Halloween might be more than half a year away, but the dead will be speaking on Friday, March 13, and Saturday, March 14. That’s when Arts at Shandon presents the Shandon Players in “Spoon River Anthology,” based on Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 haunting, groundbreaking free-form poem that uses epitaphs to tell the story of a small town.
Originally published as a magazine serial under the pseudonym Webster Ford, Masters’ poem allows the dead to speak about their lives – their successes and failures, hopes and dreams, lost opportunities and hidden loves. Some, like Francis Turner, found peace in their lives; others, such as John M. Church, questioned their own motives. Using a dark tone, Masters sheds light on what he believes is the cynicism of Midwestern small town life, which had often been depicted by other writers as idyllic.
It’s said the thread of reality Masters wove through the anthology was gleaned from conversations with his mother about the residents of the small Midwestern towns where Masters was raised. Inspired by Epigrams from the “Greek Anthology” and compared with both Walt Whitman’s classic “Leaves of Grass” collection and Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” “Spoon River Anthology,” stirred the voices of many early 20th century writers including Nobel prize winner Sinclair Lewis.
Directed by Malie Heider, the performance is at Shandon Presbyterian Church, 607 Woodrow St. in Columbia and begins at 7:30 p.m. A matinee on Sunday, March 15 begins at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully appreciated. For more information, visit shandonpres.org
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Katie McElveen, Special to The State