Congratulations to Bala Cynwyd’s Lisa Litman for winning The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Dickens’ Idol Contest, a talent contest to find a Charles Dickens re-enactor who will take part in a series of educational and literary events as part of the library’s year-long celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Victorian novelist’s birth. (Dickens was born on Feb. 7, 1812 and died on 9 June 1870.)
“I never expected to win,” says Litman, an educational consultant who has a background in theater.
A Northeast Philly native and graduate of Northeast High School and the University of Pennsylvania, Litman works with preschool and elementary school educators to incorporate the arts into their teaching.
She says she was impressed by the library’s plan to use performance in its literary programs.
“I was very intrigued by the contest,” she says, “because I believe there should be fun in education and I believe our job as educators is to stimulate the imagination … and 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. The other contestants read passages 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 Fagan from Oliver Twist. Contestants also had to submit to a question and answer session.
Litman, who has two grown daughters with her husband, realtor Barry Polis, has had a colorful job history. She studied science at Penn and went on to work as an immunologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania before striking out as an actor in New York. She has been an educational consultant for a little over 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 more information about the Dickens Bicentennial, visit http://freelibrary.org/dickens