Tag Archives: to kill a mockingbird

New adaptation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ heads to Broadway

Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — and its now-somewhat sullied hero Atticus Finch — are heading to Broadway in a new adaptation written by Aaron Sorkin.

Producer Scott Rudin said Wednesday the play will land during the 2017-2018 season under the direction of Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, who is represented on Broadway now with the brilliant revivals of “The King and I” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” No casting was revealed.

Sorkin’s plays include “A Few Good Men” and “The Farnsworth Invention.” He won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his screenplay for “The Social Network,” which Rudin produced, along with Sorkin’s other films “Steve Jobs” and “Moneyball.”

The book has been made the leap to the stage before, including a 1991 adaptation by Christopher Sergel, which premiered at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. There also was a production in 2013 that had a run at London’s Barbican Theatre with Robert Sean Leonard in the role of Finch, the noble widower and lawyer called upon to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman in Depression-era Alabama. This new version will mark the story’s Broadway debut.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” published in 1960, introduced Finch, Scout, Boo Radley and other beloved literary characters. The book was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus and has become standard reading in schools and other reading programs, with worldwide sales topping 40 million copies.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and widely praised as a sensitive portrait of racial tension as seen through the eyes of a child in 1930s Alabama, it also has been criticized as sentimental and paternalistic.

Last year saw the publication of Lee’s recently discovered manuscript, “Go Set a Watchman,” described as a first draft of the story that evolved into “Mockingbird.” Critics and readers were startled to find the heroic Atticus of “Mockingbird” disparaging blacks and condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.

New Harper Lee book already million seller

Critics dismissed it as a rough draft for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and readers despaired over an aging, racist Atticus Finch.

But Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” is still a million seller.

HarperCollins announced this week that “Go Set a Watchman” in its combined print, electronic and audio formats has sold 1.1 million copies in the U.S. and Canada, a figure which includes first-week sales and months of pre-orders. The publisher stunned the world in February when it revealed that a second novel was coming from Lee, who had long insisted that “To Kill a Mockingbird” would be her only book.

HarperCollins, where authors have included Michael Crichton and Veronica Roth, is calling “Watchman” its fastest seller in history. Other books have sold much faster: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” published in the U.S. by Scholastic in 2007, sold 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours.

“Watchman” was released July 14 and as of early Monday remains at No. 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, with “Mockingbird” also in the top 10. HarperCollins has increased an initial print run of 2 million copies for “Watchman” to 3.3 million.

“Watchman” was completed before Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Mockingbird,” but is set in the same Alabama community 20 years later. Critics and readers were startled to find the heroic Atticus of “Mockingbird” disparaging blacks and condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.

Questions about the book arose almost immediately after HarperCollins announced it, with Lee scholars noting that “Watchman” was the work of a young and inexperienced author and friends and admirers of the  89-year-old author worrying that the book had been approved without her participation. State officials in Lee’s native Alabama, where she resides in an assisted living facility, met with her and concluded she was alert and able to make decisions about “Watchman,” which Lee attorney Tonja Carter has said she discovered last year.

Harper Lee’s new novel is a story of lost innocence

Like her classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Harper Lee novel out on July 14 is a coming of age story.

And not just for Scout Finch.

“Go Set a Watchman” is set in the famous fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the mid-1950s, 20 years after “To Kill a Mockingbird” takes place. Scout Finch, now a grown woman known by her given name Jean Louise, is visiting from New York, unsure of whether to marry a local suitor who she has known since childhood and enduring a painful contrast between her new life and the ways of her hometown.

Scout is no longer the tomboy we know from “Mockingbird,” but has transformed from an “overalled, fractious, gun-slinging creature into a reasonable facsimile of a human being.” She is “oppressed” by Maycomb, finds it petty and provincial. And she is shaken by the response to Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954 that declared segregation in schools is “inherently unequal.”

There is nervous talk of blacks holding public office, and marrying whites. One prominent resident warns Scout that the court moved too quickly, that blacks aren’t ready for full equality and the South has every right to object to interference from the NAACP and others.

“Can you blame the South for resenting being told what to do about its own people by people who have no idea of its daily problems?” he says.

That resident, to the profound dismay of his daughter, and likely to millions of “Mockingbird” readers, is Atticus Finch.

“First Woody Allen, then Bill Cosby, now Atticus Finch,” tweeted New Republic senior editor Herr Jeet, responding to early reports about the book. “You can’t trust anyone anymore.”

