Beginning in 1994, I have lectured regularly in local libraries on a variety of arts, humanities, and science topics. In addition to providing my current lecture schedule, this page also gives you a broad menu of some of those projects that I can provide for your library or continuing education group.
UPCOMING MULTNOMAH COUNTY LIBRARY PRESENTATIONS (PORTLAND, OREGON)
Please visit the Multnomah County Library website where you can access all my lectures:
Sunday, April 14 WILSONVILLE LIBRARY 1:30 PM FOUNDING WRITERS
Wednesday, April 17 Hollywood Library 6:30 PM UNSUNG HEROES OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Sundays, July 7 -- August 11 WILSONVILLE LIBRARY 1:30 PM CLASSIC SPACE STORIES
RECOMMENDATIONS AND REVIEWS
HERE'S WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:
Since 1997, the Manhasset Public Library has had the glorious pleasure of providing the community with extraordinary monthly, sometimes bi-monthly or weekly, lectures with Dr. Bill Thierfelder.
Of our many lecturers, Dr. Bill, as our audience knows him, is among the top in popularity and is held in high regard for his professionally developed lectures, vast knowledge of the subject matter, and congenial, good humored manner with the audience. Attending Dr. Thierfelder’s programs is an audience of “life-long learners” ranging in size from 75 – 120 adults, many with advanced degrees in art, education and business. Particularly worthy of note are the interesting topics Dr. Bill Thierfelder brings to our audience. Some recent lectures include: Profiles: Lives That Made a Difference (with a range of notable people highlighted, ie. Benjamin Franklin, Marco Polo, The Tuskegee Airmen, Thomas Edison, Van Gogh, Beethoven, and so many more); A series entitled Monday Nights at the Opera (featuring visual clips from operas ie. Aida, Macbeth, Othello, Operas of Puccini, Carmen, and more); The Elizabeth Taylor Film Festival; A Feast of Short Stories for the Holidays (Gift of the Magi, A Christmas Memory);and I could go on and on…All lectures are always extremely well attended and well received.
As Program Director for the Manhasset Public Library, I have consistently found Dr. Thierfelder to be very reliable, extremely well-prepared, and always in charge of his programs in a professional and courteous manner.
Deborah Dellis-Quinn Program Director Manhasset Public Library
I would like to take this opportunity to write a long overdue note thanking you for the years of wonderful programs that you have brought to the Jericho Library. I believe it is over twenty years since you presented your first program here. The few times that you took a break had my patrons constantly asking when your next program was scheduled. The varied series you created and presented left no void. Be it opera, biographies, poetry, or a [special] event, my patrons always comment on how knowledgable, entertaining, and charismatic you are. They love your theatrical flair. ... Nobody can fill your shoes!
Phyllis L. Cox PR/Program Coordinator Jericho Public Library
Written by Chris Boyle, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 05 June 2014 14:28
History has a way of making itself heard. Be it through its own actions or the words of those who observe its passing, history makes an indelible mark on the lives of each and every one of us every single day.
Dr. Bill Thierfelder considers himself both a teacher and a student of history. A Bayport resident, Thierfelder holds a regular series lectures, entitled “Game Changers,” at local area libraries, including his most recent on the Salem Witch Trials at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library. For many years he was a professor of liberal arts at Dowling College in Oakdale. He retired from full-time teaching in 2010 and is now a part-time docent tour guide at the Museum of Natural History, in addition to spending his free time dabbling in writing, photography and artwork.
“I’m busier now than I was when I had a full-time day job,” he said.
A liberal arts teacher for many years, Thierfelder has a strong interest in history; in fact, the doctor noted the two go hand in hand.
“My major focus when I was teaching was art, music and literature, with an emphasis on the literature, but to teach that properly I would always include the historical context,” he said. “I’ve always been a history buff...I’m always watching The History Channel, The History Channel 2, and so on.”
Over the years, Thierfelder had been holding various presentations at local area libraries for close to 20 years on a variety of different subjects. Three years ago, in order to call attention to truly pivotal circumstances in world history, he began to develop a poignant new lecture series that he dubbed “Game Changers.”
“I wanted to focus on people or historical events that really changed the way we are today...literally ‘Game Changers.’ Things that truly made our lives different,” he said. “For example, today we’re discussing the Salem Witch Trials, which becomes an automatic game changer primarily because it is as a result of those trials that we have, in the American judicial system, the whole notion of being innocent until proven guilty...which is the exact opposite of what the English court system had been.”
Other subjects of Thierfelder’s Game Changers series have included English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin; “Freedom Summer,” an important period during the Civil Rights movement; the beginning of life on Earth; and “Founding Mothers,” which examines great women, such as Abigail Adams, who helped to found the U.S. The presentations typically consist of screening documentary footage pertaining to the topic accompanied by running commentary by Thierfelder. This is followed by a Q&A session with the audience.
Reaction to his series has been enthusiastically positive, Thierfelder said. The audiences he tends to attract are life long learners, looking to soak up knowledge like a sponge...in other words, his kind of people.
“The thing that I always hope for is that when you give a presentation like this, it will make people think,” he said. “More than one person has come up to me after my lectures and said, ‘I didn’t know that!’ And that’s the coolest thing to hear.”
Thierfelder has developed quite a following throughout the years. Judy Smith of Syosset fully admits to rabidly following him from lecture to lecture, doing so to the point of even altering travel plans so as not to miss a single one.
“I’m a Thierfelder groupie. I have changed reservations so I don’t miss one of his lectures,” she said. “First of all, he’s extremely intelligent, and he presents it in such an entertaining and engaging way so that even if it was a subject that you didn’t think you would be interested in, you will be by the time he’s finished.”
Bernard Braver of Plainview is another long time Thierfelder fan, making certain to keep up with the various appearances he makes at area libraries.
“He knows his subject matter and puts on a great presentation,” he said. “Time just flies by, and you want his lectures to be even longer because of that. I always make sure I attend all of his seminars...Bill is a vastly intelligent and entertaining man.”
At a period in most people’s lives where they’re winding down, Thierfelder’s energy and passion for what he does is inspiring. This is a man who still has quite a bit to accomplish in his lifetime, and he’s determined not to waste a single second in doing so.
“I don’t know the meaning of ‘wind down,’ and I have to say that I’ve always felt that way,” he said. “I am one of those wonderfully lucky people who is always been able to get up every morning and look forward to the day, and not many people can say that about their job. But the biggest thing is that this isn’t like a job to me...it’s about discovering new things and talking and sharing them with people.
Besides the Plainview library. Thierfelder has lectures upcoming at the Jericho Public Library, as well as the Manhasset Public Library. For more information on Thierfelder and his schedule, visit www.makingwings.net.
Light cannot truly exist without the darkness, and mankind’s fascination with that twisted duality often hits its peak during the very season that serves to celebrate it—Halloween.
And one of the most enduring symbols of evil and fear—one that has survived and thrived in the public consciousness for well over a century—is a name even today spoken in hushed tones. However, a Long Island scholar recently decided to pull back the veil of darkness enshrouding the infamous serial killer known as Jack the Ripper, shedding light on both his myth and his reality at the Jericho Public Library.
For a number of years, Dr. Bill Thierfelder has been holding regular, hugely attended lectures at local area libraries. His most well-known series is entitled Game Changers, which focuses on people or historical events that have greatly impacted the way we live today.
A Bayport resident, Thierfelder was a professor of liberal arts at Dowling College in Oakdale before retiring in 2010. He currently serves as a part-time docent tour guide at the Museum of Natural History, in addition to pursuing writing, photography and artwork in his spare time. He’s been doing speaking engagements at the Jericho library for 20 years, and 10 years ago he introduced an exciting new lecture series whose popularity has seen it continue on to the present day.
“What I’ve been doing is a series called Profiles, in which I profile a person, and I cover a wide range…artists, musicians, composers, writers, and so on,” he said. “This is different from my Game Changers series, as these people may not have been game changers, but they have certainly left their mark.”
Thierfelder noted that he usually tries to tailor each Profile lecture to tie in to the overall theme of the month in which he’s holding it; Women’s History Month, Black History Month, and so on. But in the case of October, obviously, he said that the focus is always on the creepy and the macabre, to go along with the spirit of Halloween. This year he chose Jack the Ripper, the horrifying serial killer who terrorized the streets of London in 1888, claiming numerous victims (by some figures at least five, although many historians insist there were far more) before eventually disappearing without a trace.
“It’s probably the most notorious cold case there ever was,” he said, referring to the police designation for an unsolved case that is no longer being actively investigated. “The perpetrator has never been caught…there are eight or nine names that have come up as suspects, and now, thanks to DNA analysis, there is still some DNA from 1888 that is still usable, such as saliva from an envelope. Some names have been removed from that list, but many questions still remain.”
Similar to his approach to Game Changers, Thierfelder screened a video for his audience—in this case, an episode of the History Channel’s Mystery Quest series centered on Jack the Ripper—and pausing the video at intervals in order to offer commentary and engage the audience in ghastly Q&A sessions about not only the Ripper himself, but serial killers in general, the use of police forensics in investigating their crimes, and why the public generally finds such devious fare so engaging to begin with.
“It’s the utter heinousness of his acts that helps the Ripper’s legacy to endure, but the other thing to keep in mind is the concept of media sensationalism. To this day, the media still keeps Jack the Ripper very much alive,” he said. “We have a fascination with the macabre…as stated in the 2,500 year-old play Oedipus Rex, ‘I do not want to watch; I cannot stop from watching.’ And the Ripper case is very mysterious…we don’t know who did this, and that has been kept alive through literature, films—again, media sensationalism—and here we are in 2014, and people are still speculating. It’s a fascinating topic.”
Eleanor and Edward Rosenberg are long-time fans of Thierfelder’s speaking engagements; Eleanor said that they often go out of their way to attend them and she said that they always find them completely enthralling and entertaining.
“Through the years, we’ve attended many of his lectures…he always speaks on a variety of topics, and he always fills the room to overflowing,” she said. “We follow him as much as we can.”
“For Halloween he always has a spooky topic, which I enjoy,” Edward added. “He always introduces good clips from movies and documentaries…he’s very informative and he has a good sense of humor as well. My wife and I are big fans of his.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about Dr. Bill Thierfelder, visit his website at www.makingwings.net.
A SELECTION OF PROGRAM TOPICS
VEIN GLORIOUS: VAMPIRES!
Vampires! The very name sends chills up our spine. And yet, as Hallowe’en and the darker days of autumn lurk around the corner, our thoughts often turn to those fanged beings who give us both chills and thrills. This presentation explores through sight and sound our fascination with those remarkable creatures of the night and with our need to express that often obsessive captivation in art, literature, music, and film. Though the notion of vampirism has existed for millennia, and cultures such as the Mesopotamians and Ancient Greeks had tales of demons that are considered precursors to modern vampires, we will focus on the traditions that originate in the early 1700’s in southeastern Europe when the oral folklore of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In addition to examining the more orthodox, terrifying vampires found in novels and films such as Dracula and 30 Days of Night, we will also survey the transformation of those fiendish vampires into the smart, alluring, and often romantic ones that we discover in popular literature and television series like Moonlight, The Twilight Saga, and The Vampire Diaries.
OH, THE PLACES WE’VE BEEN
When we Homo sapiens made our first appearance on the African plains around 200-thousand years ago, we were content to stay put. We had plenty of food, we apparently mingled somewhat peacefully with other hominins like Homo erectus, and we enjoyed a fairly contented life. But around 100-thousand years ago, things began to change: The climate in many areas of Africa began to shift, food supplies became more scarce, and our numbers dwindled. As a result, we began to trek out of our homelands in small clan groups into the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and eventually the Americas. This program takes a look at that remarkable Odyssey across the planet where we encountered Neanderthals and strange prehistoric beasts; remarkable varieties of terrain including ice-age glaciers, towering mountain ranges, and searing deserts; and novel sources of food. Because each new home left its mark on our DNA, we are now--through the wonders of genetic science--able to trace our extraordinary journey--and perhaps determine why we’re the last hominin standing. Our move from the African homeland to the four corners of the globe is truly epic and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those brave, small bands of humans who dared to step out of their comfort zone into the unknown so many millennia ago.
INDIANS, VIKINGS, COLUMBUS, AND A FEW SOLUTREANS
October brings us a number of celebrations about discovery, including Columbus Day when many people celebrate the Italian explorer’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. But thanks to modern archeology and the genetic sciences, we now know that Columbus was far from the first to set foot here; in fact, he represents one of the last groups to ‘discover” North America. We’ll delve into the mysteries surrounding the epic journeys of those other adventurous humans who made it to this continent, beginning with the first wave of Homo sapiens from Siberia who crossed the Bering Strait land bridge at least 15 to 16 thousand years ago. We’ll look at the great Viking explorers like Leif Erikson who established colonies in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Maine, and possibly further south well over 500 years before Columbus. Finally, we’ll unfold the riddle of the enigmatic Solutreans and the even more remarkable possibility that another human species--perhaps Neanderthals--were living in California over 130,000 years ago. In unraveling these extraordinary stories, we will also need to acknowledge that the arrival of Renaissance Europeans proved to be disastrous for millions of First Peoples in the Americas. We can’t undo the mistakes and tragedies of our past, but we can use our knowledge and understanding to build a better future for all the peoples who have called our hemisphere their home.
THE QUEEN OF MYSTERY: AGATHA CHRISTIE
Born on September 15th, 1890, Agatha Christie became over her 85 years the most famous mystery writer in the world. Indeed, the Guinness Book of World Records goes further and lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies, and her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world's most-widely published books, behind only Shakespeare's works and the Bible. Who was this remarkable woman? How did she come to write her indelible works? Why is she still such a popular literary figure? These and other questions will be explored along with a real life mystery about Christie’s dramatic disappearance in 1926 that remains substantially unsolved to this day. As the chill of autumn arrives, let’s settle in with a few good thrillers.
WHAT DO “THE HOLIDAYS” MEAN?
In the Western World--and in several Eastern nations--the month of December marks a time of celebrations, from Winter Solstice and Christmas to New Year’s Eve. But these holidays--originally religious in nature--have become so secularized that, for many people, their “real” meaning has gotten lost. Across America, for example, there always seems to be some controversy about where we can or cannot put up Christmas scenes or Menorahs--let alone displays for African-American celebrations like Kwanza or reminders of Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu festivals. This program examines some of the social history of those holidays that we all love and the hullabaloo that can sometimes erupt because of them. We’ll explore the spiritual backgrounds to these events as well as the history of such popular icons as Christmas Trees (or is it Holiday trees?), Santa Claus, and Father Time.
THE REAL THANKSGIVING
On the fourth Thursday of November every year, countless millions of Americans gather around the table--and the television--to enjoy a banquet, football, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s a tradition that goes back decades. But it wasn’t always so--and that’s what this program examines. We’ll look at that first sport-famished, non-Santa, un-apple-pie Thanksgiving in the early 17th century and see how that straight-forward, rather modest feast among early colonials and indigenous peoples transformed into the most widely celebrated event in our country, a day on which more Americans travel than any other holiday. We’ll explore regional traditions, folklore, music, and even a few recipes--and try to discover the “thanks” in Thanksgiving.
BREAKING NEWS: FOSSILS!
Join Dr. Bill Thierfelder, visiting docent at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, as he takes us through some of the exciting recent findings about dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and early mammals. We’ll be looking at feathered raptors and meat-eaters like T-rex, giant dinosaurs from South America, and whole new species of flying reptiles. We’ll be exploring some recent evidence regarding why dinosaurs went extinct, but mammals survived. And we’ll take a look at a controversial new “Family Tree” that completely upends how scientists have categorized dinosaurs for the past 130 years. Spend an hour with your favorite beasts and discover what’s new in the world of fossils.
FLY ME TO THE MOON!
A few years back, Frank Sinatra sang a song that started with these words: “Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars, let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars” Well, in the past few years, those song lyrics have been taken to heart once again. There’s been a resurgent boom in the world of space exploration. Private industry and government agencies are now vying to get explorers back to the Moon and to see who can send the first people to Mars and beyond. Suddenly, we’re talking about round-trips and one-way voyages to establish permanent stations on these distant worlds. What would such journeys entail? We’ll look at some of the newest kinds of rocketry and blueprints for colonies as well as the extraordinary physical and psychological preparations needed to achieve these remarkable goals.
AND STILL WE RISE: HARRIET AND SOJOURNER
Two Black women--one from upstate New York, one from rural Maryland--helped to reshape America. Today, as we again deal with ongoing bigotry, prejudice, and racial divides in our nation, the personal stories of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth inspire us to tap into our “better selves.” The women only met later in life, but beforehand, their often parallel lives became an inspiration and a firebrand. Tubman, born Araminta Ross, often referred to as the "Black Moses" of the Underground Railroad, dedicated her life to creating safe passages for slaves to escape to freedom and Truth, born Isabella Baumfree, worked to abolish slavery, promote equal rights for women, and eradicate the use of alcohol among men and women. Both women rose from the shadows of slavery to prominent roles of leadership, had deep and abiding faiths in a higher power to guide and protect them, recognized the power of music as a means of communication, and believed in, and acted on, their premonitions. This PowerPoint presentation delves into the lives and impact of Tubman and Truth--and the need to embrace their stories in our troubled times.
MARTIN LUTHER KING: THE THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW
Every third Monday in January, the nation pauses to remember the life and legacy of Martin Luther King. This PowerPoint presentation explores his life as well as over a dozen different facts that you may not have known about this iconic figure that help fill in the picture we have of this complex human being. For example, did you know: Besides George Washington, King is the only American-born individual to have a national holiday celebrated in his honor--a holiday fraught with controversy in many circles; that the precocious King entered Morehouse College at age 15 where he studied sociology--ordained ministry was an afterthought; or that six years before his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, the 28-year old King gave a rousing speech at the Lincoln Memorial about voting rights for Blacks that put him in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. Here’s a chance to delve a little deeper into the man and his legacy--and to see why his story is still so meaningful and relevant to our own lives today.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 9981: BEFORE AND AFTER
As we celebrate Black History month, Dr. Bill Thierfelder helps us explore the often deeply troubled history of African-Americans serving in our armed forces, using Executive Order 9981 as a “before and after” focal point. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed his Order, which integrated the military and mandated equality of treatment and opportunity for all Blacks in the various branches. It even made it illegal, per military law, to make a racist remark. But the actual desegregation of the military was not complete for several years, and all-black Army units persisted well into the Korean War. Indeed, the last all-black unit wasn't disbanded until 1954. Clearly, this demarcation line between a segregated and integrated armed forces didn’t miraculously end bigotry and prejudice. This PowerPoint presentation looks at the fascinating and inspiring contributions of the brave men and women who have protected our country from the Revolutionary War to the present--and at the many obstacles that Blacks faced to achieve the respect and honor they so deserve.
