Arts/Culture

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

JJ Georges / Creative Commons

Casting is an underrated art. There used to be an Academy Award for it, and there probably still should be. We honor actors, but not the people who pick the perfect actor for the role, so that actor doesn't have to act quite so much.

"Downton Abbey" is immaculately cast, and the choice of Elizabeth McGovern to play Cora, the Countess of Grantham, seems especially nuanced and inspired. Cora is an American Jew, a transplant to English nobility, who wears all the status and tradition comfortably without fully buying into it. McGovern herself is a transplant, married to a British director for 22 years, long enough to slip effortlessly into Cora's skin.

Ken Hawkins / Creative Commons

The Scramble reacts to new developments in the University of Virginia case of alleged sexual assault and Rolling Stone’s concern about some its reporting. 

Then there's a second magazine story: what’s behind the mass -- and we do mean mass -- resignations at The New Republic. Most of its full-time staff and stable of contributing editors quit on the same day. Why?

Phil Whitehouse / Creative Commons

It seems that all too often, bosses get a bum rap from their employees. But why?

This hour, we talk to management expert Bruce Tulgan about his new book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems. We learn about some of the challenges managers come up against in the workplace, and find out some of the best ways to handle them.

Busy Sidewalks and Wonderful Memories

Dec 5, 2014
The Connecticut Historical Society, Ephemera Collection

Right after Thanksgiving, G. Fox & Company decorated their magnificent store. People from across the state drove into Hartford just to marvel at the marquee. In the 1950s it featured big candles and colorful boxes. However, the marquee most people remember was the charming Colonial Village. The village included small replicas of Colonial churches and houses from across Connecticut. The front display windows were also festive and inviting. Children pressed their noses to the glass to get a better look at the brightly lit mechanical ice skating animals.

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Work songs can be found around the world, sung by a variety of laborers from field workers to fishermen. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

We. Are. Obsessed. When you watch the news, scroll through Facebook, check in on Twitter, everybody always seems to be talking about the same things: From Peter Pan to Bill Cosby, from cronuts to Kardashians, from Michael Brown to Serial, we are increasingly collectively obsessed. What's behind that? Speaking of obsessions, we'll also take a long look at hate-watching last night's live Peter Pan on NBC, and how they dealt with Native American stereotypes.

Connecticut Lyric Opera

Grand opera returns to Hartford after a five-year hiatus.

Shubert Theater / Facebook

This year marks the 100th anniversary of New Haven’s Shubert Theater. 

Toby Simkin/flickr creative commons

If you charted the course of American musicals, a major stop on this extraordinary journey would be The Shubert Theater in New Haven. The Shubert was considered Broadway's try-out house, a stop where our local audiences determined whether New York producers had a hit or a disaster on their hands. How did this happen? Who got the nod and who earned thumbs down? 

Bill Morgan Media, LLC

Thanksgiving week brought a brief lull, but from now until Christmas, the local concert schedule is busier than a Rich Rosenthal eatery.

Elana Amsterdam/flickr creative commons

On the menu... How to make superb steak with velvety peppercorn sauce... the perfect affordable holiday Bordeaux... Spiked Coquito and egg nog... how one of the best food magazine editors learned to correct all her mistakes (and you can, too)... plus holiday gift ideas for food-lovers...

Chion Wolf

In a recent essay in the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks contrasted E.L. James, who wrote "50 Shades of Grey," with Haruki Murakami, a more critically-acclaimed literary novelist. Parks wrote that  both addressed "the individuals need to negotiate the most intimate relationships in order to get the most from life without losing independence and selfhood." Wow.

Lee Everett / Fine Line

Packed with top regional instrumentalist/composers, The New England Jazz Ensemble has long been a band for all seasons, a non-profit collective of devoted modern jazz practitioners who are also right at home celebrating traditional Christmas fare in the bright, bona fide spirit of jazz.

Nathan Turner / Litchfield Jazz Festival

Several performing arts and literary publications in Connecticut have been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, totaling $290,000.

Want to play a Tiny Desk Concert? Now's your chance: NPR Music and Lagunitas are holding a contest, and the winner gets to perform at my desk here at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

For centuries, female composers have often found themselves overshadowed by their male counterparts. Take Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Anna Magdalena Bach, and Alma Mahler, for example. Their names don't roll off the tongue quite as easily as Felix Mendelssohn, J.S. Bach, and Gustav Mahler's do. 

