663 episodes

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.

Art Works Podcast National Endowment for the Arts

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

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.

    Lillian Faderman: The Emotional Truth of "My Mother's Wars"

    Lillian Faderman: The Emotional Truth of "My Mother's Wars"

    We’re celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month by revisiting my interview with LGBT and ethnic scholar and author Lillian Faderman who discusses her book "My Mother's Wars." The book is a reconstructed narrative that explores the life of Faderman's mother, a Jewish immigrant in the United States, navigating the complexities of love, survival, and identity against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the rise of Nazism. Faderman recounts her mother's journey from a Latvian shtetl to New York City in 1914, detailing her struggles with language barriers, cultural acclimation, and the harsh realities of the American Dream. She recounts the grueling working conditions in the garment industry, the significant role of unions in fighting for better working conditions during the 1930s, and her mother’s involvement with strikes. Faderman discusses her mother's tumultuous relationship with Moishe, which results in her giving birth to Lillian in 1940 and raising her as an unmarried mother.  Faderman also discusses the increasing dread among Jewish immigrants in the U.S. as Nazism spread across Europe, and her mother’s frantic reactions to the impact on her family.  And finally she shares insights into her writing process, revealing how the act of writing the memoir allowed her to understand finally her mother's heroism and strength. 

    • 29 min
    Theater Unmasked: Challenges and Possibilities

    Theater Unmasked: Challenges and Possibilities

    President of Actors' Equity Kate Shindle and the NEA Director of Theater & Musical Theater Greg Reiner discuss the current challenges, strategic innovations, and the evolving landscape of American theater.  Kate provides an overview of the history and evolving mission of Actors' Equity in safeguarding actors and stage managers.  While Greg discusses the NEA's strategic funding to support theaters nationwide, highlighting the critical need for sustainability in the sector. Both emphasize the creative resilience and artistic innovation within the theater community while exploring the significant financial and structural challenges faced by the industry during and post-COVID-19. They share optimism over the leadership transitions within the theater community, which focuses on the representation of diverse voices in leadership roles but also see the need to support these leaders who have stepped up in a fraught time.  We also discuss the implications of digital streaming for live theater, considering its potential to enhance accessibility and audience engagement. And Kate, who is stepping down from Equity leadership, reflects on her tenure while both share their aspirations for the future of theater in America. 

    • 40 min
    Staging Stories: Psalmayene 24 on Directing Across Time

    Staging Stories: Psalmayene 24 on Directing Across Time

    Playwright and director Psalmayene 24 discusses his career trajectory from his unique approach to theater, his recent direction of the world premiere of Tempestuous Rising at Arena Stage and his upcoming projects, including his current direction of Metamorphosis at the Folger Theatre. We talk about his journey from dance to theater, first as an actor and eventually to playwriting and directing in response to the lack of satisfying roles for young Black men. We discuss the collaborative nature of his directing style, involving actors and creative teams in the development of the production, ensuring that every aspect from costume design to choreography reflects the thematic richness of the play. Psalmayene 24 highlights the challenges and strategies of directing in different theater spaces, especially the round configuration of the Fichandler Stage at Arena Stage and the Elizabethan stage at the Folger Theatre. He also shares his vision for Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Metamorphosis focusing on an all-Black cast and the use of movement to convey the universality of human conditions through the lens of Blackness and Black culture and without the iconic pool used in previous productions. And Psalmayene 24 shares his excitement about upcoming projects, including a musical about John Lewis that he is writing. And as well as being smart and thoughtful, Psalmayene 24 has a truly terrific voice!

