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Love and politics, love and time: Some themes emerging for the Fall 2015 residency

By Katy Yocom

Spalding MFA Associate Administrative Director

One of the things I love about writing, as well as about any encounter with art, is finding the themes that emerge, often unexpectedly. So I won’t say whether it is by design that the fall 2015 residency, now in the planning stages, is beginning to become about love.

It’s the collision of love and politics that provides the central conflict in our program book in common, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson. Johnson speaks at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood on the first Saturday of residency.

It’s rare for our program to feature an author who is coming to Louisville not specifically to speak to us, but when we learned that Adam Johnson would be in our city, speaking about that particular book, during this particular residency—when our focal area is fiction—we couldn’t imagine letting that opportunity go by. So, we’ll attend his reading and Q&A session, which is part of the Anne and William Axton Reading Series. While the series is a program of the University of Louisville, it’s worth noting that the late Anne Axton was an alumna of the Spalding MFA program (F ’03).

Where love and politics collide in The Orphan Master’s Son, love and time intersect in the musical drama Failure: A Love Story, a play by Phillip Dawkins that serves as our arts event. Failure is set in 1928, the last year of each of the Fail Sisters’ lives. The official description reads thus: “Nelly was the first of the Fail girls to die, followed soon after by her sisters Jenny, June and Gerty. As with so many things in life—blunt objects, disappearances and consumption—they never saw death coming. A magical, musical fable that traces the sisters’ triumphs and defeats, lived out in the rickety two-story building by the Chicago River that was the Fail family home and clock shop. This funny, moving and profoundly wise play reminds us that in the end, all that remains is love.”

The performance of Failure we’ll see on Monday, November 16, was added to the performance schedule especially for us. We’ve bought out the house that night at Baron’s Theater, on Main Street near the Second Street Bridge, a long walk or short motorcoach ride from campus. The performance is a production of Theatre [502], a new theatre company in Louisville, of which longtime Spalding MFA friend Amy Attaway is co-artistic director. As always, students will be asked to reflect on the arts event. They might begin by asking themselves how the themes of love and time are handled in their own writing.

Many more events are scheduled for the residency, both curricular and extracurricular. It remains to be seen how, or whether, the incipient love theme continues to emerge.

Katy Yocom’s fiction, poetry, essays, and journalism have appeared in The Louisville Review, New Southerner, Open 24 Hrs., the blog StyleSubstanceSoul, Louisville Magazine, LEO Weekly, 2nd & Church, and Food & Dining, among other publications. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University. She is a recipient of grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Kentucky Foundation for Women and was writer-in-residence at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. 


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