In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, Atticus risks his physical safety to defend a black man accused of rape. He invokes the Declaration of Independence during the trial and argues for the sanctity of the legal system. Privately, he wonders why “reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up.”

“I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough,” he says, referring to Jean Louise and her older brother.

In “Go Set a Watchman,” a 72-year-old Atticus laments the Supreme Court ruling and invokes the supposed horrors of Reconstruction as he imagines “state governments run by people who don’t know how to run ‘em.”

A tearful Scout tells the man she worshipped growing up: “You’re the only person I’ve ever fully trusted and now I’m done for.”

Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, said she discovered the book last year. It has been called by Amazon.com its most popular pre-order since the last Harry Potter story.  Anticipating fierce resistance to the portrayal of Atticus, publisher HarperCollins issued a statement late Friday.

“The question of Atticus’s racism is one of the most important and critical elements in this novel, and it should be considered in the context of the book’s broader moral themes,” the statement reads.

“’Go Set a Watchman’ explores racism and changing attitudes in the South during the 1950s in a bold and unflinching way.”

Lee is 89, living in an assisted facility in her native Monroeville, Alabama, and has not spoken to the media in decades. In a statement issued in February, when her publisher stunned the world by announcing a second Lee novel was coming, she noted that “Watchman” was the original story.

“My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) from the point of view of the young Scout,” she said.

HarperCollins has said “Watchman” is unaltered from Lee’s initial draft.

The current book will certainly raise questions, only some of which only Lee can answer. Why did she approve the book’s release after seemingly accepting, even welcoming, the fact that “Mockingbird” would be her only novel?  How well does she remember its contents? Did her editor resist because of its political content? How autobiographical is “Watchman,” which roughly follows the path of Lee’s life in the 1950s? Does she consider the Atticus of “Watchman” more “real” than the courageous attorney of “Mockingbird”?

And how surprised should any of us be?

Atticus is hardly the only old man to fear change, or seemingly enlightened white to reveal common prejudices. Around the time Lee was working on “Watchman,” an essay by Nobel laureate William Faulkner was published in Life magazine. Faulkner had long been considered a moderate on race, praised for novels that challenged the South to confront its past. But in “A Letter to the North,” he sounds like Atticus as he considers the impact of the Supreme Court ruling.

“I have been on record as opposing the forces in my native country which would keep the condition out of which this present evil and trouble has grown. Now I must go on record as opposing the forces outside the South which would use legal or police compulsion to eradicate that evil overnight,” he wrote.

“I was against compulsory segregation. I am just as strongly against compulsory integration. … So I would say to the NAACP and all the organizations who would compel immediate and unconditional integration ‘Go slow now. Stop now for a time, a moment.’”

Harper Lee prize: Finalists named for best legal fiction

Three books have been named as finalists for the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. 

The trio was announced earlier this month by the University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association’s magazine ABA Journal.

The prize annually recognizes a work of fiction focused on lawyers’ role in society. It was created five years ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The finalists are: :Terminal City” by Linda Fairstein, “My Sister’s Grave” by Robert Dugoni and “The Secret of Magic” by Deborah Johnson.

The winner will receive their award at a ceremony on Sept. 3 in conjunction with the Library of Congress National Book Festival.

Four judges and a public vote through the ABA Journal website will determine the winner.

Friend: Harper Lee was fine the day before sequel announced

A longtime friend who visited “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee the day before the world learned she would release a sequel says she was feisty but didn’t mention her new book.

Historian Wayne Flynt, a friend of the famous author, said he believes Lee was capable of giving permission for the previously unpublished manuscript to be released.

“This narrative of senility, exploitation of this helpless little old lady is just hogwash. It’s just complete bunk,” Flynt said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Flynt visited with Lee last week at the assisted-living facility where she lives in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. That was the day before a division of HarperCollins Publishers announced the publication of “Go Set a Watchman.” The publisher said Tonja Carter, an attorney who practiced with Lee’s sister, found the manuscript, which will be released in July as a sequel to the beloved novel.

She did not mention the “Mockingbird” sequel that was about to make international news during the visit, Flynt said.

However, he said he believes Lee might have planned to tell him about her new novel, but didn’t get the chance because he monopolized the first part of the conversation by showing her that “To Kill A Mockingbird” was still on the best-seller list more than 50 years after its first publication.

She was “deeply touched” and surprised by that fact, he said. They then talked about their families.

