Kaatsbaan and The National Willa Cather Center to Host Sesquicentennial Celebration of Willa Cather Next Month

Kaatsbaan Cultural Park and the National Willa Cather Center celebrate the 150th birthday of Willa Cather.

By: Sep. 29, 2023
Kaatsbaan and The National Willa Cather Center to Host Sesquicentennial Celebration of Willa Cather Next Month

Kaatsbaan Cultural Park and the National Willa Cather Center commemorate the 150th birthday of Willa Cather, an iconic and cherished figure in American literature during the 20th century. Recognized for her transformative literary contributions through acclaimed works such as "O Pioneers!," "My Ántonia," "One of Ours," and "Death Comes for the Archbishop," Cather set a new standard in American literature.

This evening of readings and musical interludes from selections of Willa Cather's fiction and letters bring to life the uniquely American prose of this Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Read by actors Mary Stuart Masterson and Jeremy Davidson, with musical accompaniment by Hailey McAvoy (mezzo-soprano), Jonathan Lawlor (baritone), and Nomin Samdan (piano). Selections curated by Cather Center board member Peter Cipkowski.

Event Details:

Date: October 21, 2023

Time: 7pm

Location: Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, Tivoli, NY

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the link below

Artist Biographies:

Willa Cather (1873-1947) is one of the most important American novelists of the first half of the twentieth century. Seen as a regional writer for decades, critics have increasingly identified Cather as a canonical American writer, the peer of Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Wharton. Born in Virginia, Cather was nine years old when her family moved to rural Webster County, Nebraska, and later to the town of Red Cloud, where she lived until attending college at the University of Nebraska. Cather's career began in Pittsburgh, where she spent a decade working as a journalist and teacher. She later relocated to New York City, and by 1908 was the managing editor at McClure's Magazine. After the publication of her first novel in her late thirties, Cather left the magazine to focus full-time on her own writing. In her prolific career, Cather wrote twelve novels, six collections of short fiction, two editions of her book of poetry, and a large body of nonfiction, journalism, speeches, and letters.

Contemporary readers value Cather's quietly nuanced characters, masterful language, and sensitive explorations of place. Her life and work still inspire insightful scholarly analysis. Willa Cather endures as an author who elevated her formative Nebraska experiences into an international literary legacy.

Peter Cipkowski is an interdisciplinary scholar at UCLA and a member of the National Willa Cather Center Board of Governors. He has served in senior leadership roles at Scholastic, Pearson, McGraw-Hill and currently advises an award-winning STEM startup that serves thousands of students in the United States, India, and Southeast Asia. Peter holds a doctorate from the University of Southern California and is a graduate of Bard College.

Jeremy Davidson: co-founder of Storyhorse Documentary Theater and playwright of the the little things, Good Dirt, The Kept Private, The Quiet Execution of Frank L. Teal, The Face of It, Rancich, and Village Kind;Writer/Director of the Holocaust film Tickling Leo with the great Eli Wallach. As an actor, Jeremy has appeared on and off-Broadway, received a Drama Desk nomination for Back, Back, Back (Manhattan Theater Club), a Helen Hayes nomination for the one-man play Nijinsky's Last Dance (Signature Theater) and met his wife, Mary Stuart Masterson, while working on Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Kennedy Center). Television & film work includes six seasons on Army Wives, Brothers and Sisters, The Americans, Seven Seconds, Pan Am, Royal Pains, Ally McBeal, Before During After, Salt, and many others. Proud poppa to Phineas, Clio, Wilder and Mosley.

Jonathan Lawlor is a baritone whose love of all genres of vocal music from Baroque chamber music to contemporary experimental music informs his every performance. He has experience both in early music, including well-known Baroque groups like Boston Baroque, Emmanuel Music, and Marsh Chapel, and in opera, including the young artist programs at Opera Maine and Music Academy of the West. Jonathan received his bachelor of music from the New England Conservatory and received his master's degree from Bard Conservatory's Vocal Artist Program. Upcoming performances include a recital of German and English song repertoire as a part of White Plains' Downtown Music concert series on February 21st, 2024.


