On Constitution Day, Americans remember the moment when a young nation’s values and vision snapped into focus.

Gathering on Sept. 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document they had shaped through sessions of intense push and pull, debate and deliberation.

At Old Dominion University this year, special events and performances timed around Constitution Day present ideas about celebrating, interrogating, and defending the nation’s foundational document.

Here’s a quick look at what’s scheduled.

“Why Not Burn the Books?”

A talk by Alicia DeFonzo, ODU senior lecturer of English

Tuesday, Sept. 19

In her free talk, DeFonzo, author of 2022’s “The Time Left Between Us,” will explain how literary censorship has increased in Virginia, specifically targeting LGBTQ and minority books, and suggest ways to defend the right to read.

DeFonzo earned an MFA in Nonfiction and a BA in Broadcast Journalism. She has read for series including “Miss Manhattan Nonfiction,” and “Inner Loop” and has been a literary guest on local and national NPR programs.

Her critical essay “Banning Sherlock: Twisting Facts to Suit Theories” about removal and censorship of the Sherlock Homes series in Virginia public schools, has been globally published.

In 2015, she won the university’s Most Inspirational Faculty Award, and was selected by the College of Arts and Letters for the Provost’s Leadership in International Education Award.

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, at ODU’s Perry Library, Conference Rooms 1310-1311. Admission is free.

“What the Constitution Means to Me,"

A play written by Heidi Schreck, directed by Katherine Hammond

Sept. 19-24

Laura Nedvin, a drama coach, civics teacher at Hickory Middle School, and ODU graduate, rehearses for “What the Constitution Means to Me,” at the Goode Theatre. In the background is ODU Theatre student Kyle Kraning.

Beginning in middle school, Heidi Schreck earned her college tuition by winning Constitutional debate competitions across the United States. In her comedic, hopeful play, she resurrects her teenage self and traces the profound relationship between the women in her family and the document —written by wealthy white men — that founded our nation. 

Schreck, an award-winning playwright from Washington state, explained, "I believe we need a brand-new positive rights document that actively rectifies the inequality at the heart of this country. I believe we need a document that protects all of us … We all belong in the preamble." 

The production’s director, Katherine Hammond, is an ODU associate professor and associate chair of Communication & Theatre Arts at ODU. She is also the producing artistic director for Warehouse of Theatre — a Norfolk based theatre company exploring the collision of theatre and film.

“What the Constitution Means to Me,” is presented by ODURep, the production arm of the Old Dominion University Theatre Program. The goal of ODURep is to give a voice to student and professional artists and create theater together for the Hampton Roads Community.

  • 7:30 p.m. Sept 19-23
  • 2 p.m. Sept. 24
  • ODU’s Goode Theatre, 4601 Monarch Way.
  • Tickets, $10 and $20. Buy tickets.
  • Free parking is available in the nearby Constant Center/45th Street garage.