Flynt said Lee is capable of giving consent, although he acknowledges he doesn’t know what the consent looked like. Lee is hard of hearing and uses a magnifying machine to enlarge print so she can read.

“I don’t know whether it was, ‘Nelle, you need to do this,’ or ‘Nelle, what do you think?’ or ‘Nelle, sign this because it’s going to be financially wonderful for you.’”

“No one is ever going to know — no reporter, not me, what was said in that room,” Flynt said. He added, however, that he had no reason to doubt Carter’s integrity.

Lee is severely hard of hearing, which is why some people likely think that she is cognitively impaired.

“She’s 88 years old,” Flynt said. “She has a profound hearing problem. You have to get right next to her right ear and shout. You may have to shout it three or four times.”

For example, he said, during a January visit, he saw that she was reading a collection of works by C.S. Lewis and asked her about him.

“Bluish, who’s bluish?” came the reply. After, a couple of tries, Lee was able to hear him. “Oh, C.S. Lewis, the greatest Christian apologist of the twentieth century,” she replied and then rattled off the names of his books.

“‘The Screwtape Letters.’ I love it,” Lee said of the satirical novel that chronicles a veteran demon’s attempts to tutor a protege in the art of tempting humans.  Flynt said he also once gave her a tape of Monty Python actor John Cleese narrating “The Screwtape Letters.”

“She roared,” Flynt said.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ author Harper Lee to have second novel published — 50 years later

To Kill a Mockingbird will not be Harper Lee’s only published book after all.

Publisher Harper announced that Go Set a Watchman, a novel the Pulitzer Prize-winning author completed in the 1950s and put aside, will be released July 14. Rediscovered last fall, Go Set a Watchman is essentially a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, although it was finished earlier.

Reactions ranged from euphoria (Oprah Winfrey issued a statement saying, “I couldn’t be happier if my name was Scout”) to skepticism about Lee’s cooperation and about the quality of the new book. Biographer Charles J. Shields noted that Lee was a “beginning author” when she wrote Watchman.

The 304-page book will be Lee’s second, and her first new work in print in more than 50 years, among the longest gaps in history for a major writer.

“In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman,” the 88-year-old Lee said in a statement issued by Harper. “It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became To Kill a Mockingbird) from the point of view of the young Scout.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal was negotiated between Carter and the head of Harper’s parent company, Michael Morrison of HarperCollins Publishers. Watchman will be published in the United Kingdom by William Heinemann, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Lee lives in an assisted living center in her hometown of Monroeville, the real-life model for the fictional town of Maycomb of To Kill A Mockingbird. A longtime friend said she is deaf, blind and in poor health, spending much of her time in a wheelchair. She was last seen publicly in November at the funeral of her older sister, Alice Lee, who long represented the author and was known for being protective of her.

Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham acknowledged that the publisher had had no direct conversations with Harper Lee, but communicated through Carter and literary agent Andrew Nurnburg.

Burnham said during a telephone interview that he had known both Carter and Nurnburg for years and was “completely confident” Lee was fully involved in the decision to release the book.

“We’ve had a great deal of communication with Andrew and Tonja,” said Burnham, adding that Nurnburg had met with her recently and found her “feisty and in very fine spirits.”

Jillian Schultz, who operates a gift and home shop on Monroeville’s town square, said she has read Mockingbird about 20 times and looks forward to the sequel.

But, like others, Schultz has questions about the long delay between the publications.

“I was really surprised,” said Schultz, 28. “You know there’s a lot of controversy about whether Harper Lee actually wrote the (first) book. There’s been so many years in between, and you have to wonder, ‘How did somebody forget about a book?'”

Ginger Brookover lives in northern West Virginia and was making her second trip to Monroeville because of Mockingbird. She texted a friend after learning that a second book by Lee will be released.

“I’m just absolutely shaking,” Brookover said.

According to publisher Harper, Carter came upon the manuscript at a “secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird.” The new book is set in Maycomb during the mid-1950s, 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird and roughly contemporaneous with the time that Lee was writing the story. The civil rights movement was taking hold in her home state. The Supreme Court had ruled unanimously in 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 led to the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott.

“Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus,” the publisher’s announcement reads. “She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

Lee herself lived in New York in the 1950s and returned to her hometown. According to the publisher, the book will be released as she first wrote it, with no revisions.

