Writer, poet, professor, editor and old friend Charles Bivona returns to the show for a wide-ranging conversation about art, depression, anxiety, midlife health crises (his diabetes, my CLL), Buddhism, Vietnam & contagious trauma, writing his autobiography on Patreon, and more. Our 20+ years of friendship yield an intriguing conversation about how our lives have changed in response to and/or defiance of the world around us. We get into the heavy stuff this time, but don’t fret: there’s room for humor with my old pal, too. Give it a listen! And go read The Mourning After and Memoirs In Fragments
“Most people want to be on the stage, but I don’t.”
Lincoln Center Theater‘s dramaturg Anne Cattaneo joins the show to celebrate her new book, The Art of Dramaturgy (Yale University Press). We answer the pivotal question, “What does a dramaturg DO, exactly?” and explore the tradition of dramaturgy in Europe and America, while diving into the phenomenon of good theater, and the existence of Theatrons, those mysterious particles that circulate from stage to audience and back when Good Theater Happens. We get into how a dramaturg can supplement the work of the actors and director, how plays change during rehearsal and over the course of production, the importance of intuition and collaboration (as well as a thick skin) for a dramaturg, the joy of discovering new plays (and lost plays, and out-of-fashion plays) and finding new ways to stage classics, and the treasures that can be found in archives. We also talk about the economics of regional theater and how it constrains what plays get produced, the deep research she did to help a pair of actors in Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia understand why their characters had an affair, the triumph of staging Mule Bone, a lost play by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, the impact of the pandemic on theater, the need to support older playwrights, and a LOT more. Give it a listen! And go read The Art of Dramaturgy!
“There are so many plays that can be discovered, that are just waiting.”
“America’s not a nation that a 300-year history of going to the theater, like Germany. . . . We have a theater tradition that’s just 50 years old; we forget how new it is.”
“The business side of regional theater has gotten bigger while the artistic staff got smaller.”
“When you understand another language, it helps you understand another culture, another way of life. Language reflects the reality of how people live in the world.”
Anne Cattaneo is the longtime dramaturg of Lincoln Center Theater, and creator and head of the 25 year old Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. At the announcement of her 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship for Theater Arts, American Theatre Magazine saluted her as “a legendary dramaturg.”
“His reading and his writing are intertwined. That’s the main theme of the Philip Roth Personal Library: a writer at work reading and a reader at work writing.”
It’s part 1 of a 2-part show about the new Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library! This week, NPL trustee Rosemary Steinbaum talks about working with Philip Roth over the years and helping convince him to donate his books and belongings to the PRPL. We get into her friendship with Roth, her visits to his Connecticut home to figure out what would be in the personal library, her favorite discoveries in the collection, and the joy of reading his notes and marginalia. We also talk about her favorite literary pilgrimages, her love of The Counterlife, Roth’s funeral, the themes of Roth’s work that could become future exhibitions at the library, her Newark and how she helped Liz Del Tufo develop a Roth-tour of the city (which Roth once tagged along on), the donation of Roth’s letters from his teen sweetheart (including a reading list for her), and more! Give it a listen! And go visit the Philip Roth Personal Library!
“To have Philip Roth walk us through the logic of his library was very special.”
“If people were going to make a pilgrimage for Roth, it was going to be to see his work life and his reading life, not his living room.”
“As far as retirement goes, he did say to us that he was finding it difficult as he aged to hold a whole novel in his mind at the same time.”
“Knowing only the data of Roth’s experience leads to misunderstanding of Roth’s work. Newark is a fictive setting, like Yoknapatawpha County for Faulkner.”
“He said he wanted to be buried near Hannah Arendt so he’d have somebody to talk to.”
