"A celebration in every sense of the word," The Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers' semi-annual Celebration of Books happens this weekend, Sept. 24-25.
The event kicks off Friday night, Sept. 24, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, 111 E. 1st St., with "An Evening with Sue Monk Kidd and Michael Cunningham" at 7pm. The festivities continue on Saturday, Sept. 25, with a day of panel discussions, writing workshops, live interviews and books signings at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, 700 N. Greenwood Ave.
According to The Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers' Executive Director Teresa Miller, "the event is designed to honor and celebrate the invaluable contributions of literature to our culture and society."
"Ultimately, the celebration is about more than just having a great time with authors and books," Miller said. "We truly believe that through reading, that through a free exchange of ideas, we can broaden our thinking, enlarge our hearts and build a better community."
This year's Homecoming Award, which honors writers originally from the south and southwest who have distinguished the region through their writing, will be given to Sue Monk Kidd, author of "The Secret Life of Bees" and "The Mermaid Chair."
Michael Cunningham, novelist and author of short stories and screenplays, will receive the Ambassador's Award, which honors authors of international stature whose works reach beyond cultural boundaries.
He may be best known for his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, "The Hours," which became an Academy Award-winning film starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. His other novels include "Specimen Days," "A Home at the End of the World" and "Flesh and Blood."
Saturday's presentations begin at 9am with Rich Fisher's public interview of Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, on the anniversary of her first day at Little Rock High School in 1957. The group of nine students made civil rights history by attending the school, escorted on their first day by 1,000 members of the U.S. Army.
At 1pm Saturday, Rita Dove will recieve the center's Ambassador Award. Dove, the first African American to be appointed U.S. poet laureate, won a Pulitzer for her poetry collection, "Thomas and Beulah."
Throughout the day, S.E. Hinton, Rilla Askew, Hannibal Johnson, PBS anchorman Jim Lehrer, Kristen and P.C. Cast, Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, Billie Letts, Connie Cronley, Barry Friedman, Jeff Martin and Pulitzer winner Beth Henley will offer writing workshops, and New York literary agent Marly Rusoff will present a publishing forum.
Additional Celebration of Books highlights include John Wooley's interview with music legends Jim Halsey and Wanda Jackson.
Tickets for the entire celebration, including "An Evening with Sue Monk Kidd and Michael Cunningham," are $45 and may be purchased by calling (918) 594-8215. Full-time teachers and students may attend the Saturday sessions for free, but still need to register.
Tickets for "An Evening with Sue Monk Kidd and Michael Cunningham" may be purchased separately for $20 by calling (918) 596-7111 or visiting myticketoffice.com.
For a full Celebration of Books schedule, visit the Oklahoma Poets and Writers website at poetsandwriters.okstate.edu.
Birds of a Feather
This weekend, Tulsa Ballet presents what the company's artistic director calls "without a doubt, the hardest, most complex role for a ballerina" in Swan Lake.
Marcello Angelini, who choreographed the ballet in 1998, said doing so was no easy task.
"If you want to choreograph a traditional Swan Lake, the task is to stay in style, so to speak," Angelini said. "Thankfully, I have danced the (Marius) Petipa work during my previous life as a dancer and had a lot to draw from.
"As for (my) objectives I had a few. The first one was to reduce the sheer size of the ballet, both in length and number of dancers required to perform it."
Angelini said the original ballet ran about four hours and required hundreds of dancers. So he cut all the scenes nonessential to the story -- "and there were a lot of those," he said.
"The last objective was to create a work that would challenge the entire company," Angelini said. "Each one of the ballets we do needs to generate growth for the company. You achieve this goal by pushing your team always a step beyond their comfort zone. The hope is that, after the curtain comes down on the last show, the new territory becomes part of the comfort zone, thus stretching their abilities as individuals and as a whole."
Set to a score composed by Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by the evil sorcerer von Rothbart. Prince Siegfried sees her and falls in love and attempts to lift the spell. His plan is somewhat foiled when von Rothbart uses his daughter, Odile, to distract him from his intentions.
Traditional tellings of the story end with Odette and Siegfried, realizing the spell will never be broken after Siegfried accidentally pledges his love to Odile, drowning themselves in the lake.
Angelini's version has a happier ending. It's a more modern version of, essentially, the same story, he said.
"In the literature of the 19th century, we used symbols to describe circumstances we couldn't explain," Angelini said. "Then, with the advent of psychology, we learned about the conditions that created a whole realm of behaviors. For example, if you wanted to write a story or create a ballet around the idea of impossible love, you would come up with the plot of making the maiden a swan or a sylph. Since you can't really love an animal or touch a sylph -- she'll die the moment you touch her -- you created the illusion of impossible love. And, of course, since there was a big emphasis on destiny we couldn't control, there had to be a big, burly, ugly magician that transformed, for no reason, a beautiful maiden into a feathered being.
"We then learned, during the past century, that if we have troubles with relationships, it is probably because something inside of us is preventing successful connection with other human beings. If we can face our challenges and understand the source of our problems, we can solve them. And then love will be possible.
"With that in mind, I made a subtle change to the plot," Angelini said. "Rothbart, the sorcerer, is now a dark prince actually the dark side of the prince. At the end of the ballet, when Prince Siegfried finally faces Rothbart, thus defeating his darker side, suddenly all the maidens, including his beloved Odette, become humans, making love finally possible. It's a subtle change, but it makes a whole lot of sense to me."
Dancing the roles of Odette and Odile are TB soloist Soo Youn Cho and guest artist Erina Takahashi, senior principal of the English National Ballet. Alfonso Martin and Wang Yi will dance the role of Prince Siegfried, and Ma Cong and Claudio Cocino will dance Rothbart.
Tulsa Ballet presents Swan Lake Sept. 24-25 at 8pm and Sept. 26 at 3pm in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall, 110 E. Second St. Tickets are $20-$70, with discounts for seniors and children, and are available at tulsapac.com.
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