Join us for what is sure to be a very special evening with a reading by American Players Theatre actors Tracy Arnold, Emily Daly, Cassia Thompson, and Julie Swenson of excerpts from playwright Marie Kohler's A Girl of the Limberlost.
Marie Kohler's play for young actors—adapted from a classic 1909 novel—explores Indiana's enormous Limberlost Swamp and the hearts of a mother and daughter who live within it. Framed by the beautiful diversity of the Limberlost, the story springs from 14-year-old Elnora’s desire to attend high school, despite her widowed mother's hard resistance. With the help of a loving aunt and uncle, and a naturalist who shares Elnora’s passion for butterflies and moths, will Elnora achieve her academic ambitions? Will she warm her mother’s heart? A Girl of the Limberlost tells an enduring story beloved by generations.
Marie Kohler has worked professionally as an actor, producer, director, dramaturg and freelance writer for local and national publications. Her curiosity and enduring love of theater and nature have inspired her work and helped shape her life. Named “Artist of the Year” by the Milwaukee Arts Board, she has written five full-length plays which have received significant recognition. She co-founded Renaissance Theaterworks, the only women-founded, women-run theater company in Milwaukee, and served as the company’s Co-Artistic Director and Resident Playwright for over 20 years. She serves on the Wisconsin Humanities Council and lives in Milwaukee and Spring Green, with her APT actor husband, Brian Mani.
Her newly published play,A Girl of the Limberlost, earned honorable mention for the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild’s Julie Harris Playwright Award.
Friday September 28 | 7:00PM - 8:00PM
A new collection about violence and the rural Midwest from a poet whose first book was hailed as “memorable” (Stephen Burt, Yale Review) and “impressive” (Chicago Tribune).
“Austin Smith’s Flyover Country is a book of vital and generative reckoning, one that finds both the intimate knowledge held in large landscapes and the larger knowledges found within intimate places and acts. Smith travels the paths of the actual, the emotional, and the imaginative with a physical sureness; his words carry mystery, memory, stories personal and communal. These pages carry, too, Smith’s sustaining, taproot awareness: that what we put into this world and what we draw from it matter.”—Jane Hirschfield, author of The Beauty
Flyover Countryis a powerful collection of poems about violence: the violence we do to the land, to animals, to refugees, to the people of distant countries, and to one another. Drawing on memories of his childhood on a dairy farm in Illinois, Austin Smith explores the beauty and cruelty of rural life, challenging the idea that the American Midwest is mere “flyover country,” a place that deserves passing over. At the same time, the collection suggests that America itself has become a flyover country, carrying out drone strikes and surveillance abroad, locked in a state of perpetual war that Americans seem helpless to stop.
In these poems, midwestern barns and farmhouses are linked to other lands and times as if by psychic tunnels. A poem about a barn cat moving her kittens in the night because they have been discovered by a group of boys resonates with a poem about the house in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis. A poem beginning with a boy on a farmhouse porch idly swatting flies ends with the image of people fleeing before a drone strike. A poem about a barbwire fence suggests, if only metaphorically, the debate over immigration and borders. Though at times a dark book, the collection closes with a poem titled “The Light at the End,” suggesting the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.
Building on Smith’s reputation as an accessible and inventive poet with deep insights about rural America, Flyover Country also draws profound connections between the Midwest and the wider world.
Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He is the author of a previous poetry collection, Almanac (Princeton), and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, Ploughshares, and many other publications. He teaches at Stanford University and lives in Oakland, California.
Sunday September 30 | 3:00PM - 4:00PM
Arcadia Books is thrilled to host Madeline Uraneck and the Tibetan American family featured in How to Make a Life: A Tibetan Refugee Family and the Midwestern Woman They Adopted. Readings and a Q&A session will be followed by an optional, self-driving tour to Global View, a remarkable store in rural Clyde that features work of artisans from India, Indonesia and Tibet, including fabrics, furniture, and sculpture. Enjoy Tibetan tea and a drive through the autumn countryside. Tibetan medicine Doctor Yangbhum Gyal, of Medicine Bhudda Healing Center at Global View will be a special guest.
An immigration story of crossing cultural bridges and finding family.
When Madeline Uraneck said hello to the Tibetan woman cleaning her office cubicle, she never imagined the moment would change her life. After learning that Tenzin Kalsang had left her husband and four children behind in a Tibetan refugee settlement in India to try to forge a better life for them, Madeline took on the task of helping her apply for US visas. When the family reunited in their new Midwestern home, Madeline became swept up in their lives, from homework and soccer games to family dinners and shared holiday traditions. By reaching out, she found more than she bargained for—a family who welcomed her as their own and taught her more than she offered them.
An evocative blend of immersion journalism and memoir, How to Make a Life shares the immigration story of a Tibetan refugee family who crossed real and cultural bridges to make a life in Madison, Wisconsin, with the assistance of the Midwestern woman they befriended. From tales of escaping Tibet over the Himalayas, to striking a balance between old traditions with new, to bridging divides one friendly gesture at a time, readers will expand their understanding of family, culture, and belonging.
Sunday October 21 | 2:00PM - 3:00PM
Tessa Fontaine’s astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, The Electric Woman, follows the author on a life-affirming journey of loss and self-discovery―through her time on the road with the last traveling American sideshow and her relationship with an adventurous, spirited mother.
Turns out, one lesson applies to living through illness, keeping the show on the road, letting go of the person you love most, and eating fire:
The trick is there is no trick. You eat fire by eating fire.
Two journeys―a daughter’s and a mother’s―bear witness to this lesson in The Electric Woman.
For three years Tessa Fontaine lived in a constant state of emergency as her mother battled stroke after stroke. But hospitals, wheelchairs, and loss of language couldn’t hold back such a woman; she and her husband would see Italy together, come what may. Thus Fontaine became free to follow her own piper, a literal giant inviting her to “come play” in the World of Wonders, America’s last traveling sideshow. How could she resist?
Transformed into an escape artist, a snake charmer, and a high-voltage Electra, Fontaine witnessed the marvels of carnival life: intense camaraderie and heartbreak, the guilty thrill of hard-earned cash exchanged for a peek into the impossible, and, most marvelous of all, the stories carnival folks tell about themselves. Through these, Fontaine trained her body to ignore fear and learned how to keep her heart open in the face of loss.
A story for anyone who has ever imagined running away with the circus, wanted to be someone else, or wanted a loved one to live forever, The Electric Woman is ultimately about death-defying acts of all kinds, especially that ever constant: good old-fashioned unconditional love.
Tessa Fontaine’s writing has appeared in PANK, Seneca Review, The Rumpus, Sideshow World, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Alabama and is working on a PhD in creative writing at the University of Utah. She also eats fire and charms snakes, among other sideshow feats. She lives in South Carolina. The Electric Woman is her first book.
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