Exclusive Q&A with Author NATE DERN

By Henry Johnson AB '18

Nate-Dern-B46A2530-7_(2).jpgNate Dern AB ’07 is a comedy writer, actor, and author of the book Not Quite a Genius, a collection of short fiction and essays out this month. In addition to pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Columbia University, Nate has written for The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and New York Magazine. Nate has also served as senior writer for Funny or Die, as well as artistic director for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.  Follow Nate on Twitter @natedern, and get Not Quite a Genius on Amazon!

Q. When did you realize that you wanted to work in comedy?

A. I knew that I loved comedy from a very early age, but I didn't even consider the possibility of working in comedy until fairly late. Growing up, my mom would let me stay up on Saturday nights to watch SNL with her. I think most of the humor was above my head when I started watching, but I loved the silly voices and the performances. Also, I loved the live studio audiences, and I mostly watched in admiration of these people able to get laughs. In high school I did student government rather than theatre, but my favorite part was putting on assemblies and acting out skits from SNL and comedy films with the other SGA members. I think if you'd pressed me, I would have told you that I wanted to work in comedy, but I felt the desire in the same way that I wanted to be an astronaut or win the lottery. Of course I want that, but, like, it's not something that happens in real life, right?

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Q&A with 101 Alum DERRICK WANG (Composer, SCALIA/GINSBURG)

By D. Dona Le


In the #HWire blog's "Where Are They Now?" series, we check in with Harvardwood program alums to find out what they've been up to and to showcase their accomplishments since participating with Harvardwood! 


Derrick Wang AB '06 is the composer and librettist of opera Scalia/Ginsburg, inspired by the opinions of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. After attending Harvard, where he participated in Harvardwood 101, Derrick earned his Master of Music from the Yale School of Music, before continuing his graduate studies at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, where he received his J.D. Last week, Derrick announced that he will be joining the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University. Scalia/Ginsburg will be performed at the 2017 Glimmerglass Festival this August.

Q. When did you first begin composing? Can you tell us more about your music background and how your Harvard undergraduate experience helped shape your career path?

A. I probably began scrawling notes on music paper around the age of four, when I was taking piano lessons and thought: why don't I write my own pieces? At school, I scored plays, conducted and orchestrated for the theater program, and wrote a musical (Prom)—songs from which later appeared in various Learning from Performers masterclasses at Harvard (thanks, Tom Lee!). For me, Harvard affirmed my impulse to bridge styles and genres: I could write a string quartet based on playground chants, or a Hasty Pudding show with classical techniques, and it was all not only acceptable but encouraged. From that perspective, writing an opera based on constitutional-law principles was perhaps inevitable.

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Exclusive Q&A with Author KAITLIN SOLIMINE

By D. Dona Le

Headshot-_Solimine.JPGThis summer, award-winning writer Kaitlin Solimine AB '02 is releasing her debut novel, Empire of Glass! In addition to co-founding Hippo Reads, a/k/a the "TED Talks for readers," Kaitlin was a Fulbright Creative Arts Fellow, a Donald E. Axinn Scholar in Fiction (Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 2010), and received the 2012 Dzanc Books/Disquiet International Literary Program award. She concentrated in East Asian Studies at Harvard University and graduated from the UC San Diego MFA program in writing.

Q. What sparked your interest in China and your decision to concentrate in East Asian studies at Harvard?

A. When I was a freshman at Phillips Exeter, I requested to study Japanese but the class was full (this was in 1994 when Japan was in focus!) so the language director suggested I study Mandarin instead (ironically, less crowded). Immediately, I loved the language. My teacher, Ming Fontaine, told me about a home stay program, School Year Abroad (SYA), that had just launched in Beijing (the first high school home stay program in China!), and I jumped at the opportunity. Despite never having left the country, in 1996, I traveled with SYA to China and lived in Beijing as a teenager in my host family’s local apartment. I knew from that point onwards, I wanted to do a scholarly deep dive into Chinese history, culture, language, and more.

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Harvardwood entertainment insiders talk shop!

Earlier this year, we polled Harvard entertainment insiders about their thoughts on the industry... here is what they said.

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Q&A with 101 Alum FELIPE TEWES (Netflix)

By Henry Johnson AB '18


In the #HWire blog's "Where Are They Now?" series, we check in with Harvardwood program alums to find out what they've been up to and to showcase their accomplishments since participating with Harvardwood! 


Tewes.jpgFelipe Tewes AB '06 is currently Senior Manager of International Originals at Netflix and has previously worked at HBO and Focus Features. He began his career in entertainment at William Morris Agency and attended Harvardwood 101 while an undergraduate at Harvard College.

Q. When did you realize you wanted to work in the entertainment industry?

A. I always loved film growing up, and around junior year of college I started to think about what I’d do after graduation. A lot of my friends were doing fellowships abroad, and I remember thinking that I’d do my version of that. I’d try going into entertainment for a year even though it wasn’t the “safe” thing to do.

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2016 Heroes Update: Rylie Zhang AB '13

We caught up with the 2016 Harvardwood Heroes and are excited to bring you their program updates throughout April!

Find out what Rylie Zhang AB '13 has been up to with her nonprofit, No Limits Media, since receiving a 2016 Harvardwood Heroes grant.

"In 2016, I had proposed that the Harvardwood Heroes grant be used for supporting students in film classes produce films involving disability-related content or disabled actors / filmmakers.... We have successfully sponsored one student from Northwestern to produce a short disability-related film; we are looking forward to be involved in the process this year and next year. In addition, the Harvardwood Heroes grant has helped us move forward with several other No Limits Media initiatives. The grant has helped provide initial funding for a new No Limits Media documentary called Rolling Across America. The focus of the film will be to show for the first time the disability community of the United States. The documentary’s host is Chris Waddell, a 13-time Paralympic champion and the co-anchor of NBC’s 2016 Paralympic Games coverage. Chris will travel around the country highlighting a variety of people with disabilities and their accomplishments.... Thank you Harvardwood for providing this generous grant and furthering our mission of changing the image of disability in society!"

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2016 Heroes Update: Jang Lee AB '19

We caught up with the 2016 Harvardwood Heroes and are excited to bring you their program updates throughout April!

This week, we heard from Jang Lee AB '19, who co-directs a Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) program called HARTZ.

"My service project focused on starting a pilot program in collaboration with the Harvard Art Museums. Hartz, an arts therapy program I co-direct, has wanted to start this pilot program for over a year. We had been talking with the Harvard Art Museums about logistics and how best to carry out a program that would take the elderly from the nursing home we work at to the art museum. We wanted to create a program that would allow the residents to get out of the nursing home and enjoy great art. Additionally, we wanted to create dialogue with the residents about the art they were looking at and even use this conversation as a starting point to discuss emotions and feelings. For example, when looking at a Van Gogh painting that was particularly blue, we asked the residents how the color blue made them feel.

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Congratulations to the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners!

We extend our heartiest congratulations to this year's 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners from Harvard!

  • Prof. Matthew Desmond (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City), General Nonfiction

For a deeply researched exposé that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty.

For persistent reporting that created a model for transparent journalism in political campaign coverage while casting doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities.

  • Colson Whitehead AB '91 (The Underground Railroad), Fiction

For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.

  • Du Yun AM '5, PhD '06 (Angel's Bone), Music

Premiered on January 6, 2016, at the Prototype Festival, 3LD Arts and Technology Center, New York City, a bold operatic work that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world. Libretto by Royce Vavrek.

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2016 Heroes Update: Erin Sweeney MPP '07 & Antonio Valla MUP '08

We caught up with the 2016 Harvardwood Heroes and are excited to bring you their program updates throughout April!

First in the spotlight are Erin Sweeney MPP '07 & Antonio Valla MUP '08 of GlassRoots (Newark, NJ), a nonprofit glass art studio that works with Newark's inner-city youth.

"With the generous Harvardwood Grant, we were able to offer our acclaimed Volcano Project to Science Park High School on March 30, 2017. The program cost is $872; with the generosity of the Harvardwood Grant, we were able to offer the program to SPHS for $350.... The knowledge gained in this program goes beyond casual intrigue or passing high school science; we believe a solid grounding in earth science will prepare students to understand and act on pressing societal issues such as climate change, oil exploration, pollution and species threatened with extinction, and hope to instill a desire in our inner-youth to stay in science classes in school, and to pursue science studies in higher education. We are so grateful to Harvardwood Heroes for making this program possible!"

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Exclusive Q&A with Photographer & Documentarian LAUREN GREENFIELD AB '87

By Terence O'Toole Murnin

Greenfield.jpgOn the eve of publishing Generation Wealth, the highly anticipated book and accompanying mid-career retrospective exhibition from acclaimed photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield AB '87, Harvardwood zooms in close for the inside scoop.

Q. What can you tell us about Generation Wealth?

AThe book will be released on May 15, and its creation has really dominated the last eight years of my life. It’s certainly a document of our consumerism, and how we exported these values, especially after the financial crash of 2008. I traveled the world—from California, to Iceland and Dubai—and on to China where in a post-communist era, I witnessed a mad dash for wealth and luxury.

This clash of values where everyone now desires to be a part of the aristocracy also led to gender and body issues. Girls are commodified and the “Princess Myth” has led to an acceptance of prostitution as a way to obtain money and success. Brooke Taylor and the acceptance of high-end brothels as potential career tracks are signs of a cultural shift where fame is now a value.

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