Renaissance House, a retreat for artists, celebrates its fifth year of survival with a benefit spoken word show on Friday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, and the public is invited to read.
Renaissance House is a part of the Helene Johnson and Dorothy West Foundation for Artists in Need. It is a tribute to Helene Johnson and Dorothy West, who lived and summered on the Island since 1906. Ms. West lived on the Island and was a writer for the Gazette up until the time of her death. She based her best-selling novel, The Wedding, on the life of her niece, Abigail McGrath, who runs the retreat. The retreat is a place where artists of all types come together.
Helene Johnson, the mother of Abigail McGrath, once was asked why she stopped writing at such a young age. She answered: “To write, one must have time, time to do nothing . . . just stare out a window and let ideas enter your head.” That is what Renaissance House offers to artists: a chance to stare out the window and not have to worry about the electric bill or phone. Just stare and do nothing.
The benefit on Friday will be a program of spoken word artists including Island artists. To participate, please sign up by writing online to Renaissancehse@aol.com. The first 15 people to sign up will be included.
Friday’s program includes Renaissance House alumni, including Lesago Malepe, a South African writer who will be reading from the galleys of her new book, Truth and Reconciliation, about her experiences in South Africa.
Also on the bill is Storme Webber, an internationally acclaimed spoken word artist from Seattle, who describes her roots as Inuit and American Black. She recently starred in Gabe Bauer’s Venus Boyz, a documentary on gay culture. And Storme Webber is her real name.
Tony McGrath, a political folk singer and satirist, will sing songs from his album Ye Olde Folk Singer, including The Tri Lateral Commission (They rule the world without permission), Group Sex, Unnecessary Surgery and many others.
Mary Wheeler, from Atlanta, is a poet who writes about domestic violence and depression and was nominated as Poet of the Year last year.
The second half of the program will be given over to Island writers and performers who write about issue-oriented themes.
There will be a suggested donation of $5.