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Biography and Autobiography Programs

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Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Mimi, Tosca, Turandot, Butterfly, and Manon: Their music touches your soul and their stories break your heart. Opera expert Fred Plotkin explores Puccini’s gallery of unforgettable heroines, and singers from Washington National Opera perform.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Hometown boy Henry Rollins recalls his role in the influential hardcore punk scene of 1980s Washington and the trailblazing artists it spawned.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Over more than a century, three generations of Wyeths have created a collective portrait of America. Art historian Bonita Billman traces the family tradition reflected in their disparate subjects and styles.

Monday, October 20, 2014 at 6:45 PM

He’s a Pulitzer Prize winner who has interviewed Al Gore for Rolling Stone and Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker—and an undocumented immigrant. Jose Antonio Vargas discusses his life as an American with the Newseum’s Frank Bond.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Written in berry juice on newspapers, the contents of the 1871 field diary on which legendary explorer David Livingstone recorded his observations on the African slave trade faded to near-invisibility in just a few years. A team of scholars, scientists, and spectral imaging experts have revealed his words again.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Robert Wyatt celebrates the team whose work redefined the structure, spirit, and sound of the American musical.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Before he was 30, he had helped his father develop Rockefeller Center and his mother establish the Museum of Modern Art. At 32, he was Franklin Roosevelt’s wartime coordinator for Latin America. As New York’s four-term governor, he set national standards in education, the environment, and urban policy. Biographer Richard Norton Smith discusses the always-fascinating life of Nelson Rockefeller.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Meet the Minister of Silly Walks himself, comic genius John Cleese. Tonight, in an interview with NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” host Scott Simon, he shares the stories behind his success, one laugh at a time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Follow an American original down the road less traveled. Author Daniel Stashower explores Frost’s life and legacy, and actor Scott Sedar reads a selection of the poet’s most celebrated works.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at 6:45 PM

In his acclaimed biography of British mathematician Alan Turing, Andrew Hodges tells how this brilliant man’s concept of a universal machine laid the foundation for the modern computer, and how Turing played a leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II.

Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 9:30 AM

In this richly illustrated seminar, art historian Bonita Billman explores the lives and careers of van Gogh and other notable artists in Paris and their depictions of the celebrities and scenes of everyday life in Montmartre—the night life and low life of a bohemian world.

Monday, December 8, 2014 at 7:00 PM

The Roosevelts stand apart from American dynasties of the past and present in terms of their political and personal impact on our nation. Filmmaker Ken Burns and writer Geoffrey C. Ward, collaborators on a new PBS series and companion book, discuss how they crafted their portraits of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt to capture both their larger-than-life public personas and the private lives that shaped them as individuals.

Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Senator John McCain discusses his evocative history of Americans at war, told through the personal accounts of 13 remarkable men and women who fought in conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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