Alex Roe and Brad Fraizer for “One Third of a Nation” at the Metropolitan Playhouse
April 28, 2011, 12:00 am
Filed under: Theater | Tags:

I first heard of the Metropolitan Playhouse in one of my classes; it was presented as a great place to see productions of historical works of American theater. When I looked it up, I was immediately intrigued by the description of a play they were going to put on, One Third of a Nation, which was described as a revival of a living newspaper.

I’d heard that term once before; during a discussion about a project of creating an opera based on the news, built from reporting by actual journalists who would be members of the creative team, Chuck Furlong, host of The Doppler Effect, mentioned the New Deal’s Living Newspaper Unit as one of the previous incarnations of that concept. My curiosity was piqued then, and once I found out, through a little Internet research about the Metropolitan Playhouse, I could organize to talk about how these staged documentaries are put on, I jumped on the occasion.

Alex Roe and Brad Fraizer, respectively the director and the role of The Little Man in One Third of a Nation, came into the studio a couple of weeks ago and during our conversation, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad when I thought about how hard a project like the Living Newspaper Unit would need to fight in order to be funded by government today. Not that it was a walk in the park to fund these projects then, but uniting social action and art in this way appears to be a concern that is far from crucial in political discourse today.

I first learned about theater and storytelling as a kid in French public schools, where playwright Molière and poet La Fontaine are presented as gods (I am barely exaggerating). Every year, they come up in the curriculum and we are asked to evaluate the efficacy of instruction/push towards social awareness through entertainment. So a play like One Third of a Nation, which uses a vaudevillian style to discuss issues of the housing system in the 1930s, seems to fall directly into that philosophy of theater. How could I not want to have them on the show?

For the history buffs, here is a link to FDR’s Second Inaugural Address, the speech from which Arthur Arent, the author of One Third of A Nation, got the play’s title:

For more information about tickets to One Third of a Nation, which opens on Friday, April 29th and runs until May 22nd, you can visit the theater’s website,


PEN World Voices Festival
April 23, 2011, 5:55 am
Filed under: Literature, New York City | Tags:

This week I had Jakab Orsos and Michael F. Moore in the studio to talk about the PEN World Voices Festival.  Jakab, first-time director of the Festival, and Michael, a translator from Italian and member of the PEN Translation Committee, came in loaded to discuss some pretty intense and interesting issues, including the role of the public intellectual in today’s society and translator rights.

This year’s Festival includes discussions on everything from David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel, The Pale King, to a roundtable discussion on the legal and moral ramifications of making classified information accesible to the public.  Some specific Festival events include “Poetry: The Second Skin”, described to me only as a “literary extravaganza” exploring the music in poetry and the poetry in music,hosted by Laurie Anderson, and “Written on Water”, the opening night reception to be held in the Chelsea Piers Lighthouse and featuring readers like Malcolm Gladwell and Deborah Eisenberg.  Also, if you live in the Highline/Standard area or are attending the Festival, don’t be surprised if you run into Harold Bloom, Jonathan Frazen, or Yusef Komunyakaa.

PEN is an international literary and human rights organization.  Salmon Rushdie is currently serving as PEN president, following the likes of Arthur Miller, Normal Mailer and Susan Sontag.  The PEN World Voices Festival will be taking place around New York City from April 25-May 1.


Lyle Ashton Harris and Excessive Exposure
April 14, 2011, 12:01 am
Filed under: Art | Tags:

Chuck Close, Lyle, 2006

One of the DJs at the station, Jonathan Gean, host of Cloud Doctrine on Tuesday nights, told me when I said I was interviewing Lyle Ashton Harris that he spoke “very intensely.” Jonathan is one Lyle’s students here at NYU. I didn’t really know what he meant by that description then, and now, I’m not sure we define “intensity” the same way but I still think that depiction is pretty accurate.

I’ve not yet met anyone who approached an interview the way Lyle did. Like many who have come to Citywide, he had a few notes with him in order to prevent any blanks but he’s the only person who has ever asked how he did and what he needed to improve. I always expect to be the one judged for my interview skills but turning the question around put me off. In retrospect, it makes sense that Lyle would turn the process around. After all, Excessive Exposure, with its 200 hundred chocolate Polaroid portraits, its essays by Okwui Enwezor and Henry Louis Gates Jr and an interview between Lyle and Chuck Close, is all about exploring identity and the self as well as confronting yourself with your own raw image.

For more information on Lyle and samples of his work, you can visit his website, You can find Excessive Exposure online and in your local bookstores.

Sedera Ranaivoarinosy