Jeff Lunden

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.

Lunden contributed several segments to the Peabody Award-winning series The NPR 100, and was producer of the NPR Music series Discoveries at Walt Disney Concert Hall, hosted by Renee Montagne. He has produced more than a dozen documentaries on musical theater and Tin Pan Alley for NPR — most recently A Place for Us: Fifty Years of West Side Story.

Other documentaries have profiled George and Ira Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart, Harold Arlen and Jule Styne. Lunden has won several awards, including the Gold Medal from the New York Festival International Radio Broadcasting Awards and a CPB Award.

Lunden is also a theater composer. He wrote the score for the musical adaptation of Arthur Kopit's Wings (book and lyrics by Arthur Perlman), which won the 1994 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. Other works include Another Midsummer Night, Once on a Summer's Day and adaptations of The Little Prince and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for Theatreworks/USA.

Lunden is currently working with Perlman on an adaptation of Swift as Desire, a novel of magic realism from Like Water for Chocolate author Laura Esquivel. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The set for the first scene of the Broadway comedy Hand to God is a fairly realistic depiction of a church basement and, since there's no curtain at the theater, it's in full view of audience members when they enter. A week ago, a 19-year-old college student jumped onstage to plug his cellphone into what turned out to be a prop outlet.

Oklahoma! was the first musical that the celebrated team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote together. On the surface, it tells the story of a young woman (Laurey) deciding whether to go to a party with a dangerous, lonely farmhand (Jud) or a nice, young cowboy (Curly).

It's a quiet afternoon at the Tex-Mex restaurant in Brooklyn where playwright Robert Askins works the day shift twice a week. Even though his play, Hand to God, is on Broadway and he's got a Tony nomination, Askins says he enjoys interacting with the regulars, most of whom know about his other job.

"When you day bar during the weekdays, you're the only one in the restaurant," he says. "So, you run the food and make the drinks and put it on the tables and it's good."

At 82, legendary South African playwright Athol Fugard is still actively writing and directing new plays. His latest, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, which looks at his country during the apartheid era and after, opens off-Broadway tonight.

For decades, Fugard worked tirelessly, both in South Africa and in exile, to illuminate the injustices of apartheid in his plays. And when it finally ended and Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994, Fugard was convinced his career was over.

Director Bartlett Sher has been familiar with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's The King and I since he performed it in high school, but he didn't learn the actual history behind the musical until he started working on a critically lauded revival that recently received nine Tony nominations. In the real story, a young woman of English and Indian heritage — Anna Leonowens, the "I" in The King and I — receives an invitation from King Mongkut of Siam to teach at his court. The year is 1862.

Actor Bill Nighy is best known in the U.S. for his appearances in films such as Love Actually and Pirates of the Caribbean. But in England, he's a well-known stage actor, and one of his most successful collaborations is with playwright David Hare. They're together again on Broadway in a revival of Hare's 1995 drama, Skylight.

The actor and the writer first worked together on a television movie in 1980 and they've been working on and off ever since.

Mothers in prison rarely get to see their children, let alone touch them or sing them a lullaby. But female inmates in New York City are getting a little help with the singing, thanks to Carnegie Hall. For the last few years, Carnegie has sponsored the Lullaby Project, which pairs professional musicians with women in jails, homeless shelters and city hospitals, to help them write lullabies for their children.

The last time Dame Helen Mirren and author Peter Morgan collaborated, it was for the movie The Queen, and she took home an Oscar. Now the two are working together again, this time on a play called The Audience. It's about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers. A hit in London, the play is opening Sunday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway.

The Audience begins with a Buckingham Palace officer named "The Equerry," who tells the theater audience what it's about to see.

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins may be only 30 years old, but he's already compiled an impressive resume. His theatrical works, which look at race and identity in America, have been performed in New York and around the country. Last year, Jacobs-Jenkins won the best new American play Obie Award for two of his works, Appropriate and An Octoroon.

An Octoroon is currently playing at Theater for a New Audience in New York.

Imagine going to a small, off-Broadway theater for a one-person show that relies heavily on audience participation — and it's all about depression and suicide. That might sound like a theatrical nightmare, but the show in question — Every Brilliant Thing, currently playing at the Barrow Street Theatre — is also very funny and has been getting rave reviews.

"Normally, I loathe that kind of thing," says Ben Brantley, the chief drama critic for The New York Times.

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