Area youths to put on their glad rags for 1920s party

Staff Writer

METUCHEN — The joint will be jumping on March 7 when guys and dolls in grades six through 12 put on the ritz and attend a shindig evoking the Roaring Twenties at the Metuchen Public Library.

The private, after-hours Roaring Twenties Party will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m., and only those who know the special password will be allowed to enter and party like it’s 1925 — all others will have to scram.

The theme of the party was the brainchild of Teen Advisory Board members, according to Katherine Liss, the young adult librarian who is organizing the event with children’s librarian Glynnis Brookens.

Due to heavy budget cuts that reduced the library’s hours of operation as of Feb. 1 and rendered the library closed on Sunday afternoons when young adult programs were traditionally held, the youths on the advisory board sought to host an inexpensive program for students in grades six through 12.

“In brainstorming for titles for a bookthemed party, they hit upon ‘The Great Gatsby,’ which evolved into a 1920s party,” Liss said. “Since Saturday afternoons were proving to be a problem with the teens’ busy schedules, the new director of the library, Susanna Chan, suggested doing a lock-in party when the library is closed on a Friday night. While I had not done that before, the teens were enthusiastic about the idea that seemed to fit well with a 1920s after-hours party.”

The Friends of the Metuchen Library will fund the event.

The party will be open to a maximum of 24 children — 22 were already signed up as of Feb. 25, Liss said. All who register receive a password to enter the party. Participants are encouraged to dress in the style of the 1920s.

The ambience of the Metuchen library will reflect that of a 1920s speakeasy. Upon entering, partygoers will walk through a dimly lit corridor. Jazz music from the 1920s will be playing and “giggle-water” — ginger ale — will be served, along with candies and other refreshments from the 1920s.

“I want the evening to be exciting but educational as well, and so I’ve set up a number of activities so that the teens can learn something about the era,” Liss said.

A gallery of 1920s posters that feature musicians, actors, authors and gangsters as well as advertisements for popular products of that era will line the walls.

Partygoers will be encouraged to visit the gallery while they wait to make cutout props, such as top hats and bowties for the boys and lipstick and fascinators for the girls to wear in their hair for a photo booth session.

At three different times in the evening, the lights will go dim and participants will listen to a three-episode “radio play” of “The Diviners” by Libba Bray, a 2012 novel set in the 1920s.

Several film clips will be played for the revelers to enjoy — one part of a silent film, one about Prohibition and one about the “new modern” woman.

They’ll also learn to dance the Charleston.

The learning will culminate in a Jeopardy style trivia game, during which participants can use the knowledge they’ve gained at the party to their advantage. The game’s categories will range from aviation to famous people to children’s pleasures.

Participants will also be encouraged to prepare for the party by learning the slang of the times through lists of words sent to them via email, and by watching one of the film versions of “The Great Gatsby.”

“I am so impressed by the members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board,” Liss said. “This year, I have 26 active members in the group — all with varied interests and talents. Most are avid readers with sophisticated tastes. It is a pleasure to work with them.”

Teen Advisory Board member Molly Babos, 13, thanked Liss and others at the library for helping to make the party happen.

“I think the 1920s party is going to be a lot of fun,” she said. “Not many people know about the [Teen Advisory] Board, which makes it almost like a secret club for people who like books. We’ve enjoyed researching the 1920s, and can’t wait to get our party on!”