2013 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival Featured Speakers
Michael Dirda, a weekly book columnist for The Washington Post, is the author of the memoir An Open Book and of four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure. His latest book, On Conan Doyle, won the 2012 Edgar Award--for the best biographical/critical work of the year-- from the Mystery Writers of America. Dirda graduated with Highest Honors in English from Oberlin College and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature (medieval studies and European romanticism) from Cornell University. He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement, a columnist for the online Barnes and Noble Review, and a frequent reviewer for several other literary periodicals, as well as an occasional lecturer and college teacher. He received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.
Jane Horwitz has been a regular panelist on WETA TV's critics' roundtable show “Around Town” since 1988. Her column The Family Filmgoer appears every Friday in The Washington Post's Weekend section and is syndicated in longer form by The Washington Post Writers Group to newspapers around the country. Horwitz wrote the "Backstage" column for The Washington Post's Style section from 1997 to 2011, covering the Washington theater scene in feature stories and interviews. She currently writes freelance theater reviews for The Washington Post and occasionally for Washingtonian magazine's website.
A Chicago area native, Horwitz earned her bachelor's degree from Stanford University and received a master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She began her career in radio as a reporter/newscaster in Springfield, Illinois, then moved into television news at WFAA TV, the ABC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth. After eight years as a reporter and film/theater critic at WFAA, Horwitz married and moved to the Greater Washington area in 1985. She worked on WTTG TV’s “Ten O’ Clock News” as a film and theater critic for four years, then co-hosted the national cable program “The Moviegoing Family” on The Learning Channel and joined "Around Town" at WETA. She introduced "The Family Filmgoer" column in 1993 in The Washington Post Style section, beating the New York Times "Taking the Children" feature to the punch by a few weeks. It went into syndication the following year. From 1990 to1996, Horwitz was heard Friday afternoons on WETA 90.9 FM’s “PM Program.” The weekly segment, called “Talking Pictures,” featured Horwitz, then-Washington Post critic Rita Kempley, freelance critic Jayne Blanchard and WETA radio and television host Robert Aubry Davis.
Horwitz also produced and hosted two pilot film review programs called “Chicks on Flicks.” Produced with a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts, the show aired on WHMM TV and featured a panel of female critics.
Murray Horwitz’s accomplishments in the performing arts include originating the hit NPR comedy quiz, Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me, authoring the hit Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin’, and writing the song lyrics for John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby at the Metropolitan Opera. His other playwriting credits include Sole Sisters at LaMama E.T.C., Hard Sell at the N.Y. Shakespeare Festival, RFK – The Journey to Justice for L.A. Theatreworks, and, most recently, the musical for young audiences, The Magic Tree House: A Night In New Orleans with Allen Toussaint and Will Osborne. The winner of three Peabody Awards, numerous ASCAP songwriting awards, Tony, Obie, and N.Y. Drama Critics Circle awards (for Ain’t Misbehavin’), the National Medal of Arts (for NPR Cultural Programming), and the Order of Arts and Letters from the government of France, Mr. Horwitz began his career as a clown in the Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus. He appears frequently as a commentator on NPR, and as a panelist on public radio’s Says You!, and currently serves as Director of Development for the National Medal of Arts winning Washington Performing Arts Society.
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career, "hired to write for every small paper in Washington, D.C., just as it was about to fold," saw that jink broken in 1984, when he came to NPR.
For more than a quarter-century, Mondello has reviewed movies and covered the arts for NPR News, seeing at least 250 films and 100 plays annually, then sharing critiques and commentaries about the most intriguing on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine All Things Considered. In 2005, he conceived and co-produced NPR's eight-part series "American Stages," exploring the history, reach, and accomplishments of the regional theater movement.
Mondello has also written about the arts for such diverse publications as USA Today, The Washington Post, and Preservation Magazine, as well as for commercial and public television stations. And he has been a lead theater critic for Washington City Paper, D.C.'s leading alternative weekly, since 1987.
Before becoming a professional critic, Mondello spent more than a decade in entertainment advertising, working in public relations for a chain of movie theaters, where he learned the ins and outs of the film industry, and for an independent repertory theater, where he reveled in film history.
Asked what NPR pieces he's proudest of, he points to commentaries on silent films – a bit of a trick on radio – and cultural features he's produced from Argentina, where he and his partner have a second home. An avid traveler, Mondello even spends his vacations watching movies and plays in other countries. "I see as many movies in a year," he says. "As most people see in a lifetime."
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