Saturday, July 1, 2006
Meryl StreepGrowing up in New Jersey, Meryl Streep wanted to be an opera singer. But while a student at Vassar, she became interested in acting and after graduation she enrolled in the Yale School of Drama. She made her first feature film appearance in "Julia" (1977), and the next year she was nominated for her first Oscar for her role in "The Deer Hunter" (1978). In all, she has been nominated for the Academy Award 13 times, and has won it twice: for "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979) and "Sophie's Choice" (1982). She has given outstanding performances in many other notable films, including "The French Lieutenant's Woman," "Silkwood," "Out of Africa," "Heartburn," "Ironweed," "Postcards from the Edge," "Dancing at Lughnasa," "Music of the Heart," "The Hours" and "Adaptation." On stage Streep has appeared in the Public Theater's production of "The Seagull" by Anton Chekhov, and this summer, she will play the title role in the Public Theater's presentation of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children." In addition to her Academy Award honors, she has won several Emmy Awards (most recently for the HBO production of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America"), numerous People's Choice Awards, the Golden Globe, the New York Film Critics Circle Award, the National Society of Film Critics Award, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and a Life Achievement Award presented by the American Film Institute. In 2004, she joined The Culture Project as producer for the staging of Sarah Jones's one-woman show "Bridge and Tunnel." Streep plays one of the singing Johnson Sisters in the Robert Altman film "A Prairie Home Companion," and she appears as a high-powered New York City fashion magazine editor in the recently released movie "The Devil Wears Prada." She will narrate a pair of children's classics-The Velveteen Rabbit and The Night Before Christmas-available soon at Starbucks, and later in general release by Random House Inc.'s Listening Library.
Erica RhodesWhen Erica Rhodes first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, the young actress had to stand on a box in order to share a mic with the other performers. Since then, she has grown up, studied at Boston University's College of Fine Arts, and is currently enrolled at the Atlantic Theater Conservatory in New York. She toured with the children's theater company TheatreWorks/USA in a production of Ramona Quimby, and on television, she has appeared on Film Fakers (AMC). Recently, she and some acting colleagues started a theater group. It launched in February of 2006 with a series of one-act plays at The Next Stage in Manhattan's West Village. Plans for a full-length play are in the works.
Hopeful Gospel QuartetAs the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Garrison Keillor, Robin and Linda Williams, and Carol Elizabeth Jones) explains it, the group "began its career backstage at Prairie Home shows, when we stood waiting for the balloon to go up and sang to pass the time and found out that we all like gospel songs and that they sound wonderful in a stairwell." Now, countless gigs (and a couple of personnel changes) later, they are still finding great four-part harmonies in stairwells and on stages across the country.
Singing the music they love-be it bluegrass, folk, old-time, or acoustic country-Robin and Linda Williams have carved out a three-decade career that has taken them from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. They've have written dozens of terrific songs, ones that have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Tim & Mollie O'Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, and The Seldom Scene. Robin and Linda's latest CDs are Deeper Waters and The First Christmas Gift, both on Red House Records.
Carol Elizabeth Jones hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She has made her mark as a singer of traditional mountain music and as a writer of new songs in the old tradition. She has recorded several acclaimed albums of original material. Ridin' Along (Yodel-Ay-Hee Records), released in 2005, is a collection of classic country and bluegrass duets with Laurel Bliss.
Jearlyn SteeleA native of Indiana, Jearlyn Steele first sang with her siblings (as The Steele Children) in churches, concert halls and on radio and television. After Jearlyn left home and moved to Minnesota, one by one the rest of the Steele kids followed, and they started singing together again as The Steeles. Now music is the family business. Fans still remember their participation in The Gospel at Colonus at the Guthrie Theater and on Broadway. Jearlyn has voiced many local and national commercials, and she has recorded with top acts including George Clinton and Prince. Her most recent CD is titled Steele Praising Him. She is the entertainment reporter for Twin Cities Public Television's public-affairs program, Almanac, and she hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show that originates on WCCO in Minneapolis and is heard in some 30 states nationwide.
The Wailin' JennysWhen three solo performers with powerful voices joined forces for a one-time gig in 2002, everything changed. The collaboration was a huge success, surprising everyone including themselves. Dubbed The Wailin' Jennys, the three went on tour and within a few weeks the word was out: People were calling them "a bona fide Canadian sensation." And their fame is spreading. Writing in the Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald, music critic Bruce Elder said, "This is about as good as contemporary folk gets." The group's members are soprano Ruth Moody, a pianist, songwriter and classically trained vocalist; mezzo Nicky Mehta, a poet and songwriter whose first album was nominated for a 2002 Canadian Music Award; and alto Annabelle Chvostek, who performed her first gig at the age of seven with the Canadian Opera Company, and later broke into the Montreal cabaret scene. The Wailin' Jennys' critically acclaimed CD 40 Days won a 2005 Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album of the Year. A new album, Firecracker, has just been released on the Red House label.
Andy SteinAndy Stein (violin, saxophone) collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson. He has appeared on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, and has performed with artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.
Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).