Yiann Stamas Reflects on the History of “Lights Camera Read” and its Evolution through Performing and Workshopping at a Series of NYPL Branches in NYC

Theater Group Performance

Yianni Stamas revealed to us that “Lights Camera Read” was originated many years ago by him and his wife along with other performers in the Inwood Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library. The event was so well received by both kids and their parents, the troupe was asked to do another magic and reading experience.

Other Troupe Appearances

The Stamas family consisting of Yianni and Alison, along with their then toddler daughter, did a couple of different free shows at the Washington-Heights-Inwood “Y” that were open to the public and included entertainment, librarians talking about reading programs plus fun activities and free stuff giveaways.

The NYPL Library Magical Mystery Tour

Lights Camera Read evolved over a period of years and ultimately became a fixture in 3 other NYPL branches including one in midtown, another on the east side, and finally a branch in the upper west side.

Workshopping to Making a Difference

“Lights Camera Read” had gone from being a kid favorite, to now being an ongoing media workshop done in partnership with the late Rodger Taylor. Also, during this period pre COVID, the Magic Neighbors Theater Group partnered with Lights Camera Read to do a special show for homeless children in a Bronx branch of the NYPL.

Fun Experiences

The magic tricks, snow person costumes and other items used to entertain event goers have been traded in for other methods of creating community. The motivation for the Stamas’ in terms of creating “Lights Camera Read,” “Magic Neighbors” and other community building events, was not just to get communication going in their neighborhood, but was also to have fun experiences that their then toddler daughter could participate in.

Remembering a Friend

Theater and Writing Program

I’ve talked about him several times in this blog but he was so important to the “Lights Camera Read” program in the New York Public Library I find myself inevitably bringing him up. The story that I’ve told before is that my wife was really the reason for my meeting him. She happened to be in the library and met a guy who was running a theater and writing program for teens.

The Library Steps in with Financing

Having been a big reader and theater myself kid in my teens, when I met my friend we hit it off immediately, Initially I was brought in as a guest talking about website design to the kids. But within a very short amount of time, the powers that be of the NYPL heard about the Lights Camera Read program my friend an I had created and surprisingly to us decided to help us finance it.

The Kids He Impacted

The Lights Camera Read program has helped many kids to read more, but has also shown them the relationship between books and new media. The libraries of today I quite different  than the libraries I grew up with. Especially libraries in New York. It’s not just about regular books but also concerns the use of eBooks and other online resources. My friend and I had a great time during the first draft version of LCR and then sadly he was taken too early from us. I still can’t process that he died, but his influence does live on in my life and in the lives of the New York Public Library kids he impacted.