By Tuesday afternoon, Watchman was in the top 10 on barnesandnoble.com, representing a flood of preorders in just a few hours. The publisher plans a first printing of 2 million copies, on a par with a novel by John Grisham or Stephen King but fewer than were printed for later books in the Harry Potter series.

Shields, whose Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee came out in 2006, said that Mockingbird had required extensive editing and doubted that “Watchman” has “the tight structure” of her other book.

“But if we have any of her voice, her compassion for people and her message about understanding the other in there, we’ll have a very fine work,” Shields said.

To Kill a Mockingbird is among the most beloved novels in history, with worldwide sales topping 40 million copies. It was released on July 11, 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a 1962 movie of the same name, starring Gregory Peck in an Oscar-winning performance as the courageous attorney Atticus Finch. Robert Duvall, who played the reclusive Boo Radley in the movie, issued a statement  saying that the film was a “pivotal point” for him and he was looking forward to the new book.

Although occasionally banned over the years because of its language and racial themes, Mockingbird has become a standard for reading clubs and middle schools and high schools. The absence of any other books from Lee only seemed to enhance the appeal of Mockingbird.

Lee’s publisher said the author is unlikely to do any publicity for the book. She has rarely spoken to the media since the 1960s, when she told one reporter that she wanted to “to leave some record of small-town, middle-class Southern life.” Until now, To Kill a Mockingbird had been the sole fulfillment of that goal, although Lee has said the one book was good enough.

“This is a remarkable literary event,” Burnham said in a statement. “The existence of Go Set a Watchman was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift to the many readers and fans of To Kill a Mockingbird. Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee’s classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter’s relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”

The new book also will be available in an electronic edition. Lee has openly stated her preference for paper, but surprised fans last year by agreeing to allow Mockingbird to be released as an e-book.

‘Enhanced’ e-book of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ out

Oprah Winfrey and Tom Brokaw are among the featured commentators for an “enhanced” e-book of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The e-book was released this week by HarperCollins. It also features a 1964 radio interview with Lee, who rarely speaks to the media. The regular e-book for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Lee’s only novel, came out in July. She had been one of the last major authors to withhold electronic rights.

HarperCollins spokeswoman Tina Andreadis says the new “Mockingbird” edition had received 6,500 pre-orders, far more than for the usual “enhanced” book. She says the publisher has sold 80,000 copies of the regular e-book, a figure comparable to print sales. Total worldwide sales exceed 30 million copies since the book’s 1960 release.

Both e-book editions are priced at $8.99.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ finally going digital

Harper Lee has signed on for Scout, Boo Radley and Atticus Finch to enter the electronic age.

Filling one of the biggest gaps in the e-library, “To Kill a Mockingbird” will become available as an e-book and digital audiobook on July 8, HarperCollins Publishers announced Monday. Lee, in a rare public statement, cited a “new generation” of fans in agreeing to the downloadable editions of her Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.

“I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries,” Lee, who turned 88 on Monday, said through her publisher. “I am amazed and humbled that ‘Mockingbird’ has survived this long. This is ‘Mockingbird’ for a new generation.”

Monday’s announcement came almost exactly a year after Lee sued her former literary agent, Samuel Pinkus, in order to regain rights to her novel. Lee, who lives in her native Alabama and has been in frail condition, had alleged she was “duped” into signing over the copyright.

The lawsuit was settled in September. Lee’s attorney, Gloria Phares, said at the time that the case had been resolved to the author’s satisfaction, with “her copyright secured to her.”

With digital holdouts from J.K. Rowling to Ray Bradbury changing their minds over the past few years, Lee and her novel had ranked with J.D. Salinger and his “The Catcher In the Rye” as a missing prize for e-book fans. First published in July 1960, “Mockingbird” has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and still sells more than 1 million copies a year, according to HarperCollins. It was adapted into a 1962 movie of the same name that featured an Oscar-winning performance by Gregory Peck as Finch, the courageous Alabama attorney who defends a black man against charges that he raped a white woman.

“Mockingbird” remains a standard text in classrooms and is a popular choice for citywide and national reading programs. Lee never published another book, which only seemed to add to the novel’s appeal, and she has for decades resisted interviews and public appearances.

“Every home has a dog-eared copy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ and now readers will be able to add this favorite book to their digital libraries,” Michael Morrison, president and publisher of HarperCollins U.S. General Books Group and Canada, said in a statement. “Although today is Nelle Harper Lee’s birthday, she is giving readers around the world the gift of being able to read or listen to this extraordinary story in all formats.”

