Saturday, February 25, 2012


Symphony Space recently hosted a 50th Anniversary Celebration of A Wrinkle in Time.  What a treat to be amidst other people who were also fans of the children's book written by the late and fondly remembered Madeleine L'Engle.

The program opened with a humorous, well-crafted video which featured children as the actors and compressed the entire book into a 90-second format.  This opener was a perfect advertisement for the 90 Second Newbery competition.  What a fun challenge - to get a Newbery book into a 90 second format on video and then submit it to be considered for the film festival.  (Which, by the way, will be happening in December back at Symphony Space.  Stay tuned and get your tickets early!)

Betsy Bird, host of the event and author of the children's literature blog Fuse #8, welcomed the audience and shared "Meg Murray [the central character in the book] was my Harry Potter."  Right!  So good to have a children's chapter book in which the hero is female!

Charlotte L'Engle, Madeleine's granddaughter, took the mike.  She shared that Madeleine loved to be part of multigenerational parties.  She was the librarian and writer in residence at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in the Morningside Heights neighborhood.

Charlotte explained that A Wrinkle in Time was the book that almost did not get published, with publishers thinking it was "much too hard for children."  On the contrary, explained Madelein's grand daughter, the book is too difficult for grownups!

Betsy Bird then introduced the all-star panel lineup:  Louis Lowry, author of The Giver and Count the Numbers; Katherine Patterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia; Rebecca Stead, author of When They Reach Us; and R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebump series.  Ms. Bird asked the panelists "If you  could ask Madeline one question, what would it be?"  One panelist replied "How do you write a book that affects children for the rest of their lives?"

There was then some debate over whether or not the Newbery Committee would pick A Wrinkle in Time today, given its religious references.  On another point of discussion, panelists talked about if A Wrinkle could be compared to The Hunger Games.

When the panel was over, actress Jane Curtin did a bang-up job of reading a passage from A Wrinkle. Following Ms. Curtin, a group of teenagers performed a dramatic reading of yet another section of the book.

Next, children's literature expert Leonard Marcus came before the audience and referred to people's memories of Ms. L'Engle as a gifted oral storyteller.  Also, he shared an interesting fact: Ms. L'Engle won The Newbery Award at the same time Ezra Jack Keats won The Caldecott Medal for A Snowy Day.  I'm looking forward to reading Mr. Marcus's book Listening for Madeleine, due to come out this fall.

Monday, February 20, 2012


MOMI visitors of all ages relax on comfy beanbags as they watch a great film about the life and work of Jim Henson.

Seriously, folks.  If you haven't already, please get on over to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens  to see Jim Henson's Fantastic World.  The exhibit closes on March 4.

I have made half a dozen trips out to Queens to see the exhibit itself plus the special screenings and live events that have accompanied it.  I saw Brian Henson give a talk about the evolution of puppetry.  I heard Frank Oz be interviewed by Craig Shemin.  I saw Craig Shemin do a demo of puppetry as it's performed for television.  I saw a film about the history of Sesame Street.

Every time I visit Jim Henson's Fantastic World, I learn something new.  I popped by a few days ago and studied the text on the placards more carefully. One of them read as follows:

"Although Jim never forgot that his puppets were made of foam, fleece, and fur, he and millions of viewers were emotionally attached to the believable characters they had become."

Friday, February 17, 2012


This is a time lapse photos of a painting in progress called "Marvelheros" by Michael Sorgatz. Mike sez: "The video is taken from photos I shoot after every painting session to track my progress. Acrylic paint on canvas, size is approximately 24x30 inches. For more work please see my website at"

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Over the past four years, I have had the honor of interviewing a group of long-time cast, crew, and writers from the cultural juggernaut that is Sesame Street.  It started with an in-person Q&A with Elmo Muppeteer and Sesame Co-Producer Kevin Clash. 

Kevin suggested I also talk to cameraman Frank Biondo, who has been with Sesame from the get-go, as well as Fran Brill.  You may know Fran as Zoe and, starting from way back when, Prairie Dawn.

While on the set with Frank, I also got to meet Big Bird Muppeteer Carroll Spinney, as well as a young person who started writing letters to Carroll at age five. 

What a  treat to meet Bonnie Erickson, who used to work for Sesame and who also created Ms. Piggy, Statler, Waldorf, and other iconic Muppets, to find out her life story.

I went back on set to watch and interview Snuffy and Telly's Muppeteer Martin Robinson.  While observing Martin in action (from inside of Mr. Hooper's store, no less!), I met Kevin Clash's right hand hand, storyboard designer, and SuperGrover float creator Louis Henry Mitchell.

