Editor Note: A great literary event just a few miles from Caroline County in Chestertown
The daylong celebration mimics the fictional events that take place June 16, 1904, in the groundbreaking modernist novel Ulysses.
James Joyce fans and curious novices up for a literary adventure can join the global celebration of the Irish author’s modernist masterpiece Ulysses when Chestertown’s first Bloomsday celebration unfolds Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Starting with an Irish-themed breakfast, the daylong event includes a talk by a Joyce expert, local talents reading excerpts from the book, Irish music, and a Fish ’n Chips dinner. Culminating the day will be a dramatic performance of the book’s final chapter, Molly Bloom’s famous stream-of conscious soliloquy, performed by Washington College theater professor Michele Volansky from a bed on High Street. With the exception of the food offerings, all events are free.
The new event is the brainchild of two Chestertown residents: Kelly Castro, an artist and arts advocate who co-teaches a Washington College course on the creative process, and Joseph Flanagan, deputy state’s attorney for Kent County. Castro says their inspiration first struck five years ago, when she and Flanagan discovered they were both working their way through Ulysses. The two discussed organizing a Bloomsday event, but put the idea on the back burner because of full schedules. This past April, Flanagan suggested the moment had come.
Community members with theatrical or literary expertise readily signed up to read or perform excerpts from the novel throughout the day. They include Jim Dissette, Jim Landskroener, Bob Ortiz, Judy Kohl, Andy Goddard, Skip and Catherine Bushby, and Jay Alexander. Washington College faculty and staff participating in the day include V.P. for Finance Mark Hampton, Starr Center director Adam Goodheart, and English professors James Hall and Elizabeth O’Connor. O’Connor, an expert on James Joyce, will offer a mid-morning lecture on the author and the importance of Ulysses in literary history. Castro’s husband, Alex Castro, director of the College’s SANDBOX initiative, has contributed his graphic design talents.
Written in 1922 and first published serially in a literary magazine, Ulysses was subject to censorship and harsh criticism before achieving its cult-like status in the literary world. The novel is considered the defining work of modernist literature with its mix of literary styles and devices, stream of consciousness dialogue and overall inventiveness.
Bloomsday celebrations are based on the fact that the novel takes place on one day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland, as it follows the lives of main character Leopold Bloom and numerous residents. In Dublin and other cities across the world, Joyce devotees now stage readings, enactments, meals, pub crawls and other events that mimic scenes from the book.
“Chestertown Bloomsday is a fun and easy way to gain an appreciation for Ulysses. This is an experiment to see if Bloomsday, with its trademark mix of education, fun and community might become an annual event in Chestertown,” says Castro, who is also executive director of the newly formed nonprofit Air.C (Artists in Residence in Chestertown). “The community’s feedback will be extremely important.”
Schedule of events, Chestertown Bloomsday, Tuesday, June 16, 2015:
9:00 to 10:30 a.m., Irish Breakfast and Chapter One reading. The Kitchen at the Imperial Hotel, 208 High Street, serves an Irish breakfast with local talents Jim Landskroener, Mark Hampton and others reading from the first chapter of Ulysses, “Telemachus.” “Come watch our booming Buck Mulligan lather and shave as he starts his day,” says Castro. Ticketed event, $20 per person plus a cash Bloody Mary bar. Space limited; to reserve, call The Kitchen at the Imperial at 410-778-5000.
10:45 to 11:15 a.m., Ulysses lecture by Joyce expert Elizabeth O’Connor, assistant professor of English at Washington College. O’Connor will explain the enduring appeal and significance of the novel. Garfield Center for the Arts, 210 High Street. Free.
11:15 a.m. to Noon, Readings from Chapter Four, “Calypso.” Garfield Center for the Arts. Free.
Noon to 12:30 p.m., Readings crawl up High Street, featuring Chapter 10, “Wandering Rocks,” part one. Free.
12:30 to 2:00 p.m., JR’s Pub, 337 High Street, Irish music by the Mainstay’s Tom McHugh. Readings from Chapter 11, “The Sirens.” Admission free. Lunch available by individual order.
2:15 to 2:45 p.m., Chapter 10 “Wandering Rocks” readings crawl, part two, continues to The Bookplate, 112 S. Cross Street. Free.
3:00 to 4:00 p.m., The Bookplate, 112 S. Cross Street, a variety of readings. Free.
5:30 to 6:45 p.m., Lawyer’s Row, off High Street (adjacent to the Garfield Center), Fish ‘n Chips dinner catered by the Fish Whistle restaurant (dinners individually priced), cold beer, music, casual readings.
7:00 to 8:00 p.m., outside the former Imperial Hotel, 208 High Street, performance of Chapter 18, “Penelope.” Michele Volansky, chair of the Department of Theater and Dance at Washington College, will perform Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy from a bed installed in the street in front of the former hotel building. Free.
Bloomsday in Chestertown is made possible with support of the Kent County Arts Council, and the Garfield Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit the Chestertown Bloomsday Facebook page, and the Garfield Center web site at www.garfieldcenter.org.