UP, UP, AND AWAY: AFRICAN AMERICANS IN SPACE
To help celebrate Black History Month, Dr. Bill Thierfelder will introduce us to some of the remarkable African Americans who’ve helped shape America’s space program and who’ve introduced millions to the wonders of the Universe. For those who have read books like RISE OF THE ROCKET GIRLS or seen films like HIDDEN FIGURES, you’re well aware of the group of African-American women who helped to make the Space Race of the 1960’s and the Space Program today the success that it was and is. And if you watch science programs on television, you surely have encountered astronomers like Neil deGrasse Tyson. This PowerPoint presentation examines the lives of these trailblazers, including scientists Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan as well as astronauts Mae Jemison and Ronald McNair. Who are these adventurous women and women--and how did some of them help launch NASA into the Civil Rights revolution and into our burgeoning era of Lunar and Martian exploration?
JUNGLES, MARTIANS, AND DINOSAURS: EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
On September 1st, 1875, one of the most popular writers of all time was born: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs created over 60 novels that continue to thrill the imaginations of readers around the world. In addition to his many Tarzan and John Carter novels--both series first appearing in 1912--he also created fantastic tales about the Moon, Venus, and a civilization deep inside Earth, along with other notable novels such as The Land Time Forgot and The Mucker. Tarzan in particular remains one of the most enduring literary figures ever created and has inspired everything from a successful Broadway musical to dozens of classic films. This presentation examines Burroughs lasting status and the extraordinary influence his work has had on other writers and film directors. The leap from John Carter to Indiana Jones is a short one. Indeed, in a Paris Review interview, Ray Bradbury said that "Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out – and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly – Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world." We might argue about the truth of Bradbury’s obviously provocative statement--but he’s right in the sense that whole generations of young people, especially boys, saw in Burroughs’s characters role models for a life of daring-do and testing the limits of mind and endurance.
SENECA FALLS WOMEN
On two blistering hot days in July of 1848, a group of women and supportive men led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met in a sleepy upstate New York town for what would become one of the pivotal events in American history: the first Women’s Rights Convention. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we delve into some of the remarkable women who made the convention a reality--and examine its legacy and impact down through the decades. What would the women of Seneca Falls think of 21st Century America? Where have we succeeded? Where have we fallen short? Indeed, these inspiring women still have something to teach us.
The Nobel Prize has been awarded to women 49 times between 1901 and 2017, with one woman, Marie Curie, being honored twice, with the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This means that 48 women in total have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2017. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we look at some of these remarkable women and their contributions to literature, the sciences, and world peace. From the writings of Toni Morrison and Doris Lessing to the inspiring contributions of scientists like Barbara McClintock, Elizabeth Blackburn, and Youyou Tu--these women have changed our perceptions of the world and have opened doors that might otherwise have been closed in often patriarchal systems.
WOMEN OF THE STARS
For Women’s History Month, we celebrate the achievements of ten contemporary astronomers who have changed the way we look at our planet and the Universe in which we live. Vera Rubin, Nancy Roman, Margaret Geller, and Jill Tarter are just a few of the remarkable scientists whose accomplishments have truly opened up the cosmos. This program will look at astronomers whose ground-breaking, sky-opening work we should all know and whose lives should inspire all of us--especially young women--to advance our world towards a better future.
LANGSTON HUGHES AND THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
To celebrate National Poetry Month (April), we explore the contributions of Langston Hughes, one of the most visible writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes work ranged from novels to plays. He also wrote short stories, children’s books, translations, and anthologies as well. However, his most widely appreciated pieces were his poems. After dropping out of Columbia University in 1922, he began to spend every waking moment in Harlem, supporting himself on odd jobs and writing. His writing reflected the idea that black culture should be celebrated because of its value to the fabric of America and the world. He advocated these beliefs in many of his most famous poems, including “I, Too, Sing America,” “Let America be America Again,” and “Hold Fast to Dreams.” Today, Hughes is recognized as one of the towering figures of American Literature whose accessible poetry challenges us to explore the power of diversity to create unity.
THE POETRY OF MAYA ANGELOU
Though widely known for her prose--including a multi-volume autobiography that began in 1969 with her landmark memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings--Angelou saw herself as primarily a poet. With such penetrating collections as And Still I Rise, I Shall Not Be Moved, and Phenomenal Woman she celebrated the lives of women--and men--and championed equality for all members of society both here and around the world. Perhaps the greatest highlight of her poetic career was being the first woman invited to read an original work at a presidential inauguration. That poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” remains one of the more powerful odes to the rich diversity that empowers our nation. Thanks to the legacy of audio and video recordings Angelou has left behind, we will not only read her powerful words, but also hear them in her unmistakable, melodic voice.
A. PROFILES/GAME CHANGERS:Literary, historical, and artistic personalities and events that have changed our world.
Each presentation last approximately 100 minutes.Using a DVD biography as a foundation, each presentation is enhanced with background/biographical information, samples of writing, examples of music and art, and interesting personal information.
Recent topics have included:
Bram Stoker (with a dramatic reading of Stoker’s short story “Dracula’s Guest”)
Freedom Summer 1964
The Hubble Telescope Rescue
H. G. Wells
Leontyne Price (for Black History Month)
Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the Black Mozart (a fascinating tale of Blacks in European culture during the time of the French Revolution)
Susan B. Anthony
Michelangelo (with additional focus on his beautiful sonnets)
Jackson Pollock (and an exploration of America in the 1950’s)
The Navajo Code Talkers (and an overview of Native Americans in our culture)
The Tuskegee Airmen
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Howard Carter (and the discovery of King Tut’s tomb)
Frederick Douglass (with readings from his autobiographies)
Edgar A. Poe (with a dramatic reading of “The Tell-Tale Heart”)
King Arthur (combined with readings from Arthurian poems and legends)
Queen Boudica (the Celt Queen who nearly defeated the Romans)
Nikola Tesla: Master of Lightning (This is a 2 hour presentation using a full length PBS program as the foundation)
Tennessee Williams (Filmed bio with scenes from play as well as live readings from Williams’ poetry and short fiction)
B. FILM SERIES
The Jane Austen Series: Four films
Sense and Sensibility
Pride and Prejudice
Food for Thought Series: Three Award-Winning Films
District 9 (a sci-fi allegory about apartheid in South Africa)
Gattaca (an exploration of genetic engineering and medical ethics)
Children of Men (a morality tale about culture, plague, human ethics)
The Write Stuff:
This series explores award-winning screenplays with an emphasis on how the words of a writer become transformed by actors, directors, film editors, composers, and a host of others into a visual experience.Individual sessions will examine both original plays and those adapted from other sources.Each presentation will include a screening of a complete movie and as well as a discussion of the screenwriter’s life and achievements and an in-depth look at the various ingredients that all writers must take into consideration when creating text for a film.A glossary of relevant terms for the session’s focal movie as well as other interesting background materials will be part of each presentation.Dr. Thierfelder will make pauses in the film to illustrate points about text, characterization, and theme.Please be advised that each session will last approximately 150 to 170 minutes in length to allow time for discussion and commentary. Intended for Mature Audiences Only.
SUGGESTED LINE-UP FOR A YEAR-LONG EVENT:
SEPTEMBER:(The 1940’s) Casablanca(103 minutes)
Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications. (Academy Award for Best Screenplay Writing)
OCTOBER:(The 1950’s) On The Waterfront(108 minutes)
An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.(Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay)
NOVEMBER: (The 1960’s) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (108 minutes)
Matt and Christina Drayton are a couple whose attitudes are challenged when their daughter brings home a fiancé who is black. (Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen)
DECEMBER:(The 1970’s) Annie Hall (93 minutes)
Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall. (Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen)
FEBRUARY:(The 1980’s) Moonstruck (102 minutes)
A widowed Brooklyn book-keeper is torn between her fiancé and his brother. (Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen)
MARCH:(The 1990’s) Fargo (98 minutes)
Jerry Lundegaard's inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's bungling and the persistent police work of pregnant Marge Gunderson. (Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen)
APRIL:(The 2000’s) Juno (96 minutes)
Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child. (Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen)
MAY:(The 2000’s) Crash (112 minutes)
Several stories interweave during two days in Los Angeles involving a collection of inter-related characters: a police detective, a drug addicted mother, two car thieves, the white district attorney and his pampered wife, a racist white veteran cop, a successful Hollywood director and his wife who must deal with the racist cop, a Persian-immigrant father, an Hispanic locksmith, and more. (Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay)
JUNE: (The 2000’s) Little Miss Sunshine (101minutes)
A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus. (Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay)
TRUTH BE TOLD: The Art of the Documentary
Starting in 1942, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has given an annual award for the Best Feature-Length Documentary film.The list of winners and nominees reveals much about our country, society, and the world at large; indeed, to watch these films is often an adventure in anthropology.With the advent of “reality tv” in the past decade, there’s a growing interest in the creation of films that tell true stories in artful
ways.Each session will have a screening of a documentary and will present material about the creators of the film and about the actual events that inspired it.Presentations will explore specific themes, including American Labor, Gun Control, The Holocaust, and Global Climate Change.
