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David McCullough

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

Thornton Wilder was asked how he got the ideas for his books, and he said -- or his plays -- and he said, "I imagine a story that I would like to read, or see done on the stage. And if nobody has written that book or that play, I write it so that I can read it or I can see it on the stage." Well, I wanted to be able to read a really first-rate book about the incredible story behind the disaster at Johnstown in 1889, and I found there was no such book. But having read that interview I thought, "Well maybe you could write the book that you would like to read." And I am convinced that the only way we ever really learn anything is by doing it.
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David McCullough

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

I love to read mysteries. I love Dickens -- who doesn't love Dickens? -- either on stage or movies, but more in the printed page. And, I love the theater. I saw Frank Fay in Harvey when the road company came to Pittsburgh. I saw Brando in Streetcar. I saw plays like Inherit the Wind, and I thought, "Look at the possibilities in history as drama!"
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Audra McDonald

Five Tony Awards

It's so interesting. In the performing arts you have to have thick, thick, thick skin, because of all the rejection you face on a daily basis, and the fact that work never lasts for very long. But you need thin, thin, thin skin in order to access all of your emotions and your creativity so that you can express it. You can't be dead inside. Otherwise you've got nothing to give. So it's a paradox, that we have to exist in both planes in order to do what we do. So there's, I guess, a certain sort of personality that's drawn to it. As a result, I think they're more open in the world too, because I think it's just being that, the personality that is drawn to the type of work that performing artists do. But I do think that they tend to be a little more open-minded, because they have to be. Maybe another reason is a lot of times they've got to walk in a lot of different shoes. I've had to play characters who I absolutely disagree with, as far as their politics, as far as their religion, and their stance on certain social issues, I completely disagree with them. But I have to go in and find who they are and get to their core, into their truth, and have absolute faith and believe in that, in order to portray it. So you have to walk in a lot of different shoes, in that you can't help but have your mind open as a result of that.
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W.S. Merwin

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry

When we talk about the extinction of species, I think the endangered species of the arts and of language and all these things are related. I don't think there is any doubt about that. I think poetry goes back to the invention of language itself. I think one of the big differences between poetry and prose is that prose is about something, it's got a subject and the subject comes first and it's dealing with the subject. But poetry is something else, and we don't know what it is (that) comes first. Prose is about something, but poetry is about what can't be said. Why do people turn to poetry when all of a sudden the Twin Towers get hit, or when their marriage breaks up, or when the person they love most in the world drops dead in the same room? Because they can't say it. They can't say it at all, and they want something that addresses what can't be said. I think that's the big difference between poetry and prose. All the arts, in a way, are doing that, they are talking about, "Dove sono? (Where are they?)" What's that? She can't say it, can she? Where are they? Where are they? What has happened to those days?
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