April Toole's Day brings Ignatius J. Reilly to life at The Irish House


A statue of Ignatius J. Reilly. - FLICKR USER TODD MURRAY
  • A statue of Ignatius J. Reilly.

Public displays of affection for literary heroes are not unfamiliar in New Orleans, from the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival's Stella! shouting contest to the annual Bloomsday celebration for James Joyce's Ullyses

But on April 1, it's April Toole's Day upstairs at The Irish House. A half-dozen readers will flesh out John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, with excerpts that introduce key characters and dramatic tension in the novel.

"We're going to be onstage for about two and a half hours," says Chris Lane, the event's organizer. "We're going to be breaking it up in a number ways. I'd like to read excerpts where the main characters are introduced. They start to interact with each other toward the end of the novel, they start overlapping and these different threads start to come together."

Lane, along with Andy Vaught of Cripple Creek Theatre Company, the writer and teacher Anne Gisleson and Mary-Devon Dupuy, a local comedian, will read from the text. Lane says there will also be a "Wheel of Fortuna" ("When fortuna spins you downward," says Ignatius J. Reilly, the novel's protagonist, "go out to a movie and get more out of life"), and audience members will be able to spin for a chance to read a chapter or section of the book.

The reading won't just be done by actors and writers, Lane says, because he wants a variety of voices that can bring the text to life, particularly the local Yat dialogue that Toole so deliberately wrote into the text. "When I was choosing readers I was trying to get as many people who were from here. That wasn't based on any chauvinism," Lane says. "Or, people who have lived here enough time that they can kind of understand a lot of there references and they can really understand the language. A lot of times what happens is they'll bring in writers and actors. But I was trying to bring in some people from other disciplines."

The reading will have musical breaks and libations in between. Lane is working with The Irish House chef and owner Matt Murphy to come up with some Ignatius-themed dishes (think hotddogs, but, for the sake of all our constitutions and "valves," non-neon ones), though nothing has been confirmed just yet. 

It all kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Lane is trying to make it an annual thing, like Bloomsday, which is also at The Irish House, but rights issues might make April Toole's Day a one time thing. 

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