SEPTEMBER:The Human Adventure:Kon Tiki (1951)
OCTOBER:American Labor:Harlan CountyUSA (1976)
NOVEMBER:Civil Rights in America:The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
DECEMBER:The Jewish Experience/Holocaust:The Last Days (1998)
FEBRUARY:Terror/ism, Guns, Kids:Bowling for Columbine (2002)
MARCH:Nature:March of the Penguins (2005)
APRIL: Global Climate Change:An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
MAY:Winner of this year's Academy Award
C. MUSIC SERIES
Each presentation is an exploration of a specific composer or opera.
Men in Opera (a look at countertenors, tenors, baritones, and basses)
Women in Opera (a study of sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, and contraltos)
Each opera lecture gives a biography of the composer, a synopsis of the opera, and a rich sampling of DVD selections:
Marriage of Figaro
Barber of Seville
The “madness” of Donezetti and Lucia di Lamermoor
Orpheus and Eurydice
Verdi, Fatherhood, Rigoletto
Samson and Dahlila
The Tales of Hoffmann
Julius Caesar (Handel)
Others by request
Shakespeare in Opera
Romeo and Juliet
(Audio selections from Shakespeare’s plays are coupled with the corresponding scenes in the operas shown on DVD)
D. THE ART OF THE STORY
I read a complete classic story to the group. After the presentation the audience participates in analysis and dialogue about plot, character, and themes.
HAWTHORNE: "Young Goodman Brown"
HENRY: "The Gift of the Magi"
CAPOTE: "A Christmas Memory"
Short Story Series:Women on the Verge
A NEW ENGLAND NUN by Mary Wilkins Freeman
THE YELLOW WALL-PAPER by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
THE STORY OF AN HOUR by Kate Chopin
A WHITE HERON by Sarah Orne Jewett
I STAND HERE IRONING by Tillie Olsen
E. NATURAL WONDERS
This 10 part series--presented by Dr. Bill Thierfelder, a docent-guide at The American Museum of Natural History--explores everything from the origins of the Universe to the microscopic world at our feet and the many startling wonders in between. Join us and discover stars, planets, oceans, wild mammals, insects, and human origins--a whole banquet of remarkable things that make our Universe the spectacular place that it is.
This program--based on Dr. Brian Cox’s WONDERS OF THE UNIVERSE--explores the beginnings of the universe and the origins of humanity, going far back in time to look at the process of stellar evolution and how the basic elements are related to the life cycles of the stars and the recycling of matter in the Universe.
Using The History Channel’s program HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE as a launching point, this 120-minute program explores the history of Earth from its beginnings 4.5 billion years ago to the end of last Ice Age. Volcanoes, “Snowball Earth,” Dinosaurs, the rise of hominids, and pesky asteroids!
ARE WE ALONE?
This installment covers life surviving in extreme environments, and how the search for life on other worlds follows the search for water, focusing on Mars, and on Jupiter's moon Europa. The Atacama Desert in South America is also viewed, which is seen to explain the lack of life found there. A trip to the Scablands in North-West America is also made with an explanation of the Missoula Floods that once occurred there, and how it shaped the landscape geologically. More examinations of life come with a trip to Mexico and how life survives in caves, comparing the noxious "snottites" of a Mexican cave with possible life on Mars.
A NATIONAL PARK HOLIDAY
Using the PBS documentary CHRISTMAS IN YELLOWSTONE as a starting point, this series now focuses on the abundant wildlife found on Planet Earth in one of its most spectacular locations--Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Something beautiful and awe-inspiring for the holidays.
OUR FAMILY TREE
This series now focuses on human beings--how we evolved from the first bipedal hominid 7 million years ago to the modern human race. We explore our migration from Africa to the farthest corners of the planet and how every living homo sapiens is related in some way to other recent species, including the much-maligned Neanderthals.
THE DARK CONTINENT
The oldest of the continents geologically and the cradle of humanity, Africa is also one of the richest continents in terms of wildlife. This program focuses on one its most remarkable regions--the Kalahari. Using the BBC Earth series AFRICA as a launch point, we follow starlight cameras revealing the nocturnal behavior of black rhinos, super slow motion footage capturing a fierce battle between two male giraffes, and red-billed queleas defend their nests from marauding armored bush crickets, just to name a few of the natural wonders we see.
Over 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, making the oceans the largest biome on our world. Host to untold hundreds of thousands of life forms, the sea was the cradle of life on this planet and yet remains one of its most unexplored regions. This program explores some of the miraculous creatures of our ocean world from gigantic whales to nearly microscopic plankton.
From the Arctic to the peaks of the Andes, survival at great heights takes real guts. On the Yellowstone plateau, in a rarely filmed event, see newly awakened black bears go on the hunt for newborn elk calves. Get a ringside seat at one of the toughest mating contests on the planet as male bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountains literally go head-to-head in a bloody battle for breeding rights.
We explore some of the smallest--and most abundant--creatures on our planet: Insects. Using the BBC program LIFE IN THE UNDERGROWTH as a starting point, this program shows how invertebrates became the first creatures of any kind to colonize dry land. Their forerunners were shelled and segmented sea creatures that existed 400 million years ago similar to horseshoe crabs off the Atlantic coast of North America. Some animals abandoned the oceans altogether when the land became green with algae, mosses and liverworts. The earliest ground-dwellers were millipedes, which were quickly followed by other species. Springtails are shown to be smaller than the head of a pin and, for their size, can jump immense heights. The velvet worm has scarcely changed over millennia, while the giant centipede can kill instantly. Mating habits are explored, including the unusual ritual of leopard slugs and the meticulous nest maintenance of the harvestman. The arrival of earthworms was of great importance since they changed the nature of the soil, leading to a proliferation of plant life.
UNIVERSE OF LIGHT
For the series finale, we explore the nature of light--that mysterious property that allows us to see everything from the farthest regions of the Cosmos to the smallest atomic particles. All the wonders of nature that we’ve examined in this series are known to us because we can see them--thanks to light. We end our ten-month journey with mystery and enchantment and bright rays of light!
This series focuses on the natural wonders of our planet, on important scientists who help us discover that planet, and on important social events and discoveries that change the way we view our home world.
JANE GOODALL: Probably no one knows chimpanzees--our closest genetic relatives in the animal kingdom--than Jane Goodall, now 80 years old and still going strong. She lived with them in the African forest for over thirty years. This program will follow a team of National Geographic scientists and photographers as they visit Jane in Tanzania and meet some of her amazing chimps, including David Graybeard and Grandma Flo. The lives and habits of these primates is a clue to our ancient history and an ever-present reminder that we humans are NOT the only intelligent beings on the planet.
VOLCANOES: Millions of people around the world live in the shadow of active volcanoes. Under constant threat of massive eruptions, their homes and their lives are daily at risk from these sleeping giants. This program explores some of the most famous volcanoes, from Japan’s Mount Fuji to the Yellowstone “Supervolcano.”
THE HIMALAYAS: Formed by the collision of two tectonic plates--Asia and India--the Himalayas are the highest mountains on our ever-dynamic planet. These remarkable peaks defy both description and comprehension while at the same time teaching us about the awesome power and grandeur of nature. This program explores their majesty and their surprisingly rich abundance of life from exotic plants to remarkable animals: snow leopards, wolves, bears, even monkeys, giant bees, and altitude-defying birds.
FELLOWSHIP OF THE WHALES: In Hawaii, where new land is born as volcanic rock, another birth takes place. This program follows the first year of that remarkable life: A baby humpback enters the world and joins the 3,000 or more whales that congregate here each winter to mate and give birth in protected bays and coves. We then move to the krill-rich waters of Alaska where we watch the summer feeding season. The youngster has only a year to learn the subtleties of whale society before she is left by her mother to continue her education on her own. A remarkable story that’s truly inspirational.
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL: From his childhood in Scotland to the invention of early prototypes for the X-Ray machine, the Iron Long, the photophone, and the hydrofoil, this program also focuses on Bell’s life-long obsession with helping people with hearing impairments. His desire to help his deaf mother and wife communicate led to one of the most influential inventions of the 20th century. Nevertheless, he might have been a footnote in history if not for his lawyer, who filed for the telephone patent a mere two hours before Bell’s rival Elisha Gray. As a founding member of the National Geographic Society, Bell spent a lifetime in the service of nature and people, even inspiring Helen Keller to dedicate her biography to him.
THE FROZEN SEAS: An environment where only the toughest survive, the Arctic and Antarctic oceans are unrelenting habitats. Only in the spring does life begin again. Plankton blooms and feeds vast hordes of fish, walruses rake the seabed for clams, and whales gorge themselves on gigantic swarms of krill. But it is a brief feast—the ice soon returns and pushes life back into the ocean. As climate change threatens these biomes, our concern about these wondrous seas is all the more urgent.
WOLVES AT OUR DOOR: Winner of two Emmy Awards, Wolves at our Door follows Jim and Jamie Dutcher as they raise a pack of gray wolves and document these creatures’ most intimate behaviors. By bottle-feeding them as puppies and being a constant presence in their lives, the Dutchers gained unprecedented acceptance into the world of these great canines. The wolves’ reputation as savage beasts proves unfounded. In addition to screening this remarkable documentary, this program will explore wolves and their relation to every living dog today.
