December brought two sparkling Levy Lecture Series webinars via Zoom to throngs of attendees courtesy of the Levy Senior Center Foundation. On Dec. 8, Gloria Bond Clunie spoke about “Our Power as Playwrights.” Those listening were inspired as she described her creative process and offered encouragement to novice writers. On Dec. 15, Anette Isaacs shared her enthusiasm for, and knowledge of Beethoven with “Ode to Beethoven: The Man Behind the Music,” the day before what would have been the composer’s 250th birthday.
Despite different topics, art forms, and speakers, what the lectures share is a passion for, and the importance of, the creative process. Ms. Clunie described how, when ideas come to her, she expresses them through the structure of a play. It is the format most comfortable for her; she “can’t not” do it. It is that important.
She quickly reviewed the basics with her unseen audience – dramatic structure (the way one puts a story together), characters (all the details that make up their lives, objectives (what a character wants), motivation (why a character wants it), setting (time, place), plot (action that moves the story forward), resolution (bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion), and the theme (the message, main idea). She described “theme” as, “At the end of the play, what does the playwright want you to understand?”
She encouraged the future playwrights to ask themselves, “What kind of stories do we have to craft?” Equal parts mentor, teacher, and cheerleader, Ms. Clunie believes everyone has a story to tell and should reach for the stars to try and tell it. Her audience responded with gratitude and enthusiasm, and several mentioned feeling very inspired listening to her. An encore performance of her webinar may be viewed on the Foundation’s YouTube channel.
Historian Ms. Isaacs, born and raised in Germany, has been a self-proclaimed fan of Beethoven since high school. In a lecture punctuated with musical excerpts from his most famous works, she told the crowd of more than 300 about all aspects of his life including family relationships and tensions, his poor health and eventual deafness, early education, musical development, friends, lovers, and disputes, of which there were many.
There was a “this-is-your-life” quality to the discussion complete with contemporary photographs of places where Beethoven lived and worked, photographed copies of family documents, and examples of drawings and paintings of his contemporaries. Ms. Isaac also discussed Beethoven and his musical output in the context with the current events and artistic trends of the day, and how they influenced one another.
The lecture was rich in less well known details based on Ms. Isaac’s extensive research, enhanced by her fluency in German, which enabled her to read and translate copies of Beethoven’s letters and margin notes. Some of the attendees were Beethoven fans who were eager to soak up any information about him; others knew little about the musical genius and saw the lecture as an opportunity to learn more.
“I know very little about classical music or musicians. I found this lecture very interesting and enjoyed it very much,” offered one commenter.
One of the attendees said about Ms. Isaac’s portrayal of Beethoven, “He became a person, not just a composer.” An encore performance of Ms. Isaac’s lecture is available on the Foundation’s YouTube channel.
The Levy Lecture Series will be on break until Jan. 5, when author and New York Times journalist Jennifer Steinhauer will talk about her newest book, “The Firsts,” which talks about the groundbreaking women elected to Congress after the 2018 mid-term elections. Levy Lectures are always free, but reservations are required.