    • 32 min
    Bridging Cultures: A Conversation with Diana Abu-Jaber

    Bridging Cultures: A Conversation with Diana Abu-Jaber

    We’re closing out Arab-American Heritage Month with author Diana Abu-Jaber who discusses growing up with an Irish-American mother and a Jordanian father who never felt at home in the US, the lively tensions between cultures, and the centrality of this to her writing.  We discuss her two memoirs, "The Language of Baklava" and "Life Without a Recipe." She describes the impact her father and grandmother had on her life and how their contrasting personalities were reflected in their approaches to food: Diana's father was a passionate and improvisational cook, while her grandmother was a precise baker.  Abu-Jaber discusses the challenges of writing memoirs, the emotional risks involved in sharing personal stories, and how she navigated the difficult topic of her larger-than-life’s father's death.  We turn to a discussion of her latest novel, "Fencing with the King," and Diana reveals that the story was inspired by her father's experience of fencing with King Hussein of Jordan and her family's history of displacement. Diana reflects on the growth of Arab-American literature and the increasing prominence of Arab-American writers in contemporary culture.  We also discuss the similarities between cooking and writing and how food, like literature, can serve as a bridge between cultures 

    • 39 min
    Leslie Sainz: A New Voice in Contemporary Poetry

    Leslie Sainz: A New Voice in Contemporary Poetry

    We’re celebrating National Poetry Month with 2021 NEA Literature Fellow, poet Leslie Sainz who discusses her debut poetry collection, "Have You Been Long Enough at Table."  Sainz reads from her collection and talks about its major themes including the ambiguity, displacement, and impact of cultural heritage as a daughter of Cuban immigrants. She discusses the variety of poetic forms used in her collection, allowing form to be guided by the emotional and thematic demands of her work. Sainz also talks about the impact of receiving a 2021 NEA Literature Fellowship for Poetry on her career and the validation it provided and offers advice to other poets and writers, especially regarding the NEA fellowship application process. Sainz  also discusses her involvement as a judge in the NEA's Poetry Out Loud competition and  shares her experiences from organizing regional competitions to judging the national semifinals and her appreciation for the performative and memorization components that enhance both the understanding and the emotional experience of poetry.  She also gives us a glimpse into her upcoming project, tentatively titled "I Believe in Evil and Evil Believes in You," exploring new thematic territories and expanding her creative boundaries.  And, on April 17,  the day after our conversation, Leslie Sainz’s collection , "Have You Been Long Enough at Table" was awarded the 2024 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry

    • 39 min
    Suzan-Lori Parks Shows Up!

    Suzan-Lori Parks Shows Up!

    MacArthur Fellow and 2002 Pulitzer-Prize Winner in Drama for “Topdog/Underdog, ” Suzan-Lori Parks tells us about her current play ”Sally and Tom”* now having its NY premier at the Public Theater. It’s a play within a play about Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson and combines Parks’ love of  American history and theater. We discuss the play's exploration of fraught subjects such as enslavement, sexual coercion, Black and white families living under the same roof under very different circumstances, and the paradoxes within Jefferson's life as a figure of enlightenment who owned slaves. Parks discusses how "Sally & Tom" invites audiences to engage in tough yet essential conversations about America's history and its echoes in the present-- reflected in the meta-theatrical structure of "Sally & Tom", which allows for a layered examination of history, storytelling, and the act of creation itself. She shares that her writing is not just as a form of artistic expression but is also a spiritual practice which allows her to engage with historical figures and narratives in a way that transcends traditional storytelling, inviting both creators and audiences into a space of reflection and transformation that fosters both nuanced conversations and broader implications for understanding American history. Parks also discusses her relationship with music and its intersections with her theatrical work and her personal and professional journey, from her upbringing in a military family to her initial reluctance towards theater, and how encouragement from James Baldwin led her to embrace playwriting.  She reflects on the evolution of theater over the past two decades, emphasizing the essential importance of inclusivity and diversity, and the continued need for spaces that offer both entertainment and nourishing content. And she discusses her residency at the Public Theater, her artistic home that supports her experimental and innovative approach to storytelling exemplified with her on-going project Watch Me Work. Finally,  I also want to say that I have been privileged -- to use, with great sincerity, an overused word-- to speak with the people I do for this podcast—I have been moved, taught, had my heart expanded and my mind stimulated by these interviews. But I have never spoken with anyone as vital or present as Suzan-Lori Parks nor with anyone who made me feel so enlivened by the conversation. It’s a pleasure to share this.

    *“Sally and Tom” has been extended and will run at Public Theater through May 5.

    • 38 min

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