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VC's Lyceum Series to feature ghost hunter, writers, chamber music ensemble

Aug. 23, 2014 at 3:42 p.m.

Deborah Blum

Add a best-selling author, a ghost hunter, a cancer survivor and a social activist to a jazzy Harlem musical revue, and you get Victoria College's 2014-15 Lyceum Lecture Series, which begins Sept. 15.

All of the Lyceum lectures and performances will be at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, 214 N. Main St., in downtown Victoria. They are all free and open to the public.

Deborah Blum, author of The New York Times best-seller "The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York," will open the 2014-15 series at 7 p.m. Sept. 15.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Blum went to work as a science writer for McClatchy Newspapers in California, starting with The Fresno Bee and moving to The Sacramento Bee in 1984. She worked in Sacramento for 13 years - going to Alaska to cover glaciers, Hawaii to observe volcanoes, Pasadena to write about the triumphant arrival of Voyager 2 at Uranus and Houston to report on the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. She has written about global climate change and ozone depletion, about nuclear weapons design and government secrecy and about biology of behavior. Her most influential work was a series on ethical issues in primate research, called "The Monkey Wars," which won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting.

Lorraine Warren, America's top ghost hunter whose research inspired the movies "The Amityville Horror" and "The Conjuring," will share her stories at 7 p.m. Nov. 6. For more than 50 years, Warren and her late husband, Ed, have painstakingly investigated the realm of the supernatural throughout North America, Brazil, Japan, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia.

Their intensive research on more than 5,000 cases of reported phenomena throughout the world has convinced them of the existence of ghosts, demons, witches, Satanists, vampires and werewolves. They have delved into such areas as voodoo, exorcisms and possessions, Satanism, curses, reincarnation, human combustion, psychic photography, seances, telepathy and many other "occult" sciences.

"Of Ebony Embers" with The Core Ensemble, a one-actor and three-musician performance that brings to life the Harlem Renaissance, will showcase its work at noon Jan. 27.

This chamber music theatre work for actor and trio (cello, piano and percussion) celebrates the lives of the great African-American poets Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay, as seen through the eyes of the great muralist and painter Aaron Douglas. The text is by Akin Babatunde. The musical score includes works by jazz giants Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Billy Strayhorn, Thelonius Monk and Charles Mingus as well as concert music by Jeffrey Mumford and George Walker.

Jim Keady, a social activist, theologian, educator and elected official who shines a light on the lives of Nike factory workers, will talk at 7 p.m. Feb. 24.

Keady has spoken across the United States and at international venues to thousands of interested audience members. He has been sought by members of Congress, as well as university administrators, religious and union leaders, and student groups to offer his personal and professional experience and critiques on the issues of sweatshops, globalization and social justice.

He was a soccer coach with the St. John's University Red Storm, the Men's NCAA "Division One" National Champions, when he stood up against Nike and their sweatshops and it cost him his job. Since then, Keady has made ending sweatshop labor his life mission.

Many people ask the question, "What is it like to live on a sweatshop wage in a developing country?" Keady found out by spending one month in an Indonesian factory workers' slum living on $1.25 a day, a typical wage paid to Nike's subcontracted workers.

Mack Dryden, a cancer survivor, creative writer, comedian and motivator, will tell his story at 7 p.m. April 14.

Dryden was born and educated in Mississippi and is a former newspaper reporter and illustrator. He's been delighting audiences for years with his relaxed stage presence, hilarious material and uniquely engaging delivery. As a comedian, he's performed on dozens of TV shows, including "The Tonight Show" with both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. As an actor, he's appeared in several movies and on many other TV shows, including "JAG" and a recurring role as a judge on ABC's "The Guardian."

The former staff writer for "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" and motivational speaker will share his stories of surviving two battles with cancer, a stay in an African prison, "sharks in showbiz who stab you in the front" and one "near-fatal marriage."

Read more at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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