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James Shapiro in Conversation with Ayad Akhtar

Wednesday, June 19, 2024


6:30 pm Eastern

McNally Jackson Seaport, 4 Fulton St., New York, New York

James Shapiro in conversation with Ayad Akhtar

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Join scholar James Shapiro and playwright Ayad Akhtar for a conversation on theater and democracy, art and citizenship—an interrogation of the American cultural and political landscape then and now as presented in The Playbook, Shapiro’s new history of the rise and fall of the Federal Theatre Project.

“James Shapiro tells a startling story of New Deal America and the Federal Theatre’s extraordinary attempt to place creativity at the heart of democracy. He also uncovers the hidden roots of today’s culture wars,” writes Fintan O’Toole. “This is not just a great work of theater history. It is history itself as a gripping and fiercely urgent drama.”

This event is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Authors Guild Foundation and McNally Jackson, where we gather writers for conversations that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse literary culture and the authors who contribute to it, and provide a space for writers and readers to connect in-person.

James Shapiro’s new book is The Playbook: A Story of Theater, Democracy, and the Making of a Culture War. He is the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1985. In 2011, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has written several award-winning books on Shakespeare, most recently Shakespeare in a Divided America and The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. His essays and reviews appear in the New York Times, the Guardian, the New York Review of Books,and elsewhere. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, and The New York Public Library Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and he serves as a Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at the Public Theater in New York City and as a board member of the Authors Guild.

Ayad Akhtar is a novelist and playwright. His work has been published and performed in over two dozen languages. He is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novels are Homeland Elegies and American Dervish. His plays are Junk (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Kennedy Prize for American Drama, Tony nomination); Disgraced (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony nomination); The Who & The What (Lincoln Center); and The Invisible Hand (NYTW; Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, Olivier, and Evening Standard nominations). Among other honors, he is the recipient of the Steinberg Playwrighting Award, the Nestroy Award, the Erwin Piscator Award, as well as fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell, the Sundance Institute, and Yaddo, where he serves as a Board Director. Additionally, he is a trustee at New York Theatre Workshop, and PEN America, where he recently served as President. In 2021, he was named the New York State Author, succeeding Colson Whitehead, by the New York State Writers Institute.