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Lectures

Contact Leonard at leonardp@sbcglobal.net for availability on any of these lectures.

1. Paris Transforming - The beauty and the horror of urban reconstruction
During the 1850s and '60s, Paris underwent the greatest urban reconstruction program the world had ever seen. Much of the city's history was lost as Medieval and Renaissance quarters crumbled. The man appointed to carry out this task was Baron Georges Haussmann. What motives lay behind this massive urban redesign? How did Parisians react as they saw their old city swept away? With over 200 images you will walk through pre-Haussmann Paris to witness this transformation and then continue into the 20th century to see how succeeding generations have stamped their vision onto one of the world's great cities.

2. Paris Postcards - The Golden Age
The introduction of the postcard in France in 1872 revolutionized communication and created the first form of social networking, equivalent to today’s email. Produced by the hundreds of millions and employing tens of thousands, postcards were highly collectible and became key to the French economy. Leonard’s spectacular collection of hand tinted vintage postcards provides a view of a Paris that has long since disappeared. The messages written to families back home in the US evoke the American experience of Paris at the turn of the century. Full of beauty, charm, loneliness and longing, this is the ultimate nostalgia trip.

3. How We Almost Lost The Marais
Leonard Pitt will take you on a guided tour of the splendors and miseries of one of Paris's most popular districts, the Marais. Originally a posh quarter for the French aristocracy, by the mid-20th century the Marais had deteriorated into a grimy slum shunned by the Parisian public. In a fit of rationality city urbanists of the 1950s decided that the only solution was to demolish the entire quarter and rebuild in the aesthetic of the day. More enlightened individuals stepped forward to save this historic district for posterity. See images and hear stories of this dramatic history that will surprise, shock, and delight you.

4. Paris Reason, Paris Rage
We think that urban planning is the result of a reasoned process of deliberation taking into account questions of population growth or commercial and industrial development and in many cases this is true. But large swaths of Paris were laid out as a result of violent emotion and intense psychological states. See the great dramas behind the creation of the Louvre, Place des Vosges, the Palais Royal, and an entire neighborhood on the Left Bank.

5. Pursuing the Irish Healer - A true story
In 1989, Leonard Pitt stumbled onto the 17th century Anglo-Irish healer Valentine Greatrakes. For the next eight years he traveled back and forth to England and Ireland digging into the archives as well as trodding Greatrakes's land in order to piece together the life of this enigmatic figure.

Followed by thousands wherever he went, Greatrakes was known for curing everything from cancer, to leprosy, and leukemia by the laying on of hands. His healing powers caused one of the great controversies of the age bringing him under the scrutiny of many of the great figures of the period including, scientist Robert Boyle, philosopher Henry More, and poet Andrew Marvell. They all ended up vouching for his talent. 

In 1666, Greatrakes wrote a book defending himself against those trying to vilify him. Leonard saw an original copy of this book and decided he wanted one for himself. After searching the world and giving up, he found one, and in the most unlikely of places, San Francisco. From a stolen harp in Oakland, to an Irish street corner with Jasper the grave digger, to the Marquis of Hertford at his English manor, follow Leonard in his pursuit of the Irish healer.

6. Ballet, the earth, and the pain of being on the ground
What do Elvis Presley, Louis the XIV and the Hula Hoop have in common? How did the invention of the radio help free American youth from the rigors of Victorianism? Why did audiences weep when they saw Isadora Duncan dance? These and other questions are answered in Leonard's fascinating journey through the history of the body.

While studying mime in Paris in the 1960s, Leonard asked himself, "Why did the ballet choose to go up? Why this fascination with the air?" This question catapulted him into a decades-long investigation into how cultures treat the human body differently and how in turn this shapes our picture of the world. Follow Leonard in this unique investigation of culture and the human body.

7. The Women are Burning - A brief history of the European witch-hunts
The tension between men and women has been played out for centuries in personal relationships, family dynamics, and community mores. No more dramatic example of this tension exists that the Church's organized persecution of women during the infamous witch-hunt trials. How did women come to be perceived as evil, all-powerful, and in the service of the Devil? What was the Church's logic as it carried out this program of repression? What were the consequences?

8. The Art of Face - a mask, a body, a movement
Leonard takes the audience on a guided tour of the body to see how quirks, foibles, fears, and fantasies are revealed through posture, gait and gesture. Working with a variety of handmade masks Leonard reveals the secrets and techniques of the art of physical theater.

"His lecture-demonstration . . . was the most interesting, informative and entertaining hour-and-a- half I've spent in the theatre in a long time." 

            - San Francisco Chronicle –

"Pitt turns an hour-long lecture into an amazingly entertaining excursion into the hidden diversity of mood and manner contained in each inanimate facial facade."

           - San Francisco Examiner -