Part four of 4-part interview: Meet filmmaker and producer Justin King and hear his passion for Orchard House

In part three of this interview about Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, we meet the documentary’s producer and filmmaker, Justin King. Hear his motivation for making this film:

I wish to thank WCOM-FM for granting permission to rebroadcast this interview. It originally aired on October 1st on the “Courage Cocktail” hosted by Lee Anne McClymont.

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Host Lee Ann McClymont wrote a lovely sonnet to Louisa which I will close with. Thank you for your support of the campaign!

Louisa’s Dream

Kindred sister, in thy grace,
Help me birth a gentler race.
Place inside the meaning clear
Through our voice disband the fear.
Ford our way through wide and narrow
Guide our vision through bone and marrow
Still the noise and ply your craft
With sound and vision restore the draft
Till eventide the sea must rush
Let moonbeams sweetly whisper “hush.”
The end is near for family’s lost
In time suspended hope’s only cost
Restore the pledge to live in light
Godspeed your craft
With fortress might!

Sweetwood-Spring 2009
Hillsborough, North Carolina

Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

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Part three of 4-part interview: Jan Turnquist recounts a fascinating story of a pilgrimage to Orchard House

little women in koreanIn part three of this interview about Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Executive Director Jan Turnquist shares a poignant story of a pilgrim visiting Orchard House from the other side of the world and how Little Women impacted this visitor:

I wish to thank WCOM-FM for granting permission to rebroadcast this interview. It originally aired on October 1st on the “Courage Cocktail” hosted by Lee Anne McClymont.

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Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

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Part two of 4-part interview: Jan Turnquist talks about Bronson’s education and the support Louisa received from her parents

" . . . I press thee to my heart, as Duty's faithful child."

” . . . I press thee to my heart, as Duty’s faithful child.”

In part two of this interview about Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Executive Director Jan Turnquist reveals how Bronson Alcott received his education and how important his love of learning was to Louisa’s development as a writer:

I wish to thank WCOM-FM for granting permission to rebroadcast this interview. It originally aired on October 1st on the Courage Cocktail Radio Show, WCOM LP. 

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Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

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Beginning today: 4-part interview with the movers and shakers of the Orchard House documentary and Kickstarter fundraising campaign

As you know, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House has been promoting a Kickstarter Campaign to raise $150,000 to fund a documentary film on this extraordinary house museum (click on the photo to make your pledge).

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Those of us who have visited Orchard House know that it is far more than a museum; it is a place of pilgrimage. Countless visitors remark on the spiritual aspect of visiting the ancient house, “feeling” the presence of the Alcott family as they see drawings and paintings by artist May on the walls and secretly touch the desk where Louisa penned Little Women.

orchard house

 

Jan Turnquist, Director of Concord's Orchard House, shares the wealth of the historic Alcott home.

Jan Turnquist, Director of Concord’s Orchard House, shares the wealth of the historic Alcott home.

Recently Executive Director Jan Turnquist and film maker and producer Justin King gave a compelling interview on the radio program “Courage Cocktail” hosted by Lee Anne McClymont of WCOM LP 103.5 in Carrboro, North Carolina. The interview was an hour in length; to facilitate easier listening, I have split that interview into four parts to be posted Monday through Thursday of this week. I wish to thank WCOM for permission to rebroadcast this interview.

As you listen to this wonderful, passionate and magical account of Orchard House, please consider joining the hundreds who have already pledged their support at  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house. With just 17 days left to go, nearly $100,000 still needs to be pledged.

This documentary affords Orchard House the chance to reach a far wider audience than they ever have before. Knowledge of this house is essential to keep it up and running as a museum. Build in the 1600’s, Orchard House is in constant need of repair. Your pledge keeps Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House alive and running!

Here is part one of the interview; it features Jan Turnquist describing the fascinating history of the house:

 

Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

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Remembering Louisa May Alcott through your pledge #PledgeYourLove

Over the next five days I will be posting video and audio featuring remembrances of Louisa May Alcott and her home, the Orchard House. You may know that Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House is in the middle of a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. The goal is to raise $150,000 to fund a documentary film about the history and legacy of Orchard House.

Any of you who have visited Orchard House know,  it is more than a museum. It is a place of pilgrimage. We can feel the presence of the family from Louisa’s mood pillow in the parlor, to Anna’s grey silk wedding dress on Louisa’s bed. From Bronson’s architectural improvements and the large library in his study, to Marmee’s family china in the dining room and her comb in the master bedroom. We pause looking at Lizzie’s melodeon and marvel at May’s paintings and drawings not only hung on the walls, but painted right on the walls. Most of all, we stop in front of the little half moon desk where a classic was born, a book that has inspired the lives of millions of women from around the world for well over a century.