Mary Stuart Masterson is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, mother of four, committed locavore, and full-time resident of the Hudson Valley. Her film, TV, and theater career includes roles in At Close Range, Some Kind of Wonderful, Immediate Family [National Board of Review Award], Fried Green Tomatoes, Benny and Joon, and the Broadway musical, Nine [Tony Award nomination], with recent film roles in Five Nights at Freddy's, Isle of Hope and The Senior. Mary Stuart moved to the Hudson Valley in 2006 when she directed The Cake Eaters, starring Kristen Stewart and Bruce Dern (released in 2009). In 2016, Masterson founded Hudson Valley based Stockade Works: a crew training and mentorship non-profit; followed by Upriver Studios: a sound stage facility in Saugerties; and then her production company, Quality Pictures. With her husband, Jeremy Davidson, she is co-founder of the Storyhorse Documentary Theater project.

Recognized as a "gorgeous-voiced" mezzo-soprano (Broadway World), Hailey McAvoy's operatic roles include, among others, Page of Herodias (Salome, Fisher Center for Performing Arts), Taller Daughter (Mazzoli, Proving Up; Aspen Music Festival), Third Lady (Magic Flute, MassOpera), Third Woodsprite (Rusalka) Opera Ithaca, Zosha (Heggie, Out of Darkness; Eastman Opera Theater), Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro; Aquilon Music Festival), and most recently the leading role of Mem, researcher and mother of Kitsune, in Paola Prestini's Sensorium Ex. Sensorium will have its orchestral workshop in December 2024 at the Kennedy Center and will premiere with Beth Morrison Projects and Vision into Arts in 2025. McAvoy's concert highlights include Ravel's Shéhérazade, which she performed with the Baton Rouge Symphony under the baton of Adam Johnson in 2023, and Molly Joyce's YouSaidHeSaidSheSaid, which she will present with pianist Mary Holtzhaur the Opera Ithaca Festival this Fall. In Spring 2024, she will appear in recital with flautist Maron Khuroy of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and pianist Bethany Pietroniro at Downtown Music at Grace in White Plains, NY. As a performer with Cerebral Palsy, McAvoy works to amplify the discussion around disability in the arts. She has interviewed with AGMA Magazine, written for Our Singing Bodies, and been a panelist for Opera NexGen's Accessibility in Opera. To learn more, visit www.haileymcavoy.com/about.

Born into a family of musicians, Nomin Samdan made her first public appearance at the age of 7 in her native Mongolia. Since then she has performed in Russia, Italy, Slovenia, China, France, USA, Austria, Lithuania and Mexico. Ms. Samdan has received her Bachelor's degree (summa cum laude) and GPD in piano performance from Boston Conservatory under the guidance of world renowned pianist and pedagogue YaFei Chuang and Master's Degree in collaborative piano from Boston University. She has served as a piano faculty at the Mongolian State Conservatory and as a pianist at the Mongolian State Opera and Ballet house. Nomin is now a collaborative piano fellow at Bard Conservatory.

About the Willa Cather Foundation

The Willa Cather Foundation-formerly the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial-is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather and preserving the historical settings and archival material associated with her life and writings. Since its founding in 1955, the Foundation has been headquartered in Cather's hometown of rural Red Cloud, Nebraska.

About Kaatsbaan Cultural Park

The mission of Kaatsbaan Cultural Park is to provide an extraordinary environment for cultural innovation and excellence. As both an incubator for creativity and presenter for world-class artists in dance, theater, music, film, poetry, culinary and visual arts, Kaatsbaan provides artists with state-of-the-art dance studios, accommodations, an indoor theater, and two outdoor stages. Sitting on 153 Hudson River-adjacent acres, Kaatsbaan is free of urban facilities' space and time constraints, allowing for exciting levels of artistic exploration, creative action, and achievement - just two hours north of New York City. Kaatsbaan Cultural Park is committed to the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts as we aim to present, promote, and embrace programming that accurately reflects our society. We encourage a broadly diverse group of individuals to participate in our programs and join our Board and Staff and insist on being inclusive of all peoples regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socio-economic background, physical or mental ability.

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