As spring finally seems to be bursting out over a thawing Gotham, so the House of SpeakEasy is bursting with excitement about the line-up for next Tuesday’s show. It’s quite the team: writer Susan Cheever, composer/lyricist Michael Friedman, author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney, writer Kate Mosse and journalist Michael Riedel will all be answering (or maybe asking?) the question “Are You For Sale?” By way of introduction, here’s a short gallery of video gems.
Susan Cheever is famous for both fiction and nonfiction. We took a look at her latest book, E.E. Cummings: A Life, last week (see here). Other biographical writings include My Name is Bill – Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous; Home Before Dark, a memoir of her father, the writer John Cheever; and American Bloomsbury, which tracks the lives of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Alcott and their hugely influential set in the mid-nineteenth century. Her novels include A Handsome Man and Looking For Work.
Here’s Cheever at the New York State Writers Institute on becoming a writer. “It was clearly not something I wanted to try and do in my family! […] And you spend most of your time worrying about paying your child’s orthodontist’s bills…”
Jeff Kinney is one of the most successful writers on the planet. In 2009 he was even named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine. His Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which now runs to eight volumes and details the trials and tribulations of middle-schooler Greg Heffley, has sold over 115 million copies worldwide. Since 2010, there’s even been a Greg Heffley balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Here’s Kinney reading from the first volume of Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
Michael Friedman is a composer and lyricist whose satirical emo musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson earned many a plaudit on Broadway in 2010. His latest work, written for The Civilians, which he co-founded in 2001, is The Great Immensity, and opens at the Public Theater on April 11 (tickets here). It’s a grand, continent-hopping show about climate change. Well worth checking out The Civilians’ breakout website here for more on the ideas and research that inspired the show.
In this hilarious address to TEDxEast in 2012, Friedman talks a little bit about his musical adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, currently playing in Dallas, and how to construct a song for theatre:
“I don’t need to be nice to Bono and The Edge… If you don’t have a bold, strong voice, you’re not gonna be good at this game…” So says Michael Riedel, the New York Post‘s outspoken theatre critic, in this funny, candid, wide-ranging interview from 2012. Riedel has been reviewing Broadway shows for more than 20 years in print and on the PBS show he co-hosts, Theater Talk (the website for which is a video feast). The theatre producer David Brown once called him “the enfant terrible of the New York press” for his sharp observations.
Riedel talks about how he became a critic, the true heirs to the classical Broadway musical, the phenomenal success of Glee, and star power in the theatre.
Kate Mosse is best known for her historical fiction, in particular the hugely successful Languedoc trilogy — Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel — which has sold millions of copies and been translated into over thirty languages. The TV miniseries of Labyrinth (watch the trailer here) will debut on US television on The CW on May 22 and 23. Mosse has also written plays, short stories and nonfiction, and in 1996 she co-founded the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s a UK-based award that honours the best writing by women around the world. Over the years, winners have included Marilynne Robinson, Lionel Shriver and Zadie Smith.
In this interview conducted at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival last year, Mosse talks about the dangers of “putting imaginary words in real people’s mouths”, her debt to Dan Brown, and what comes first when she writes.
We hope to see you at “Are You For Sale?” next Tuesday, March 18, at City Winery NYC. Tickets on sale here.