Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S8 E19 | FULL EPISODE

A Tour of the Orchard House, Actor Emilio Delgado, and more

In Concord, Massachusetts lies Orchard House, the historic home of Lousia May Alcott and her family. We tour the house that inspired "Little Women." Then, Jared sits down with Sesame Street alum Emilio Delgado to discuss his starring role in "Quixote Nuevo" presented by the Huntington Theatre Company. Plus, Houston's Menil Drawing Institute and a feature on the Hudson River Skywalk.

AIRED: November 22, 2019 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,

WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture

from around the region and the nation.

I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

Louisa May Alcott and the house that launchedLittle Women.

Now this, I assume,

is just the heart of the pilgrimage right here.

This is whereLittle Women was written?

>> Yes.

Louisa was so fortunate to have this desk.

>> BOWEN: Then one of the stars ofSesame Street,

now on a quixotic path.

>> With me, as an actor, is that

I had a, I had a fantastic sense

of the-the cancelation of disbelief.

>> BOWEN: Plus, drawings with an influence

on architectural design.

>> It's devoted to the acquisition, the study,

the exhibition, conservation, and storage of drawings.

So, it's very purpose-built architecture.

>> BOWEN: It's all now onOpen Studio.

First up, the Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts,

is where the Alcott family found home.

It's also where Louisa May Alcott

would write her landmark novel Little Women,

whose characters she based on her own family.

With a newLittle Women film opening this Christmas,

we take a look at the house that inspired the story.

It looks like a lot of thought happened in this room,

it just feels like thought here.

>> You're very perceptive.

Bronson Alcott always had a place

everywhere they ever lived

where he could think, write, read.

>> BOWEN: Intellect was power--

that's how Louisa and her sisters Anna, Elizabeth,

and May were raised.

They were young adults when the family moved to Concord,

purchasing this home--

situated on 12 acres and an apple orchard--

for $950 in 1857.

What's the correct pronunciation of this family's last name?

>> "ALL-cut."

>> BOWEN: Not "All-COT" as I think so many...

>> Not "AL-cot." (both laughing)

>> BOWEN: Jan Turnquist is executive director

of Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House,

although she first came here as a guide

when she was in her 20s.

She's steeped in the family's history

and their everyday life--

how the young Alcott women were encouraged to live freely

and dance regularly.

>> They had a lot of company.

Every Monday night, they were at home.

They would put a curtain up across here,

and the family would put on plays,

especially Louisa and her sisters.

They would play games.

Mrs. Alcott loved to play chess.

And we have the original board.

>> BOWEN: Mid-1800s Concord was a who's who of thought leaders--

all friends of the Alcotts--

Emerson, Thoreau, and next door neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne,

who didn't always share their ideals.

>> The Alcotts were very progressive,

liberal, abolitionist.

And, um, just maybe suffice it to say

that Nathaniel Hawthorne, very different politically.

>> BOWEN: Already a published author in 1868,

Louisa was asked by her publisher

to write "a girls' story"-- much to her dismay.

>> As she put it, she never knew many girls.

She played with boys, she played with her sisters.

>> BOWEN: But needing money, she wroteLittle Women

with stories inspired from her own childhood.

She used this home as the setting.

It remains largely as it was when Louisa lived here.

>> When people walk through and see items

that it's so clear they had to have touched and used,

like the sewing materials,

like the needlework that they did,

the paintings and drawings--

I think those speak most closely

to that sense of, "They're here."

>> BOWEN: Now this, I assume,

is just the heart of the pilgrimage right here.

This is whereLittle Women was written?

>> Yes.

Louisa was so fortunate to have this desk.

It doesn't look like much,

but you have to remember that in that time,

women were not supposed to be serious writers.

>> BOWEN: Here in her bedroom,

surrounded by art made by her sister May,

Louisa wroteLittle Women in three months

on the desk her father built.

>> It wasn't only her father.

Her mother was extremely supportive too.

And they were saying, "You can do this."

>> BOWEN: One room over is her sister May's bedroom.

It's decorated-- as is much of the house--

with her own artwork.