The posts I will put up Monday through Thursday of this week will feature a 4-part interview with the Executive Director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House Jan Turnquist; plus we will hear from the producer and filmmaker Justin King as to what inspired him to make the film.

I am deeply grateful to Lee Anne MyClymont for granting permission to take her interview and present it over these next few days. You can find her podcast here: “Courage Cocktail” hosted by Lee Anne McClymont of WCOM LP 103.5 in Carrboro, North Carolina.

As a warm-up, I wish to present my own remembrance of Louisa May Alcott and her sister Lizzie, just to get you started:

Remember to #PledgeYourLove at
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/632439913/orchard-house

And please, share these posts with everyone you know who loves Little Women and Louisa May Alcott!

To make sure you don’t miss these series of interviews, subscribe to the email list and never miss a post!

With only 17 days left in the campaign, let’s help Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House make their goal!

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Summer Conversational Series 2014 – “Navigating the Vortex: Creative Genius in the Time of the Alcotts” – the role of Faust

560 steve burby1Continuing with the Monday sessions, Dr. Stephen Burby was a new face on the scene. He currently teaches English in Brentwood, NY and has authored of AP English Language and Composition: An Apex Learning Guide (2004 and 2005 editions) as well as contributing to the production of editions in Barron’s No-Fear Shakespeare series and to their latest edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Faust, Goethe and Louisa

His topic, “Goethe and the Transcendendalists: How Faust Shaped the American Renaissance” traced the history of the Faust myth from its beginnings and through its evolution by the pens of Christopher Marlow, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and finally, Louisa May Alcott.

The myth, the man, the devil

faust and the devilThrough the characters of Johann Faust and the Devil (aka Mephistopheles), the myth began as a folk tale that was used by the Church (mainly the Calvinists) to warn the faithful against the intellectuals and the idea of the individual which could lead anyone into hell. Aimed at the working man, Burby described how the people wanted a “quick laugh”, a “quick tear” and the didactic lesson. In other words, keep it simple. Faust therefore represented the everyman; his fate could be anyone’s fate.

The story

So what did Faust do? Desiring youth and wealth, he sold his soul to the devil in return for twenty-seven years of youth and the “good life.” In the end the devil would have his way with Faust torn to shreds and his soul carted away to hell.

Not exactly subtle, but it served the particular historical period from which it came.

Deeper meaning

560 steve burby2Burby maintains that Faust speaks to us universally which is why the tale was explored more deeply and expanded, first by Christopher Marlowe and then by Goethe.

Marlowe’s take

Marlowe changed the legend in a subtle way by exploring the inner turmoil of Faust who comes to regret his bargain with the devil. The ending remained the same but the torture of Faust was more profound.

Goethe deepens the myth

Goethe took the story a step further. Burby suggested that Goethe was one of the “rock stars” of the era because of his poetry. By the time he took on Faust, it had lived out its usefulness and was often viewed as parody. By using Faust as the jumping off point, he transformed the legend using Faust and the devil as metaphors for striving versus stasis. Goethe not only has Faust repenting of his sin of bargaining with the devil, he also allows Faust to escape his fate. His point was to promote the idea that striving for knowledge, both for the mind and of the self, was important. Stasis was considered “evil” because of its prevention of indivdiual growth and creativity. This was the emerging German romanticism which eventually made its way over to New England, spawning the Transcendentalist movement.

Faust’s salvation and God’s role

Burby described the eternal feminine in the character of Gretchen whom Faust was madly in love with. It is through Gretchen that Faust finds his salvation. Burby also mentioned the comparison between this version of the legend and the story of Job in the Old Testament. In both cases, God makes a deal with the devil regarding the victim. God puts his stamp of approval on both Job and Faust thus justifying the need for struggle and striving.

Thus the legend of Faust has moved from concrete to the symbolic. What did Louisa do with the story?

A pleasure to indulge

Louisa enjoyed writing her “trash,” her potboilers, giving her a chance to express a side of herself she could not express in public. It was a creative vent for her passion, anger, sense of injustice, and for romance.

Two stories based on the myth

long fatal love chase2She devoted two books to the subject of Faust: A Long, Fatal Love-Chase and A Modern Mephistopheles. In each case she wrote about Faustian bargain more explicitly. The latter was discovered in the 1990s and published to great success; the story had been considered too risqué in Louisa’s time. In the story, Rosamond makes a deal with the devil for a year of adventure and Phillip Tempest comes along. When she realizes she cannot save him, she seeks to escape him. The novel turns from the legend to a gothic chase in which the heroine dies in the end. Phillip however suffers the harsher fate knowing he will never be reunited with his lover again.