But why?

Soggydan Benenovitch/flickr creative commons

It's an ingenious recipe collection from a longtime dog lover and legendary cookbook editor, Judith Jones. Combing her two passions, Jones has written Love Me, Feed Me, her new book of tasty meals humans can make for themselves and share with their dogs.

b1ue5ky/flickr creative commons

Barking, fleas, Lyme disease, pet food, biting, housebreaking, shyness, pet insurance, animal rescue. Top flight advice from vet Dr. Todd Friedland. Don't miss his adventures with animals of all kinds.

Steve Metcalf's provocative list of top pop Christmas songs no doubt shattered the calm of many a holiday gathering.  One of his indisputable assertions was that "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is "the most recent pop specimen to become a true, authentic, undisputed, genre-crossing, multi-generational, stand-around-a-piano-and-sing-and-know-at-least-most-of-the-lyrics Christmas hit standard. "

The Interstate Highway System Comes to Hartford

Nov 28, 2014
Connecticut Historical Society, 2003.191.4

Beginning in the mid-1930s, state and federal governments examined ways to improve road transportation around the country. While some federal roads linked major population centers, most areas still struggled with a variety of state, county and town roads, ranging in condition from decent to abominable. With the run-up to World War II the federal government looked for ways to improve transportation that would be needed if the U.S. went to war. 

Marta Crowe / Creative Commons

Last week, while discussing some of classical music’s great Christmas works, I casually mentioned that I might want to extend the conversation to the pop music side.

Allen/flickr creative commons

On the menu... our craziest holiday kitchen disasters; misery loves company. Kitchen disasters occur among the most experienced cooks, so no need to get stressed.

Deneka Peniston

With a new CD just released and herself ensconced in the middle of an extended, plum engagement at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel, Allegra Levy has many triumphant thoughts to savor. The savvy 24-year-old singer/songwriter from West Hartford flies home more than 8,000 miles for a quick stateside visit to promote her debut album in two performances, one in New York City, the other in Hartford.

The Internet radio service Pandora made its name by creating personalized stations using tools such as "like" and "dislike" buttons for listeners. But a deal between Pandora and a group of record labels has raised concerns that the company is favoring certain songs over others because it's paying the musicians behind those songs a smaller royalty.

When Pandora emerged a decade ago, its big selling point over traditional radio was that it created a station just for you, as the company's Eric Bieschke told NPR last year.

It's like the start of a bad joke: a vegan, a gluten-free and a paleo walk into a bar — except it's your house, and they're gathered around your Thanksgiving table.

More and more Americans are passing on gluten — some for medical reasons, most by choice. Others are adopting diets that exclude meat, or insisting on the kinds of unprocessed foods that early man would have hunted and gathered.

All of this is a challenge to the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Chion Wolf

Food is so personal. You put it in your mouth. You probably even have very specific ways of putting it in your mouth.

One of our guests today, Dan Pashman, would want to know for example, whether when you get your movie popcorn you maybe eat a piece or two just dipping your head down to the container popcorn while you're walking from the snack bar to the screening room and if so, do you snare it bullfrog style, sticking it to your tongue as you lift it away.

Manfred Werner / Creative Commons

On the Monday Scramble, we're all about helping you survive the holidays. 

Let's say you've got a long -- maybe eight hours! -- drive ahead of you. God forbid you should talk. So what will you listen to? Audiobook? Podcast? Music? We know this married couple, Amanda and Neil. She's mostly a musician. He's mostly a writer. This hour, we imagine that eight-hour drive and let each of them program four hours of it.

The Most Modern Room in the House

Nov 21, 2014

In a November 1934 article, Agnes Heisler Barton recognized the kitchen as the most modern room in the house.  Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, kitchens changed more radically than other rooms.  The styles of chairs and other furnishings might change, but a new appliance for cooking might easily be a brand new invention.

Institute for Community Research

The patchwork of Connecticut is one of incredible intricacy and texture, stitched together by the stories of the people that have come to call our small state home. The Hudson family of Bristol has one such story.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

When Laura and Joe Hudson moved to Bristol, Connecticut, they brought with them some of their Southern traditions. 

For Laura, that tradition was quilt-making. For Joe, it was singing gospel music. 

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