SEX IN THE STONE AGE: A fragment of a pinky bone and a tooth twice the size of today’s average molar are the only remnants of a species of humans that we know lived thousands of centuries ago at the same time and place as homo sapiens—and interbred with them. They are a part of us we never knew existed. What did these fellow humans look like? And how do they fit into what we thought we knew about our biological development as a species. This program explores the long and winding road that leads to our being the only species of human out of at least twenty that is still standing—and helps explain why every one of us has a remnant of DNA from some of those other species still flowing in our blood.
FINDING ATLANTIS: Why are we still fascinated by this great story? Is the tale of Atlantis and its great civilization a fact-based legend or merely myth? Could the fabled lost city of Atlantis have been located? Using satellite photography, ground-breaking radar, and underwater technology, experts are now surveying marshlands in Spain to look for proof of the ancient city. This program examines the dozens of theories about Atlantis that have emerged since Plato first described the city-state.
LEWIS AND CLARK: This program helps us relive aspects of an amazing journey of discovery and exploration. The Lewis and Clark expedition, officially known as The Corps of Discovery Expedition, lasted from 1804 to 1806 and proved to be not only one of the great adventures in American history but one of the most valuable scientific journeys of the modern era. Two hundred and ten years later, it’s still a saga that inspires us.
OTHER SAMPLE PROGRAMS
THE SECRETS OF SHANGRI-LA
For years, adventurers from all over the world have searched for the mythic paradise of Shangri-La and have found little--until recently. This program will follow teams of National Geographic scientists and photographers who explore sacred Buddhist caves and pore over centuries-old manuscripts and stunning wall paintings that have remained undisturbed for years. Has the real Shangri-La finally been discovered? And will it survive the erosion--and the visitors--that the future might bring to the deep valleys of Nepal?
JACK THE RIPPER
Just in time for Halloween, this program focuses on one of the most elusive criminals--and remarkable “cold case”--in the annals of justice. Jack the Ripper is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter written by someone claiming to be the murderer that was widely disseminated in the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax, and may have been written by a journalist in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the story. And that’s only one of the frustrating mysteries surrounding "the Whitechapel Murderer.” Hide the knives; it’s time for a little murder!
THE SECRETS OF STONEHENGE
Every year, a million visitors are drawn to the Salisbury Plain in Southern England to gaze upon a mysterious circle of stones. Stonehenge may be the best known and most mysterious relic of prehistory. During the 20th century, excavations revealed that the structure was built in stages, and that it dates back at least 5,000 years. The meaning of this remarkable structure, however, remains a mystery. This program examines some of the great questions surrounding this extraordinary icon: Who built Stonehenge? What was its purpose? How could prehistoric people quarry, transport, sculpt, and erect the giant stones?
THE WOLVES OF YELLOWSTONE
As winter settles in, we celebrate one of the great wonders of the animal world--wolves; specifically, the wolves that have been reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. After being hunted to the brink of extinction, this majestic misunderstood creature is attempting the comeback of the century. The program follows a team of National Geographic scientists and photographers who spent over four years documenting one particular pack from a wolf’s-eye-view. They witness--as will we--the unfolding of hardships and affection, losses and triumphs, and the controversy surrounding the decision to reintroduce these wolves back into the heart of the West.
The ever-controversial Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Although Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the twentieth century. As owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with "Fordism": mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. Ford was also widely known for his pacifism during the first years of World War I, and also for being the publisher of anti-Semitic texts such as the book The International Jew.
WILLIAM STILL AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
Often called "The Father of the Underground Railroad," William Still helped as many as 800 slaves escape to freedom during the Civil War era. He interviewed each person and kept careful records, including a brief biography and the destination for each, along with any alias adopted. He kept his records carefully hidden but knew the accounts would be critical in aiding the future reunion of family members who became separated under slavery, which he had learned when he aided his own brother Peter, whom he had previously never met before. Still worked with other Underground Railroad agents operating in the South and in many counties in southern Pennsylvania. His network to freedom also included agents in New Jersey, New York, New England and Canada. Conductor Harriet Tubman traveled through his office with fellow passengers on several occasions during the 1850s and Still forged a connection with the family of John Brown. After the Civil War, Still published his authoritative account, The Underground Railroad Records (1872), based on the secret notes he had kept in diaries during those years. His book has been integral to the history of these years, as he carefully recorded many details of the workings of the Underground Railroad. It went through three editions and in 1876 was displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.
We celebrate Women’s History month with one of the most inspiring scientists of the last half century. Probably no one knows chimpanzees--our closest genetic relatives in the animal kingdom--than Jane Goodall, now 80 years old and still going strong. She lived with them in the African forest for over thirty years. This program will follow a team of National Geographic scientists and photographers as they visit Jane in Tanzania and meet some of her amazing chimps, including David Graybeard and Grandma Flo. The lives and habits of these primates is a clue to our ancient history and an ever-present reminder that we humans are NOT the only intelligent beings on the planet.
Leo Tolstoy, a master of realistic fiction, is widely considered one of the world's greatest novelists. He is best known for two long novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). His fiction output also includes two additional novels, dozens of short stories, and several famous novellas, including The Death of Ivan Ilych and Family Happiness. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. Tolstoy is equally known for his complicated and paradoxical persona and for his extreme moralistic and ascetic views, which he adopted after a moral crisis and spiritual awakening in the 1870s, after which he also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer. His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Bevel.
PUCCINI AND TURANDOT
Left unfinished at the time of his death in 1924, Giacomo Puccini’s final masterwork, Turandot, is considered by many to be his finest creation. This program explores Puccini’s life and the extraordinary second act with its famous “riddle scene,” using the Metropolitan Opera’s historic 1988 production by Franco Zeffirelli as the centerpiece. This performance stars Eva Marton and Placido Domingo at the height of their powers and is a treat for any music lover.
LIFE IN THE UNDERGROWTH
Using Sir David Attenborough’s BBC series Life in the Undergrowth as the focal point, this presentation focuses on the “intimate relations” that make our summer gardens and plant life in general as wonderful as they are. With an emphasis on reproduction and mating behaviors, this program focuses on the extraordinary variety of invertebrate creatures, many of them never filmed before, so that lay-persons and entomologists will be equally enlightened by discoveries made in the process of filming. "Intimate Relations," shows how many insects symbiotically depend on other species for food, shelter, or completion of their reproductive cycles. You’ll never look at your backyard or a park in quite the same way again.
BECOMING A NATION
To celebrate Independence Day, we look at the origins of our nation. News of the American victory at Yorktown spreads quickly around the globe. Parliament forces King George to agree to American independence, and John Adams joins Benjamin Franklin in France to negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The 13 new American states delineate a new form of government and urge General George Washington into the presidential office.
German composer Richard Wagner was notoriously anti-Semitic, and his writings on Jews were later embraced by Hitler and the Nazis. But there is another, lesser-known side to this story. For years, many of Wagner's closest associates were Jews - young musicians who became personally devoted to him, and provided crucial help to his work and career. They included the teenaged piano prodigy Carl Tausig; Hermann Levi, a rabbi's son who conducted the premiere of Wagner's Parsifal; Angelo Neumann, who produced Wagner's works throughout Europe; and Joseph Rubinstein, a pianist who lived with the Wagner family for years and committed suicide when Wagner died. Even as Wagner called for the elimination of the Jews from German life, many of his most active supporters were Jewish. Why were they drawn to him? And how could Wagner even accept their embrace? The same questions asked in Wagner's time still resonate today: is it possible to separate the art from its creator? Can sublime music transcend prejudice and bigotry, and the weight of history?
The Haunted History of Halloween
Every October 31 pint-sized ghouls and goblins wander through neighborhoods knocking on doors and asking for treats . . . little do they know they're actually carrying out an ancient tradition dating back thousands of years. Discover how the "trick-or-treat" custom originated during the harvest festivals in ancient Ireland when food and sweets were used to coax the dead into remaining in the spirit world. Learn how Christianity tried to co-opt the celebration by turning it into All Saints Day but how the underlying--and sometimes controversial--dark elements of the holiday have survived. THE HAUNTED HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN takes a captivating journey through the mysterious tales behind the spookiest night of the year.
Leave it to Beavers
The fascinating story of beavers in North America—their history, their near extinction, and their current comeback, as a growing number of scientists, conservationists and grass-roots environmentalists have come to regard beavers as overlooked tools when it comes to reversing the disastrous effects of global warming and world-wide water shortages. Once valued for their fur or hunted as pests, these industrious rodents are seen in a new light through the eyes of this novel assembly of beaver enthusiasts and "employers" who reveal the ways in which the presence of beavers can transform and revive landscapes. Using their skills as natural builders and brilliant hydro-engineers, beavers are being recruited to accomplish everything from re-establishing water sources in bone-dry deserts to supporting whole communities of wildlife drawn to the revitalizing aquatic ecosystems their ponds provide.
The History of Santa Claus
Santa Claus. From the real-life St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, a patron of small children, came the modern-day elf. St. Nicholas has historically been significant during the Christmas holiday because his feast is kept on December 6. As a favorite help-mate of sailors, he found fervent fidelity among the Dutch, whose name for him--Sinter Klaus--was the forerunner of the English "Santa Claus." Another alias, Kris Kringle, comes from a German moniker--Christkindl--an idea of Martin Luther's, a patriarch of the Protestant Reformation. Descriptions of Claus varied wildly until Clement Clarke Moore's poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," appeared in a New York newspaper in 1823 with its now famous first line: “ ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring.” His appearance as jolly, portly, and merry in that Episcopal clergyman’s poem set the tone for his personality; Moore also introduced and named Santa's legendary flying reindeer and founded Santa's modus operandi for entering domiciles: down the chimney.
