Review by Elizabeth Ann Foster. Contributor Victoria L. Dammer
New York is alive with theater this spring. After 7 Minutes at the Here theater, we segue into the marvelous Selected Shorts.
Date night. That is what comes to mind whenever I hear the term Selected Shorts at Symphony Space. The founder, Isaiah Sheffer, may not have known he left a legacy of cheap dates. You were lucky to be invited over to hear the broadcast with a person of interest and afterward discuss the theme and the selections. Often authors are so compelling that you buy their books, orchestrate a picnic, and read the stories out loud to one another and fall in love…
Simple pleasures, a simple concept, and still going gangbusters, Selected Shorts has become iconic. The broadcasts began in 1985 and, once available on CDs, are now podcasts. I was lucky enough to see Selected Shorts on the road at Austin and in their original location at Symphony Space when I moved back to NYC. After years of listening to the radio casts, it was heaven to put a face with the readings and finally experience what only live theater can do.
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The ambitious overachiever Isaiah Sheffer once again pulls out a marathon event at his love child Symphony Space. In 1978, Sheffer founded Selected Shorts and was behind the move to transform the adjacent skating rink at the Thalia Theater (on the corner of 95th and Broadway) into what is now Symphony Space. Sheffer’s programming remains true to his vision with Wall to Wall Selected Shorts. His simple premise is to broadcast actors reading short stories.
The first marathon was an entire day of Bach Wall to Wall. The latest, Saturday, March 26, 2022, is Wall to Wall Selected Shorts – 35 new commissions performed for 12 hours straight. The familiar rug, flowers, and the microphone at the podium adorn an otherwise bare stage. The short stories are read without theatrical flourishes, personal and intimate, just like a bedtime story.
The program kicked off with The Scaffolding Man by Jenny Allen, which was such an NYC love story and appropriate since the exiting lover was a writer, and the new love interest was the man outside the window hanging on scaffolding. Clever and tightly written. It makes you wonder what goes on all day at home while you’re away.
The 7-9 pm time slot featured stories by imaginative writers such as Susan Perabo, Patrick Dacey, and Victor LaValle, among others.
Perabo’s The Project was read during the 2 hours. Perabo is the author of several pieces of renowned literature, such as Who I was Supposed to Be, and the novel The Broken Places. She is a professor of Creative Writing at Dickinson College and on the faculty of Queens University. Her work has been featured in The Missouri Review and The Sun.
The Project was read on stage by television, stage, and screen actor Michael Shannon. Shannon’s fans would recognize him from 2008’s film Revolutionary Road and 2016’s film Nocturnal Animals, and he was nominated as best supporting actor for both at the Academy Awards. He’s won 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards, in 2011 and 2012, for Boardwalk Empire, and in 2016 won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Feature Actor in a play for Long Journey Into Night.
It was a pleasure to hear his distinctive voice give life to Perabo’s recently written short. The day ended with a gift selected by a husband.
On the live-streamed day of the event, Wall to Wall can be read in the collection Small Odysseys: Selected Shorts Presents 35 New Stories, edited by Hannah Tinti, with a foreword by Neil Gaiman, and published by Algonquin Books in March of 2022.
Wall to Wall Selected Shorts
With Krystina Alabado, Joan Allen, Raffi Barsoumian, Purva Bedi, Becca Blackwell, Wyatt Cenac, Kathleen Chalfant, Deborah S. Craig, David Cross, Crystal Dickinson, Hugh Dancy, Mia Dillon, Mike Doyle, Santino Fontana, Dion Graham, Zach Grenier, Julie Halston, Michael Hartney, Zainab Jah, Jane Kaczmarek, Vanessa Kai, Patricia Kalember, Kennedy Kanagawa, Stephen Lang, Sonia Manzano, Javier Muñoz, James Naughton, Cynthia Nixon, Kelli O’Hara, Alysia Reiner, Anika Noni Rose, Dawn Akemi Saito, Liev Schreiber, Tony Shalhoub, Michael Shannon, Miriam Shor, Emily Skeggs, Calvin Leon Smith, Sarah Steele, Amber Tamblyn, TL Thompson, Sam Underwood, Rita Wolf, and more.
The authors: Rabih Alameddine, Jenny Allen, Aimee Bender, Marie-Helene Bertino, Jai Chakrabarti, Patrick Cottrell, Elizabeth Crane, Michael Cunningham, Patrick Dacey, Edwidge Danticat, Dave Eggers, Omar El Akkad, Lauren Groff, Jacob Guajardo, A.M. Homes, Mira Jacob, Jac Jemc, Etgar Keret, Lisa Ko, Victor LaValle, J. Robert Lennon, Ben Loory, Carmen Maria Machado, Juan Martinez, Maile Meloy, Joe Meno, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Susan Perabo, Helen Phillips, Namwali Serpell, Rivers Solomon, Elizabeth Strout, Luis Alberto Urrea, Jess Walter, and Weike Wang. The program will also include a bonus story specifically for Wall to Wall Selected Shorts by Simon Rich.
World-premiere commissions inspired by these stories from cartoonist Roz Chast, illustrator Michael Arthur, filmmaker Adam Douglas Thompson, choreographers Larry Keigwin, Heidi Latsky, and Leonardo Sandoval, musicians Lakecia Benjamin, Laura Gibson, Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich, DJ Raydar Ellis.
Symphony Space Executive Director Kathy Landau.