May was an accomplished painter

whose work sold well in Europe.

She was especially adept

at painting in the style of J.M.W. Turner.

>> She was hired by a London art museum

to copy their Turners

so that they could loan her copies out

to artists who were trying to practice.

>> BOWEN: We find the intersection of the visual arts

and theater right here in this trunk.

What-what do we see here? >> Yes.

Well, these boots were made by Louisa herself.

She writes about them in her journal.

She actually sometimes created characters for the boots,

because she liked wearing them so much-- they fit her.

And if you look in this sketch that May Alcott did,

here you see the boots being worn by Louisa.

She's playing the role of Rodrigo,

and if you readLittle Women, that is the play described

that the girls are putting on for Christmas Day.

>> BOWEN: Lots of people readLittle Women.

Almost instantaneously, the book was a bestseller.

But Louisa didn't relish her newfound celebrity.

>> She sometimes would say she was porcupine-y about it,

because people would come right up to this house,

right up to the front door, and ask for an autograph.

>> BOWEN: She would sometimes answer the door

pretending to be a servant?

>> Yes. Yes, she absolutely did, she-she would do that.

>> BOWEN: Fame is about to visit this house once again.

>> I'm working on a novel.

It is a story of my life and my sisters.

>> BOWEN: The seventh film adaptation ofLittle Women,

written and directed by Greta Gerwig,

opens on Christmas Day.

Turnquist was a consultant

and says the filmmakers wanted to be as authentic as possible.

>> Greta Gerwig took such an interest,

kept coming back to the house,

brought the cast through the house.

And the different production people were through

and-and talking about paint colors

and measurements and floor plans.

>> BOWEN: Turnquist says the new film captures the essence

of the home like no other adaptation has.

Of course, nothing compares, she says,

to experiencing the Alcott home in person--

and often with people who've come from around the world.

>> And when they come in with so much awe, enthusiasm,

and, really, love-- they love the book,

they liked the values of that family.

They liked the idea of caring for your family

and helping other people.

And then that jives very well

with our staff that feel the same way.

So, it's almost like a little celebration.

>> L-O-V-E.

Man, and you know that says love.

>> Love. >> And that's a good word.

>> BOWEN: This month, the groundbreaking program

Sesame Street turns 50.

Actor Emilio Delgado played the lovable Luis,

the Fix-It Shop owner on the iconic children's program,

for 44 of years.

Now he's taking on another role

that explores the Mexican-American experience.

He's the lead in the Huntington Theatre Company'sQuixote Nuevo,

which reimagines the Spanish classicDon Quixote.

Here's a look:

(singing in Spanish)

♪ Do you know what you are?

♪ Are you...

♪ Or a Latin superstar?

>> BOWEN: Emilio Delgado, thank you so much

for being here. >> My pleasure.

>> BOWEN: So, you are on this quixotic quest here

in this iteration of the story.

Tell us, how do you characterize the journey that he's on?

>> It's a story about a professor of literature

who is retired,

and he's in the, in the first stages

of dementia or Alzheimer's.

He has this imaginary life that he delves into,

and-and he connects that with-with a love of his life

that he had lost years and years ago.

>> She's in danger.

She needs me, Sancho.

>> Where is she?

>> In the town of Las Sinisas.

>> You mean Las Sinisas, Mexico?

(chuckling): That's not good, man.

That's not good at all.

>> BOWEN: And this also takes place

in the location of a Texas border town.

>> Yes. >> BOWEN: And so, how,

how are we dealing with the issues

that we're talking very much about today,

with immigration and the border wall

and all of the conversation and dialog that happens around that?

>> Yes, the-the whole idea of-of this man,

he lives in a, in a border town

named La Plancha, Texas, right?

It's an interesting story

of combining the Mexican culture with the American culture,

you know, back, the back and forth of it.

That's where I grew up

I grew up in a border town in California,

in Calexico, California,

in Mexicali, on the Mexican side.

So, I'm very, very attuned to this mentality

of-of the different, different cultures

and how one navigates through them and around them,

because I lived it, right?

