To those who listen to “Selected Shorts” on WAMC-FM any given Sunday from 11am-12noon (and rebroadcast from 10-11pm Wednesdays), the voice of narrator and sometime reader Isaiah Sheffer is as instantly identifiable as that of Walter Cronkite, Howard Cosell or Lawrence Olivier. It’s one of those rare voices that you never tire of and always remember fondly.
From the moment that the live “Selected Shorts” reading at the Crandall Library was announced, tickets were snapped up quickly, and Glens Falls was abuzz by the time the Friday night reading rolled around.
The stage was practically bare – just a podium, microphone and, off to the side, a table with a few water bottles. Sheffer stepped out front in a warm, casual manner, offering a monologue filled with self-deprecating humor. Not the Rodney Dangerfield-type, but the kind that only a man who has lived life could tell.
“When the co-creators of another series came up to me 29 years ago with the idea of having actors and writers read short stories to an audience, I – in my infinite wisdom – said, ‘Nah, it would never fly.'” Who knew?
Now more than a quarter century later, “Selected Shorts” has flown not just coast-to-coast and around the world on National Public Radio – but the the moon and back. I bet those guys and gals orbiting the earth in Sky Lab have even tuned in. What else can you do up there on a Sunday morning?
Sheffer stood tall at the podium, shuffling the sheets of the first story to be read, “Heart of a Champion” by T.C. Boyle. He looked up at the audience and with tongue-in-cheek humor stated, “I know you’re all expecting the Roger Kellaway intro to the radio series so I’ll…” He hummed a few bars of the musical theme until the applause drowned it out.
With precision and wit, Sheffer ran through the story – a sardonic and humorous parody of the 1960s classic television series “Lassie.” His brilliant voice and character changes were expertly delivered in a stoic manner.
Up next was stage-film-television character actor Mia Dillon, who read Lorrie Moore’s engrossing, “Which is More Than I Can Say About Some People.” The incredible tale involved an American mother and daughter’s visit the their ancestral homeland – Ireland -complete with a harrowing visit to the Blarney Stone.
Following the intermission was a hilarious element of any live “Selected Shorts” presentation, but one not heard by listeners of the radio broadcasts – Sheffer’s post intermission sing-a-long.
Digging into the American songbook, Sheffer sang a few bars of a classic song and waited for the audience response complete with stanzas and refrains. Let’s just say that after several nuggets like “Bye, Bye Blackbird” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” it became increasingly difficult, until only several audience members were capable of responding. No matter – the laughter revived everyone for the second round.
Keir Dullea took the stage with an impassioned and vibrant reading of Sherman Alexie’s slice-of-life tale “Do You Know Where I Am?” The life-spanning saga of a Native American couple encompassed the classic college meeting, marriage, kids and old age, albeit with a bit of infidelity inbetween. The consequences thereafter made up the meat of the story.
For those too young to remember or recognize the 73-year-old Dullea: he was the star of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Following the readings, the audience and readers were invited to a reception provided by the Davidson Brothers Brew Pub complete with delicious crab cakes and Mexican quesadillas.
All in all, a marvelous time!
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk