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Banned Books Week events include lectures and Mark Twain impersonator

Rocket Life Editor

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 04:10


Photo courtesy of Alan Kitty

Mark Twain impersonator Alan Kitty will perform his one-man play, “Mark Twain’s Last Stand,” at Libbey Hall, Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. According to his website, Kitty has portrayed Twain since 1979.

Paulette Kilmer remembers, when she was a kid, buying stacks of books with the $10 her father split between her and her brother, and having her mother ask them questions about the plots and characters.

“I think that’s one reason why I’m a professor,” she said. “It started at my mother’s knee.”

The communication professor’s love of books is part of what drives her involvement in UT’s Banned Books Week.

For the event’s 15th year, the university will host a vigil at Sullivan Hall and a Mark Twain impersonator at Libbey Hall. Both the vigil and performance will focus on censorship and its effects on music, movies, television and, of course, books.

As part of the vigil on Thursday, Oct. 18, a series of lectures and presentations devoted to censorship will occur on the third floor of Sullivan Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Speakers will include university faculty and students, as well as a handful of community members. Kilmer said presentations will last for 20 minutes and that speakers selected their own topics.

“It’s enough [time] to get a little discussion going with the audience, but it’s not long enough to be like sitting through a lecture,” she said.

Free books, door prizes and coupons from Ukazoo Books will be passed out during the vigil. Free food and drinks will be provided throughout the day.

“Mark Twain Night” is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 19 at Libbey Hall. Twain-impersonator Alan Kitty’s performance will begin at 7 p.m.

Kilmer said bringing Kitty to the university was a special and relevant way to celebrate the event’s 15th anniversary.

When it comes to modern censorship, Kilmer said the availability and ease of information provided by technology causes most people to overlook the common practice.

According to the American Library Association, both modern and classic works, including “The Hunger Games” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” were among the top 10 most challenged titles of 2011.

Kilmer said the mindset of censoring can be dangerous when taken to extremes, citing past examples of dictatorships and religious institutions burning books.

“The right to read is the right to think,” she said.

Kilmer has followed this philosophy to keep the event going these last 15 years, which was originally held at Thackeray’s Books, a now defunct, local bookstore located in Westgate Village Shopping Center.

Kilmer said a committee of university professors began planning the event in November of last year, and contacted lecturers and sponsors for the event throughout the year.

This year’s committee consisted of Linda Smith, associate dean of the Honors College; Cynthia Ingham, assistant professor of history; Elaine Reeves, associate lecturer of general libraries; Arjun Sabharwal, assistant professor of general libraries; Glen Sheldon, associate professors for Honors Program; and Sumitra Srinivasan, associate professor of communication.

“We have a real good committee,” Kilmer said. “I couldn’t do anything without their help.”

The event has also attracted a diverse group of sponsors throughout the years, including The Independent Collegian.

Sponsors for this year’s event include numerous university departments and clubs, along with several local Toledo businesses.

“We’re very lucky with the support we receive,” Kilmer said. “We would not be able to do near what we do without the [sponsors’] help.”

UT’s Banned Books Week Vigil begins Thursday, Oct. 18, at 9 a.m. in Libbey Hall, with presentations running until 5 p.m. The event is free to attend, and food and drinks will be provided throughout the day. “Mark Twain Night,” featuring Mark Twain impersonator Alan Kitty, is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 for students. They can be bought in group packages at or 419-530-2375.

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