Read Me a Story
A delightful cocktail of live actors and great stories mix together for a night of literary fun.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The “Selected Shorts” crew pack up their knickerbockers, leaving their home in New York City for a quick West Coast tour. On Saturday, March 31, they stop in Carmel to perform at the Sunset Center.
The wildly popular Selected Shorts program, distributed nationwide by Public Radio International, features actors reading short stories in front of a live studio audience, which can give each short a life of its own. And with more than 300,000 people regularly tuning in, (the show is also one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes), lively reading is what listeners seek.
“It might not be the way you imagined if you read it by yourself,” show host Isaiah Sheffer says. “By having an actor read, you’re adding another live dimension to it.”
Literary geniuses, both classic and contemporary, who have had their short fiction read on the program include: Anton Chekhov, Haruki Murakami, James Joyce, Amy Hempel, David Sedaris, Audrey Niffenegger and Stephen King.
It is only fitting for A-list actors to represent the fiction of these titans of literature. “Selected Shorts” has enlisted the likes of Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman and Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.
On Saturday, three actors will read one story each for a night themed, “Lots of Laughs.” Emmy nominee Christina Pickles (St. Elsewhere, Friends) reads A.M. Homes’ “Adults Alone,” about two parents, sans their kids, who find themselves free to do whatever they want. Criminal Minds actress Kirsten Vangsness reads Miranda July’s “The Swim Team,” about a girl who gives senior citizens unorthodox swim lessons, without the use of a pool, in her apartment.
“Pickles and Vangsness are two of our funniest readers,” says Katherine Minton, “Selected Shorts” director of literary programs. “They have a terrific sense of humor and are willing to go to town with something, and that’s what these stories require.”
The third story, “Center of the Universe” by Simon Rich, was published in The New Yorker this past January. Sheffer, also co-founder of Symphony Space (the show’s performance and recording house in Manhattan), reads Rich’s story. “It’s about how God created the universe,” he says, “but from a really humorous point of view.”
The Carmel show wouldn’t be complete without Sheffer’s tour tradition, “The Post Intermission Sing Along Quiz,” in which the host involves the audience in some lighthearted singing from the Great American Songbook.
Having been a listener of the podcast for several years, I am familiar with the range and clarity of Sheffer’s voice. When he reads, the story effortlessly plays out in the mind’s eye.
Minton agrees Sheffer’s skill is on par with the talent from Hollywood and Broadway: “Isaiah is certainly one of our best readers.”
“SELECTED SHORTS” performs live at 8pm on Saturday, March 31 at the Sunset Center, San Carlos Street at Ninth Avenue, Carmel-by-the-Sea. $30-$50. www.sunsetcenter.org 620-2048.