Arts notes

Lynne Cheney creates history book award

New York -- Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, has established a charitable fund that will finance an annual award for the best work of history written for young people.

The James Madison Book Award will have a cash prize of $10,000.

"I hope by recognizing books that teach children and young people about our country's past, this award will encourage authors to take up this subject and publishers to seek out writers who can make American history come out alive," Cheney, author of the children's book "America: A Patriotic Primer," said in a statement Thursday.

Selections will be made by an advisory panel that includes documentary maker Ken Burns, former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan and historian Michael Beschloss.

NEA takes Shakespeare on nationwide road tour

In an ambitious bid to unite Romeo and Juliet in Texarkana and install Othello in Anchorage, the National Endowment for the Arts on Wednesday announced details of a new Shakespearean touring program aimed at reaching 100 communities in 50 states.

The announcement in Washington -- made on the 439th anniversary of the day Shakespeare is thought to have been born -- depends upon a collaboration of six regional theater companies, the nonprofit Arts Midwest (based in Minneapolis) and the NEA.

The NEA's spending on the venture is relatively modest -- $3 million from a $116-million-a-year agency. But NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, a booster of the project since his January confirmation, describes it as the largest Shakespearean tour in U.S. history. He said the program has the backing of honorary chairpersons Laura Bush and Motion Picture Association of America President and CEO Jack Valenti, and includes companion educational programming.

For cities and towns on the "Shakespeare in American Communities" itinerary from September through November 2004, the arrival of theatrical heavyweights is likely to make larger waves than the complicity of the first lady. One central idea behind the program, NEA officials said, is to bring professional productions to venues that typically don't have the money or population to attract performances of that quality.

Many scheduling details remain unsettled.

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