April 25, 2014 03:48 UTC

People in America

On Stage: The Great American Novel, All of It, In 'Gatz' | Country Music Association Awards | West Point

A scene from the Broadway play "Gatz"
A scene from the Broadway play "Gatz"
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DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

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I'm Doug Johnson.

This week we play music from winners of the Country Music Association awards ...

And answer a question about the military academy West Point ...

But first, a report on an unusual stage production in New York of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous book.

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“Gatz”

DOUG JOHNSON: Some theater goers in New York City are experiencing an unusual stage production at the Public Theater. The theatrical group Elevator Repair Service is performing “Gatz,” a reading of the great American novel, “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Faith Lapidus tells about this six-hour play and how the actors read every word of the book while keeping viewers interested.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The Elevator Repair Service created “Gatz” and began performing it in two thousand five.  It is the company’s best known work. “Gatz” has played in many American cities and also overseas. Theater goers have seen the play in Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Austria, Belgium and other places.

However, the members of Elevator Repair Service had been wanting for years to perform the play in New York, where the company is based. They had sought permission from the F. Scott Fitzgerald estate which owns the rights to the writer’s works. Finally, they received permission.

John Collins is the director of “Gatz.”  He has not missed a single performance. He has heard the forty-nine thousand words of the novel countless times. Mr. Collins said he was not sure when he started the project if the production would include each word. But then, he told a reporter, he realized that “The Great Gatsby” was a novel in which every word was necessary.

“Gatz” has thirteen cast members. Scott Shepherd plays Nick Carraway, the lead character.  He also narrates most of the novel. The show opens in an office of a small business. An employee finds a copy of “The Great Gatsby” and begins to read it aloud.

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Slowly, other workers begin to take part in the events that happen in the book.

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“The Great Gatsby” is set in the nineteen twenties in New York City and on Long Island. It is a story about success and what one must do to gain it. It is a story about appearance and reality, love, hate, loyalty and disloyalty.

“The Great Gatsby” was published in nineteen twenty-five.  It was not as successful as Fitzgerald’s other books during his lifetime. However, it is now considered one of the greatest modern American novels.

You can hear more about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life and work Sunday on the Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA.

West Point

DOUG JOHNSON: This week our listener question comes from Xian, China. Meng Cheng wants to know about the famous military school known as West Point.

West Point, New York, is a small town about eighty kilometers north of New York City. It is the home of the United States Military Academy. Many people speak of the academy as simply “West Point.”

It was formed in eighteen-oh-two when Thomas Jefferson was president. It is the oldest of the five military colleges in the United States. It also is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States. This four-year school has about four thousand four hundred students, or cadets. Both men and women study here before joining the United States Army. After graduation, they are given the rank of second lieutenant.

Students in Grant Hall at West Point
Students in Grant Hall at West Point

It is difficult to become a student at West Point. Only about fifteen percent of students who apply are accepted. High school seniors must have very good grades. They also must be nominated by a member of the United States Congress or by the president of the United States.

Each year about one thousand new students are chosen. They do not have to pay for their education. All student costs are paid by the United States Army. But the students must agree to serve actively in the Army for at least five years after finishing their studies.

West Point also accepts a limited number of international students. After graduation they return to their home countries to serve in their country’s army.

Cadets can take classes in more than forty subject areas. The most popular are foreign languages, management information systems, history, economics and mechanical engineering. The cadets are required to take physical fitness courses. Most of them are also members of sports teams.

An important part of a student’s life at West Point concerns the honor code. It says: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” This code is enforced both in and out of the classroom.

The students and teachers at the United States Military Academy are proud of their history.  Two presidents of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower, graduated from West Point. Many famous generals, astronauts and business leaders have also studied at the academy.

CMA Awards

Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton at the CMA Awards
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton at the CMA Awards

DOUG JOHNSON: The Country Music Association held its yearly awards program last week. We play music from some of the winners and Mario Ritter tells about them.

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MARIO RITTER: Miranda Lambert was a big winner at the Country Music Association Awards. She won the Music Video of the Year award for that song, “The House that Built Me.” It also won Song of the Year. Lambert also received the Female Vocalist of the Year award and Album of the Year for her CD, “Revolution.”

Miranda Lambert’s boyfriend, Blake Shelton, won Male Vocalist of the Year. The singer-songwriter also won for Musical Event of the Year for his hit song “Hillbilly Bone.” Country music star Trace Adkins performs with him.

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Lady Antebellum won the award for Vocal Group of the Year. Its album, “Need You Now,” was also nominated for Album of the Year but did not win. However, the title track did win the C.M.A. award for Single of the Year.

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Country star Brad Paisley was one of the two hosts of the awards ceremony held last week in Nashville, Tennessee.The Country Music Association also honored him with the biggest award of the night. He won the Entertainer of the Year award for the first time. We leave you with Brad Paisley performing, “Then,” from his latest studio album, “American Saturday Night.”

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DOUG JOHNSON: I’m Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Jim Tedder and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

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