Why Read Aloud?: the Megan Rogers Annual Festival

Posted by Kate Butler

On Wednesday Feb. 13, Skidmore students and faculty gathered at the Surrey Williamson Inn to listen, laugh, appreciate and read aloud selections of poetry and prose to members of the College community at the Megan Rogers Annual Festival.

Professor Michael Marx opened the event by entreating the audience to "make no favorites," despite the preference for the unadulterated beauty of literature in its native tongue. He discussed the cultural differences of reading aloud in other languages, specifically referencing China and Cameroon, the native countries of Professor Mao Chen and Angela Botiba'15, who shared poems in their original languages.

Before the recitations began, Professor Susan Kress gave a brief history of the Megan Rogers Annual Festival. She revealed its ties to Skidmore alumna and English major Megan Rogers, who maintained a deep involvement in the event as a student. Following her graduation in 2003, Megan was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away in November 2004 after a brave struggle. Skidmore renamed the festival to commemorate Megan's memory and her passion for reading aloud.

As she opened the event, Kress stressed the engagement of the reader in the experience of reading aloud. She described how the "reader becomes the text," and how in order to read aloud well, one must "take possession of the text and give it back to the readers." This is precisely what the participants in the Festival did that night.

The readers' choices reflected a range of styles and tones, from poetry to short stories, and drama to comedy. Intensely emotive poetry preceded hilarity-inducing biblical revisions; reflections on a papal protuberance followed vivid World War II imagery, personal revelations and even theatrical musings on Victoria's Secret models. Some shared poetry in other languages: Professor Mao Chen in Chinese, Professor Katherine Greenspan and her Intro to Medieval Literature students in Middle English, and Angela Botiba '15 in French.

For nearly two hours, the audience of students and faculty sat enthralled, alternately drawn in by emotion and falling out of their seats with laughter. Audience members described several of the readings as "hilarious," and more than one student confirmed, "I'm definitely coming next year. I can't believe I've never come before."

It was a night of triumph for the English department, for the readers, but perhaps most of all, for the listeners lucky enough to enjoy this display of diverse talent and passion.  

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