An excerpt from Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy award-winning performer Rita Moreno giving the 2009 Burian Lecture at the New York State Writers Institute on October 7, 2009.

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Events are free and open to the public and take place on the University at Albany’s uptown campus, unless otherwise noted.

Books are available in advance of events and at the events, from the following bookstores:
Barnes & Noble College Bookstore and The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza

Encounters at the End of the World

Henry Kaiser

Samuel Bowser

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September 22 (Wednesday)
Film screening with commentary by Henry Kaiser, producer, and Samuel Bowser, Wadsworth Center cellular biologist — 7:00 p.m., [Note early start time], Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring David Ainley, Samuel Bowser, Regina Eisert
(United States, 2007, 99 minutes, color)

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD is maverick director Werner Herzog’s nonfiction meditation on life in Antarctica— the region’s terrifying natural wonders and peculiar fauna, as well as the scientists, support staff, eccentrics and obsessed individuals who have chosen to sojourn there, under harsh conditions, for long periods of time.

Henry Kaiser
produced the film, served as underwater photographer of the film’s breath-taking sequences beneath the Antarctic sea ice, and composed its haunting soundtrack. Kaiser served previously as cinematographer on Herzog’s Antarctic scifi drama, THE WILD BLUE YONDER (2005), and as contributor to the soundtrack of Herzog’s documentary, GRIZZLY MAN (2005).

Samuel Bowser, research scientist at the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health, is one of the stars of Herzog’s film. A specialist in cell structure and function, Bowser has spent three months of the year at research stations in the Antarctic since the mid-1980s. An advocate of science education, and of collaborations between the sciences and the arts, he was honored by the Science Teachers Association of New York in 2006 for his exceptional contributions.

Cosponsored by the School of Public Health in celebration of its 25th Anniversary

Richard Dreyfuss

Archive Partneship Trust

The Archives Partnership Trust 2010 Empire State Archives and History Award with Richard Dreyfuss
September 28 (Tuesday)
7:30 p.m., The Egg, Center for the Performing Arts, Empire State Plaza, Albany

Tickets: $10 (plus handling fees) Contact The Egg Box Office at 518-473-1845 or online at

The 2010 Empire State Archives and History Award will be presented to Richard Dreyfuss, Academy Award-winning actor and passionate advocate for strengthening history education in schools. Harold Holzer, Trust board member and nationally prominent Lincoln scholar, will join in conversation with Dreyfuss.

Contact the Archives Partnership Trust at (518) 473-7091 for more information about a private reception honoring Richard Dreyfuss. Additional charges apply. Visit  for more information.


Samba Gadjigo

La Noire De (Black Girl)

The Films of Ousmane Sembène
October 1 (Friday)
Film screening with commentary by Sembène biographer Samba Gadjigo — 7:00 p.m. [Note early start time], Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Samba Gadjigo, Professor of French and African Literature at Mt. Holyoke College, is the world’s leading expert on the life and work of Ousmane Sembène (1923-2007), Senegalese director and the “founding father” of African cinema. Gadjigo’s new landmark biography, Ousmane Sembène: The Making of a Militant Artist (2010) is a richly detailed work based on unprecedented access to the famously private film director and members of his family. Gadjigo will offer commentary following the screening of the following films:

Directed by Ousmane Sembène
(Senegal, 1966, 65 minutes, b/w, in French with English subtitles)
Sembène’s first feature is widely acknowledged as the “genesis” of African cinema. A stylish young African woman accepts a job as a domestic in the French Riviera only to discover that her employers regard her as little more than a slave.

Directed by Ousmane Sembène
(Senegal, 1999, 10 minutes, color, in French with English subtitles)
Set in a small village in rural Senegal, the film is the first of a trilogy devoted to the daily heroism of African women at the beginning of the new century.

Directed by Samba Gadjigo
(United States/Burkina Faso, 2005, 20 minutes, color)

Gadjigo spent two weeks with Sembène in a rural village in Burkina Faso during the 2002 filming of MOOLAADÉ, his widely acclaimed drama about a women’s uprising against female circumcision.

Eloise Briere, Associate Professor of French Studies in UAlbany’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures will moderate the discussion. Her expertise includes the literatures and cultures of the Francophone areas of the world including West Africa and the Caribbean.

Sigrid Nunez, Photo by Marion Ettinger

Sigrid Nunez
October 7 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Sigrid Nunez, prize-winning author, grew up in a New York City housing project, the daughter of a Chinese-Panamanian father and German mother. She has been called “one of the most dizzyingly accomplished of our writers” (The New York Times) and “a master of psychological acuity” (The New Yorker). Her latest novel is Salvation City (2010), about an orphaned 13-year-old boy who is adopted into a Christian fundamentalist community, and who struggles to make sense of life in the aftermath of a flu pandemic that wipes out much of the world’s population. Nunez’s previous novels include The Last of Her Kind (2006), and For Rouenna (2001). A memoir of her long friendship with author Susan Sontag, Sempre Susan, will be published in 2011.

