Art Works Podcast

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Headshot of a man.
Courtesy of Col Don Schofield

Commander and Conductor The US Air Force Band

Commander and conductor of the US Air Force Band Colonel Don Schofield leads a remarkably diverse set of musicians. The Air Force Band consists of 172 members and six ensembles playing music that ranges from rock to jazz to brass to an orchestra. (We can't forget the string ensemble or the fabulous Singing Sergeants!). They play over 1600 performances around the world each year with a repertoire that is expansive and extensive. In this tuneful podcast, we learn how it all comes together, why Colonel Schofield went from music teacher to military service member, and why leading the U.S. Air Force Band is his dream job.

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Courtesy of Arena Stage

Playwright

Playwright Ken Ludwig has a resume most theater folks would envy: his ear and eye for humor has given him hit after hit. His first play on Broadway was Lend Me a Tenor which had already opened in London where it garnered some Olivier Awards. (When it opened on Broadway, it picked up a Tony). He followed this with Crazy for You—a play inspired by the music of George and Ira Gershwin. This tune-packed extravaganza delighted audiences as much as the critics—it ran for five years and won the Tony Award for best musical. His extraordinary run of plays include Twentieth Century, Moon Over Buffalo and Leading Ladies. His most recent play just had its world premiere at Arena Stage here in Washington DC. It’s a two-hander called Dear Jack, Dear Louise, and it’s based on the correspondence between his parents during World War II. While it has amusing moments, no one would call this laugh-filled, nor is it meant to be. It’s simply a story of two people who get to know one another and fall in love through their correspondence. In this podcast, Ken Ludwig takes us behind the scenes of writing and mounting a play, why so many of his plays are set in a theatrical environment and his deep life-long love affair with theater.

Bob Fulcher
Photo by Sarah Terpstra Hanson

2019 National Heritage Fellow, Folklorist, State Park Manager

For more than 40 years, folklorist, state park manager, and 2019 National Heritage Fellow Bobby Fulcher has been seeking out and recording traditional artists, creating programming around these artists to shine a light on their work, and serving as an inspiration and mentor to multiple generations of young folklorists. That Fucher has accomplished all this while working for Tennessee State Parks really gets to the heart of his vision: the deep connection between traditional culture and the natural environment in which it occurs. He began his career as a naturalist and came to love and cherish not just the environment but also the traditional arts that were created in the Cumberlands of Tennessee. When he first heard traditional banjo music in college, he thought, “If I could learn that, I’d be happy every day there on out.” He did learn the banjo and would bring it with him when he went on his search for little-known traditional musicians because he believed that if you arrive with “a banjo or fiddle in your hand, you’ll make yourself welcome wherever you go.” He is a soft-spoken philosopher who has brought to his work an insatiable curiosity and a deep sense of wonder. You’ll hear it in this podcast—and you’ll also hear some of the old-time music Fucher has shone a light on.

Headshot of a man.
Photo by  Ken Rahaim

Director of The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)

Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Director Kevin Gover (Pawnee) has been leading the only national museum devoted exclusively to Native peoples since 2007. Established by an act of Congress in 1989, NMAI consists of a museum in New York City, a conservation facility in Maryland, and a stunning five-story, 250,000-square-foot golden-colored building with sweeping curving walls and indigenous landscaping on the National Mall. With Native Americans taking the lead in both its design and organization, the museum is home to more than 800,000 Native artifacts from throughout the Western Hemisphere, an archive of more than 125,000 photographs, and a vibrant collection of contemporary native art. It also offers a range of exhibitions, film and video screenings, school group programs, public programs, and living culture presentations throughout the year. In this podcast episode, Gover talks about the mission of the museum, which is to celebrate the art, culture, and history of Native peoples as vital and sustaining while unraveling the myths that have been engendered about Native peoples through popular culture. Given the museum’s mandate to represent not just the 573 Indian nations in the United States but all the Native peoples in the Western Hemisphere--from the Arctic Circle straight down to South America, Gover has a daunting challenge. He meets it with extraordinary equanimity, insight, and a commitment to collaborative creativity. Here’s a look at a museum like no other through the eyes of the man who guides it.

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Photo courtesy of Jenifer McShane

Documentary Filmmaker

Documentary filmmaker Jenifer McShane’s new film Ernie and Joe puts the viewer in the car of two police officers who are part of the San Antonio Police Department’s ten-person mental health unit. As partners they respond to to 911 calls involving people in emotional distress not as enforcers but as resources working to de-escalate situations and lead people to much needed mental health services. McShane spent three years, on and off, riding with Ernie and Joe--chronicling their work and their partnership. In this episode of the podcast, McShane talks about riding along in the police car and filming the titular duo as they worked patiently and compassionately with people who were despondent, despairing, or violent; and, she talks about Ernie and Joe themselves, their relationship and the ongoing banter that allows them to decompress. We also discuss how she filmed Ernie and Joe without compromising their work, and the emotional reception the film has received at festivals across the country. Ernie and Joe has been picked by HBO where it is now streaming.

