Arts

Arts and culture

At London's annual Chelsea Flower Show, the flora is fit for a queen: shaped in her likeness and crafted in honor of her 90th birthday. The new princess has her own chrysanthemum too.

But this year's event, which opens Tuesday, kicks off with a warning from the Royal Horticultural Society: Britain has a "lost generation of gardeners."

Susan Silverman, the older sister of the irreverent comic Sarah Silverman, grew up with a crippling fear of losing people she loved. Her fear wasn't completely unfounded: When she was 2, her infant brother Jeffrey died inexplicably in his crib.

Give the man credit: Congressman Anthony Weiner, having inspired countless headline puns a few years back when he was caught texting crotch shots, put himself out there when most people would've run for cover.

Ralph J. Gleason is my hero.

It's impossible to put an exact date on it, but I think I started reading his column in Rolling Stone in the summer of 1973. I was 14 years old and already immersed in music. Reading him, I discovered you could write about music and get paid for it — and then I discovered his writing was just as immersive as the music we both loved.

Sherman Alexie's new children's book stars Thunder Boy Smith, a little boy who was named after his dad. "People call him Big Thunder," the boy says of his father. "That nickname is a storm filling up the sky. People call me Little Thunder. That nickname makes me sound like a burp or a fart." Over the course of Thunder Boy Jr., the boy emerges from his dad's shadow to become his own person.

In the 1980s, Raymond Douglas had been living in Ireland when a priest invited him for a drink. This was not an invitation to partake in Holy Communion. Rather, the priest — whom Douglas, then 18, had come to know as the unofficial chaplain at his school — had invited Douglas out to a party.

Our third production for Delmarva Radio Theatre is "Usherette" by Marcelle Thiebaux.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

'Smoke' Author Dan Vyleta Keeps It Messy

May 22, 2016

The river Avon is crowded: swans, boaters, a swimming dog or two. On the bank, an excited old man waves at each boat like a castaway sighting rescue.

Stratford is all pubs and thatched roofs and sweet shops, with its daytrippers and slightly suffocating, kitschified Shakespearean pedigree (I say that: I still contemplated buying an "Out, damn spot" novelty eraser). The author Dan Vyleta teaches in nearby Birmingham, but lives here with his partner, a literary translator. We're sitting on a bench on the opposite bank from the happy castaway, looking at the Avon.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Novelist Joe Hill has a pronouncement to make: "The world is really divided into two kinds of people. People who adore plague novels and wimps."

Known mostly for graphic novels, Fantagraphics has ventured occasionally into prose — including His Wife Leaves Him, the 2013 novel by award-winning author Stephen Dixon. Letters to Kevin is Dixon's second book for Fantagraphics, and while it's also a work of prose, it veers a bit closer to the publisher's wheelhouse: It's profusely illustrated by Dixon himself. It's a risky move; most of Dixon's rudimentary sketches are of the don't-quit-your-day-job variety.

Classical music fans know the names Mendelssohn and Schumann. Chances are, Felix and Robert leap to mind — but Felix's sister Fanny was also a composer, and so was Robert Schumann's wife Clara. Those are just two composers featured in Anna Beer's new book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The copper craft makers in Seffarin Square in the historic district of Fez, Morocco, bang out designs on platters and shape copper pots to a rhythm.

Called the medina, neighborhood streets lined with domes and archways take you back through the history of the dynasties and occupiers that ruled Morocco from the 9th century on. At the center of the square is the Qarawiyyin Library, founded more than a millennium ago.

Even car racing fans may be surprised to learn that in the 1920s a poem would grace the pages of the race-day program. But then, what better way to get the juices flowing, amid the exhaust, screaming engines and checkered flags, than a few lines of verse?

In case by now you didn't know it,

the Indy 500 has brought back its poet.

Ben Collins is a very, very good driver. You may have seen him drive on the European race circuit, or on the BBC show Top Gear, or in the James Bond movies. He's written a book called How to Drive so that you, too, can come to a screeching stop right at the edge of a cliff. (Or so we hope.)

Since Collins knows a lot about gears, we've decided to quiz him on Richard Gere.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The ongoing controversy in North Carolina over access to bathrooms has increased the general public's awareness of issues facing transgender people. One thing you might not think about is voice: How does that essential tool of communication change with gender transition? It's something that has deep emotional and psychological resonance. It's also something that's playing out in a growing number of transgender choruses across the country.

As a young child growing up in South Africa, Gillian Power sang in school and church choirs.

On the first page of Girls on Fire, author Robin Wasserman asks us to imagine a group of teenage girls on a bus. "Give in: Pick a pair of them, lost in each other, a matched set like a vision out of the past," she writes. "Nobody special, two nobodies. Except that together, they're radioactive: together, they glow."

Watching a Terence Davies film is like watching paintings come to life. On the other hand, the filmmaker jokes, "The people who don't like my films say it's about as interesting as paint drying."

Still, Davies (pronounced "Davis") has plenty of defenders. More than one critic has called him Britain's greatest living film director, and French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard — who was famously not a fan of British moviemakers — called Davies' 1988 full-length feature breakout, Distant Voices, Still Lives, "magnificent".

Playwright Dominique Morisseau is kind of the unofficial poet laureate of Detroit. She has written three plays about her hometown and her latest, Skeleton Crew, looks at four African-American automobile workers struggling with the economic downturn in 2008. The play is currently running off-Broadway, where it's gotten rave reviews.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Mike Rowe: Public Radio Shopping Network

May 20, 2016

Before he became a go-to television host, Mike Rowe got a small part in the Baltimore Opera in hopes of joining the actor's union. "Okay, you can't fake your way into opera!" interjected Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg at the Bob Carr Theater in Orlando, Florida. "Sure you can," he responded. "You can fake your way into anything. I mean, look at us!" During a long break in a performance, Rowe grabbed a drink across the street. The bartender told him about a cattle-call audition for a home shopping network the very next day.

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