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Reading Masterpiece Theatre

by Heidi on January 13th, 2014
Reading Masterpiece Theatre Cover Image

Making Masterpiece:  25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! On PBS by Rebecca Eaton is a fun read for anyone who has enjoyed the many BBC television series and films brought to US viewers by WGBH, the Boston affiliate of PBS.

Eaton has been the executive producer of Masterpiece since 1985, and has great stories to tell about the hosts, actors, writers and directors who are in and behind the productions on Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery!.    Why did it take so long to replace Alistair Cooke as host of Masterpiece Theatre?  With what esteemed actress was Daniel Radcliffe’s first semi-nude scene?  How happy is Rebecca Eaton that, after turning down the series when it was first offered, she got a second chance to accept Downton Abbey?  There are behind-the-scenes peeks at popular shows like Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect, Cranford, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey.  And you quickly will be on a first-name basis with Helen Mirren, Kenneth Branagh, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Masterpiece Theatre began in the early 1970s, with the express purpose of showing British serial dramas from great literature and history.  Early on, a second show, Mystery!, was added.  Efforts to introduce American drama to the mix have been somewhat successful, and the author’s musings on the differences between British and American theater, film and how actors are trained is one of the most interesting parts of the book.

As popular as these two shows have been, it requires constant effort to attract funding and audiences.  Eaton describes the rebranding effort that shortened the title of the series to Masterpiece and the use of social media to reach younger viewers.  What has stayed the same, though, is the appreciation for “costume drama” and bringing favorite, classic stories to life on the screen.

ICPL has many of these Masterpiece and Mystery! television series and movies in our DVD collection.  I look forward to watching my favorites again, now that I know some of the back stories.

Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement

by Heidi on August 7th, 2012
Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement Cover Image

This book is another great find on the New shelf on the second floor, where I was browsing recently.  I have often admired the quilt squares I’ve seen on barns around Iowa, but assumed they were isolated pieces put up by quilt lovers and that it was just a happy coincidence that I’d caught sight of them.  After reading Barn Quilts, I know that they are not there by accident, and I’m inspired by the story of how the American Quilt Trail movement came to be.

Author Suzi Parron has researched the origins of the quilt trails, followed the trails in numerous states and found beautiful art and heartwarming stories all along the way.  The barn quilts often represent cooperation among state and local arts organizations, philanthropic groups, visitor bureaus, and local craftspeople and community members interested in sharing their art with all passersby.

The book is full of color pictures of barns with their quilt squares.  It covers trails in eight, mostly midwestern states.  In the chapter on Iowa, the counties represented include Grundy, Buchanan, Fayette, Humboldt, Sac and Washington.  The quilt trail closest to us is in Washington County, the “Barn Quilt Capital of Iowa“.  My only quibble with this lovely book is that there are no maps or website listings for the trails.  However, a simple internet search for barn quilt trails in the counties named will deliver specific information on each county and maps that show the locations of the barns.

Barns and quilts, two art forms in their own right, go together beautifully as this book shows.  Take a look at this history of a grassroots movement, and then take a drive down some country roads to see some unique midwestern art.




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