The National Endowment for the Arts podcast that goes behind the scenes with some of the nation’s great artists to explore how art works.
Director Saheem Ali centers communities of color in his productions of Shakespeare
Saheem Ali is Associate Artistic Director of The Public Theater as well as the director of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fat Ham.” In this podcast, Ali talks about working with Fat Ham playwright James Ijames, his ongoing work with plays that contemporize and expand Shakespeare (like Fat Ham which sets Hamlet in a Black Southern backyard barbeque with a Queer Hamlet figure at its center or Merry Wives which sets Shakespeare’s play in Washington Heights in the midst of a community of West African immigrants). Ali also discusses his role as Associate Artistic Director of The Public, the mission of the theater—particularly of its Free Shakespeare in the Park Program--, The Public’s continuing work in interrogating power structures in theater, and its commitment to ensuring diverse voices in leadership, staff, performers, and audience.
Celebrate Black Music Appreciation Month with singer, composer, and artistic director of Silkroad Rhiannon Giddens
We’re celebrating Black Music Appreciation Month by revisiting my 2021 interview with MacArthur Fellow and artistic director of Silkroad Rhiannon Giddens. A classically-trained singer, banjo and fiddle-player, and composer, Rhiannon excavates the past to bring forgotten stories and music, particularly of African-Americans, into the present. Giddens is a co-founder of the Grammy Award winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, which insisted reclaiming for Black musicians a central and historically-accurate place in old-time music. She then went on to create solo albums of haunting beauty and power born of African-American struggles past and present. Giddens is, first and foremost, an artist determined to be of service which drives her commitment to unearth musical roots and put that knowledge of different musical traditions to good use. In this podcast, Rhiannon talks about uncovering the Black roots in old-time music, the importance of National Heritage Fellow fiddler Joe Thompson to her musical lineage, the path to creating her opera Omar, the centrality of history on the margins to her music, and her plans to have Silkroad explore the multiplicity of musical worlds within the US.
Keywords: Rhiannon Giddens, Silkroad, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Joe Thompson, Omar
Leading an arts center into the future
Stella Abrera and Sonja Kostich share a background in dance, are Asian-American and now lead an important artistic center in the Hudson Valley Kaatsbaan Cultural Park. In this podcast, they talk about Kaatsbaan Cultural Park and its 30 year history, Kaatsbaan’s singular role as both an artistic incubator and an arts presenter, its unique position during Covid in having the space to create and present work safely for both performers and audience, Stella’s and Sonja’s careers as dancers and their transition to arts administration, their commitment to diversity in programming, performers, staff and audience, Kaatbaan’s upcoming festivals, and the organization’s first grant from the Arts Endowment.
Keywords: Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, Stella Abrera, Sonja Kostich, Hudson Valley, National Endowment for the Arts
Just in time for the Tony Awards, Playwright Michael R. Jackson's "Strange Loop"
We’re celebrating Pride Month and the Tony Awards by revisiting my 2020 interview with playwright, composer, lyricist Michael R. Jackson. A Strange Loop, his play about a Black queer musical theater writer who is writing a play about a Black queer musical theater writer who is writing a play about a Black queer theater writer…, has wowed audiences and critics. Capturing some of 2020's most prestigious awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Drama and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, A Strange Loop became the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama without a Broadway run, and Michael R. Jackson is the first Black artist to win a Pulitzer for a musical. (The NEA funded the world premiere of A Strange Loop, which was produced by Playwrights Horizons in 2019.) The show emerged from the pandemic with a production in Washington DC at the Woolly Mammoth theater in December 2021 which then transferred to Broadway-- opening in April 2022. Along with glowing reviews and cheering audiences, the play has also received 11 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Score. A Strange Loop is bawdy, joyous, disturbing, funny, and heartbreaking. The songs are often bouncy tunes that stay in your head while the lyrics can tear at your heart. In this podcast, Jackson talks about the years spent creating A Strange Loop, sharing that because he never thought the play would ever be produced, he just wrote what he wanted. He also discusses the possibilities that theater offers, his determination "to make works that are as challenging as they are entertaining," and the importance of soap operas in his early career. It was a pleasure to revisit this podcast, listen to Michael, and lose myself in the fabulous score. When you’re done with the podcast, check out this [Tiny Desk](Tiny%20Desk) concert with Jackson and the Broadway cast of A Strange Loop.
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Michael R. Jackson, A Strange Loop. Pride Month, Tony Awards, Woolly Mammoth Theatre
US Army Veteran Jaymes Poling and Jazz Trumpeter Dominick Farinacci
Modern Warrior LIVE is a unique and moving theatrical experience that mixes first-person narrative with music and multimedia to chronicle U.S. Army veteran Jaymes Poling’s story of his three deployments to Afghanistan and subsequent transition back home. In today’s podcast, I speak with its co-creators, Poling and jazz trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, about the conception of Modern Warrior LIVE and their process of working together—both in creating the show and performing in it. Poling discusses his own challenges when transitioning to civilian life and the importance of writing to his healing process. They also talk about the sense of responsibility they feel to the audience, their outreach to veteran communities, the centrality of talk-backs as part of the show, and their making local mental health and veteran resources available to the audience.
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Daniel K. Isaac
You may know Daniel K. Isaac as Ben Kim from the television series “Billions,” but he’s also a committed and talented actor in theater and an accomplished playwright. In fact, his play “ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME”-- which was supported in part by the Arts Endowment-- is opening in New York in August. In this podcast, Daniel K. Isaac discusses his great love of theater, his new play “ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME”- his commitment to bring Asian and Asian-American voices and stories to the stage, his work with the Ma-Yi Theater Company, his series-in-development, “According to My Mother” which explores his challenging relationship with his mother after he came out to her, and, of course, his role as Ben Kim on the television series “Billions.”
Here are the actors discussed in the podcast that Daniel K. Isaac wants us to know more about: Shannon Tyo, Jon Norman Schneider, and Jeena Yi.
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Rich content, fascinating guests
Hi Reed as a host is a treasure
I love this app! Love it!
Very well produced, wide range of topics. Great podcast!