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Your mother always told you not to talk with your mouth full, but she didn’t say anything about listening. You can listen with your mouth full to celebrity readers this weekend for two matinees and a Saturday night program at the Getty when it presents Selected Shorts: Drama at Dinner.
Actors Robert Sean Leonard, Jane Kaczmarek, Michael Imperioli, Christopher Lloyd, Joshua Malina, Christina Pickles, Catherine O’Hara and Amber Tamblyn will gather to read short stories about the preparation, consumption and metaphorical implications of the stuff that keeps us running – food. A meal follows each program with inclusive tickets costing $35.
Produced by New York’s Symphony Space, Selected Shorts is an annual celebration of short fiction that takes place at the Getty Center and airs locally on NPR. It has covered such topics as Objects of Desire, Passions and Pursuits and Unforgettable Journeys, but this year’s topic features a soupcon of works by Nora Ephron, Lewis Carroll, Henry Miller and Roald Dahl.
At Saturday night’s show, Lloyd will read from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Pickles will read from Madame Bovary, while Leonard (House M.D.) will read, Feathers, Raymond Carver’s tale about a couple that is invited to the country home of a work acquaintance for dinner and later make a decision they regret for the rest of their lives. The post-performance dish? A wild-mushroom tart paired with a 2012 Canyon Road Pinot Noir.
Saturday afternoon’s show features Tamblyn reading The Occasional Pignoli Tart and Imperioli (The Sopranos) reading The Year of Spaghetti by Haruki Murakami about a loner who turns his back on human contact only to focus on preparing and consuming spaghetti. Served up afterward is, what else, spaghetti with shrimp, cucumber, edamame and carrots, paired with a 2012 Morro Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
“They assigned me this maybe because I’m Italian? I don’t know,” Imperioli laughs about Marukami’s decidedly un-Italian short. “There’s something about relaxing in front of an audience and being able to kind of breathe and be alive and be a present human being. And being an actor lends itself to that.”
Both Imperioli and Leonard describe themselves as big readers, but while one prefers the ink and paper kind, the other prefers a seat by the fire with his kindle.
“I still enjoy a book in my hand as well,” jokes Leonard. “It’s not an alien experience to read a book. It’s pretty similar. It’s still you getting lost in the words that someone has written.”
Imperioli has done numerous readings for the Selected Shorts series over the years, in addition to public readings of his friend Paul Auster’s novel Oracle Night. Not surprisingly, he finds his acting training has left him well prepared for it.
But Leonard disagrees. He had his doubts about public reading since the first time he did it twenty years ago. It’s not acting and unlike a play, the text was not written to be read aloud.
“I think some short stories work better than others,” he says. “It’s the same thing in theater, when it’s bad, there’s nothing worse. When it works, and when the room is as lush and beautiful as the Getty and the sound has that rich, reverberating peaceful quality, once you’re there and the lights dim and someone begins telling you a story, you can close your eyes and let him take you somewhere. I think it’s a really beautiful way to spend the day.”
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