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info_outline Enhanced Episode 1: Jacobus Barhyte and Edgar Allan Poe 11/25/2008
Enhanced Episode 1: Jacobus Barhyte and Edgar Allan Poe In 1784, German immigrant and Revolutionary War soldier Jacobus Barhyte
info_outline Episode 20: Saul Bellow 10/20/2008
Episode 20: Saul Bellow While Yaddo artists have amassed a remarkable sixty-three Pulitzer Prizes and fifty-eight National Book Awards, only Saul Bellow (1915-2005) has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The youngest son of Russian parents, Bellow was born in a slum in Lachine, Quebec. Through hard work, he eventually overcame numerous socio-economic, health, and citizenship challenges to become the definitive literary voice of mid-America: "Someone once called me a bureaucrat among writers," Bellow stated, "because my self-discipline seemed excessive." Viewed in this episode through the eyes of fellow Yaddo guest John Cheever, Bellow is seen as a man whose work ethic and success created a certain anxiety among writers, despite his warm and amiable nature. This portrait provides rare insights into the psychology of living and working in an artists' retreat. More importantly, such an appraisal of Bellow's standing as a writer allows us to assess how great reputation can be a temporary impediment, but also a long-term inspiration, to all creative talents.
info_outline Episode 17: Philip Guston 10/15/2008
Episode 17: Philip Guston Visual artist Philip Guston (1913-1980)passed through many styles in his career, but all were united by his desire to create work of social relevance. When Guston was just eighteen, he painted a mural to call attention to the plight of several black youths who had been falsely accused and convicted. The mural was defaced by local police officers, which only strengthened Guston's resolve. The works of abstract expressionism for which he would be best know, while seemingly detached from social engagement, were in fact a refusal of the defunct artistic and social norms that had fueled to world wars,and a radical expression in favor of freedom and democracy.But by working too long in this style, Guston came to feel "schizophrenic," and "wanted to be whole." When he visited Yaddo in 1969, he busied himself creating works in a new
info_outline Episode 16: Elizabeth Ames 10/13/2008
Episode 16: Elizabeth Ames In 1923, Elizabeth Ames (1885-1977) was appointed the first Executive Director of Yaddo. She lost no time in creating network of advisors to help her extend invitations to the finest artists in all media, judge applicants, and select from early guests a board of directors. While she valued the input of all these parties, she was not afraid to state her opinion in no uncertain terms. For forty-six years, Ames was truly the matriarch of Yaddo, a designation descriptive both of the way she
info_outline Episode 14: Si-Lan Chen 10/10/2008
Episode 14: Si-Lan Chen Among the thousands of remarkable artists who have passed through Yaddo, few have been as broad in their talents, or as fascinating in their personal history as dancer, choreographer, and actress Si-Lan Chen Leyda (1905-1996) Chen was born in Trinidad to a Chinese father and a French-African mother. When Sun Yat-sen brought about the Republic of China, he requested that Mr. Chen serve as Foreign Minister. This event kicked off a long peripatetic period in Si-Lan's life that would see her move to Hong-Kong, march from Canton to Wuhan when Chiang Kai-shek took power, and eventually flee to the Soviet Union. There her career as a dancer and choreographer blossomed. There too, she came to know a brilliant young film scholar by the name of Jay Leyda, whom she would marry. The couple eventually settled in Hollywood, where Si-Lan worked as the dance director for one feature film, and starred in three othersâonce opposite Shelly Winters and Liberace. Amazingly, all this preceded her 1954 residence at Yaddo, during which she produced the work closest to her heart.
info_outline Episode 13: Stewart Wallace 10/09/2008
Episode 13: Stewart Wallace Contemporary composer and nine-time Yaddo guest Stewart Wallace's modus operandi is so collaborative and interdisciplinary that it is hard to speak about his recent opera The Bonesetter's Daughter as a Stewart Wallace opera, or even as an opera in any traditional sense. In a superlative study entitled Fate! Luck! Chance! Amy Tan, Stewart Wallace and the making of The Bonesetter's Daughter Opera, journalist and music critic Ken Smith traces the remarkable journey that led to this musical masterwork: from Wallace's collaboration with The Bonesetter's Daughter novelist turned librettist Amy Tan, to the assembly of an international team of talent, to the voyage through China that brought harmony to the music and visual direction of this deeply multicultural opera. In Smith's account we see, and in the score we hear, Wallace's uncommon genius. Rather than trying to impose his particular logic on the project, he exploited its illogic, fully embracing a post-modern aesthetic that would allow him to create a global mash-up of unprecedented scope, and undeniable bravery and power.
