books / literature / readings

Adam Van Winkle’s Abraham Anyhow: Award-winning Literature by an SIU Alum

SIU grad and Cairo High School English teacher Adam Van Winkle saw his novel Abraham Anyhow (Red Dir
Dustin Duncan
Video Comentary

SIU grad and Cairo High School English teacher Adam Van Winkle saw his novel Abraham Anyhow (Red Dirt Press, 148 pages, paperback, $15.95) published in April, highlighted by the Southern Literary Review as the June Read of the Month, and recently learned his novel was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Van Winkle describes Abraham Anyhow as two projects coming together, and an attempt to create a fictional universe surrounded by “Texoma,” the name locals have given the northern Texas/southern Oklahoma border. He is a graduate of Whitesboro High School in Texas, a town sporting a population of about 3,793 people.

Van Winkle said he followed the path of authors Larry McMurtry and Donald Ray Pollock, who have taken their hometown areas and made fictional universes about them.

“I was doing that with my short stories,” he said, “so it seemed like a natural fit for a longer book.”

Van Winkle’s dad was the mayor of a small town Oakland, Oklahoma, with a population of 674. He said his dad negotiated against a highway deal that would have caused his town to use imminent domain to acquire property in his and other towns. In reality, the deal never happened, but Van Winkle’s book is a fictionalized version of what would have 
if it did.

He classified the book as “grit-lit,” saying it’s about people who find themselves on the hard side of life, instead of the heroic side, while having all the same flaws as everyday people.

“All of my characters have something in their past that is holding them back, either because of guilt or anxiety, or the family structure raised them in such a way,” Van Winkle said. “The idea is that the way these characters move and do things are like the people I grew up with, not characters that are made for a story.”

The book isn’t without references to Southern Illinois as well. Actually, Van Winkle said there are about two or three Southern Illinois ties. He specifically mentioned a scene in the book where the father and son reunite after several years, and the book references Cobden.

Van Winkle obtained his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Texas Agricultural and Mechanical, then made the move to Southern Illinois for a graduate degree in English, studying literature. At SIU, he met his wife, Constance, and after graduating, the couple moved to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan to teach English. After a short time, they moved to Chicago and continued teaching. Eventually, Constance wanted to go back to school for her doctoral degree, and they ended up back at SIU.

Upon the return to Southern Illinois, Van Winkle said he zeroed in, teaching at Cairo, where he said the skills he developed in Chicago translated well. In addition, he said writing in Southern Illinois has been a pleasure. While in Chicago, he wrote in a basement, which wasn’t terrible; however, he said, starting at sunrise, writing on his front porch in Cobden while staring off into the woods, feels a lot better.

“People in Southern Illinois are a lot more like the people I grew up with than in Chicago, which helped spark something in my head for the stories,” he said.

Van Winkle said readers can find Abraham Anyhow at just about online bookstore. And be on the lookout for the second book of the trilogy, While They Are in the Field, which Van Winkle said is finished, though he hasn’t yet set a a publication date.


In addition to being a new novelist, Van Winkle and his wife are also the founders and editors of Cowboy Jamboree, classified by Van Winkle as a grit-lit magazine focused on the rural working class and revisionist western writing.

My Back Pages: Steve Falcone to Roast Ben Falcone in Absentia

Venues & Businesses
Varsity Center

Who: Steve Falcone
What: Ben Falcone’s Being a Dad is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours (book signing and author roast)
When: 2017-06-17
Carbondale native Ben Falcone, writer/director of The Boss and Tammy, and husband to superstar comed
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

Carbondale native Ben Falcone, writer/director of The Boss and Tammy, and husband to superstar comedy actress and SIU alum Melissa McCarthy, is on a tour to promote his new book, Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours (Dey Street Books, 240 pages, hardcover, $25.99).

And Ben’s book tour will not take him through his hometown.

