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Performance of Dickens' classic to headline KCPL offerings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  John and Dot Peerybingle and their baby boy live together in harmony with a guardian angel in the form of a cricket that stays chirping on their hearth, until the day a mysterious stranger arrives to stay and the couple's life takes a perilous turn just before Christmas.

It was one of Charles Dickens' most beloved Christmas works in Victorian England, but these days, "The Cricket on the Hearth" goes largely unnoticed.

Carol Weakland, author, actress and avid reader, wants to keep the spirit of lesser-known literature alive this holiday season. Weakland lives in Youngstown, Ohio, and is the author of the "Morgen of Avalon" series, a retelling of the tales of King Arthur from the perspective of sorceress Morgan le Fay.

"What I started to do way back in the 1990s was to put on productions in order to reintroduce people to literature that they might have heard about, but might never have read," Weakland said. "We thought that might be an interesting way for them to say, 'This is really catching my attention. I'd like to read it.'"

Weakland will perform a one-woman adaptation of "Cricket on the Hearth" at three Kanawha County Public Library branches this holiday season. Weakland, who founded Great Expectations Theatrical Productions in Ohio with the purpose of reintroducing people to beloved literature, is a lifelong fan of Dickens' work.

"I love the classics, and you certainly get them from time to time, but they're not seen all that much this day and age," she said. "It's just something that speaks so passionately to me that I wanted to share it with others."

Weakland said that while "Cricket on the Hearth" has not had the same lasting power as Dickens' other famous Christmas story of the era, "A Christmas Carol," it still serves as a powerful story about family and togetherness that makes it timeless.

"For someone like Dickens, who is so well known, and yet 'Cricket on the Hearth' is not well known -- that is something that can create new interest in a classic that might otherwise be forgotten," she said.

Weakland will give three 45-minute performances of "Cricket on the Hearth" in the Charleston area. The first is Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Albans Branch Library, Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. at the Riverside Public Library and Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cross Lanes Branch Library.

According to Terry Wooten, marketing and development manager at KCPL, the presentation of "Cricket on the Hearth" is part of the libraries' seasonal offerings aimed at providing the community with a place to gather.

"We try to be the center of community life, and ... have a lot of different types of events," Wooten said. "We have this production, but we also have different crafts and things at all of the branches; every branch is having an open house to celebrate the holidays."

There are 11 branch libraries in the KCPL system, and nine are funded through the main library system. The county's libraries are facing a $3 million budget deficit, after voters overwhelmingly defeated a library and school excess levy in November. According to Wooten, the majority of the funding for the holiday open houses comes from donors and local advisory boards, and the KCPL hopes to provide the same level of outreach it has in the past.

"We think community programs are important. We try to do as many as we can and allow a variety so that we can have something that will appeal to everyone," she said.

The main library in Charleston will also hold a Little Quilts Silent Auction during its open house Dec. 7. The quilts, made by members of the Moon and Stars Quilters, the Kanawha Valley Quilters Guild and the Fairmont-based Mountain Heritage Quilters, are on display on the first floor. Bidding will be open between 1 and 2 p.m. during the open house.

For more information about upcoming holiday KCPL events, visit www.kanawhalibrary.org or 304-343-4646.  

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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