WATERVILLE — Colby College President William D. Adams often notes that Waterville has played a significant role in the college’s 200-year history.

In that vein, Colby is inviting the public to two special events Wednesday that celebrate the college’s bicentennial: the performance of an original multimedia piece involving music, song and dance, and a speech by Adams entitled “The Bicentennial Address.”

“I’ll talk about some of the continuing challenges the college faced over its long history and using that as a platform,” Adams said. “I’m going to be talking about some of the things we will have to face in the future, and I also will spend some time celebrating the founders and important moments along the way.”

Colby’s charter was approved by the Massachusetts Legislature on Feb. 25, 1813, and signed by the governor two days later on Feb. 27, according to Adams.

So Wednesday is considered Colby’s birthday. Adams will deliver his 4,800-word speech at 7 p.m. in Lorimer Chapel. The doors open at 6 p.m., and space will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Jon Hallstrom, associate professor of music, and Lynne Conner, associate professor and chairman of the Theater and Dance Department, will present “Light of the Mind” at both 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. in Strider Theater.

Hallstrom and Conner created the special bicentennial piece which includes spoken word, song, dance and images documenting Colby’s 200 years.

“It’s a multimedia extravaganza,” Hallstrom said. “It’s music and acting and narration and a projection score with several hundred images from Colby’s history.”

The presentation is timed with music and a group of student actors speaking, as well as Kim Gordon, a professional narrator, he said. Two professional countertenors, or male altos, also are part of the presentation.

Conner and Hallstrom started collaborating on the project last summer. Conner created the text and lyrics to some of the images and Hallstrom composed the music, much of which is computer-generated, he said. Jim Thurston, adjunct associate professor of the theater and dance department, created the scenography.

“It’s a really fun event,” Hallstrom said. “It’s going to have a lot of action and color, and the music is quite dramatic.”

Free tickets to the event are available at the information desk in Pulver Pavilion in Cotter Union. Ticket holders must be seated 15 minutes prior to the performance or seats may be given to other patrons.

Colby’s bicentennial celebration began in October and continues throughout the year with panel discussions, music events and festivities both on campus and downtown.

Two hundred years ago, Baptists created the Maine Literary and Theological Institution north of downtown in an area now known as Colby Circle.

Eight years after the college was founded in 1813, it was renamed Waterville College. In 1867, it got a new name — Colby University — in recognition of Gardner Colby, who made a $50,000 donation that saved the financially strapped institution at a critical time.

It later was renamed Colby College, outgrew its space and in 1952, moved to Mayflower Hill.

As Adams said, colleges do not get to celebrate 200th birthdays very often, so it is a special occasion.

“It’s wonderful — it’s a wonderful happenstance and I’m very proud of the fact that I get to play a role in this,” he said. “It should be a lot of fun. I think it’s a moment that should inspire people who are here because of the extraordinary story — and should help us think about the future and especially not to be complacent.”

“These are going to be interesting times for higher education and it would be a mistake for Colby to be complacent about its position. It’s a very strong position, but we want to be creative and thoughtful and energetic in the way the early founders were.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247
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