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Monks Feast serves Twain with a twist
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The writings of Mark Twain, with a twist, will be served with venison stew and coarse bread at the 2011 Monks Feast, Sunday at the Barton County Arts Center in Great Bend.

A vegetarian stew will be available as an alternative to the venison, said George Martin. The event starts at 6:30 p.m.

This fundraiser turns the Arts Center at 1401 Main into the refectory of The Order of St. Poesy at Abbey de Iniquitus. If that sounds like a mouthful, think of it as an interactive readers’ dinner theater. Tickets are available for a $10 donation to the Arts Council, and are available weekday afternoons when the center is open, or call 620-792-4221 for reservations.

"As an enticement, a short play, adapted by Dennis Snee, entitled "Twain by the Tale" will be performed after the repast. It will be fun, and the food will be delicious," Martin said.

This is the ninth Monks Feast, not always an annual event, started by Martin and friends back in 1995. "The history of Monks Feast started when I read some stories by the Frenchman Rabelais," Martin said. "It was great fantasy, and satire all in one. Maybe you are familiar with Gargantua, the giant, and his son Pantagruel. What struck was the talk of a monastery mentioned wherein the rule of the order was ‘Do as thou Wilt.’" It was a philosophy Martin embraced, as opposed to "Do what someone else wants."

Martin also remembered a visit to a monastery, many years ago, where he enjoyed a simple meal in the refectory, or dining hall. The monks ate in silence, but as they ate, a lector on a high perch read for their enlightenment and enjoyment. "That day the stuff chosen to be read was from a book called ‘Don Camillo and his Flock,' which was raucously funny and the monks laughed out loud to the point of being told by the prior to refrain."

At the first Monks Feast, Martin’s wife, Karen Kline-Martin, made stew from some donated venison, and Martin made loaves of multi-grain bread. They, along with Robert Joy and other friends, feasted at the Ellinwood community room, and also started the tradition of following the feast with a play or excerpts from literature. Past authors have included Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Edward Albee and George Bernard Shaw. "All have been done as well as can be expected from rank amateurs," Martin said, "but, all were very much enjoyed.

"Generally it was an evening of fun in the midst of winter, and a good reason to get out of the house and be social," Martin said. "This year the money will go to the arts and we hope the donations will be free, sumptuous and joyfully given."