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Selected Shorts


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. New episodes every Thursday, from Symphony Space.


New York, NY





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. New episodes every Thursday, from Symphony Space.




Selected Shorts c/o Symphony Space 2537 Broadway New York, NY 10025-6990 212-864-5400


Who, What, Where?

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.


A Simple Solution

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.


Ferocious Figureheads

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.


Dangerous Women

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.


Too Hot for Radio: Jen Spyra "The Secret Meeting of the Women's Club"

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.



Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories about close—but complex—ties of family and friendship. Jamaica Kincaid offers up a lyrical, dreamlike account of the mother/daughter bond in “My Mother,” performed by Laurine Towler. In Laura van den Berg’s “Lessons” a quartet of youthful bank robbers faces hard questions about love and loyalty. The story is read by Emily Skeggs.


Just the Thing

​​Host Meg Wolitzer presents stories about characters coping with problems, large and small—and then encountering someone or something with a solution. In “Shoulder-Top Secretary,” by Shinichi Hoshi, a door-to-door salesman unveils the must-have technology of the future. It's read by Thom Sesma. In “It Had Wings,” by Allan Gurganus, performed by Marian Seldes, a celestial being offers up a possible remedy for the aches and pains of life. And our final story, “The Toynbee Convector,” is a Ray Bradbury classic in which a time machine delivers a hero to our tumultuous present. It’s read by Mike Doyle. Doyle provides backstage commentary about his process.


It's About Time

Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories about the nature of time and how it shapes our lives. In Helen Phillips’ “The Knowers,” a woman chooses to learn a vital fact about her future, while her husband does not. Stockard Channing reads this thought-provoking fantasy. In Anita Felicelli’s “Time Invents Us” a chance encounter turns the clock back for an aging artist. It’s read by Kirsten Vangsness.


Antagonists Wanted

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories featuring famous villains, real and fictional. A woman writes a letter to a former president—now residing in Hell—in “Thank You, Mr. Nixon,” by Gish Jen, performed by Cindy Cheung. And a man in recovery faces off against a former Roman leader with a really bad rep in "Playing Ping-Pong with Pontius Pilate" by Greg Ames, performed by Nate Corddry. Finally, Moby Dick has a say in its own epic in “Captain Ahab, A Novel by the White Whale,” by Paul West, performed by Diane Venora. Author Gish Jen provides on-stage commentary about her work.


A Didion Duo

Host Meg Wolitzer presents two works by the dazzling writer Joan Didion, whose essays, novels, and memoirs have been beloved by generations of readers. This sophisticated, knowing artist placed herself squarely in her reportage, telling her own story vividly and courageously. We’ll hear excerpts from two of her best-known works, The White Album, in which she reports on her own mental collapse in the madness of California in the 1960s, and Goodbye to All That, in which her youthful self falls in, and out of, love with New York City. Jill Eikenberry performs The White Album and Mia Dillon shares Goodbye to All That.


Generation Gap

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories that cross generations. In Justin Torres’s “Trash Kites,” performed by Colman Domingo, teens find beauty in scarcity. A daughter’s aging parent links her past and present in “The World with My Mother Still in It” by Kathryn Chetkovich, performed by Phillipa Soo. And a tutor tries to create a bond with her privileged student in “Ancient Rome” by Kyle McCarthy, performed by Tavi Gevinson.



On this SELECTED SHORTS, host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about moving out of familiar territory into new spaces and new understanding. In Meron Hadero’s “The Thief’s Tale,” read by Teagle F. Bougere, an émigré can’t leave some of his old ways behind. “The Tallest Doll in New York City,” by Maria Dahvana Headley, imagines what happens when two iconic skyscrapers fall in love. It’s read by Becca Blackwell. And summer trip yields unexpected treasures in Anne Tyler’s “The Feather Behind the Rock,” read by Jane Curtin.