Instead, his father, local theater legend Steve Falcone, will fill in Saturday, June 17 at 3:30 p.m. at the Varsity Center.

“He told his side— damn well— in the book,” the Falcone patriarch tells Nightlife, laughing. “The trouble is, it’s all the truth. It’s his mother’s fault— she gave him a terrible streak of truth-telling.”

Now it’s a proud dad’s turn to roast his son in absentia. “Should be a lotta fun,” Steve says.

Steve has stories about how Ben met Melissa while at the Groundlings School for improvisational and sketch comedy, crazy roadtrips he took with Ben and his older son Flynn (himself an actor, screenwriter, author, and director), and the Halloween when a fourteen-year-old Ben went out dressed like Alex P. Keaton— and in case anyone missed the point, Ben wore a sign saying, “I am a Republican asshole.”

“He was so proud of himself, he made a political statement at that age,” Steve says. “He was feeling his oats and getting there.”

Being a Dad Is Weird began, Steve says, as Thirty Things I Learned from My Father— a collection of stories Ben bound up and presented to Steve for Christmas. Then it grew, a publisher became interested, and it turned into a contrast between Steve’s and Ben’s parenting styles. Career choices necessitated those differences— Steve was largely a stay-at-home parent who spent a lot of time with his kids, while Ben’s Hollywood career sometimes forces him away from his own brood.

The whole family— Steve, matriarch Peg, Ben, and Flynn— loved Being a Dad Is Weird so much they came together in a little Los Angeles recording studio to read their parts for the audio book. Steve calls it “a great family fun day.”

The Varsity, Steve says, is a natural place for the signing— Ben and Flynn used to go to the Varsity Grill, which was located on the southeast corner of the present-day Varsity Center, to play pinball.

Admission is free but limited to 150 persons. The Bookworm will sell copies of Being a Dad Is Weird, and Steve, who’s pictured on the book’s cover with a young Ben, will happily sign them.

who: Steve Falcone

what: Ben Falcone’s Being a Dad is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours (book signing and author roast)

where: Varsity Center


when: Saturday, June 17 at 3:30 p.m.

Curtain Call: David Rush’s To My Dear Wife: A Benefit for Morris Library

Venues & Businesses
Morris Library

Who: Friends of Morris Library
What: benefit gala featuring David Rush’s To My Dear Wife (live theater)
When: 2016-10-15 - 2016-10-16
Pictured: David Rush.
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

The Friends of Morris Library will present their 2016 fundraising gala this Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16. The centerpiece of this year’s event will be a reception followed by the world premiere of To My Dear Wife, the newest play by SIU theater professor emeritus David Rush. The reception begins Saturday at 5:30 p.m., followed by the performance.

Rush is a quiet man who prefers to let the words of his characters do most of his talking. This weekend, his characters’ words will transport audiences to another time, but not another place— back to the Southern Illinois of the bloodiest era in American history, and through the eyes and letters of those who were there. Lovingly crafted by Rush after months of careful research into actual letters held in the Morris Library Special Collections Research Center, the series of monologues in To My Dear Wife will give audiences an authentic feeling of what it was like to live, love, and die in a Southern Illinois of the distant past. It is a labor of love for the lifelong Civil War enthusiast and avid reenactor, and Rush tells Nightlife that this premiere has a very special place in his heart.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Rush says. “Every year the Friends of Morris Library has a gala where they celebrate their accomplishments and do some fundraising. They usually try to have something one evening that comes from the library’s Special Collections. They have a lot of interesting stuff there— rare books and letters and papers of all sorts. This year they contacted me and asked me if I could write a little play of some sort that came out of the Special Collections. I discovered they have an amazing treasure house of Civil War papers— letters written by soldiers to their wives, diaries, things of that sort. I’ve always been a Civil War buff, and discovering these letters, it seemed an exciting and interesting project to try to create a little play from this collection. I could see an interesting scenario of a soldier writing to his wife and his wife writing back to him. The letters will hopefully tell a story about how the war has changed the husband and how it has changed the wife, and the results of that.”

