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Action Comics #1

Arts Days: June 01, 1938: A Superhero is Born
To readers’ delight, the Action Comics June 1938 issue featured a cover illustration of a certain dark-haired, muscled fellow lifting a car over his head. This was our first peek at Superman, also hailed as “The Man of Steel,” a handsome young man clad in blue tights, a red cape, and a yellow shield bearing the letter “S”—a costume that hasn’t changed all that much in the decades since.

One year later, Superman had a comic book series named after him. Readers, movie buffs, radio junkies, television viewers, and others—have never stopped devouring stories of Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent.

The character was created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, who imbued Superman with a mission to rid the world of evil using his superhuman strength, X-ray vision, and ironclad moral code.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, America

The Giver

Arts Days: June 13, 1994: All in the Family
After receiving the prestigious Newbery Medal for her children’s science-fiction book The Giver, author Lois Lowry gave a speech to try to answer questions about why she’d written a children’s book that includes some decidedly adult concepts. Her protagonist, Jonas, lives in an imaginary world in which Lowry “got rid of all the things I fear and dislike; all the violence, poverty, prejudice and injustice.” Yet in this seemingly perfect world, citizens know nothing of the pleasure of sunshine on their faces or the comfort of being part of a family.

Lesson learned? “We can’t live in a walled world… where we are all the same and feel safe.” Lowry uses the book to focus on the theme of family responsibility and the role parents lead in supporting their children from birth through adulthood.
Literature, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Judy Garland

Arts Days: June 10, 1942: A Star Is Born
At 13, singer/actress Judy Garland was signed to the MGM Studios—a bit old for a child star, but still on the young side for adult roles. But a series of movies with Mickey Rooney, such as Love Finds Andy Hardy, helped the studio find the right place for the teen, who shot to worldwide superstardom in the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will always be identified with Garland.)

Her fans loved her voice so much that any movie in which she didn’t sing was pretty much guaranteed to disappoint at the box office. On the other hand, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Harvey Girls, filled with memorable songs, were big hits. Garland is still considered one of the greatest vocal interpreters of the 20th century.
Movies & Movie Stars, America, Music Legends, Musicals, Music, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Bram Stoker

Arts Days: May 18, 1897: Got Blood?
Irish author Bram Stoker did not invent the vampire, but no writer has done more to boost our fascination with a blood-drinking creature who sleeps by day and runs rampant at night. The Count Dracula character Stoker created may have been based on several historical figures, including Vlad the Impaler, a ruler in Wallachia (now part of Romania) in the 15th century. Not a nice guy, this Vlad: He’s said to have had his enemies murdered in horrendous ways and even his own people killed just for looking at him the wrong way.

Stoker wrote Dracula as an epistolary novel; that is, one whose story is told in a series of letters and diary entries “written by” characters. This kind of writing provides a shifting point of view, exposing the reader to different characters’ inner thoughts.
Literature, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Ian Fleming

Arts Days: May 28, 1908: The Man With the Golden Pen
It’s hard to imagine that Ian Fleming, the writer who dreamed up the suave secret agent James Bond, also wrote the children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. These literary creations could hardly differ more.

“Bond, James Bond,” is the clever, debonair spy who uses a mind-boggling array of gadgets, weapons, and wildly expensive sports cars to fight lots of different bad guys and gals. Need proof? Check out The Man With the Golden Arm, Goldfinger, or Dr. No, among many others.

Chitty Chitty tells the story of a family whose car has amazing transformative powers. This car can fly, morph into a boat, and bail them out of all kinds of trouble. Well, maybe there is some connection between Fleming’s best-known flights of imagination. There can be little doubt Fleming’s time working for British intelligence inspired his creative writing.
Literature, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Star Wars

Arts Days: May 25, 1977: The Force at the Box Office
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...”

Almost as soon as those ten words began their crawl across movie screens around the U.S., a pop-culture phenomenon was  underway.