The new audiobook will be a downloadable edition of the existing CD narrated by Sissy Spacek. Harper also is releasing an “enhanced” e-book that will feature additional material. Spokeswoman Tina Andreadis said the extra features had not yet been determined.

With “Mockingbird” now set for e-release, major works still unavailable in digital editions include “The Catcher In the Rye,” ‘’The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Entertainment briefs


Tom Hardy to play Elton John in biopic

Tom Hardy will play Elton John in a biopic titled Rocketman. The film is planned to begin shooting late next year.

The 36-year-old British actor is well respected for his wide-ranging talent, but his brawny, tattooed frame makes him an unconventional choice. Hardy is most famous for playing the terrorist Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He has showcased a muscled masculinity in films like Warrior, Lawless and Bronson.

John’s an executive producer of the film.

MTV debuts new program in app

In a technological milestone for television, MTV recently released a full season of its new series about a downtrodden high school football team on its mobile application a week before the first episode is seen on TV.

MTV’s release of Wait ‘Til Next Year on its app is reminiscent of when the streaming service Netflix made an entire season of the drama House of Cards available at the same time.

Nearly 2 million MTV apps have been downloaded, primarily on iPhones and iPads, since MTV made them available in June. The network also recently experimented by making extra content from its Miley Cyrus documentary available exclusively through the app.

New musical brings back songwriter Fred Kander

The Landing, a musical starring out actor David Hyde Pierce, had its world premiere at New York City’s Vineyard Theatre on Oct. 23.

The play is notable because it brings legendary composer Fred Kander (Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman) out of retirement at age 86 and teams him with Pierce’s nephew, rising playwright Greg Pierce.

The Landing, which consists of three one-act musicals, is garnering strong reviews from critics.

‘Ragtime’ breaks Rep’s record

Ragtime became the bestselling musical in The Milwaukee Rep’s history after the first week of performances, surpassing the previous recordholder Cabaret. The latter, which opened The Rep’s 2010–11 season, was artistic director Mark Clements’ directorial debut. Ragtime was Clements’ latest directorial effort and also the largest production ever mounted on the Quadracci Powerhouse stage.

Clements signed a new four-year contract with The Rep earlier this year.

Skylight reports record year

Skylight Music Theatre’s 2012–13 season broke box-office records and resulted in a small operating surplus, according to managing director Amy Jensen.

“We are pleased to report that we increased revenues by 14 percent over the prior year while holding our expenses to a nominal 2 percent increase,” she said in a press release.

Ticket sales topped $1.5 million — the highest in the theater’s 54-year history and 31 percent above projections. Last year’s The Sound of Music was the biggest draw.

Last season was the ninth and final year for outgoing artistic director Bill Theisen.

Harper Lee sues Alabama museum

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee is suing a museum in her hometown of Monroeville to stop it from selling souvenirs with her name and the title of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Mobile, said the Monroe County Heritage Museum has traded on Lee’s fame without her approval and without compensating her. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

The lawsuit comes after Lee sought a federal trademark for the title of her book when it’s used on clothing. The museum opposed her application, saying its souvenir sales are vital to its continued operation. A ruling is more than a year away.

Lee’s book is set in fictional Maycomb County, but her suit says the setting was inspired by the real Monroe County in south Alabama, where she lives. The museum in Monroeville has displays honoring her and presents the play To Kill a Mockingbird each summer in the old county courthouse courtroom, which served as a model for the movie’s courtroom. The museum pays royalties for using the play, and that is not an issue in the suit.

The Milwaukee Rep presented the stage version of the book last year.

‘Walking Dead’ inspires new convention

Cable TV’s The Walking Dead has inspired a new convention, a podcast and a one-man play.

The podcast and Atlanta-based convention are the creations of Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier, also known as the “Walker Stalkers” because of a road trip they made last fall from Nashville, Tenn., to Georgia to see the AMC show being filmed.

The convention, Walker Stalker Con, is expected to draw 10,000 or more participants, Nordhoff said.

The Walking Dead characters battle zombies known as “walkers” in the streets of downtown Atlanta and in forests, small towns and a prison south of the city.

The convention will feature appearances by some of the show’s actors.

The series returned for its fourth season this month with its biggest audience ever. The 16.1 million people who watched the Oct. 13 series premiere shattered the show’s previous record of 12.4 million, the Nielsen company said.

