Fireworks in July: T. Geronimo Johnson and a Staged Reading from his novel Welcome to Braggsville, in partnership with Celebration Arts and Verge Center for the Arts.

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T. Geronimo Johnson

SOMETIMES a writer’s words leap off the page, grab you by the hair, throw you down, wake you up, challenge your assumptions, shock you into seeing the world differently, and you know that the usual Stories on Stage format will not be enough to contain the author’s crazy, wonderful prose.  Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson is that kind of novel – a smart, funny, insightful, many-layered coming-of-age story about four college students who descend from Berkeley into a small town in the heart of the deep South, thinking they’ll show these Southerners a thing or two.

SO, on July 31, Stories on Stage will present a staged reading from Welcome to Braggsvile, in cooperation with Celebration Arts. We’ll feature five actors, James Wheatley, Kristine David, Doug Pieper, Tarig Elsiddig, and Sam Sims reading excerpts from key parts of the book, in an evening of electrifying, crackling  theatre you will not want to miss.

At Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S Street, Sacramento, July 31, 2015. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30. The performance is a benefit for Celebration Arts: a donation of $10 is suggested and more is appreciated!

About T. Geronimo Johnson

Born and raised in New Orleans, T. Geronimo Johnson received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his M.A. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from UC Berkeley. He has taught writing and held fellowships—including a Stegner Fellowship and an Iowa Arts Fellowship—at Arizona State University, the University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Western Michigan University and Stanford. His first novel, Hold it ‘Til it Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction Johnson is currently a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Berkeley, California.

About Welcome to Braggsville

A young, white, working-class Southerner named D’aron Davenport is smart enough to get a scholarship to Berkeley. Eventually, shell-shocked D’aron meets up with three other students hovering on the fringes: an earnest girl from Iowa named Candice who claims to be part Native American; an African-American guy named Charlie from inner-city Chicago; and Louis, a sassy Asian teen from San WELCOME TO BRAGGSVILLE coverFrancisco whose goal in life is to become, as he says, “the next Lenny Bruce Lee, kung fu comedian.”

In their sophomore year, this band of friends makes the fatal error of signing up together for a course called “American History X, Y, and Z: Alternative Perspectives.” One day in class, the topic of historical reenactments comes up and D’aron lets slip that his hometown of Braggsville stages a kind of glorious “Lost Cause” Civil War battle reenactment every year. Faster than you can say “performative intervention,” D’aron’s friends persuade him that it would be cool to visit Braggsville and stage a scene to helpfully remind its residents about the horrors of slavery. Louis, the Asian guy, will be in blackface, playing a slave; when he acts “uppity,” he’ll be whipped and then mock lynched by the other three students. What ensues, however, once D’aron and his idealistic friends reach Braggsville, is an out-of-control disaster.

About the actors:

james wheatley 2James Wheatley is Founder and Artistic Director of Celebration Arts. The mission of this all-volunteer organization is to provide training and performance opportunities for community residents in the areas of drama, dance and music.Among his many stage appearances the most recent have been in Driving Miss Daisy at Chautauqua Playhouse, The Sunset Limited for Actors’ Theatre of Sacramento as well as The Train Driver and Jitney at Celebration Arts. He has won six Elly awards and a Chesley Award for his acting, an Elly for his original script Petra as well as an Elly for Lifetime Achievement.

Kristine David. Kristine David 2Kristine has been featured as an actor and musician throughout Northern California. She has appeared with B Street Theatre (Provenance, Bob), Capital Stage (Mauritius, Much Ado About Nothing), Sacramento Theater Company (Julius Caesar, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet) & Big Idea Theatre (Inventing Van Gogh, Complete Female Stage Beauty.)

Dougie PieperDoug Pieper. Highlights of Doug’s 22-year theatre career include an Elly nomination for his role in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, appearances in Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, Sam Shepherd’s Buried Child, The Boys Next Door, The Little Dog Laughed, and as Timmy Boggs in The Last Time I Saw Timmy Boggs.   He’s been heard on-air as the COOL101.9  movie review critic, and appeared in many regional commercials. He recently graduated school as a Surgical Technologist, and lives in Natomas with his husband and their 4 dogs. He’s grateful to be back at Stories On Stage for a second adventure.

