By Dave Fidlin
Balboa Park organizations pay homage to author Roald Dahl
In an era of social media and technological saturation, Veronica Murphy is on a back-to-basics mission.
Murphy, artistic director with the Balboa Park-based organization Write Out Loud, said she believes appreciation toward literature has waned for a large portion of the population — particularly today’s youth.
“It just seems like reading books has fallen out of favor,” Murphy said. “It’s become a lost art.”
With this philosophy at the forefront of her mind, Murphy is shepherding a collaborative effort this month, paying homage to renowned author Roald Dahl.
The British native, who died in 1990, was born 100 years ago this month.
Dahl’s imagination-laced books have been known to generations of readers. His repertoire of authored pieces include “James and the Giant Peach,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Matilda.”
Write Out Loud, which is entering its 10th season of storytelling activities at Balboa Park, is honoring Dahl’s influence on the literary world on Sunday, Sept. 18, through its StoryBox Theatre Program.
Annually, the organization attempts to bring the pages of literary works to life through re-enactments on stage. Murphy said Write Out Loud’s inspiration for the program is a Japanese storytelling tradition known as kamishibai.
“I’m hoping parents and kids will see the value in these stories,” Murphy said when asked what she hopes participants take home after experiencing the Dahl-themed event. “I want people to come away from here loving literature.”
Murphy has commissioned two San Diego-based artists to create designs for the two Dahl stories being performed for the StoryBox program. Samantha Jean Wilson has created artwork for “The Enormous Crocodile,” while Deborah Kline and Larry Kline have assembled imagery for “The Magic Finger.”
While Write Out Loud is helming the Dahl day on Sept. 18, several neighboring organizations within Balboa Park’s grounds are also partnering with related activities.
The partnering groups include the House of England, Japanese Friendship Garden, Mingei International Museum, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Art Institute, Save Starlight and the Spreckels Organ Society.
Murphy said the seed for a Dahl-themed day was planted early this year when she received word of a series of similar events across the globe.
The Roald Dahl Literary Estate, which is committed to keeping Dahl’s legacy alive, has been contacting organizations such as Write Out Loud about events. Estate officials on the other side of the pond have christened September Roald Dahl Month to amplify his influence.
When planning for the upcoming local event got underway, Murphy said she sent overtures to arts groups throughout Balboa Park.
“I’m very passionate about Roald Dahl and have read all of his stories,” she said. “I wanted to partner with a bunch of different groups so we could make a real impact.”
Ginger Shulick Porcella, executive director with the San Diego Art Institute, said she jumped at the opportunity to take part in the festivities. The SDAI is holding a screening of “The Witches,” the film based on Dahl’s book of the same name.
“It’s an interesting story that is dark and weird,” Porcella said of “The Witches.” “It has a lot of twists and turns to it. I’m hoping we can expose a whole new audience to some of his work. I love sharing films I enjoy, and this is a film I enjoy.”
From Porcella’s vantage point, Dahl is an ideal novelist to spotlight across Balboa Park.
“His works appeal to people of all ages,” Porcella said. “While he wrote children’s books, he also wrote stories for adults. There’s something for everyone.”
The events honoring Dahl at the eight groups within Balboa Park are taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 18. Most of the events are free.
—Dave Fidlin is a freelance journalist with a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.