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Spotlight: ‘Selected Shorts’ at UMass Amherst; ‘Working Women’ exhibit at Springfield Museums

  • Valorie Curry

  • Sam Underwood

  • Becca Blackwell Photo by Michael DeAngelis

  • “At the Noon Hour,” tempera and graphite on board by Isabel Bishop. Image courtesy Springfield Museums


Friday, November 09, 2018

Tell me a story

Storytelling has become hugely popular in the last 15-odd years, whether in story slams, books on tape or poetry readings. But the popular “Selected Shorts" radio series, produced by Symphony Space in New York City, has been at it even longer. Since 1985, actors, entertainers and other public figures have been reading short stories, by both new and established writers, before a live audience, for a weekly show that’s broadcast on more than 150 radio stations across the country.

The idea behind the show is not only to bring good writing to a wider audience but to do it with panache — as one reviewer of the show once put it, “This is literature as performance.”

Tonight (Friday) at 8 p.m., the show comes to the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in an evening that’s dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community. Aaron Shackelford, the center’s director of programming, says staff members asked the Selected Shorts producers to arrange a program that would reflect the center’s commitment to being a place “where everyone feels welcome … [and] everyone’s stories can and will be told.”

Past readers on the program include David Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Cynthia Nixon and other notable figures. Friday’s hosts are Valorie Curry, a founding member of the Coeurage Theatre Company in Los Angeles and an actor who’s appeared in “Twilight” and “Blair Witch”; Sam Underwood, the founder and artistic director of New York’s Fundamental Theater Project, with TV credits in “Dexter” and “Homeland”; and Becca Blackwell, a trans actor, performer and writer who works collaboratively with playwrights and directors in different fields.

Tickets are $10-35; call (413) 545-2511, (800) 999-UMAS, or visit fineartscenter.com/Shorts.

 

We’re more than homemakers

The 20th century witnessed the first significant stirrings of American women casting aside their traditional roles as mothers and homemakers to forge a new identity in the workplace — and there to capture an artistic angle on that movement was painter and printmaker Isabel Bishop (1902-1988).

Bishop defied conventional roles herself: She left her Midwest home at 16 to study art in New York City, then went on to make her studio near Manhattan’s Union Square her main observation point for decades of work that specialized in portrayals of everyday people, including the “new women” who sought jobs in the 1930s and 1940s as clerics, stenographers, bank tellers and office workers.

A new exhibit at the D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, “Working Women: Defying Convention,” explores this theme with a diverse collection of Bishop’s paintings, drawings and prints, including many from private holdings that have never been displayed before, according to museum officials. The D’Amour’s own Bishop masterwork, “At the Noon Hour,” is also part of the show, which opens Tuesday, Nov. 13 and runs through May 26, 2019.

Bishop, who kept her own name after marrying in 1934, became particularly interested in creating portraits of these women during their lunch breaks and, as exhibit notes put it, worked to capture “their gestures, gazes, intimate conversations, jaunts on the subway and graceful retreats from the lunch counter stools….  In these moments, Bishop found a compelling richness that occupied her hours in the studio.”

More information on the exhibit, along with visiting hours and ticket prices, can be found at springfieldmuseums.org.

— Steve Pfarrer