Tarig Elsiddig

An actor and a singer, Tarig Elsiddig has appeared at Celebration Arts in In The Red And Brown Water, A New Song For Christmas, Jitney, and The Bluest Eye. Born in Hayward California, he has been in love with acting for as long as he can remember.He’s thrilled to be appearing at Stories on Stage.

Sam Sims 2

Sam Sims  made his theatrical debut in James Wheatley’s A New Song For Christmas. He’s also an aspiring photographer studying at Sacramento City College, focusing on high fashion photography. He’s an artist  open to any form of art and is excited to be a part of this event.

A sampling of what critics say about Welcome to Braggsville:

“The most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read this year. T. Geronimo Johnson plays cultural criticism like it’s acid jazz. His shockingly funny story pricks every nerve of the American body politic. Welcome to Braggsville. It’s about time.” — The Washington Post

More about the Welcome to Braggsville, Geronimo Johnson, and critical acclaim at http://www.geronimo1.com/

More about Celebration Arts at http://www.celebrationarts.net/

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Stories on Stage Sacramento, Friday June 26, featuring Kathryn Ma: Bad Behavior

TKathryn Ma 3, credit Andria Loeenage rebellion is nothing new. But when the teen is abandoned as a baby on the steps of a department store in China and handed over to her adoptive Chinese-American mother with the words “like eating. Like the Bowns” pinned to her blanket,  the reasons for rebellion can be extraordinarily complicated and deep, and how that rebellion plays out can be devastating – and redeeming.  Abandonment is the beginning for Ari, the main character in Kathryn Ma’s brilliant novel of self-discovery, The Year She Left Us.  In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly called the novel “…a sweeping success–a standout from the many novels about Chinese assimilation and the families of Chinese immigrants–with a fascinating protagonist….Ma implies that not all losses can be recovered….This is a family saga of insight, regret, and pathos, and it is not to be missed.” Recently issued in paperback, the book was featured in The New York Times’ “paperback row,” and named a “Best Book of the Year” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Year She Left Us is Ma’s debut novel. Her previously published collection of short stories, All That Work and Still No Boys, won the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Award. The book was also named a San Francisco Chronicle “Notable” Book, and a Los Angeles Times “Discoveries” Book. She received the David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction, and the honor of being named a San Francisco Public Library Laureate.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Kathryn is the daughter of parents who emigrated from China. Her stories have appeared in the Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Northwest Review, Prairie Schooner, Slice, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Kathryn was a Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and has taught in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. In 2011, she was a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Kathryn holds a bachelor’s degree with distinction and a master’s degree in history from Stanford University. She earned a JD from the University of California, Berkeley and practiced law for a number of years in San Francisco, where she lives with her family.  For a terrific interview with Kathryn, recently published in the San Jose Mercury News, click here

Maureen O'Leary Wanket 1Also appearing with Kathryn Ma will be emerging writer Maureen O’Leary Wanket, author of the Young Adult novel How To Be Manly and Urban Fantasy novel The Arrow. Her short stories can be found in literary magazines and anthologies such as Esopus, Shade Mountain Press, Fiction at Work, Xenith, Prick of the Spindle and Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine.

Reading an excerpt from The Year She Left Us will be Sacramento actress Yuri Tajiri.Yuri Tajiri

Elizabeth_Holzman1Reading Maureen O’Leary Wanket’s short story  “The Flat Earth” will be Sacramento actress Elizabeth Holzman.

Kathryn Ma, with Maureen O’Leary Wanket

 readings by Yuri Tajiri and Elizabeth Holzman

At Stories on Stage Sacramento

The Avid Reader at Tower, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento

Friday, June 26, 2015

Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30

A $5 donation is suggested.

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Stories on Stage in May featuring Karen Bender: It’s All About Money

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Karen E. Bender

This month’s featured writer, Karen Bender, is a much-honored novelist, and we’ll be presenting one of the stories from Refund, her first short story collection. But before I list all of her other accomplishments,  let me enthuse about her work a bit.

One of the best parts of being the coordinator for Stories on Stage is that I sometimes get to read books before they’re released. An advance copy of Karen Bender’s new short story collection, Refund, was sent to me six months ago. I devoured it, then read it again, and I still can’t get these stories out of my head. Not that I want to, because Bender’s tales grab you in the best possible way. She’s a master (mistress?) of understatement and the way she captures the most complex  of situations in just a few words is astounding. Her characters – men, women, and yes, even the children – are wonderful and awful at the same time. They teeter on the knife edge of survival in every imaginable circumstance. And in Refund, money drives everything, even in the stories that aren’t specifically about money. It’s a brilliant collection.