Wall to Wall at Symphony Space 2537 Broadway at 95th Street NY NY 10025-6990 Box Office 212-864-5400 email@example.com There is no admission charge. One day only March 26,2022 11am-11pm.
Wall to Wall Line Up
11 am–1 pm ET
Hosted by Patricia Kalember
Performances by Christine Arand, Hugh Dancy, Heidi Latsky, Javier Muñoz, Sarah Steele, and Rita Wolf
Love blooms atop apartment scaffolding. A father-son duo finds purpose. And a private eye fulfills an unexpected request. Wall to Wall Selected Shorts kicks off with new fiction by Jenny Allen, Mira Jacob, Helen Phillips, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Jess Walter. With a new dance work by choreographer Heidi Latsky and commentary by author and editor Hannah Tinti.
1 pm–3 pm ET
Hosted by Meg Wolitzer
Performances by Krystina Alabado, Joan Allen, Deborah S. Craig, Crystal Dickinson, Laura Gibson, Zach Grenier, Zainab Jah, Kelli O’Hara, Calvin Leon Smith, and Amber Tamblyn
From the languid haze of summer to a possible future of noselessness, the stories in this segment traverse worlds both extraordinary and familiar. Introducing new fiction by Lesley Nneka Arimah, Marie-Helene Bertino, Lauren Groff, Maile Meloy, Joe Meno, and Namwali Serpell, and the premiere of a short film by Adam Douglas Thompson.
3 pm–5 pm ET
Hosted by Jane Kaczmarek
Performances by Raffi Barsoumian, Purva Bedi, Maddie Corman, David Cross, Zina Goldrich, Kennedy Kanagawa, James Naughton, Matt Scharfglass, Miriam Shor, and Emily Skeggs
Teens perform an unconventional act of kindness. An FBI informant cracks a case at the prom. And a unicorn helps a woman. This segment presents stories from Rabih Alameddine, Jai Chakrabarti, Elizabeth Crane, Dave Eggers, and Simon Rich, and a song by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich.
5 pm–7 pm ET
Hosted by Santino Fontana
Performances by Kathleen Chalfant, Michael Hartney, Jane Kaczmarek, Vanessa Kai, Canteen Killa, Stephen Lang, Sonia Manzano, Yunie Mojica, Tony Shalhoub, and TL Thompson
From artificial intelligence to the afterlife captured in song, this touching segment includes captivating stories by Jacob Guajardo, A.M. Homes, Jac Jemc, Lisa Ko, J. Robert Lennon, Juan Martinez, and Rivers Solomon. It features original music by Lakecia Benjamin and DJ Raydar Ellis.
7 pm–9 pm ET
Hosted by Sonia Manzano
Performances by Becca Blackwell, Mia Dillon, Santino Fontana, Dion Graham, Julie Halston, Adriana Ogle, Adam Rothenberg, Dawn Akemi Saito, Michael Shannon, and Sam Underwood
A rose gold iPhone calls the shots, and a cutting-edge touchless bidet gets a musical tribute. This segment features imaginative and insightful stories by Patrick Cottrell, Patrick Dacey, Omar El Akkad, Victor LaValle, Susan Perabo, Elizabeth Strout, and Weike Wang, an original tap piece choreographed by Leonardo Sandoval, and a mashup created by Broadway masters Annette Jolles & Joel Fram.
9 pm–11 pm ET
Hosted by Cynthia Nixon
Performances by Wyatt Cenac, Mike Doyle, Alysia Reiner, Anika Noni Rose, Liev Schreiber, and Keigwin & Company
Persephone party-plans the apocalypse, a husband picks out an out-of-this-world gift for his wife, and an ordinary town plays host to the world’s most perfect dandelion. Our final segment is packed with new fiction from Aimee Bender, Michael Cunningham, Edwidge Danticat, Etgar Keret, Ben Loory, and Carmen Maria Machado. With a short film by illustrator Michael Arthur and an original dance piece from Keigwin & Company.
Saturday, March 26, 11 am – 11 pm
This day-long immersive event is full of surprises and will delight everyone from the dedicated bibliophile to the à la carte arts lover. The entire day is free and open to the public, so make it your own—stay as long (or short) as you’d like, come in person or via live stream, and be part of the celebration!
Wall to Wall Selected Shorts, a monumental celebration of short fiction, March 26 in Symphony Space’s Peter Jay Sharp theater in New York City (2537 Broadway at 95th Street). For this free event, beginning at 11 am and running until 11 pm.
World premiere stories performed at Wall to Wall Selected Shorts were commissioned by Symphony Space. They can be found in the collection Small Odysseys: Selected Shorts Presents 35 New Stories, edited by Hannah Tinti, with a foreword by Neil Gaiman, and published by Algonquin Books in March of 2022.
Wall to Wall Selected Shorts at Symphony Space is made possible by support from the Isaiah Sheffer Fund for New Initiatives.
Symphony Space’s season of programming is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Howard Gilman Foundation, the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in The New York Community Trust, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, the Charina Endowment Fund, the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, the Henry Nias Foundation, the Consolidated Edison Company of New York, the Michael Tuch Foundation, the Vidda Foundation, the Lemberg Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, The Grodzins Fund, The Jim Henson Foundation, and the Sy Syms Foundation.
Symphony Space’s programs are also made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul, the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of the Ensemble for the Romantic Century, Artwork of the Players, Morning after Grace, The 50th George London Competition, and the Orchestra Now at Symphony Space.