Headshot of a woman.
Courtesy of the Shakespeare Theater Company

Actor

For a young actor, only four years out of the conservatory, Ayana Workman has amassed an impressive resume, including: Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (at the public Theater in NYC and the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington DC), Perdita in Winter’s Tale (again at the Public) and Banquo in MacBeth at the Lucille Lortel Theater in NYC. But frankly, these roles seem like a walk in the park compared to her next play Everybody by MacArthur Fellow Branden Jacobs-Jenkins which opened the season at DC’s Shakespeare Theater Company. In Everybody, which based on the 15th century morality play Everyman, the actors rotate their parts randomly via lottery for every performance. So, they find out in real time, in front of the audience, which character they’ll be playing that evening. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of guts and no small amount of talent to do. And while many of Ayana’s friends told her she was crazy, Ayana was eager to take it on. If she relishes creative challenges, it runs in the family. Her dad is 2020 NEA Jazz Master Reggie Workman and her mother is dancer and choreographer Maya Milenovic Workman. Ayana grew up in a household steeped in creativity, filled with access to music, dance, theater—all the arts, really. As she said, she grew up thinking it was normal for musicians to have jam sessions in her home every weekend or to fall asleep as she listened to her father’s playing in a jazz club. In this podcast, Ayana talks about her parents’ influences on her career as well as all aspects of performing in Everybody—from learning the script to rehearsing to getting up on stage not knowing who you’re going to play that evening and the special bond that cast has formed because they all, at one time or another, play the same parts. She’s smart, honest and ridiculously charming.

Headshot of a man.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Palmer

Filmmaker

Christmas has come early this year: filmmaker Jeffrey Palmer has made N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear a documentary about novelist, poet and painter N. Scott Momaday. Momaday is an artistic force of nature, and it's a nature embedded in Kiowa art, culture and history. He's received many awards; most notably the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Literature--the first and only time it's been awarded to Native-American writer--and the 2007 National Medal of Arts. For his long career, N. Scott Momaday has been profoundly influential for Native artists and extremely significant for anyone interested in American culture. Although they are generations apart, Momaday was an influence on Jeffrey Palmer. Kiowa and born in the same area of Oklahoma as Scott, Jeffrey met him when he was a kid and while overwhelmed by his size and deep voice, (Jeffrey remembers it was like shaking hands with a catcher's mitt), he also was instantly inspired by him and the possibilities he represented. And thirty years later, he found himself making a documentary about M. Scott Momaday for American Masters. Jeff and I talk, of course, about Scott Momaday and his deep importance to American culture, as well as Jeff's decision to present Scott's story within the larger story of the Kiowa and add visual elements of magical realism. (It's a visually stunning film that partners beautifully with Scott's poems and stories.) We also have a couple of excerpts from the documentary, so you'll get to hear N. Scott Momaday distinctive voice and get a sense of his captivating presence. He is a national treasure.

headshots of two men.
Photo courtesy of Armed Services Arts Partnership

Founding Director and current Executive Director of Armed Services Arts Partnership

In 2013, when Sam Pressler was an undergraduate, he came to a profound understanding of the civilian/military divide and the sobering realities many veterans face when they return to civilian life. Based on his own experiences of coping with loss, he thought comedy might be a way to help returning veterans cope. Since there weren’t any comedy classes for veterans, he started one—partnering with an existing writing group. From that one class, the idea of Armed Services Arts Partnership (or ASAP) grew and flourished. Located in Hampton Roads Virginia and the Washington, DC area, ASAP has reached close to 1,000 veterans, service members, and their families through over 200 workshops and classes. It’s also produced 150 performances of its graduates—including shows at the White House—and reached some 15,000 audience members. Sam Pressler—who recently stepped down as executive director and now sits on the board of ASAP—and the current executive director Brian Jenkins tell us how ASAP came together and grew into a thriving and beloved organization and what they’ve learned about community, veterans, and the arts. It’s a great story.

Headshot of a man.
Photo by Sara Houghteling

Author, physician and NEA Lit Fellow

Author, physician, and National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow Daniel Mason wrote and published his first novel while he was still in medical school. The Piano Tuner received international acclaim, was translated into 28 languages, and adapted for theater and opera. Mason took time off after medical school to complete his second novel, A Far Place, which was short-listed for several literary prizes. Mason then finished his medical training and began his clinical practice and--since he’s not super-human after all--his third novel was 14 years in the making. Again,he struck gold wowing critics and readers alike with The Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier tells the story of Lucius who leaves medical school in Vienna at the outbreak of World War I to serve in the Army. The Austrian-Hungarian empire, facing a shortage of doctors, allows medical students to staff field hospitals. Anxious for this practical experience, Lucius joins up and finds himself in a tiny village in the Carpathian mountains. He is expecting a well-staffed hospital run by experienced doctors who can mentor him. Instead, he finds himself the sole doctor in a bombed-out church doubling as a hospital whose single remaining medical personnel is a field nurse, Sister Margarete. The story that unfolds is Lucius’s medical and emotional coming of age. But the novel is also about the mad incongruity of World War I, the fleeting connections forged by war, and the growing awareness of the pervasiveness of a new condition affecting the armies—shell shock. Mason speaks thoughtfully about writing and psychiatry (his medical practice) and how his two careers are complementary and how they are not. We also talk about the joys and pitfalls of research and the attitudinal changes in medicine in the past 100 years.

John Kevin Jones
Photo courtesy of John Kevin Jones

Actor and executive director of Summoners Ensemble Theatre

Here’s a podcast for your Halloween listening pleasure: Actor and Executive Director of Summoners Ensemble Theatre John Kevin Jones talks about his one-man show Killing an Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. In Killing, Jones performs four of Poe’s best-known works: “The Tell-Tale Heart;” “The Cask of Amontillado;” “The Pit and the Pendulum;” and, of course, “The Raven.” It’s a bravura performance, undertaken with a minimum of props….but who needs props when you have Poe’s words and a setting guaranteed to put the audience in an appropriately spooky mood? Killing an Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is performed in the candle-lit salon of the Merchant’s House Museum—a 19th century family home in lower Manhattan preserved virtually intact with original furnishings and personal belongings. The intimate space with candles casting their shadows brings the audience into the action of the play in more ways than one. Jones and I talk about Poe’s work, bringing it to life on the stage, and the challenges and joys of playing in an intimate and historic space. (He’s also performed a one-man show of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House Museum for seven seasons.) And Jones gives you a taste of the evening with excerpts from “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven.”

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