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Reading With Writers: Roanoke College’s Autumn Reading

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Written by Mateo Biggs

The annual Roanoke College Autumn Reading took place on Oct. 4, outside at the Olin Hall Amphitheater. Despite restrictions due to COVID-19, the event was a success, showcasing student work and providing a fun evening of entertainment for everyone involved. 

With RC’s own Dr. Teresa Milbrodt acting as both the MC of the event and official sanitizer of the microphone, the event kicked off on a high note. The first reader was called up: Alexis Samuels, who read a brilliant piece of a short story titled “People Watching,” pertaining to art in Paris. Between readings, the afternoon was filled with noise, from applause, to the wind and cicadas that provided a natural playlist of music, to the sounds of overhead avian calls and the traffic passing beyond Olin’s amphitheater. Even when the words were sung from page to air, there was always ambient noise in the background that gave the early evening a beautiful veil of tenderness and simplicity. 

Some of the pieces read were moving and awe-inspiring, while others seemed to be the product of mad artistic genius, such as Zach Dalton’s poems that made everyone in the crowd laugh. ​Another stand-out work was Charlie Fry’s piece of flash fiction that encapsulated the love and metamorphosis of the character that could only be born of change and maturation through the stages of life that the author describes.

Even if many of RC’s scholars had to learn to adapt to the new standards implemented by the CDC, the Autumn Reading was a perfect evening of relaxation for everyone there—even for new freshmen who had trouble speaking before large crowds. The audience, who listened quietly out of respect for the works being presented, made the readers feel at ease. 

From flash fiction that had everyone hooked from the first word, to the original excerpts that had many intrigued for the next part, to poetry that made the crowd laugh and listen in rapture, the Autumn Reading made many briefly forget about COVID-19–at least, as much as they could with their masks and their 6 feet of space between each other—as they allowed themselves to fall into the light autumnal haze that could only be born of the crisp October sunset. Overall, the Autumn Reading was a rewarding and rejuvenating experience for both readers and listeners.