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Arts and Culture

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When you head to New York, do you ever take a break from the city and get lost on a trail in Central Park? This hour, we take a look at the life of the man behind that beloved and iconic city park: Connecticut native Frederick Law Olmsted.

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The news comes fast in the world of the canceled these days. Louis CK is back out on tour. President Obama has a "very boomer view" of the whole thing. The New York Times reports on teens' takes.

Meanwhile, some celebrities, rather than getting themselves canceled, are getting themselves arrested. Jane Fonda, for instance. And Sam Waterston. And Ted Danson.

And: Bong Joon Ho's genre-defying new movie, Parasite, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and it's being called "a nearly perfect film" and "the best movie of the year."

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Donald Trump's election was the culmination of a venom-filled campaign that was nastier than almost any in recent memory. The mean-spirited comments tossed to voters eager to "lock her up" fell just shy of the malicious rhetoric coming from Thomas Jefferson's presidential campaign in 1796. Jefferson's hatchet-man called John Adams a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

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Avant-garde choreographer Alwin Nikolais was more than a modern dance pioneer -- he was a designer, an early multimedia artist, and a composer. Thursday in Hartford, dancers and historians will gather for a panel discussion on this 20th century icon, whose early years in Connecticut helped shape his later works. 

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Eugene O'Neill doesn't get enough credit. His plays are a form of therapy. O'Neill forces us to watch the raw pain of our human condition, the disillusionment and existential fear that we push into the background.

O'Neill's plays are dark but there's a catharsis in confronting our deepest fears and illusions. 

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

At sixteen years of age, Reginald Dwayne Betts went to prison for carjacking. Decades later, Betts is a celebrated poet and graduate of Yale Law School. But, like many ex-offenders, the consequences of those teenage mistakes have followed him for years.

Chion Wolf

Are there countries where harmonica players are BIG stars? Why don't more women play it? How many different musical styles can you squeeze out of one of these things? Guests include a lot of the pros: Howard Levy, Don DeStefano and Chris DePino whose odd career arc has taken him from railroad conductor to chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party to professional harmonica player.

Also, Wolfie gets an on-air harmonica lesson from these gods of the harp.

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

Watchmen is a limited series of comic books that became a graphic novel in 1987 and a feature film in 2009. And now it's an HBO series from Damon Lindelof that acts as a kind of sequel to the original comics, set 34 years later.

And: Today is John Dankosky's last day at Connecticut Public after 25 years. There is just no denying that WNPR wouldn't be what it is -- and The Colin McEnroe Show wouldn't be at all -- if it weren't for Mr. Dankosky. The Nose tries to begin to come to terms.

Kishi Bashi playing violin outdoors
Max Ritter

Violinist and singer Kishi Bashi is Japanese American. His most recent musical project, Omoiyari, takes a look at the history of Japanese internment, when 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated, fueled by xenophobia during World War II.

This hour, we sit down with Kishi Bashi to talk about why he’s turning to history to better understand our present, and we ask him about his unique musical style.

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Every year around this time, we like to take a look at just what's frightening us in the present moment. This year, we start with our present take on a past horror classic, Ridley Scott's Alien, which has its 40th anniversary this year.

Plus: Ari Aster's Hereditary follow-up, Midsommar, is set at a pagan retreat in rural Sweden. As such, it's seen as a bit of a reinvigoration of the folk horror genre, which includes classics like The Wicker Man and more contemporary titles like The VVitch.

Hartford Stage

For many parents, a night on the town might seem like a pipe dream. At the top of the list of reasons for that is – babysitting. Now, if you have a family member nearby who is willing and able to watch the kids, you’re all set. But for the rest of us, finding and affording a capable babysitter may be close to impossible.

Yale Center For British Art Welcomes New Director

Oct 30, 2019
Ryan Martins / Connecticut Public Radio

The Yale Center for British Art has a new director. Courtney J. Martin is a Yale alumnus, returning to New Haven after her tenure as deputy director at the Dia Art Foundation. Now, she’s leading one of the largest repositories for British art in the world, outside of the United Kingdom. 

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Predictions of a paperless future go back to the 1800s. Yet, despite a dizzying array of technological alternatives to paper, those prediction have not come true.

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NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner Gaelynn Lea was a fiddle teacher and performer in Duluth, Minnesota when she was encouraged by a friend to submit her song " Someday We'll Linger in the Sun" to the second ever NPR Tiny Desk contest in 2016. All Songs Considered Host Bob Boilen told NPR that when the judges of the competition heard Lea’s song they were completely floored.

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This week, The Washington Post published "The 20 defining comedy sketches of the past 20 years" covering television sketch comedy of the 2000s. It includes a lot of what you'd expect it to include: SNL's "More Cowbell" and "Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks," Inside Amy Schumer's "Last F---able Day," Chappelle's Show's "Frontline -- Clayton Bigsby."

