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This is Ilene Evans who will portray Memphis Tennessee Garrison for the Women's Lyceum.

Folklife Center to present The Women’s Lyceum

In keeping with our theme of Diversity in Appalachia, the Frank and Jane Gabor WV Folklife Center presents The Women’s Lyceum. The tradition of the lyceum, which dates back to Ancient Greece, serves as public education and entertainment. It includes lectures, readings, concerts, and discussions.

On Monday, September 30, at 7 p.m., author Val Nieman will discuss her novel, “To the Bones.” Nieman is an author, teacher, and editor whose work emerges from her Appalachian roots. Her fourth novel, “To the Bones,” a genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia, is a spring 2019 title from WVU Press.

Her writing has appeared widely in journals and in numerous anthologies, including “Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods” and “Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology.” She has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships, and her awards include the Eric Hoffer Prize in General Fiction, two Elizabeth Simpson Smith awards in fiction and the Greg Grummer Prize in poetry. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist (including work for the Times-West Virginian), Nieman teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.

On Sunday, October 13, at 2 p.m., storyteller, actress, and writer Karen Vuranch will present author Pearl S. Buck in a first-person interpretation. Born in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, Buck spent her childhood and early adulthood in China and much of her work encompasses Eastern culture. Her novel “The Good Earth” earned her the Pulitzer Prize, and she was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. An outspoken social activist and humanitarian, Buck campaigned for civil rights, women’s rights and children’s causes.

Karen Vuranch is known for her traditional storytelling, plays based on oral history, and living history presentations of famous American women. Her repertoire of famous American women includes Pearl S. Buck, Mother Jones, Clara Barton, Mary Draper Ingles, Emma Edmunds, Grace O’Malley, Belle Starr, Julia Child, Louella Parsons and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her acclaimed performance of her original production, Coal Camp Memories, has been presented nationally and internationally. She has been awarded the Tamarack Fellowship, Oak Hill Quota Club’s honoree, Robert C.

Byrd Community Service Award, Robert McWhorter Achievement Award, performing Artist of the Year Award in 2003, Spirit of West Virginia Award, Celebrate Women Award, and the 2000 Performing Artist of the Year Award by the Tamarack. Vuranch teaches theatre and communication at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia.

On Monday, October 28, 7 p.m., Ilene Evans will portray Memphis Tennessee Garrison. Educator and civil rights leader, Garrison was the daughter of former slaves who spent her much of her life in Gary, WV. She was a school teacher in McDowell County for 35 years and fought for better learning and cultural opportunities for African-Americans.

She organized the first NAACP branches in southern West Virginia, won the Madame C.J. Walker Award for creating and administering the Freedom Seals Campaign, and became the first woman elected at the national level as the vice-president of the NAACP Board. In 1988, she received the “Living the Dream Award” from the state of West Virginia which annually honors a citizen who best exemplifies the principles and goals of Martin Luther King.

Actress, storyteller, musician, historian, and teaching artist, Ilene Evans has performed nationally and internationally. Evans holds a Master’s Degree from East Tennessee State University in the department of Education with an emphasis in Storytelling. She has done extensive research as a Chautauqua scholar, developing presentations of historical women who have contributed significantly to African American culture.

She was selected by the United States Embassy to tour Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Columbia to share her work in the history and culture of African Americans through the arts, art education, literature, and music. As a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers, she traveled to Ghana, West Africa to bring the story of Harriet Tubman to the diaspora to the University of Ghana and Cape Coast Castle during 2015 Panafest. She recently traveled to Tanzania with Ohio State University to collect the music of the women in the Marwa Village. Evans teaches communication at Fairmont State University.

These events are free and open to the public.

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