Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt

Past Event: Tuesday, November 21, 2006

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Frank McCourt’s quiet life as a retired schoolteacher was transformed by the thunderous success of his first memoir, Angela’s Ashes (1996), the heart-wrenching yet uplifting story of his beggar-poor childhood in Limerick, Ireland.

The book sold millions of copies worldwide and won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for biography. In recounting his family’s desperate poverty, McCourt “redeems the pain of his early years with wit and compassion and grace” (New York Times). Wit illuminates McCourt’s subsequent memoirs as well. ‘Tis (1999) and Teacher Man (2005) trace McCourt’s arrival in New York as a penniless young man and his travails and triumphs in high school classrooms. With humor and heart McCourt recounts his twenty-year tenure teaching creative writing at the progressive Stuyvesant High School, after learning classroom survival skills at a tough vocational school. While beguiling defiant students at McKee Technical High School with storytelling and unconventional assignments—including an excuse note from Adam to God—McCourt strove to impart a larger lesson. Writing is less about putting words on paper and more about observing and imagining: “Every moment of your life, you’re writing. Even in your dreams you’re writing.”

In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize and being made into a major film, Angela’s Ashes was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. McCourt lives in Connecticut.

Excerpt from Teacher Man (2005)
In 1974, my third year at Stuyvesant High School, I am invited to be the new Creative Writing instructor. Roger Goodman says, You can do it.

I know nothing about writing or the teaching of it. Roger says don’t worry. Across this country there are hundreds of teachers and professors teaching writing and most have never published a word.

And look at you, says Bill Ince, Roger’s successor. You’ve had pieces published here and there. I tell him a few pieces in the The Village VoiceNewsday and a defunct magazine in Dublin hardly qualifies me to teach writing. It will be common knowledge soon that in the matter of teaching writing I don’t know my arse from my elbow. But I remember a remark of my mother’s: God help us, but sometimes you have to chance your arm.

I can never bring myself to say I teach creative writing or poetry or literature, especially since I am always learning myself. Instead I say I conduct a course, or I run a class.

I have the usual five classes a day, three “regular” English, two Creative Writing. I have a homeroom of thirty-seven students, with the clerical work that entails. Each term I am given a different Building Assignment: patrolling hallways and stairwells; checking boys’ lavatories for smoking; substituting for absent teachers; watching for drug traffic; discouraging high jinks of any kind; supervising student cafeterias; supervising the school lobby to ensure that everyone, coming or going, has an official pass. Where three thousand bright teenagers are gathered under one roof you can’t be too careful. They are always up to something. It’s their job.

Selected Work
Teacher Man (2005)
‘Tis (1999)
Angela’s Ashes (1996)

Links
Simon & Schuster Author Page
Academy of Achievement Interview
New York State Writers Institute

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

Parking

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.

Accessibility

Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2021/22 Season.

Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video during an online event. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals for both in-person and online events. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at boxoffice@lectures.org, or Monday-Friday from 10:00am – 5:00pm at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to lectures.org/accessibility. If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.