Standard water cooler chitchat about television sitcoms and the weather is about to get its annual literary booster shot.
At least, that's the idea behind the Pikes Peak Library District's All Pikes Peak Reads 2003. The program, now in its second year, has been around in various forms in other major cities and large towns for several years now, and is intended to provoke impromptu book discussions and meetings between strangers. Last year's selection, Harper Lee's Southern masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, taught lots of people about both the names and cultural significance of Boo Radley and Atticus Finch.
This year's selection is Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein. Legend has it that Shelley wrote the story in one night at a party in the English countryside after an evening spent telling ghost stories. Though it was written almost 200 years ago, its themes remain prescient in a time (and local community) in which science and theology frequently refute each other.
Sunday's kickoff celebration will provide a smorgasbord of activities, including food and drink, family-friendly games with a guaranteed gross-out factor for the children (including the groan-inducing variation on ring toss called "franks-in-steins" and an eyeball relay game), a celebrity monster mash with KKTV's James Brown, an appearance by Miss Colorado, and an instrument petting gallery provided by Graner Music.
The event will get serious later in the afternoon when the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, led by Associate Conductor Thomas Wilson, takes the stage in the family series concert titled Frankenstein.
But don't expect a horror-film soundtrack. The story of Frankenstein's monster has been widely commercialized and distorted since its publication 185 years ago. Many have long since forgotten that Frankenstein is a delicate, romantic examination of what it means to be human, not just a story about a stumbling, green-skinned monster with bolts in the side of his neck.
"Rather than trying to sensationalize the story by including music from the Bride of Frankenstein or similar Hollywood soundtracks, the Philharmonic worked with the Pikes Peak Public Library to focus on musical themes of the book," said David Sckolnik, marketing director for the Philharmonic.
As such, the program will include Beethoven, Grieg, Mendelssohn and Schumann -- all "Romantic period" music created during (or around) author Shelley's lifetime.
"Mary Shelley would have been very familiar with the music of these composers," said Sckolnik. "She might even have been acquainted with Mendelssohn, and it's possible that she could have been inspired by these works. All of the music reflects agony, conflict and moments of passion. And we had to include a work from Schumann, since he's the true madman of Romanticism."
Actress Mara Purl will also perform a portion of her one-woman show Mary (Shelley)--In Her Own Words along with the Philharmonic as they play Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture," or "Fingal's Cave," op. 26. (Mendelssohn wrote the piece after he visited Fingal's Cave and was inspired by its solitude. When you read Frankenstein, you'll learn that the monster, appropriately enough, lives in a cave for some time).
In addition to the music provided by the orchestra, the Frankenstein program will also feature a preview of The Pikes Peak Library District's Reader's Theatre production of the story, and a screening of Thomas Edison's historic 1910 version of Frankenstein.
-- Bettina Swigger
All Pikes Peak Reads 2003 presents the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Family Concert: Frankenstein
Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Sunday, Sept. 28
It's Alive Party featuring free outdoor activities at 1 p.m. Concert and shows begin at 2:30 p.m.
Concert tickets are $9 for children under 18, $15 for adults.