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Ithaca College Celebrates 200th Birthday of Charles Dickens with Community Events

 ITHACA, NY — In 2012, the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens is being celebrated around the world. A series of events ranging from film screenings and theater performances to readings and academic presentations will be held throughout the spring as part of the Ithaca Dickens Festival.

Sponsored by a number of departments at Ithaca College and organizations in the local community, the local commemoration promises to bring the distinguished author and his works to life for audiences both young and old. All of the events are open to the public, and thanks to the sponsors, nearly all are free.

The Charles Dickens 200th Birthday Party and Festival Kickoff will start the celebration with a movie and some cake on Sunday, Feb. 5. The Academy Award-nominated 1946 version of “Great Expectations,” Dickens’s tale of the orphan Pip, will be shown at 4 p.m. at Cinemapolis, 120 E. Green St. Stay after the film for a slice of birthday cake baked in honor of Dickens, who was born on Feb. 7, 1812.

“The Ithaca Dickens Festival is an opportunity for fans, scholars and the curious to come together and celebrate a literary legacy that spans two centuries,” said Elizabeth Bleicher, assistant professor of English at Ithaca College and the primary organizer of the series. “When I describe the festival, people invariably tell me their favorite Dickens book or film. Some have read him for a class. Others read him for fun. Everyone knows “A Christmas Carol” and most have at least heard of “Great Expectations,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Oliver Twist” and “David Copperfield.” For how many authors in history can the majority of folks name five books?”

Below is the calendar of additional Ithaca Dickens Festival events. For more information, visit

Friday–Sunday, Feb. 24–26
Hangar Theatre, 801 Taughannock Blvd.

Running to Places Theatre Company performance of the musical adaption of Dickens’s classic story of young Oliver Twist, an orphan adopted by the members of a criminal ring. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door; student and teacher discounts at some shows. For show times and more information:

Thursday, March 1
“The Politics of Crime in ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘The Wire’”
4:30–5:30 p.m., Ithaca Falls Room, Egbert Hall

Presentation by Tom Shevory, professor of politics.

Wednesday, March 21
A Necessary Luxury: Victorian Britain and Tea
5–6 p.m., Ithaca Falls Room, Egbert Hall

Tea and presentation on her book of the same name by Julie Fromer, lecturer in English.

Friday, March 30
The Mutual Friend
7:30–9 p.m., Park Auditorium

John Anderson, associate professor of performance studies at Emerson College, performs Dickens’s fateful, final public reading in this adaptation of Frederick Busch’s brilliant biographical novel.

Thursday, April 12
“Games and Play in the Dickensian Novel”
4:30–5:30 p.m., Ithaca Falls Room, Egbert Hall

Presentation by Kirsten Parkinson, associate professor of English at Hiram College.

Sunday, April 15
“A Tale of Two Cities” (Rated R)
7:30 p.m., Kitchen Theater Company, 417 W. State St.

A drag queen quiets a screaming baby by performing Dickens’s “Tale” as a one-man show in this presentation — for mature audiences — by Bruce Henderson, professor of communication studies. Tickets are $11 at the door.

Wednesday, April 25
“Dickens: The Greatest Hits”
6 p.m., Handwerker Gallery

Faculty, staff, and students along with members of the community will read and perform famous and favorite passages from Dickens in this Ithaca Dickens Festival closing celebration.

Also as part of the festival, Buffalo Street Books will host a reading group that will meet regularly through the spring to discuss “Great Expectations.”

“Dickens remains such a popular author because he created the shape that so many of our popular narratives still take: serially published, with multiple plot stories that are consumed over time,” noted Bleicher. “Without Dickens there would be no Harry Potter series, no ‘Lost’ or ‘The Wire’ on television. His stories of people surviving the unprecedented change wrought by the Industrial Revolution still speak to readers who feel buffeted by shifts in technology and social structures.”

Sponsors of the Ithaca Dickens Festival include the Ithaca College School of Humanities and Sciences, Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Departments of English and Communications Studies, and Honors Program; Sigma Tau Delta National English Honor Society; Tompkins Trust Company; Cinemapolis; Kitchen Theatre Company; Running to Places Theatre Company; Buffalo Street Books; and CNY Cake Decorating.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Bleicher at (607) 274-1531 or