The story behind the Grand Theater in Ellsworth, Maine, is that in May 1933, in the middle of the Depression, a mentally troubled dishwasher overheard two businessmen talking about what to do about some dilapidated buildings in town. The dishwasher decided to light the buildings on fire. The ensuing conflagration destroyed most of downtown Ellsworth.
Five years later the reviving city invested in a new movie theater on Main Street. The Grand opened with a showing of Holiday, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Over the next 40 years, like a thousand other old downtown theaters across America, the Grand slowly declined. At one point the owners even installed a boxing ring and started holding weekly bouts in order to bring in more money.
The theater was rescued by a nonprofit in 1975. Today, after a few more ups and downs, the Grand hosts events 330 days a year, from concerts to plays to Metropolitan Opera simulcasts. The other night, Leonardo da Vinci showed up.
We settled into our seats in the old theater to watch Leonardo Live, an entertainingly produced, high-definition tour of the acclaimed da Vinci exhibition that opened at the National Gallery in London last November. The same film may be showing right now at a theater near you. Go see it. You'll learn more about not only da Vinci's work and life but also about the details of staging a big art show.
As I've mentioned before, if The Naturalist's Notebook had its own Mount Rushmore, da Vinci—a genius in both art and science—would be carved into it. Here's a photo quiz to test (or add to) your Leonardo knowledge (answers at the bottom):
1) Why might have da Vinci have painted the woman above holding an ermine?
a) The ermine was a symbol of Lorenzo de Medici, who was Leonardo's patron for seven years.
b) The ermine was a symbol of purity; da Vinci himself wrote that an ermine would rather die than let its coat get dirty.
c) The ermine was a symbol of science that da Vinci snuck into the painting; he wrote in his diary that "the mind of a stoat [another name for an ermine] exceeds in capability all but the most practical of princes."
2) When was da Vinci born?
a) July 4, 1584
b) October 2, 1602
c) April 15, 1452
3) (above) What is an alternate title of the Mona Lisa
(I'm repeating the questions in the photos, some of which are hard to read; the multiple-choice answers seem easy to read)?
4) (above) Leonardo worked as an apprentice to which Italian artist?
5) (above) Why are Leonardo's notebooks very difficult to read?
6) (above) How did Leonardo study anatomy?
7) (above) Leonardo's famous drawing of the proportions of man is called what?
8) (above) Leonardo is believed to have been...
9) What country did Leonardo move to [later in life]?
10) Because he had so many talents and such a curiosity about the world, da Vinci is considered the model of the: a) Renaissance Man b) Inquisition Questioner c) Basso Profundo
Here Comes The Lorax Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, would have turned 108 years old on March 2. His birthday coincides with the release of The Lorax, a big-screen version of his famous environmental fable. Here's a sneak peek at the trailer:
Answers to the Last Puzzlers (da Vinci answers are farther down):
1) The unscrambled words:
a) pitapoopmush = hippopotamus
b) noidratia = radiation
c) rusiv = virus
d) pyhonot = typhoon
a) It is TRUE that DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.
b) It is TRUE that human DNA contains about 25,000 genes.
c) It it NOT TRUE that one gene contains about 25,000 types of DNA.
d) It is TRUE that plants and animals both have DNA.
Answers to the da Vinci quiz: