George Saunders has been teaching the nineteenth-century Russian short story for 20 years, and his newest book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, is a master class on some of his favorites. Now he brings his passion to Selected Shorts with a lineup of stories curated from his long history with the greats of Russian literature, including hidden gems not included in the book. With performances by Becca Blackwell (They, Themself and Schmerm), Donna Lynne Champlin (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Peter Jay Fernandez (Luke Cage), Santino Fontana (Tootsie), Zach Grenier (The Good Fight), Ann Harada (Smash), Richard Masur (Younger), Peter Mark Kendall (Strange Angel), and BD Wong (Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens).
Our greatest 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.
The Porcelain Doll by Leo Tolstoy
Translated by Aylmer Maude
Performed by BD Wong
With a reading from the original Russian text by Luba Lapina
In the Basement by Isaac Babel
Translated by Walter Morison
Performed by Richard Masur
After the Theatre by Anton Chekhov
Translated by Constance Garnett
Performed by Donna Lynne Champlin
With a reading from the original Russian text by Anna Dzhanaeva
Bobok by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Translated by Constance Garnett
Performed by Becca Blackwell, Peter Jay Fernandez, Santino Fontana, Zach Grenier, Ann Harada, and Peter Mark Kendall
Purchase A Swim in a Pond in the Rain and more suggestions inspired by tonight's program from our friends at Strand here. Receive 10% off your purchase with code SYMPHONYSPACE.
|This event is available to view with the Symphony Space 20/21 Season Pass.|
To Learn About the Artists
Isaac Babel (1894 - 1940) was a translator and writer of short stories, plays, and nonfiction, considered to be one of the preeminent Russian-Jewish writers of his generation. He is best known for his works Red Cavalry, Story of My Dovecote, and Tales of Odessa, as well as the play Maria. Babel was targeted and executed during the Great Purge under Stalin. Many of his unpublished works have been lost or were destroyed after his arrest, and complete editions of his published works have only been made available in the last decade.
Becca Blackwell is an NYC-based trans actor, performer, and writer. Existing between genders, and preferring the pronoun "they," Blackwell works collaboratively with playwrights and directors to expand our sense of personhood and the body through performance. Some of their collaborations have been with Young Jean Lee, Half Straddle, Jennifer Miller's Circus Amok, Richard Maxwell, Erin Markey, Sharon Hayes, Theater of the Two Headed Calf, and Lisa D'Amour. Their film and television credits include High Maintenance, Ramy, Marriage Story, Shameless, Deadman's Barstool, and Jack in the Box. They have toured their solo shows They, Themself and Schmerm and Schmermie's Choice across the US. Blackwell was a recipient of the Doris Duke Impact Artist Award, the Franklin Furnace award and the Creative Capital Award.
Donna Lynne Champlin, best known as Paula Proctor on the Emmy award-winning Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is an OBIE, Drama Desk, and Gracie Award-winning actress. Additional film and television credits include Feel The Beat; Law & Order; The Blacklist; Submissions Only; The Good Wife; Birdman; Younger; Downsizing; Another Period; and Yes, God, Yes. Champlin has appeared on Broadway in James Joyce’s The Dead, By Jeeves, Hollywood Arms, Sweeney Todd, and Billy Elliot: The Musical, and off-Broadway in My Life with Albertine, First Lady Suite, Flight of the Lawnchair Man, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, As You Like It, Working and The Taming of the Shrew. She currently can be heard on the podcast series In Strange Woods and Disney’s Star Vs the Forces of Evil.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 - 1881) is the author of Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and Demons. Dostoevsky died four months after the publication of The Brothers Karamazov, his longest novel and arguably his magnum opus. Today Dostoevsky’s works are considered not only among the finest in Russian literature but as worldwide classics.
Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904) is regarded as both the greatest Russian storyteller and the father of modern drama. He wrote hundreds of short stories and several plays, including his masterpieces The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. His works in both mediums have proved massively influential to modernist and realist movements in literature, and he is the namesake for the dramatic principle of “Chekhov’s gun.” Trained as a physician, Chekhov’s interest in social welfare led him to write the non-fiction volume Sakhalin Island, detailing conditions at a Russian penal colony, and he was well-known for his philanthropy, often treating the sick for no charge. Chekhov was awarded the Pushkin Prize in 1888 and remains one of the most iconic voices in literature.
Constance Clara Garnett (née Black; 1861 – 1946) was one of the first English translators of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Anton Chekhov, and introduced them on a wide basis to the English-speaking public.
Peter Jay Fernandez has recently been featured in Netflix’s Luke Cage. Additional film and television credits include Superboy, Law & Order, Damages, The Good Wife, House of Cards, Gotham, Elementary, Shades of Blue, Royal Pains, The Irishman, New Amsterdam, and For Life. He has appeared on Broadway in Julius Caesar, Cyrano de Bergerac, Jelly’s Last Jam, The Merchant of Venice , Henry IV, and All The Way, and off-Broadway in numerous productions, including Red Speedo, Father Comes Home From the Wars, Seven Spots on the Sun, Othello, and most recently, Socrates at the Public Theatre. Fernandez has narrated dozens of audiobooks, including John Henry Days, Juneteenth, Known and Strange Things, and numerous thrillers by James Patterson. Fernandez recently reprised his role as W.E.B. Dubois in the New Federal Theatre’s production of Dr. DuBois and Miss Ovington. He currently serves as a Professor of Theatre in the graduate acting program at Columbia University.
Santino Fontana is known for his Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony Award-winning portrayal of Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in the Broadway production of Tootsie, and for voicing the character Prince Hans in Disney’s Academy Award-winning animated feature Frozen. Additionally, he has starred in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; 1776; and Zorba with Encores!; and on Broadway in The Importance of Being Earnest (Clarence Derwent Award); Brighton Beach Memoirs (Drama Desk Award); Act One; Billy Elliot; Cinderella (Tony nomination); and Hello, Dolly! Off Broadway he was seen in Sons of the Prophet (Lortel & Obie Awards). His film, web, and television credits include Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Sisters, Shades of Blue, Mozart in the Jungle, Submissions Only, Off the Menu, Impossible Monsters, and Fosse/Verdon.
Zach Grenier received a Tony nomination for Moisés Kaufman’s 33 Variations for his performance as Ludwig van Beethoven. He’s known on television for portraying David Lee on CBS’s The Good Wife, a role that he is reprising on The Good Fight for CBS All Access, and Mayor Feratti on Ray Donovan. Films include Fight Club, Zodiac, and Ride with the Devil. His favorite stage role is Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, which he played at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. He can currently be seen in the F/X on Hulu series Devs, created by Alex Garland.
Ann Harada originated the role of Christmas Eve and appeared in The Vineyard, Broadway, and London productions of Avenue Q, and spent two years as stepsister Charlotte in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. She has also been seen on Broadway in 9 to 5, the revival of Les Misérbales, Seussical, and M. Butterfly. Her solo concert was featured in Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series in 2014. Harada’s film and television credits include Sisters, Admission, Hope Springs, The Art of Getting By, Feel, The Jim Gaffigan Show, Happiness, Smash, The Big C, Lipstick Jungle, 30 Rock, Blue Bloods, and The Flight Attendant. Upcoming projects include Schmigadoon.
