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  • Bloomsday 2012 at Croton Falls:A Review of "Our First Ever Bloomsday Celebration," 16 June 2012, The Schoolhouse Theater, Croton Falls, New York
  • Richard J. Gerber

The worldwide proliferation of well-planned, high-quality Bloomsday celebrations, both large and small, continued apace this year. Among them was "Our First Ever Bloomsday Celebration" held at The Schoolhouse Theater in Croton Falls, New York. Croton Falls is much like Bedford Falls, the fictional town of the 1946 movie classic It's a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart as the banker George Bailey. A quiet hamlet of some 5,104 souls located in the northeast corner of Westchester County, Croton Falls is just a fifty-mile train ride from midtown Manhattan, but it seems much farther. A visitor from ninety years ago would find the rural village looking almost the same as it did the year Ulysses was published: grand Victorian homes, winding tree-shaded streets, quaint store-fronts, and (of course) the falls. This year, The Schoolhouse Theater, housed since the 1980s in a former elementary school, brought experienced Bloomsday actors up from the city to highlight an engaging two-hour presentation of readings, musicians, displays, and refreshments, all related to the book of the day. A very reasonable $10 admission fee helped make this an event that no frugal Joycean could possibly pass up!

On a warm, sun-dappled Bloomsday afternoon, nearly one hundred (mostly novice) Joyce fans were greeted at the schoolhouse door by young hosts and hostesses dressed in Edwardian attire. We were escorted through the entry hallway to a large and bright gallery, where the walls were hung with photographs of Irish scenes, shot by various local photographers and offered for sale. The expected images of pub fronts and interiors were augmented by several related to Joyce and Ulysses: a photo of Joyce's Zurich gravesite and another of the front door of 7 Eccles Street, Dublin were particularly attractive.

The formal program was preceded by Irish music played by the Fair-Haired Tinkers, a local trio of talented Irish musicians who offered familiar melodies for voice, violin, and accordion. A soaring [End Page 403] solo violin performance of Those Lovely Seaside Girls was one of a number of rousing songs played. Apt refreshments—including gorgonzola sandwiches, burgundy wine, Irish tea, and soda bread—were laid out on nearby tables, much to the delight and satisfaction of the attendees.

While the Tinkers played, guests could admire the photos and wander through an open doorway leading into a smaller adjacent gallery. Here one found several displays related to Joyce and Ulysses, curated by Schoolhouse Theater board member Patrick Cicalo. A far wall was almost filled with a huge reproduction of the front page of The Evening Telegraph edition of 16 June 1904. As the sun streamed in through the gallery's front windows, several photos of Joyce could be viewed; a life chronology and a brief biography, both mounted on tabletop boards, could also be read. Stuart Gilbert's schema for Ulysses could be studied in a small alcove beside the room's entrance.

As the gentle strains of the Fair-Haired Tinkers came to a soft close, attendees were called back to the main gallery for the start of the formal program. Barton Kunstler, another Schoolhouse Theater board member and one of the organizers of the celebration, welcomed everyone and read a brief verbatim account of some of the (at times) humorous courtroom legal arguments presented in the 1933 case of United States v. One Book Called Ulysses. He also read a portion of Judge John M. Woolsey's historic decision granting permission for Ulysses to be published in America; Kunstler referred to the stately language of that decision as "almost a literary work in itself."

The Edwardian-dressed hosts and hostesses then ushered everyone into the schoolhouse's seventy-five-seat theater; a few guests had to stand in the rear. Schoolhouse Artistic Director Pamela Moller Kareman immediately took the stage and greeted attendees once again, before introducing the professional performers.

Three marvelous readings of selections from Ulysses were presented. First up, Roger Grunwald offered evocative portions of "Calypso" and "Lestrygonians." Employing multiple accented voices and humorous...


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