WNPR Arts and culture reporting focuses on the world of ideas in fine art, crafts, writing, music, theater, performance, design and creative activities that make us unique and make us human

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America has seen a renaissance in storytelling of various forms, especially on the radio. This hour, we talk with two producers who are telling very different kinds of stories. Joe Richman has been putting tape recorders in the hands of people for nearly two decades as part of his Radio Diaries series heard on NPR. He's speaking at Quinnipiac University this week.

Stacy Spensley / Creative Commons

In 24 hours, UConn freshman Luke Gatti became a viral video sensation. By now, millions have turned on their computers to watch the apparently-intoxicated 19-year-old taunting and shoving a UConn food court manger. Over what? Mac 'n cheese, of course. 

It's Oct. 1, two days before the season's first Saturday Night Live goes on air. Guest host Miley Cyrus is rehearsing, rumors are flying that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is going to be on the show — and executive producer Lorne Michaels is in his office overlooking studio 8H, worrying.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

A new work premieres in Hartford this weekend that has a fresh and inspiring take on traditional opera. The performance even takes on a science fiction feel. 

Wikimedia Commons

Philippe Petit made his walk between the towers of the World Trade Center over 40 years ago. He stayed up on that wire for 45 minutes, made 8 passes between the towers, got down on his knees, and he even laid down on it! But it's more than that one feat - it was a placeholder for a much broader philosophy of risk and creativity, and evidence of who the man really is.

Eric Devine

If you love traditional jazz and an amicable, intimate setting where you can schmooze and nosh at ease with your favorite performers, you should be right at home at Jeff and Joel’s House Party, a vintage music bash that runs full steam ahead from Friday, October 9, through Sunday, October 11, at the VFW Hall, 104 Mill Road in Guilford.

What's In a Title?

Oct 6, 2015
Eon Productions, MGM

The opening credits of your favorite movies and television shows set the mood, tone, and characters for what's to come, and allow you to relax and get ready for the show. Some fast-forward through the opening credits to avoid distraction from the main performance. Others say title sequences are supposed to be more like a score: felt, but not noticed. 

The film industry first fell in love with titles in the 1950s, when iconic opening sequences from Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" and Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" were etched deep in our memories. The opening notes are still recognizable half a century later. The same can be said for the well-known HBO series "Game of Thrones." 

Natalie Maynor / flickr creative commons

Thai basil chicken… joyful chocolate almond bars… no-bake cake… sweet potato and ground turkey shepherd's pie… it's all in the new book The Science of Skinny Cookbook, produced by the scientist Dee McCaffrey, who eliminated synthetic chemicals from her diet and went from obese to slender. Now she offers the recipes that have made her plan a success…

DonkeyHotey / Creative Commons

This week, Pope Francis was the biggest thing to hit America since the British Invasion. You could buy Pope-themed dolls, cookies with the Pope's face, hats, coffee mugs, backpacks, and even a Pope Bobblehead.

It was the pope's first visit to the U.S., and he seemed eager and happy to be here. He spoke passionately about the poor, climate change, and the migrant crisis, and cautioned against religious extremism. It has left some people wondering why he met privately and secretly with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refuses to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“I can look out my window next to my desk and see where my grandfather was born on Ferry Street and where my mother was born on Garden Court Street,” says the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. “My father was born on Meridian Street in East Boston.”

Those words are from a Kennedy oral history, recorded in 2005 by scholars from the University of Virginia.

The Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train in Lincoln is exactly that.  Part train, part restaurant, the Cafe rolls down 20 miles of track serving five course meals to passengers over a 2 hour trip. NHPR's Sean Hurley rode along on this moveable feast on rails and sends us this.  

Thirdangel / Creative Commons

While lawn care is on many homeowners’ minds this time of year, another type of grass should also be considered.

Ornamental grasses are popular for good reason. They are fast growers with beautiful leaves, and most importantly, attractive flower heads that are also good as cut flowers. They bloom now and stay beautiful into winter.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Alan Doyle is best known as lead singer of the internationally acclaimed band Great Big Sea. Recently, however, he's been touring with a different act: Alan Doyle and The Beautiful Gypsies

The Most Powerful Hollywood Agent of the '70s

Oct 1, 2015
courtesy of Joanna Poitier

Sue Mengers was a Hollywood legend. She broke the conventional mold for women in show business and became one of the most powerful talent agents in Hollywood during the 1970s. Her client list read like a Who’s Who of the most sought-after actors in the business: Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Ryan O’Neal, Diana Ross, Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, and the list goes on. Like many ambitious young women in the ‘50s, Mengers started out as a secretary for a talent agent and then climbed the ladder, a ladder that she made herself, into the top echelon of agents and talent representatives in the country. 

