In the beginning, they explored the first half of the 19th century through the Brönte sisters. Then it was Oscar Wilde and the late 19th century.
Now Joslyn Castle and singer-actress Jill Anderson are delving into the world of the Roaring ’20s and author F. Scott Fitzgerald with “Jazz Age at the Castle,” the third annual Joslyn Castle Literary Festival.
The festival, Saturday through Aug. 10, will include live theater and opera; a 1920s movie night; presentations on fashion, Prohibition, flappers, music and dance; exhibits prepared by the Durham Museum on life in the 1920s; and a classic car show.
“A big part of these festivals has been exploring a time period,” said Anderson, the driving force behind the festival. “To examine the 1920s, Fitzgerald is an obvious choice. He’s considered the voice of a generation.”
Movie director Baz Luhrmann’s recent remake of “The Great Gatsby,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan, returned Fitzgerald to the public spotlight.
Fitzgerald’s other novels include “This Side of Paradise,” “The Beautiful and Damned” and “Tender Is the Night.” He also wrote many short stories about youth and promise, age and despair. He coined the term Jazz Age.
Anderson said she had a romantic notion of the 1920s — flappers, Victrolas, 1920s cars — but lacked a deeper understanding of what was going on socially at that time in the wake of World War I.
“The end of the war was a cutoff point,” she said. “Victorian values were giving way to a brand new notion of modern life. None of the old rules applied anymore, because of the disillusionment that comes with having seen war.”
Inventing new rules meant a huge revolution for women, she said, which becomes obvious just glancing at changes in fashion. From high collars, corsets and everything covered in the Victorian era, the rage became short dresses with plunging necklines that bared the legs, arms and shoulders.
Anderson said the festival will try to bring the Jazz Age to life from a number of angles.
Exhibits will be on display inside the castle from Saturday through Aug. 10. They were prepared by the Durham Museum and explore 1920s fashion, sports, Prohibition, World War I and college life.
A classic car show at the castle Sunday will exhibit more than 100 cars and motorcycles made from 1907 to 1978, including a 1923 Excelsior Henderson Deluxe, a 1928 Ford Model A Roadster, a 1928 four-door Packard and a 1929 four-door Graham.
Anderson and Brendan Kelly, who sang together for years in the Irish band Beyond the Pale, will portray Zelda and F. Scott and Fitzgerald in separate one-act plays nightly at the castle Aug. 1 through Aug. 7. Kelly wrote an original play about the author, and William Luce wrote “The Last Flapper.”
Opera Omaha will present selections from the modern opera “The Great Gatsby” at its headuarters, 1850 Farnam St., on Aug. 10.
A free night of Jazz Age cinema, introduced by University of Nebraska at Omaha associate professor David Peterson, begins around 8:30 p.m. Saturday on the castle’s north lawn.
Presentations on Prohibition, music and dance, and the world of the flapper will blend lecture and performance in an evening that captures the flavor of the speak-easy with a party atmosphere Aug. 9 and 10 at the castle. University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Barbara Trout will talk about flapper-era fashion on Monday night.
Anderson said Fitzgerald’s writing brought another time alive for her, in the same way she hopes the literary festival will do through live presentations.