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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Biography & Autobiography Programs

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

The sound of their music for Broadway, films, and television defined the spirit and mood of mid-century America—and continues to captivate us. In a lively evening, pianist, raconteur, and American music specialist Robert Wyatt celebrates the lives and works of Rodgers and Hammerstein, icons of the American musical whose songs elevated the human spirit.

Thursday, December 9, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

The tumultuous friendship between George Harrison and Eric Clapton shaped not only their lives and careers but the shifting face of rock music in the early 1970s. Beatles expert Ken Womack and music historian Jason Kruppa explore the rock legends’ musical and personal collaboration, friendship, and rivalry—and a love triangle for the ages, involving Clapton, Harrison, and Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd.

Monday, December 13, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Dylan Thomas is among the 20th century’s most romantic and tragic figures, famous not only for his lyrical, soul-stirring poetry, but also his turbulent, hard-drinking lifestyle. Join us as we “burn and rave at close of day” in a celebration of this incandescent spirit. Author Daniel Stashower explores Thomas’s life and legacy, and actor Scott Sedar offers dramatic readings of some of his most celebrated poems.

Monday, December 13, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Tapped by his one-time political rival Abraham Lincoln to become secretary of the treasury, Salmon P. Chase proved essential to the Civil War effort and pressed the president to emancipate the country’s slaves and recognize Black rights. Biographer Walter Stahr sheds new light on a complex and fascinating political figure, as well as on the pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Biographer Bob Spitz tells the story of how Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and John Bonham came together to form the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin—one of the most successful (and certainly one of the most notorious) bands of all time.

Thursday, February 3, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

For centuries, the English monarchy was male, but several notable women shattered that royal glass ceiling. Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger leads an assumption-challenging survey of female reigns, from the first crowned queen of England to the record-breaking longevity of Elizabeth II, examining how each redefined the role of the ruler and nature of the monarchy.

Thursday, February 10, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Thomas Eakins spent a lifetime on a quest to create the most accurate portrayal of the human figure. Art critic and author Judy Pomeranz examines the life of this exceptional American painter and his impact on the course of art history. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Monday, February 14, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Nearly 50 years have passed since the publication of her final book, but Dame Agatha Christie remains the best-selling novelist of all time. Author Daniel Stashower explores Agatha Christie’s life and career while actors Scott Sedar and Bari Bern give voice to her most beloved characters. It would be a crime to miss it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

His unique voice and passionate style made Ray Charles one of the most beloved and influential musicians of our time. Music curator John Edward Hasse of the American History Museum celebrates the music, the man, and his place in our country’s cultural history.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Willa Cather’s visits to Santa Fe in the 1920s with her partner, book editor Edith Lewis, inspired her to research and write the enduring novel she referred to as her best book. Author and historian Garrett Peck examines how the setting and spirit of Death Comes for the Archbishop is rooted in those travels and in their relationship.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

On February 8, 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed for treason on the orders of her English cousin, Elizabeth I. It was a tragic end to a turbulent life. But was she the victim of misogyny and anti-Catholic prejudice, or did she bring her troubles on herself by her own miscalculations? Historian Jennifer Paxton explores her life for the answer to one of history’s enduring questions.

Monday, March 7, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is among the most famous American artists we know today. But before his untimely death in 1988, critics were divided about whether or not his work would leave a lasting impression. Explore this artist's legacy with art history professor Jordana Moore Saggese. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Richard III is one of the most famous—and possibly the most infamous—of all British monarchs. In an absorbing program, Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger explores the various attempts to portray Richard III over the centuries, from the villain of Shakespeare to the heroic English king killed on the battlefield.

Monday, March 14, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

What is it about Jane Austen that has made her one of the most instantly recognizable names in all of literature? Joseph Luzzi, professor of comparative literature at Bard College, explores Austen’s remarkable career and her novels’ astonishing staying power over the centuries.