by Max Meier
Opening its doors in May of 1974, the Illusion Theater has been working to illuminate the myths and realities of our times, catalyzing personal and social change, for over 40 years. In a time where the integrity of truth is more often brought into question than not, this mission could not be more important and is the very reason that the Illusion Theater was selected by the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute to host An Hour or So with Kate DiCamillo and Dave Eggers.
Chad Kampe, MOI’s Executive Director, kicked the night off with a rundown of MOI’s yearly accomplishments, followed by a sneak peek of Dave Egger’s new and nearly finished children’s book [title]. Without divulging too many details, the book stepped into themes of justice, immigration, and the idea that liberty necessitates constant calibration. There were few dry eyes in the room by the time Dave finished reading.
Next, Kate DiCamillo took the stage with Dave for a question and answer session. The two gushed over each other’s accomplishments, poked fun, reflected on the state of our world, and generously offered hope and direction for youth aspiring to someday be in their shoes. The three Young Authors’ Book Project 9th grade student authors from Como Park Senior High School were sitting wide-eyed in the front row, taking it all in, before it was their turn to speak.
Kortney had the courage to not only stand up and read her poem first but also to express love for her hair that brought her so much ridicule while she was in middle school. “I am black with beautiful hair.” Phillip stepped up to the podium next and, with swagger, delivered a longing love poem written for a crush. “I’d rather be struck / By lightning snow / Than redirect / And see you go.” Last, but not least, Way made her way to the stage to share an inspired essay on the Honor Roll certificate she received and what it means to her. “You will achieve your goal once you know what you want to do.”
Kortney, Phillip, and Way then joined Kate and Dave onstage for a second question and answer session. The three young authors were put on the spot and stole the show, fielding questions from both onstage and the audience in typical 9th grade-sass fashion. In one particularly candid response to the question, “What can teachers do to encourage writing?” Phillip stirred the pot by saying: “Stop telling us to think and start asking us to write. Breathing over a student’s shoulder is an easy way to discourage honest creativity.”
Blackout Improv, an all black improv group based in Minneapolis, ended the show with a hilarious performance of an MOI Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trip book, Billy Bob Jo’s Poisonous Coffee. Flaming haired Funky Woman, Steve the Starbucks Guy (aka Billy Bob Jo the Evil Scientist), and sidekick Johnny Boy came to life on stage as Kate DiCamillo narrated. Hysterical and inspired, the Illusion Theater goers and new MOI supporters spilled into the lobby for fresh oceanographic merchandise, ready to spread the word!