Carson McCullers Conference and Celebration: Spaces Still Available

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Individuals can still register to join an historic three-day event hosted by Columbus State University to celebrate a literary icon.

Panel discussions and presentations by an international gathering of scholars, plus separate performances by Suzanne Vega and the Jake Leg Stompers, are on tap for the Feb. 17-19 Carson McCullers Interdisciplinary Conference and 94th Birthday Celebration in downtown Columbus.

“We will register folks right up through the conference, space permitting,” said the event’s organizer, Cathy Fussell, director of CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians located in author’s childhood home in midtown Columbus.

Approaching the conference-opening reception at 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Springer Opera House, registered, non-presenting conference-goers from Muscogee and Harris counties will be joined by others from other parts of Georgia, plus Alabama, Texas, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The McCullers Center website, http://www.mccullerscenter.org/, links to complete details about the event and online registration at $100 per person.

In addition to the Springer Opera House, programs will take place at RiverCenter’s Studio Theatre, Carpenters Hall and the Rankin Arts Center – all venues on CSU’s downtown Columbus RiverPark campus.

“We wanted it all downtown, or most of it downtown because McCullers so accurately described downtown Columbus in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Member of the Wedding,” said Fussell, also a CSU English professor. “We thought the out-of-towners would really want to see the town that Carson knew and wrote about.”

Born Lula Carson Smith on Feb. 19, 1917 in Columbus, McCullers relocated to New York City at age 17 and became one of the nation’s leading female fiction writers of the 20th century. Most famous for her novels The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Member of the Wedding, The Ballad of the Sad Café and Clock Without Hands, McCullers also wrote plays and short stories. However, she suffered a series of health problems and died at age 50 in 1967.

Several scholarly panel discussions will be complemented by “McCullers’ Midtown,” a series of free events beginning 1:30 p.m. Saturday with a narrated bus tour from downtown Columbus to the Wynnton School (McCullers’ elementary school) auditorium, where filmmaker Lauren Rosen will screen her adaptations of McCullers short stories Wunderkind and A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud. After a reception, the bus tour will continue to the McCullers house on Stark Avenue.

Popular singer-songwriter Vega will perform spoken word and song through her one-woman-play Carson McCullers Talks About Love at 8 p.m. Friday in the Springer Opera House’s Foley Hall.

The conference concludes with a Saturday night birthday party for McCullers, with cake, food and a traditional jug band performance by the Jake Leg Stompers from Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Jake Leg Stompers, who perform on vintage instruments, have designed a custom show just for the conference, Fussell said. “We are billing the evening as `Supper at the Sad Café — On a Good Night.’”

The conference also marks the opening of the Southern Literary Trail’s Trailfest 2011— a tri-state festival through May in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Trailfest 2011 (http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/trail_towns.html) involves similar celebrations in the hometowns of noted Southern writers such as McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker (Georgia); Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee and Truman Capote (Alabama); and William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty (Mississippi).

For more information, call 706-565-4021 or visit http://www.mccullerscenter.org/.