THE BLOG
05/12/2010 05:26 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Seen and Heard in New York: Wendell Pierce, Cory Booker, Alan Rickman

Wendell Pierce, a star of HBO's Treme and host of "Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio," speaking at a recent benefit held by JALC at its home in the Time Warner Center in New York:

"I grew up in a neighborhood (in New Orleans) called Ponchartrain Park. It was the first African-American post-war suburb. My father came back from World War II and his generation of folks bought into the neighborhood. It was wiped out with Katrina. I put out a call to action to past and present residents, I said, 'We have the skill sets to be able redevelop our own neighborhood.' We are working with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, we have a development contract. We get all the properties that were sold back, by people who gave up the ghost, left the city, after Katrina. We get those properties. We are building affordable solar and geothermal homes for sale, separate from Leonard Riggio's effort, separate from Brad Pitt's effort. It's Ponchartrain Park Community Development Corporation, a corporation of past and present residents who have taken it upon themselves to do large-scale redevelopment of their neighborhood.

"We have a modular system, actually built in a controlled environment, the homes are so specifically engineered. We're bringing people's energy costs down from $3,000 a year to zero, if you're doing full solar; if you just do the geothermal, $3,000 to like $500 a year It's a controlled environment, it's brought to the site, set and put in place. We just feel it's one of the premier green redevelopments. What's so kismet about it is the fact that Lisa Jackson, the EPA director, grew up in Ponchartrain Park."

On his musical abilities in his portrayal of Antoine Batiste, a trombonist, in Treme:

"I wouldn't call it playing yet. But I sound good cause the guy playing behind me is great."

Newark, N.J. mayor Cory Booker, another guest at the JALC benefit:

"In this region, there really is only one jazz (radio) station, WBGO, which is based in Newark. When I was growing up, one time I tried to get my father to turn to another (radio) station, that was the only station allowed in my father's car.

"The good thing is that he planted the roots with me early. Then I suddenly found myself buying Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan records, Louis Armstrong's one of my heroes. I began becoming a bit of an enthusiast myself.

"And now I have my own radio show on WBGO, once a month, it's 'Ask the Mayor,' a call-in show; unfortunately it's not music, but we have a way of dabbling in that subject.

Jazz at Lincoln Center has two benefits later this month, "An Evening with Gladys Knight," May 17 and "A Spring Swing Party Featuring Johnny Mandel: A Man & His Music," May 25. For further details and reservations, contact Louise T. Hood, JALC director of special events, lhood@jalc.org or 212-258-9880.

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Alan Rickman--actor and director of Creditors, a play about marriage by Swedish author August Strindberg, being presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through May 16--speaking recently at BAM:

"I got a phone call from the artistic director of the Donmar (Warehouse, the theater in London where the production of Creditors originated). He says he always wants to match the director to the play. It excited me. I read it with no preconceptions. I wanted to be in a rehearsal room with three actors figuring out how to do it. It means your energy can be pretty focused.

"This play did demand me to be kind of a ringmaster, I suppose the ringmaster does carry a whip. A lot of the process had to do with speed, honesty.

"I get the greatest pleasure watching actors who don't know what to do, at the same time I crack my whip, reining them in, kicking them on.

"I've only officially directed three pieces of theater. In each case I didn't plan to do it at all, it came up and nipped me in the behind.

"I think (Harold) Pinter did write pretty well about marriage. There's definitely a connecting line between Strindberg and Pinter, he said so himself.

"A voice teacher once said, 'You sound as if your voice is coming out of a back-end of a drainpipe.'"

Acting and directing are "two completely different activities....It goes back to innocence. As a director, you have a lot of trusting faces looking at you. (Acting) is a different use of the self. I don't know how much courage there is in directing."

"What we struggle with in England is there's no real training system for directors. It's great to see Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, very fine actors, directing.

"It's a relay race, you have a baton, and at some point you know it's your responsibility to pass it on."