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Student actors present poetic novel "October Mourning"

North Central College presents "October Mourning," a stage production based on Lesléa Newman's book, "October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard," Jan. 8-11.

Student actors with direction by Carin Silkaitis, North Central College assistant professor of theatre, will present six performances at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8-10, at 2 p.m. Jan. 10-11 and at 6 p.m. Jan. 11 in Madden Theatre at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave. Tickets are $10/adults and $8/students and senior citizens; call the North Central College Box Office at 630-637-SHOW ( 7469 ) or visit northcentralcollege.edu/showtix. The play runs one hour with no intermission.

Told in poetic verse, the novel follows the tragic events of Oct. 6, 1998, when 21-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. Newman's historic poetry is her deeply felt response to the events of that day. While the poems in her book are inspired by actual events, the monologues are creations of her own imagination. The words, feelings and opinions are hers alone.

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Newman is a critically acclaimed author of 65 books for readers of all ages. "October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard" received a Stonewall Honor from the American Library Association and was named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. A gay activist, Newman has won many literary awards, including poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation.

Silkaitis collaborated with students to adapt "October Mourning" for the stage, with original music and sound effects by Jermaine Hill, a noted singer, pianist and musical director. "It's been incredibly important to me to tell the story exactly the way Lesléa wrote it," says Silkaitis. "I wanted to perform the poems in order so the audience would get every word of the book either through the actors' voices or through projections on the screen. I staged this piece so the audience would gain a sense of what the poems look like on the page and structured the play with each poem's unique format in mind."

Newman will be on campus at noon Thursday, Jan. 8, in the theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth St., to give a presentation, titled "He Continues to Make a Difference: The Story of Matthew Shepard." A free event, the hour-long, anti-bullying presentation is for high school, college and adult audiences and includes a time for questions. A book sale and signing of "October Mourning" will follow. Newman also will sign copies of her book before and after the Jan. 8 evening performance.

The cast features ( actor, town, year, major ):

Maddie DePorter of Orion, Ill., a senior majoring in theatre

Maddie Burke of Monroe, Mich., a sophomore majoring in theatre

Torie Trenter of Montgomery, a sophomore majoring in theatre

Miranda Harris of Normal, a sophomore majoring in French and musical theatre

Emma Smith of Downers Grove, a senior majoring in theatre

Nik Kmiecik of West Chicago, a senior majoring in musical theatre

Erik Burke of Monroe, Mich., a senior majoring in theatre

Jack Morsovillo of Franklin Park, a sophomore majoring in theatre

North Central College's 2014-2015 Fine and Performing Arts Season is partially sponsored by season supporters, including BMO Harris, Casa by Charleston, The DuPage Community Foundation, Grant Thornton, J.P. Morgan, Main Street Promenade, Marquette Properties, Monarch Landing, Nicor Gas, Ryan Hill Realty, U.S. Bank Private Client Reserve, USG and Water Street Development.

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