Library wraps up its centennial with original theater production
Heights Libraries will wrap up its year-long centennial celebration with an original Reader’s Theatre production, Great Librarians I Have Known, on Monday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m., at Dobama Theatre.
Jonathan Wilhelm, Dobama’s associate managing director, wrote the play to honor the library’s 100th birthday and to pay tribute to the role libraries and librarians have played in his life.
“Every summer, my mother would drop me off at the swimming pool, where I would stay for several hours,” said Wilhelm. “I would then walk over to the library, where she would pick me up. As the summer progressed, I would spend less time at the pool and more time at the library.”
Part of Wilhelm’s inspiration for the play was an experience he had as a child, when a librarian taught him to have a healthy dose of skepticism when reading.
“As a child I loved the book Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton, naturalist and co-founder of the American Boy Scouts. Originally published in 1898, the book purported to be true stories of wolves, crows, horses, dogs and rabbits,” said Wilhelm. “A school librarian subsequently taught me the word ‘anthropomorphic’ and gave me information about the Nature Fakers Controversy of 1903. This controversy proved Seton probably never knew these animals and his natural science was subpar.”
Two of the librarians featured in the play, and Wilhelm’s favorites, are Eratosthenes, who became the chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria in 240 B.C., at the age of 35 years, and Sarah Byrd Askew, who established 250 libraries in New Jersey between 1906 and 1942, and designed one of the first bookmobiles, a modified Model T.
The production stars recently retired WCPN radio personality Dee Perry, who will give voice to the main character, a young girl researching the history of libraries.
The play is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served after the production. Dobama Theatre is located at 2340 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.
Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.