Most recently, I got to do some Q&Awith Annie Evans, Sesame writer and also wife of Martin Robinson.  (They got married on the set!)  And then went to Elmo's birthday party to help him celebrate 3.5 years!

I feel so grateful to have met all these amazing people and look forward to more Sesame adventures.

If you have a Sesame cast or crew member you would like me to interview, drop at line at

Here are the posts about all the folks mentioned above:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Over at Newvine Growing, Colleen Newvine is running Blogversation 2012.  Each week, six women (myself included) write a response to a question posed.  This past week, the question we wrote about was "Who or what inspires you?"  Here is my response.  Please check out Newvine Growing for other responses, and feel free to add your own thoughts to the original post!

Eleanor Traubman Says:

There’s a bunch of artists who inspire me. Here are some of them:

Faith Ringgold – maker of storyquilts and children’s books
Keith Haring – pop artist
Missy Elliott rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, dancer
Maira Kalman – designer, writer, illustrator
Eva Zeisel – design legend
Women Film Directors – Nancy Savoca, Allison Anders, Karyn Kusama, Gurinder Chadha, Kasi Lemmons
Jim Henson – King of the Muppets, tv and film pioneer
Questlove – drummer for The Roots and King of Twitter!
Julie Taymor – Director of theater, opera, film
Rokafella – Female breakdancer, Director of the documentary of “All the Ladies Say”
All the women in Creative Conversations, the women’s artist group that I help lead


My dad, a great family historian, recently let me know that one of my relatives from his side of the family sang at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (then known as the Academy of Music) in  1895.  She sang in the opera Carmen.  I'm proud!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


"A Wrinkle In Time" In 90 Seconds from James Kennedy on Vimeo.

Tonight, at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of A Wrinkle in Time held at Symphony Space, I learned about 90 Second Newbery.  It's film festival being curated by James Kennedy and Betsy Bird.

Here's their pitch:

So here’s our contest, open to anyone: make a video that compresses the story of a Newbery award-winning book into 90 seconds or less.

It turns out that any book, no matter how worthy and somber, becomes pleasingly ludicrous when compressed into 90 seconds. Please watch our very first entry, in the video above: a 90-second version of
A Wrinkle in Time (1963).

Teachers, here’s a fun project that will get your students reading Newbery winners. Students, here’s an excuse to mess around with video equipment. Librarians, here’s an activity to do with your teen advisory boards. Anyone can enter. Everyone wins!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Sesame Street writer Annie Evans with husband and Muppeteer Martin Robinson and their two daughters.

As Sesame Street enters into its 43rd season, it's high time we fans look behind the scenes of this juggernaut to take a peek at the humans who create all of the fun and magic.

I've shared some information about the hard-working Muppeteers:  Elmo's Kevin Clash; Snuffy and Telly's Martin Robinson; Zoe's Fran Brill.  And then there's the contributions of long-time cameraman Frank Biando and storyboard designer Louis Henry Mitchell.

But who are the people who write the scripts for the shows?  The folks who make educational content fun and interesting for young people and adults alike?

One of those wordsmiths is Annie Evans. She's been writing for Sesame since 1993.

I had the honor of meeting Annie and finding out just what it means to be a writer for Sesame Street

Q: How did Annie arrive at Sesame Street?

A: Since young adulthood, Annie had been a playwright and screenwriter.  One year, she was invited to the O'Neill Puppetry Conference, where she met Martin Robinson (the man who would later become her husband.)  Annie helped Martin with a show he was working on and eventually Martin submitted some of Annie's sketches to Norm Stiles, then head writer at Sesame.

In response to the submitted sketches, Norm invited Annie to participate in an intense year-long audition process for a writing position at Sesame Street.  At the end of the year, Annie was granted a spot!

Q:  What does a Sesame Street writer have to be able to do well?

A: A Sesame writer has to be able to provide two key deliverables.  One of those is comedy for adults; the other is education for very young people that relays content without being dogmatic.  You also have to be curriculum savvy, so that content is informed by an understanding of social-emotional development, cognitive development, and school-readiness.

"The bottom line is that you have to write well," states Annie.  "The writers here come out of writing for comedy, advertising, theater.  You can always learn about curriculum and add educational components, but you have to have that basis of strong writing."

Q:  How does Annie combine both tradition and innovation with a show that has such a long history?

A:  The show is not a static one; it is always changing.  Writers attend curriculum seminars, and  learn about new research topics and  formats.  There are always new parodies to write.  Other work includes writing for live shows and helping with the international productions of Sesame Street.

As Annie shares, "In such a vast, creative environment, the work does not get stale."