Robert Benson Photography

A new play premieres this weekend as part of a gala event celebrating the hundredth anniversary of a synagogue in Chester, Connecticut called Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek.

The play is called “100 Years in 36 Minutes.” Its co-writer, Lary Bloom, came to the WNPR studios earlier this week to talk about it.

Doreen Cooney has owned the Deerfield Valley Inn in West Dover for 17 years and she is ready to try something new.

She put the property on the market last year, and after a pending deal with a potential buyer fell through she decided she would try something different to help her get out of the bed and breakfast business:

Cooney wants to give away the historic Deerfield Valley Inn.

Foliage season is always a busy time in Stowe but this season the town may see even more leaf peepers, after landing on top of TripAdvisor's top 10 list of U.S. fall foliage destinations.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, speaking during a rare press conference Tuesday, said for him one of the highlights of Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S. came in Philadelphia, when he met with victims of sexual abuse by priests.

The former estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edith Wharton is debt free for the first time in decades.

Tom Hopkins

His new book is just out, Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen… his salmon tostadas are the fastest appetizer around… and don't miss his baked potatoes escargot—stuffed with snails, scallops or shrimp, and a drizzle of buttery garlic sauce…

Courtesy Atla DeChamplain

Atla and Matt DeChamplain, former high school sweethearts who have become one of Connecticut’s premier jazz power couples, debut their first album done together at a festive CD release concert on Friday, October 2, with shows at 7:00 and 9:00 pm at the Palace Theater Poli Club at 100 East Main Street in Waterbury.

Woodley Wonder Works / Creative Commons


We've been talking a lot over this last year about problems like misogyny and violence in football, rape on college campuses, mass shootings, and increasing rates of suicide and addiction. What we don't say is that men are the victims of these behaviors as much as women, albeit in different ways. 

We often look for explanations in mental health, failed policy, or lax laws. But men overwhelmingly engage in these behaviors. Why are we reluctant to discuss what society expects from men, and whether those expectations are realistic? 

Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, puppetry artist Basil Twist and neuroscientist Beth Stevens work in wholly unrelated fields, but they do have at least one thing in common.

Along with 21 others, they are winners of the 2015 "genius" grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader recently opened a museum filled with items like defective toys and unsafe machines all tied together under a unifying theme: tort law.

Unless you're a lawyer, you might not quite know the exact meaning of the word tort.

"It's a wrongful injury," Nader says. "It's a wrongful act that injures people and deserves a remedy."

Games for Change / Creative Commons

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, and Sheryl WuDunn were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Their latest book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity looks at people with great ideas who are making the world a better place and calls upon all of us to do our part.

Walking With Dante

Sep 28, 2015
Freeparking :-I / Creative Commons

"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of Dante Aligheri's 14,000 line epic poem, The Divine Comedy. But it's only the first part of Dante's long pilgrimage through the afterlife. He first enters the circles of hell, filled with beasts and sinners doomed to the Inferno for crimes like gluttony, lust, and treason. 

Gerry Lauzon / Creative Commons

Volkswagen is having a moment. Not a good moment, but it's certainly a moment. VW owners are glaring at their vehicles with suspicion after it was revealed the automaker's diesel vehicles were designed to cheat on emissions tests.

Hopefully, VW is not capturing its moment with a selfie because that could be deadly. Plus, selfies are so easy to take, a monkey can do it and maybe even make some money from it.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Raouf Mama is a beloved storyteller by children and adults familiar with his books Why Goats Smell Bad and Why Monkeys Live in TreesHis love of storytelling stems from a long and honorable oral tradition that goes back to the ancient empire of Mali, when people preserved the lessons of life in memory instead of on the written page.

Raouf says we each have a story of belonging and identity. He uses his stories to entertain, comfort, and most of all as a tool to enlighten students.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

A new arts season dawns. And despite the lingering cloud of the Hartford Symphony labor impasse – it originally looked like the HSO season-opening concerts might be lost, but in fact they will go on as scheduled – the new cycle brings a reassuringly plentiful supply of music, both familiar and challenging.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I first met cartoonist Bill Griffith back in the 1980s. I arranged for us to tour a Boston-area Hostess Twinkie plant, which sounds like a weird first date but makes perfect sense if you're familiar with his creation "Zippy the Pinhead," an unwitting surrealist who swims happily through a sea of taco sauce, processed cheese and, well, Twinkies.