Wendy Arons hails from Birmingham, Mich., a town just outside Detroit, and has been a Pittsburgher since 2007. After eight years teaching at the University of Notre Dame, she joined the Carnegie Mellon University staff as associate professor of dramatic literature. She lives in Aspinwall.
The author of "Performance and Femininity in Eighteenth-Century German Women's Writing: The Impossible Act" (2006), Ms. Arons recently received a $200,000-plus fellowship from the National Endowment of the Humanities to work on the first complete translation from German into English of G.E. Lessing's "Hamburg Dramaturgy," a centuries-old text on the part criticism and culture play in society. From 2008-11, she was the secretary of the American Society for Theatre Research. Her works include a translation of Brecht's "Good Person of Sezuan" for an adaptation by Tony Kushner.
On her blog The Pittsburgh Tatler, she writes about theater and culture, with "ruminations on the life academic, and the occasional tidbit of juicy gossip." The "about me" section of the blog reveals: "I have two kids, a dog, a home under renovation and a serious thing against brown marmorated stink bugs."
I am inspired by ... Things that are puzzling, things I don't understand. All of my best research and writing has had its origins in an aspect of what I'm studying that initially baffled me or stymied me. It's immensely satisfying to me to have to figure something out, piece things together, and make sense of writing or art that is purposefully ambiguous or mystifying. I love the analytical detective work such questions inspire, and when I'm doing that work is when I most often experience that exhilarating feeling of "flow."
If you had to choose just one: Film, TV or live performance? Live performance, no question about it. I hardly ever watch TV, and although I do like movies a great deal, I don't go to the movies very often. I go to see live performance at least once a week, usually more, mostly theater and dance, occasionally live music. I particularly love seeing new plays, and we're fortunate in Pittsburgh to have so many theaters that regularly feature new works (City Theatre, of course, but also Bricolage, Quantum and the Pittsburgh Public).
I'm surprisingly good at ... Silk painting. I'm not much of a "crafts" person, but I discovered painting on silk a few summers ago and was surprised to find how much I enjoy doing it. I can get very lost in it. The act of painting on silk is oddly soothing and meditative -- the dyes flow and migrate on the material in ways you can't fully control, so it also involves quite a bit of letting go and surrendering to the process. It's very much the opposite of what I do when I write.
My perfect weekend is ... I asked my daughter how I should answer this one, and she said: "Your kids clean the house while you read a novel." That would be a very nice weekend indeed.
Can't live without ... Something to do! I'm very bad at just hanging around, doing nothing.
My favorite spot in the 'Burgh: I don't really have favorites of anything (it's a problem when it comes to computer security questions!), but two places I go to a lot are Downtown and the off-leash dog park on Squaw Run Road East in Fox Chapel.
Best piece of advice ever received: "Begin before you think you're ready, stop before you think you've finished." It's advice from Robert Boice on how to keep on a regular writing schedule, but it applies to so many other things: teaching, planning an event, art projects, rehearsals, even parenting. The first part of the advice is about trusting that you have prepared yourself enough even if you think you still have more to do (there's always more to do!); the second part is partly about letting go, but it's also about stopping in midstream, so that you can pick up at a subsequent session and get more quickly into the flow of the work.