Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

Saturday Night Live and The Second City comedy enterprises have announced the recipients of a new training scholarship for diverse, emerging talent. From a pool of some 1,300 applicants, four up and coming comedians were selected: Alexi Bolden, Gabriella "Gabi" Castillo, Kaili Turner and Morgan Van Dyne. The scholarships will cover all of their performance and writing training at Second City and give them access to SNL talent executives.

This weekend, you can see actor Wendell Pierce star in a new production that is streaming for free online. "The thing I love about the play is: not often do you see Black men just love each other and work through the difficulties of that love," Pierce says.

The actor and singer Sam Harris had a well-received show Off-Broadway called "Ham: A Musical Memoir," and a live capture of that show when it played  on the West Coast is now streaming. Theater Critic Howard Shapiro reviews the show this week on In a Broadway Minute Friday (1/15) at 8 am and Saturday (1/16) at 10 am.

As with the rest of their seasons, orchestras have been working with their community partners to bring annual tribute concerts for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday online, and A Tempo this Saturday (1/16 at 7 pm) looks at two orchestras' plans. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Doris Parent, Vice President of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Strategies and Strategic Partnerships with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Kimberly Kraft McLemore, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony, about their plans.

The annual Kennedy Center Honorees have been announced: choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen; singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks; violinist Midori; and actor Dick Van Dyke.

The new show "Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical" generated lots of excitement when it streamed for only three days last weekend. It's the first-ever musical created by a social media crowd source. Hear more about the show and how it came to be on In a Broadway Minute with Theater Critic Howard Shapiro this Friday (1/8) at 8 am and Saturday (1/9) at 10 am.

Arts and culture make up a huge, $877 billion industry that generates more than five million jobs across the country. But the amount of federal funding for the arts is tiny when compared with smaller industries like agriculture — so what are arts organizations hoping for under the Biden administration?

As opera companies roll out 2021 programming, many of the productions were totally conceived of and created in the era of Covid-19, with its restrictions on live performances and the shift to screens and devices. A Tempo this Saturday (1/9 at 7 pm) looks at some upcoming events at Opera Philadelphia and Prototype 2021 Festival. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Opera Philadelphia General Director David Devan about its upcoming showing of Lee Hoiby's Bon Appetit, starring Jamie Barton as Julia Child, which is also serving as a fundraiser and runs Jan.

Courtesy of Lisa Bielawa

Throughout 2020, musicians sought various ways to capture the sounds, thoughts and experiences of 2020, from the isolation and loss of Covid-19 to the outburst of frustration, anger and desire for social justice that emerged after the killing of George Floyd.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

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Broadway star Rebecca Luker has died of complications from ALS. She and her husband also had COVID-19 earlier this year.

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When Dan Moller, a philosophy professor at the University of Maryland with a particular fondness for heavy metal, decided to tackle J.S. Bach's Fugue in C Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier, he found himself on a three-year deep dive not only into piano pedagogy, but also into the composer's life and music. Moller chronicles his musings and discoveries in a recently published book, "They Way of Bach: Three Years with the Man, the Music and the Piano," combining reverence for the composer and music with humor, insight and an occasionally unorthodox approach to classical music.

The year 2020 was, in so many ways, divided. In terms of live performances, musicians were forced to reinvent, reflect and respond from a distance and in turn I watched their concerts from the remove of my laptop screen.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was August Wilson's first Broadway hit — and a preamble to his cycle of award-winning plays about the African-American experience across the 20th Century that included Fences and The Piano Lesson.

Now Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the first of the late playwright's works to be adapted for Netflixpremiering Dec. 18.

Two-hundred-fifty years ago, a musical maverick was born. Ludwig van Beethoven charted a powerful new course in music. His ideas may have been rooted in the work of European predecessors Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Josef Haydn, but the iconic German composer became who he was with the help of some familiar American values: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In the weeks after this year's Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans experienced one of the most explosive COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. Since then, music has largely been missing from a city that depends on it.

Parades have been canceled for the upcoming Mardi Gras season and indoor performances are prohibited. Outdoor performances, no matter how small, require a permit. The restrictions, meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus, have devastated professional musicians and affected other aspects of the city's vibrant music scene, including education.

Tony-winning legend and dance icon Ann Reinking died on Saturday, family members confirmed to news outlets on Monday. She was 71.

"The world and our family have lost a vibrant, amazing talent and beautiful soul. Ann was the heart of our family and the life of the party," her family said in a statement, as reported by Variety.

The Broadway musical called "The Prom" looks at a tiny town where the senior prom is cancelled after a lesbian student says she intends to bring her girlfriend as her date. Now the show has been turned into a star-studded musical for Netflix. Hear Theater Critic Howard Shapiro's review of the film this week on In a Broadway Minute, Friday (12/11) at 8 am and Saturday (12/12) at 10 am.

Many performing arts organizations have had to re-think their annual holiday traditions, including Messiah performances and family concerts, because of the restrictions on live performances and public gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic. A Tempo this Saturday (12/12 at 7 pm) checks in with Trinity-Wall Street and the Philadelphia Orchestra to learn about their revised and re-imagined plans for holiday specials.

This has been a booming year for composer John Luther Adams. His 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral work Become Ocean has been re-released as part of a trilogy. Recordings of new string quartets have just come out. And he's just published a memoir, Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska. The title was inspired by a line in "Listening in October," a poem from the late John Haines:

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Photo by Jorge Cousineau

Since 1992, Westminster Choir College has brought music of the season to the community through its annual Readings and Carols, which has become a highly anticipated part of the holiday season for those in the Princeton, NJ area. This year has brought challenges to the school, including its move by Rider University to Rider's Lawrenceville campus and restrictions on large gatherings and live performances.

Jazz Standard, a perennial favorite New York City venue for musicians and fans alike, has shut its doors. It is the first major jazz club in the city to close permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The basement club first opened in 1997, but was re-opened in 2002 along with a sister barbecue restaurant upstairs, Blue Smoke Flatiron, as the city staggered back to its feet in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Both the club and the restaurant are owned by restaurateur Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group.

Normally, family audiences would be flocking to see A Christmas Carol at Chicago's Goodman Theatre at this time of year. But as we all know, 2020 is anything but normal, especially when it comes to holiday traditions.

The Goodman has been putting on the Dickens work for 40 years. Boston's Handel and Haydn Society has presented the Messiah during the holiday season since 1854. And then, of course, there's The Nutcracker, a staple for ballet companies.