A year into the pandemic, we’re coming up on major annual events that had to turn on a dime in 2020 but now have the benefit of hindsight. Like the Loft’s Wordplay festival.
Launched in 2019 as “Minnesota’s largest celebration of readers, writers, and great books,” the first Wordplay took place over Mother’s Day weekend in May and drew 10,000 people to Minneapolis’ Mill City neighborhood, in and around the Loft’s home at Open Book.
The 2020 festival, announced on Feb. 11, when there were still just a handful of COVID-19 cases in the United States, was originally scheduled for one day, May 9. A month after the announcement, things fell apart.
On March 12, 2020, the Loft announced it would shift Wordplay 2020 to a virtual festival. Instead of a single day, it would last a month, spread out over April and May. Instead of a solo project, it would be a collaboration with several other book festivals that had been pushed online by the pandemic. Instead of charging $20 for a wristband, the Loft would make everything available for free.
Against all odds, they pulled it off. More than 40,000 people signed on from all over the world.
What’s next for Wordplay? The third annual festival will also be virtual. Instead of a month, it will take place over six days, from Monday, May 3, through Saturday, May 8. Nearly 50 authors will participate, including Dean Koontz and Kazuo Ishiguro (announced earlier), plus Chelsea Clinton, Cheryl Strayed, Alison Bechdel, Marjorie Liu, Helen Oyeyemi, Benjamin Percy, Kao Kalia Yang, Douglas Kearney, Heid E. Erdrich and Bao Phi, to name a few. All featured authors will have released a book within a year of the festival.
A smart, elegant way of organizing events will help make your planning easier and more productive. Three to four scheduled events will take place each day. Morning sessions will focus on children’s books and authors, afternoon sessions on international authors. Evening sessions will be cross-genre conversations with a poet, nonfiction author and fiction author on specific topics. A few happy hours have been scheduled. Sessions will be streamed on Crowdcast, YouTube and Facebook Live.
The kickoff talk on Sunday, May 2, will feature best-selling authors Koontz and James Lee Burke in conversation for the first time.
Wordplay 3, like Wordplay 2, will be free of charge. An enhanced ticket ($35) will give you access to extra virtual, facilitated conversations, discussions, guides, and book plates. Here’s the complete lineup, and here’s the schedule.
Steph Opitz, the festival’s founding director, said in an understatement, “Since its founding in 2019, Wordplay has looked a little different each year.” For a festival still in its relative infancy, its evolution has been remarkable. Donations are needed to keep it alive so it can return to the streets in 2022.
Sometimes, but not often, everything happens on Wednesdays.
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
V Streaming on demand now through tomorrow (Wednesday, March 31): Guthrie Theater: “Dining With the Ancestors.” When another Black youth is shot by police, Vivian (Erin Nicole Farsté), a young actress, is overcome by despair. She prays to the ancestors to change the hearts and minds of law enforcement, city officials, and others so these tragedies will stop. Conceived by Regina Williams, written by Daaimah Mubashshir, directed by Signe V. Harriday, this new half-hour play features Williams as folk artist Harriet Powers, Aimee K. Bryant as civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, and Simone Bernadette as Pauli Murray, lawyer and Episcopal priest. Filmed at the Guthrie, up close and personal, it’s part of the Guthrie’s anti-racism series. Free with registration.
V Premieres Wednesday, March 31, 9 p.m. on Discovery+ and HGTV: “The Laundry Guy.” Home baking, scratch cooking, decluttering … will the next big COVID trend be laundry? Patric Richardson, aka the Laundry Guy (also the Laundry Evangelist), aka the Ina Garten of laundry, is the author of “Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore.” And he’s now the star of his own reality TV show. Why do we care? Because Richardson is one of ours. A St. Paulite, he owns the Mona Williams shop in the Mall of America. His “laundry camps” regularly sell out. Because laundry matters. Someday before too long, we’ll all be rummaging through our drawers and closets, desperate for something in good enough shape to wear out and be seen in.
V Streaming Wednesday, March 31, 7 p.m.: Dakota: Nachito Herrera: Tribute to Chick Corea. The great Cuban pianist, Steinway artist and COVID survivor honors the revered keyboardist, composer, innovator, 23-time Grammy winner and jazz master who died in February. This show will be pre-recorded from Nachito’s home, where he continues to rebuild his health. FMI and tickets ($15).
V Streaming Wednesday, March, 31, 6 p.m.: Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Camerata Bern: “Death and the Maiden.” In 2015, the fiery Moldovan violinist Kopatchinskaja, then an artistic partner with the SPCO, deconstructed Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” and stitched it back together with musical selections by contemporary composers. The live performance was thrilling and the recording they made together won a Grammy. Kopatchinskaja is now an artistic partner with Germany’s Camerata Bern, another conductorless chamber orchestra. Together they adapted “Death and the Maiden” and prepared to take it on tour. When COVID came, they made a film instead, directed by award-winning filmmaker Quinn Evan Reimann. You can buy a ticket for $10 and if you ever saw Kopatchinskaja live with the SPCO, we probably don’t need to tell you twice.
V Streaming Thursday, April 1, 7 p.m.: Club Book, presented by Anoka County Library: Therese Ann Fowler. Best known for her historical fiction — including “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” and “A Well-Behaved Woman,” which profiles Alva Vanderbilt — Fowler turned her attention to everyday Americans and modern times in her latest novel, “A Good Neighborhood.” It asks a question many of us wonder about in this divisive era: Can families with diametrically opposed world views be authentically neighborly?