What had happened initially is that he had,

he had promised this young woman that he fell in love with

that he was going to go get her and bring her across the border,

bring her into... back into where he lived

in the United States.

Well, uh, he chickened out.

He didn't, he didn't want to do it,

because he didn't want to get caught

bringing somebody across the border illegally, right?

So, he's lived with this-this,

this sentiment of cowardice all this time.

And-and one of the reasons why

he decides to go on the quest is that he's,

he's going to change that.

He's going to make it...

this once he's going to right that wrong that he did.

>> Mister, how come you're so nice to me?

>> It's the way I was taught.

My mother, the sweetest woman I ever knew,

taught me the rudiments of conduct.

>> BOWEN: Well, as you just mentioned,

this is so much in your own fiber,

because it's where you grew up. >> Mm-hmm.

>> BOWEN: How much do you think that people understand

about that culture?

We-we talk about it in very political terms now,

all around immigration.

>> Yes, it's, it's a difficult thing

for some people to-to put their heads around this.

When I was growing up, which was 150 years ago,

the border was nothing.

I mean, I-I lived on the Mexican side of the border,

and every day I took my books and crossed the border

to the American side and went to school there.

The reason that happened is because I had been born

in the States, in California, so I was a American citizen.

but I think probably unless you live a culture like that,

where you have two different cultural contexts,

you know, the Mexican culture and the American culture.

And-and then I like to say that

there's also the Mexican-American culture.

>> BOWEN: Well, how open were people to you

when you first began auditions,

and you began making your way into acting?

>> I was going around, banging on doors,

auditioning and everything.

But it was very difficult,

because at that time, it was considerably different

in terms of the representation

of Chicanos, Mexican Americans, Latinos.

It just wasn't, wasn't apparent, you know?

There-there were no jobs. >> BOWEN: So, what did it mean,

then, when you got the job onSesame Street?

>> Well, it changed everything for me.

But I was very proud of the fact that

that whole time before I got that job onSesame Street,

I had been very much involved

in trying to change that for Latinos.

I was part of-of several groups in Los Angeles,

some Latinos and Latinas, that we were trying

to make people see that we were human beings,

that, look, we were bankers, and we were teachers,

and we were professional people also,

we weren't just gang members or maids or prostitutes.

Here I was on a national television show,

and-and knowing that the part of Luis was a regular person

on... in the community,

he had, he had his own business, you know?

Of course, later on he got married, he had a family.

And it was representing a Latino and Latinas as regular people.

>> To love her and care for her always?

>> I do.

>> BOWEN: Because you-you join the show two years in,

was it apparent immediately what kind of hold

this was having over kids, myself included?

>> Oh. >> BOWEN: The little,

the little Jared in here is screaming

that I'm talking to you right now.

I'll be fully transparent. (both laughing)

But did you understand what the show meant,

or did it, did it grow in that regard?

>> No, we didn't know.

I mean, I didn't know.

I mean, I came, I came into New York City,

and that was a totally different experience for me.

I had never worked with puppets before

or Muppets as-as they were known then.

But I think a very important thing

that, with me, as an actor,

is that I had a, I had a fantastic sense

of the cancelation of disbelief, you know?

I mean, I just went with it.

>> BOWEN: Well, finally, I have to ask,

you're in the rare position, I would guess, of people...

You have such a wide audience

and such a huge audience of people who grew up watching you

that they feel they must have some level of ownership over you

as you go about in the world-- what is that like?

You must feel that

responsibility. >> Oh, absolutely, yes.

But I like to think of it as that they...

everybody thinks that we're just part of the family.

>> BOWEN: Yeah. >> We're part of their family.

There we were in their living rooms

for 50 years, you know?

And it's like, yeah, we're just somebody that they know,

like an uncle or a cousin or something like that.

And whenever somebody meets me out on the street or somewhere,

it's, that's the way they feel.

It's like, "Oh, my gosh,

I hadn't seen you in so long," you know?

>> BOWEN: Well, I'll thank you,

Uncle Emilio Delgado,

thank you so much for being on the show.

It's a pleasure to have you here.

>> It's a pleasure to be here, Jared.

