Sunday, late afternoon, and Mountain View Mausoleum in Altadena stands regal against the backdrop of crystal clear mountains. This was the incredible location of the second fundraiser for LitFest Pasadena, the city’s upcoming entrance into the world of book festivals to be held on Saturday, March 17th, in Central Park.
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard joined the festivities, as well as Elizabeth Pomeroy, member of the Pasadena Board of Education.
The event started in a cozy gallery with art on the walls, tables of delicious finger foods, and Richard Sears playing on the piano. Sears is an alumni of USC Thornton School of Music and specializes in jazz, while Laura Davey, who also played and is an alumni, is classically trained. After a period of snacking, gentle imbibing, a welcome by LitFest co-founder Larry Wilson, public editor of the Pasadena Star News, and a brief history of Mountain View by Michele Zack, attendees were led to an inner courtyard for a taste of Shakespeare.
The scene was stark. The audience stood behind a low stone wall and columns, looking into the courtyard, which was the day’s stage. Kathleen Deems of the Westridge School donned a calf-length black coat with steel-toed boots to inhabit the body of Hamlet, delivering a mournful, heart-felt soliloquy. Mona Lutfi of Alverno High School performed a scene from Twelfth Night with animated exuberance. Rosie Carroll and Kelly Laco of Mayfield Senior School finished off with a dramatically and well-timed comedic rendition from Romeo and Juliet.
After the applause, the crowd was ushered around the courtyard, through a hallway, and spread out along the balcony overlooking the main hall. Looking down onto the sweeping split stairway, members of Marshall Fundamental High School‘s Chorale stood spaced on the steps. Conductor David Pitts led them in two pieces, a Gitanjaili chant and “Homeward Bound.” The excellent acoustics (a result of the marble walls and floors, and the height of the ceiling) amplified the magnificence of the group’s talent. Observers pined for more, ready to settle in for a full concert.
The evening ended back in the small gallery for another round of edibles, a refilling of libations, and a continuation of varied conversation. Walking out to the parking lot revealed the aftermath of a tranquil sunset. A Sunday afternoon well-spent.
LitFest Pasadena is an EMERGE Project of the Pasadena Arts Council. Forty bookstores, publishers and institutions will be exhibiting at the festival on March 17th, ranging from Vroman’s to our own Prospect Park Media. Other exhibitors include Angel City, Distant Lands, Once Upon a Time, the Pasadena Museum of History, and Rare Bird Lit.
Two stages will host over a dozen panels, interviews, and poetry readings. Panels will include topics such as 21st Century Noir, the Rise of the Graphic Novel, the Southern California Canvas, and Young Adult Fiction. Larry Wilson will be interviewing Mona Simpson, while David Kipen will converse with Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Gold.
Anyone interested in learning more, or about donating to support Pasadena’s first annual literary festival, or to inquire about volunteering possibilites can visit litfestpasadena.org.