Lectures For Lifelong Learners!

Hap Erstein

Hap Erstein

Hap Erstein

Broadway & Film Lecturer

Broadway & Film History

Available for in-person lectures in:
South Florida

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Born in Washington, D.C., Hap Erstein went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in dreary Troy, New York, where he narrowly escaped becoming an engineer. In 1994, he and his wife moved to West Palm Beach, where he assumed the position of theater critic at The Palm Beach Post and soon after added the job of film critic. He held these positions for 15 years, until retiring from the paper in 2008. Hap now writes for Palm Beach ArtsPaper, an online and hard copy arts magazine. He has taught theater appreciation courses at Florida Atlantic University's Lifelong Learning Society and been a longtime member of the Carbonell Awards panel recognizing theater excellence in South Florida. Each weekend, he can be heard on WJNO Radio talking about the latest film releases. During his career Hap has interviewed such show business legends as Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, George Burns, Stephen Sondheim and Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. When not working, he can usually be found playing tennis or backgammon.

Lectures include:

Hall Of Fame Series

Hall of Fame Actresses

It brings a smile to any movie lover’s face to remember the greatest actresses the silver screen has known. They’ve demanded our attention, inspired us, and broken our hearts. Young or old, rich or poor, these actresses have stood the test of time to become icons of their profession. In this hour-long lecture, clips and images from Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Meryl Streep and more will showcase what made these actresses unforgettable, and why we still revere them today.

Hall of Fame Actors

They’ve been heroic, downright nasty and as sweet as can be. But the greatest actors of all time share one unique quality: their humanity. These larger-than-life stars had the uncanny ability to morph into a variety of individuals from vastly different walks of life, and did so with what appeared to be the greatest of ease. This hour-long lecture celebrates the men who’ve moved us, and in one instance, changed acting for the foreseeable future. Clips and images from Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and more make this a lecture you will not want to miss.

Hall of Fame Directors

Great directors know how to emotionally stimulate, manipulate, and even tease their audiences for maximum effect. This hour-long lecture looks not just at the greatest directors of all time, but also at how these directors were often able to work in a variety of genres and maintain success over the span of decades. Clips and images from Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Steven Spielberg and more showcase each director’s unique style in a way that’s sure to be eye opening for anyone who loves movies.

Hall of Fame Comedians

Let's face it, we could all use a laugh. Thankfully, the greatest comedians the big screen has ever seen made us laugh hard and often, and did so over a long period of time. Why they were so funny and what stirred their creative juices will be discussed in this hour-long celebration of the funniest people in film history, including clips from their most memorable performances. Featured comedians include Charlie Chaplin, Mel Brooks, Peter Sellers and more.

Carry A Tune

Great Musical Moments I: The Hollywood Musical from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s

The dawn of the “talkie” in the late ‘20s didn’t just bring spoken words to the big screen – it also brought songs! This hour-long lecture chronicles the era of the Hollywood Musical, highlighted by Busby Berkeley's choreography, Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers, the great Gene Kelly, and many more. Clips and images will be shared in what is sure to be a toe-tappin’ and informative good time!

Great Musical Moments II: The Hollywood Musical from the 1950s to the Present

With the era of the Hollywood Musicals complete, the mid-1950s saw a shift in production. No longer were song and dance sequences stuck inside a studio; now musicals were shooting on location with bigger budgets, which allowed the genre to get bolder, more experimental, and in some cases, more satisfying. But like many good things, it didn’t last. Clips and images from West Side Story, Grease, Chicago and more will be featured in this hour-long lecture that covers great changes both in the genre and the industry itself.

The Films Of Barbra Streisand

From Funny Girl to The Guilt Trip, Barbra Streisand has made us laugh and cry for more than five decades on the big screen. This hour-long look at her film career takes us behind the scenes of some of her best remembered performances (and directorial efforts), and provides an appreciation for her contributions to the film industry. Includes clips from Funny Girl, The Way We Were, Yentl and more.

Behind The Scenes

Game Changers: Five Movies That Changed The Film Industry Forever

Some films are so revolutionary that they change how movies are made. Some provide audiences with such a thrill that they change what viewers demand. This hour-long lecture focuses on five notable titles – The Birth of a Nation, The Jazz Singer, Citizen Kane, Jaws, and Avatar – and how each changed the film industry and audiences forever.

You Can’t Show That! The Story Of Film Ratings And Censorship in America

In 1922, The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Of America was created by studio executives to stave off government censorship and ensure the wholesomeness of Hollywood films. It later morphed into the MPAA ratings we have today, and is now known as the MPA. How did we go from a couple not being allowed to share a bed to steamy sex scenes? This hour-long lecture explores how and why the MPA has evolved to where it is today. Clips and images from King Kong (1933), Some Like It Hot, MASH and more are featured.

