Omaha Uninitiated: Stateside Race Riots and Lynching in the Aftermath of World War I

Reading/Performance with Theodore Wheeler and Darren Keen

Omaha Uninitiated features readings from the novella On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown presented alongside a selection of photographs, film, and music that inspired the prose. Through historical photographs of Omaha, Nebraska, and popular American film and music from the World War I era, the presentation investigates the celebration of certain identities (and degradation of others) in a time of rising nationalism and diaspora. It does this by illuminating both fictional and historical characters within the context of the presented media. This project is undertaken with the purpose of understanding the novella as a medley of primary historical sources, literary influences, and original prose, suggesting that a book is as much as about the process of its creation as its content. In addition to the readings and slideshow, DJ Darren Keen will engage in a live cross-fertilization of music from the era that was important to the creation of the novella with contemporary songs, in particular music from the state of Nebraska in the past 15 years.

Theodore Wheeler is a writer and legal reporter covering the civil courts of Nebraska, currently living in Omaha, Nebraska. His work focuses on how the spirits of small communities, whether urban or rural, are formed by the effects of historical trauma, and on the connection between militarism and violence in the domestic social state during wartime. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New American Voices, The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, and Boulevard, among others, and received special mention in the Pushcart Prizes. He won the Tarcher/Penguin Top Artist Writing Competition and the Marianne Russo Award from the Key West Literary Seminar for his writing about the courthouse lynching of Will Brown, and in 2015 he published a fiction chapbook with Edition Solitude called On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown. His debut collection of short stories, Bad Faith, will be published by Queen’s Ferry Press in 2016. Wheeler was a fellow in the field of Literature at Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2014.

Darren Keen has been a DIY touring musician for twelve years and has played more than 1,600 shows in the United States, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, New Zealand, and Scandinavia. His albums have been released on Illegal Arts Records and Retard Disco Records, with his EP Roland is My Co-Pilot newly released by Seclusiasis in 2015. Keen’s energetic live shows helped legitimize the one-man karaoke band movement, as he toured in support of many influential bands, including The Faint, Battles, Mahjongg, Deerhoof, Delicate Steve, and Neil Hamburger. A Nebraska native, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York.