Listen Here

Listen Here, Fall 2010 Season

The Arts Council of Greater New Haven, New Haven Review, and New Haven Theater Company are pleased to announce the return of Listen Here, the weekly short story reading series in which actors from the New Haven Theater Collective read short stories chosen by New Haven Review editors. The Fall 2010 season of Listen Here will take place on Thursday evenings, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., with reading occurring on a rotating basis at Book Trade Café (1140 Chapel Street), Lulu: A European Coffee House (49 Cottage Street), and Manjares Fine Pastries (838 Whalley Avenue, on the corner of West Rock Avenue). September 23: Hardly Boiled at Book Trader Café, 1140 Chapel Street, off York St. Woody Allen's "The Whore of Mensa," read by Steve Scarpa Ethan Coen's "The Russian," read by Jeremy Funke

September 30: Short Shorts at Lulu, A European Coffeehouse, 49 Cottage Street, off Orange St. Yukio Mishima's "Swaddling Clothes" Katherine Anne Porter's "Magic," read by Shola Cole Leo Tolstoy's "Alyosha the Pot," read by Bennett Lovett-Graff William Carlos Williams' "The Use of Force," read by George Kulp

October 7: Homesick at Manjares Fine Pastries, 838 Whalley Avenue, on West Rock Ave! Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home," read by Peter Chenot Betsy Boyd's "Scarecrow," read by Hilary Brown October 14: Crossroads at Book Trader Café, 1140 Chapel Street, off York St. J.D. Salinger's "For Esme - With Love and Squalor," read by Steve Scarpa

October 21: Fathers, Sons, Mothers, Daughters at Lulu, A European Coffeehouse, 49 Cottage Street, off Orange St. Steve Stern's "The Tale of a Kite," TBD Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing," read by Shola Cole

October 28: Halloween Special at Manjares Fine Pastries, 838 Whalley Avenue, on West Rock Ave! Joyce Carol Oates' "Where is Here?," read by Jeremy Funke Charles Lambert's "The Scent of Cinnamon," read by Erich Greene

November 4: Hello, Goodbye at Book Trader Café, 1140 Chapel Street, off York St. James Joyce's "Eveline," TBD David Schickler's "The Smoker," read by Steve Scarpa

November 11: Strangers in a Strange Land at Lulu, A European Coffeehouse, 49 Cottage Street, off Orange St. Anton Chekhov's "The Bet," read by Ian Alderman Naomi Williams' "Rickshaw Runner," TBD

November 18: Food & Drink at Manjares Fine Pastries, 838 Whalley Avenue, on West Rock Ave! Beena Kamlani's " Zanzibar," TBD Paul Beckman's "Another One of His Punishments," TBD November 25 Thanksgiving — no readings

December 2: Mere Children at Book Trader Café, 1140 Chapel Street, off York St. Sarah Orne Jewett's "A White Heron," read by Shola Cole Amy Hempel's "The Most Girl Part of You," read by Hilary Brown December 9: Close Calls at Lulu, A European Coffeehouse, 49 Cottage Street, off Orange St. Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers," read by Steve Scarpa Roald Dahl's "Man from the South," read by Jeremy Funke

December 16: Tall Tales at Manjares Fine Pastries, 838 Whalley Avenue, on West Rock Ave! Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," read by Peter Chenot Stephen Vincent Benét's "The Devil and Daniel Webster," read by George Kulp

Listen Here Thanks You!

We at the New Haven Review wanted to thank all of those who participated in the spring 2010 season of Listen Here! Among those to whom we are grateful:

The staff of the New Haven Review and its trustees: You helped pick the stories, you attended the readings, you cheered the series along. Thank you!

The staff of the New Haven Theater Company: T. Paul Lowry, director of the New Haven Theater Company, and Brooks Appelbaum, who cast and directed this series, you have been indefatigable in your efforts and support for this project. Thank you!

The Arts Council of Greater New Haven: Director of Communications, David Brensilver, and his colleagues at the Arts Council, you have been with us from the beginning, lending moral and marketing support to this project. Thank you!

Our Actors: There are too many to thank by name, but, we'll give it the college try: T.Paul and Brooks, Eric Nyquist, Jeremy Funke, Hilary Brown, Sharen McKay, Ian Alderman, Rachel Alderman, Steve Scarpa, George Kulp, Rebecka Jones and others, you stepped up to the plate to read on our behalf. Thank you!

