Zach Grenier

Zach Grenier

Actors to close out festival Saturday night

‘Selected Shorts’ live show to be held at Field Arts & Events Hall

PORT ANGELES — Here is what you need: an actor, a glass of water, a microphone, an audience.

“When you listen to a story live, you’re part of it,” thus generating electricity together, said Kirsten Vangsness, one of a triumvirate of performers coming to Port Angeles on Saturday night. To her mind, there’s nothing like the crackle of a roomful of humans engaged in live storytelling.

“Selected Shorts,” the 39-year-old public radio show, is the finale of the Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher Creative Writing Festival, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Field Arts & Events Hall. Information about this and other festival activities can be found at fieldhallorg and

The evening’s repertoire:

• “Feathers,” Carver’s tale involving a loud pet peacock and a not-so-cute baby;

• “Mr. Woodriff’s Neckties,” Gallagher’s subtle story of friendship;

• “Heart of a Champion,” T.C. Boyle’s yarn about a boy and his dog;

• “Books,” Billy Collins’ six-stanza ode to the way reading transports us.

Drama, humor and unexpected plot turns will flow, promised Vangsness, who is set to perform along with fellow actors Dion Graham and Zach Grenier.

Dion Graham

Dion Graham

Graham, known for his roles in “The Wire,” and “Malcolm X” and other films, will read “Mr Woodriff’s Neckties.” Grenier, who has appeared in “Devs,” “Fight Club” and “The Good Wife,” will perform “Feathers.” Vangsness, herself known for her portrayal of Penelope Garcia on “Criminal Minds,” said her “Heart of a Champion” is like all great stories.

When the tale begins, “you think, ‘Oh, I know what this is.’ But then — no, you don’t,” she said.

Zach Grenier

Zach Grenier

The wheels fall off the characters’ lives, and the writer and reader figure out how to get them back on again.

Live theater such as this “is a unique co-creation,” the actor said. “You’re all participants in this ephemeral thing.” As the audience members listen, the story unfolds on their personal movie screens.

Kirsten Vangsness

Kirsten Vangsness

Vangsness used to be a public school teacher who read aloud to her students, and she enjoyed — enjoys — it tremendously. She appreciates how the “Selected Shorts” producer Vivienne Woodward and director Jennifer Brennan run the show, choosing stories to fit the actors.

Begun in 1985, “Selected Shorts” is performed at its home base, New York City’s Symphony Space concert hall. There’s also “Selected Shorts on Tour,” in cities large and small.

Vangsness has been part of the “Selected” coterie for 11 years, performing on the East Coast and in the Midwest, the Southwest and beyond. Unless she’s contractually obligated to be elsewhere, she always says yes to a “Selected” gig.

Some months after the Port Angeles “Selected Shorts” live show, the stories will be spread out across different broadcasts, Woodward said. “Selected” airs on more than 150 radio stations; it is also a podcast. Listeners can connect with the podcast at

Creative Writing Festival organizer and Peninsula College professor Michael Mills said bringing “Selected” here was a bit of a coup.

“Steve Raider Ginsberg, [executive director] at Field Hall, suggested PC and Field Hall partner to bring their performance to Port Angeles. As a longtime fan of the show, I loved that idea,” Mills said.

People will “feel smarter and happier as a result of coming to the show,” Vangsness quipped.

The performer’s job and the audience’s job, she added, is much like a dance to delicious music.

“We’re creating this energy together,” she said.


Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Port Townsend.

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