Working collaboratively with the production staff is one way writers keep content fresh.  The show is currently focusing on math and science by showing "Super Grover 2.0"segments where his character uses science and technology to solve problems. 

Q:  What is challenging about writing for the show?

A:  It's a struggle to constantly find good stories, and new things that have not been done before.

Q:  What does Annie view as her unique contribution to the show?

A:  Annie recognizes that she brings a keen sense of humor as well as a dedication to the mission of the show.  "It's not just about bringing in money or ratings, " Annie says.  "The mission is why people tend to stay here for long periods of time without leaving.  We get to teach children, and teach with a sense of humor.  When I tell people what kind of work I do, I watch their faces melt. Why go anywhere else?"

Q:  Has being a parent influenced Annie's work as a writer? (Annie is the mother of twin three-year-old  girls.)

A:  "Parenthood has had a huge impact on my writing.  I see the way my daughters react and see what worked for them, and focus on that.  It's a reminder to me to keep topics clear, simple, and funny."

Q:  What advice would Annie give to people who want to make a living from their craft?

A:  "Be persistent.  Keep options open for all kinds of opportunities.  I didn't foresee writing for a children's show.  Also, find a like-minded tribe of people.  I was always involved in theater companies as a writer and a performer  even if I wasn't getting paid to do it.  Doing that made me own my craft and feel part of the entertainment industry.  It also helped me create a huge family of friends."

Be sure to check out Annie and Martin's Sesame Family Robinson Blog

Thursday, February 02, 2012



Friday, February 10 | 8 p.m.–Midnight | BBG Palm House

An evening celebrating Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s collection of over 6,000 tropical orchids

  • Dance to NYC’s best boogaloo band, Spanglish Fly
  • Behold opulent orchids
  • Savor icy Mexican fruit paletas by La Newyorkina, bite-sized delicacies by Purple Yam restaurant, Latin-inspired confections by Tumbador Chocolate, traditional tastes from Mexico by Chavela’s, Korean nibbles from Moim restaurant, and more tropical treats by neighborhood food mavens
  • Groove to classic 45s spun by WFMU’s Mr. Fine Wine and DJ Turmix
  • Pose for leaf portraits by Aaron Birk
  • Enjoy an open bar of fragrant juices and cocktail concoctions
  • Hang behind the scenes with orchid curator Dave Horak
8:00–9:15Behind-the-scenes tours of BBG’s orchid collection with curator Dave Horak
8:00–9:15Leaf silhouettes with Aaron Birk
8:00–9:15Latin rhythms from Barcelona’s own DJ Turmix
9:15–10:30Special live performance by NYC’s Spanglish Fly
10:30–MidnightClassic 45s spun by WFMU’s Mr. Fine Wine

Open bar and exquisite eats all through the night
For more info:

Purchase Tickets

Tickets are $65 and available through


Dear Creative Times Reader:

Thanks so much for taking a look at this. I value your opinions, ideas, and expertise. I’ve been publishing Creative Times for six years, and am seeking additional opportunities to be employed as an arts and culture writer, promoter, and community-builder here in New York.

If, after taking a look at info below, you have an idea of someone who you think I should meet, please feel free to send me an email. I can be reached at

Seasoned arts and culture writer and promoter; educator; and community-builder who offers expertise in the following areas:

• The New York arts and culture landscape
• Strategies in social networking and new media for public relations purposes
• Skills in organizational development and operations, including event-planning, team building, workshop design and facilitation

M.S., Education; Bank Street College of Education; NY; 1995
B.A., Women, Community and Social Change; Trinity College; CT; 1991

Samples of Work Projects

* Interview visual, literary, and performing artists for Creative Times, an arts and culture blog. Interviewees include:  Sesame Street Co-Producer and Elmo Muppeteer Kevin Clash; design legend Eva Zeisel; illustrator and author Maira Kalman.

* Use social networking platforms to promote launches, premiers, and special events of New York’s performing, visual, and literary artists, organizations, and venues.

* Consult with Bank Street College of Education to devise categories and recruit editorial board for Alumni Blog; increase interaction among members of Bank Street Alumni LinkedIn group.

* Consulted with Jim Henson Legacy to improve aesthetics, usability, and interactivity of their website.

* Co-Produced The Brooklyn Blogfest, an annual gathering for 300 bloggers, artists, local community activists & politicians who write, speak, organize, and make art about their neighborhoods and the world beyond.

* Co-Founded and lead Creative Conversations, a goal-setting group for women artists and entrepreneurs who want to stay on the edge of personal and professional growth.