info_outline Episode 12: Mario Puzo 10/07/2008
Episode 12: Mario Puzo The story of Mario Puzo's (1920-1999) three residencies at Yaddo reveal as much about the man as his work. During his first two visits, in 1958 and 1960, Puzo labored over his 1965 novel The Fortunate Pilgrim, which until his death he considered his finest. It told the tale of a remarkable Italian-American matriarch named Lucia Santa, who held her family together through many New World travails. Puzo claimed the most admirable qualities of both Lucia Santa and his later creation Don Vito Corleone belonged to his own mother: "Whenever the Godfather opened his mouth," Puzo said, "in my mind I heard the voice of my mother." Ultimately, the culture that inspired his stories would also keep him from working successfully at Yaddo. Though he completed some work on The Godfather during his third stay, he cut the visit short."I was having a good time," he wrote to Executive Director Elizabeth Ames, "but for some reason I wasn't working too well. Probably because the older I get the more Italian-peasant I get and so I can't be happy unless I'm bossing a bunch of kids around and hearing a lot of noise." (works cited in podcast)
info_outline Episode 10: Langston Hughes 09/26/2008
Episode 10: Langston Hughes Langston Hughes's (1902-1967) life story is that of the fracturing and re-cementing of community. His parents separated when he was a child, and he spent his youth being shuffled between family members and family friends. Somehow, he profited by such dislocation, nurturing an intellectual restlessness that put him in contact with many artists of his generation, and ultimately made him a unifying force of the Harlem Renaissance. During this period of cultural flourishing, it seemed the Black culture might become part of the mainstream, but this dream came crashing to Earth along with the economy. There would not be another concerted effort to integrate African Americans into the mainstream until the 1940's. Yaddo would be in the vanguard in these efforts, extending residencies to Hughes and composer Nathaniel Dett in 1942. But even at Yaddo the transition proved difficult. Three board members resigned in response to Yaddo's decision to integrate, and certain tensions lingered during Hughes's stay. Hughes, however, harbored no ill will. Indeed, he fought to nurture the community of Yaddo, as he believed it had nurtured his work. In 1949, Yaddo Executive Director Elizabeth Ames was accused of conspiring to harbor Communists, and Hughes immediately came to her aid. The plan of action he devised helped Ames retain her position, and helped the Yaddo community avoid further fragmentation in a divisive era.
info_outline Episode 9: Rudolph Charles Von Ripper 09/25/2008
Episode 9: Rudolph Charles Von Ripper Nobleman, circus clown, soldier, and artist, Rudolph Charles Von Ripper (1905-1960) was one of the most remarkable creative spirits every to pass through Yaddo. He arrived in 1939 after being released from a concentration camp, but stayed only briefly. It seems he used his time at Yaddo like he used any brief pause in his life, as a moment to catch his breath before launching his next literal or figurative attack. He immediately enlisted in the United States Army, and fought bravely on the European front. He was shot in battle over twenty times, but soldiered on. While his personal heroics were the stuff of legend, his art may have been an even greater force in the war. When Time Magazine named Hitler Man of 1938, they chose Von Ripper's grim etching "Hymn of Hate" to grace the cover. With its gruesome Goya-esque imagery and bitter critique of the complacency of Europe's leaders, it was arguably a crucial first step in turning American opinion towards the war.
info_outline Episode 8: Janice Y.K. Lee 09/25/2008
Episode 8: Janice Y.K. Lee Before her 2002 residence at Yaddo, contemporary author Janice Lee had worked at Elle and Mirabella magazines as a books and features editor, and her writing had appeared in Elle, Mirabella, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour and Newsday, among others. But it was at Yaddo that she finally found the time, space, and artistic community that inspired her first novel. "My time at Yaddo was invaluable," Lee recalls, "because I was a young artist, without many publications to my name, and it was enormously helpful to be around other artists at different stages in their work. They provided a roadmap of possibilities and manifestations of what I could become.Being at Yaddo gave me the gift of time and place: time that had no constraints, save the limit of my stay, and a place where all I was obliged to do was work. I came away from my time at Yaddo with a reworked beginning to something that I was no longer afraid to call a novel." That novel, entitled The Piano Teacher, will be published in January, 2009 by Viking Press.