In a twenty-first century era filled with emails, texts, Snapchats, and Tweets, one might wonder how or why handheld pen-to-paper communications that took weeks or even months for delivery more than a century and a half ago could still hold relevance. Still, Rush feels that letters, particularly wartime letters, continue to be poignant, holding a resonance that reaches off the ink-covered lines across time to touch readers and listeners.

“One of the series of letters that moved me the most as I read it,” Rush recalls, “was interesting to read because the writer’s attitude toward slavery and freeing slaves changed during the course of the war. Early on in the war, he was fighting to protect and save the Union. He wasn’t concerned about blacks and black rights. But as he went through the war and he saw what slavery was really all about, his attitude changed, and toward the end of his letters he began to feel that slavery was wrong and the war was indeed a war of liberation. I find that very moving. I think that type of communication, handwritten communication, is more meaningful because you are attached to the pen. The writing flows from you through the pen to the page. There are more conscious choices made and a more active involvement in the letter. When you type an email your fingers go rapidly over the keys and electronics take control. You’re not as intimately connected to the process. Yes, I think letters were more meaningful.”

Rush says that the writing process was not without its difficulties.

“The interesting thing is that most of the series of letters in these collections are from the husband to the wife, because she was at home keeping them,” Rush says. “Letters from the wife to the husband would reach him wherever he happened to be at the time, on the battlefield, on the march, somewhere moving. Therefore his ability to keep the letters was far less than her ability to save them. The biggest challenge for me with writing this play was to create the wife’s letters to the husband, because I had to base them reacting off things he must have written to her.”

Two local stage favorites, Elyse Pineau and Kevin Purcell, will bring To My Dear Wife to life, providing an emotional look at what it was like to be separated by war and united by love. Local musical favorites Bryan Crow and Mike Shanahan of local Celtic band the Dorians will complete the journey back in time with authentic songs of the Civil War era.

The weekend of Civil War-themed gala fundraising continues Sunday with a brunch at 11 a.m., followed by a short presentation by John A. Logan Museum director Mike Jones. The program will focus on the strategic role Southern Illinois played during this defining era in American history, and will feature artifacts from the period, as well as additional readings from letters and diaries from the time.

Both the Saturday evening performance and the Sunday afternoon presentation will take place in the library’s auditorium and first-floor rotunda.

Tickets are $75 for the gala and $35 for the brunch. Proceeds will benefit the Friends of Morris Library.

For tickets and more information, contact Toni Vagner at (618) 453-2642  or <>.

who: Friends of Morris Library

what: benefit gala featuring David Rush’s To My Dear Wife (live theater)

where: Morris Library


when: Saturday, October 15

Paul Loeb: Ordinary People Can Change the World

Venues & Businesses
SIU Student Center
SIU Honors Program

Who: University Honors Program
What: Paul Rogat Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times (Michael and Nancy Glassman lecture)
When: 2016-09-06
The University Honors Program presents guest lecturer Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen: Living
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

The University Honors Program presents guest lecturer Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times and The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, Tuesday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom D. The book is this year’s common reader for all incoming Honors freshmen. Loeb’s lecture is free and open to the public.

“What I do in general is talk about how citizens— ordinary people— can act, take a stand, make change,” Loeb told Nightlife. “I talk a lot about how change is a long-term process. I think oftentimes people think, ‘Oh, I did this. It didn’t work. Nothing immediately changed.’ Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Rosa Parks is the example Loeb uses in his lecture. Popular thought is that Rosa Parks came out of nowhere, sat on the bus, and everything changed, but that ignores the long history behind her and the Civil Rights movement.

