FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        Date: April 2, 2002

         Contact: Donna McCracken, 206-6716

UIS presents annual Verbal Arts Festival

SPRINGFIELD – Novelist Joe Coomer will deliver the keynote address at the Verbal Arts Festival 2002, a celebration of the arts scheduled for April 9 - 13 at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Plays, readings of original prose and poetry, and an open mic night round out the program. All events are free and open to the public and will be held in Brookens Auditorium, on the first level of Brookens Library on the UIS campus.

The festival opens with the Writer’s Repertory Theatre production of George Bernard Shaw=s comedy Candida at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9. Refreshments will be served. Candida tells the story of a clergyman’s wife, and what happens when a weak young poet tries to rescue her from the dullness of family life.

Poet and professor Dan Guillory will read a selection of his own works at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10.  A book signing will follow.  Guillory, a member of the faculty at Millikin University, has received grants and awards including the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, several grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an Illinois Arts Council Artists’ Fellowship, and a Fulbright Senior Lecturer Award (to Gabon, Africa, in 1989-1990). A prolific writer, Guillory has published more than 400 articles, poems, reviews, and book chapters in publications as varied as Rolling Stone, Illinois Issues, and Dow-Jones Online Book Reviews. His books include Living with Lincoln: Life and Art in the Heartland (1989), The Alligator Inventions (1991), and When the Waters Recede: Rescue and Recovery During the Great Flood (1996).

Beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, performers can sign up for an open mic session hosted by Nancy Perkins, UIS assistant professor of English and herself a published poet.  The session starts at 5 p.m.  Later that evening, the 2002 edition of the Alchemist Review, UIS’ literary magazine, debuts with a reception at 6 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by readings from selected authors.

Coomer’s address, set for 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, will focus on his work and the art of creative writing. A reception and book signing will immediately follow his presentation. Coomer is the author of Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God, Sailing in a Spoonful of Water, and The Loop, a New York Times Book of the Year. Beachcombing, Coomer’s most recent novel, is the story of recently widowed Charlotte and her new housemates -- another, older widow, an emotional 17-year-old, and the ugliest dog in literature. As the three women settle in to life on a motor yacht in Portsmouth Harbor, a genuine bond develops between them, their distinct personalities and paths crossing and converging against the backdrop of emotional secrets, abuse, and the wages of old age. Beachcombing has been optioned for feature film production by Jodie Foster’s Egg Productions.

The festival concludes Saturday, April 13, with performances by two UIS student groups. All Things Medieval will present Everyman at 7 p.m. and the Verbal Arts Players will present a readers’ theater version of W.H. Auden’s For The Time Being at 8 p.m. Everyman is a 15th century morality play that, while lighthearted and humorous in form, is also serious in content. It is considered the finest of the morality plays that have come down to us from the Middle Ages and was extremely popular in its day. Auden’s oratorio uses light verse to present a positive picture of the universe, showing how lives which begin in despair and irony move toward joy in imitating the life of God who lived as one of them.

Sponsors of this year’s Verbal Arts Festival are the UIS English Program, Speakers’ Series Committee, and Inter-Club Council Board. For more information, contact the English program at (217) 206-6779.