Have we seriously underestimated our mysterious, long-vanished human cousins, Homo neanderthalensis? Over 60,000 years ago, the first modern humans -- people physically identical to us today -- left their African homeland and entered Europe, then a bleak and inhospitable continent in the grip of the Ice Age. But when they arrived, they were not alone: the stocky, powerfully built Neanderthals had already been living there for hundreds of thousands of years. So what happened when the first modern humans encountered the Neanderthals? Did they make love or war? That question has tantalized generations of scholars and seized the popular imagination. Then, in 2010, a team led by geneticist Svante Paabo announced stunning news. Not only had they reconstructed much of the Neanderthal genome -- an extraordinary technical feat that would have seemed impossible only a decade ago -- but their analysis showed that "we" modern humans had interbred with Neanderthals, leaving a small but consistent signature of Neanderthal genes behind in everyone outside Africa today.
Nat Turner’s Rebellion
Nat Turner was a 30-year-old slave and a preacher who led a rebellion after receiving what he believed to be a sign from God. When? Nat Turner’s Rebellion occurred on August 22, 1831. Where? Turner’s Revolt took place in Southampton County, Virginia. Nat Turner’s rebellion quickly became one of the pivotal events of American history, an event that helped to cement the hard-line attitude of the South regarding slavery—and fueled the vehement abolitionist movement of the North.
To celebrate Women’s History month, we look at the remarkable novelist Jane Austen and explore her personality through visiting both her correspondence and the places where she lived. In the process, we also make a journey through the same glorious English countryside where Austen lived nearly 200 years ago and produced six remarkable novels that changed the face of English Literature.
Shakespeare: For All Time
For William Shakespeare—only in his 30’s—the early 1600’s were very good years. Writer, actor, director, he was now the artist-in-chief of the Elizabethan theatre. He created some of the greatest characters in literature. In England, theatre wasn't just entertainment, it was popular and political—it had a thrilling and dangerous power, one that Shakespeare reveled in. Out of the experience of his life and the turbulent times through which he lived, when new worlds and lost worlds were being discovered, he pulled it all together in some of the greatest works of literature ever written. It's that last story and the mysterious end to his career that this program examines.
Meteors: Visitors from Beyond
On the morning of February 15, 2013, a 7,000-ton asteroid crashed into the Earth's atmosphere, exploded, and fell to the ground across a wide swath near the Ural Mountains in Russia. A blinding flash of light streaked across the sky, followed by a shuddering blast strong enough to damage buildings and send more than 1,000 people to the hospital. According to NASA, the Siberian meteor exploded with the power of 30 Hiroshima bombs and was the largest object to burst in the atmosphere since the Tunguska event of 1908—another impact in Siberia that left few eyewitnesses or clues. This time, the event was captured by digital dashboard cameras, now common in Russian autos and trucks. Within days, impact scientists in Russia hunted for clues about the meteor's origin and makeup. Is our solar system a deadly celestial shooting gallery—with Earth in the crosshairs? And what are the chances that another, more massive asteroid is heading straight for us?
Your Inner Fish
Inspired by Dr. Bill Thierfelder’s spotlight tours of the Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History, Your Inner Fish—based on Neil Shubin’s ground-breaking work—is a program that reveals a startling truth: Hidden within the human body is a story of life on Earth. This scientific adventure story takes viewers from Ethiopia to the Arctic Circle on a hunt for the many ways that our animal ancestors shaped our anatomical destiny. Come face-to-face with your "inner fish" in this completely new take on the human body: You'll never look at yourself in quite the same way again! Have you ever wondered why the human body looks the way it does? Why we walk on two legs instead of four? Why we can see in color but have a lousy sense of smell? Your Inner Fish delves deep into the past to answer questions like these. Using both the fossil record and DNA evidence, Neil Shubin traces various parts of our body's structure to creatures that lived long, long ago. The series is both an epic saga and a modern-day detective story—by turns surprising, funny, and deeply profound. Come face-to-face with your "inner fish" in this completely new take on the human body: You'll never look at yourself in quite the same way again!
George Washington: The Man Who Wouldn’t be King
This presentation explores the story of a man who grew into greatness by accepting the challenge of leading a fractious, rag-tag army against the might of the British government. As a young man, Washington was a social climber, a land-hungry Virginia surveyor and self-conscious military officer, often blaming others for his own mistakes. However, he gradually built a reputation as a gentleman by educating himself in the classics and sciences, entering politics, and marrying one of the wealthiest women in Virginia. It was at the battle of Trenton where everything changed. Brilliantly timing his attack on Christmas night, Trenton was a psychological victory both for America and for Washington himself. His growing skill and unwavering bravery transformed Washington into the very symbol of the Revolutionary War. After leading his army to the final victory at Yorktown, his officers--unpaid and distrustful of Congress--wanted him to assume even greater power. But he had become a man who simply didn’t want to be a king.
Aida and the Real Egypt
Using scenes from Verdi’s great masterpiece, Aida, Dr. Bill Thierfelder fills in the historical blanks to make one of the most familiar pieces of musical theater even more fascinating. History and thrilling music reveal the real story of slaves in ancient Egypt.
The Pluto Files
Pluto became a hot topic when NASA’s New Horizons space probe reached the former planet this past summer. Former planet? In a controversial move, the International Astronomical Union “demoted” Pluto in 2006. This program explores what it means to be a planet and focuses on the plight of poor Pluto. We examine the story of Pluto's discovery and the science that surrounds this former planet, including the possibility of finding more Pluto-like planets in the mysterious Kuiper belt. From the scientists trying to classify Pluto to die-hard "Pluto-philes," we meet a fascinating cast of characters with just one thing in common: Strong opinions about Pluto.
My Life as a Turkey
Based on a true story, this beautiful, charming, funny, sad, and thought-provoking film explores one of those rare moments when man and animal unwittingly become more closely linked than nature normally allows. Deep in the wilds of Florida, Joe Hutto, wildlife artist and naturalist, was presented with a rare opportunity. It had long been his hope to learn about the secret world of wild turkeys by having young turkey poults imprint on him, but obtaining wild turkey eggs, or young poults, had proven to be next to impossible; so when he arrived home one day to find a bowl filled with wild turkey eggs on his doorstep, he went out immediately to obtain an incubator, determined to become their mother. It was an experience that would change his life in ways he could never have imagined.
Penguin Post Office
In the heart of the Antarctic Peninsula there's a unique British post office staffed by a dedicated team and surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery that includes 3,000 gentoo penguins. Every summer, this particular colony of penguins returns from an intensive spell of deep sea fishing to its breeding grounds alongside the post office, trekking nearly two miles across sea ice and snow to get there when the weather is especially bad. They rush to find a partner, build a nest, lay eggs and protect those eggs from predators, and then finally get down to the task of raising their young. We see their four-month drama unfold against the backdrop of their lives—primarily, the comings and goings of cruise ships, bringing enthusiastic tourists to photograph the penguins and their chicks, and to buy postcards to send to friends and family around the world—from the Penguin Post Office.
Flying High: The Making of Nature Films
One of the most frequently asked questions by audiences during a nature film is: How did they get that shot? This program focuses on the making of a documentary about birds. David Tennant narrates an exhilarating adventure, filmed over four years with help from camera-carrying birds, drones, paragliders and remote-control microflight planes. This wondrous aerial spectacle will make your spirits soar! To fly like a bird, the film crew called Earthflight not only captured remarkable images of wild flocks but also relied on some extraordinary relationships between people and birds. For some of the unique flying shots, members of the team became part of the flock. The birds followed wherever they went - even in a microlight over Edinburgh and London. In Africa, paragliders floated alongside wild vultures, while a model vulture carried a camera inside the flock. In South America, wild-living macaws, that were rescued as babies, still come back to visit their 'foster mother' as he travels along a jungle river. This wondrous aerial spectacle will make your spirits soar!
The Invisible Universe Revealed
Thanks to satellites and space telescopes like Hubble, we now know more about the Universe around us than ever. Thanks to these space observatories, astronomers can pinpoint the age of the universe, see the birthplace of stars and planets, can advance our understanding of dark energy and cosmic expansion, and uncover black holes lurking at the heart of galaxies. For more than a generation, observatories like the Hubble telescope have brought the beauty of the heavens to millions, revealing a cosmos richer and more wondrous than we ever imagined.
The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we look at the life of Rachel Carson. She was a biologist for the federal government when she first noted the effects of the unregulated use of pesticides and herbicides, especially DDT. Magazines, afraid of losing advertising, refused to publish her articles. When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1963, she was viciously attacked, called "an ignorant and hysterical woman." But her warning sparked a revolution in environmental policy and a new ecological consciousness.
At the Edge of Space
Between the blue sky above us and the infinite blackness of space lies a frontier that scientists have only just begun to investigate. This program takes viewers on a spectacular exploration of the earth-space boundary zone that's home to some of nature's most puzzling and alluring phenomena: the shimmering aurora, streaking meteors, and fleeting flashes that shoot upwards from thunderclouds, known as sprites. Only discovered in 1989, sprites have eluded capture because they flicker into existence for a mere split-second--forty times faster than an eye blink. Combining advanced video technology with stunning sequences shot from the International Space Station, Dr. Thierfelder helps us probe the enigmas of the boundary zone and brings viewers an intriguing new viewpoint on their planet.
