Review by Elizabeth Foster
Date night. That is what comes to mind whenever I hear the term Selected Shorts. 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. Here’s a clip.
The ambitious overachiever Isaiah Sheffer once again pulls out another 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 exited 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 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.
The full season lineup can be found at Opening Night.Online.
Symphony Space Executive Director Kathy Landau.
Find event tickets here.
Wall to Wall at Symphony Space 2537 Broadway at 95th Street NY NY 10025-6990 Box Office 212-864-5400 firstname.lastname@example.org There is no admission charge. One day only March 26,2022 11am-11pm.