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Friends, Kingstonites, countrymen, lend this lady your ears

KINGSTON — The age-old saying, “When in Rome,” will be taking on a new feeling this Saturday due to efforts of the Kingston Friends of the Library.

The Friends and the Washington State Commission for the Humanities will be presenting “From the Streets Of Rome to the Provinces of an Empire” — a one-woman interactive show about the life-styles of a Roman matron at 4 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Kingston Community Center. The program is part of the commission’s Inquiring Minds Series.

Actress and historian Tames Alan will not only be discussing the social history, but will also experience it in front of the audience, as she will dress the part and give detail accounts of day-to-day life during the early Roman era.

“I try to show people what life was like in a different time, no matter how weird it is to us,” Alan said. “It’s stuff you don’t get in your history class.”

Alan said she will explain what people ate, what a trip to the doctor was like (“very scary,” she assured) and what a formal dinner was like.

Aside from exploring the ancient lifestyle and taking time for questions and answers, Alan will also let audience members help dress her, time permitting, by wrapping her up in a palla, a 10-foot length of cloth that Romans worn outdoors.

She said it’s difficult to chose her favorite part of the presentation, as she does seven different shows all over the country, ranging from the Roman era to Victorian England.

Alan creates her own costumes, books her own events and researches and writes her scripts using her 3,500 volumes of books at home. She makes sure she is prepared for questions.

“I’ve only been stumped once and it only took five minutes to find the answer,” Alan said. “And I do seven different periods.”

Prior to the show, the Friends group will be holding its first book sale of the year from 1-4 p.m. in the banquet room of Kingston Community Center.

Friends vice president Marylin Olds said she hopes that the 3,500 paper, hardbacks and specialty books that will be for sale will raise funds for Kingston Library’s big 2004 plans.

With the help of volunteers and support from the community, the Friends group is hoping to undertake some major renovations to the small book room, including re-carpeting the floor and putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls.

“We will also be paying, coordinating and volunteering for the renovation project because it’s outside the library’s budget and it’s not their building,” Olds said. “It’s up to us to do things, like we had a volunteer come in and do the patch work. We’re trying to coordinate with volunteers in the community to help with various stages of the project.”

Olds said she is expecting the library to close for about five days near the end of March to allow the work to take place. Volunteers are needed for the prep work that will include removing books from the shelves and moving the tables and chairs into the auditorium room, adjacent to the library.

“We’re going to remove all the books in some sort of organizational manner so we don’t have to reinvent the Dewey Decimal system,” Olds said with a chuckle.

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