>> BOWEN: Time now for Arts This Week.

70 years ago Monday,

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" hit the music charts.

It became the biggest holiday record of its time--

after "White Christmas."

Tuesday, return to the world ofPride and Prejudice

inThe Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley

at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

Take a walk in the woods

at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum Wednesday.

It's just unveiledWatershed,

a site-specific work by Andy Goldsworthy.

Friday, get in the holiday spirit

withMiracle on 34th Street-- the play.

Greater Boston Stage Company's production is based

on the beloved motion picture.

(British accent): Do you want some more?

See the musicalOliver! Saturday.

New Repertory Theatre's adaptation

of the Dickens classic plays through December.

Next we take you to the Menil Drawing Institute,

home to nearly 2,000 works by artists from Jasper Johns

to Roni Horn.

The institute is part of the expansive

Menil Museum Collection based in Houston, Texas.

>> Drawings, in many ways, are a very personal way

for a, a viewer to connect with an artist...

but they're also an integral part

of our experience as humans.

Every culture has drawing as a part of it.

We all draw.

And this is a building that celebrates that.

The Menil Drawing Institute

was founded at the end of 2007

to promote modern and contemporary drawing.

It has created many exhibitions.

It has published catalogues that have traveled around the world.

And so now we inaugurate an actual physical space

for that institute...

And it's devoted to the acquisition, the study,

the exhibition, conservation, and storage of drawings.

So it's very purpose-built architecture.

>> The Drawing Institute is an interesting building type

both because of its focus on, on drawing and works on paper,

but also its scale.

It's 30,000 square feet.

So, it's, it's really somewhere between a house and a museum

in terms of its size.

>> You know, when we studied the campus,

we also noticed there is a kind of...

liturgical quality about the building types.

You know, certainly the Rothko Chapel

and Byzantine Chapel is a liturgical type.

The Flavin installation has this crypt-like quality.

You know, this whole idea of sacred and domestic

kind of came together in this building.

>> I mean we're sitting in a room that's got light

sort of coming from every direction.

I think that gives it a sense of time, the changing weather.

I mean there's a kind of

connection to the outside that's very different here

than a more typical museum.

Because it's a space for work, and scholars, and conservation,

each one of those programs has a different light need,

so I think that's something

that defines the Drawing Institute,

is the qualities of light and atmosphere

that are very calibrated, but have quite a wide range

that's from the museum institutional condition

to a domestic setting.

>> Paper is very fragile and sensitive to light.

Our drawing curators will tell you

that the room for the paper has to have

a light level of, like, five foot-candles or less.

So, when you're outside in the Houston sun,

it could be as high as 15,000 to 18,000 foot-candles.

So, I think this whole procession of having a courtyard

that is partially indoors and partially outdoors,

working in concert with the trees,

are ways to slowly help your eye adjust

as you come in finally to the gallery,

that you don't feel like you're entering a dark room.

>> So we inaugurate the building with an exhibition

of drawings by Jasper Johns.

They're drawn entirely from the Menil's permanent collection,

promised gifts, and then seven loans from the artist himself.

He's one of the greatest artists of our time.

♪♪

Also on view is a wall drawing by Roni Horn created this year,

so as contemporary as you can get,

that is an eclectic group of aphorisms,

which are silk screened onto a wall.

This is the first of a series of wall drawing commissions

that we will have in this building.

And then the third work on view

in our main space is a sculpture by Ruth Asawa.

And you might say, "Why, why have a sculpture in a building

devoted to drawings?"

She used wire to create these amazing orbs

that are suspended in space, and she always referred

to that work as drawing in space.

So here you have an artist

who pushes the, the typical definition of a drawing

as an original work of art on a paper support

in an entirely new way.

We're pushing the definition of drawing

because this is a building that will really explore

what a drawing is and what its potential could be.

>> BOWEN: Finally, onto New York now,

where the new Hudson River Skywalk connects the homes

of Thomas Cole and Frederic Church--

two famous Hudson River School artists.

And it spans the place

where American landscape painting flourished.