Too Hot For Radio: Samanta Schweblin "An Unlucky Man"

Much of Samantha Schweblin's writing has a kind of dangerous element to it, and that's in this story, too. It's kind of a nailbiter, but not for the usual reasons. This story was written for McSweeney's and was performed as part of Selected Shorts' celebration of the 25th anniversary of this mighty indie publisher. Performed by Carmen Lynch, a comic who has performed stand-up on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and has appeared on series including Inside Amy Schumer and Life & Beth. And she has just the right touch with the story. After her reading, she talks to host Aparna Nancherla about how she approached such a tricky story.


Make a Meal of It

Guest host Roxane Gay (no mean cook herself) presents three stories centered on food. In “Three Great Meals” the late New Yorker humor writer Donald Barthelme tells you how to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner from a terrifying medley of fast food and low-end canned goods. The story is read by Nate Corddry. In "Simple Recipes," author Madeleine Thien weaves together evocative memories of traditional meals prepared by her father, with more complex images of a family in conflict. The reader is Cindy Cheung. And finally, a Roald Dahl classic, “Lamb to the Slaughter.” This tale of a model housewife’s response to a marital crisis will make you view your Sunday roast in a whole new light. She’s embodied by Catherine O'Hara.


Perfectly Unmatched

Host Meg Wolitzer presents perfect mismatches. In “The Man and the Moose” by Ben Loory, performed by Michael Cerveris, a man’s best bud has antlers. In “Red Dirt Don't Wash” by Roger Mais, performed by Brandon J. Dirden, a young man’s courtship is at risk—she doesn’t like his shoes. And a piano lesson is out of tune in “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by William Trevor, performed by Kathryn Erbe. Authors Elizabeth Strout and Marlon James present commentary from the stage at Symphony Space.


Small Odysseys

Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories from our anthology, Small Odysseys, which features 35 commissioned stories from some of the series’ favorite writers. This week, parents try to help with their daughter’s unusual school science research project. Michael Shannon reads Susan Perabo’s “The Project.” And in Luis Alberto Urrea’s “King of Bread,” a father carves out his own little kingdom in the barrios of San Diego—handing out doughnuts, and hope. The reader is Javier Muñoz.


The Way I See It

On this Selected Shorts, host Meg Wolitzer offers up stories about limited viewpoints and larger visions. In “You Can Find Love Now" by Ramona Ausubel, performed by Amy Ryan and Martin Short, an unusual character drops into the dating pool; in “The Weave,” by Charles Johnson, performed by Arnell Powell, a heist gets hairy; and in J. Robert Lennon’s “Blue Light, Red Light,” a child's fears find his family seeking tech support. It’s performed by Fred Hechinger.


Mothers Know Best

Host Meg Wolitzer presents two stories featuring mothers and children, and entertains a special guest—her own mother, Hilma Wolitzer. In Annette Sanford’s “Trip in a Summer Dress,” a young woman is setting out to get married, but leaving her real life—and a hard choice—behind. The reader is Mia Dillon. “Palaver,” by Bryan Washington, offers a playful—but also serious—battle of wits between a strong-willed mother and her grown son, each wanting to know more about the other without giving away too much of themselves. The alternating narratives are performed by Petronia Paley and Michael Potts. And host Wolitzer quizzes her own mother about her writing life, the impact of feminism, and raising a novelist to be.


Tangled Lives

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about tangled lives; those situations; those people that pull you in and won’t let you go. These works focus on encounters that affect a character's life in some unusual or enduring way. “Missed Connection—M4W,” by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, takes the idea of “chance encounter” to its limits. It’s performed by Richard Kind. “My Years of Living Dangerously,” by Danielle Henderson, explores the idea of sin and redemption. It’s performed by Karen Pittman. And in Melissa’ Banks’ ruefully comic “Run Run Run Run Run Run Run Away,” performed by Julianna Margulies, one sibling makes a bad choice the other has to live with. Both Julianna Margulies and Karen Pittman talk about their readings backstage at the live show, which was hosted and curated by Meg Wolitzer.