“We don’t think about the fact that she’d been working for a dozen years with the NAACP as an activist and that all of that led up to it, and laid the stage, and built the ground,” Loeb said. “We just think about this one stand out of many stands that she took. It’s really different to think of it in terms of long process of change than just, here’s the woman who came out of nowhere. The change is deliberate. Doesn’t mean you know it’s going to happen, but you do something large or small and you hope to have some response and as a result, things happened. Rosa Parks— it wasn’t accidental, she’d been with the NAACP, she had training sessions the summer before her arrest at a labor and civil-rights place called Highlander in Tennessee that’s still going, so she knew what she was doing. She just didn’t know it would light as big a spark as it did or that we’d still be knowing her name sixty years later. That’s a long time.”

Another problem people often have with the long road toward change is wanting everything to be perfect.

“People shouldn’t get wrapped up in perfection, where everything has to be exactly right,” Loeb said. “I’d apply that to the elections, certainly. The attitude of ‘I’m staying home. I don’t like the candidates.’ Well, you know you make a choice, you choose who your values are in accord with, and they may not be perfect, but you still make that choice instead of waiting for the absolutely perfect situation, which is never going to come up.”

Most people do not feel empowered to try to make a difference, but Loeb addresses how even the unlikeliest person can help to create positive changes for the future.

“We often don’t know what we can do,” Loeb said. “For example, there’s a young woman I talk about. She was a freshman at Virginia Tech. It was the first election [when she could vote], she didn’t even vote. Not only didn’t she vote, they kind of played a drinking game where if the state went red, the red team would chug a beer, and if the state went blue, the blue team would chug a beer. I have nothing against chugging beer, you know, but it’s like, vote and then chug beer if you are so inclined. She was completely detached— and then she got interested in climate change because a professor was talking about it.”

This self-described party girl became a successful activist.

“She ended up growing this tiny, four-person environmental group until they had 1,200 people on their email list,” Loeb said. “It was like the biggest student organization on campus. She was this super-gifted organizer. She said, ‘I was a drunken party girl, and now I’m not.’ Then she did this initiative that got the entire campus to look at its environmental sustainability, with the president’s backing, since the group got so big that he started paying attention. She said that she was the least-likely person to be an activist, but now she’s really engaged in it. She had these latent skills and then she really bloomed. To me, I think it really does make a huge difference.”

For more information, visit <>. For more about the University Honors Program, log on to <>.

who: University Honors Program

what: Paul Rogat Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times (Michael and Nancy Glassman lecture)

where: Student Center Ballroom D


when: Tuesday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Editorial: Rules for Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

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Mania from the excellent Star Wars: The Force Awakens refuses to rest. Meanwhile, Teen Wolf kicked o
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

Mania from the excellent Star Wars: The Force Awakens refuses to rest. Meanwhile, Teen Wolf is finishing off another great season, and Terry Brooks’s beloved Shannara series is in the middle of its small-screen debut season. The Expanse premiered to deserved fanfare. The new season of The Walking Dead began with a bang, and winter is coming via Game of Thrones (possibly with a new book to accompany the HBO series). Et cetera. Sci-fi geeks like your humble writer are in heaven. Or Valinor, the Undying Lands to the West.

But as The Hunger Games begat Divergent and The Maze Runner, the entertainment industry will almost certainly react to the unparalleled success of The Force Awakens and the popularity of the genre in general with a huge landslide of copycat sci-fi dreck that keeps getting worse as we travel through the wormhole of time.

But it needn’t suck so badly if authors and directors adhere to the following rules for writing science fiction and fantasy. (They apply to all fiction, really, but sci-fi writers seem break them more than anyone else.)

Start with a good story, then develop the special-effects budget and marketing plan. The technological marvel you plan to create is insignificant next to the power of a strong plot— and you won’t sell many Underoos or Jello molds if it sucks. That’s why, right now, you can find original, unopened Anakin Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks merchandise in dollar stores for pennies and not on eBay for a small nation’s gross domestic product.

Give your readers and viewers a little credit, even if they’re children. J.K. Rowling was especially egregious about telegraphing to her readers who the villains were. Dolores Umbridge and Draco Malfoy were not destined to save the day against Voldemort.

