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ASCC presents Literary Evening tomorrow

The Languages and Literature Department at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) will present A Literary Experience: An Evening of Live Performance, Thursday, April 11, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Lecture Hall. The event is free and open to the public.


As the title suggests, the evening will feature students currently enrolled in Languages and Literature classes performing their interpretations of some of the best poetry, song, monologue and speeches in the English literary canon.


“We want to tie this event into the Flag Day festivities, where visitors and families alike enjoy traditional siva and pese by the local villages,” explained Languages and Literature instructor Poe Mageo, who is also the main organizer of the event.


“This is something of the same nature as celebrating traditional performing arts, but it involves the English literature our students are exposed to.” The performances will cover a wide variety of literary texts, ranging from works by Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh, which date back to the 1600s, to contemporary American writers like Maya Angelou and even Pacific literature figures such as Tusiata Avia. Besides the familiar texts, the evening will also include Negro Spirituals, and the early auditions for the event saw two groups of students turn in especially inspired performances in this category.


The Languages and Literature Department had long hoped to organize an event to bridge the gap between literature as an academic subject and literature as a live performance medium, and they credit ASCC Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle and Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Irene Helsham with giving them the encouragement to bring the idea to fruition.


“Unfortunately, there aren’t many venues available to expose the general public to the humanities and literary arts,” said Languages and Literature Chairperson Mele Fiaui. “Some of our goals are to raise the public’s awareness to the beauty and applicability of literature and also showcase the wide range of talented students we have here at ASCC.  It’s an opportunity for those who have a love of literature and performance to attend, and also for parents to bring their children in order to increase their exposure to literature.”


As any student or professional who has had to interpret a piece of literature for live performance knows, preparing to present that piece to an audience involves a far deeper level of engagement than simply reading it for personal enjoyment.


“For the participants and performers, this is an opportunity to apply some of what they have learned in their literature classes,” continued Fiaui. “Students must understand their chosen literary work and be able to critically analyze the piece so that they can accurately perform it.  Additionally, students need to understand some of the basics of performance such as inflection, intonation, and the author’s tone and purpose.  Hopefully this evening will provide an outlet for students who have a desire to perform before an audience.”


When asked whether they felt American Samoa’s cultural and social environment encourages a natural appreciation of literature, Fiaui and Mageo offered contrasting opinions.


“Definitely,” replied Mageo. “Samoan proverbs, storylines, poetry, faagogos, chants, folklore, suggest how immersed our ancestors were with applying literary concepts to the natural world surrounding them— to the wind, ocean, waterfall, pigeons, moon, sun, octopus, and so on.  In other words, long before the first Caucasians and missionaries arrived, our ancestors had already equated human emotions with natural motifs, creating the very early lines of our traditional poetry.”


            Fiaui’s perspective reflects how, as she sees it, many view English literature specifically, as opposed to the familiar Samoan cultural literature referred to by Mageo.


 “There are many people on-island who have very little regard for literature and I think that’s mainly because they have never read anything that really engages them,” she said. 


“A lot of people fail to see how literature is relevant or applicable to them—although that is primarily what literature does: shows us what is worthwhile in life, what is moral, what is beautiful.  Culturally, our students are natural performers and are comfortable in front of large audiences.  If people can see literature performed in a way that is interesting or relevant, then they may be more likely to have more of an interest in, and appreciation of it.”


            For both those with a longstanding appreciation of literature as well as those still discovering what it has to offer, this Thursday’s event will provide a unique opportunity to experience the written word as it comes to life straight off of the page. Since seating for this free event will be on a first come, first served basis, patrons are asked to be mindful of the 7 p.m. start time.


For more information on this event, call the ASCC switchboard at 699-9155 and ask for the Languages and Literature Department.