Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman! A Bicentennial Celebration
Saturday, June 29, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
San Francisco, May 17, 2019
DADA Bar and the Mechanics’ Institute are teaming up to sponsor Walt Whitman’s maiden voyage to the City by the Bay. The two downtown institutions will throw a birthday bash featuring a full reading of Leaves of Grass -Song of Myself on Pride Saturday, June 29th, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and while Walt won’t be there in body, there will be various actors, musicians, and superfans to sing out his words and party with his spirit. The event will be free (donations encouraged) and open to the public.
“Walt Whitman embodies the bounty of our country with all its expression and democracy,” says Mechanics’ Institute Events Director Laura Sheppard. “He celebrated equality and acceptance of all people. This event will happen on Pride Weekend when it’s apropos to affirm sexual expression and identity.”
Whitman’s 200th birthday falls on May 31st but as a celebrated, gay icon, his birthday party will piggyback San Francisco Pride Week. For a city that embodies Whitman’s most generous ideals, he actually never set foot here. “No, Walt did not make it as far west as California, despite the poem he wrote [A Promise to California],” says David Reynolds, Whitman scholar and author of the 1995 biography, Walt Whitman’s America. “He traveled once to Colorado and another time to Canada, but not Cal.”
For his birthday and “coming-out” party, actors, singers, and members of the audience will recite all fifty-two sections of “Song of Myself” in the original 1855 version of Leaves of Grass. "My hope," says theater director, Dan Harder, "is that the rich and varied talents of our readers will reinforce the breadth, depth, and vigor of Whitman's poetic insights." The performers will also weave in stanzas from Calamus and I Sing the Body Electric, two of Whitman’s more explicit and homoerotic poems.
Performers include members of Conspiracy of Beards, San Francisco’s renowned men’s chorus, led by Daryl Henline, along with actors Greg Meyer, Dixon Phillips, Danielle Thys, Steven Winn, and Whitman emulator, Ryan Hayes. Special guests include Kathleen Antonia, Peter Maravelis, and poet Mason J. Musical accompaniment includes Anne Goess on violin and Michael Irwin on banjo.
The handsome and stately DADA Bar is located at 65 Post Street, on the ground floor of the Mechanics’ Institute building, steps away from the Montgomery BART and MUNI Station. Come join a night of camaraderie, music, poetry, history, and birthday cake. This event is free and will run on Pride Saturday, June 29th, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
DADA Bar is a bar and art gallery with an old world charm, high ceilings, and good acoustics. https://www.dadasf.com/
Founded in 1854, The Mechanics’ Institute is one of San Francisco’s most vital cultural and educational centers with its vast general interest library, world-famous Chess Club, and ongoing programs, films, and events. https://www.milibrary.org/