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When Robert Pinsky Wrote a Video Game

[F]or a brief time in the mid-nineteen-eighties major literary publishers, including Simon & Schuster and Random House, opened software divisions, and major bookstores stocked works of “interactive fiction.” Popular writers, including Douglas Adams and Thomas M. Disch, turned their capable hands to the burgeoning form. It was in the midst of this excited moment that the future three-term U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky wrote a video game called “Mindwheel,” which,…

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Books Wield a Dangerous Power

While we might point to violent video games or sexually explicit films as potentially dangerous and corrupting influences on tender or vulnerable minds, the novel is treated as uplifting and salutary, regardless of its content: a kale smoothie for the soul. When we do talk about books being ‘dangerous’, it is usually with a knowing nod and a wink: and the implication is that those of us in the know…

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What Jane [Austen] Saw: 1796 Shakespeare Gallery

You are invited to time travel to two art exhibitions witnessed by Jane Austen: the Sir Joshua Reynolds retrospective in 1813 or the Shakespeare Gallery as it looked in 1796. These two Georgian blockbusters took place, years apart, in the same London exhibition space at 52 Pall Mall (it no longer exists). When Austen visited in 1813, the building housed the British Institution, an organization promoting native artists. On her…

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Great moments from Pride and Prejudice

I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice in about 25 years. I always liked Mr. Bennett, though now that I have been married for more than 20 years, I can more fully appreciate his line from Chapter 1: “You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.” I love…

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Final week of Pict Classic Theatre’s Oliver Twist (NEXTpittsburgh)

Today is Carolyn’s day off from Oliver Twist… the show’s final week starts tomorrow, and ends with two shows on Saturday Dec 19. Now, the iconic story of Oliver Twist makes its U.S. premiere in a production with local ties and significance for one Pittsburgh-based theater company. If you have yet to catch PICT Classic Theatre‘s Oliver Twist—which opened on December 3rd—you have six more chances to experience this timeless tale of redemption, charity and…

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The Complete Deaths: all of the Bard’s 74 scripted deaths in one new play.

Over the past four centuries, the brutality of Shakespeare’s plays has become the subject of endless academic study, but his contemporary critics didn’t approve of the on-stage gore. Michael Dobson,  director of the Shakespeare Institute, said that Elizabethan drama was known for being gruesome: “The English drama was notorious for on-stage deaths; they were thought crass. For neo-classical critics, deaths should be off-stage.” Should Crouch and his cast deploy the deaths…