Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ArtsBuzz: Lake Worth pub, writers' group celebrate 'Bloomsday'

James Joyce (1882-1941).

By Marya Summers

Celebrate the conjunction of genius and Guinness today at Brogue’s Irish Pub in Lake Worth, when Blue Planet Writers Room raises pints to honor James Joyce and his novel Ulysses.

The 20th-century literary masterpiece tells an epic story of a single day – June 16, 1904 – in the life of a Dubliner named Leopold Bloom. Hence, June 16th is “Bloomsday.”

This could really be a wild affair. Ulysses, first published in book form in 1922, was once criticized for its obscenity and banned from the United States on moral grounds.

“But the court decided that it was such a monumental piece – in both form and structure – that it couldn’t be pornography,” explained Cora Bresciano, Blue Planet’s co-executive director, referring to the so-called Woolsey decision of 1933.

Every year since 1954, festivities have been held worldwide to pay tribute to the Irish author and his tour de force of language and story. There are as many ways to celebrate as there are ways to pay homage (directors Mel Brooks and Richard Linklater do so with references to the book in their movies. Ditto a recent episode of The Simpsons). Readings, dramatizations, and pub crawls are the most popular.

The Blue Planet tribute offers dramatic readings of pint-sized excerpts of the novel, presented between sets of Irish music by Joe Dougherty and Friends. The draughts will be served up by a James Joyce look-alike. Michael Ditusa, a South Florida writer/bartender, has taken a foray into Method acting and grown a mustache to prepare for his role.

Each of four readings will be presented by some of South Florida’s best professional actors. Paul Tei, who plays Barry the money launderer on the USA network show Burn Notice, will read excerpts from the portion of the book that got it banned in the United States. Cece Dartany will present an excerpt of a naughty letter written to Leo Bloom. Robert Goodrich will offer a racy portion from “The Wandering Rocks” section of the book. Susan Hyatt will tackle the famous Molly Bloom chapter in all its punctuation-free, stream-of-consciousness glory.

Hyatt has a dual role in this production. As the other co-executive director of Blue Planet Writers, she also is one of the event’s organizers. The Lake Worth-based nonprofit organization patterned itself partially after 826 Valencia, a writing center founded by author Dave Eggers in the heart of San Francisco that has become part of the community. Blue Planet has a similar goal for downtown Lake Worth; however, unlike 826, Blue Planet also includes in its mission writing for social change and collaborations with other international organizations. It intends to offer writing workshops for children and adults.

It was the international angle that made Bloomsday a perfect second event for the organization, especially because the next project will be a collaboration with the Irish organization Kids’ Own.

Bresciano recalled a Bloomsday event she’d attended once before in Coral Gables, and thought it was a good fit for Blue Planet.

“People brought their books and followed along. It’s literature, and it’s great fun,” Bresciano said, suggesting that folks follow suit for this event. “The terrific thing about Bloomsday is that it takes high literature out of the ivory tower and sets it in the local pub where everyone can enjoy it.”

The Bloomsday celebration is the second event held by Blue Planet Writers, which was founded on the mission that “writing well can empower people to advocate for themselves, their families, communities and the world at large.” The first project was a letter-writing event where a group sat together in Lake Worth Playhouse in December and wrote more than 100 letters for an Amnesty International write-a-thon, and one of the prisoners of conscience – Ma Khin Khin Leh of Myanmar - was freed from prison in February.

But Bloomsday is more about celebrating language and raising awareness about the startup non-profit, which is still looking for a space for an explorers’ bazaar and writers’ room. Hyatt and Bresciano hope events like this will provide visibility they need.

“It’s a good way to attract people and let the community know we exist,” Bresciano said.

Marya Summers is a freelance writer based in South Florida.

The Bloomsday celebration will run from 6-11 p.m. today at Brogue's Irish Pub, 621 Lake Ave. in downtown Lake Worth. Call 561-585-1885 for more information.

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