And don’t spell out every damned plot point. Snoke didn’t need to tell Kylo Ren that Han Solo was his father. Kylo Ren already knew that, and the densest audience members figured it out before the revelation was verbalized.

You can’t improve upon perfection when adapting an acknowledged masterpiece. In making The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, Peter Jackson added a bunch of scenes that weren’t in the books and deleted a ton that were. All of those decisions showed how inferior a writer and visionary he was to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Don’t give your characters stupid, unpronounceable names, and don’t spell common names stupidly. Violating this rule doesn’t make you seem sophisticated. It just annoys all the readers who are trying to enjoy your story and makes them stumble or glaze over characters who should be memorable.

If your character’s name is pronounced Jenny, don’t spell her name “Jeyne.” If you want to call your character Jaqen H’ghar, rethink that name. Any name with more than two consecutive consonants and an apostrophe is probably a dumb name.

If you’re going to be creative with character names, keep them simple. That’s the one thing George Lucas even got right when it came to Jar Jar Binks.

Consider the unintentional homonyms you’re probably creating. While we’re thinking about character names, J.J. Abrams should have come up with something more intimidating for the Imperious Leader in The Force Awakens than Scone or Bagel or whatever she/he/it is called.

Oh, right, the name was Snoke. Sounds like a castrati that J.K. Rowling was smart enough to edit out of her Harry Potter series.

Maybe a better example is Allanon from the Shannara series. Did his parents have a drinking problem or something?

Your poetry sucks. J.R.R. Tolkien, at least for the sci-fi genre, had a remarkable facility for writing poetry and songs, and in languages he himself invented. As the Rosetta Stone for fantasy, Tolkien has deeply inspired every author and filmmaker who followed him. But those who felt compelled to pen original verses for their own works have far more often than not embarrassed themselves. Badly. They’ve wasted readers’ time and pointlessly blockaded the forward motion of their own plots. Stick to prose.

Your personal obsessions are boring and get in the way of the plot. George R.R. Martin is fat because he can’t stop eating. The clues are all over his books: Not a single meal is served in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels (from which Game of Thrones is adapted) without Martin drooling for three or four pages over every single item on the menu. So put down the pickled goose leg fried with duck eggs in bacon fat, pay the damned check, leave the waiter a good tip, and get on with the story. Those who want the culinary details can buy the (admittedly awesome) A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook.

A little bit of emotion goes a long way. If you don’t develop your characters, then nobody will care about the action in which they find themselves embroiled— but don’t overdo it. That is especially true of “humor” and angst.

When most sci-fi writers think they’re being funny, they’re wrong— witness Jar Jar Binks. There’s also the unforgivably stupid “comic relief” with which Peter Jackson curdled The Hobbit in the scenes he added that featured dorky wizard Radagast the Brown.

And as far as angst goes, heroes don’t mope— they step up and take action. The problem with Hamlet isn’t that Shakespeare set the play in Denmark— it’s that the lead character is a gutless, indecisive whiner, not a role model. Dropping a variation of Hamlet into space or some fantasy world doesn’t make the character compelling, nor does making she/he/it a vampire— and you’re not Shakespeare. We have counseling and antidepressants now, but advanced civilizations with hyperdrive technology and magical lands with wizards and druids don’t have treatments that can shake out the teenage doldrums long enough for a character to escape a womp-rat or orc?

Dance with them what brung you. When The Walking Dead spent an entire half-season perseverating over a swine-flu outbreak, Nightlife officemate Chris Rhymer made the astute observation that fans of the show weren’t there to see a character-driven medical drama— there’s Grey’s Anatomy for that. Science fiction and fantasy don’t exist to obsess over the mundane. Audiences don’t need a two-hour depiction of a quest for toilet paper, or any explanation for how our heroes live without it. Just cover them in zombie gore and make them fight their way across the post-apocalyptic hellscape. You can develop the characters while they do so.


