Your browser is not optimized for viewing this website.

More information »

Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute, Boston

Our Classes

What Makes Sondheim Great Act II (Act I not required)


with Gail Leondar-Wright

Calendar Sep 6, 2022 at 10:30 am, runs for 5 weeks


This course will take place on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM for five weeks (9/6/22 - 10/4/22).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

The late Stephen Sondheim is commonly thought to be the most important musical theater composer and lyricist of the past fifty years, and the single most influential force in bringing the Broadway musical into the modern era. What makes him great?  

In this class, we will unpack some of Sondheim’s innovative musicals: West Side Story, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along, and Pacific Overtures, trying to chip away at the genius behind his work.

Sessions will be lively, with lots of video, visuals and conversation.

Course Leader:

Gail Leondar-Wright, now retired, spends her time studying and teaching about the works of Stephen Sondheim.  She facilitates the online national “Sondheim Study Group,” and gives periodic webinars comparing the works of Sondheim to those of other composers and lyricists.  She has taught about Sondheim at OLLI programs at UMass Boston and Tufts as well as at Lasell Village.  She has conducted two brown bag presentations and taught Act I of this course for the Rainbow Lifetime Learning Institute.  Gail has a Masters in Performance Studies from NYU and a BA in Drama from UC Berkeley.

Will run

Re-Visions: Film into Film, Novel into Film


with Linda Dittmar

Calendar Sep 7, 2022 at 10:30 am, runs for 11 weeks


This course will take place on Wednesdays at 10:30 AM for ten weeks (9/7/22 - 11/16/22) no class on 10/5/22.  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

This course explores the literary and cinematic rendition of stories about the yearnings and constraints that infused (pre-Stonewall) and continue to affect gay and lesbian lives as they were imagined and re-imagined by their story tellers and by us, their audience, today. Inevitably, such feelings occur within the socially constructed and historically defined contexts of gender, race, and social class norms, at once forbidden, questioned, and resisted. As paired adaptations from one work to the next, our novels and films will invite comparative discussion of ways the norms, expectations, and fluidities of the GLBTQ experience were depicted, including their self-defined “male” and “female” positions.

Works covered are: “A Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (introductory film); “All that Heaven Allows” and "Far From Heaven” (films); “Maurice” (novel and film); “Passing" (novel and film); and “Brokeback Mountain” (novel and film).The novels and films will be read/viewed at home ahead of the discussion. Each novel will be discussed in two sections. Films should be screened (at home, on your own) as close to the discussion as possible, and only AFTER we finish discussing the companion literary work it adapts. (For example: screen “Maurice” only AFTER we finish discussing the book.) This requirement is to keep the film fresh and the two works as distinct in our minds as possible. Since we’ll pay close attention to ways each story is told (cinematically and/or verbally) in-class discussion, it will be helpful to keep viewing/reading notes or journal at home ahead of time. Study questions will also be provided.


E.M.Forster, Maurice (1913)

Nella Larsen, Passing (1921)

Annie Proux’s “Brokeback Mountain” (the New Yorker 1997/8

Close Range: Wyoming Stories 1999)


A Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Celine Schiamma 2019)

All that Heaven Allows (Doublas Sirk 1955)

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes 2002)

Maurice (Ismail Merchant & James Ivory 1987)

Passing (Rebecca Hall, 2021)

Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

Course Leader:

Linda Dittmar is Professor Emerita at the University of Massachusetts—Boston, where she taught 20th and 21st century literature and film studies for 40 years, including GLBTQ courses and academic publishing in both media. Winner of the Chancellor’s Teaching Prize and a Stanford Ph.D., she also taught in Paris and Tel Aviv and was two-times winner of a Fulbright grant to India. Several chapters from her memoir, “Tracing Homelands; Israel, Palestine, and the Claims of Belonging,” are in print. Most recently, she won a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Full Course

Write on Zoom: A Prose Writing Workshop


with Sue Katz

Calendar Sep 7, 2022 at 1 pm, runs for 11 weeks


This course will take place on Wednesdays at 1:00 PM for ten weeks (9/7/22 - 11/16/22) no class on 10/5/22.  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

We will be a small group of prose writers who want to take our work to the next level. We’ll use a variety of approaches to writing and feedback, starting with a short warm-up exercise. Then we’ll devote a longer chunk of time to focusing on a piece of writing. For this you can either select (as many as you choose) from the three varied prompts I will provide or you can concentrate on an ongoing piece of writing (book/essay/story/etc) that you have been working on outside or inside class. Finally, the participants will both volunteer to read what they have written and will offer feedback.

Course Leader:

Sue Katz’s business card identifies her as a “wordsmith and rebel.” Her books, short stories, and journalism have been published on the three continents where she has lived and worked, first as a martial arts master, then promoting transnational volunteering, and before the pandemic, teaching fitness and dance to elders. She has taught a plethora of varied writing courses. Her books include Lillian’s Last Affair (six short stories about the love lives of older people), Lillian in Love (novel about a romance between two old women in senior housing), and A Raisin in My Cleavage: short and shorter stories (LGBTQ and aging). 

Full Course

A Global History of Slavery & Abolition


with Lori Kenschaft

Calendar Oct 18, 2022 at 10:30 am, runs for 5 weeks


This course will take place on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM for five weeks (10/18/22 - 11/15/22).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

Americans have begun to reckon with how slavery has shaped our country, but most Americans know little about the larger global history of slavery and abolition. Slavery has existed on at least five continents for thousands of years, and fewer than four percent of the African people who were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean ended up in what would become the United States. If we want to understand the world we live in, we need a more global perspective on slavery and abolition.

Although vast numbers of books about slavery and abolition have been published, none offer an overview that is accessible to general readers. This course will therefore primarily consist of lectures by the instructor, followed by time for discussion and Q&A.

Class 1:  Intro: The Origins of Slaverly and the Importance of Gender
Class 2: Slavery, Power, and Empire
Class 3: Why Africans?
Class 4: Four Roots of the Abolitionist Movement
Class 5: Conclusion: A World Shaped by Both Slavery and Abolitionism

Recommended TED Talk:
Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story"

Course Leader:

Lori has a doctorate in American history and a masters in theological studies, and since 9/11, she has been trying to understand the world from a more global perspective.  For four years, she has been intermittently reading, thinking, speaking, and writing about the global history of slavery and abolition.  She is currently working on a book manuscript.  Lori would like to share some of what she has learned with Rainbow participants.  She has offered six previous Rainbow courses: two about Muslim history and spirituality, one about gender, and three about understandings of justice and morality.  All of these themes will be reflected in this course.

Will run

Forgot password?
Staff Log In