>> Thomas Cole was the founder of an art movement

that we now know as the Hudson River School,

which was the first major art movement in America.

And it started with Thomas Cole in about 1825,

when he was just 24 years old,

and extended into the late 19th century,

so it dominated American visual culture for over 50 years.

>> Olana is one of the most

magnificent places in the country.

It's Frederic Church's home, and studio,

and 250-acre designed historic landscape.

Frederic Church was a founding figure of American art.

His mentor was Thomas Cole.

>> What we've done with this project

is we've taken the two founders

of the Hudson River School

and connected them.

The Hudson River Skywalk is a, a literal connection.

A trail that you can walk on.

It's three miles one way, six miles,

a really good workout, if you do a round trip.

It's this true connection and trail

that is open to the public now for their enjoyment.

>> The connection of these two sites is so fantastic

because they've been linked by history,

and they've been linked by themes and by stories,

And Thomas Cole, when he was in his 40s,

had this young student Frederic Church,

who was still a teenager,

and he took him over to the place where Church

would later build Olana,

and showed him this magnificent landscape.

And so, these two places have been intertwined

throughout the centuries,

and now people can think of them in the same breath.

They can visit them in the same day.

They can walk between them.

>> The Hudson River Skywalk concept began in 2015

when Olana and the Thomas Cole site

had a collaborative exhibition

called "River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home,"

and we were celebrating the opening of that exhibition.

The bridge authority folks were invited and present.

>> These two artists are on opposite sides of the river,

only divided by our bridge.

>> This bridge is really a tourism asset

and should be promoted as such.

It had a walkway on it,

although a walkway to nowhere.

You couldn't go anywhere

once you got to the other side,

but nonetheless, a spectacular experience.

>> It was, at that moment, that the people in the room

who had, you know, hatched the whole idea of river crossings

began to see that this could be the future

of, of a new combined destination.

Many partners came together

understanding that it's art and art history.

That we have a historic treasure right here.

That's what motivated us all to get together

and work for two, three years.

>> It, it was an uphill challenge

because on the Olana side of the bridge,

it's a very busy intersection

with lots of highways coming in in all directions,

and we talked about it for a long time,

how would we get people over this busy intersection?

What could we do?

We talked about a bridge or a tunnel.

It became a beautiful park,

with a circle, and crosswalks, benches, a sitting wall.

It just... instead of a place that you zoom through,

it became a destination

to stop and appreciate the beauty that was there.

>> The public can come and walk across

the Hudson River Skywalk,

experiencing the three-dimensional versions

of the paintings of the Hudson River School.

It's also a significant new economic engine for our region.

The goal is to really create a new tourist destination

that will be nationally known, if not internationally known,

that will draw people from around the world

and around the country to this region,

and this region we're defining as the city of Hudson,

Olana, across the bridge to the Thomas Cole site,

and then to the village of Catskill.

So, the Skywalk is really a great thing in the sense that

it builds on that infrastructure to create connection

between peoples, and culture, and history.

>> The Hudson River School is a loose affiliation

of artists, as well as the writers

that inspired them,

that had a thought that they shared,

which was that these landscapes here are national treasures,

and that the beauty that, and the nature that we see

all around us in this country

was something that we should celebrate

and something that could be lost.

They shared this belief also that by being in nature,

it was a healing experience.

It was something that we, as a country,

should experience more

and it, and it could cause our spirits to be lifted.

It could cause a, a moral uplift

in the citizens of the United States.

And there's something to be proud of as a country.

I think what's so exciting about what's happening now

is that we've heard it.

We've heard this message.

And we do realize that this is precious,

and that it's ephemeral, and it's easy to lose.

So, projects like this, the Hudson River Skywalk,

brings attention to the fact that this is here.

It is still available to us by the efforts of so many people--

Scenic Hudson, New York State, Olana, Thomas Cole.

So many people have worked on

making sure that this beauty is still here.

And this is an opportunity.

It's a giant platform to appreciate it from.

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, the women artists leading contemporary art

from all corners of the globe,

starting with Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide.

Don't forget you can always visit us online

at wgbh.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioWGBH.

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