Bala Cynwyd woman wins contest to be Free Library's Dickens reenactor

A Dickensian Lisa Litman . She won a Free Library contest to find a performer for events marking the 200th anniversary of the writer's birth.
A Dickensian Lisa Litman . She won a Free Library contest to find a performer for events marking the 200th anniversary of the writer's birth. (RYAN BRANDENBERG)
Posted: November 17, 2011

Congratulations to Bala Cynwyd's Lisa Litman, who won the Free Library of Philadelphia's "Dickens Idol" talent contest and the right to portray Charles Dickens in a series of literary events as part of the library's yearlong celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Victorian novelist's birth. (Dickens was born on Feb. 7, 1812, and died on June 9, 1870.)

"I never expected to win," says Litman, an educational consultant who has a background in theater.

A Northeast Philly native, Litman works with elementary school educators to incorporate the arts into their teaching.

The Dickens reenactor says she was impressed by the library's plan to use performance in its literary programs.

"I was very intrigued by the contest, because I believe there should be fun in education and I believe our job as educators is to stimulate the imagination," she says.

"Bringing to life Dickens and his characters is a great way to get the readers really involved."

The American Idol-style contest featured five contestants, three women and two men. Each had to present a monologue from Dickens' work.

"I chose to create my own monologue," says Litman. "I figure whoever they chose to be Dickens should be able to think creatively on their feet."

Litman also had to act out a scene from one of Dickens' books. She chose Fagin from Oliver Twist.

Litman, who has two grown daughters with her husband, real estate agent Barry Polis, has had a colorful job history. She studied science at the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked as an immunologist before striking out for New York as an actor. She has been an educational consultant for a decade.

Sandra A. Horrocks, the library's vice president of external affairs, says Litman dominated the contest.

"She was the one that had the best costume, the best British accent," she says, "and she had the best answers during the Q&A session."

Horrocks says the Free Library is especially suited for a Dickens Bicentennial, since it has one of the largest Dickens collections in the country.

"We have over 4,000 items," she says, "a lot of first editions, a cache of letters, Dickens' writing desk, and even the stuffed raven who was the Dickens family pet, Grip."


For information about the Dickens Bicentennial, visit http://freelibrary.org/dickens.

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