Our Coffee House sponsors: Owners and staff of Koffee, Blue State Coffee, Manjares Fine Pastries, Willoughby's, Lulu, and Bru, you have been great hosts to this event. We raise a cup…of coffee…to you. Thank you!

Our Audience: Without you, there would be no Listen Here! We do this because all of the participating organizations believe in the value of performance, of literature, of community. We are grateful to have had you as our guests. We hope you'll continue to attend. Thank you!

For the next season, fall 2010, we continue to experiment with the idea of the "public reading." You can look forward to our exploring readings paired with musical interludes or background effects; ensemble readings of a single story; side-by-side readings in English and a foreign language; readings against slide show or video backgrounds; and whatever else our brains can cook up for the next season!





Listen Here This Week: Bobbie Ann Mason and Bernard Malamud

The Listen Here! Short Story Reading Series rolls into its 3rd week with readings at Bru Cafe, 141 Orange, Street, this Tuesday, March 23, at 7 p.m. Our theme? “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”

Our stories? Bobbie Ann Mason's "Shiloh" and Bernard Malamud's "The Jewbird"

Why these?

Two great writers, masters, in particular, of the short story: what could go wrong?

For those who don't know Bobbie Ann Mason...shame on you!  One of America's best short story writers, she offers in "Shiloh" a quietly moving meditation on what breaking up is really like: that onerous sense that not all is right in the world, often sneaking up on us before we know it.  Two lovers look at one another and, lo and behold, they're strangers.  And then there's the story title.  Wikipedia describes the Civil War battle at Shiloh as follows: "The Confederates achieved considerable success on the first day but were ultimately defeated on the second day."  If that's not a good description of breaking up, then I don't know what is.

Malamud's "The Jewbird" was one of my favorite stories as a kid and remains so to this day.  It's Malamud at his magic realist best, taking the "Jewish problem" and realizing its substance in a way that few works of "straight" fiction do. In many ways, it reminds one of the trickster tales of Native American legend, of coyote who knows things all too well, and yet all of this with a distinctly Jewish twist, featuring equal parts cynicism leavened by wisdom and  hope threatened byour failure to understand, really understand.

Listen Here! This Week: Raymond Carver and F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Listen Here! Short Story Reading Series gets off the ground this week with its first readings at Willoughby's Coffee & Tea at 194 York Street, at 7 p.m. Our theme? "What Did She See in Him?"

Our stories? Raymond Carver's "Fat" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Jelly-Bean"

Why these? "Why not" would be too glib an answer. First and foremost, they're really good.

Second, did I mention that they're good?

"Fat" is one of Raymond Carver's finest tales. In the tradition of Carson McCullers' Ballad of the Sad Cafe, it takes what would otherwise be a classic sideshow freak and turns one customer's gastronomic compulsion into a story of salvation for the waitress who must serve that compulsion. It's a tale marked by the quiet bittersweetness and powerful subtextual currents that typify all of Carver's stories.

Fitzgerald's "The Jelly-Bean" was published in the October 1920 issue of Metropolitan Magazine and was later collected in Six Tales of the Jazz Age. This classic short story wonderful captures a generation's embrace of the imminent freedoms promised by the Roaring Twenties, but not without pain and wasted possibility. Sympathy and pathos mix liberally in a story about a time when both were so deeply needed after the terribleness of the Great War.

How to Read a Short Story

So how does one read a short story? If you're thinking of girding yourself for battle by arming yourself with some high-falutin’ literary theory or delving into an author bio lifted from Wikipedia, stop right there. Let me rephrase: How do you read a short story … out loud?

This is a very different question, and it’s one I’ve been asking myself as a result of New Haven Review's collaboration with the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and the New Haven Theater Company. Having wrapped up the first fall season of Listen Here!, the weekly reading series of short stories at coffee houses throughout New Haven, I now find this question ever more pressing as we prepare for our spring 2010 season, and I find myself having to select some 30 stories over the month of January.

