Next Wednesday, March 21, is the First Day of Spring, which I suspect will mean more to most of the United States than it does to residents of Pittsburg, NH, where winter reigns until Mother’s Day. Likewise, next Wednesday, March 21, is also the 12th Anniversary of the founding of Twitter, says @novelistador. And next Wednesday, March 21, is the 55th Anniversary of the closing of Alcatraz Prison.
Most important to me, though, next Wednesday, March 21, is my chance to play a tough acting role—an inanimate object! I’ll be one of the books at Southern New Hampshire University’s Human Library from 2 until 5 in the Shapiro Library Café in Manchester. One of the main acting challenges of playing a book in a Human Library is that it’s all improv—no script, no director, no stage. Also, the book I’m playing is me. Let me explain.
A Human Library is a collection of folks who have experienced discrimination, great or small, and who are willing to talk one-on-one about that experience with visitors for about 15 minutes at a time. Begun in Denmark in 2000, an animating notion is that dialog between marginalized humans and the mainstream will raise the consciousness of all. In short, although not necessarily in accuracy, two people talking for a quarter-hour will each walk away with their prejudices somewhat melted and their desire to be better people somewhat strengthened.
A few years ago, I was a book in the Goffstown Public Library’s version, and it’s there I met my friend, Dianne, who was apparently charmed by my combination of erudition and jackassery. I believe I was playing the part of “formerly homeless man now director of homeless program,” a role I was born (and have lived) to play. Unfortunately for visitors to SNHU’s Human Library, when the charming and talented Heather Walker-White, the library’s communication coordinator, asked me to participate, she directed me to an online form. I filled it out, submitted it and promptly forgot which role I’d assigned myself. Until I walk in next Wednesday, and look at the program, I won’t know which, if any, of the following parts I’m scheduled to play:
“former high-school revolutionary now a radical moderate”
“dancer laughed off the dance floor by child in leg braces telling him people are laughing at him”
“man whose only adult fistfight was with a fully made-up transvestite”
“formerly but imaginarily obese child”
“novelist whose first book has yet to sell 5,000 copies”
“blogger who insists on being called a ‘columnist’”
“formerly toothless man whose dental woes were miraculously solved by dentures”
“nitwit writer who believes if he mentions Tonio K. enough, Senor K. will achieve the fame he deserves”
“unshaven man whose facial hair is always ‘on the verge’ of becoming a beard but never quite achieves that”
“nondescript man who believes he resembles an unpuffy Matthew Broderick while the rest of the world sees the pathetic brother from ‘Two-and-a-Half Men’”
“drunk who’s been sober more than 94,000 hours IN A ROW”
“misguided singer who’ll perform at a moment’s notice with no talent whatsoever”
This list could go on—a possibility more entertaining for me than the rest of the world, I’m afraid—but it doesn’t need to. Whatever role I told Heather I’d perform is the one I’ll play. Except.
Except this is improv, so who knows where the role will take me. Wherever that may be, this dog-eared old volume of toothless tales looks forward to meeting you there.