The Potomac Theatre Project (PTP) presented an evening tribute to Middlebury College’s New England Review Monday night, featuring five writers who have graduated from Middlebury and/or been published in the Review. The reading was the Review’s first in the City. PTP is dedicated to extending arts beyond the Middlebury campus and into major cities.
(by Alissa Fleck)
The established writers, many of whom had some of their work first published in the Review, read from recent or in-progress poetry, prose and novels in the Atlantic Stage 2’s 99-seat blackbox basement theater. Works ranged in subject matter from disfigurement to the unexpected anxiety induced by meditation tapes to life on Staten Island to NYC’s elite literary society. The reading may have felt incomplete without the token love poem to cigarettes.
Tone vacillated between serious and humorous, as writers read their work but also conversed with the crowd. Producer Richard Romagnoli described the event as unrehearsed but comfortable and revealing, an apt depiction of the evening, which was followed up with a wine and cheese reception.
Poet Patrick Phillips, said the Review “has a stolid and elegant continuity to it,” pointing to the literary magazine’s long-standing prestige. Poet Cate Marvin said: “You don’t find [bad poetry]” in the journal. “It’s very physically beautiful,” she added. She contrasted it with another prominent literary journal, which she finds to be aesthetically “butt-ugly.”
All the readers agreed the Review had provided them with a strong sense of community necessary to an, often solitary, writer. “You’re by yourself in a room having crazy ideas so having that connection…it’s incredibly valuable,” said short story writer Emily Mitchell. Marvin added: “Unless you’re social, you meet writers in a very pure way when you just read their work.”
The writers may have described themselves as “anti-social,” but the experience felt anything but.
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