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Norway's National Poet: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

By Adrienne Rivera. Dec 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners, Drama

Poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson is considered one of the "Four Greats" of Norwegian writers. Besides writing the lyrics to the Norwegian national anthem, his peasant stories are renowned and well loved for their devotion to presenting the peasant class in a new light. Chief among his numerous honors is the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he was awarded in 1903. Interestingly, Bjørnson was one of the original Nobel Prize Committee members and was serving on the committee at the time he was given the award.

     
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When Books Go to Broadway

By Matt Reimann. Sep 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Drama

Broadway has always welcomed the country’s best playwrights. Everyone from Arthur Miller to Tennessee Williams to Lillian Hellman to August Wilson to Eugene O’Neill has been supported and sustained by the theatrical capital of America. Yet what is also interesting is Broadway’s tendency to adapt and stage something that started on the page. There have been failures (like the recent American Psycho musical) and smash successes (Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton). It has also provided many prose writers the chance to work in the dramatic form.

     
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The Lasting Legacy of Athol Fugard’s Dramatic Works

By Audrey Golden. May 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Drama

For most American readers, references to South African literature conjure the names of the country’s two Nobel Prize winners: Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. While the essays and works of fiction by these Nobel laureates are enormously important for understanding the politics of and modes of resistance to apartheid in South Africa, we want to highlight the significance of another genre for you today. Born in 1932 in a remote region of South Africa to an Afrikaner father and English-speaking mother, Athol Fugard has become one of the more prominent names in South African theatre. He often co-wrote plays with Black South Africans during the heights of the apartheid regime, and the plays involved Black actors, as well. Given that co-authorship during apartheid meant that many of the Black South Africans who contributed equally to the plays could not be named as collaborators in print, it is perhaps more important than ever for us to acknowledge the collective work of Fugard’s playwriting.

     
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Arthur Miller: Writing During the Red Scare

By Claudia Adrien. Mar 3, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Drama

The Cold War was an era clouded by persistent paranoia, not only between the United States and the Soviet Union. When it came to its own citizens, the U.S. government was, in some cases, just as fearful as it was about foreign threats—especially when it came to the Hollywood crowd. Indeed, in October 1947, members of a congressional committee, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), began investigating members of the movie industry who they suspected were communist sympathizers. They banned the work of 325 screenwriters, actors, and directors*. Among those blacklisted were composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, and Dorothy Parker, playwright Arthur Miller, and actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.

     
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Charles Lamb vs. Bob Dylan: Rereading and Retelling Shakespeare

By Brian Hoey. Feb 10, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Drama

Controversial Nobel Prize in Literature winner Bob Dylan admitted to being flabbergasted when he learned of the honor that’s lately been bestowed on him—but at least he managed to compare himself to Shakespeare in the process. The comparison, though, was an interesting one, and one that takes up the question of how we should approach the Bard’s writing. Dylan’s assertion was that he has never thought about whether his songs are ‘literature’ and that Shakespeare probably would have been in the same boat regarding his plays. Dylan says, imagining Shakespeare’s thoughts leading up to the original production of Hamlet (1599), ““Are there enough good seats for my patrons?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question “Is this literature?””

     
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Sam Shepard's Wildly Varied Literary Career

By Audrey Golden. Feb 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature, Drama

Just two years ago, Sam Shepard’s now-famous play True West (1980) was revived on the London stage at the tricycle theatre. About fifteen years ago now, the seminal work was revived for the first time in New York City on a stage starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly. For many theatregoers and movie viewers today, we know Sam Shepard best for his own performances as an actor, in films such as Days of Heaven (1978), The Right Stuff (1983), and All the Pretty Horses (2000). Yet Shepard has a long and interesting literary career that began years before he ever appeared in cinematic features. Between 1966 and 1968, Shepard won six Obie Awards for his playwriting, and he ultimately went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his 1979 play Buried Child. He has published more than 40 plays to date, along with nine collections of plays and short stories.

     
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George Bernard Shaw: The Art of Quotation

By Matt Reimann. Jul 26, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, Drama

Good booze, beautiful scenery, and wit are the very things Ireland is perhaps known best for. The country’s long history of strife and oppression has given its people a talent for insight and humor. An analysis of the sharpest wits in the English language reveal a lopsided representation of Ireland, with a stacked roster represented by the likes of Swift, Sterne, Wilde, and Behan. And strong as they may be, such a list would be incomplete without the inclusion of playwright and Nobel Prize-winner George Bernard Shaw.

     
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Luigi Pirandello's Four Nobel Prizes

By Brian Hoey. Jun 28, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, Drama

While the Nobel Prize in Literature does not explicitly aim to single out the most influential writers of a given generation (per Alfred Nobel, its purpose is to reward “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”), that it should do so seems inevitable. The most outstanding work, after all, frequently proves to be the most read and most imitated. And indeed, that the Nobel sometimes helps to define the chain of literary influence from one era to the next can be one of the most gratifying things about the list. It is by this metric that Luigi Pirandello, the masterful Italian playwright, can be considered one of the most intriguing Nobel laureates, with his writing directly and obviously influencing at least three other future Nobel winners: Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, and Harold Pinter.    

     
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Did Shakespeare Really Write His Plays?

By Matt Reimann. Jun 24, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, History, Drama

The life of Shakespeare is shaped by two major qualities: excellence and obscurity. For this reason, his biography has been subject to much scrutiny and speculation. The central question that plagues the legacy of Shakespeare is a famous one, and gets down to the reality of the figure himself. Did Shakespeare, the great poet and dramatist, really exist as we know him?

     
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Why It's Time to Appreciate Lillian Hellman Again

By Matt Reimann. Jun 20, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Drama

In 1939, Lillian Hellman was riding in a taxi with the star of one of her plays. The atmosphere in the car was tense. The actress, Tallulah Bankhead, wanted to put on a performance for the benefit of Finland, which had been invaded by the USSR earlier in the year. Hellman refused to allow her play to be performed for the cause, citing her lack of esteem for what she believed was a pro-Nazi republic. Bankhead, frustrated by Hellman’s stubbornness, told the playwright she would never act in one of her plays again. Hellman then responded by striking the actress across the jaw with her purse.

     
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