56th Annual Spring Conference

The 56th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference Coming April 29-30

Red Cloud, Nebraska, March 1, 2011 — The 2011 Willa Cather Spring Conference “Willa Cather and Her Popular Culture” will be held in Red Cloud, Nebraska April 29-30. This year's conference explores and celebrates a theme that has not been often considered by Cather's readers: her relationship to the popular culture of her day. From her enjoyment of popular music, movies, and books, to her writings about actresses and opera stars, Cather regularly engaged with the trendy, the famous, and the celebrated.

“This year’s program will educate participants about aspects of Cather's life and work while also entertaining them with festive programming based on the conference theme,” said Foundation Board of Governors member and Conference Co-Director, Andrew Jewell.

A unique and popular feature of the Willa Cather Spring Conference is that all people are welcome and can participate. The Willa Cather Foundation encourages anyone who might be interested in Cather’s life or works to attend, including recreational readers, local history buffs, students, teachers, and professional scholars. Stephany Thompson, Director of Programming for the Willa Cather Foundation, said, “Typically, the mix of people from all walks of life is one of the most exciting features of a spring conference. The staff and the Board of Governors, assisted by Red Cloud volunteers, work hard to provide a program that is both fun and meaningful.”

A special feature of this year’s conference will be the presentation on Friday morning of the 25th annual Norma Ross Walter Scholarship, an award given to a female Nebraska high school graduate who plans to major in English. Several past scholarship recipients will be attending this year’s presentation.

A group of Cather scholars has been invited to speak about Cather's involvement with famous singers and actresses and explore the featured texts: Cather's 1920 book of short stories, Youth and the Bright Medusa, and the extensive journalism of Cather's younger days, which is filled with reviews of popular entertainments and celebrity gossip. Conference goers will also have the opportunity to experience a bit of Cather's popular culture through a series of performances and special events. Tours of the historic properties of Red Cloud will feature popular songs and stories from Cather's fiction. On Friday April 29, Charles Smith, Fritz Mountford, and musicians from Hastings College will perform “Walk Right Over the Footlights,” an original revue of popular songs from the 1890s, intermixed with Cather's own biting and insightful comments on those songs. Participants will also, like Cather, have the exciting opportunity to meet the canine celebrity Rin-Tin-Tin when Rin-Tin-Tin XI performs in the Red Cloud Opera House. On Saturday April 30, the Mont Alto Orchestra will present and

accompany silent film comedies featuring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (who grew up near Red Cloud) and Charlie Chaplin (a performer Cather admired tremendously).

The Willa Cather Spring Conference is open to all with two-day or single-day registration options available. In addition, tickets for Rin-Tin-Tin XI, “Walk Right Over the Footlights,” and Mont Alto Orchestra may be purchased separately. For more information, visit or phone toll-free 1-866-731-7304. Pre-registration for the Conference is requested.