Spellbinding short stories by established and emerging writers take on a new life when they are performed by stars of the stage and screen.
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents works celebrating dance. A domineering mother uses an evening at the ballet to find fault in "My Mother Explains the Ballet to Me,” by Jesse Eisenberg, performed by Patricia Kalember. A pioneering African-American dancer remembers an audition in “Léonide Massine,” by Janet Collins, performed by Carmen de Lavallade. A magical garment transforms its owner in “The Cape,” by Ben Loory, performed by Tony Yazbeck. And the “Tango” undermines a stuffy WASP community in this funny story by Kurt Vonnegut, performed by Tony Shalhoub.
Guest host Kate Burton presents four works reflecting on the experience of war. Lieutenant Colonel Chris Cohoes emailed his young sons while serving in Afghanistan. Matthew Modine reads one of his notes. A black soldier fights for independence during the Revolutionary War. Ruben Santiago-Hudson reads “A Soldier for the Crown” by Charles Johnson. In Robert Olen Butler’s “Mother in the Trenches,” a woman makes her way to France to be with her son. And Moacyr Scliar imagines war as just another day job in “Peace and War” read by Michael Cristofer.
Guest host David Sedaris two stories about learning from your mistakes. Isaiah Sheffer reads Tobias Wolff’s “Mortals,” in which a botched obit leads to a life lesson. In Edwidge Danticat’s “Reading Lessons,” read by Marsha Stephanie Blake, it is the teacher who is taught.
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents a program celebrating the great American humorist in some of the many genres in which he was drop-dead funny. Thurber confesses that he’s all thumbs in “I Break Everything I Touch,” performed by Keith Olbermann. Who knew that The Bard wrote whodunnits? Find out who in “The Macbeth Murder Mystery,” performed by Michael McKean and Susannah Rogers. Kristen Nielsen, Susannah Rogers, and Keith Olbermann perform a selection of Thurber’s fables, and McKean reads “Many Moons,” Thurber’s charming fairy tale about a princess who wants the moon.
Guest host Kate Burton presents three works about the roles of women. Margaret Atwood twists the tail of the fairy tale in "There Was Once," read by Jane Kaczmarek, Rene Auberjonois, and Zach Grenier. An actress is offered an unsympathetic part in "A Leading Role," by Tove Jansson, also read by Jane Kaczmarek. In Smith Henderson's "Treasure State," a young girl hitches a ride with runaway brothers. The reader is Michael Shannon.
Guest host Sonia Manzano presents works by the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. Carolina Ravassa reads "Remnants of Carnival," in which a little girl is briefly transformed. Denis O'Hare tells an eerie tale of a strange marriage in "The Obedient Ones," and Lynn Cohen is a scary matriarch in "Happy Birthday."
Guest host Denis O’Hare helps us celebrate the landmark event that helped give birth to the modern movement for LGBTQIA+ rights in America. On this special program, we first hear eyewitness accounts of the riots drawn from The Stonewall Reader, published by Penguin Classics and edited by The New York Public Library. Memoirs by Jayne County, Mark Segal, Lucian Truscott IV, and Holly Woodlawn are read by Ivory Aquino, Kate Bornstein, Michael Early, and Beth Malone. Next, we hear about the origins of the Gay Pride March one year after the riots when Ivory Aquino and Kate Bornstein perform Perry Brass’s “We Did It.” And to show how things have changed in 50 years, comments from Tobin Low and Kathy Tu, hosts of the Nancy podcast from WNYC Studios; fierce and touching poems by trans artist Kay Ulanday Barrett, “Right to Release,” and “Song for the Kicked Out,” read by Barrett, and a short story by Gary Eldon Peter in which a gay man at a straight wedding imagines a possible wedding of his own. His “Wedding” is performed by John Benjamin Hickey.
Guest host Maulik Pancholy presents two stories about families. In Heather Monley’s “Paddle to Canada,” a risky family boating trip becomes contested history. Jenna Ushkowitz is the reader. And Jamel Brinkley’s “A Family” shows people coming together in unexpected ways after a loss. Brandon J. Dirden performs this Best American Short Stories selection.
Guest host David Sedaris presents two ruefully funny stories. Dorothy
Parker skewers a boozy, possessive mother in "I Live on Your Visits," read
by Celeste Holm. Then, a country wedding becomes a comedy of errors in
Arthur Bradford's "Snakebite," read by John Benjamin Hickey.