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Hamptons Life

Jul 10, 2017 10:50 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Public Radio's 'Selected Shorts' Returns To Stony Brook Southampton

Maulik Pancholy
Jul 11, 2017 2:33 PM

As Maulik Pancholy enters stage right, it feels like any other performance. At first.He arrives at the large microphone, met by an army of blinding lights and a sea of black buzzing with chatter. “Standard,” he recalled thinking.

But when he starts speaking, a hush falls over the room. And even in their silence, though he cannot see them, he can feel them—the sheer magnitude of the audience, packed to capacity, and their hunger for the story he is telling.

It is a story written by a stranger. A story that captures their imagination, or surprises them, or makes them reexamine the world. A story that makes them think. A story that makes them feel.

“Selected Shorts,” recorded live and aired locally on Sundays nights in Manhattan, started right there, at Symphony Space, 30 years ago and has packed out the theater ever since.

The idea behind the radio series was simple: collect great stories by both veteran and burgeoning writers and recruit Broadway and Hollywood actors to bring them to life on stage.

It was an immediate hit.

“The people who come to hear these stories are super, super engaged and really excited,” explained Mr. Pancholy, the “30 Rock” actor who has twice participated in the Symphony Space reading. “And you get that first laugh and it’s really fun, and then there’s a sense of dialogue between the audience and the storyteller. That’s the roots of storytelling: people sitting around a fire and telling stories. Even in this very large space with a lot of people, you feel a very intimate experience. And they always get really interesting people to do it.”

The names joining Pancholy for a “Selected Shorts” performance on Friday night, July 14, at Stony Brook Southampton flabbergasted even him—Blythe Danner, Betty Buckley and Richard Kind, who will be reading stories from “TSR: The Southampton Review,” in honor of the literary journal’s 10th 
anniversary.

“Short stories, there’s a real art to it. I mean, Poe knew about, Hemingway certainly wrote a great short story. The history goes way back,” said Mr. Kind, famously known for his work on “Spin City.” “I think it’s important people can sit through and follow an arc of a story, especially young people, without getting bored, without having to see things blow up, chandeliers fall, where something unfolds in a shorter amount of time but it’s beautifully told. I think that’s important. I think it always is.”

It is the five stories themselves that are the stars of the night, explained Mr. Pancholy, who will host the evening of readings. One he will read with Ms. Danner—“Any Number of Little Old Ladies” by Bruce Jay Friedman—centers on an artist of a certain age facing the realities of his career and marriage. “Folks who hear it may have encountered someone like this man out east,” Mr. Pancholy said.

The second he will perform solo. The short story “Brand Values” by Emily Buckler peeks inside a high-end store and the disturbing goings-on behind closed doors, only piquing the actor’s already heightened interest about the lives of the elite since moving to East Hampton four years ago.

“There’s something about being in the Hamptons that allows for a night like this. It recharges you to come back to the city,” he said. “There is this chance to be in a room with a number of people and listen to stories, and it is a bit of an escape, but I also think a lot of stories illuminate things about our own lives or the world around us, and gives us a chance to reflect on that, a chance to really take in the ideas and process those ideas, just thinking about them while we escape our hectic lives.”

While performing at “Selected Shorts,” Mr. Pancholy said he is usually embodying a character with his own point of view. But if the story is written in third-person, it is only natural for his personal feelings and experiences to inform the reading, he said, and it can be easy to get swept up on stage.

“I’m an actor who went to drama school, so I often feel like the text is at the heart of everything. But I also really do believe that part of the art of storytelling is that the person telling the story resonates with it in a certain way, and that you can give that to an audience,” Mr. Pancholy said. “There’s a physical exchange that happens, literally. My voice vibrates and vibrates someone else’s body and the way I’m communicating vibrates them. I think the experience of whoever’s telling the story greatly impacts the way the story’s received.

“Hopefully, at the end of the night, people will leave having had a really great time, but also being slightly changed by what they heard or giving them pause to reflect on some things,” he continued. “I think people are hungry for a place they can go feel. I think in our daily lives, we often have to suppress feeling, or we just don’t have the time to pause and be emotional beings, and I think there’s something about the theater or a space for storytelling that allows us to experience human emotion and relate to each other.”

“Selected Shorts,” featuring “TSR: The Southampton Review” short stories read by Betty Buckley, Blythe Danner, Richard Kind and Maulik Pancholy, will be held on Friday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Avram Theater on the Stony Brook Southampton campus. Tickets are $30 and $15 for students. For more information, call 631-632-5027, or visit thesouthamptonreview.com and selectedshorts.org.

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