If you walked by the Courtyard Cafe at any part of the day this past Thursday you most likely noticed the costumes, backdrops, live artists, and people participating in the live reading of this years First-Year Reading in Common book, Frankenstein.
Unlike other readings, Frankenstein was given a full performance as the live reading began at 10:00 am and continued until the entire book was finished.
“In total, we had 44 different readers at the event: 27 students, 16 faculties or staff, and 1 community member,” First-Term Seminar Program Director Katherine Knutson said.
Frankenstein is a gothic/horror fiction novel written by Mary Shelley.
Each year since 2000, Gustavus has put on the Reading in Common program, where every first-year student and their Gustie Greeters are encouraged to read the chosen book over the summer.
The book is then used as a discussion prompt during orientation and in first-years’ First Term Seminars.
Each year a new book is chosen based on their literary quality, reading manageability, and topic.
This year the Reading in Common book was also connected to this year’s Nobel Conference theme, “Reproductive Technology: How Far Do We Go?”
The Frankenstein live reading event was sponsored by the First Term Seminar Program, Marketing and Communication, Campus Activities Board, Nobel Committee, Chaplain’s Office, Kendall Center for Engaged Learning, and the Office of the Provost.
“This event was the brainchild of members of the Nobel Conference planning committee who worked with me, through the First Term Seminar program, to design some events related to the Reading in Common book and the Nobel Conference. The Marketing and Communication Office also helped to organize the event,” Knutson said.
The event began with a kickoff including donuts and daily sabbath.
It then continued for about two hours before the Chemistry Club brought out liquid nitrogen ice cream for a treat during the iconic scene where Victor Frankenstein brings his creation to life.
“Being a part of this event made me feel so urgent and alive just like the creature, and I loved it!” Director of Editorial Services in Marketing and Communication Stephanie Ash said.
Many readers and performers stuck around after their performance to listen to other readers and interact with the audience.
“This event is so spontaneous and unique! I’ve never been a part of anything like this on campus before, or had liquid nitrogen ice cream” event music player Senior Will Scott said.
The reading continued like this, with backdrop changes, costumes, and food like freshly-popped popcorn to join the entertainment.
Around 2:30 p.m. President Becky Bergman stepped onto the stage to read the Creature’s story.
“It was fun to see President Becky Bergman wear a Frankenstein wig for her reading!” Knutson said.
The rest of the evening included a Three Crowns Curriculum hour, cheesy bread and comedy with The Fourth Crown and LineUs, and Dirt and Worms and the Greeter Power Hour.
Many students sat in the Courtyard Cafe for hours simply just listening to the live reading, while others contributed live artwork inspired by the reading.
“It is very interesting! I’ve been here for 2 hours, and every 30 minutes the event gets wilder, and it doesn’t stop! I invited my Greeties to come join me. In total, I am probably going to experience 5 hours of Frankenstein, and I’m not mad about it one-bit” Sophomore Joy Dunna said.
Overall, it was an event that was well planned and had a positive reaction around campus.
This could potentially be an event that continues in the future with other Reading in Common books.
“It was a fun and different type of event than what we usually do here. It brought together people from across campus…first-year students, student leaders, international students, student organizations, professors, administrators, and community members to do something a little crazy: spend 11 hours reading a classic novel out loud” Knutson said.