Preview: “Born Under a Bad Sign,” literary/performance event, revivifies Southern Gothic Lit

Nicholas Tecosky as Popeye from William Faulkner's Sanctuary.
Nicholas Tecosky as Popeye from William Faulkner's Sanctuary.
 Elizabeth Jarrett will portray Bonnie Dee Peacock from Eudora Welty's 1953 story 'he Ponder Heart.
Elizabeth Jarrett as Bonnie Dee Peacock from Eudora Welty’s story The Ponder Heart. (Photo by Arno Hunter Meyers)

The literary arts are experiencing a renaissance of sorts in Atlanta. Over the past several years, reading series, discussion forums, and conferences for wordsmiths and bookworms alike have proliferated like kudzu. Among the latest and most exciting of these events for logophiles is Transgression, a non-traditional reading series presented by Atlanta-based multimedia and curatorial group Deer Bear Wolf.

Curated by literary luminaries Laura Relyea and John CarrollTransgression avoids the trappings of typical poetry and fiction readings by transforming the situation of the reading into an immersive event that’s more akin to interactive performance art.

Emphasizing spectator experience, the curators host events at evocative sites theatrically enhanced with props and other design elements. They challenge the readers to inhabit the roles of fictional characters. Readers are also encouraged to create elaborate backstories for the characters they portray.

Transgression debuted in January with a revival of the dinner theater whodunit. The group converted The Big House on Ponce into the many-chambered mansion of the classic board game, Clue.

On Saturday, June 27, the second iteration of this hybrid literary/performance art model will come to Inman Park’s Villa de Grip, a studio for prop, set and scenery construction for the movie industry.

Nicholas Tecosky as Popeye from William Faulkner's Sanctuary.
Nicholas Tecosky as Popeye from William Faulkner’s Sanctuary. (photo by Ann Stalemark Packwood)

Sharing its title with bluesman Albert King’s classic tune penned in celebration of the down-and-out and the luckless, Born Under a Bad Sign will explore the genre of Southern Gothic. Readers — including Cristen Conger of the popular podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You  and Elizabeth Jarrett, who curates Deer Bear Wolf’s monthly variety show Natural Selectionwill embody characters from classic works by the likes of James Dickey, William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams.

Their performances, presented in six cicada- and honeysuckle-steeped environments, might make even the most literarily indifferent ponder what it means to be Southern in the 21st century.

7 p.m., June 27 at Villa de Grip, 320 N. Highland Avenue NE. $15 advance tickets online, $20 at the door.

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