desk Award winner who recently collaborated with Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Dominique Morriseau for Skeleton Crew on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club to craft vocal soundscapes and music for the critically acclaimed production. He originated the role of Boxman in Broadway's first a cappella musical In Transit. Considered a pioneering figure in American beatbox culture, he founded the American Beatbox Championships and executive produced the documentary American Beatboxer, which was placed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Harvard University Hip Hop archives among others. He twice headlined Carnegie Hall with DCINY and has collaborated on stage as a beatboxer with many legendary artists including KRS One, Zap Mama, and Nile Rodgers. His most recent work as a composer and lyricist was alongside renowned playwright and actress Regina Taylor for her 15th anniversary production of Crowns at McCarter Theatre and the Long Wharf Theatre.

Visit the event webpage to view biographies of the guest artists and a video about Literature to Life.

Visit the Lewis Center website to learn about the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, lectures, and special events, most of them free, presented each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts.



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