On Selected Shorts, actors transport us through the magic of fiction, one short story at a time. Sometimes funny. Always moving. Selected Shorts connects you to the world with a rich diversity of voices from literature, film, theater, and comedy.
Over 35 years ago, Selected Shorts was born on the stage at Symphony Space and quickly became one of the best known shows of its kind spawning a popular public radio show, podcast, audio collections, and national tours. The series was conceived with a simple premise: take great stories by well-known and emerging writers and have them brought to life by terrific actors of stage and screen. Whether featuring stories around a lively theme, the favorite works of a guest author, or a special collaboration, each Selected Shorts event is a unique night of literature in performance.
The radio show is recorded live from performances at the Peter Sharp Theater at Symphony Space in New York, as well as around the US on tours. From the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Selected Shorts is one of the premiere reading series in New York City, attracting some of the biggest names in entertainment.
There is a theme to each Selected Shorts episode and performance. Several stories are presented around each theme. The stories are almost always fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television. Evenings are often co-hosted by writers, literary producers, and other interesting characters.
Recent readers include Ellen Burstyn, Kathleen Turner, Edie Falco, Claire Danes, Michael Shannon, Tony Shalhoub, Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, Jane Curtin, Zachary Quinto, Anika Noni Rose, Bebe Neuwirth, Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Tony Hale, Josh Radnor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, BD Wong, and many more.
Look below for a list of recent Selected Shorts episodes. For more information about the show, click here.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories that ask the big, basic questions: Who? What? Where? The characters resonate, the situations are intriguing, and each offers a fully realized world. In “What Animal Are You?,” by Etgar Keret, performed by Willem Dafoe, a celebrity writer and his son play themselves for the media. In Rumaan Alam’s “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” performed by Nathan Hinton, a man goes into sensory overdrive. And a fierce and traditional grandmother tries to find her place in a new world and a new family in Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish?” performed by Frieda Foh Shen.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about finding solutions to complex problems, and to simple ones. T. C. Boyle tackles evolution and government intervention in “Top of the Food Chain,” read by Zach Grenier. In Matthew Ryan Frankel’s “Carapace,” a young boy struggles with feelings at a family funeral—with the help of some crabs. The reader is Philip Estrera. And a young woman traveling between two worlds and two families has to deal with what to put in “The Suitcase” by Meron Hadero. The reader is Renée Elise Goldsberry. The show also includes an interview with Hadero.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories about indomitable women. A mother grieves a loss fiercely in Carribean Fragoza’s “Lumberjack Mom,” performed by Roberta Colindrez. And Richard Yates’ classic “Fun with a Stranger” offers a portrait of an unforgettable teacher. It’s performed by Marian Seldes.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three works about women who defy the status quo and might therefore be perceived as “dangerous” in this encore presentation. In Margaret Atwood’s “Unpopular Gals,” fairy-tale archetypes reclaim their power. The reader is Ann Harada. A boisterous and brilliant student threatens to upend the order of her high school in Shanteka Sigers’ “A Way with Bea,” performed by Pascale Armand. And a Victorian-era wife fights for her sanity in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic “The Yellow Wallpaper,” performed by Carrie Coon. The show also includes commentary by journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy.
Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about people inserting themselves into the lives of others—in their own best interests.In Simon Rich’s “Relapse” friends rally ‘round when one of their number heeds the call of the muse. It’s read by Ophira Eisenberg. In Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, M’am,” read by Pauletta Washington, a fierce old lady sets a young man straight. And a young woman finds an ingenious way to cheer up retirees—and herself—in Miranda July’s “The Swim Team,” read by Parker Posey.
Jen Spyra has worked in nearly every kind of comedy there is: penning stories for The Onion, writing skits and one-liners as a staff writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, contributing pieces to The New Yorker and McSweeney's, and taking the stage for improv at UCB Theatre in Manhattan. Her story comes from her first short story collection, Big Time. It's performed by Mary Lynn Rajskub. She's someone with so many fun credits it's hard to pick: 24, Mr. Show, Punch Drunk Love and, who could forget, her break-out role as the voice of the Female Radio Caller from The Truth About Cats and Dogs? She read this story at Sketchfest in San Francisco. This episode includes a conversation with host Aparna Nancherla and Jen Spyra.