10,000 BC, Part 2
Based on Dr. Bill Thierfelder’s spotlight tours of the Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History, this two-part presentations takes us back to10,000 BC, a time of cataclysmic change on Earth. Extreme climactic fluctuations hurled the planet into a minor ice age; megafauna like the saber-toothed tiger and woolly mammoth were suddenly becoming extinct; and early humans began to inhabit North America. Cold and hungry, their fragile communities undertook perilous hunting expeditions. The slaughter of a single mammoth, weighing nearly ten tons, could be the difference between survival and death. These two presentations bring this unique and thrilling period to life—a time that made our world today possible.
Everyone knows Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the moon. But this modest and unassuming man was determined to stay out of the spotlight, so the rare combination of talent, luck, and experience that led to his successful command of Apollo 11 is not widely known. Seen through the eyes of those who were close to him, this program explores the man behind the myth, and also reveals his unsung achievements as a Navy combat veteran and pioneer of high speed flight. A quietly effective man, Armstrong had a leading role in the inquiry into the Challenger disaster and lead efforts to encourage young people to share his lifelong passion for flight. His is an inspiring story of heroic risk-taking and humble dedication to advancing humanity's adventure in space.
Just in time for Halloween: The king who was a monster. Or was he? In 2012, a group of amateur historians made an incredible archaeological find: the bones of King Richard III—the last Plantagenet king of England and the subject of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays—hunchbacked, with an arrow through the spine. Scientists tested the bones to find out more about the king and also conducted fascinating experiments to determine whether Richard could have fought so ferociously in battle with such a severe deformity. In the course of their work, we begin to separate the myth from the man just recently given a king’s proper burial in Leicester Cathedral.
March, 1862. Cannons blare, troops cheer, and shells bounce off ironclad hulls into the waters just off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. After four hours at near point-blank range, the Union's warship, the USS Monitor, battles the Confederacy's well-armored CSS Virginia (also known as the Merrimack) to a draw, altering--in one morning--the course of the Civil War and naval combat. With its revolutionary revolving gun turret, submerged hull, and impenetrable armor, the Monitor, and the ironclads manufactured in its wake, was a decisive factor in the Civil War. But, after serving less than 12 months on active duty, the Monitor sank in 230 feet of water of North Carolina's Cape Hatteras. Today, the Monitor rests in the nation's first marine sanctuary, along with several thousand wrecks in waters dubbed "The Graveyard of the Atlantic." Join an elite team of Navy divers as they attempt to recover priceless artifacts of American and naval history; meet the controversial ship designer who built the Monitor in just over 90 days; see a realistic reenactment of the battle that changed the course of the Civil War; and discover a powerful military past as the secrets of the Monitor's short-but-significant service emerge from the deep.
It’s a holiday that’s truly become a billion-dollar industry—a game changing event with deep roots in the spiritual tradition of over a billion people. What are some of the traditions associated with Christmas over the past two thousand years? England's traditions around Yuletide became more and more raucous and profane with every century between the early Middle Ages and the inception of the Industrial Revolution. Debauchery, dipsomania, and depravity overruled any sense of divinity or devotion. When the Puritan separatists established themselves in the New World, they outlawed Christmas celebrations entirely—as did Oliver Cromwell in England in the years following their exodus to America. Indeed, one of the reasons suggested for the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1649 was that the English missed their traditional Christmas revelries, which had been brutally suppressed by the Protectorate. Due to its Pilgrim heritage, the United States would continue to largely ignore Christmas altogether. Congress even sat in session every 25th of December from 1789 through 1856. It was not until immigrants from other parts of Europe--Germany in particular, and, later, from southern and eastern regions--began arriving in large numbers starting in the mid-19th century that Christmas observances truly took root in America.
The Crash of 1929
In 1929 there were few critics of the stock market; it seemed to rise without limits. In fact, presidents and economists alike confidently predicted that America would soon enter a "New Era" when everyone could be rich. But when reality finally struck, the consequences of such unbound optimism shocked the world. The on-going lessons from this game-changing event still shadow us every day.
The Massachusetts 54th
To celebrate Black History month, we look at the historical narratives and archival photos of the Civil War to uncover the real story of the heroic African American regiment dramatized in the movie Glory. When the Civil War began, black men clamored for the chance to strike a blow for the liberation of African Americans. Their desire to participate was rejected until the first officially sanctioned regiment of Northern black soldiers was formed in Boston. This is their story.
The Audacious Nelly Bly
Nellie Bly talked her way into a job on a newspaper, then went on to become "the best reporter in America." To expose abuse of the mentally ill, she had herself committed. But when she traveled around the world in just 72 days, beating Jules Verne's fictional escapade, she became a world celebrity. Her exploits earned her a reputation for fearlessness and, in the process, she changed the way news was gathered and reported.
The Transatlantic Cable
This program tells the story behind the laying of the transatlantic cable. The physical challenges to laying the cable were enormous. The project would require the production of a 2,000 mile long cable that would have to be laid three miles beneath the Atlantic. Cyrus Field, an energetic young New Yorker wasn't deterred, and since its completion in 1866, nothing has broken his communications link with Europe—not storms, earthquakes or war.
Vaccines Diseases that were largely eradicated in the United States a generation ago—including whooping cough, measles, and mumps—are returning, in part because nervous parents are skipping their children's shots. This program takes us around the world to track epidemics, explore the science behind vaccinations, and shed light on the risks of opting out. The vast majority of Americans vaccinate their children, and most do it on the recommended schedule. Yet many people have questions about the safety of vaccines, and in some communities, vaccination rates have fallen below the level needed to maintain "herd immunity" –allowing outbreaks to take hold and spread. Highlighting real cases and placing them in historical context, this presentation traces outbreaks of communicable diseases and demonstrates just how fast they can spread--and how many people can fall sick--when a community's immunity barrier falls.
Ben Franklin and the Balloons
The epic first stage in the adventure of human flight didn't begin with the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk but with daring inventors and aeronauts in 18th century Paris. In just 19 months, humanity not only left the ground for the first time, but a handful of brilliant and colorful pioneers developed all the essential features of today's hot air and gas balloons. Their exploits fascinated Benjamin Franklin, who was serving in Paris as the American ambassador, and created a sensation in the city. This program explores the extraordinary burst of innovation during this period, including the world's first manned voyage by the Montgolfier brothers on November 21, 1783, revealing the secrets of how the Montgolfiers invented flight and the thrilling and daunting prospect that the balloon pioneers faced as they left Earth for the first time.
FOUNDING WRITERS: THE GENTLEMEN
This presentation focuses on seven of America’s earliest writers, men whose work helped to forge opinions and establish how the world—and ourselves—saw the colonies and the fledgling nation. John Smith, William Bradford, Edward Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Phillip Freneau represent the broad range of literature written between 1600 and 1800; readings from their works will be enhanced by music and art from the period.
FOUNDING WRITERS: THE LADIES
This month, it’s the ladies who speak: Seven of America’s earliest female writers whose letters, poems, journals, and fiction give us a picture of what Colonial and Revolutionary America was all about. Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson, Sarah Kemble Knight, Sarah Morton, Ann Bleecker, Judith Murray, and Phillis Wheatley represent the views of American women from 1600—1800; readings from their works will be enhanced by music and art from the period.
GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL: GIULIO CESARE
First performed in London in 1724, George Frederick Handel’s opera GIULIO CESARE is now regarded as one of the pinnacles of the operatic repertoire and one of the finest examples of Baroque music drama. There will be a brief overview of Handel’s life, a synopsis of the opera, and CD and DVD excerpts from the opera. Based on Caesar’s romance with Cleopatra, this opera is both a romance and a political drama, a tale of lust and intrigue boasting some of the finest music penned by Handel.
THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS
When we think of Halloween, we often think of witches and demons. But for America’s 17th-century Puritan settlers, such beings were believed to be a reality, not superstition, and their new home in Massachusetts a place filled with fear and uncertainty. The early colonies were an experiment that—coupled with a backdrop of religious extremism—bred an anxiety so intense it ultimately turned deadly. As a result of the 1692 Salem witch trials, 19 men and women were put to death following the unsustainable testimony of several young girls. In addition to a fine History Channel overview, readings from the court records and other literature will be examined.
LEOS JANACEK: JENUFA
First performed in 1904, Leos Janacek’s operatic masterpiece JENUFA tells a tale of passion, betrayal, murder, but—above all—the transfiguring power of love. Compared with other grand operas, this story of one woman's struggle to rise free from social constraints at a terrible cost is remarkably poignant, credible, and accessible. Scenes are short and intense. The music shimmers with Janacek's characteristic blend of sweetness and sharp dissonance. Tragedy is inevitable, but in this work, hope triumphs. There will be a brief overview of Janacek’s life, a synopsis of the opera, and CD and DVD excerpts from the opera.
TESLA: MASTER OF LIGHTNING
Robert Uth’s 90 minute documentary, Master of Lightning, first shown on PBS, is the focus of December’s presentation. This film recounts the life of scientist, inventor, and visionary Nikola Tesla, often remembered as more of an eccentric cult figure than an electrical engineering genius. Many of his achievements are still attributed to contemporaries Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi. Tesla's surprising inventions are revealed in his autobiographical and scientific writings, supplemented by rare photographs and re-creations.