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

Massachusetts has long been a focal point in the history of early New England witch trials. But Connecticut also has a place on this dark historical timeline: as the site of the nation's first witch hanging. This hour, author Beth Caruso joins us to shine light this little-known piece of Connecticut's past, and talk about how it inspired her novel One of Windsor.

Courtesy: The Wadsworth Atheneum

In conjuction with its newest exhibition Afrocosmologies: American Reflections, The Wadsworth Atheneum will host its Black Film Weekend featuring five films that celebrate and reflect stories of Black lives on screen. The films are a mix of fiction and non-fiction, from Toni Morrison and Harriet Tubman to two stories based in Jamaica, including the story of the island's national men's soccer team. 

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That headline is just a direct quote from James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America. I was torn between that line from the book and this one:

Donald Trump is not a person.

Poniewozik's take is that "Donald Trump" is really a character that Donald Trump has been playing on television since at least the early 1980s.

Jeremiah Clapp and Calvin Leon Smith in a scene from On The Grounds Of Belonging, currently playing at the Long Wharf Theatre
Courtesy: Long Wharf Theatre

A big change is underway right now in American theater. More women and people of color are being appointed to lead theatrical institutions.

A recent survey called American Theater Leadership Change finds that of 85 artistic director positions that have opened since 2015, 41% have gone to women. People of color have been named to 26%. 

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Love it or hate it, ventriloquism is hot these days. From Jeff Dunham's superstardom to three recent America's Got Talent winners, 'vents' are seeing more exposure than they have in decades. And with this attention comes new fans and practicioners from around the world.

Nobody knows exactly how many fighting roosters there are in Puerto Rico. The breeders who raise them for cockfights say at least half a million. Two hundred and fifty of those live in neatly lined cages in José Torres' backyard in the mountain town of Utuado, and should the police show up to take them when cockfighting is banned at the end of this year, he has no plans to give them up.

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A hard-boiled private eye, a glamorous blond, and a hapless drifter all sit at a bar on the seamy side of town. It's night, the streets are wet, the shadows are long. They each nurse a drink to the notes of a mournful saxophone and a lonely piano.  Smoke from the cigarettes swirls in the darkness. 

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Martin Scorsese is a grump. He doesn't like Marvel movies. He says they aren't "cinema." He says they aren't even narrative films, and "we shouldn't be invaded by it." The internet, as you can imagine, has takes.

And: The Eddie Murphy comeback is on. He appeared on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee this summer. He's hosting Saturday Night Live in December. He's got multiple standup comedy specials in the works. And right now he's starring in the briefly-in-theaters-but-hitting-Netflix-next-weekend biopic Dolemite Is My Name.

The Hartford Fringe Festival

The first Hartford Fringe Festival gets underway Thursday, a celebration of new and often edgier works in the areas of dance, theater, music and comedy.

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From the penny press, to yellow journalism, to supermarket tabloids and beyond, sensationalized news has been around for centuries. But while this style of reporting may have its critics, it may also serve as an important reflection of American culture and democracy.

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In January of 2018, a seemingly racist incident occurred on the National Mall. Photos and videos were posted to social media showing a group of MAGA hat-wearing high school students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. One of them, Nick Sandmann, seemed to be mocking and blocking the path of Native American activist, Nathan Phillips. People either jeered or cheered on social media, depending on how it was perceived, long before most of us had any idea of the context of the situation. 

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The bed. It’s a central feature of daily life. We rest on it, recharge in it. But rarely do we reflect on our relationship with it. Until now. 

This hour, we sit down with Brian Fagan, co-author of the new book What We Did in Bed: A Horizontal History. We talk double beds, pod beds, Murphy beds ... even Mark Twain’s bed. And we also hear from you. 

On Monday in the nation's capital, there is no Columbus Day. The D.C. Council voted to replace it with Indigenous Peoples' Day in a temporary move that it hopes to make permanent. Several other places across the United States have also made the switch in a growing movement to end the celebration of the Italian explorer in favor of honoring Indigenous communities and their resiliency in the face of violence by European explorers like Christopher Columbus.

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

Joker is director Todd Phillips's modern take on movies like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. It stars Joaquin Phoenix in the title role in what happens also to be... a Batman movie. It's been called "a gloriously daring and explosive film" and "a movie that borders on genius" but also "bleak and juvenile" and "a movie of a cynicism so vast and pervasive as to render the viewing experience even emptier than its slapdash aesthetic does."

Witney Browne / New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas

Has performing in front of a live audience been on your bucket list for a while? Well, you may be in luck. A modern dance group is holding a series of free workshops in New Haven this weekend. The workshops are for tailored anyone who wants to dance, regardless of age or experience. The end result will be a performance at next year's International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven.

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