Hugo Perez

“Portrait of the Cuban American Artist as a Young New York Filmmaker” featuring Hugo Perez
October 8 (Friday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., (NOTE ROOM CHANGE) Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus
Film clips and commentary — 7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Hugo Perez, former NYSWI videographer and director of its WMHT television series, The Writer, is a rising filmmaker whose work explores various literary subjects and his Cuban-American heritage. Acclaimed documentaries include SUMMER SUN WINTER MOON (2008, to be screened on November 5–see schedule),about Native American poet Darrell Kipp, and NEITHER MEMORY NOR MAGIC (2007), about Jewish-Hungarian poet and Holocaust victim Miklos Radnoti. Award-winning shorts include BETTY LA FLACA (2006) and JULIETA Y RAMON (2005), which aired on HBO and Showtime respectively. Perez is currently developing his first feature, IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, a dark comedy set in Miami’s Little Havana, and based on an original screenplay that earned a Rockefeller Foundation / Tribeca Film Institute Fellowship.

Annie Cohen-Solal

Annie Cohen-Solal
October 12 (Tuesday)
Discussion/Reading — 7:00 p.m., University Art Museum, Fine Arts Building, Uptown Campus

Annie Cohen-Solal, author of Sartre: A Life (1987) and Painting American (2001), which received the Prix Bernier of the Académie des Beaux Arts, discusses her new biography of american art dealer Leo Castelli, Leo and His Circle (2010), which won the ArtCurial Prize for best contemporary art book.

Cosponsored by the University Art Museum, UAlbany Art Department, the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and the New York State Writers Institute

Elizabeth Marvel as Louisa May Alcott, Photo by Liane Brandon

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT: In Print and On Screen
October 14, (Thursday)
Discussion, film clips, and reading — 7:30 p.m. Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Spend an evening with Harriet Reisen and Nancy Porter, creators of LOUISA MAY ALCOTT: THE WOMAN BEHIND LITTLE WOMAN — a documentary, directed by Porter for PBS’s American Masters, and a biography, written by Reisen (2009, Henry Holt and Co., coming soon in paperback from Picador). They will present clips and readings to illustrate their approach to bringing Alcott’s story to life, on the page and on screen. Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) grew up in grueling poverty, worked at the lowliest jobs open to women, was a nurse in the Civil War, led a secret literary life as a writer of pulp fiction, and became a multimillionaire as the author of “moral pap for the young.”  

This event is made possible by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.



Harriet Reisen

Nancy Porter

Behind the Scenes with Harriet Reisen and Nancy Porter
October 15 (Friday)
Seminar — 9 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library

Join Harriet Reisen and Nancy Porter, producers of LOUISA MAY ALCOTT: THE WOMAN BEHIND LITTLE WOMEN, for an informal seminar on what’s involved in shaping history for general audiences.

Harriet Reisen
’s Louisa May Alcott was named a top ten book of 2009 by the Wall Street Journal, Booklist, and BookPage, and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. Her diverse credits include scripting dramatic and documentary films for PBS and HBO, co-producing NPR’s series Blacklisted, contributing radio commentary to Morning Edition and Marketplace, and publishing in Travel and Leisure, Tin House, and The Philadelphia Inquirer

Nancy Porter
has produced and directed numerous documentaries and has won many awards, including a national Emmy, an American Film Festival Blue Ribbon, and three Cine Gold Eagle Awards. Her films include Typhoid Mary: The Most Dangerous Woman in America and Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls, both for Nova, and Amelia Earhart, The Wright Stuff, Richard Byrd: Alone on the Ice, and Houdini, for American Experience.

Both events are presented by the UAlbany’s Documentary Studies Program and Department of History in conjunction with the New York State Writers Institute and the M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, with support from University Auxiliary Services and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust.

Sarah Franek in THE GLASS CASTLE

October 20 (Wednesday)
American Place Theatre performance of The Glass Castle
Performance — 7:30 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Pre-performance discussion at 7:00 p.m.

$15 general public / $12 seniors & faculty-staff / $10 students
Box Office:  (518) 442-3997: [email protected]

American Place Theatre presents a one-person theatrical adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ unique memoir of survival and resiliency told through the eyes of a young girl. It is the saga of the restless Walls family, led by a crusty eccentric and his volatile artist wife. The author and her siblings are often left to fend for themselves as the family’s precarious lifestyle necessitates frequently doing “the skedaddle.” Meanwhile, they cherish the vision of Dad’s creation of a fabulous home, a glass castle.

Presented by the Performing Arts Center in conjunction with the New York State Writers Institute.