The first movie, A New Hope, was later revealed to be Episode IV in a six-episode series that tells the compelling story of good triumphing over evil. A simple-yet-complex science fantasy epic sprung from director George Lucas’ imagination, Star Wars—with its sequels, prequels, books, games, TV shows, and the toys it spawned— has become one of the most successful movie franchises of all time.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects

Orson Welles

Arts Days: May 06, 1915: A Reel Visionary
Whether directing films or acting on stage, George Orson Welles’s theatrical talents were unsurpassed. It probably helped that he was a creative child: He painted, played the piano, and performed magic tricks.

When Welles was a young man, important connections advanced his career. Playwright Thornton Wilder introduced Welles to directors who gave him his first stage roles. He also made a name for himself writing, acting in, and directing radio plays. His radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938 terrified listeners convinced that aliens were actually invading our planet. And then there were movies like Citizen Kane and many others now deemed American classics.

Welles also pioneered new filming techniques, such as using “deep space,” in which scenes in both the foreground and background stayed in focus. Using this method, action can take place in two parts of a single frame. He also would place the camera near the floor to shoot up at a person so he appeared to loom above, larger than life.
America, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Theater, Movies & Movie Stars

George Lucas

Arts Days: May 14, 1944: Hollywood’s Sky Walker
Growing up on a quiet walnut ranch, George Lucas seemed about as far removed from a life making Hollywood blockbusters as you might imagine. But his career as an award-winning filmmaker was launched at the University of Southern California, where he won a prize for one of his early sci-fi shorts. More career-making breaks followed, including Lucas’s turn directing and helping to write American Graffiti.

But even the film’s hit reception paled in comparison to the attention Lucas got for writing and directing 1977’s Star Wars. The film’s intergalactic storyline and technological achievements piled up Academy Awards® and broke most box-office records. The movie’s sequels and prequels, from The Empire Strikes Back to The Phantom Menace, trace the paths of characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader—now household names across the world.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stunts & Special Effects, Popular Culture

The Bride of Frankenstein

Arts Days: April 22, 1935: Monster Love
This 1935 horror film opens with an actress playing Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the book from which the Frankenstein movies are based, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. “Shelley” is explaining what happened when the Monster tells Dr. Frankenstein he wants a mate. While this was a subplot in Shelley’s book, the makers of this movie managed to get a whole motion picture out of it.

The actress who played Mary Shelley—and who played the bride, too—was Elsa Lancaster, and her role vaulted her to stardom. The Monster’s loneliness in the first Frankenstein movie makes us feel sympathetic toward him, and in The Bride of Frankenstein, we also feel a little bit sorry for him when the Bride rejects him shortly after being brought to life by Frankenstein. Still, when he goes on to kill everyone around him and destroy Frankenstein’s laboratory, we’re reminded that this is no ordinary love story.
Tragedy, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movies & Movie Stars

Carrie

Arts Days: April 05, 1974: The King of Scary
Sitting at a desk and using an old typewriter in his trailer in Maine, Stephen King worked nights pouring over Carrie, a freaky story about a teenage girl. He threw the first few pages in the trash, but his wife plucked them out and encouraged him to keep at it. In the book, the title character is teased at school—but when she uses her special psychic powers in order to fight back, mayhem and murder result.

The book launched King’s career as a writer of really, really scary horror and sci-fi novels and short stories. Now, decades and dozens of books later, he’s still writing from his house in Maine, minus the trailer. King’s work ethic is famous; he forces himself to write thousands of words every single day. It’s that dedication that has translated into millions of books being sold to terrified readers everywhere.
America, Literature, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Me... Jane

Cuesheet: Me... Jane: The Dreams & Adventures of Young Jane Goodall
In this brand new musical adaptation, join young Jane and her special friend as they learn about the world around them and the importance of protecting all living species. With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, this adaptation makes this very true story accessible for the young—and young at heart.
Theater, Accessibility, Africa, Animals, Geography, Innovators & Pioneers, Science

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