The most lurid of them all

a modern mephistophelesA Modern Mephistopheles was published anonymously as part of a series in 1877, allowing Louisa to indulge in the lurid which she so enjoyed. The story deals with lust, deception and greed, touching on the controversial with references to sexuality and drug use, the deal is made between the starving poet Felix Canaris and the devil, Jaspar Hellwyze. The poet becomes celebrated and then lives a desolute life. It turns out he never wrote the poetry in the first place so he takes his name off the volume to free himself. The devil falls in love with the poet’s wife Gladys and feels remorse over the havoc he caused.

How much of Louisa was in the story?

Burby posed an interesting question: could A Modern Mephistopheles be about Louisa and her art? Do each of the four central characters represent parts of her whole?

As masculinity was thought to have created evil, it was also believed that it needed to be tempered by the eternal feminine. Louisa, being “masculine” in her thinking, often longing to be a boy, was right in the middle of this conflict. Her father complicated matters by exhibiting more feminine traits than his daughter. While I haven’t read A Modern Mephistopheles it would be interesting to approach it with this thought in mind.

Needless to say, Dr. Burby challenged all of us with his excellent and spirited presentation.

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Summer Conversational Series 2014 – “Navigating the Vortex: Creative Genius in the Time of the Alcotts” – Is it Talent or Genius?

Jan Turnquist, Executive Director, introducing the speaker.

Jan Turnquist, Executive Director, introducing the speaker.

I am grateful to be able to attend again the annual Summer Conversational Series at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House this year. The theme concerns talent versus genius, and the abundance of genius that existed in Concord, Massachusetts in the 19th century.

I was not able to take in all five days of the series but I will present the speakers that I was fortunate enough to see.

Was Louisa a genius?

Was Louisa May Alcott a genius or merely a crackerjack professional writer? Was she both? These questions and more were explored during Monday’s session.

Cathlin Davis, Ph.D

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Cathlin Davis, Ph.D on Talent versus Genius

The first speaker was a perennial favorite, Dr. Cathlin Davis, professor of Liberal Studies at California State University, Stanislaus. Dr. Davis probably knows Louisa’s juvenile canon better than anyone with a particular emphasis on her numerous short stories.

Louisa’s breakthrough work in children’s literature

Dr. Davis is passionate about elevating children’s literature to the level of respect it deserves by highlighting its most prominent authors. Dr. Davis maintained in her presentation “Is it Talent or Genius?” that Louisa’s unique genius was the ability to get inside the mind of the child and voice that child’s thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears. Before Louisa, children’s literature presented all-too-perfect children presenting moral teaching through stilted dialog. Dr. Davis compared a sample from Nathanial Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales of a twelve year old’s conversation (stiff, formal, full of long words and complex sentences) to Louisa’s An Old-Fashioned Girl featuring childish conversation laced with slang and grammatical errors; in other words, the way children of that era really talked.

Examples from Louisa’s stories

Dr. Davis spelled out the qualities of talent and of genius, displaying them on a poster (see photo). She then took several examples from Louisa’s books and short stories to illustrate. These included Amy and Laurie from Little Women, Rose, Charlie, Phoebe and Mac from Rose in Bloom, Psyche and her little sister from the short story “Pysche’s Art,” Clara from “A Bright Idea” (from Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag, Volume V), and Diana and Persis. As you can see from the photo, she listed who she thought had talent and who possessed genius.

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Louisa herself is on that list.

Louisa’s genius was her genuine love of children, her commitment to truthfulness and accuracy, and her passion. She respected children, never writing “down” to them. These qualities were instantly recognized by her adoring public with the first publication of volume one of Little Women.

Much to find in Louisa’s stories

Dr. Davis concluded that Louisa wrote extensively on the subjects of talent and genius. She remarked that preparing for this presentation, she realized that Rose in Bloom is not just about romance but about discovering one’s talent, determining whether or not it is genius, and using it to benefit others. While Louisa did often focus on the fine art talents of music, acting, dancing and painting, she also pointed out those talents which often go unnoticed – the talents for helping others which Rose displayed so well in the story.

True confession

rose in bloomI have a confession to make which has probably been obvious to you who read this blog regularly: I enjoy writing about Louisa more than writing about her books and stories. It is an odd disconnect, one that I am seeking to correct. Having listened to Dr. Davis’s presentation (and later having the pleasure of conversing with her over dinner), I have a better sense of what to look for when I read Louisa’s juvenile works. Dr. Davis is convinced that in spite of the infamous quote (which she is loath to use) of writing “moral pap for the young,” Louisa was in fact proud of her juvenile writing and poured herself into her writing.

You all of course have always known that. I felt that way about Little Women despite Louisa’s protestations about having to write it. Perhaps the author doth protest too much?

Needless to say, I have much catching up to do and a pleasant task it will be!

More to come …

In my next post I will present more about the other presenters in Monday’s session.

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