Matthew Krajniak

About Matthew Krajniak

Matthew is currently a PhD candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. He has work forthcoming or in Origins Journal, The Wax Paper, The Avalon Literary Review, and other publications. He can be reached at matthew.hous@gmail.com.

QFest Presents: Bones of Contention and Maurice

July 28, 2017, by

qfest-smOn the heels of LGBT Pride Month comes Houston’s own QFest. Entering its 21st year, QFest is dedicated to promoting the arts that are by, about, and of interest to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community, and this year has a wide range of films that reflect this mission. The festival runs from July 27 – 31 and has partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Aurora Picture Show, and Rice Cinema, to name but a few, as venues for screenings. Each year the festival grows larger and stronger, so I talked to Kristian Salinas, the festival’s Artistic Director, about two of this year’s films that have strong literary ties: Maurice (playing Sunday, July 30, 5 pm at the MFAH), which is based on E.M. Forster’s book of the same title, and Bones of Contention (playing Saturday, July 29, 5:15 pm at Rice Media Center), which centers on Spain’s most famous poet, Federico García Lorca. For tickets and more information click here.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: What specifically about these two films made you decide to include them in this year’s QFest? Continue reading

A Book, a Movie, a Play—King’s Carrie

July 13, 2017, by

Carrie Artwork for MATCH JPEG_0We all know about the pig’s blood. Carrie was a game-changer not only for horror and teenage revenge fantasy movies, but also for the careers of Stephen King and director Brian De Palma. On July 21st and 22nd, however, Broadway Performing Arts Studio will put on a production of the ’88 Broadway hit Carrie: The Musical  at MATCH theatre , which, in my opinion, begs a number of questions, so I contacted director Benjamin Luss.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: I’d imagine that some books make for better musicals, but, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t think of Carrie as being such a book. What about it made Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford, and the other creators of the original Broadway production want to turn it into a musical and what qualities of a book make for a good musical? Continue reading

Our Wizard of Oz

June 30, 2017, by

gallery-0--The-Wizard-of-Oz--Presented-by-Class-Act-Productions-1497235164-400x190Through July 30th Main Street Theater and from July 8 – 16th Class Act Productions are staging The Wizard of Oz, a story that was popular in my childhood home, just like, evidently, the childhood home of about every person I told of this play.

For me, my mother and I would watch Judy Garland and Bert Lahr anytime one of my numerable ear infections happened and I couldn’t sleep. For others the ’39 movie or the original book by L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was often played or read at holiday gatherings, childhood events, or just ‘cause. With the dramatic growth in the children’s literature and YA markets over the past twenty years though, I’m curious as to what other books geared toward youths were popular before this contemporary explosion, and where Baum’s book fits in among them.

What I’m immediately reminded of is that there were no adolescents until 1904. More accurately, society didn’t more fully delineate an individual’s development until the American Psychological Association stepped in, meaning that before Baum’s 1900 book, writers didn’t pay much attention to non-adults because society wasn’t really Continue reading

Our Endless Love for Jane

June 8, 2017, by

summerofaustenpostcardOn June 9th Brazos Bookstore will kick off its Summer of Jane Austen celebration with a party and a screening of Persuasion at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Rienzi House. The screening is just one of nearly a dozen events Brazos has lined up from June through August to commemorate the ever-popular author and the 200th anniversary of her death. And, undoubtedly, Ms. Austen should be celebrated with her wonderfully mordant humor, pioneering of Realism, use of free indirect discourse, and focus on strong female characters.

However, there’s something about her that other historically-renowned authors—and even other timeless artists, politicians, and scientists—don’t have, and that’s namely the continued ability to enamor the public. She simply has a quality that gets at us, which makes us want to celebrate her consistently and widely.  For instance, here are but a few examples of the unique space we confer to her.  Continue reading

An Old Story Made New: Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde

May 29, 2017, by

blogimageWhat is it about an age-old story that makes people want to experience it again and again? Certainly variation via content, form, or other means can help, but how many times can a story play this quasi three-card Monte before people’s interests are sucked toward the table up the block?

The answer to this could surely focus on the machinations of narrative or even the socio-biology of humans, or, much more simply, the evident fact that folks love the salacious (like really love the salacious), but one thing is for certain: the phenomenon of a narrative never losing its color despite repeated washings is one that continues to happen. For instance, on May 31st the River Oaks Theatre is having a special film presentation of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, a story that has its origins in the 12th century, and, more to the point, has a history of being told and retold that is more varied and alive than arguably any other narrative. Continue reading

Ars Lyrica Houston’s Don Quixote’s Excellent Adventures

May 12, 2017, by

AL-Ars Lyrica web imagesAs many Houstonians know, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. The 2016-17 season was no exception, and as the season is now coming to a close, Ars Lyrica is concluding with a decidedly interesting finale: a performance based on Cervantes’s literary classic Don Quixote. I had a chance to discuss the project with Ars Lyrica founder and artistic director, Matthew Dirst.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: What inspired you to take the literary figure of Don Quixote and turn his experiences into an orchestrated musical production?

MATTHEW DIRST: Well, to start with there is a lot of great music surrounding this particular subject, from Henry Purcell’s Incidental Music to Don Quixote to Joseph Bodin de Boismortier’s Ballet on Don Quichotte to name but a few. However, in addition to this there has also recently been an important anniversary as this year coincides with the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Continue reading

Literary classic Animal Farm comes to the stage

March 27, 2017, by

Animal-FarmThe University of Houston’s School of Theatre and Dance brings a literary favorite to life this April with its production of George Orwell’s 1945 classic, Animal Farm. That’s right, the gang is back with Napoleon, Snowball, Old Major, and all the others as they oink, neigh, hee-haw, and talk in a thinly-veiled way about the events that led up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The book is read in classrooms around the United States and is included in Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.

Already a thought provoking story, what’s more is that this play has a unique production in that it’s being performed not only with hand-crafted masks to help create the animals, but also as a musical. I was able to do a quick Q&A with Bill Brown, the play’s director, and Robert Shimko, the Director of the School of Theatre and Dance, about the project and the process of bringing the story to the stage. Here’s what they had to say.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: Rob, you have several guest artists working on this project. Who are they? Continue reading

All They Will Call You: A Little Something for Everyone

February 10, 2017, by

Hernandez picSometimes things just come together. I was recently thinking about how I could make the Houston area more aware of Tim Z. Hernandez’s engaging new book, All They Will Call You, as I recently interviewed him about it for Origins Journal, and low and behold I get an email the other day from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program (which I am a part of) about how he is coming to UH’s Graduate Library for a brief talk and that he’ll be reading as part of the Gulf Coast Reading Series this Friday, 17, 7 pm. The talk, unfortunately, is primarily for students, but the the Gulf Coast reading and his book is for everyone. And by “everyone” I mean exactly that, since the book touches on such a variety of ideas that anyone who enjoys serious literary work or even just a good story will find it worthwhile.

For the politically and socially driven, Tim’s book deals with some of the realities of immigration, both for the immigrants and host country. Sound familiar to any current events? The book centers on the worst plane crash in California’s history—a crash that claimed the lives of twenty-eight Mexican deportees and four Americans (and was the focus of Woody Guthrie poem turned song)—and explores why these men and women came into the states, what they had to go through because of the United State’s immigration policies, and how they shared much in common with those who were already citizens here. Lines are blurred, definitions are questioned, and identities are examined.   Continue reading