info_outline Episode 7: Patricia Highsmith 09/23/2008
Episode 7: Patricia Highsmith Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995), was one of many young authors who benefited from their residence at Yaddo to complete significant work on their first novel. During her 1948 stay, she polished what would be her brilliant 1950 debut Strangers on a Train, the dark tale of two men who meet during travel, and hatch a plan to swap mutually beneficial homicidesâa spouse for a parent. This tale might seem to play out some of Highsmith's own dark fantasies, for she was raised by a mother who claimed she wished she'd never had her, and a stepfather with whom Highsmith was alternately combative and complicit. But in fairness, crime was in the air in 1948. That year saw the release of such classic films noir as Key Largo, and The Naked City. Dorothy Hughes had just published In a Lonely Place and Cornell Woolrich published his masterpiece, Rendezvous in Black. No institution did more that year to nurture this most American of literary genres than Yaddo, hosting, in addition to Highsmith, Chester Himes and Flannery O'ConnorâHimes who would go on to write the Harlem Detective novels, O'Connor who was poised to pen "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."
info_outline Episode 6: Katrina Trask 09/22/2008
Episode 6: Katrina Trask Katrina Trask (1853-1922) was by any measure a remarkable woman. She was a poet, playwright and pacifistâand an indomitable soul. She and husband Spencer Trask experienced numerous triumphs and tragedies in their life together, but each time they were burned they rose again, phoenix-like, to greater heights. In 1880, they lost their eldest child. Looking to escape sad memories, and experience the healthful countryside, they purchased a large estate on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs, which their daughter dubbed Yaddo. The family spent six happy summers there before the remaining children were also lost to illness. Then, just a few years later, the Yaddo house burned to the ground. Remarkably, the Trasks fought on. In 1893 they completed the great Yaddo mansion, and Katrina began to host salons for artists and intellectuals of the day. Then, in 1899, she had a vision that upon their passing, Yaddo should be given over entirely to supporting the arts, that it would be "a gift to those gifted with creative power." In the end, Katrina Trask was not defined by human tragedy, but the triumph of her creative spirit.
info_outline Episode 5: Eudora Welty 09/19/2008
Episode 5: Eudora Welty Eudora Welty (1909-2001) was among those guests who found the Yaddo routine of imposed quiet hours for work to be stifling. Instead of using the summer of 1941 to write, she spent her time photographing the town of Saratoga Springs and the horse races at its famous track, and forming deep friendships with such artists as writer Katherine Anne Porter, visual artist Karnig Nalbandian, and composer and musicologist Collin McPhee. That summer taught her that not all periods in life can be highly productive: quiet, rest, and rejuvenation are equally important to living a full and quality life. Throughout her career, Welty seemed able to draw on this insight to give herself the time and space she needed to write beautifully, rather than abundantly.
info_outline Episode 4: Ralph Steiner 09/18/2008
Episode 4: Ralph Steiner In 1929, photographer and avant-garde filmmaker Ralph Steiner (1899-1986) came to Yaddo to further explore and refine his visionary photographic philosophies. The next year he would found, with director Paul Strand, the Film and Photo League, a radical organization of filmmakers and photographers that created politically-committed newsreels and photos in an intentionally primitive style to call attention to the plight of workers. While this, and subsequent groups founded by Steiner, fractured along ideological lines, Steiner continued to collaborate with other artists on nearly all of his major worksâseemingly in the model of inclusive interdisciplinarity he had learned at Yaddo. In 1939 Steiner worked with such talents as writer and director Pare Lorentz urban philosopher Lewis Mumford, director Willard Van Dyke, and composer and former Yaddo guest Aaron Copland to produce a film entitled The City for the 1939 World's Fair. It was the product of the very collaboration and cooperation it advocated, and to this day it remains among the most accomplished and passionate filmic arguments for social justice in America.