20th Century American Playwrights

Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee WilliamsEach week in "Culture Corner" we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art. This week we look at three of the most respected American playwrights of the 20th century: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill:

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Effective Ways to Encourage Quiet Book Club Members to Speak Up

Book clubs can be such a wonderful space for people to share their ideas; diverse viewpoints can lead to deeper and more valuable discussions that help us grow, both as individuals and as a society. 

But what do you do when people don't speak up? How do you encourage quiet members to contribute?

According to BookBrowse's research report, The Inner Lives of Book Clubs, 16% of people currently in a book club say their group has one or more members who rarely participate in the discussions. In most cases, the respondents express sadness and frustration saying that they would like to hear from these quieter members because their opinions and experiences are of value. After all, it's the active participation and communication of ideas that allows for meaningful discourse.

To better understand what to do (if anything), it's important to look at the reasons why a book club member might be staying silent.

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Culture Corner: The Influence of Edward Hopper

Each week, we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art. This week we look at the influence of renowned American artist Edward Hopper.

A large part of the mystique of Edward Hopper (1882-1967) is that he was entirely self-trained and possessed a preternatural gift for art; a perception that Hopper himself reinforced saying, "The only real influence I've ever had was myself." So, it came as a shock to many when, a couple of weeks ago, Louis Shadwick, a PhD student at the Courtauld Institute of Art published the findings of his research proving that at least four of Hopper's early oil paintings were copied from other sources, including instructional art magazines. This discovery also undermines the previously held perception that Hopper's earliest works were inspired by local scenes of his childhood in Nyack, New York.

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The Pyramids, Hamilton's New York and Dame Edith Sitwell

Edith SitwellEach week, we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art. This week we suggest:

  • A self-guided tour of the Pyramids of Giza courtesy of Google. Then, for extra credit join the more than 120,000 already signed up to take Harvard's free course: Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology which started Oct 1.
  • Virtually wander the 18th century sidewalks that Alexander Hamilton trod in "the greatest city in the world." Hamilton fans and history buffs can explore the theatre district and New York City from their couches October 7 and 14 during a two-part HamilTour (cost $22 for both tours).
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French Romance: Opera, Artists and Architecture

In our weekly "Culture Corner" we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art. This week we suggest:

  • The Royal Opera House's cabaret-inspired production of Georges Bizet's Carmen which is available through Oct 17. This 2018 production divided opinion, some loved it, others found it bizarre, not least due to Carmen's first appearance wearing a gorilla suit (apparently a reference to Marlene Dietrich singing the song "Hot Voodoo" in a gorilla suit in the film Blonde Venus.) For just £3 or US$3.20 you can judge for yourself. Or, if you prefer a more traditional performance, head for the Vienna State Opera.

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Culture Corner: Indian dance, the Taj Mahal and National Museum

Each week, we're sharing cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art.

This week we suggest you explore the rich history of Indian dance with a short introductory video mostly focused on the Bharatanatyam tradition, one of eight dance styles recognized by India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama. Sometimes written as one word, sometimes two, Bharata natyam is a modern descriptor consisting of the first letters of bhava (emotions), raga (melody) and tala (rhythm), coupled with natya, the Sanskrit word for dance. With its roots in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, it is generally considered the oldest classical dance style in India, dating back to at least the 2nd century AD. There are many amazing performances available on YouTube including this.

Conventionally, Bharata natyam was a solo dance performed by women used to illustrate stories from the Hindu religious texts. Then, in 1910, the colonial British government banned temple dancing and the Indian community pushed back, embracing the form and expanding it outside the temples and across the country. Today, Bharatanatyam is a staple of popular dance and Bollywood movies, for example the 2016 time-traveling romance Baar Baar Dekho (Look Again and Again) which earned over 55 crore (US$650) at the box office. If you're in the mood to give Bollywood dance a go yourself, try this Bollywood dance workout!

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