Peck School professor honored

Rebecca Holderness, associate professor of acting at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts, will be honored for her work in regional theater and for transforming “the national arts landscape by (her) artistry, passion, and courage,” according to a UWM press release. Holderness is one of four finalists for the Stage Director and Choreographer Society’s Zelda Fichandler Award, to be presented Nov. 4 in Cincinnati.

The university said that Holderness has reached “beyond the world of academia to create opportunities for creative endeavors in Milwaukee.”

REP wins UPAF award

Milwaukee Repertory Theater has been named recipient of the prestigious 2013 United Performing Arts Fund’s Management & Organizational Performance Excellence Award, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual. 

The Rep also announced that it’s conducting a fundraising challenge campaign to coincide with its anniversary. Anonymous donors have pledged to match every new or increased gift up to $200,000, doubling the impact of each gift. To learn more about Milwaukee Repertory Theater, its productions and how to donate, go to www.milwaukeerep.com.

Carol Burnett wins America’s top prize for humor

A big Tarzan yell to Carol Burnett. The trailblazing comedienne received the nation’s top humor prize at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Top entertainers, including Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, paid tribute to Burnett as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The show will air on Nov. 24 on PBS stations. Ellen DeGeneres won the prize last year.

Lou Reed dead at 71

Lou Reed, the bisexual punk poet of rock ’n’ roll who influenced generations of musicians as leader of the Velvet Underground and as a solo performer for decades, has died at 71 from complications related to a recent liver transplant.

No band did more than the Velvet Underground to open rock music to the avant-garde — to experimental theater, art, literature and film, to William Burroughs and Kurt Weill, to John Cage and Andy Warhol, Reed’s early patron.

Indie rock essentially began in the 1960s with Reed and the Velvets. Likewise, the punk, New Wave and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s were all indebted to Reed.

Reed’s New York was a jaded city of drag queens and drug addicts. His songs quested for transcendence.

His one Top 20 hit “Walk on the Wild Side” and many other Reed singles became standards among his fans, including “Heroin,” ‘’Sweet Jane” and ‘’Pale Blue Eyes.”

WEB_-_pierce

WEB_-_ragtime

WEB_-_walking_dead

This is Banned Books Week. Protest censorship with a good read.

There were 326 reported attempts to remove materials from libraries in 2011, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The ALA is encouraging people to read those books and others in observance of Banned Books Week, which began Sept. 30 and continues through Oct. 6.

Libraries, schools and bookstores from coast to coast, in observance of BBW, are celebrating the freedom to read and challenging censorship.

“During Banned Books Week, we hope to remind Americans that the ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely is a right, not a privilege,” said Maureen Sullivan, ALA president. “As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, it’s important to recognize that book banning does exist in this day and age. It’s up to all of us, community residents, librarians, teachers and journalists, to continue to stand up and speak out for the right to read.”

In one case, the Plymouth-Canton school district in Michigan considered banning both Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and Graham Swift’s “Waterland” after complaints from some parents of objectionable content. Both books were eventually allowed to stay on school shelves after a review committee heard from teachers, students and parents in support of the books during public meetings.

But, elsewhere books are still being removed from schools.

In Illinois, the Erie School Board recently upheld its 2010 decision to ban “The Family Book” by Todd Parr and its accompanying materials from an elementary school over its LGBT theme. The book was introduced as part of the “Ready, Set, Respect!” lesson plan endorsed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network as part of a diversity and tolerance unit in the school.

And in the Annville-Cleona School District in Pennsylvania, the award-winning children’s book “The Dirty Cowboy,” written by Amy Timberlake and illustrated by Adam Rex, was removed from elementary schools because of its illustrative content involving a cartoon cowboy taking his annual bath.

For Banned Books Week, libraries and bookstores are showcasing books on the ALA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011.

The list includes:

1) “ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r” (series), by Lauren Myracle.

2) The Color of Earth” (series), by Kim Dong Hwa.

3) “The Hunger Games” (series), by Suzanne Collins.

4) “My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy,” by Dori Hillestad Butler.

5) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie.

6) “Alice” (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

7) “Brave New World,” by Aldous Huxley.

8) “What My Mother Doesn’t Know,” by Sonya Sones.

9) “Gossip Girl” (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar.

10) “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.

Sponsors of Banned Books Week include the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

On the Web…

www.ala.org/bbooks, www.bannedbooksweek.org.