Okay, okay, so I’m a gushing fangirl. But I’m not alone. The New York Times Book Review says: “Money is ostensibly the fuel that powers Karen E. Bender’s new collection, “Refund…” but Bender’s subtler preoccupation is the eroding effect of emotional want…Bender understands worlds about marriage and emotional need.”  “…exquisitely composed portraits of modern life,” says the Chicago Tribune. Similar praise comes from the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and a host of others. Karen Bender’s short stories have twice been published in The New Yorker, she’s won two Pushcart prizes, been published in Best American Short Stories and two of her stories have been selected to be read on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” Her novel Like Normal People,  was a Los Angeles Times bestseller, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

Any wonder I’m so excited that she’s coming to Stories on Stage?

“The Third Child,” a story from the collection, will be read by Sacramento actress and teacher Deni Scofield.  Also appearing with Karen Bender will be Meera Klein, whose novel My Mother’s Kitchen is a finalist in the 2015 Beverly Hills International Book Awards in the Multi-Cultural Fiction category. Reading an excerpt from My Mother’s Kitchen will be Capital Public Radio’s Donna Apidone. 

This month’s reading will be held Friday, May 29 at The Avid Reader Bookstore, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30. A $5 donation is suggested.

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Stories on Stage in April: Ann Packer

WhAnn Packer 2at a year we’re having at Stories on Stage Sacramento!

In January, Tobias Wolff graced our season-opening event with his wisdom, humor, and masterful stories. And now, in April, we are thrilled and honored to bring you another leading American writer – Ann Packer.  She’s the award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, and now her new novel, The Children’s Crusade, is earning even higher accolades. In addition to starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, The Children’s Crusade was named “Book of the Week” by People Magazine, “Pick of the Week” by Publisher’s Weekly, and an Amazon “Best Book of April 2015.”  Enthused Dan Cryer of the San Francisco Chronicle: “I’ve rarely read a novel so astute about the jumble of love and respect, rivalry and envy, empathy and scorn that makes up family dynamics…Packer is also a superb storyteller. ”

In addition to The Children’s Crusade, Ann Packer is the acclaimed author of two collections of short fiction, Swim Back to Me and Mendocino and Other Stories, and two bestselling novels, Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which received the Kate Chopin Literary Award, among many other prizes and honors. She lives in San Carlos, CA.

Reading the first chapter from The Children’s Crusade (praised in the New York Times Sunday Book Review as “some of Packer’s best and most rapturous prose”) will be  Matthew Rives. Matt is well-known in Sacramento as an actor equally adept at comic and serious roles.  Most recently he appeared as “Henry Higgins” in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Also appearing with Ann Packer is Lois Ann Abraham, author of the short story collection Circus Girl, published by Ad Lumen Press. Lois is a professor of English at American River College, focusing on literature and creative writing, both fiction & non-fiction. Her stories have appeared in Sojourner, Chico News & Review, Writing on the Edge, Inside English, Burning the Little Candle (Ad Lumen), Convergences, and elsewhere. She was a featured author at the 2015 Sacramento Public Library’s “Authors on the Move.”

Kellie Yvonne Raines will be reading the title story from Circus Girl. Kellie  is an Associate Artist with KOLT Run Creations where she has appeared in My Own Stranger, Vinegar Tom, Antigone, and Escape From Happiness.

Stories on Stage, with Ann Packer and Lois Ann Abraham, Friday, April 24, 2015 at the Verge Center for The Arts, 625 S Street, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM; readings begin at 7:30. $5 donation suggested.

Please note that we’ll be at Verge Center for the Arts this month. 

