A Weekend of Arts and Leisure

By Andrew Singer

The New York Times Arts & Leisure Weekend is approaching quickly.  For a mere $30,  you get to dive into the minds of all your favorite performers, authors and all sorts of engaging personalities.  Intelligent hosts offer insightful commentary on each person’s career, as well as a chance for audience q&a.  I had the pleasure of covering this event last year, and I can’t wait to see many talks again this year.  Here are some of my highlights from 2009’s event:

Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates

I enjoyed all talks, but Kathy Bates was by far my favorite.  Throughout the discussion, they played clips from four of her movies:  “Misery”, “Primary Colors”, “About Schmidt” and “Reservation Road”.  In each role, she inhabits a wide variety of characters, sometimes lonely, sometimes loving but always powerful.  She stated that she was of course delighted with the success of “Misery” as one of the first horror films to win mainstream awards, yet she was relieved to be cast in other roles afterwards, so as not to have that as her one single legacy.  She sunk into her parts not only through research and method but also through the visceral experience of putting on her costumes and taking in the set design.

She originally attended Southern Methodist University in Texas in order to become and engineer like her father, but broke away into the drama department after discovering that theater was her true love.  Many in the audience praised her wealth of live theater work, especially her Tony Award-winning role in “’night Mother”. Kathy stated that the only way to be a true success is to get as much acting experience and working together with ensembles as possible.  When asked about the rise of instant celebrities on reality shows, she answered, “Fame is fleeting.  Your craft will last forever.”

Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Keith Olbermann

America’s second angriest man took a surprisingly lenient view on lame duck President George W. Bush, a man he had recently told to “Shut.  The Hell.  Up”, much to the dismay of his network.  Olbermann paralleled his own experience of running his college radio station, back when he was 18, claiming that he was so excited to become the leader that when he finally sat down at his desk, he realized he had no idea what to do and now simply had to struggle to get through each day.  He stated that he had recently seen Bush call play-by-play on a baseball game, and by the way Bush’s eyes let up as he spoke, he could tell that was what Bush was really meant to do.

Lewis Black

Lewis Black

America’s angriest man won over the audience by cursing up a storm.  He said that his fierce passion originated from his mother, and that yes, he could be found yelling left and right off-set as well, whether at the TV, the newspaper or himself for losing something in his own apartment.  In addition to standup and acting, he has written some books and over 40 plays, although he said that many of his plays were created very quickly, and he has a hard time getting people to come to his plays if he himself does not appear in them.  In response to the question that EVERY comedian gets asked today (“Will you still be able to be funny now that W is no longer in office?”), he said there are still plenty of other assholes in the world who will face his wrath.  Even of Obama, Black said, “Yeah, he’s full of that hope shit.”

Photo by Kyle Kassidy

Photo by Kyle Kassidy

Salman Rushdie

Each one of Rushdie’s books is a densely-packed, well-researched epic that can take up to 10 years to create.  After enough preparation, once he begins his work, he finds that the characters begin speaking to him and telling him what they should do next on the page.  His creations take a life of their own, pushing him into the frantic final drafts, where he’ll spend up to 20 hours a day working and isn’t very fun to be around until the book is finally completed.  As a regular inhabitant of Bombay (which he refuses to call Mumbai), London and New York City, when asked to describe home, he said that he’s happy wherever he is and feels no kinship to one particular location.  He said that he had always disagreed with the ending to The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy begs to leave a wonderful land of enchantment in order to return to the dull, literally black-and-white land of Kansas.

Image courtesy of Steve Fenn/ABC

Image courtesy of Steve Fenn/ABC

The View

All five current ladies of The View were present:  Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shephard and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  Of the talks I attended, this one got the most consistent laughter from the audience, although I personally found the humor to be quite broad.  The ladies talked about the camaraderie they shared both on and off the set and how they didn’t let differences of opinion get in the way of their friendship.  The View has been a very successful daytime show for over a decade now.  When networks tried to create a similar show with five men, it only lasted a few years before being cut.

The 2010 Weekend of Arts and Leisure will include talks by Jimmy Fallon, Liev Schreiber, Alan Cumming, Natalie Portman, Angela Lansbury and many more.

January 7 – 10, 2010 at the Times Center on 242 W 41 St, between 7th and 8th Aves.

Purchase tickets.

Andrew Singer performs all over the NYC as comedic rapper “soce, the elemental wizard.” He has toured Europe and the U.S., and been featured on numerous media outlets, including MTV, VH1, Here TV, Logo, The Source, Out, Howard Stern and Sirius Shade 45.  His music is available on iTunes.

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Posted on 04 Jan 2010 at 6:13pm
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