Hollywood Scandal: The Most Salacious, Notorious And Awful Events Of Hollywood's Past

If there’s one thing the media loves more than championing the virtues of Hollywood’s biggest stars, it’s exposing the sleazy details of stars’ indiscretions. This hour-long lecture looks back at some of Hollywood’s biggest scandals – some true, some not-so true, some downright criminal. Every effort will be made to discern fact from speculation, whenever possible, in the interest of discovering the truth surrounding these sordid events from Hollywood’s past. The stories of Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Grahame, Lana Turner and more will be shared.

The Unsung Heroes

They are the gears that power the engine of the film industry, yet many movie fans may not know the names of some of Hollywood’s most important contributors. This hour-long lecture examines the people behind the scenes whose work you’ve probably loved for years, and will immediately recognize. Note: This talk does not include actors or directors – they always get the headlines. Instead we’ll study Drew Struzan, Don LaFontaine, Rick Baker, and more (remember: you may not know their names, but you certainly know their work!).

Film Lovers

Famous Moments, Famous Movies: Behind The Scenes Of The Most Iconic Moments In Film History - Part I

The greatest moments in film history stick out in our memories as if we saw them just yesterday. It's Cary Grant running from a plane in North By Northwest. Peter Finch screaming that he's "mad as hell!" in Network. And Clark Gable telling Vivien Leigh he no longer gives a "damn" in Gone With The Wind. This hour-long lecture takes you behind the scenes of these great movie moments and more as we reveal what makes them so unforgettable.

Famous Moments, Famous Movies: Behind The Scenes Of The Most Iconic Moments In Film History - Part II

The shower scene in Psycho. The flying bikes in E.T. The title song in Singin’ in the Rain. All are memorable movie moments that have been cherished for generations and will be cherished for years to come. In this hour-long lecture, you’ll enjoy an insightful look at these scenes and more, sharing the stories, backgrounds and secrets that made them so unforgettable.

Box Office Champs: The Real Top Ten Movies Of All Time

You may know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the all-time domestic box office champ at $936 million. But when you adjust for inflation, it’s actually #11. What’s in the top ten? This hour-long lecture looks at the real top ten highest-grossing movies of all time after you adjust for inflation. Clips and images from Snow White, E.T. and The Sound Of Music highlight this fun and engaging lecture. You may be surprised at what's on the list!

The Greatest Quotes in Film History

The greatest quotes in film history are etched in our minds like we heard them just yesterday. Beyond being great quotes from great movies, they often invoke memories of who we were with, and how they made us feel, when we first heard them. This hour-long lecture reveals the American Film Institute’s top ten quotes in American film history – we’ll watch the clips, then go behind the scenes to learn how these unforgettable quotes became iconic. Note: Two scenes are redundant of clips used in the “Famous Moments, Famous Movies” lectures.

Top Five Years For Movies

A year in the life of movies can be groundbreaking, transcendent, unforgettable. At best, it captures the zeitgeist of a time period through a variety of genres, and by showcasing the talents of a number of terrific stars and directors. This hour-long lecture looks at five of the single greatest years in film history, and explores what the movies told us was clearly on our minds in each year. Clips include The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, and The Phantom Of The Opera.

The Oscars

When Oscar Gets It Wrong: Best Picture Winners That Should’ve Lost, And The Movies That Should’ve Won

Is Ordinary People better than Raging Bull? Is How Green Was My Valley better than Citizen Kane? According to the Oscars, yes! This hour-long lecture examines the politics, voting patterns, and cultural influences that led the Academy to overlook movies we now consider classics.

Note: When Oscar Gets It Wrong Part II is a separate hour-long lecture that focuses on the actors/actresses who won, and the better remembered/overlooked performances from those same years.

Outrageous Oscar Moments

Rob Lowe and Snow White. The streaker running behind David Niven. And yes, “The Slap.” The Oscars aren’t always the stately and serene ceremony they aspire to be. This hour-long lecture uses video clips to embrace the infamy of the most outrageous, controversial, and memorable moments in Oscar history.

Best Picture Oscar Talk

Journey into this year's Best Picture Oscar nominees in this discussion of why each film was nominated and which is the odds-on favorite to emerge victorious. Clips and background information about all nominated films will be shared, and a discussion of the Academy's voting process and habits will lend perspective to choosing the likely winner. Oscar history, trivia, and other major categories will also be covered! It's a lively, insightful and fun hour-long lecture that’s not to be missed! Attendees are encouraged to see as many of the nominated films as possible before the lecture. Note: This presentation can only be done in Feb./March 2025.

The Oscars: Aftermath

A day after the Oscars: What happened, why, and are you kidding me? We’ll explain why the winners won, why the losers lost, and other highs and lows from Hollywood’s biggest night. Note: This is not a formal lecture; it is an informal reflection on the big night that includes time for audience questions.

