The Bard and the Library

Posted in Feature, Festivals, Literary, More Stories

BY KATE POSS
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
May 11, 2016

“Come, and take choice of all my library, and so beguile thy sorrow,” said William Shakespeare in Titus Andronicus. His words still ring true as Friends of the Langley Library host a soiree, “The Bibliotheque Befriends the Bard,” May 18 at Useless Bay Coffee Company. The free event offers noshes and a no-host bar from 5 to 7 p.m. Library friends and volunteers will be honored, and the public is invited to mingle with actors from The Island Shakespeare Festival whose season begins in July.

Langley Library Friends’ May 18 event collaborates with the Island Shakespeare Festival. (graphic provided by Sno-Isle Libraries)

Langley Library Friends’ May 18 event collaborates with the Island Shakespeare Festival. (graphic provided by Sno-Isle Libraries)

“Friends of the Langley Library (FOLL) raise money for programs and building renovation,” said Claire Creighton, FOLL president, a post she has held the past two years. Sales of donated books and strip curtains, along with membership fees, help raise funds for programs such as Nancy Pearl’s annual Booklist talk, held the past 18 years at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. FOLL also enjoys celebrating local organizations, such as the Island Shakespeare Festival.

Vicky Welfare manages the Langley Library. (photo by Kate Poss)

Vicky Welfare manages the Langley Library. (photo by Kate Poss)

The popular Island Shakespeare Festival is in its seventh season and was founded by Rose Woods whose acclaimed past includes being artistic director of several San Francisco theater companies as well as the Whidbey Children’s Theater. The talented Woods has both published poetry and also won awards for screenplays and plays she has written. Her talent triumphed in bringing the power of Shakespeare and other classic plays to the island despite naysayers.

Rose Woods is the founding artistic director of the Island Shakespeare Festival. (photo courtesy of Island Shakespeare Festival website)

Rose Woods is the founding artistic director of the Island Shakespeare Festival. (photo courtesy of Island Shakespeare Festival website)

One of her proponents, Timothy Hull, a musician and son of Whidbey Institute founders Fritz and Vivienne Hull, was intrigued by Woods’ inspiration and arranged a venue for a performance of As You Like It. Initial concerns of whether islanders would support Shakespeare were dashed when the play drew an audience of 800 to Storyhouse, an open-air stage on Whidbey Institute land in 2010.

Actors from previous plays with the Island Shakespeare Festival (photo courtesy of Island Shakespeare Festival website)

Actors from previous plays with the Island Shakespeare Festival (photo courtesy of Island Shakespeare Festival website)

Eventually the venue moved to the Langley fairgrounds to accommodate bigger crowds and more productions. Plays are now held under a striped tent that was built in 2013. Guests sit on hay bales and admission is free, though a hat is passed around for donations. With a lot of work from dedicated volunteers and staff, the repertoire theater continues to thrive and now attracts several thousand summer visitors each season.

Scene from The Tempest, which ran in the past with the Island Shakespeare Festival. (photo courtesy of Island Shakespeare Festival website)

Scene from The Tempest, which ran in the past with the Island Shakespeare Festival. (photo courtesy of Island Shakespeare Festival website)

Helen Coe, Langley’s first librarian in 1923 (photo by Cynthia Kaul)

Helen Coe, Langley’s first librarian in 1923 (photo by Cynthia Kaul)

April 23 commemorated the 400th year of the Bard’s death, and our local ISF group celebrates the famous playwright’s legacy in conjunction with the library: the public is invited to a preview of this season’s plays, As You Like It, Jane Eyre and Julius Caesar at the Langley Library June 7 at 6:30 p.m. The group also plans a fundraiser June 4 and is looking for volunteers to house this summer’s entourage of actors. To learn more about the festival and events, visit Island Shakespeare Festival.

The Langley Library enjoys working with local organizations, such as the Island Shakespeare Festival, and has a long history within the community. The library was envisioned by Helen Coe, the first woman mayor of Langley during the 1920s. She donated a plot of land to build a library in 1923 and acted as the first librarian. Coe’s portrait hangs on the wall behind the front desk. She looks like a no-nonsense kind of woman. Over the years, the Friends’ efforts expanded the library from the current children’s library to what it is now. A generous bequest organized by the Friends funded a complete interior renovation in 2011.

See-through strip curtains from Belgium help fund Langley Library programs and building improvements. (photo by Kate Poss)

See-through strip curtains (in color or plain) from Belgium help fund Langley Library programs and building improvements. (photo by Kate Poss)

Meanwhile, a tall Langley librarian named Nancy Lindholdt started the tradition of selling strip curtains, which raise more than half of the budget to fund library programs. Lindholt managed the library from the 1980s until around 2000 and wanted relief from the summer insects that plagued the library and locals’ homes. While traveling in Belgium, she was impressed by the natives’ use of strip curtains to keep the bugs out. She bought a few, thinking they would make a good fundraiser; thirty years later, sales of the curtains, still imported from Belgium, continue to be swift, especially now. Last year FOLL raised more than $13,000 for the library. For more information on FOLL, please visit Friends of the Library.

Kate Poss works as a library assistant at the Langley Library. She worked for three summers as a chef aboard a small Alaskan tour boat from 2008 to 2010. She was a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles for many years before moving to Whidbey Island where she likes “talking story,” hiking, hosting salons and writing her novel.

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