BENJAMIN BRITTEN: PETER GRIMES
Few modern operas can match Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes for harrowing intensity wedded to brilliant music. Grimes is a fisherman whose young apprentices meet with unfortunate accidents, making him suspected of murder by his mean-spirited neighbors. At the end, Grimes’ psyche snaps and, suicidal, he rows out to sea to find oblivion under the waves. Grimes embodies the loner struggling for self-preservation in a bigoted, conformist environment, an antihero enmeshed in self-doubt, confusion and bewilderment. Only the widow, Ellen Orford, tries to understand and help the hapless Grimes, but without much success. There will be a brief overview of Britten’s life, a synopsis of the opera, and DVD excerpts from the Met’s recent production. One of the 20th century’s greatest tragic operas.
For Valentine’s Day, this program explores the life of one of history’s most misunderstood women: Cleopatra. She married and buried 2 of her brothers, captivated 2 of the most powerful men of her time only to bury them also, and—famously—took her own life at the age of 39 with the help of an asp. A highly educated queen who took the throne at age 18, she outwitted her 10-year-old brother-husband's advisors, and seduced the 52-year-old Julius Caesar by rolling herself up in a carpet and having herself delivered to his room—all before age 21. She was, simply put, the most powerful woman of her time— known for her liaisons, her masterful political skills, and for her role as mother to four. Painted by the Romans as an evil seductress, Cleopatra has more recently found redemption a couple millennia later from historians with a slightly different perception.
RICCARDO ZANDONAI: FRANCESCA DA RIMINI
First told in Dante’s Inferno, Francesca’s real-life tale of passion and revenge has inspired hundreds of creative minds since: Rodin’s The Kiss, a Tchaikovsky tone poem, an opera by Rachmaninoff, and a play by Gabriele D’Annunzio written for his lover—and Sarah Bernhardt rival—Eleonora Duse to name a few. Add to that list Zandonai’s 1914 opera, loving revived at the Met Opera in the 1980’s with an all-star cast. And what a slice of medieval history it is: When a peace was negotiated between two warring families, Guido (the head of one family) wanted to solidify it by marrying his daughter Francesca to the other family’s heir, Giovanni, who was brave but deformed. Guido knew Francesca would refuse Giovanni, so the wedding was performed by proxy through Giovanni's handsome brother, Paolo. Francesca fell in love with Paolo and was unaware of the deception until the morning after the wedding day. According to Dante, Francesca and Paolo were seduced by reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, and became lovers. Subsequently they were surprised and murdered by Giovanni before they were able to repent. There will be a brief overview of Zandonai’s life, a synopsis of the opera, and DVD excerpts from the Met’s production.
H. G. WELLS
In classic novels like The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man, he practically invented science fiction. But those seminal works were just a small part of his life. H.G. Wells wrote over 160 books covering fields from fiction to history to political commentary. In his day he was one of the most famous and influential thinkers in the world. This program uses a DVD biography as the basis for exploring the complete story of Wells, with extensive use of his writings and interviews with leading scholars. Discover the startling range of predictions he made forecasting everything from chemical warfare and the atom bomb to computer chips and modern birth control! And see how his vision of the future darkened as he aged and the horrors of World War II threatened to put an end to his hopes for humanity. This is a revealing look at the life of "the man who invented tomorrow."
RICHARD STRAUSS: ARABELLA
Criticizing Richard Strauss for composing melodically enduring operas is as pointless as lambasting Vermeer for painting only exquisite interior scenes. Those who say Strauss never improved on Rosenkavalier may be right, but when such beguiling sounds kept coming from his music for the next 30 years of his life, there shouldn't be any quibbles. Arabella follows a woman who cannot make up her mind on a suitor and, like most Strauss operas, ends with a meltingly lovely duet. This elegantly playful opera is also possesses the last libretto written for Richard Strauss by Hugo von Hofmannsthal before his untimely death, and it has the high literary value found in all his work. The story focuses on a Viennese family, Count Waldemar, his wife Adelaide and two daughters, Arabella and Zdenka. They are living in genteel poverty and hoping that Arabella, who has several suitors, will marry well and recoup their fortune. They are so poor that Zdenka has been raised as a boy because the family cannot afford to bring out two daughters in Viennese society. A properly rich suitor, Mandryka, shows up and it is love at first sight, until Zdenka confuses the situation. But, of course, there is a happy ending. There will be a brief overview of Strauss’s life, a synopsis of the opera, and DVD excerpts from the Met’s famous production.
THE NAVAJO CODE TALKERS
This presentation examines the Navajo Indians who served as cryptographers in theUnited States Marine Corps during the Second World War. Their primary job was the transmission of secret tactical messages. Code talkers transmitted these messages over military telephone or radio communications nets using formal or informally developed codes built upon their native languages. Using a DVD documentary as well as historical documents, this lecture shows how the service of the Talkers was invaluable to the security of vital front line operations during World War II.
THE POLAR EXPLORER
Sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route. Until 2009, the Arctic pack ice prevented regular marine shipping throughout most of the year, but climate change has reduced the pack ice, and this Arctic shrinkage has made the waterways more navigable. The Polar Explorer explores one of the first scientific expeditions through the Passage, focusing on the effects of climate change in this Arctic region.
As a complement to the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s most popular opera, EUGENE ONEGIN, this program explores the tumultuous life of the Russian composer who gave the world inspired symphonies but who suffered from headaches, fits of weeping, and morbid shyness. Tchaikovsky’s early marriage ended in disaster and led to a suicide attempt. He had another odd relationship with a widow who subsidized him on the condition that they never meet. They did come face-to-face once, but turned away from each other without saying a word. A week after the premiere of his great ballet, The Nutcracker, he died from cholera, but many now believe he was poisoned to prevent revelation of a homosexual scandal involving the royal family.
WORLD WAR I TECH
November 11, 1918 marked the end of the War that was to end all wars. Sadly, it didn’t. World War One epitomized the dark underbelly of the industrial revolution. The technological achievements that had streamlined 19th century production, improved transportation and expanded science were put to use efficiently decimating an entire generation of soldiers during the early 20th century. The first bombing airplanes. The earliest tanks. Submarines. The first large-scale use of chemical weapons. All these and more were introduced in the ''Great War,'' and the after-effects are still being felt today. From the manufacturing advances that made the new weapons possible to the personal accounts of the soldiers who felt their effects in battle, this program, intended for mature viewers, heads to the trenches and fields of a war-torn continent to chronicle the birth of modern warfare.
CHRISTMAS IN YELLOWSTONE
Using the remarkable PBS documentary, CHRISTMAS IN YELLOWSTONE--narrated by Linda Hunt--as a backdrop, join us for a special holiday program devoted to the writings of famous naturalists like Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John Burroughs among others. A visual banquet with breathtaking photography enhanced by the words of those who spent their lives living in and loving the Great Outdoors.
When she was only a teenager, Frida Kahlo was involved in a tragic bus collision that forever changed her life. Often confined to bed, Kahlo found solace in painting her own image from a mirror that hung above her. These self-portraits paved the way to the establishment of Kahlo’s signature autobiographical subject matter. Here tumultuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera and the emotional pain she endured as part of that union became the bedrock of her most celebrated work.
This program--based on Dr. Brian Cox’s WONDERS OF THE UNIVERSE--explores the beginnings of the universe and the origins of humanity, going far back in time to look at the process of stellar evolution and how the basic elements are related to the life cycles of the stars and the recycling of matter in the Universe.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate one of the great creative minds of the 20th century, Martha Graham. Graham and her Dance Company changed the course of modern choreography forever. The program will feature a 1958 film of the complete APPALACHIAN SPRING, one of the most famous ballets ever created, with a Pulitzer-Prize winning score by Aaron Copland and sets by the equally famous artist/sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
Over 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, making the oceans the largest biome on our world. Host to untold hundreds of thousands of life forms, the sea was the cradle of life on this planet and yet remains one of its most unexplored regions. This program explores some of the miraculous creatures of our ocean world from gigantic whales to nearly microscopic plankton.
SAINT-GEORGES: LE MOZART NOIR
Using an award-winning documentary as the foundation, Dr. Bill Thierfelder uncloaks the mystery of Joseph Boulonge, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a black musician from the 18th century whose work has fallen into neglect due to the prejudices of history. In his day, Saint-Georges was an ardent lover, a renowned athlete, a revolutionary, but above all, an extraordinary composer and performer whose work rivaled that of his contemporary Mozart. We will hear extended selections from his compositions and explore the various reasons for his obscurity.
OUR FAMILY TREE
This program focuses on human beings--how we evolved from the first bipedal hominid 7 million years ago to the modern human race. We explore our migration from Africa to the farthest corners of the planet and how every living homo sapiens is related in some way to other recent species, including the much-maligned Neanderthals. A fascinating look at us--the last hominid standing!
A violent protest against debt collection and taxation practices motivated George Washington to come out of retirement to help strengthen our fragile new nation. This rebellion, which lasted from late summer of 1786 to spring of 1787, was the spark that led to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It became, next to the Revolution itself, the pivotal event in the shaping of our nation as we now know it.
THE COMIC DONIZETTI
This program focuses on one of the most delightful comic operas in the repertory, THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT by Gaetano Donizetti. Using the celebrated 2003 performances from the Genoa Opera (and later used as the basis for the Met Opera’s equally remarkable production), Dr. Bill Thierfelder explores Donizetti’s often tragic life and his rich comic legacy. Juan Diego Florez leads an international cast in this rollicking story of love and war.