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Bits & Bytes: Shepard to discuss new book; ‘Honoring Du Bois’; ‘Alison Larkin LIVE!’; waste oil & paint collection; Berkshire School student wins songwriting contest

The W.E.B. Du Bois Educational Series will offer “Honoring Du Bois,” which will feature a presentation by Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, of the State House resolution honoring Du Bois on the 150th anniversary of his Feb. 23, 1868, birth in Great Barrington.

Author Ray Anthony Shepard to discuss new book

Great Barrington — Clinton Church Restoration will present author Ray Anthony Shepard Saturday, May 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 251 Main St. Shepard will give a talk and reading based on his new book, “Now or Never! 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery,” which will be followed by a book signing and reception. The great-grandson of Samuel Harrison, a Pittsfield resident who served as the 54th Regiment’s first chaplain, will also give brief remarks.

Shepard’s book tells the stories of two Civil War soldiers who answered Frederick Douglass’ clarion call, “Men of Color! To Arms! To Arms! Now or Never!” Among the first to volunteer for the all-Black Massachusetts’ 54th Infantry Regiment, George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding soon discovered the harsh realities of army life. As soldiers and the war’s first Black correspondents, they wrote eyewitness reports exposing the dangers and tragedies experienced on and off the battlefield, as well as the shocking injustices they endured in their own army.

“I write to provide young readers of any age a fuller (not revisionist) picture of American slavery, a corrective history of the struggle and anguish of courageous individuals in the two-and-a-half-century assault to limit full American citizenship to African Americans,” said Shepard.

Shepard is the grandson of a slave, a former teacher and retired editor-in-chief of a major education publishing company. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Education and the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he received a Martin Luther King Jr. fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. “Now or Never!” is his first work of creative nonfiction.

Donations at the door and proceeds from all book sales will benefit Clinton Church Restoration. For more information, contact Housatonic Heritage at (860) 435-9505 or saveamechurch@gmail.com.

–E.E.

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‘Honoring Du Bois’ at Monument Mountain Regional High School

Rep. William ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli, D-Lenox

Great Barrington — On Friday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Monument Mountain Regional High School, the W.E.B. Du Bois Educational Series will offer “Honoring Du Bois,” which will feature a presentation by Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, of the State House resolution honoring Du Bois on the 150th anniversary of his Feb. 23, 1868, birth in Great Barrington. The resolution passed the House of Representatives Feb. 28, 2018.

Frances Jones-Sneed. Photo courtesy Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The event will also feature musical selections by Graham and Barbara Dean, the Hoping Machine, and the Souls United of the Hudson Valley choir; a memoir reading by Carola Burroughs, whose grandfather Charles Burroughs was a student and friend of Du Bois; and an address by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts history, political science and public policyprofessor Frances Jones-Sneed, who spearheaded the creation of a Du Bois curriculum and has worked for years to promote Du Bois’ teachings and legacy.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call MMRHS at (413) 528-3346.

–E.E.

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WAM Theatre to present ‘Alison Larkin LIVE!’

Alison Larkin. Photo: Sabine von Falken

Lenox — WAM Theatre will present internationally acclaimed comedienne, award-winning audiobook narrator and bestselling author of “The English American” Alison Larkin in her new show, “Alison Larkin LIVE!,” Friday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 5, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Shakespeare & Company.

In “Alison Larkin LIVE!,”Larkin will talk about her adoption by British parents, her reunion with her American birth mother, culture conflict, parenting teenagers, life in the Berkshires and how to brew that perfect cup of tea. The performance will celebrate the audiobook release of Larkin’s new AudioFile Earphones Award-winning recording of her bestselling novel “The English American,” which includes an interview and other bonus material.

The “Don’t Know Much About History” post-show panel discussion following the Saturday matinee will focus on adoption, reunion and what the world of donor conception can learn from adopted people and their families. Larkin will facilitate the discussion.

Tickets are $30–$60. For tickets and more information, see the Berkshire Edge calendar or contact the Shakespeare & Company box office at (413) 637-3353.

–E.E.

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Waste oil and paint collection scheduled

Great Barrington — On Saturday, May. 5, from 8:30 to 11 a.m., the South Berkshire Household Hazardous Waste Collaborative will hold a paint and oil collection for the 15 participating towns of Alford, Becket, Egremont, Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlborough, Otis, Richmond, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Tyringham and West Stockbridge. The Center for EcoTechnology will coordinate the collections.

Acceptable materials are oil-based paint, oil-based stains, paint thinners, spray paint and turpentine as well as waste motor oil. No other type of oil or fuel will be accepted, nor will latex paint. Empty cans can be recycled with scrap metal. Dried-up cans of latex paint as well as empty cans of oil-based paints, stains and solvents can be disposed of with the regular trash.

Those wishing to participate in the collection must register online or contact Thomas Jakubasz at (800)-369-3333 x142 or Thomas.Jakubasz@cetonline.org by Friday, May 4. Residents from communities that are not participating should call their city or town halls for information about hazardous household product collections.

–E.E.

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From left: National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu, American Theatre Wing executive director Heather Hitchens and Berkshire School senior Tucker Donelan hold Donelan’s third-place prize of $5,000 at the final competition for the Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the American Theatre Wing. The final was held April 23, 2018, at the Greene Space in New York City. Photo: Stephanie Berger

Berkshire School student wins third place in national songwriting contest

Sheffield — Berkshire School senior Tucker Donelan captured third place in the National Endowment for the Arts’ Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge. The final was held April 23 at the Greene Space in New York City and culminated a weekend of workshops in which teams of mentors, music directors, musicians and singers worked closely with seven high school songwriters to shape their original songs into stage-ready compositions. An archive of the webcast is available on the national competition page.

Donelan’s prize-winning song, “Caleb’s Confession,” tells the story of Pastor Caleb, whose faith is severely challenged by the impact on his congregation of the opioid crisis. Tucker was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Said Donelan: “I’m on top of the world. I’m a little delirious. It was the best feeling to have written something that people enjoyed performing.”

See video below. Donelan’s presentation and performance of his song start at 1:05:38 and run to 1:15:48. The award is presented at 2:13:49.

–E.E.

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