Nina Totenberg to be honored with Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award

For the past 50 years, Nina Totenberg has had a distinguished and influential career as the nation’s foremost journalistic interpreter of the Supreme Court. On April 5, she will be honored with the 17th annual Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award at the National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater. During the program, Totenberg will discuss her career and her role as NPR's legal affairs correspondent in a lively conversation with journalist Cokie Roberts.

Learn more about the Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Prize, the 2019 Laureate Presentation and previous Laureate recipients.

Johnnetta Cole, 2011 Creativity Laureate, delivers remarks at Georgetown University and Oberlin College

Dr. Johnnetta Cole, President Emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College and former Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, spoke in conversation with Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University as part of the Women’s Center Biondi Copeland Lecture Series. The series was created in 2014 by the Women’s Center out of an endowment from Georgetown University alumni Gianni Biondi and John Copeland.

In her remarks at the October event, Cole called on universities to combat racism. According to Cole, “Events like the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, which led to an outbreak of violence that left one woman dead, are a call to action for universities, which can lead the fight against racism by supporting research on the topic.”

“It’s at a time like this — and this really is said with extreme sincerity — that we need universities,” Cole said. “We’ve got to understand [these circumstances]. We can’t just push back against it, we can’t run away from it, we’ve got, in order to change it, to first understand it.”

Cole told the audience The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally reflected the racism of the 1950’s and 1960’s, referencing her experiencing growing up in the South.

Cole returned to her alma mater Oberlin College in October to deliver the opening remarks at the Inauguration Ceremony of President Carmen Twillie Ambar. In her remarks Cole spoke about Oberlin being an intellectual home for her and the rich history of Oberlin - it was the first college to admit African Americans, and that President Ambar is the first African American to lead the institution.

2006 Legacy winner and acclaimed harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani featured in The New Yorker

Alex Ross at The New Yorker writes about French keyboardist Jean Rondeau and Mahan Esfahani in his recent May 2018 article "The Rebel Harpsichordists":

The Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani has started beefs with early-music eminences and adopted such provocative repertory as Steve Reich’s "Piano Phase." The young French keyboardist Jean Rondeau plays jazz on the side. These performers have room to mature, but their recent concerts and recordings—both with an emphasis on [Bach's] Goldbergs—suggest that the venerable harpsichord, which Landowska called “the roi-soleil of instruments,” will have a long future.

"Praised as his instrument's leading champion," Esfahani has performed in concert halls across Asia, Europe and North America, among them London's Wigmore  Hall and the Barbaric Centre, the Frick Collection and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, Petronas Hall in Kuala Lumpur, Berlin Konzerthaus, Sumida Hall in Tokyo and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., and the BRQ in Helsinki. 

Esfahani's discography includes two successful albums for Hyperion Records -garnering a 2014 Gramophone Award and a Diapason d'Or and being named in the New York TIme's "Critic" List of Top Recordings of 2014.  In 2015 Esfahani was honored with the BBC Music Magazine's "Newcomer of the Year. Award."  Currently, Esfahani is a professor of harpsichord at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Visit Mahan Esfahani to learn more about Esfahani's works and performances.  Additional articles of interest include Backtrack's "Mahan Esfahan: Carrying the harpsichord into the next generation" and the New York Times "The Pugnacious Performer Who Wants to Take the Harpsichord Mainstream."



2009 Legacy Winner Richard Kelley is deeply committed to assisting individuals in need at D.C. law firm

After spending ten years in education, teaching high school and running after-school and out-of-school programming for low-income youth, Richard Kelley has joined The D.C. Affordable Law Firm(DCALF), a low bono law firm that provides affordable, high quality legal services to D.C. residents who do not qualify for free legal aid and to small businesses and nonprofits in the District.

Kelley received his J.D. cum laude and his LL.M. in International Business and Economic Law from Georgetown Law Center, where he served as a Student Attorney in the Juvenile Justice Clinic and was a member of the Georgetown University Law ProBono Board.   Kelley's pro bono service included internships at the Children's Law Center, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in addition to work with the D.C. Youth Court.  At DCALF, Kelley represents clients in matters of Family Law, Employment and Probate matters.  

In addition to his legal work, Kelley remains deeply involved in the programming of The Mamelodi Initiative, a not-for-profit organization Kelley was valuable in forming that offers programming aimed at improving and empowering Mamelodi teens. 


2013 Legacy winner Alexa Dantzler serves as Global Health Fellow in Haiti

Recent Emory University graduate Alexa Dantzler,  received a yearlong Medical Missionaries Global Health Fellowship to gain experience in health care delivery in a developing country.  Serving in Thomassique, Haiti at the St. Joseph Clinic, Dantzler will work with community leaders to implement innovative health programs in Thomassique and outlying villages and will coordinate several health and community projects involving Community Health workers, traditional birth assistants, mobile clinics, malnutrition and education.  Dantzler will also have the opportunity to shadow the Clinic's physicians, midwives, and nurses; work in the Clinic's laboratory and pharmacy; and assist U.S. surgeons during their visits.

