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Released October 7, 2005


Hattiesburg– Beowulf, a bone-chilling tale of monsters and men, will roar to life in an award-winning performance with harp by Chris Vinsonhaler on Oct. 30 at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hartwig Theatre.

The performance is sponsored by the university’s Honors College, English Department and Department of Theatre and Dance.

Timely, authoritative and mesmerizing—this 90-minute performance with Celtic harp, scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m., is free and open to the public, and it is recommended for adults and young adults only. Doors will open at 2 p.m.

Awarded a fellowship funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Vinsonhaler, an internationally touring artist, has received praise from scholars, poets, teachers, storytellers and armchair readers.

“You made Beowulf come alive even for those who hated reading it,” said Rosemary DePaulo, former president of Georgia College & State University, to Vinsonhaler after one of her performances. “You made everyone in the audience feel that Beowulf, Grendel and Hrothgar were with us—in the room and in our time.”

“Beowulf does indeed have something for everyone,” said Vinsonhaler. “It is a dazzling work of poetry, and it is also a knock-'em, sock-'em piece of pop culture about a Dark Ages super hero. It is somber and thought-provoking, but it is also a lot of fun. That’s what great literature has always been about.”

Yet those who are familiar with Beowulf should expect to be surprised.

"Beowulf has many surprises in store," Vinsonhaler said. "The poem is ironic, subversive, grotesque and darkly comic, and it may even lay claim to be the world's first murder mystery. Yet, above all, Beowulf is a prophetic work about the death of nations. Its world, like our own, is overshadowed by the image of a burning tower and by monstrous acts of avarice, envy, deceit and revenge. It is very much a poem for our times."

Robert Bjork, president of the International Society for Anglo-Saxonists, has praised Vinsonhaler's work for "capturing the tone and energy of the original poem.” And Andy Orchard, director of the Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies has praised Vinsonhaler’s translation as superior to all others in capturing “the passion and verve of the original.”

Vinsonhaler began working on Beowulf out of her lifelong interest in folk culture and bardic tradition. Now eight years into the project, Vinsonhaler has published an original performance-based translation. “I was aware that even serious readers of Beowulf have differed widely on interpretation—some declaring the poem can never be fully understood.

“As a professional storyteller, I wondered what would happen if Beowulf were seriously examined and interpreted through performance,” Vinsonhaler said.

“Although many questions remain unanswered, one thing that is almost certainly true: Beowulf was meant to be heard, not read. What excites me most, and what I hope to share with others, is that the poem does indeed take on a life of its own when returned to spoken form.”

Information on Vinsonhaler and the Beowulf project is available at


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October 14, 2005 10:17 AM