UO Libraries works with OPB on new Kesey documentary

The Ken Kesey Collection is housed in the Special Collections & University Archives at the UO Libraries.
The Ken Kesey Collection is housed in the Special Collections & University Archives at the UO Libraries.

Today (Jan. 16), OPB will host a free, public pre-screening of its new Oregon Experience special “Ken Kesey,” at 7 p.m. at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene.

This new documentary presents rare interviews with Kesey family members, including his son Zane, daughter Sunshine, granddaughter Kate Smith, widow Faye Kesey McMurtry and his 97-year-old mother Geneva Jolley; and Ken Babbs, a Kesey friend, writer and lifelong Merry Prankster. UO Knight Library Special Collection’s Ken Kesey Papers also provided extensive background material for the documentary.

“It is rewarding for both the library and OPB when we work together on projects like this,” said James Fox, associate librarian and head of Special Collections & University Archives at the UO Libraries. “I am always pleasantly surprised at how widely viewed these documentaries are and am pleased when we can collaborate with them.”

While working on the documentary, writer and director Eric Cain visited the Ken Kesey Collection that include typewritten manuscripts, artwork, collages, photographs, and handwritten letters, notes and correspondence from 1960 through 2001.

Kesey was raised in Springfield, Ore., and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the UO in 1957 before enrolling in the creative writing program at Stanford University and beginning what would be his first novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“It’s fundamental to our work to collect primary sources, and the Kesey Collection is just one of many examples of collections that we have in our repository,” said Linda Long, manuscripts librarian at the UO Libraries.

“It is just fascinating to see how you can track the changes and see how something goes from being raw, to seeing his feedback from friends and family and editors, to a finished product,” said Long. “For ‘Sometimes a Great Notion,’ we have Kesey’s notes about character development, what the theme will be and what he wanted to accomplish with the book. It’s like having a window into his process.”

The screening hosted by OPB at McDonald Theater will include a viewing of the documentary and a Q-and-A session with Cain.  The event is free, but for guaranteed seating, RSVP at http://www.mcdonaldtheatre.com/forms/free_tickets.html.

A second pre-screening will be held at the McMenamins Mission Theater in Portland on Friday, Jan. 17. The Oregon Experience special “Ken Kesey” will air on Monday, Jan. 20, at 9 p.m. on OPB TV. For more information, please visit http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperience.

One of Kesey’s two buses named “Furthur” will also be on the UO campus Thursday, weather permitting, adjacent to the EMU amphitheater from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kesey and his “Merry Band of Pranksters” crossed the country in the original bus in 1964, inspiring Tom Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”

- by Melissa Foley, UO Office of Strategic Communications