There are probably many more essential points, but as someone who has never written or directed a sci-fi masterpiece, in conclusion I must concede the following: Editors of weekly newspapers are sometimes wrong.

Devils Kitchen Literary Festival 2015: It’s Good to Be Read

Venues & Businesses
Morris Library

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Who: Lisa Fay Coutley / Sass Brown / Ben Tanzer / Megan Milks / David Tomas Martinez
What: Devils Kitchen Literary Festival
When: 2015-10-21 - 2015-10-23
Pictured, top to bottom: Sass Brown, Lisa Fay Coutley, Angie Macri, Megan Milks, David Tomas Martine
Leah Williams
Video Comentary

Now in its fourteenth year, the annual Devils Kitchen Literary Festival opens up next week with a three-day celebration of everything the written word has to offer.

The festival begins Wednesday, October 21 and continues through Friday, October 23. All readings will be held in the Morris Library Auditorium.

The longstanding event features readings, panels, and book signings by up-and-coming authors from all across the nation. Awards will be presented to the author of one book of poetry, one book of fiction, and one book of prose nonfiction.

Ben Tanzer will open the festival Wednesday, October 21 at 8 p.m. with a reading. A writers’ panel will begin festivities Thursday, October 22 at 11 a.m., followed by poetry readings at 2 p.m.

A reception and book signing will take place at 3:15 p.m. in the first floor rotunda of the library.

David Thomas Martinez and Megan Milks will close out Thursday with readings at 4:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

Friday is another all-day series of events opening with a question-and-answer session with SIU professors Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble. Next up is a session at 1 p.m. featuring readings from Grassroots editors and contributors. The last session will be a poetry reading by Angie Macri at 2 p.m.

One featured reader at this year’s event is first-time participant Megan Milks, a fiction writer whose work investigates the relationships among form, agency, identity, and the body. Her first collection of short fiction, Kill Marguerite and Other Stories, was published in March 2014 and was named a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

“I’ve been writing as long as I have been reading,” Milks, who is also a visiting assistant professor of English at Beloit College in Wisconsin, told Nightlife. “It’s something I’ve always done.”

Tanzer is also set to join his first ever Devils Kitchen Literary Festival. His book Lost in Space received an honorable mention in the Chicago Writers Association’s 2014 Book Awards’ traditional non-fiction category. Tanzer also wrote Orphans, which won the Midwest Book Award for fantasy, science fiction, horror, and paranormal fiction.

For Tanzer, the prospect of becoming a writer was a journey that started in high school but didn’t really come to fruition until he became an adult.

“I had this required writing class when I was a senior in high school, and I had some teachers give me some positive recognition,” Tanzer told Nightlife. “But it wasn’t until I was thirty that I really decided to go for it.”

Milks said she enjoys working in young-adult literature because of the opportunity to present overlooked points of view in that genre, especially queer-identity themes. She added that representation and the ability to identify with characters is especially important for this impressionable age group.

“When I was growing up, there wasn’t anything like that available anywhere,” she said.

Tanzer said he is considering a few pieces to read at the Devils Kitchen Literary Festival, including one about his family history and insomnia. He said he, his son, and his father all have trouble sleeping at night.

Tanzer said every work he has ever written contains a large amount of himself.

“Every piece is literally a piece of my brain that I have pulled out and presented,” Tanzer said. “But this one, particularly, I was really involved in the editing process.”

Also among the writers coming to Carbondale include Sass Brown, David Tomas Martinez, Lisa Fay Coutley, and Angie Macri.

