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A car is displayed last week during the 26th annual Houston Art Car Parade. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images.
When Jon Robin Baitz's family drama "Other Desert Cities" closed on Broadway last June, it concluded a strong run and had been showered with high praise for showcasing its creator's talents: a seven-month stint at Lincoln Center (following a transfer from off-Broadway), five Tony Award nominations, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play.
But for all of that, Baitz and his work may be getting more attention from a wider national audience now.
The play has been produced at a number of regional theaters around the country over the past year -- there will have been at least 20 productions of the show by 2014 -- including Los Angeles, Chicago and most recently in Denver and Washington, D.C., where last week the Arena Stage production debuted to strong reviews. It's playing there until May 26.
"Other Desert Cities" tells the story of the fictional Wyeth family -- a clan led at the top by a mother and father highly regarded in old Hollywood circles and admired by Republicans for their service to and friendship with Ronald and Nancy Reagan in their heyday. The play explores the dark family secrets that threaten to destroy external and internal perceptions about the life the members lead.
Family drama is well-traversed territory, but Baitz, 51, has laced the story with humor and wit, political commentary (setting it in 2004 after the Iraq War is underway), sharp dialogue and an affecting premise: The grown daughter, Brooke, a writer who has suffered a nervous breakdown, has just written a memoir about her life, her parents and their role in the tragic loss of her brother. But she has not told her parents, Polly and Lyman, of her plans to publish the memoir until the publication date nears while on a Christmas visit back home.
Among many other questions raised in the play, Baitz asks whether Brooke has a greater obligation to her family (who saved her during her darkest moments) or to the truth and to her work as a writer.
For Baitz, writing "Other Desert Cities" turned out to be a great relief after his bad experience working in television on "Brothers & Sisters," a series he created. (He's now back at work on a miniseries for NBC, so he hasn't given up on the medium yet.)
Jeff sat down with Baitz when he came to town for the Arena Stage opening. (See video above.)
Below is a scene from the Arena Stage production of "Other Desert Cities." Daughter Brooke (Emily Donahoe) confronts her mother Polly (Helen Carey) and father Lyman (Larry Bryggman) about her memoir as they warn her about the pain she may cause for all.
The Lincoln Center production was widely acclaimed and featured a cast that included Stockard Channing, Rachel Griffiths and Stacy Keach. Here's a scene in which Brooke explains what was behind her decision to write the book. (Thank you, Wiki and Lincoln Center archives.)
A transcript of Jeff's conversation with Baitz is after the jump.» Continue reading
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A collector examines stamps on display Friday at the World Stamp Expo in Melbourne, Australia. The exhibition is the second largest ever held in the world. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.
Here are four arts and culture videos from public broadcasting partners around the nation.
The latest installment from "Blank on Blank," a PBS Digital Studios series: "Beastie Boys on Being Stupid":
KCET's "Artbound" profiles the "poetically political art" of Nery Gabriel Lemus:
"The works of Nery Gabriel Lemus illuminate the fractures incurred from cultural collisions. Informed by his childhood shuttling between a predominantly Latino urban neighborhood to suburban Granada Hills, in a bus full of Latinos and African Americans, Lemus's work gracefully exposes the subtle racial tensions between two cultures."
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Two women dance at the AfrikaBurn Festival in Tankwa Karoo, South Africa. The week-long art festival takes place annually in a temporary desert dwelling called Tankwa Town. Photo by Liza van Deventer/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images.
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