At Emory University Dantzler, whose background is Korean, Slavic and African-American,  majored in biology and African studies and initiated a program called  SOAR (Students Obtaining Atlanta Research)  to encourage female high school students of color from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to become STEM researchers. In a New York Times piece,  On Campus, Embracing Feminism and Facing the Future, Dantzler talks about the lack of minority women in STEM.

One day Dantzler hopes to obtain a medical degree and aspires to challenge racial disparities in healthcare and addressing healthcare needs of the rural south in the US.

A Collaboration Between Creativity Laureates Mark Morris and Yo Yo Ma


Mark Morris, 2012 Creativity Laureate, and Yo Yo Ma, 2002 Creativity Laureate, have teamed up to recreate the classic Middle Eastern folk tale of Layla and Majnun. Their new creation will open the season at Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington, Seattle, running from Oct. 6 to Oct. 8.

Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble first took on the story of Layla and Majnun in 2007, composing a chamber score heavily influenced by a 1908 opera by Uzeyir Hajibeyov. Ma approached Morris in '07 to begin work on a dance project using the Silk Road's composition, but according to the Seattle Times, Morris declined. A decade later, the time felt right. 

Morris told the Seattle Times,"I can promise it is not going to be like something anyone has ever seen before!”


2007 Legacy Winner Cerstin Johnson premieres new play at The Lark in NYC


2007 Legacy Prize winner Cerstin "C.A." Johnson's newest play Waitin' on the Moon went up September 28th at The Lark Theater in New York City! Johnson was selected as a 2016-2017 Van Lier New Voices Fellow at The Lark, and is one of their featured playwrights

This spring, Cerstin completed her MFA at NYC Tisch, where her play By and By was a finalist for the 2016 Goldberg Play Prize. In 2010, her play One-Way Ticket to Solid Ground won a James Baldwin Fund Prize for Multi-cultural Playwriting and received a staged reading in the 2010 Word! Festival hosted by the Five College Consortium. Her play Gossamer won the 2012 Dr. Floyd Gaffney Playwriting Award and received a stage reading during UC San Diego's Baldwin New Play Festival that same year. 

Johnson's other plays include Thirst and The Climb.

For more news about Johnson, visit her website

Mark Morris Dance Group(MMDG), founded by 2012 Laureate Mark Morris, completes world tour

January 06, 2015

Excursions 2014 was MMDG’s unique, multi-continent tour that split the dance group into two parts from October through November 2014. The tour featured Words, a new work by Mark Morris. It also launched extensive cross-cultural community and educational programming through Access/MMDG and the U.S. State Department’s DanceMotion USA program.

MMDG West toured the U.S., Scotland, Italy, and Switzerland; MMDG East toured Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Taiwan.

East and West reunited mid-November in Shenzhen and Beijing, China, where they performed  Music in Motion“ at the National Center for the Performing Arts.  In addition to “Words,” they performed the classic “Grand Duo,“ a piece set to the music of American composer Lou Harrison. For the Asian tour, MMDG added something new to the mix, ‘Socrates’ set to music of Eric Satie.

The Mark Morris Dance Group was founded in New York City in 1980 by artistic director Mark Morris. A prolific choreographer, Morris has created nearly 150 routines for the company and 18 ballets since 1986. Through Access and Mark Morris Dance Group programming, the company also offers educational opportunities in dance and music to people of all ages and abilities at home and while on tour around the world.

Chelsea Harrison, 2008 Legacy winner, stars as Joan of Arc at The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park


February 25, 2014

Chelsea Harrison is excited to be spending the season with the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park as a member of the Bruce E. Coyle Acting Intern Company. She recently finished a starring role (Joan) in the Off the Hill world premier production of Joan the Girl of Arc.   Kirk Shepard of the Sappy Critic writes of Chelsea’s performanceChelsea D. Harrison showed the energy, charisma, and spunkiness I always pictured when thinking about “Joan.”  The role required lots of physicality and she was fearless, giving the role all it required.“ 

A recent graduate with a BFA in acting from New York University’s Tisch School of the the Arts, Chelsea studied acting at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.  Included in her university productions are King John, Milk Like SugarGood People and the New York City premiere of Trey Anthony’s Da Kink In My Hair.  While at Tisch School of the Arts, Ms. Harrison traveled to South Africa to study collaborative theatre and improvisation at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her time in South Africa culminated in a devised theatre production of The Red Shoes.  Chelsea was also selected for contemporary scene study with Alec Baldwin at Tisch School of the Arts and received the Beth Turner Award for Scholarship in the African Diaspora.

2011 Legacy winner Maritsa Hristova serves as Orchestra Director in Cambridge, MA school

February 23, 2014

A two month long teaching practicum in Cambridge, Massachusetts provided Marista Hristova the opportunity to direct two middle school orchestras.  Tasked with conducting and teaching small and large groups of students in viola, violin, cello, double bass and piano,  Maritsa credits her success with her students to having the freedom to develop her own teaching strategies and methods. Drawing upon her own experiences as a violist and composer,  Maritsa  found great joy in strengthening the confidence of her young students and inspiring them to do their best.

 As Maritsa pursues plans for graduate studies at the University of Southern California Thortnon School of Music, she continues her work on Bulgarian compositions for a music album.