Reading to Honor Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar

Actor, recording artist, and renowned storyteller Mitch Capel will visit the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Wednesday, Feb. 14 for “We Wear the Mask: A Performance Reading of the Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar.” The public portion of the program begins at 6:45 p.m.; seating is free, on a first-come basis.

Capel, cofounder of The African-American Storytellers’ National Retreat, is considered the national interpreter of poet laureate Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), who gained national attention in 1896 for his collection, Lyrics of a Lowly Life, and whose writings appeared in a number of leading journals and publications including The Saturday Evening Post and Current Literature. Capel, who has performed recitals of Dunbar’s poetry for more than 25 years, is said to have memorized more than two-thirds of the seminal writer’s worka library that includes dialect poems, standard English poems, essays, novels, and short stories that frequently express the hardships faced by blacks during the late 19th Century as well as their efforts to achieve equality.

Capel’s performances of Dunbar’s work has included recitations at museums, schools, universities, and theatres across the country, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and recentlythe Jonesborough Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., the largest storytelling festival in the world.

Using narratives from historical research, as well as the essays and the genius of Dunbar, Capel unveils the true depth of the soul and life of the remarkable poet from Dayton, Ohio.

Capel is the recipient of numerous awards for Artist of The Year from many national organizations, as well as various accolades from state and local government agencies recognizing his work with youth.

His own motivational messages include award-winning storytelling cassettes, CDs, and a motivational children’s book, The Jealous Farmer. He recently collaborated and performed on a series of DVD’s: Jump Back, Honey Jump Back, In Days Gone By, Stories For Grown Folks, and The Kings and Queens of Storytelling. His recent stage credits include To Kill A Mockingbird and Driving Miss Daisy.

Capel’s performance at the Athenaeum is made possible by Sam Reece ’74 who, along with a film crew, filmed interviews with professor of government Jay Martin and professor emeritus Langdon Elsbree about Dunbar, in preparation for a series of educational materials being developed by Reece.

Alicia Hill ’08