Acting Excellence

Breakout Roles: The Movies That Made The Stars Part I

They all had to start somewhere. This hour-long lecture looks at the early hits of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and examines what, if any, qualities were on display early on that would become their iconic trademarks. Clips from the breakout roles of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Streisand and more will be shared as we attempt to answer the question: What makes a star?

Breakout Roles: The Movies That Made The Stars Part II

In this continuation of the extremely popular “Breakout Roles,” we look at more early hits of our favorite stars. This hour-long lecture examines how Marlon Brando changed acting as we knew it in A Streetcar Named Desire, how Dustin Hoffman was seduced in The Graduate, and how Cate Blanchett’s performance as Queen Elizabeth catapulted her to stardom. And as an added perk: You'll see Tom Cruise in his underwear!

Great Movie Monologues

It’s an actor’s dream: A long monologue that allows them to lose themselves in their character, and showcase their talent by keeping us captivated. We’ve been moved to tears, led to laugh, think. This hour-long lecture examines some of the best and most famous monologues in film history, including why they have endured so well over time. Featured clips include Wall Street, Network and The Great Dictator.

Best Duos: The Actors

They’re great on their own, but together they’re legendary. This hour-long lecture looks at what brought the greatest screen duos in film history together, what made them terrific, and ultimately what pulled them apart. Clips from the work of Hepburn & Tracy, Astaire & Rogers, Lemmon & Matthau and more will be discussed as we explore the scintillating dynamics of film history’s greatest screen duos.

Best Supporting Actors

We know their faces and love their work, even if their names have never been at the top of the marquee. This hour-long lecture looks at the greatest supporting actors and actresses of the silver screen, the men and women who have a terrific habit of making everything they’re in better. Clips from the greatest moments of Claude Rains, Thelma Ritter, Shelley Winters and more will be shared, along with insight into their careers and success.

Have A Laugh

It’s Love, Actually: The Top Ten Romantic Comedies In Film History

They can be cheesy, sweet and sentimental. At their best, they’re also downright hilarious. This hour-long look at the greatest romantic comedies in film history examines how the genre has evolved over the last century, and highlights some of its greatest stars and moments. The best romantic comedies, as we’ll see, push the genre’s conventions in unexpected and invigorating ways. Clips include When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, and more.

From Caddyshack To The Brat Pack: Movie Comedies Of The 1980s

You could make the argument that the 1980s were the greatest decade ever for movie comedies. Consider the talent at the top of his/her game: Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, John Hughes and his “Brat Pack,” Steve Martin, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, Bette Midler, and more. We'll examine the cultural and creative atmosphere that allowed these talents to flourish, and of course enjoy clips of some of the funniest moments ever put on screen. Note: This is a two-part lecture, and should be scheduled as two separate 45-60 minute lectures.

The Worst Movies Ever Made

No filmmaker sets out to make a terrible movie, but sometimes things simply never come together. Or the filmmaker had no business making a movie in the first place. Through a combination of terrible reviews and poor box office, these ten films stand above (below?) the rest as the most awful we’ve ever seen. In some cases, a cult-like fondness for how bad it is has led to infamy. This hour-long lecture examines what made them so bad, and why they're still known today even though they're terrible. Featured clips include Ishtar, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Heaven's Gate.

And More!

Presidential Hollywood

We honor our chief executives on Presidents’ Day and in history books, but only a select few of our 46 American presidents have been depicted in movies. Admittedly, Hollywood dramas don’t always stick to the facts. But the best ones find truth in storytelling even if they’re loose with the facts. This hour-long lecture is a look at how Hollywood has interpreted our American presidents’ greatest tests.

Fright Night: A History Of Horror Movies

Horror movies are not all blood and guts. In fact, the slasher movie (Halloween, Friday the 13th) is a relatively new entry to the horror genre. The best horror disturbs and unsettles, and its roots date back to the silent era. We’ll discuss what makes horror movies effective, and why they remain one of the most popular genres in Hollywood today. Includes clips from Dracula, Frankenstein, The Exorcist, and more!

Home For The Holidays: ‘Tis The Season For Family And Friends

Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas involve family, friends, food…and chaos. Whether there’s trouble traveling or trouble at home, holiday movies heighten the drama around the season’s festivities – often to a breaking point. But then the virtues of the holiday come through to save the day. Includes clips from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, and more!


Great Musicals

The Top Ten Longest Running Shows in Broadway History

One measure of a show’s success is how long it runs on Broadway. Oklahoma!, which ran more than five years (2,212 performances), led the list in the 1940s. Now it ranks a mere 32nd. Today the top thirty shows are all musicals, and include popular titles such as The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and The Lion King. Do any of those crack the top ten? This hour-long discussion that examines the ten longest running shows Broadway has ever seen.