For more information about the festival, check out the Devils Kitchen Literary Festival on Facebook.

who: Lisa Fay Coutley / Sass Brown / Ben Tanzer / Megan Milks / David Tomas Martinez

what: Devils Kitchen Literary Festival

where: Morris Library


when: Wednesday through Friday, October 21 through October 23

Curtain Call: Lori Merrill-Fink’s Buffoons, Babes, and Bastards: The Buried Theatrical Treasures in Morris Library

Venues & Businesses
Morris Library

Who: Friends of Morris Library
What: gala featuring Sarah Blackstone / Lori Merrill-Fink’s Buffoons, Babes, and Bastards (live theater); luncheon
When: 2015-10-03 - 2015-10-04
Pictured: Lori Merrill-Fink.
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

An original performance of Lori Merrill-Fink’s Buffoons, Babes, and Bastards will take place Saturday, October 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Friends of Morris Library gala.

“We wanted to highlight something that was part of the library’s collection,” Kristine B. McGuire, director of development at Morris Library, told Nightlife. “We have a collection in our Special Collection that’s called the Sherman Theatre Collection. It is a collection of vaudeville skits and sketches and some early radio plays and music, things like that— very humorous.... It’s going to be about half an hour long, she has a cast of ten, about eight students from the theater department and two volunteers from the library staff.”

According to a press release about the gala, the Sherman Theatre Collection includes play manuscripts copyrighted by the Chicago Manuscript Company between 1871 and 1938. Predominately consisting of American melodramas, many of the scripts come complete with diagrams, property lists, costume details, and other notes. There are also numerous boxes of actors’ notes for other plays and radio and television drama scripts from 1922 to 1950, many of which were written by Robert Sherman. Correspondence, contracts, photos, and other items compiled by Sherman, a longtime theater manager, are also included.

There are eighty boxes— radio plays, dramas, comedies, sketches, and things like that, and so with some assistance, I culled all eighty boxes and came up with about thirty to forty minutes [of material] ,” Merrill-Fink told Nightlife. “We are focusing on kinetic material. There’s one called Do Ra Me, which I’d love to be able to find – there’s no publication date on it. These are all from 1915 to, there’s even television scripts from the 1940s. I wish I could find a location date on this Do Ra Me, because it sure reminds me of Who’s on First. It is really well written.”

The performance should resonate with people familiar with comedy in the early part of the last century.

“It’s certainly a trip back in time to what made people laugh back then, and I think more mature audience members are going to find that this reminds them quite a bit of George Burns and Gracie Allen’s television show, even some of Groucho Marx when he was on television in his later years,” Merrill-Fink said.

Sarah Blackstone, a professor of theater history at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, will also speak about the Sherman Theatre Collection at the gala.

“She used to be on the faculty here— she was chair of the theater department before she left,” McGuire said. “She actually discovered the Sherman Theatre Collection. We knew we had it, but we didn’t really know what was in it or the significance. For that time period, this is very much the entertainment of the common people, which is what her area of interest is, so she’s coming back to talk a little bit about this particular collection and also theater collections and special collections.”

The gala is a good opportunity to ask about what’s in this collection.

“She’ll talk a little bit on Saturday before the performance and then we’ll have the performance,” McGuire said. “Then, afterwards, there will be dessert and coffee, and you can mingle with the student actors and Lori and Sarah and ask questions and learn a little bit more about how this was done and created. I think it will be interesting and fun. As I said, we wanted to highlight parts of what the library holds and what is special about our collections, because most people don’t know. They are the best-kept secret at SIU.”

The gala takes place in Morris Library’s First Floor Rotunda and Hall of Presidents. The reception will also feature wine and hors d’oeuvres.

The Friends of Morris Library will then host a brunch Sunday, October 4 at 11 a.m. in Morris Library’s First Floor Rotunda and Hall of Presidents. Blackstone will speak about the various theater collections held in SIU’s Special Collections, and an exhibit will highlight some of the other treasures in Morris Library.

Tickets are $75 for the October 3 reception and $35 for the October 4 luncheon. Both events are open to the public, but reservations are required. To purchase tickets, contact McGuire at (618) 453-1633 or <>.

who: Friends of Morris Library

what: gala featuring Sarah Blackstone / Lori Merrill-Fink’s Buffoons, Babes, and Bastards (live theater); luncheon

where: Morris Library


when: Saturday, October 3; Sunday, October 4

Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates How Do Two Similar Baltimore Kids Lead Such Different Lives?

Venues & Businesses
SIU Student Center

Who: Student Programming Council / Distinguished Speaker Series
What: Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore One Name, Two Fates (author lecture)
When: 2015-09-23
Journalist and Army veteran Wes Moore will speak Wednesday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Student
Jennifer “Jay” Bull
Video Comentary

Journalist and Army veteran Wes Moore will speak Wednesday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballrooms as part of the SIU Distinguished Speakers Series.

“In researching candidates for any speaking engagement on campus, the goal is to find someone who is thought-provoking and who will engage and educate the university and the community,” SIU spokesperson Thomas Woolf told Nightlife. “Students from the Student Programming Council researched candidates and felt that Wes Moore would be an exceptional choice for the Distinguished Speaker, as they felt he would connect with our students and the community at large.... His life experiences— from growing up in a tough neighborhood to becoming a Rhodes scholar— and his accomplishments as an author and an entrepreneur suggested that he is the change-agent we wanted at SIU.”

The insight that Moore shows in his first book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, is one to which audiences can relate.

“Moore talks about how it’s hard to distinguish between second chances and last chances,” Woolf said. “We hope the audience walks away knowing how to make the most of their second chances when life grants that opportunity, but continue to make positive life choices that will lead to each individual’s success.”

The Other Wes Moore, also the title of his lecture, explores the divergent path of two children named Wes Moore. Both grew up in Baltimore without their fathers, but adulthood brought two very different lives. One served in the Eighty-second Airborne Division, became a Rhodes Scholar, and was a White House Fellow who served former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The other Wes Moore is in prison for life without parole after an armed robbery led to the murder of a police officer.

Moore read about his counterpart in a newspaper. This prompted him to seek out the other Wes Moore in prison to find how two people with so much in common could walk two vastly different paths. After his initial letter to the other Wes Moore, the two built a relationship through correspondence and prison visits. By learning about the other Wes Moore and looking at his own life, Moore explores the hardships that both faced as their lives went in different directions.

“The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine,” Moore said in a video interview on Amazon. “The tragedy is that my story could have been his. Had it not been for those folks that helped me understand that, had it not been for those people who helped usher me into manhood and the way that they did, things could have been very different.”

The book also looks at the reasons the two boys took divergent paths as they grew into adulthood. The book even has a detailed resource guide to help others.

“I didn’t want it to just be a book that people read, but I wanted it to be a larger call to action,” Moore said. “The biggest gap that we have in our society isn’t necessarily the education gap, or the technology gap, but it’s the expectation gap. How do we help people think differently about their lives and how do we think differently about the lives of others? That is the key hurdle that we got to get over.”

Moore is not just calling people to action. He founded BridgeEdU, a program that helps student succeed in college by giving them the opportunity to earn transferrable course credits with a focus on the courses needed for most college degrees, including writing, communications, and math. Moore has also founded an organization called STAND! that works with Baltimore youth caught in the criminal-justice system. He is host of the television show Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and is the host and executive producer of the PBS show Coming Back with Wes Moore, which focuses on returning veterans.

“I look forward to talking at Southern Illinois University Carbondale about how our personal journeys can lead us to what we are most passionate about,” Moore said in an SIU press release. “Our most fulfilling work happens when we serve others, at the intersection between our gifts and our troubled world. That is where we find the work that lasts.”

This lecture, cosponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the SIU Foundation, the Student Center, and the Student Programming Council, is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit <>.

who: Student Programming Council / Distinguished Speaker Series

what: Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore One Name, Two Fates (author lecture)

where: Student Center Ballrooms


when: Wednesday, September 23

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