After completing her latest literary festival surrounding Oscar Wilde last summer, Jill Anderson immediately began searching for a focus for her next project. When she saw a trailer for Baz Luhrmann's latest film The Great Gatsby, the answer was easy:
F Scott Fitzgerald and The Jazz Age.
“The Luhrmann thing was really kind of inspiring to me,” Anderson said. “Just seeing that preview last year, seeing the visuals sparked my imagination. These festivals have a lot to do with period and investigating the era in which the writer was working. I thought ‘Let’s move into the 20th Century!”
Anderson grew up with an affinity for the Jazz Age. As a young girl, she would play dress-up with trunks of vintage clothing at her grandmother’s house, pretending to live in the era known for its post-war decadence.
“This festival has afforded me an opportunity to delve into the underpinnings of it. What was it on a deeper level? (Fitzgerald’s) literature was the mouthpiece of that era and generation...As a human being he was a hot mess with a genius mind. It’s amazing to see that from such a tortured soul emanated all these amazing short stories as well as four novels. To see what blossomed out of those strange and conflicted life stories is fascinating.”
Anderson said she saw a lot of parallels to the young people of the Jazz Age and modern society. A term often used to describe both groups has been “The Lost Generation.”
“(World War I) had decimated a lot of the young population and the young people who came out of the war and survived had sort of an aimlessness. The emotional fallout and aftermath was a free fall. Young people were disillusioned and damaged from the war; the Victorian way of life no longer applied. They had to invent a new existence for themselves and thus modernism appeared.”
For Anderson, each year is a learning experience on how to properly put on a large event that will impact audiences.
“The first year was a dinky little experiment that went really well. The second year, I got cocky and loaded it up with 14 events. It was extremely ambitious and a little stupid. Some events were well attended and some were not. This year we’ve scaled back to 7 events, but those events are more complex and more condensed than past years.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, Anderson said, is drama as the centerpiece of the festival.
“The drama engages the audience emotionally to try and understand what influenced this era. One thing I’ve learned is always go for the senses and the heart. Art comes out of finding oneself. How can you change something alienating and harsh intro something artistic that touches on the human experience.”
For more information on the F Scott Fitzgerald Festival, visit www.joslyncastle.com.
Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to firstname.lastname@example.org