Rosemary Steinbaum recently retired from a career in education. She earned her doctorate mid-career from Columbia Teachers College. Before obtaining her degree, she taught high school English in independent schools. In the second part of her career she worked in the field of teacher education, directing the Rutgers-Newark undergraduate teacher education program and overseeing two grant funded teacher education programs at Montclair State University. Her not-for-profit commitments have centered on Newark, especially on The Newark Public Library, where she is a trustee. She was involved in the talks that led to Philip Roth’s bequest of his personal library and in its planning and build-out at the Newark Public Library.
“People should be free to do Shakespeare anyway they like: in 5 minutes, 5 seconds, 5 days, 5 hours, underwater, in a desert, on a mountain. It’ll always work; he’s indestructible, in that sense.”
With his new book, Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (Pegasus Books), author & literary editor Robert McCrum uses Shakespeare’s plays, poems, life and history to examine how Shakespeare is a mirror of human experience, and why his lines continue to resonate 400+ years after his death. We talk about Robert’s history with the plays (beginning with his role as First Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the age of 13) and the 2017 performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park that inspired the book, the ways in which the Plays and the Sonnets complement each other, and how those works influence our understanding of the self and self-consciousness. We also get into the vicissitudes of literary reputation, the way Shakespearean fits as the capstone of Robert’s Disruption Trilogy, along with My Year Off and Every Third Thought, the first play Robert’s Shakespeare Club plans to see post-pandemic, the snobbery that drives Shakespeare denialism, how America became Shakespearean, and the urban myth that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during lockdown, as well as the ways plague influenced Shakespeare’s entire career. Plus: where I should begin with Wodehouse, what prompted Robert to finally finish Proust (and then re-read him), and the nightmare of interviewing Philip Roth! Give it a listen! And go read Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (as well as My Year Off and Every Third Thought)!
“Any writer can tell you: if you write things down, you begin to make sense of things. If you’re surrounded by chaos and you begin to make notes, you begin to make sense.”
“It seems that Shakespeare and his contemporaries got used to the plague, so the plague references in his work are comparatively few and far between, and they’re not striking. And yet there’s no doubt of a connection between then and now.”
“My job is to give people something to read that is enjoyable and in some other way perhaps worth reading. It’s almost not about the art; it’s about the concentration, the absorption.”
I traveled up to the Catskills this weekend for a round of Rip Van Winkle-themed putt-putt golf, lunch, and some conversation with New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl. We get into Peter’s 2019 diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer and how he gained & then lost the persona of The Dying Man during his one piece of memoiristic writing about it. We also talk about his accidental transition from poet to art writer in the ’60s, why his two criteria for writing about art are quality & significance, his bias for authenticity over authority and sophistication over education, how HOWL changed his life, why he hates reproductions of paintings, why it took him years to come around on Rembrandt, his experience of revisiting Velazquez’ Las Meninas over the years, the piece of art he’d like to revisit when we can travel again, his love of (& aesthete’s approach to) fireworks, and plenty moreon the art of living! Give it a listen! And go read Hot, Cold Heavy, Light: 100 Art Writings 1988-2018
“There’s no art to dying at all.”
“Having talent is like being put in lifetime charge of a wild animal that you have to feed and nurture and obey. And it doesn’t care about you; if taking a bite out of your ass would help the work, it’ll do that in a second.”
“Bad art is its own punishment.”
“The only thing a reproduction has in common with a painting is the image.”
TUNEIN PLAYER TK
“All of my deep art historical knowledge was learned bit by bit on deadline.”
Peter Schjeldahl has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998 and is the magazine’s art critic. He came to the magazine from The Village Voice, where he was the art critic from 1990 to 1998. Previously, he had written frequently for the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure section. His writing has also appeared in Artforum, Art in America, the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. He has received the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; the Frank Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association, for excellence in art criticism; the Howard Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, for “recent prose that merits recognition for the quality of its style”; and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the author of four books of criticism, including The Hydrogen Jukebox: Selected Writings, and Let’s See: Writings on Art from The New Yorker. His latest book is Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light: 100 Art Writings, 1988-2018.