Reading aloud with adult audiences in mind is a unique experience, one that raises questions about the readers’ capabilities, audiences’ likely reception, and the internal voice — or rather voices — that suffuse all great short stories. Like those of most parents, my experiences reading aloud stem from feeble attempts at sonority in trying to send children to lullaby land. Not infrequently, it was I who led the way, with my son eventually pushing me out of bed, claiming that not only was I nodding off in the middle of the story but I was also babbling. For my son and daughter, I commonly assumed dramatic airs when I read, doing my best Rich Little as I took on the challenge of voicing characters: Harry Potter was inevitably read with an upper-crust British tinge; Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring spoke with an Irish lilt; Aslan of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe declaimed in a stentorian bass while Edmund spoke in a whine that grew less nasal as he matured. But my audience then was not especially demanding, which thankfully kept the bar low.

The short stories that I plowed through for Listen Here's fall 2009 season, however, did not lend itself to such easy passes. Instead they raised pesky issues of tone and timing, accent and accuracy--issues I had successfully elided while reading to my kids. In essence, I found myself asking questions that, I suspect, actors and directors consider when a story passes from that silent space in our skulls through the vocal cords in our throat into the sound-resonating air we exhale.

Normally I read in silence — as do we all. But for Listen Here! there was no way around testing stories aloud. This meant doing my best trying to capture the internal voice of the tale. For James Joyce’s “Araby,” a plaintive tale of boyhood love and gallantry gone awry, should the reader assume a middle-class Irish brogue to recreate the post-pubescent protagonist’s sensibility of the narrator's story-telling persona? Or would a plain-Jane Americanized reading do just as well? I’ll admit that when I read it aloud, I went all in for the brogue, despite my lousy Irish.

Or consider an even more complicated example, John Updike’s “A&P,” one of my favorite stories of gender and class, inevitably at odds. When I first read the story aloud in the privacy of my living room, the adopted voice was flatly American (notwithstanding the bit of Brooklyn that occasionally peeked through). This is the voice I typically take on as the starting point for any story I sound out. But by the third page my mistake had become all too obvious: “It’s not as if we’re on the Cape: we’re north of Boston and there’s people in this town haven’t seen the ocean for the twenty years.”

Aha, a signal! So what we require here is a Boston accent. Moreover, the narrator is a local, handling the cash register, in dramatic contrast to the high-class, bathing-suited "Queenie," who strolls the local A&P to pick up herring snacks. So not only Boston, but working class Boston. Since "A & P" is first person narration, this all seems straightforward enough. Just a quick study of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, and we're off and away.

But then I noticed something else--an entirely reasonable mistake on my part. Updike’s narrator may be uncouth enough to give us the ungrammatical “there’s people in this town,” but he doesn’t deliver any sort of Huckleberry Finn-like “… we’re nahth of Bahston” in the actual writing. For that, the reader will have to deliver all of the local color that orthography has politely refused. So my tone changed: now I was a Bahston cashier, leering at these smaht-looking girls. That was, until I ran into the story’s spoil-sport store manager, Lengel, who notices the under-dressed girls sauntering up to our narrator’s cash register to pay for those herring snacks. “Girls, this isn’t the beach,” he says — according to our narrator, of course — to which Queenie replies: “My mother asked me to pick up a jar of herring snacks.”

Problem alert! Queenie’s dialog is relayed by our narrator, so what is a publicly performing reader to do? Does the narrator (and thus reader) imitate the authoritative baritone — or should it be a high-pitched nag — of his boss? Does Queenie’s round contralto — or should we make that a surprised soprano — shed the narrator’s Bahston-y flavoring? All good questions as I stumbled around and settled on gently raising my timbre for the supermarket lovely while turning “jar” into “jah” to keep the narrator’s voice in the forefront, so my audience does not forget that it’s still his imitation of her.

Sound complicated? It is, and don’t even get me started on translations or mind-bending humor pieces, like Woody Allen’s “The Kugelmass Episode,” in which a City College professor with lotsa New Yawk in his attitude (but not in his orthography) is magically transported into Flaubert’s Madame Bovary so he can start an affair with the beautiful Mrs. Bovary.

Emma turned in surprise. “Goodness, you startled me,” she said. “Who are you?” She spoke in the same fine English translation as the paperback. It’s simply devastating, he thought.

Devastating, indeed, to which I say, God bless the actors, one and all, who can make heads or tails of these challenges.