Ilyon Woo

Ilyon Woo
October 21 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 7:30 p.m., Shaker Meeting House, 25 Meeting House Road (near main entrance to Albany Airport off of Heritage Lane), Albany

Ilyon Woo’s
first book is The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times (2010), a highly-praised work of popular history set in the Capital Region. Eunice Chapman is compelled to seek custody of her three children after their 1814 abduction by her estranged husband James, who elected to become a member of the Shaker community, a celibate, utopian religious sect. James first took them to live at the Watervliet Shaker Settlement, located near what is now the Albany International Airport, before taking them into hiding at another Shaker site in New Hampshire. Much of the action also takes place at sessions of the New York State Legislature. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Debby Applegate called the book “masterfully written, deeply suspenseful, and filled with fascinating facts and insights,” and National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick said, “Woo brings the past to life in all its wonderful strangeness, complexity, and verve.”

Cosponsored by the Shaker Heritage Society


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October 26 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m, Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
Reading — 8:00 p.m, Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Sapphire, poet, performer, and author of the bestselling novel Push (1996), addresses a wide range of social issues in her work, including violence, sexual abuse, prostitution, and discrimination in its myriad forms. A publishing phenomenon, Push is back on the sales charts this year after serving as the basis for the Academy Award-winning film PRECIOUS (2009), starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz. The story of an obese, illiterate African American woman who becomes pregnant by her father with her second child, the novel has had a profound impact on millions of readers, and has already earned a place in the multicultural literary canon. The Washington Post reviewer said, “To read the story [is] magic. . . . profane and thoroughly real.” Sapphire’s books of poetry include American Dreams (1994), which was hailed in Publishers Weekly as “one of the strongest debut collections of the 90s,” and Black Wings and Blind Angels (1999).

Cosponsored by the School of Public Health in celebration of its 25th Anniversary

Gerald Vizenor


Gerald Vizenor
November 9 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 7:30 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library

Gerald Vizenor, prolific novelist, poet, literary critic, member of the Anishinaabe (Chippewa) people, and Professor Emeritus of American Studies at UC Berkeley, has been called “the supreme ironist among American Indian writers” (N. Scott Momaday) and the “master trickster” of Native American literature (Diane Glancy). His newest novel, Shrouds of White Earth (2010), follows the struggles of an Anishinaabe painter among the ultra-traditionalists and “casino politicians” of his home reservation, and in the exotic world of contemporary High Art. Other works include the novels Father Meme (2008),  about the murder of a pedophilic priest on an Indian reservation, and Griever (1988), winner of the American Book Award, about the misadventures of a Native American academic in Communist China; and the autobiography Interior Landscapes (1990, 2009).

Cosponsored by SUNY Press in conjunction with the Second Annual John G. Neihardt Lecture. Reception to follow.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite (2005)

Kwame Anthony Appiah
November 11 (Thursday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading — 7:30 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Kwame Anthony Appiah, whose work encompasses the fields of moral philosophy, cultural theory and Africana Studies, is best-known for his powerful argument that “race” and “culture” are arbitrary constructs. His new book is The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (2010), a landmark work that explores the dynamics of social changes that have led to the emancipation of women, slaves and other disenfranchised groups. In advance praise, Nadine Gordimer called it, “brilliant… essential… inescapable in its urgent relevance….” A frequent collaborator with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and a professor at Princeton, Appiah is the author of more than a dozen books, including Experiments in Ethics (2008), Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006), and The Ethics of Identity (2005).

Jean Valentine, Photo by Max Greenstreet

Jean Valentine, New York State Poet
November 16 (Tuesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library
Reading —7:30 p.m., Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Avenue, Albany

Jean Valentine, winner of the National Book Award for the poetry volume Door in the Mountain (2004), received the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit and serves as New York State Poet (2008-2010) under the aegis of the New York State Writers Institute. Valentine is best-known for poems of striking intensity that derive much of their structure and imagery from dreams. Recent collections include the forthcoming Break the Glass (2010), which Library Journal called “a rare pleasure… as elliptical and demanding as Emily Dickinson;” Lucy (2009), an ode to humanity’s most famous Australopithecine ancestor; and Little Boat (2007), of which the Publishers Weekly reviewer said, “Her minimalist, elided style is like the quiet concentration of a bank robber trying to crack a safe.”

Cosponsored by Friends of the Albany Public Library

Jena Osmon

Jena Osman
December 2 (Thursday)
Reading — 7:30 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library

Jena Osman,is the 2009 National Poetry Series winner for The Network (2010) published by Writers Institute partner Fence Books. In selecting the book for the National Poetry Series, poet Prageeta Sharma said,  “Osman tackles the relationship between representation and intention within any subject...especially when she explores contemporary political rhetoric,” and added that the book is “refreshing...full of inquiry that is sustainable and innovative.” Osman’s previous books include Asterisks (2004) and The Character (1999), winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize. Her work also appeared in The Best American Poetry of 2002 (selected by poet Robert Creeley).

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