SIKESTON -- It's hard to believe Sikeston native Terry Teachout, a nationally known film and theater critic, has never before given a public lecture in his hometown.
He's talked at the high school and given readings in Sikeston but never has Teachout spoken to a general admission audience. And there's a simple explanation for it: "I've never been asked," he said.
But that will all change Tuesday when Teachout will present for the Sikeston Depot Cultural and Historical Center lecture series at 7 p.m. at the Depot, 116 W. Malone in Sikeston.
Teachout noted he wrote his first story for publication for the Sikeston High School newspaper, Bulldog Barker, and plans to talk Tuesday about how the world of journalism has changed, especially by the Internet and new media, since he began writing,
"When I started doing this, I wrote on a manual typewriter. Nobody had a computer," Teachout said.
After graduating from Sikeston High School in 1974, Teachout attended William Jewell College in Liberty, a suburb of Kansas City. Majoring in music and journalism he worked as a music critic for the Kansas City Star and Times.
In 1985 Teachout moved to New York City, where he worked as an editor for Harper's magazine. After two years, he started freelancing full-time for several newspapers and magazines.
Today Teachout is the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal and the music critic of Commentary. He writes "Second City," a column about the arts in New York that appears in the Washington Post on the first Sunday of every month, and his work also appears in the New York Times, National Review and several other magazines and newspapers. In September, he will begin a new column in the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal.
Teachout is also an author of several books including a memoir, "City Limits: Memories of a Small-Town Boy"; the biography, "The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken"; and "The Terry Teachout Reader," a collection of his essays about American art and culture. Limited copies of "The Terry Teachout Reader," will be available for sale at the Sikeston Depot Tuesday evening.
Teachout's latest book is "All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine," and he is currently at work on a biography of Louis Armstrong.
Recently Teachout was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Council on the Arts, which is an advisory board for the National Endowment for the Arts. It meets three times a year in Washington, D.C.
Teachout, who lives in Manhattan, says he makes it home for visits about two or three times a year. Both his mother and brother live in Sikeston.
Even though Teachout is tending to his mother, who is recovering from spinal surgery, he is still working during his visit. On Sunday and today Teachout is writing reviews for the Wall Street Journal and he's also managed to write about his visit for "About Last Night," a daily blog about the arts in New York City and elsewhere and a diary of Teachout's life as a working critic.
"It's funny my readers love those postings from Sikeston," Teachout said. "I always get lots of e-mails, and they love to hear about it."
And since arriving in Sikeston a week ago, Teachout noted he's been eating a lot of barbecue.
"You can't have open-pit barbecue (in the city) so I've been doubling up," Teachout laughed.
Sikeston Depot administrator Delilah Tayloe said the Depot is pulling out all stops for Teachout's visit, which is funded by the Missouri Arts Council.
Tayloe said she expects a large audience and is even dismantling one of the show rooms at the Depot for more space.
"This will give folks an opportunity for some one-on-one (with Teachout)," Tayloe said about Teachout's lecture.
Generally book lectures at the Depot consist of an author speaking for about a half hour to 45 minutes followed by a question and answer period and then a break for refreshments, Tayloe explained.
It's Teachout's groundedness that Tayloe thinks is the touch that makes his writing more real, she said.
"What's interesting about Terry Teachout's writing is the circular pattern I see in his work," Tayloe observed. "He has a national audience yet he has never forgotten his heritage."
And Teachout doesn't intend to forget it now.
"I'm 49," Teachout said. "I don't think I'll change any time soon."
To view some of Teachout's work (and find out about his stay in Sikeston), visit www.terryteachout.com.