Forest Park Historical Society President Augie Aleksy thinks big. The owner of Forest Park's Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore, Aleksy has long been captivated by Edgar Lee Master's 1915 Spoon River Anthology. Inspired by the work and the wealth of stories from local cemeteries, he undertook an effort to create both an anthology and a performance work based on actual stories of people buried in Forest Park.
Aleksy found local writers to contribute soliloquies based on the lives of those interred in Forest Park's cemeteries, and gathered the soliloquies into a book. The roughly 30 tales are told in the first person, but are meant to be historical in nature. From the parents of Ernest Hemingway to Elizabeth Taylor's husband, Mike Todd, to victims of the Eastland disaster and Iroquois Theater fire, the tales range from funny to poignant. According to Aleksy, "It's a good cross-cut of society in the Midwest."
Participants include Jay Bonansinga, a New York Times best-selling author; Chicago-area novelists Michael Black, Frances McNamara and Stephanie Kuehnert; and local historians Robert Loerzel and Richard Lindberg. Emily Victorson edited the book for Allium Press, and Amy Binns-Calvey, founding member of Noble Fool Theater Company, adapted it as a dramatic performance.
With original music by Forest Park's History Singers, the performance will take place at the Park District of Forest Park's building, 7501 Harrison St. on Oct. 26 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore or by calling the store 708-771-7243 or the Historical Society of Forest Park at 708-232-3747 or on Eventbrite.com. Tickets are $8 for Historical Society members and $10 for non-members in advance and $15 at the door. Copies of the book will be available at the event and at Centuries and Sleuths.