Dover celebrates life and work of Maurice Sendak

(Delaware State News photos by Marc Clery)

DOVER –– A five-week citywide celebration of author and illustrator Maurice Sendak called “50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons” kicks off today at the Dover Public Library and the Biggs Museum of American Art.

The 50th anniversary of his work “Where the Wild Things Are” in 2013 started a traveling exhibition of not only works by Mr. Sendak but works of artists inspired by him.

“We knew we would have the exhibit for five weeks so we decided to make it a community-wide event and a lot of people have been willing to get involved because Maurice Sendak had an influence in their childhood,” said Catherine Wimberley, event organizer at the Dover Public Library.

The exhibit itself will be split between the library and the Biggs Museum and the two entities will work in tandem to

Artwork and displays fill the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover for the Maurice Sendak exhibition running for the next five weeks at the museum and the Dover Public Library.

Artwork and displays fill the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover for the Maurice Sendak exhibition running for the next five weeks at the museum and the Dover Public Library.

spread awareness of the significance of Mr. Sendak’s writing and artwork.

“The exhibit includes 50 original works and quotes showing what Sendak meant to others and some original works by Sendak from personal drawings to concepts for the film also,” said Biggs Museum Curator Ryan Grover.

While the exhibit will provide plenty to look at, the Biggs and the library will both have plenty of other Sendak-themed work to view and take photos with.

“There will be some great visuals here and at the library, like Max’s bed and we’ll have affordable Sendak-themed merchandise,” Mr. Grover said. “I think everyone involved has done everything possible to make this a really fun event for everyone.”

Art through performance

The Children’s Theatre, Inc. in Dover is getting in on the Sendak celebration too with a performance of one of his lesser-known works, “Really Rosie.”

The play, set for Saturday at the Schwartz Center of the Arts in Dover, centers around Rosie, played by Alexandra Cseke, 13, of Dover, a sassy girl from Brooklyn, who bosses her friends around and convinces them to perform a show based on her very exaggerated life story.

The production, written for a cast of six, was expanded to an ensemble cast of 15 by director Sharon Crossen to allow more kids to get involved.

“I think I’m the only one here who knew about the show before now,” said Josiah Rich, 12, of Dover, who plays the role of Rosie’s friend Pierre. “I remember hearing the songs when I was little, especially ‘Chicken Soup.’ It just stands out in my mind because I love food.”

A variety of Sendak-related items will be on display throughout the exhibition. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A variety of Sendak-related items will be on display throughout the exhibition. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The musical is based on Mr. Sendak’s books “Chicken Soup with Rice,” “Pierre,” “One was Johnny,” and “Alligators All Around” (which compose 1962’s “The Nutshell Library”), and “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” in 1960).

Emily DeMarie, 10, of Dover, said she and all the other actors have been listening to the musical track written by Carole King for the show non-stop for the past month trying to learn all the songs they’d never heard before.

“They’re difficult because they’re nothing like what we’re used to singing,” she said. “They have a different rhythm but our directors are great and they’ve been patient and done a lot to help us through it.”

Due to the Children’s Theatre’s packed year-round performance schedule, only four weeks were available for rehearsals for the special show unlike their typical musicals, which have between six and nine weeks of rehearsal.

“We didn’t have as much time as usual but it’s been OK because this show is all about goofiness, unlike everything else we do which is a bit more serious,” Alexandra said.

“Really Rosie” will be performed at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Schwartz, 226 S. State St. Tickets are $5 at the door. Additional showings will be Aug. 8 at 10 a.m. at the Milton Theatre and Aug. 9 at 10:30 a.m. at the Brandywine Hundred Library in Wilmington.

Mr. Sendak’s works extend past words into performance pieces including famous ballets like “The Nutcracker” for which he designed elaborate sets.

The Ballet Theater of Dover will perform a piece in honor of Mr. Sendak’s contribution to dance at the Schwartz Center on Thursday 4 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets range from $12 to $18 can be bought at the door.

A hands-on experience

Not every part of the Sendak celebration is for spectators only –– plenty of opportunities to get physically involved in the event are ongoing throughout August.

“We wanted to make the exhibit more than something to look at,” Ms. Wimberley said. “We wanted to bring it to life –– not just ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ but Sendak’s other works too because he changed children’s literature as we know it.”

Thursday mornings throughout August, there will be a reading of a different Sendak book each week at 10:30 a.m. at the library followed by a short walk over to the Biggs Museum for arts and crafts.

The Dover library will also host free craft activities for kids every Tuesday in August at 10 a.m.

The exhibit at the Biggs Museum and Dover Public Library opens Friday at 6:30 p.m. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery(

The exhibit at the Biggs Museum and Dover Public Library opens Friday at 6:30 p.m. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery(

The crafts, best suited for kids ages 4 through 10, will include a wide array of options from decorating crowns to making monster feet and building boats.

“Sendak was an author that encouraged kids to be creative and use their imaginations — and the arts and crafts will be a good opportunity for them to do that,” Ms. Wimberley said.

For a unique Saturday morning, stop by the library on Aug. 20 at 10 and 11:30 a.m. to have breakfast with the monsters from “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Groups for both times will meet at the Dover Public Library then walk over to the Grey Fox Grille to dine with the monsters and work on art projects. Tickets are $5.

Digging deeper

For many, Mr. Sendak’s work is more than just words typed on a page or drawings scribbled on paper –– his work caused a pivotal shift in children’s literature.

“Where the Wild Things Roam,” a lecture by Susan Redington Bobby, an expert in fairy tales and mythology will look into Mr. Sendak’s work from an adult’s point of view, focusing especially the macabre aspects of his stories and illustrations.

"50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons" will be on display until Sept. 11. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons” will be on display until Sept. 11. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“She’s done extensive research on the topic and worked closely with the Dover Public Library in the past and I think we’re all excited to hear what she brings to the table,” Mr. Grover said.

The lecture is slated for Aug. 24 at 6 30 p.m. at the Biggs Museum on Federal Street.

Author, historian and children’s literature critic Leonard S. Marcus will host a discussion on Sept. 8 at 6:45 p.m. at the Dover Public Library delving into overarching themes in Mr. Sendak’s work and a more mature perspective of his work.

Registration is required for both events and can be completed online at doversendak.com or over the phone at 736-7030.

One of the final events of the exhibit’s run is a free outdoor screening of the 2009 film adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are” on Loockerman Plaza.

The show is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Sept. 3.

The opening ceremony begins at 6:30 tonight at the Dover Public Library, 35 E. Loockerman St., with a special reading of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

The Biggs Museum will host a preview of the exhibition for its members and their guests from 5 to 6:30 p.m. today. The exhibition will then be open free to the public at 6:30 p.m.

For more information on all of these events, visit DoverSendak.com.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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