Director Mayer to open 25th Writers Institute on Feb. 7

The New York State Writers Institute will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2008 and, as in pre
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The New York State Writers Institute will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2008 and, as in previous years, the lineup of artists for this spring’s Visiting Writers Series will offer a little something for everybody.

“It’s pretty diverse as usual, and that’s something we always try to do,” said Writers Institute director Donald Faulkner. “We’ve always tried to capture a diverse audience by having a diverse guest list.”

Michael Mayer, winner of a 2007 Tony Award as Best Director for the Broadway musical “Spring Awakening,” will kick off the series on Feb. 7 by serving as the guest speaker for the 12th annual Burian Lecture. Mayer will take part in a seminar at 4:15 p.m., and then present his talk at 8 p.m. Both events will be at the University at Albany’s Recital Hall in the Performing Arts Center.

Novelists Russell Banks and Richard Price will make appearances in April with readings from their new books. Banks’ new novel is “Reserve,” set in the Adirondacks in 1936-37 during the Great Depression. Price’s new novel is “Lush Life,” about the desperate fates of working-class people left stranded by the gentrification of New York City’s Lower East Side.

Poetry Featured

This spring also will heavily feature poetry.

“We have some of the old standards, like Russell Banks and Richard Price, but the other thing that we’re doing, that we probably haven’t done enough of, is more on poetry,” said Faulkner. “We have a number of excellent poets coming, and I feel as though our audience has been asking for more of a focus on poetry. We also like to take people in fresh directions, and if you build up enough trust with your audience, then they’ll start following you places they might not go otherwise.”

One writer Faulkner is particularly excited about is Susan Choi, a member of The New Yorker editorial staff and the author of “A Person of Interest,” a new book about a mild-mannered Asian-American math professor falsely accused of killing prominent scientists with mail bombs. Choi, who will offer a seminar and a reading on Feb. 12, won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2003 book “American Women,” and was a student of Faulkner’s when he taught at Yale University.

“She’s a remarkable talent who’s been writing about Asian-American issues, but very much in an American frame,” said Faulkner. “I’m very happy and very proud to say that she’s a former student of mine.”

Also scheduled is Albany native and UAlbany graduate Gregory Maguire, best known for his novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” which inspired the hit Broadway musical “Wicked.” His newest work is a children’s novel, “What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy.”

Documentary filmmaker Perry Miller Adato (Feb. 22) and literary critic James Wood (Feb. 28) are also on the schedule, and the Writers Institute will open its Classic Film Series on Feb. 8 with a viewing of “Killer of Sheep,” a 1977 documentary by Charles Burnett about a black slaughterhouse worker as he experiences everyday life in South Central Los Angeles.

For more information, contact the Writers Institute at 442-5620 or visit the Web site at www.albany.edu/writers-inst.

Here is the schedule:

LECTURE SERIES

Feb. 7 — 12th annual Burian Lecture: Award-winning theater director Michael Mayer. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center; Burian Lecture: 8 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center.

Feb. 12 — Fiction writer Susan Choi. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library. Reading: 8 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center.

Feb. 22 — Documentary filmmaker Perry Miller Adato. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library. Screening of “Gertrude Stein,” a documentary with film commentary, 7 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Ave.

Feb. 28 — Critic James Wood. Fiction reading: 4:15 p.m., Science Library 340. Talk/discussion on literary criticism: 8 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center.

March 3 — State Author/State Poet Award Ceremony and Reading (recipients TBA). Ceremony/reading: 8 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Ave.

March 11 — Award-winning poets Marie Howe and Campbell McGrath. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library. Reading: 8 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center.

March 13 — Fiction writer Gregory Maguire. Talk/reading: 7 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center.

March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day Celebration: Nonfiction writers Daniel Cassidy and Peter Quinn. Reading/discussion: 8 p.m., Clark Auditorium, Cultural Education Center, Albany.

April 1 — Poet Li-Young Lee. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center. Reading: 8 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center.

April 10 — Novelist Richard Price. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center. Reading: 8 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center.

April 14 — Authors Theatre: Staged Reading of Dava Sobel’s “And the Sun Stood Still.” Staged Reading: 7 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center.

April 16 — Award-winning fiction writer Russell Banks. Seminar: 4 p.m., RPI’s Heffner Alumni House, 1301 Peoples Ave., Troy. Reading: 8 p.m., RPI’s Darring Communication Center 308, Troy.

April 24 — Poet Frank Bidart. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Campus Center 375. Reading: 8 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center.

April 29 — PEN World Voices: Festival of International Literature. Reading: 8 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center.

May 1 — FENCE Spring/Summer 2008 Launch Reading. Reading: 8 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library. Reading: 8 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center.

May 6 — Fiction writer Nicholas Delbanco. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Science Library 340. Reading: 8 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center.

May 8 — Cuban-American fiction writer Cristina Garcia. Seminar: 4:15 p.m., Science Library 340. Reading: 8 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center.

FILM SERIES

All screenings will be in Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., Albany, at 7:30 p.m., except where noted.

Feb 8 — “Killer of Sheep” (U.S., 1977, 83 minutes, directed by Charles Burnett) is a radically inventive, dream-like portrait of a black slaughterhouse worker as he experiences everyday life in South Central Los Angeles.

Feb. 22 — “Gertrude Stein: When This You See, Remember Me” (U.S., 1970, 89 minutes, directed by Perry Miller Adato) uses revolutionary techniques to bring its subject to life, including old photos, letters, art objects, newsreel footage and interviews. 7 p.m.

Feb. 29 — “Sholay” (India, 1975, 188 minutes, directed by Ramesh Sippy) is loosely based on Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” and combines relentless action with lively song-and-dance numbers. 7 p.m.

March 7 — “Dragonwyck” (U.S., 1946, 103 minutes, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz). Set in Albany, the story centers on a young woman who goes to live with rich, possibly murderous relatives in a Hudson Valley mansion.

March 14 — “Clando” (Cameroon, 1996, 90 minutes, directed by Jean-Marie Teno) is an award-winning feature film about an African computer programmer who gets caught up in a web of corruption and political intrigue.

April 4 — “Mad Dog Glory” (U.S., 1993, 97 minutes, directed by John McNaughton) is Richard Price’s story about a shy cop who saves the life of a mob boss and is rewarded with the problematic gift of a beautiful woman.

April 11 — The Big Read Project: “The Age of Innocence” (U.S., 1993, 139 minutes, directed by Martin Scorsese) is an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel of sex and social scandal during the Gilded Age in New York. 7 p.m.

April 18 — “La bête humaine” (French, 1938, 100 minutes, directed by Jean Renoir) focuses on a train engineer who is given to fits of violence and falls for the wife of a station master.

April 25 — “The Lost City” (U.S., 2005, 143 minutes, directed by Andy Garcia), based on a screenplay by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, tells the story of Havana’s glitzy nightclub set during and after Castro’s revolution.

May 2 — “The Face of Another” (Japan, 1966, 124 minutes, directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara), also known as “Tanin no kao,” is a low-budget horror classic about a disfigured man who persuades a doctor to give him a new face.

May 9 — “City Lights” (U.S., 1931, 87 minutes, directed by Charlie Chaplin), a silent classic with live piano accompaniment by Mike Shiffer, is about a love affair between a “tramp” and a blind flower girl.

Categories: Life and Arts

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