Virtual Theater: WORD FOR WORDCAST (Word for Word’s Second Podcast Season)

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by Tony Frankel on July 12, 2021

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area,Virtual

NOW THIS IS HOW YOU TELL A STORY

Over the last 28 years, San Francisco’s Word for Word theater company has performed short stories of over 100 writers, ranging from Alice Munro to Amy Tan, Tobias Wolff, and James Baldwin. Word for Word believes in the power of the short story to provide solace, compassion, and insight into our daily lives. (See Stage and Cinema‘s review of In Friendship.) A program of Z Space, Word for Word brings works of literature to the stage and now in an audio drama podcast, all performed verbatim by the multiple characters of the story. Word for Word’s mission is to tell great stories with active theatricality, staging performances of classic and contemporary fiction. Instead of adapting a script, we use every word of a text in a dynamic, evocative style that preserves the original beauty of the prose.

This season’s short stories begin with “The Appropriation of Cultures” by Percival Everett. This is followed by 2 episodes of Anna Maria Ortese’s “A Pair of Eyeglasses”. In the fall, “Home” by George Saunders, and Toni Cade Bambara’s  “Raymond’s Run” and “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird”. The series features a sound design for the stories that creates a dynamic auditory experience highlighting their powerful psychological imagery. Podcasts can be found at Z Space.

Word For Wordcast
July-November 2021 Season

Written in 1996 by Percival Everett, “The Appropriation of Cultures” is directed by Rami Margron, with music composed by Marcus Shelby and sound design by Elton Bradman. The cast is Cassidy Brown, Artis Fountaine, Gwen Loeb, Safiya Fredericks and David Everett Moore. A young musician plays with other jazz men in a bar, and is heckled to “play Dixie”, to which he responds with a heartfelt rendition. This leads him to appropriate the confederate flag as a Black-power symbol. “Don’t take it down, just take it,” he declares. This is a wickedly subversive story, about symbols and their meaning. “The Appropriation of Cultures” was published in Everett’s 2004 story collection, Damned If I Do, by Graywolf Press.

Percival Everett (b. 1956) is Distinguished Professor of English at USC and the author of nearly thirty books, including Erasure and I Am Not Sidney Poitier. He is recipient of many awards, among them the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Dos Passos Prize, the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His most recent novel, Telephone, was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

Marcus Shelby (Composer) is a composer, bassist, bandleader, and educator who currently lives in San Francisco, California. His work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives social movements and music education.

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“A Pair of Eyeglasses” by Anna Maria Ortese will be posted in two episodes on August 26 and September 2. Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee, “A Pair of Eyeglasses” is directed by Rotimi Agbabiaka, sound design by Elton Bradman, with a cast that features actors Sheila Balter, Catherine Castellanos, Paul Finocchiaro, Lisa Hori-Garcia, Amy Kossow, Brian Rivera and Patricia Silver.

Young Eugenia, born with severe myopia, is promised an expensive pair of eyeglasses. She imagines the shimmering beauty she will see, but with her newfound eyesight becomes aware of class distinction in her poor neighborhood in Naples. Filled with a rich Neapolitan street life and vibrant community, “A Pair of Eyeglasses” is considered a classic of 20th century Italian literature.

Anna Maria Ortese (Author) was an Italian author of novels, short stories, poetry, and travel writing. Born in Rome, she grew up between southern Italy and Tripoli, with her formal education ending at age thirteen.  Ortese’s stories, novels, and journalism received many of the most distinguished Italian literary awards, including the Strega and the Fiuggi. She lived for many years in Naples following the Second World War, where “A Pair of Eyeglasses” is set. Neapolitan Chronicles, which contains “A Pair of Eyeglasses” is considered a classic of 20th century Italian literature.

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“Home” by George Saunders was first published in The New Yorker June 13 & 20, 2011. A vet returns from war only to discover family trouble at home.  Of “Home”, George Saunders says, “If you send four hundred thousand people into a shitstorm, don’t expect everybody to come back smelling like roses. Some of them are going to come back damaged. To show ourselves to be an honorable culture, we have to step up and deal with them with all the generosity and love we can summon, or shame on us.”

George Saunders (author) George Saunders studied under Tobias Wolff in the graduate program in creative writing at Syracuse University.  His work includes the short-story collections CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award), Persuasion Nation (a finalist for the Story Prize), and Tenth of December (a finalist for the National Book Award and recipient of the Folio Prize). Named by The New Yorker one of the best American writers under the age of forty in 1999, Saunders has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

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Both “Raymond’s Run” and “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird” are two stories from Toni Cade Bambara’s celebrated collection, Gorilla, My Love. A neighborhood track meet and unexpected visitors to a family farm provide upbeat looks at girlhood and community bonds. “Raymond’s Run” is a commentary on how girls are encouraged to compete: but our heroine “Squeaky” transforms a community track meet to a growing awareness of her brother and his disabilities, which prevent him not at all from the joys of running. She sees a path to positive community energy and cooperation for all. “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird” shows another young girl, and her family’s steady, spirited response when filmmakers unabashedly show up to film the family farm for a food stamp program. With her spirited young narrators, Bambara skewers pretension and presumption.

Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995) (Author) was a writer, documentary filmmaker, teacher, social activist, and feminist. Born and raised in New York as Miltona Mirkin Cade, she changed her first name as a child to Toni, and later added the West African Bambara as her last, to honor her origins. She was active in the Black Arts Movement, and her work was influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist Movements of the 1960’s. Her books include short story collections The Salt Eaters; The Lesson; War of the Walls, 1970 My Love, The Sea and Birds Are Still Alive: Collected Stories. Her novel, Those Bones Are Not My Child, about the discovery and murder of 40 Black children in Atlanta, was published posthumously.

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Word For Wordcast’s 2nd Podcast Season
Word for Word
2021 Season Of Short Stories
July 22, 2021: “The Appropriation of Cultures” by Percival Everett
August 26 & September 2, 2021: Anna Maria Ortese’s “A Pair of Eyeglasses”
October 7, 2021:  “Home” by George Saunders
November 4, 2021: Toni Cade Bambara’s “Raymond’s Run” & “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird”
all podcasts post at 5pm on launch dates; available online for one year in most cases
Word for Word
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