FREE: NYS Writers Institute’s 2018 Schedule of Events

William Kennedy
NYS Writers Institute pays tribute to its founder, William Kennedy

Photograph by Sophie Brill

This year marks a double-barreled celebration – the 35th anniversary of the New York State Writers Institute, as well as the 90th birthday of Pulitzer Prize winning author William Kennedy, who founded the Institute.

So the 2018 schedule of events for the NYS Writers Institute is its most varied in years, featuring reading, panel discussions, films, comedy, theater and more. And it’s all free, except where noted.

It all begins tonight (Tuesday, January 30). Here’s the spring semester’s complete schedule of events:

Tonight (Tuesday, January 30)
4:15pm craft talk @ UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room, Albany
7:30pm presentation/Q&A @ New York State Museum’s Huxley Theater, Albany
The prize-winning chronicler of the Chinese-American experience in fiction reads from her new work, “The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap,” exploring stark differences between Eastern and Western ideas of the “self.”

EVENT: A Celebration of William Kennedy’s 90th Birthday and the 35th Anniversary of the New York State Writers Institute
January 31 (Wednesday)
7pm @ Albany City Hall, Albany
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and the City of Albany celebrate William Kennedy’s transformative impact on the city’s life, lore and literary culture. Kennedy’s “Albany cycle” of novels has helped to establish the city as an internationally recognized capital of the literary imagination. And the New York State Writers Institute, founded by Kennedy in 1983, is responsible for making Albany a famous crossroads on the map of world literature for visiting writers in all genres and fields.

FILM/TALK: “Lupe Under the Sun”
February 2 (Friday)
7pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
Rodrigo Reyes’ debut fiction feature won the two top prizes — Best Film and Best Narrative Feature — at the 2017 Brooklyn Film Festival. A first-of-its-kind dramatic film that uses non-actors who are real farm workers, the movie follows the grinding routine of an aging Mexican migrant worker in southern California as he comes to terms with his past. With commentary by writer/director Rodrigo Reyes.

TALK: Michele Norris
Tuesday, February 6
7pm @ UAlbany Campus Center Ballroom, Albany
The 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Keynote Speaker is the first African-American female host in the history of National Public Radio, serving as anchor of its flagship evening news program “All Things Considered” from 2002 to 2015. Previously, she served as an ABC News correspondent, winning both the Emmy and Peabody awards for her coverage of the 9/11 attacks. She is also the author of the memoir, “The Grace of Silence.” With a reception in the Patroon Room from 5:30-6:45pm.

TALK: Emily Witt
Thursday, February 8
7:30pm presentation/Q&A @ UAlbany Campus Center Room 375, Albany
The investigative journalist is the author of “Future Sex,” a first-hand investigation of the many varieties of sex and dating in 21st century America. In candid fashion, the 30-something author shares her search for love in a confusing world of dating apps, transient hook-ups and novel sexual cultures.

READING: A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of James Baldwin
Friday, February 9
4:15pm student readings of James Baldwin’s work with commentary by Darryl Pinckney @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center, Albany
Darryl Pinckney, novelist, playwright, essayist, and author of the acclaimed new novel “Black Deutschland,” will provide commentary on select readings from the works of James Baldwin, one of the iconic authors of the 20th century.

FILM/TALK: “I Am Not Your Negro”
Friday, February 9
7pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
Directed by Raoul Peck (United States, 2017, 93 minutes, PG-13, color and b/w)
Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished memoir, “Remember This House,” this 2017 Oscar-nominated documentary presents his meditations on the history of racism in the United States and his perspectives on slain civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. With commentary by Darryl Pinckney.

FILM/TALK: “Entre Nos”
Friday, February 16
7pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
(United States, 2009, 80 minutes, color, in Spanish with English subtitles) ENTRE NOS
The powerful film about the experience of new immigrants presents the story of a Colombian woman and her two young children struggling to survive on the streets of New York City. With commentary by co-directors and screenwriters Gloria La Morte and Paola Mendoza.

TALK: Randy Cohen
Wednesday, February 21
4:15pm craft talk on making podcasts @ UAlbany Campus Center West Addition’s Multi-Use Room, Albany
7pm a “Person Place Thing” podcast with Pulitzer Prize winner William Kennedy @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall, Albany
The comedy writer, newspaper columnist and UAlbany alum is also the host and creator of the nationally syndicated “Person Place Thing” podcast. The show invites guests to talk about a single person, place and thing of personal importance. Cohen won three Emmy Awards for his writing on “Late Night with David Letterman” and another for his work on Michael Moore’s “TV Nation.” For 12 years he wrote “The Ethicist,” a weekly column for The New York Times Magazine.

FILM: “Midnight’s Children”
Friday, February 23
7pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
Directed by Deepa Mehta (Canada/UK, 2012, 146 minutes, color)
Starring Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor
Adapted by Salman Rushdie from his landmark novel, “Midnight’s Children” tells the story of two children who grow up in India during its tumultuous transformation from British colonial rule to independence. The film earned six major Canadian Screen awards, including Best Motion Picture, Screenplay and Direction.

THEATER: “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Wednesday, February 28
7:30pm @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall, Albany
Advance tickets: $15; students & seniors $10
At the door: $20; students & seniors $15
Adapted and directed by Elise Thoron for American Place Theatre, this one-man “Literature to Life” performance is a verbatim adaptation of James Baldwin’s powerful novel of the same name, a story of abiding love in the face of injustice.

FILM: “Dr. Strangelove”
Friday, March 2
7:30pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
Directed by Stanley Kubrick (United States, 1964, 95 minutes, b/w)
Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is one of the great political satires on film about the escalation of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the impending danger of nuclear war. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Peter Sellers.

TALK: Joachim Frank
Tuesday, March 6
4:15pm conversation about a life in the arts and sciences @ UAlbany Life Sciences Research Building’s D’Ambra Auditorium, Albany
7:30pm presentation/Q&A @ New York State Museum’s Huxley Theater, Albany
The artist, poet, fiction writer and 2017 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry was also a long-time UAlbany faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and founder of the field of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy. Currently on faculty at Columbia University, Frank lived and worked in Greater Nippertown for more than three decades.

CONVERSATION: The Creative Life Series: Frédéric Brenner
Wednesday, March 7
7pm @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall, Albany
The renowned photographer of the Jewish diaspora is best known for his 2004 magnum opus, “Diaspora: Homelands in Exile,” the result of a 25-year search in 40 countries to create a visual record of the Jewish people at the end of the 20th century. His collaborative project, “This Place,” is on exhibit at the University Art Museum (February 1-April 7), bringing together 12 international photographers in a visual survey of Israel and the West Bank.

READING: Patricia Smith
Friday, March 23
6pm presentation/Q&A @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
The four-time winner and the most successful poet in the history of the National Poetry Slam is also a playwright, essayist, professor and journalist. Her newest collection is “Incendiary Art,” a meditation on the murder of Emmett Till and its central significance in modern African-American experience. Other collections include “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah” (2012), winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize of the Academy of American Poets; “Blood Dazzler” (2008), a National Book Award finalist; and “Teahouse of the Almighty,” a 2005 National Poetry Series selection.

FILM: “Louder Than a Bomb”
Friday, March 23
8pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
Directed by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel (United States, 2010, 99 minutes, color)
This award-winning documentary tells the story of four Chicago high school poetry teams as they prepare for and compete in the world’s largest youth poetry slam.

TALK: Archer Mayor and Rabi Musah
Tuesday, March 27
4:15pm Q&A about the craft of mystery writing with Archer Mayor @ UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room, Albany
7:30pm “Corpses, Blow Flies, and Post-Mortem Forensics” with Archer Mayor and Rabi Musah @ UAlbany Life Sciences Research Building’s D’Ambra Auditorium, Albany
Mystery meets chemistry… Archer Mayor, bestselling mystery author, has also worked for decades as a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and as a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office. His Joe Gunther detective series, begun in 1988, has become one of the most critically acclaimed police procedural series being written today. Set partly in Albany, the 28th book in the series is 2017’s “Trace.” Rabi Musah is UAlbany Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Musah Research Lab, where she is pioneering a process to pinpoint a corpse’s time-of-death based on a chemical analysis of blow fly eggs. An expert in the scientific evaluation of folk medicine and medicinal plants, Musah has earned national media attention from PBS’s “NOVA,” The Huffington Post and New Scientist.

CONVERSATION: The Creative Life Series: Garth Fagan
Wednesday, March 28
7pm @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Main Theatre, Albany
Jamaican-born founder and artistic director of the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance, now in its 47th season was lauded for his innovative choreography for Disney’s musical “The Lion King,” earning a Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Tony Award and the Laurence Olivier Award. He received the American Dance Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

THEATER: “Southern Haunt”
Monday, April 2
7:30pm @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Studio Theatre, Albany
Kathryn Walat, playwright and UAlbany Theatre Program Assistant Professor, presents a staged reading of her play-in-progress, a spooky, sexy Southern gothic play set in Savannah. Following a reading by professional actors, the audience will be invited to share reactions with the playwright and director Portia Krieger. Walat’s award-winning plays include “Creation,” “Bleeding Kansas” and “See Bat Fly.” She also wrote the libretto for the chamber opera, “Paul’s Case.”

READING: Rosa Alice Branco with translator Alexis Levitin
Tuesday, April 3
4:15pm presentation/Q&A @ UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room, Albany
Rosa Alice Branco is a major Portuguese poet whose work has appeared in translation in more than 40 literary journals around the world. Her collection “Cattle of the Lord,” translated in 2016 by Alexis Levitin and presented in both Portuguese and English, won the prestigious Espiral Maior de Poesia Award in 2009.

FILM/TALK: UAlbany Symposium: “Incarcerating Girls and Women: Past and Present”
Friday, April 6
7pm film screening and discussion of “Incarceration Nation” with Susan Burton, author, prison reform activist and former inmate @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
(United States, 2013, 60 minutes, color)
In this keynote event of the UAlbany symposium, “Incarcerating Girls and Women: Past and Present,” broadcaster Bill Moyers speaks with author and legal scholar Michelle Alexander to discuss issues of racial injustice and mass incarceration in America. The segment features a substantial excerpt from the documentary “Susan,” by Tessa Blake and Emma Hewitt, about former inmate Susan Burton, whose memoir, Becoming Ms. Burton, recounts her life-struggles after her five-year-old son was killed by a van driving down their street and, consumed by grief, she turned to drugs. After serving six prison terms in 17 years, Burton turned her life around and dedicated herself to helping other women overcome personal histories of incarceration, poverty and addiction.

TALK: Andrea J. Buchanan
Tuesday, April 10
4:15pm conversation about her memoir of overcoming neurological illness @ UAlbany Campus Center’s Room 375, Albany
7pm conversation on writing for children and young adults @ Guilderland Public Library, Guilderland
She is the co-author of the million-selling “The Daring Book for Girls” series, an empowering set of how-to manuals for girls with a sense of adventure. Her multimedia YA novel “Gift,” a sci-fi story that comes with its own fully playable Minecraft map, was named one of Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2012. Her new memoir, “The Beginning of Everything,” recounts her harrowing experience with a real-life neurological mystery after a coughing fit led to brain trauma and months of cognitive impairment.

READING: Paul Harding
Thursday, April 12
8pm reading and McKinney Writing Contest Awards @ RPI Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies Building’s CBIS Auditorium, Troy
The novelist received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Tinkers,” a father-and-son story about itinerant peddlers in the backwoods of Maine. His second novel, “Enon,” is the story of one man’s enduring love for his daughter, and was named a best novel of the year by The Wall Street Journal and the American Library Association.

FILM: “A Master Builder”
Friday, April 13
7pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
Directed by Jonathan Demme (United States, 2013, 130 minutes, color)
Starring Wallace Shawn, Julie Hagerty
This film was adapted from Henrik Ibsen’s play for a contemporary setting by Wallace Shawn, who plays the architect Halvard Solness, an egomaniac who enjoys manipulating and bullying everyone around him, especially his wife and mistresses.

READINGS: Sara Nović and Peter Golden
Tuesday, April 17
4:15pm craft talk @ UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room, Albany
7:30pm reading/Q&A @ New York State Museum’s Huxley Theater, Albany
Sara Nović, acclaimed first-time novelist, is a notable fig­ure in the American deaf community, founder of the deaf rights and culture website,, and an elo­quent explainer of the riches of the deaf experience. Her debut novel, “Girl at War,” a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, tells the story of a girl’s coming of age during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Peter Golden is the author of the new novel, “Nothing Is Forgotten,” about a young man from New Jersey who travels to Khrushchev’s Russia, where he discovers love and the long-buried secrets of his heritage.

READING: Salman Rushdie
Thursday, April 19
4:15pm craft talk @ UAlbany’s Lecture Center 25, Albany
7:30pm reading/Q&A @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
Salman Rushdie is widely recognized as a leading figure of world literature. His 1981 novel, “Midnight’s Children,” received not only the Booker Prize, but also the 1993 Booker of Bookers and the 2008 Best of the Booker, selected from all 41 winners since the prize’s inception in 1969. His new novel is The New York Times bestseller, “The Golden House,” a parable of contemporary America set against the backdrop of current American culture and politics.

TALK: Marc Guggenheim
Friday, April 20
7pm presentation @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
The UAlbany alum has helped to transform the landscape of American primetime television as a developer and “showrunner” of imaginative TV shows inspired by DC comic book worlds, including “Arrow” (2012-present) and “Legends of Tomorrow” (2016-present), two of the most popular shows on The CW network. He is also the creator of the TV show, “Eli Stone” (2008-9), and screenwriter of the films, “Green Lantern” (2011), and “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” (2013). His writing for Marvel Comics includes several series within the X-Men franchise. He is also the author of the novel, “Overwatch,” a CIA legal thriller. He will screen clips of his work for TV and film with commentary and Q&A.

DISCUSSION: “Women and Power in America”
Tuesday, April 24
4:15 pm craft talk with Cokie Roberts on writing about women’s history @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall, Albany
7:30pm panel discussion on “Women and Power in America” @ The Times Union’s Hearst Media Center, Albany
One of America’s leading broadcast journalists, Cokie Roberts will moderate a panel discussion with Danielle Belton (editor-in-chief of The Root), Jill Stein (the Green Party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2012 and 2016) and Kathy Sheehan (the first female mayor of Albany) about the challenges and opportunities facing women in America today.

CONVERSATION: The Creative Life Series: Patti LuPone
Thursday, April 26
7pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
The Grammy and Tony Award-winning actress/singer is one of musical theater’s most beloved leading ladies. She returned to Broadway in 2017 with a Tony-nominated performance as cosmetics pioneer Helena Rubinstein in “War Paint.” Her Broadway career accolades span decades, including the Tony Award for “Evita” and the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for the Broadway revival of “Gypsy.” Her autobiography, “Patti LuPone: A Memoir,” was a New York Times bestseller, sharing the intimate story of her life both onstage and off.

Friday, April 27
7pm comedy performance @ UAlbany’s Campus Center Ballroom, Albany
Known as the “Stuttering Comedian,” Nina G is also a professional speaker, storyteller, writer and educator. She brings her humor to help people confront and understand disability culture, access and empowerment. A member of the comedy troupe, the Comedians with Disabilities Act, she is also the author of a children’s book, “Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities” and of the forthcoming memoir “Stutterer Interrupted.”

TALK: Eugene Lee
Monday, April 30
4:15pm craft talk @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Studio Theatre, Albany
7:30pm the 22nd annual Burian Lecture @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Studio Theatre, Albany
The legendary Broadway set designer has won three Tony Awards for his work on Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” and Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked.” He has also served as the production designer for “Saturday Night Live” since its 1975 premiere, “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” His memoir, “The Adventures of Eugene Lee,” was published in 2014.

READING: David Tomas Martinez
Tuesday, May 1
4:15pm craft talk @ UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room, Albany
7pm reading/Q&A @ UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall, Albany
The prize-winning poet is a former San Diego gang member and teenage father whose work addresses themes of street life, poverty, masculinity, drugs and violence in the barrio, and the redemptive potential of art, poetry and self-knowledge. Currently a professor of creative writing at Columbia University, Martinez is the author of the new poetry collection, “Post Traumatic Hood Disorder.” UAlbany students will join Martinez on stage in the evening to perform their own spoken word poetry.

EVENT: “This Is Your Life, William Kennedy”
Friday, May 4
7pm @ UAlbany’s Page Hall, Albany
The NYS Writers Institute will celebrate its founder in his 90th year with appearances by special guests (TBA), prerecorded video tributes by major authors and filmmakers, and a slideshow of photographs documenting significant milestones in a singular and eventful life. A reception with light refreshments to follow.

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