Our 21st episode sees our beloved co-founder Katy Derbyshire tell the stirring story of Noor Inayat Khan, a pacifist who worked as a secret radio operator in occupied Paris. Recorded live at ACUD, and produced and presented by Susan Stone in March 2019.
This is our 20th show! Who would have thought that, back when the idea was fermented over a bottle of Rotkäppchen? We’re celebrating in the best way we know – by dressing up fancy and talking about dead ladies on stage. This edition brings you three tales of women who lived flirtatious, outrageous, and courageous lives, each in their own way: a writer of intense fiction and diaries, a celebrity chef, and an anti-Nazi spy. Brought to you by translator, writer, and literary organizer Lucy Jones, writer, campaigner, and foodie Mary Scherpe, and regular Katy Derbyshire. All held together, of course, by your beloved co-host Florian Duijsens. Raise a glass with us – as we toast ourselves and all of you, plus these three fascinating women. Come along and join us in the ACUD Studio on Tuesday, 26 February at 8 pm.
Presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €5 or €3 reduced entry. Doors open 7:30 pm – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!
East German writer Brigitte Reimann led an eventful life, cut short by cancer at the age of 39. She began writing at the age of 15, initially from within the GDR system, side by side with the workers and on official committees, showered with medals and awards. Reimann wrote short stories and plays for the stage, radio and screen – but publishers rejected her proposals for novels. Having married four times, she said of herself in one of her copious letters: “had a lot of men, did a lot of stupid things – that I don’t regret”. She devoted many years to her novel Franziska Linkerhand, published posthumously and in censored form in 1974, which even received grudging praise from West German critics. Today there are two libraries named after her, and her diaries are gradually being released in English translation.
British TV chef Fanny Cradock’s life was not exactly uneventful either. After her parents frittered away their money she was practically destitute in her youth, and only found her financial feet when she started working at restaurants and discovered fine dining. Eventually, she and her fourth husband got their own BBC television series, teaching the British how to cook fancy dishes without breaking the bank. She fell out of favour after two decades but continued to make the rounds of chat shows and celebrity quiz formats. Cradock is credited with introducing pizza to the UK and inventing the prawn cocktail (not an actual drink, don’t worry), and her eccentric manner mean she is well remembered to this day. Also, two of her marriages were bigamous, because why not.
War heroine Noor Inayat Khan lived to the age of 30. Her father, an Indian musician, playwright and religious teacher, met her American mother through the Sufi movement, and they raised their children in London and France. When World War II broke out, the family fled to England. A convinced pacifist, Inayat Khan hoped to fight the Nazis without shedding blood, and volunteered to train as a wireless operator. She was recruited to the Special Operations Executive and given truncated training before being flown into occupied France as an undercover operative. Betrayed after three months, she held fast under interrogation and twice attempted to escape. After a transfer to a German prison and ten months in shackles, she was executed in Dachau concentration camp. Her statue in London was the UK’s first memorial to a Muslim woman.
The last part of our 4-part special FRANKENFRAUEN miniseries, produced in December 2018 by Susan Stone.
In a special encore presentation, Dead Ladies Show co-founder Florian Duijsens tells the story of Elsa Lanchester, the actress made famous by her role in 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein. Recorded live at Bard College Berlin.
And as a special treat, here’s a version of the perennially problematic (and delightful) “Baby It’s Cold Outside” a sung on the radio in 1950 by Elsa and her husband.
Thanks for listening! Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Check out the first three parts of our FRANKENFRAUEN series for yet more fascinating women involved in some way with the classic story of Frankenstein.
Thanks for listening! Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Check out the other three episodes in our FRANKENFRAUEN series for more fascinating women involved in some way with the classic story of Frankenstein.
Show number 19 is an all-out fantabulous Frankenstein special… bringing you three terrifyingly impressive dead ladies who led unconventional lives and were all somehow tied up with that genre-defining novel: author Mary Shelley, her mother, Urfeminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and Ada Lovelace, computing innovator (and daughter of Lord Byron). Your presenters for the night will be co-hosts Katy Derbyshire and Florian Duijsens, along with Bard College’s own Professor Laura Scuriatti. Come along and join us in our favorite venue, the ACUD STUDIO, on Tuesday, 27 November at 8 pm.
