It’s time for The Big Read, an annual event aimed at instilling literacy and a love of reading among Sonoma County residents.
This year, the initiative celebrates the work of 19th century poet Emily Dickinson, with readings at Copperfield’s, a public performance of The Belle of Amherst at 6th Street Playhouse and discussion groups all over the county.
Dickinson’s work was largely unknown in her lifetime, but was discovered following her death and celebrated for its powerful impact and imagery dealing with death and immortality.
At regional libraries in Sonoma County, reading events will be held as follows:
- Petaluma - March 12 at noon
- Windsor - March 12 at 2:30 p.m.
- Rincon Valley - March 13, 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
- Guerneville - March 14 at 12:30 p.m.
- Cloverdale - March 14 at 2 p.m.
- Rohnert Park/Cotati - March 19 at 11:30 a.m.
- Northwest (Coddingtown) - March 20 at 2:30 p.m.
- Central Library - March 26, 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The one-woman play "The Belle of Amherst" will be performed by Barbara Dana at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, starting March 2. This is the first West Coast appearance by Dana whose portrayal of Emily Dickinson earned the praise of Julie Harris, the Tony Award-winning actress in the original "The Belle of Amherst."
Dana will make several appearances at area Copperfield's Books this month as well.
The Big Read was officially started by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007, but Sonoma County has been holding its own similar event, called Sonoma County Reads, since 2002.
In that time, school and reading groups, have joined to read classics such as The Grapes of Wrath, The Call of the Wild, Bless Me Ultima and House on Mango Street.
Sonoma County’s participation in The Big Read is so involved that it’s one of only 78 communities in the entire country to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.