30 January 2007

Rafe Esquith

Others, I'm sure, heard about Rafe Esquith long before I did. Judging from his awards and honors -- including a National Medal of Arts, a $100,000 Use Your Life Award from Oprah, and, oh yeah, an OBE (albeit honorary) -- you might even be tired of hearing about him by now. But, because I've just discovered him, you'll just have to pardon my exuberance ...

In the past couple of weeks I've heard him give two NPR interviews. The first (here) is relatively brief. The second is an hour long edition of Dick Gordon's The Story (here). The recent spate of publicity is due to his new book, Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Method and Madness Inside Room 56, which he's currently promoting (and which I immediately ran out and bought for my wife, as soon as I heard these interviews) -- not that that any of that keeps him from his regular teaching duties at Hobart Elementary School in inner-city Los Angeles.

In fact, 'Hobart' might sound familiar to PBS viewers. A few years ago, Academy Award-nominated director Mel Stuart made a documentary about Esquith entitled The Hobart Shakespeareans. (Yes, the same Mel Stuart who directed the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder!) I imagine that's where most folks heard of him ... Acutally, let's be honest: most people probably heard about him via that would-be mouthpiece of American culture, known as Oprah. But that's a tirade for another day.

For now, you can catch a glimpse -- just a glimpse -- of the man's extraordinary work in this trailer for The Hobart Shakespeareans here:

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