Peter Mark Kendall is an actor and musician based out of New York City. His recent stage credits include Six Degrees of Separation on Broadway, The Rose Tattoo with The Acting Company, Blue Ridge at The Atlantic, The Harvest at Lincoln Center, Mercury Fur with The New Group, Nothing Gold Can Stay with Partial Comfort, Lessons in Survival at the Vineyard Theatre, and more. He can be seen in the films Entangled, Time Out of Mind, Louder Than Bombs, The Ticket, The Rest of Us, Seven Lovers, The Scottish Play, and on television in Strange Angel, Outpost, Girls, The Americans, Chicago Med, The President Is Missing, Eye Candy, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, The Good Fight, Gotham, Law & Order: SVU, The Leftovers, Blue Bloods, and Public Morals. He is a founding member of the theater collective The Commissary, which is currently in residence at The Vineyard Theater. He is in the duo-band Hickory, which recently released their debut album Young. He co-wrote and stars in the film Capsule, which is premiering in the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater. Kendall will appear in the forthcoming film Top Gun: Maverick.
Richard Masur is recognized for a variety of roles over his 45-year career on series including The Hot l Baltimore, One Day at a Time, Rhoda, and more recently, Transparent, Girls, Younger, The Good Wife, Orange Is the New Black, and Mr. Robot. Additional TV miniseries and movie credits include Fallen Angel, Adam, The Burning Bed, It, And The Band Played On, and 61*. He has appeared in more than 60 feature films, including The Thing, Heartburn, Risky Business, My Girl, License to Drive, Tumbledown, Lonely Boys, and Don’t Think Twice. Masur’s stage work includes Lucky Guy, Democracy, and The Changing Room on Broadway, and Sarah, Sarah; The Ruby Sunrise; Dust; Fetch Clay, Make Man; and Relevance off-Broadway. He was recently featured in the films Hudson, Before/During/After, and Another Year Together.
BD Wong received all five major New York theater awards – the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theatre World, and Clarence Derwent – for his Broadway debut in M. Butterfly. Additional theater credits include the Broadway revivals of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Pacific Overtures; and the Off-Broadway productions of The Great Leap, As Thousands Cheer, Shanghai Moon and A Language of Their Own. On screen, Wong has appeared in the films Father of the Bride, Mulan, Seven Years In Tibet, Bird Box, Jurassic Park, two Jurassic World films, and in the television series All-American Girl, Oz, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Awake, Madam Secretary, Gotham, American Horror Story: Apocalypse, Mr. Robot (Emmy and Critics Choice nominations), and most recently, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens. Upcoming projects include Jurassic World: Dominion.
Aylmer Maude (1858 –1938) and his wife, Louise Maude (1855 –1939), were English translators of Leo Tolstoy's works. Aylmer is the author of The Life of Tolstoy, Volumes I & II.
Walter Morison edited and translated The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel, published in 1955.
George Saunders is the author of the short story collections and novellas Fox 8, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia, In Persuasion Nation, Tenth of December, which was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award, and the children’s book The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip with illustrator Lane Smith. His first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, won the Man Booker Prize. His writing has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The New Yorker, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and GQ. He is the recipient of the Folio Prize, the PEN/Malamud Award, the National Magazine Award, a World Fantasy Award, and the Story Prize, as well as fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. In 2013, he was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine. Saunders teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University. His latest work, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, is a curated collection of classic short stories by Russian authors, with essays by Saunders that explore each story, with the aim of exploring the short story form.
Leo Tolstoy (1828 - 1910) is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He was the author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Family Happiness, and other classics of Russian literature.
“The Porcelain Doll” by Leo Tolstoy. Translation by Aylmer Maude.
“In the Basement” by Isaac Babel. Translation by Walter Morison.
“After the Theatre” by Anton Chekhov. Translation by Constance Garnett.
“Bobok” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translation by Constance Garnett.
Selected Shorts is supported by the Dungannon Foundation, sponsor of The Rea Award for the Short Story. Support is also provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation, the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in The New York Community Trust, The Shubert Foundation, the Charina Endowment Fund, The Scherman Foundation, the Henry Nias Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the Lemberg Foundation, and The Grodzins Fund. Selected Shorts is also made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Symphony Space thanks our generous supporters, including our Board of Directors, Producers Circle, and members, who make our programs possible with their annual support.