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Doomscrolling, Zombie Milkshake Cults & Catharsis

Doomscrolling, Zombie Milkshake Cults & Catharsis… Oh My!Poets, playwrights and performers find Covid, catharsis in Cleveland Humanities Festival's ‘What Makes Us Well’ at Mather Mansion on Saturday, April 8

Don’t look now, but many of us aren’t done processing those “unprecedented times.” Is this you? If you’re picking up what we’re throwing down, you might consider joining Literary Cleveland and Cleveland State University for a dramatic reading of original literary works by local writers addressing themes of wellness.

Under the direction of Christine Howey, “What Makes Us Well: A Staged Reading” brings together Northeast Ohio authors, poets, playwrights and performers to enact scenes of illness and health; poems mindfulness and spiritual mystery, dialogues on body and spirit, and reflections on social ills. The event takes place on Saturday, April 8 at 4 p.m. at CSU Mather Mansion (2605 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 44115).

Admission is free, but reservations are requested.

“We have quite a collection, 18 pieces in all. Some are funny, some are serious and poignant,” said Howey, poet and former stage actor and director primarily at Dobama Theatre.

Howey, who has reviewed theater as a journalist since 1997, said that this is “a bit more performative and provocative” than what would be expected at a poetry feature reading – somewhere in between performance art and a theatrical dress rehearsal interpretation. By combining the words of local writers with the talents of local theater professionals, this staged reading "will showcase multiple perspectives" that expand the understanding of what makes people well.

“We have professional actors who read, script-in-hand,” offered the former executive director of Lit Cleveland. “It’s a wide range of emotion, more than a reading.”

The words in “What Makes Us Well: A Staged Reading” are readings poems, essays, and short dramatic pieces on everything from birds to baseball, screen fatigue to “doomscrolling,” prayer and chronic pain, “white wine and East Palestine,” zombie milkshake cults and “long Covid.”

Howey was surprised at the number of humorous submissions received, given that Covid appeared to be in the driver’s seat for much the program’s inspiration. She was even more surprised to find herself battling the ailment of “unprecedented times” a week before showtime.

“Well. You dodge it until you can’t, I guess,” she said with a chuckle during a phone interview with CSU this week.

For those who are unfamiliar, Cleveland Humanities Festival is a collaborative event celebrating all of the great cultural institutions of the city of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio that are dedicated to humanistic inquiry. Festival organizers hope that unique voices bringing to life humor and horror, love and loss, the past and the future will help attendees consider what makes one well. 

The event is co-sponsored by Literary Cleveland, CSU, and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities.