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Ithaca Dickens Festival Brings 'Mutual Friend' to Life

 ITHACA, NY — The Ithaca Dickens Festival will continue on Friday, March 30, with a one-man performance by John Dennis Anderson, who brings to life an instrumental figure in making Charles Dickens famous. Free and open to the public, the show will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Ithaca College’s Park Hall Auditorium.

Anderson will portray George Dolby, the manager of Dickens’s famous reading tours. Based on the biographical novel “The Mutual Friend,” Anderson constructs a rich personal, historical and literary tapestry of Dolby’s significance then conducts a talkback with the audience after his performance.

When Dickens went on tour, people often waited in line for hours for the opportunity to buy tickets, and scalpers reaped a hefty markup. Dolby attended to every detail of the tours, from the travel arrangements, hotel bookings and seating arrangements in the halls to answering fan mail, so Dickens was free to concentrate on his nightly readings.

Anderson is a performance studies professor and scholar at Emerson College. Since 1994, he has been developing and presenting living history performances of such literary figures as Henry James, William Faulkner, Robert Frost and Washington Irving. His presentations combine scholarly and creative elements that showcase a tradition of oral performance of literature and speech communication that harkens back to the Lyceum and Chautauqua movements of the nineteenth century.

He tells stories based as much as possible on documented sources such as interviews, letters, recorded question-and-answer sessions and biographies. His artistic goal is to create an illusion of authenticity as well as a playful game with the audience that encourages them to interact with him as the character.

Sponsored by a number of departments at Ithaca College and organizations in the local community, the Ithaca Dickens Festival is celebrating the author’s 200th birthday in 2012. For the complete schedule of events, visit

For more information contact Elizabeth Bleicher, assistant professor of English, at (607) 274-1531 or