* Managed PlayNet, a grant-funded project at The Brooklyn Museum designed to increase educators’, parents’, and caretakers’ understanding of play and capacity to facilitate play with children.

Thanks so much for your support!

Please feel free to email with questions or ideas.

Eleanor Traubman
Creative Times

Wednesday, February 01, 2012



This post, originally published in 2010, is dedicated to the memory of Don Cornelius.
Last Wednesday, January 26, The Paley Media Center held a permiere screening and panel discssion of VH1's Rock Doc Soul Train: the Hippest Trip in America.

The makers of this film did an amazing job of capturing the historical significance of Soul Train as well as the accomplishments of its founder, owner, and host Don Cornelius.

Interesting Facts About Soul Train

* Soul Train is the longest continuously-running first-run syndicated television program in the country.

* The dancers on Soul Train were the heart of the show, but were not paid. As guest panelist and Soul Train dancer Tyrone Proctor said, "Dancers are often at the bottom of the totem pole."

* Chicago native and Soul Train founder Don Cornelius, an interviewer of players in the Civil Rights Movement, was one of the first African heritage people to own and run a television show. He hosted the show from 1971 until 1993 an and guest hosts appeared from then until 2006, including Mystro Clark, Shemar Moore, and Dorian Gregory. Cornelius, who owned the show for its entire run, sold it to MadVision Entertainment in 2008.

* Don was not a big fan of Hip-Hop, but aired the artists anyway because he wished to give people what they wanted.

The Panel Discussion

The post-screening panel discussion was made up of these folks:

Moderator: Danyel Smith, Music Journalist (who also appears in the film)

Guests: Big Bank Hank from The Sugar Hill Gang (of Rapper's Delight fame)
Questlove, Drummer for the Roots, Creator of Musical Score for the documentary
Tyronne Proctor, Soul Train Dancer, Choreographer

By the time all the panelists got up to the stage, Danyel Smith was choking back tears of deeply-felt emotion. I think the deep significance of this film and of the show had hit her.

Big Bank Hank, of Sugarhill Gang fame, said right after the screening: "I'm standing on history, on sacred ground." He shared that although Don was noted to not have big love for Hip-Hop, Mr. Cornelius gave Hank a warm welcome onto the set.

From the number of stories shared by Tyronne, the former Soul Train dancer, you could see that the dancers were truly the heart and soul of the show. In order to get onto the set, Tyronne was smuggled in via the trunk of a car! He talked about the anticipation of each weekend that the show was filmed, and of the reciprocal admiration between the show's dancers and its musical guests. Tyronne talked about how Don Cornelius made something which was audio - African American music - into something visual.

There were other former Soul Train dancers in the audience, and they shared their own vignettes from back in the day.

Questlove said although his parents were strict with him growing up, even on the tv-watching front, they did wake him up at 12:30 am so he could join the family in watching the 1:00 am airing of Soul Train (that's the time it came on in Philly). Since the early years of Soul Train episodes were not recorded, Quest worked his ass off to find and collect VHS recordings of the show from as far away as Japan. He is said to carry the whole show around in a bag of VHS tapes!

Here's an exerpt of Glide Magazine's interview with Questlove about his work on the Soul Train doc:

Soul Train is probably the most influential show of my entire life. It’s often pained me that I would have to go through extreme measure$ – and when you spell the word “measures,” there should be a dollar sign through the “s” at the end of “measures” – to collect the show. I guess the reason it’s so hard to get is, not foreseeing the future of VHS and DVDs, you know, a digital future, Don [Cornelius] really never made any publishing arrangements or artist arrangements for future reruns or reselling of the show. It prevented Soul Train from ever showing reruns, even though the original show lasted for a good 36 seasons.


Strange enough, the one of maybe four shows that I was allowed to watch in my childhood was Soul Train. So, this instantly became a labor of love because a lot of my memories of first seeing television, all of them have to do with Soul Train. It was kind of scaring people a little bit, because as they were showing me the reruns, I was recalling to them . . . At first, they didn’t believe me. They were like, “Ok, what three-year-old has a memory of Michael Jackson doing the robot for the first time?” It would be to the point where they would ask me, “Well, what are your memories of episode 206, with the Average White Band and the Main Ingredient?” And I’d be like, “Ok, they were performing on the floor. I remember Don Cornelius talking about collard greens and black-eyed peas in the introduction.” And they started jaw dropping, because they put the tape in, and you know, I’ve not seen this since I was a kid. It’s because it was the only thing I was allowed to watch. My parents didn’t want me sitting in front of a TV four to five hours a day. Instead, I sat in front of a turntable four to five hours a day.