Presented (just this once) all in English. €5 or €3 reduced entry (free for BCB students/staff). This edition generously supported by Bard College Berlin. Doors open 7:30 pm – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!
And if you cannot make it this time, check out the new season of our wonderful podcast (produced by Susan Stone), which just kicked off last month and has already seduced a great many listeners with its presentations on genius Marie SkłodowskaCurie and novelist Aphra Behn, plus special features on forgotten German doctor, reformer and writer, Anna Fischer-Dückelmann, and almost forgotten photographer Vivian Maier. Listen wherever you get your casts!
How could we talk about dead ladies and Frankenstein without the original creator, Mary Shelley? Tutored by her philosopher father, including in story-writing, she may or may not have lost her virginity in a cemetery, to her later husband Percy Shelley. Prompted on a rained-in trip to Lake Geneva in the midst of a positively millennial tangle of relationships, Mary first published Frankenstein anonymously in 1818. She lost three children and numerous close friends and relatives before being widowed at 24. Yet she managed to battle depression and raise her surviving son, writing six more novels, plus travel pieces, articles, and short stories, and living on the proceeds. Mary Shelley was a writer with a radical imagination, a woman who challenged social convention and gave us the gift of science fiction.
Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft died eleven days after Mary Shelley’s birth. Best known for her proto-feminist A Vindication of the Rights of Women, she too was never one to do what was expected of her. After publishing her bestselling rant, she moved to France to watch the Revolution unfold, returning to London in 1795 with an illegitimate child fathered by a useless chancer. Baby Mary was conceived out of wedlock too, but her mother swiftly married the philosopher William Godwin to make up for it. Mary Wollstonecraft earned her own living throughout her life, as a lady’s companion, schoolteacher, tutor, and most successfully as a writer of novels, reviews, and philosophical tracts on education. She now has an asteroid in her name.
Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron, one of Mary Shelley’s tight circle of friends present on that fateful stay in Switzerland. Her distant mother, pissed off by her husband abandoning her shortly after the birth, raised Ada to take an interest in mathematics. She built a set of wings in the hope of flying at the age of 12 and became an accomplished mathematician. As an adult, she translated an Italian paper on a proposed machine, the Analytical Engine, which would have been the first computer. Adding notes three times as long as the original, she went ahead and invented the first computer program. Ada Lovelace has sparked imaginations ever since, becoming a popular feminist figure with hundreds of things named after her, including a computer language.
Episode 2 of our new season, produced and presented in November 2018 by Susan Stone.
Translator extraordinaire (and DLS co-founder) Katy Derbyshire tells us all about Aphra Behn, the first woman author who lived off her writing. Additionally, our podcast producer Susan Stone visits a new Berlin exhibition of work by the mysterious photographer Vivian Maier and tries to pin down just who took these pictures and how she would feel about them becoming public.
Here’s a longer version of that Blackadder clip, note the period fashions:
The opening pages of Behn’s Oronoko, in French translation:
Aphra Behn, “The Poetess”, by Peter Lely:
If your interest in milk punch is piqued, try anyofthe delightful recipes out there and serve some Restoration-era cocktails at your next social gathering. And here’s the final extant portrait:
Katy recommends you read Behn’s The Rover, and the excellent biography by Janet Todd, Aphra Behn: A Secret Life. And at this link you can find a picture of Behn’s grave at Westminster Abbey.
On to Vivian Maier. Here she is in a typical selfie:
If you want to see more of her work, check out the show at the Willy Brandt Haus in Berlin (up until January 6, 2019), browse the website dedicated to her work, or check out the fantastic biography by Pamela Bannos.
Episode 1 of our new season, produced and presented in October 2018 by Susan Stone.
Professor Agata Lisiak teaches us all about the world’s most famous physicist, Marie Skłodowska Curie. And writer David Wagner talks briefly about a forgotten German doctor, reformer and writer, Anna Fischer-Dückelmann.
