“Name Dropping” in SEMINAR | A Reference Guide

by carrie Chapter, PTC Dramaturg

The play contains a wealth of “literary insider” buzzwords and a “Who’s Who” catalog of vital authors and editors. Join the Algonquin Round Table *, and be in the know with the following terms:

An exclusive artists’ retreat colony located in Saratoga Springs, New York, Yaddo acquired its peculiar name from one of the original family’s children, who substituted it for the word “shadow” (which is also how “yaddo” is pronounced as well). However, the Trask family, who owned the lush, 400-acre expanse of property, faced the deaths of all four of their children, and financier Spencer Trask wanted to transform their estate into an artists’ colony as a gift to his author wife, Katrina. Since its first artists arrived in 1926, well over 6,000 artists have soaked their creative juices on the hallowed grounds, including James Baldwin, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Philip Roth, Langston Hughes, and Jonathan Franzen. Its doors are open to all kinds of residencies like film, dance, photography, literature, sculpture, painting, performance, and music.

The MacDowell Colony
After one of America’s first great composers, Edward MacDowell, passed away, his wife decided to give other artists the opportunity to create in Edward’s home – a tranquil, woodsy farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Its colony status first began in 1907, and has hosted thousands of writers, poets, playwrights, artists, and composers in their residencies, at a rate of approximately 20-30 invited artists at a time, over period of five weeks to two months.


Tin House
In the spring of 1999, Tin House magazine was launched as a literary publication that would highlight new work from new writers, without the academic stuffiness of its literary journal predecessors. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, interviews, and even a crossword puzzle would be commingling in a single issue. The magazine soon crossed over into its own brand of publishing, Tin House Books, in 2002, and now holds an annual summer writers’ workshop on the Reed College campus in Portland, Oregon.

Bennington College in Vermont boasts one of the strongest creative writing residency programs in the country. In addition to accepting students of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, the program is also known for its prominent writers–in-residence. In the past, Bennington has hosted the likes of Robert Pinsky, Sue Miller, Erica Jong, Mary Gaitskill, Francine Prose, and Geoff Dyer. Currently, Rick Moody is one of its writers–in-residence, and it counts Amy Hempel, Phillip Lopate, and Susan Cheever among its core faculty.

Frank Conroy
An influential teacher and author, Conroy gained a devoted following once he became director of the acclaimed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a position he held until his death in 2005. His memoir, Stop-Time, which was published in 1967, was nominated for a National Book Award, and cemented his literary stature.

Tobias Wolff
Primarily known as a writer of memoirs – most notably This Boy’s Life – and short stories, Wolff has also garnered praise for his two novels as well. He has held a professorship at Stanford University since 1997, and even had a brief position as the director of its Creative Writing program.

Robert Penn Warren
In addition to his literary success with his book, All the King’s Men, Penn Warren is also responsible for helming the age of New Criticism. Both his poetry and his novels are oft-praised bodies of work. Penn Warren taught sporadically in his later life (he was a Rhodes Scholar), including a brief stint at Yale University, a school he briefly attended as a student.

* Algonquin Round Table  – a historic group, an in-crowd, of writers, actors, and critics who met for lunches at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel from approximately 1919 to 1929. Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Harpo Marx, Edna Ferber, and George S. Kaufman were among the privileged few.