Wednesday October 12, 2005

Poets to Honor Dunbar

Celebrate Dunbar! will draw poets Nikki Giovanni and Michael Harper to Dayton and feature dance, song, poetry and visual art--all in honor of critically acclaimed Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

A century after Paul Laurence Dunbar's death, organizations in his hometown are marshalling their creative energies and producing numerous public events to celebrate the poet's life and work.

Special events on tap include:

* "An Evening with Paul Laurence Dunbar," featuring Herbert Woodward Martin, is slated for 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 in the University of Dayton's Boll Theatre as part of UD's Arts Series. Martin, poet-in-residence and professor emeritus at the University of Dayton, enjoys an international reputation as a performer of Dunbar's poems and scholar of his works. Dressed in a turn-of-the-century morning coat and striped trousers, Martin "borrows" Dunbar's voice to bring the poet's verse to life. Martin also will present "Paul Laurence Dunbar: The Eyes of the Poet" at 1 p.m. on March 25 at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in a performance sponsored by the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

*Broadway choreographer Dianne McIntyre will travel to Dayton in November to work with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) on a new work inspired by the poetry and life of Dunbar. It will premiere at the Victoria Theatre Oct. 7-8, 2006.

* Sinclair Community College will accept unpublished poems through Dec. 7 for the 21st Annual Paul Laurence Dunbar Memorial Poetry Prize. Winners will be named in February in four categories: elementary, middle school, high school and adult.

* Internationally known artist and educator Willis "Bing" Davis will curate a free art exhibit, "In Praise of Dunbar: The Man, The Dream, The Voice," at Ebonnia Gallery Jan. 1-28. The exhibit will be on display in the Schuster Center lobby Feb. 1-28.

* A yearlong exhibition of the life and works of Dunbar kicks off at the National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce on Jan. 28. Wright State University will display first editions of Dunbar's books in the WSU Dunbar Library from January through June.

* Dayton Opera will revive an original operatic theatre work, "Paul Laurence Dunbar: Common Ground," which will be performed in local schools Feb. 1-28. The production, which uses 13 Dunbar poems, will be brought to life by four singers in Dayton Opera's artist-in-residence program with stage direction by Sheila Ramsey and music direction by Jeff Powell. Well-known African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork worked with librettist Herbert Martin to set Dunbar's poetry to music in a piece that premiered at the Victoria Theatre Feb. 10, 1995.

* Central State University will honor Dunbar with an all-day celebration Feb. 8 that includes examining the relationship between Dunbar and poet and author Hallie Q. Brown.

* On the centennial of Dunbar's death, local school children and community members will gather at Woodland Cemetery at 10 a.m. on Feb. 9 for a graveside tribute. A sharing of Dunbar's works will follow in the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center. Sponsored by the Dunbar House State Memorial.

* Celebrated author and poet Nikki Giovanni will read Dunbar's works as well as her own poetry at 8 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the Victoria Theatre. She has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children's books and three collections of essays. Her appearance is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton's English department and Diversity Lecture Series.

* Renowned poet Michael Harper will deliver a keynote reading from 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 23 in the Frederick C. Smith Auditorium at Sinclair Community College. It's part of Sinclair Community College's annual writers' workshop. Harper, poet laureate of the state of Rhode Island, is a professor at Brown University, where he teaches literature and creative writing.

* DCDC will present "In the Spirit of…" at the Masonic Temple Feb. 25-26. The performance is a collaboration between the dance company and a community choir under the direction of Euna Thompson.

* Dunbar High School students will read selected Dunbar works at an April 28 tribute performance at the school. The evening will feature a performance by LaVerne Sci, director of the Dunbar House State Memorial. Idotha Bootsie Neal, executive director of Wright Dunbar Inc., will emcee the event.

* Dunbar High School's alumni association will hold what organizers hope will be the largest all-class reunion June 16-18.
* The annual Wright-Dunbar Market Days Festival on June 24 will celebrate the life of Dunbar.

For more details, click here. The Celebrate Dunbar! Web site includes event information, recorded poems, pictures and suggestions for teaching using Dunbar's poetry in middle and secondary schools.

Contact Paula Cosby and Anne Pici, co-chairs of Celebrate Dunbar!, at (937) 443-0249 and (937) 229-3449.