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Gulfport Reading Garden opens Thursday

Betty Jean Steinshouer as Gertrude Stein.

Betty Jean Steinshouer as Gertrude Stein.

GULFPORT — After nearly a year of construction, the Reading Garden at the Gulfport Public Library officially opens Thursday at 7 p.m. with a ribbon cutting and a performance by Betty Jean Steinshouer, nationally known Chautauqua actor.

The garden's opening is a dream come true for the Circle of Friends, the volunteer group that works with the library to support literacy and learning in the community.

"We wanted a beautiful, tranquil place where people can meditate, relax, read, listen to the birds and appreciate the surroundings," said Phyllis Plotnick, president of the circle's board of directors. "It's a space that offers a welcoming oasis and brings new energy to the library."

Plotnick said the garden will be the site of many events throughout the year, from musical programs to children's activities.

Library director David Mather views the outdoor addition as both a gift to the city and a symbol of the library's renewal.

"It's one way of letting the community know that we're looking toward the future," he said. "The Reading Garden means we're no longer just a stuffy old library."

Thursday's event takes place in the Francis Purdy Community Room of the Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave. S, and is free. Because space is limited, those interested in attending should call (727) 893-1073. A reception begins at 6:30.

Contact Diane Craig at

if you go

History comes alive

Betty Jean Steinshouer has been performing Chautauqua, an American educational movement that began in the 19th century, since 1988. Performers assume the personas of characters in history and literature. Think Hal Holbrook performing Mark Twain. "It's like weaving a tapestry for each group," Steinshouer said. " I have hours of material in my head, and I decide what to use when I see the audience — their ages, gender and so on."

This is her first trip to Gulfport, and she hopes her performance of "On Hemingway: Three Views," will give the audience a new perception of Hemingway. The program explores the relationship between him and authors Willa Cather and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and poet Gertrude Stein.

Gulfport Reading Garden opens Thursday 02/25/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 3:10pm]
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