Sharing the spotlight with a legend

More than a dozen student performers joined author Margaret Atwood onstage at Lisner Auditorium Friday night, dramatically interpreting excerpts from her most recent novel, “The Year of the Flood.”

Atwood, who has won the prestigious Booker Prize and written more than 40 books, described the event as “a dramatic reading stitched together with music.”

Three student actors – Andrew Holbrook, Emily Anderson and Emily Murphy – provided readings for prominent characters in the novel, with narration provided by Atwood. Between the readings by the three senior theatre students, a three-piece band, including a bassist and drummer from the music department, played several hymns written for the event. Students from the University Singers also provided vocals.

“It has been an exciting experience playing a character with little to no prior knowledge of the characters,” said Holbrook, before the performance.

Although Friday’s event was the 16th in the Canadian author’s global book tour, each stop has been designed differently. Atwood highlighted that this particular event was the first one done at a university. The specific student performers were chosen to perform and directed by professors in the the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Department of Music

“It was a delight to work with them,” said Atwood.

The hymns, which were based on events in the novel and had titles like, “The Peach or Plum” and “When Adam First,” were supplements to the dramatic readings. Orville Stoeber, who wrote the hymns, impressed the audience with effortless falsettos and sinuous guitar playing. He is on tour with Atwood for the book launch and was enthusiastic about being involved in such a “unique” book event.

Atwood, who described herself as “a sinister but sweet old lady,” said the novel was an “admittedly scary story,” perfect for the night before Halloween. “The Year of the Flood” depicts three characters – Ren, Toby and Adam One – as they struggle to live in a world ravaged by plague.

A question-and-answer session followed the readings, allowing Atwood to answer questions about her portrayal of religion in her works, her future plans and her life as an author.

Audience member and senior Kathryn Cusma said she enjoyed the inventive characteristics of the show.

“I really liked the creative aspect of the show,” she said. “It was very entertaining.”

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