Newman University LitFest explores ‘Dante’s Inferno’


Newman University will host its annual literary festival, known as LitFest, March 5-6 in De Mattias Hall.

LitFest is free and open to the public, taking place during the spring semester, usually in April. Each year it carries a specific theme and has featured keynotes and activities revolving around that theme.

The theme for the 2020 LitFest is “Dante’s Inferno” and will take place one month earlier than usual to coincide with the premiere of the production of “Dante’s Inferno,” adapted by Newman Director of Theatre Mark Manette.

The stage production, which took Mannette 10 years to complete, will include many artistic elements such as dance, film, puppets and an original soundtrack. The show’s 7 p.m. Thursday night performance will kick off the 2020 LitFest.

After the performance, cast and crew will lead a “talkback” session with the audience. The panel-style Q&A is a chance for audience members to dig deeper into the actors’ thoughts and form a better connection with the content.

Newman sophomore Matthew Clark, who will portray the role of Dante, said he likes participating in these types of discussions.

“It makes me feel good as a performer to know that people stay after a performance for these because they care about theatre and learning more about what they just experienced,” explained Clark.

“It’s also just one of those neat things as a performer, you feel a sense of validation for the work you put into the performance, and the talkback gives us actors a chance to take away that fourth wall and talk directly to the audience.”

Activities on Friday, March 6, will take place in the Jabara Flexible Theatre located inside De Mattias Hall. Those wishing to attend LitFest can come and go as they please throughout the day.

Events include readings of original works by students, a special open mic event, a keynote delivered by Mannette, poetry readings and panel discussions.

Susan Crane-Laracuente, associate professor of English and LitFest organizer, said the event is a great way for students, staff and faculty to showcase their work and for community members to find a connection to literature through performances and discussions.

She said, “Overall, I hope people walk away with a renewed appreciation for literature and how it resonates with them on an individual level. I love seeing them bring their own experiences into their interactions with performers and creating a new dialog between them and the panelists.”


The following is the 2020 LitFest schedule:

Thursday, March 5

  • 7 p.m. — Premiere of “Dante’s Inferno”; Performance Hall inside De Mattias Fine Arts Center.
  • 10 p.m. — “Dante’s Inferno” production discussion; Performance Hall immediately following the performance.

Friday, March 6

Coffee & snacks served throughout the day. All activities located in the Jabara Flexible Theatre inside De Mattias Fine Arts Center unless otherwise specified.

  • All Day — View Dante-inspired artwork along the first-floor hallway of De Mattias Hall.
  • 9:30-11 a.m. — Memorias, Familia, Viajes / Memories, Family, Journeys; Students Mariah Gad, Cladius Ciecko and Dania Jump will present their original works.
  • 11 a.m.-12 p.m. — Open Mic; Open to all. Prizes for the top three performances.
  • 12-1 p.m. — Keynote: Newman Director of Theatre Mark Mannette.
  • 1-2 p.m. — Poetry reading: Newman Professor of English Bryan Dietrich will read from his newest collection of poetry, “The Demeter Diaries,” a book that reimagines the story of Dracula as a love story.
  • 2-3 p.m. — Panel discussion: “Dante and British Literature: From Chaucer to Eliot.”
  • 3-4 p.m. — Panel discussion: “Theology and Dante Alighieri’s Inferno.”
  • 4-5:30 p.m. — Dinner break with Mabee Dining Center open for dinner from 5-6:30 p.m.
  • 5-7 p.m. — Steckline Gallery First Friday exhibit: “Feral Fields” by artist Rachel Foster.
  • 7 p.m. — “Dante’s Inferno” stage production in Performance Hall.
  • 10 p.m. — Social gathering featuring snacks, a chocolate fountain and games.


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