When Charlotte poet, teacher and literary icon Irene Blair Honeycutt launched the Spring Literary Festival at CPCC in 1993, she was looking for a way to provide students with a literary experience and type of exposure they could expect at a four-year institution.
Five daytime writing workshops and three evening readings attracted about 500 attendees over a single weekend. Reborn as Sensoria in 2006, the celebration of literature and the arts has expanded over two-plus decades to showcase local and national talent in performing, visual and literary arts, alongside exhibitions of history, culture and music – all contributing to the texture and vibrancy of the Charlotte community.
“People in our community have souls that are thirsty for cultural enrichment and nourishment,” Honeycutt told me in a 2010 interview. “Whether it is art, music or literature, participants will find tremendous, top-quality offerings at Sensoria. This festival is not one to be missed.”
More than 15,000 attendees are expected this year for Sensoria’s 25th anniversary. The festival features 80 events (many free to attend) held on six CPCC campus locations over 10 days, beginning March 31 and running through April 9. The full schedule of events is here.
Here are some highlights:
- “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”: August Wilson’s Tony-award-nominated play details the exploitation of African-American musicians while exploring their economic and artistic struggles. It’s a moving production by this great American playwright and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. CPCC communications instructor Dr. Corliss Hayes directs her fourth of Wilson’s ten “century cycle” productions – each play corresponding to a decade in the 20th century March 31- April 9.
- Founding Poet – Irene Blair Honeycutt: Take advantage of the opportunity to meet and hear from Sensoria’s founder. She’ll greet new and old friends in a reception followed by a reading and discussion of her new collection, “Beneath the Bamboo Sky.” April 3.
- Author Showcase — Gavin Edwards: Charlotte resident, Rolling Stone contributing editor and New York Times best-selling author Edwards will read and discuss his latest book, “The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing.” Get backstories behind the anecdotes and random chaos of legendary funnyman Murray through Edwards’ thoughtful analysis and categorization of what makes Bill – Bill. Books available for purchase and signing. April 3.
- George Saunders – Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Lecturer: A 2014 National Book Award finalist for his collection “The Tenth of December,” Saunders is one of the country’s most recognized and significant contemporary writers. The recipient of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Genius grant, Saunders’ work appears regularly in The New Yorker, GQ, and Harper’s Magazine. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine in 2013. Saunders presents twice on April 5, morning and evening.
- A. Van Jordan — What Can Poetry be About?: Rockstar poet and a featured Sensoria literary presenter in 2008, A. Van Jordan returns to help mark the 25th year of the festival. He is the author of four collections: “Rise,” which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award; “M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A,” which was listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by the London Times; “Quantum Lyrics,” and “The Cineaste.” He is the Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor at Rutgers University. April 6.
- Paul Taylor Dance Company: American dance legend Paul Taylor’s troupe will give two performances at the festival. It’s in Charlotte as an outgrowth of the UNC Charlotte-led lost choreography reconstruction project (chronicled in the New York Times here) and in community partnership with CPCC, Charlotte Ballet and Wells Fargo. This is world-class American Modern Dance at its finest. April 7 & 8.
Want to go?
Sensoria runs March 31 to April 9. See a full schedule of events here.
Photos: Courtesy of Random House; Eleanor Brawley; Courtesy of CPCC; Courtesy of Paul Taylor