The Hamilton Phenomenon

Hamilton has been a hot ticket since it debuted in 2015. But what possessed composer-lyricist-playwright-original star Lin-Manuel Miranda to write a musical about the first Secretary of the Treasury and his Founding Father contemporaries, and set their history to a hip-hop beat? For those lucky enough – or wealthy enough – to snag seats to the show, this hour-long talk will deconstruct the musical to increase your enjoyment and appreciation of the highly acclaimed – and highly profitable – Broadway sensation.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Musicals

Ten musicals have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, from the Gershwins’ Of Thee I Sing in 1931 to Lin- Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton in 2015. Each in its own way has been “a distinguished play … dealing with American life.” This talk examines the ten shows and describes how they came to earn this highest award in the theater industry, with video clips to celebrate their highlights.

Fiddler on the Roof: From Anatevka to Around the Globe

A history of the most universally beloved musical which began under a cloud of doubt by its creative team -- the composer-lyricist team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, as well as adapter Joseph Stein -- who wondered whether this tale of a Russian dairyman and his five challenging daughters, based on the stories of Sholom Alecheim, wasn't really "too Jewish" for Broadway. In fact, it became one of Broadway's longest running musicals, translated and performed all over the globe. This talk explains how the show evolved and transcended the English language, most recently becoming a hit again off-Broadway in Yiddish.

The Icons

The Jewish Composers Of Broadway

It is true that the vast majority of the musical theater’s greatest composers have been Jewish. From Irving Berlin to George Gershwin to Richard Rodgers to Stephen Sondheim, they have shaped this uniquely American art form. This hour-long lecture surveys the evolution of the Broadway musical, with a celebration of the creative individuals who made it happen. Includes clips from: The Producers, Fiddler On The Roof, Guys & Dolls, and more!

Stephen Sondheim: Broadway’s Greatest Musical Innovator

The musical theater was often lightweight entertainment until a protegee of Oscar Hammerstein II came along to challenge our perception of what a musical could be. An ethnic clash of street gangs (West Side Story)? A jaundiced look at marriage through the eyes of a perennial bachelor (Company)? A revenge thriller of a cannibalistic barber (Sweeney Todd)? An exploration of the creative process and a 19th century pointillist painter’s obsessions (Sunday in the Park with George)? Through his intricate music and lyrics, Sondheim changed the breadth and depth of musicals, as this talk will explore, with video examples from his landmark productions.

Neil Simon: American King of Comedy

Broadway’s most popular and most financially successful playwright wrote more than 30 comedies for the stage, including Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple and his autobiographical Brighton Beach trilogy. In addition, he penned the book of a handful of Broadway musicals and the screenplay for more than 30 movies, both original stories and adaptations of his plays. This talk charts his unparalleled career, as he evolved from a gag writer to a more character-rich dramatist, illustrated with video clips from his plays and movies.

Andrew Lloyd Webber: Lord of Musical Theater

Andrew Lloyd Webber, described by The New York Times as "the most commercially successful composer in history," has written 21 musicals, from his early "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," commissioned for a children's choir but became an international hit, to "Cinderella," a current London hot ticket headed to Broadway this year. In between has been "The Phantom of the Opera," the longest running show ever on Broadway, “Cats,” “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and many more. This talk details Lord Lloyd Webber's personal and professional career, with colorful video clips of his most popular shows.

Celebrating Greatness

The Tony Awards

Since 1947, the mark of excellence on Broadway has been the Antoinette Perry Awards, and ever since they were televised in the early 1960s, the annual broadcast became the prime marketing tool of the commercial theater to the nation. Moreso than the Oscars, a Tony Award win can mean the difference between success and failure at the box office. This hour-long talk reviews the history of the Tonys, looks at the biggest winners, and identifies the correlation between Tony wins and the length of the Broadway run.

Broadway Hall of Fame Actors

A celebration of eight male performers who sang and danced their way into our hearts with memorable star turns on the Broadway stage. Career summaries of eight luminaries including Robert Preston, Richard Kiley, Zero Mostel and Joel Grey will be shared. Illustrating the talk will be video clips from the productions that showcase their unique qualities.

Broadway Hall of Fame Actresses

An affectionate look at some of the most celebrated, larger-than-life female performers whose careers were forged mainly on the Broadway stage. Eight celebrated female stars, such as Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Chita Rivera and Patti LuPone, will be profiled, with an emphasis on their most memorable shows. Includes video clips from their award-winning performances.

From Broadway to Hollywood: What’s Been Gained, What’s Been Lost

Nothing demonstrates the differences between theater and film more than the ways Broadway musicals have been adapted to the big screen. Some have seen substantial improvement (Cabaret, Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story), while others have lost their charm in the transition (A Chorus Line, Man of La Mancha, Mame). This talk considers the strengths of both media and what went wrong or right when iconic stage shows went Hollywood. With video clips to illustrate the changes these musicals went through – for better or worse.

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