Show number 18 brings you another three pioneering movers and shakers, women who forged paths, saved lives, and changed history: a ground-breaking scientist, a feminist activist, and a film icon. Brought to you by professor and migrant mothering expert Agata Lisiak, award-winning language-juggling poet Uljana Wolf, and regular Florian Duijsens. All held together, of course, by your beloved co-host Katy Derbyshire. Raise a glass of something cool with us – as we celebrate three women who altered the way we see the world in the ACUD Studio on Tuesday, 11 September at 8 pm.
Presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €5 or €3 reduced entry. Still generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7:30 pm – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!
MARIE SKŁODOWSKA CURIE is the only woman to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences: physics and chemistry. She started her training at a clandestine university in her native Poland before moving to Paris. For her marriage to Pierre Curie, she wore a dark blue outfit that she later used in their laboratory, a converted shed. Exposed to the elements – both cold weather and uranium – she carried out pioneering research on radioactivity. In fact, she literally invented the word, and also discovered polonium and radium. Her mobile X-ray units were used to treat over a million soldiers in WWI. Her death was probably caused by long-term exposure to radiation. Despite her achievements, Marie Curie was unpopular in France, and she turned down a Legion of Honour award. Still, Paris more recently named a Metro station and a research centre after her, put her on a banknote, and turned her former lab into a museum.
BERTHA PAPPENHEIM was an Austrian-Jewish feminist who founded the Jüdischer Frauenbund in Germany and set up many charitable institutions for Jewish women and children, providing “protection for those needing protection and education for those needing education.” While being treated for “hysteria” as a young woman, she invented free association (and was immortalized as Freud’s “Anna O.”); her doctor made her worse rather than better and she later refused psychoanalytic treatment for anyone in her care. She worked against trafficking of women, speaking out about Jewish women’s position: “Under Jewish law a woman is not an individual, not a personality; she is only judged and assessed as a sexual being.” In 1934 she brought a group of orphanage children safely from Germany to the UK. Bertha Pappenheim wrote poetry, plays, novellas, and translations, including of Mary Wollstonecraft.
ANNA MAY WONG is considered the first Chinese-American Hollywood star. Born and raised in California, she began acting at 14, then left high school to go into silent movies. Soon tiring of all the interesting Asian parts going to white actors, while she played stereotyped roles – “Lotus Flower”, “Honky-Tonk Girl”, “Tiger Lily”, “Mongolian Slave”, “A Flower of the Orient”, etc. – Anna May left for Europe in 1928. Greeted as a star in Berlin, she at least got to play women who didn’t die as part of the plot. She made friends with Marlene Dietrich (and Leni Riefenstahl) and gave a revealing interview to Walter Benjamin. After her triumphant return to the States, Anna May Wong finally got leading Hollywood roles – but by far not all the ones she wanted, with racism continuing to affect her career and her private life. Kino Arsenal recently screened a retrospective, and prizes in her name are awarded for excellence in film and in fashion design.
A lovely new podcast, produced in July 2018 by Susan Stone, and presented by Katy Derbyshire and Florian Duijsens.
Our podcast producer Susan Stone tells the story of Lotte Reiniger, a true pioneer of animation (and psaligraphy!). At the end, Dead Ladies Show co-founders/hosts Katy and Florian chat with Susan about exciting developments and podcasts.
Her first animated work was called Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens [The ornament of the heart in love] (1919).
This is the Tricktisch she developed, and that’s Carl there at the top, working the camera.
Lotte reveals the Marquise’s secret.
These are some highlights from The Adventures of Prince Ahmed (1926), replete with flying horse, evil magician, and beautiful helpless harem girls.
Lotte in her studio in the Abbey Arts Centre, London, still cutting up a storm.
Lotte remade her German fairytale series for British and US audiences, including the gorgeous Thumbelina below in 1955. She stopped animating in the 1960s after Carl’s death, but returned to her work in 1975, creating three more films before her death.
If you want to know more about Lotte, start with Lotte Reiniger: Pioneer of Film Animation by Whitney Grace, check out that Google doodle, and you can buy a DVD copy of The Adventures of Prince Ahmed here. As for her admirers, check out the trailer for Michel Ocelot’s Tales of the Night, and definitely watch Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe, a gorgeous TV show that paid tribute Lotte in their episode “The Answer”.