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March at Stories on Stage Sacramento: Sharma Shields, Ana Cotham, and readers Blair Leatherwood and Michelle Champoux

Sharma ShieldsDoes Sasquatch exist? Most of us would be skeptical, but in Sharma Shields’ imaginative, lightning-struck debut novel, everything is possible. In The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, a young boy’s lifelong hunt for the creature who stole his mother affects every relationship he has in his long life—with his father, with both of his wives, his children, grandchildren, and colleagues. There’s magic, unicorns, hexes, curses—and the mysterious Mr. Krantz—all  seamlessly twined with the story of Eli Roebuck and his family. O Magazine named The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac “one of 13 incredible books to devour in February.” Entertainment Weekly named Shields one of 25 “writers to watch” in 2015, and called the novel “…a story that easily qualifies as one of the most wonderfully weird debuts of the new  year. At heart it’s a family saga and a cautionary tale about frailties—greed, mania, ego, anger—that make us much too human…”

In addition to The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, Sharma Shields is the author of a short story collection, Favorite Monster. Her writing has appeared in Electric Lit, The New York Times, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, Fugue, and elsewhere. She’s won numerous awards, including the Autumn House Fiction Prize. She received her B.A in English Literature from the University of Washington, and her MFA from the University of Montana. She lives in Spokane with her husband and two young children.

Reading an excerpt from The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac will be Blair Leatherwood. A Stories on Stage favorite, Blair is a Sacramento-based actor with over forty years of experience on the boards. He has been working most recently with Alma Theater in San Francisco, Livermore Shakespeare Festival and Sacramento Theater Company ( It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical, Pride and
Prejudice, A Little Princess). He has also worked with Capital Stage, Sacramento Music Circus, and many other theaters. He also works as an improvisational role player for UCD Medical Center and the Institute for Criminal Investigation and as an audio describer for the visually-impaired for California Musical Theater.

This month’s emerging writer, Ana Cotham, is a familiar face to Stories on Stage regulars. She’s happy to take your donations and sell you raffle tickets, and this month we’re showcasing her considerable talents as a writer. Ana earned her BA in English literature from UC Berkeley and spent the next several years working admin jobs and writing fiction—i.e., being poor. Her general love of words finally paid off in the form of an actual career; she currently works as a technical editor and occasional freelance writer. She is honored, overjoyed and slightly panicked about having her second story, “Ebb and Flow,” read at Stories on Stage . Her first, “A Love of Olives, A Fear of Squirrels,” was performed in September 2012.

Reading Ana’s story will be Stories on Stage newcomer Michelle Champoux. She describes herself as a person who “hungers for written words.” Her favorite wordsmiths/poets/playwrights include: W. Somerset Maugham , Bertolt Brecht, William Burroughs, Sylvia Plath + Anne Sexton, Shakespeare. She holds degrees in Theatre Arts and Dance and attended the American Conservatory Theatre. She’ll travel anywhere, including skid row. Her current frame of mind? “Sans peur.”

Stories on Stage, the popular, award-winning series where actors perform short stories, has been delighting audiences for six years. The event has been named a “Reader’s Choice literary event” for five consecutive years by the Sacramento News & Review. Stories on Stage takes place on the final Friday of each month at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th Street, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM; the readings begin at 7:30. A $5 donation is suggested.

 

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February at Stories on Stage: Elena Mauli Shapiro and Tigh Rickman: readers Eric Baldwin and Cynthia Speakman

We’re very excited to bring  Elena Mauli ShapiroElena Mauli Shapiro back to Stories on Stage Sacramento. Elena’s a Bay area writer whose first novel, 13 Rue Therese, was praised as a “sensual treat” by USA Today, and a London Times reviewer said of her “…Mauli Shapiro writes not so much like an angel as an imp: hot, jabbing and naughty, with a tight grip on the senses….” Her second novel, In The Red, was highlighted in “A Year of Reading” in The Millions as “…spectacular…a dark story about a bright young woman’s descent into a criminal underworld, realism interlaced with fairy tales…. an expert meditation on money, morality, and belonging.” From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “…Shapiro’s deft leaps forward in time and frequent use of eerie Romanian folks tales help make this dark story a multilayered literary treat.”

Elena was born in Paris and moved to the US at thirteen.  She amassed several degrees in literature and writing at Stanford, Mills College, and UC Davis.  Both of her novels were published Little, Brown:  13 rue Thérèse,  in 2013, and  In the Red,  in 2014.  Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as Zyzzyva, Five Chapters, and Farallon Review. She lives in the Bay Area with her scientist husband and two elderly half-Siamese cats who spend all day following sunbeams around the house. There’s more about Elena, her life,  and her work on her website http://elenamaulishapiro.com/

Her short story”Vanity,” which appears in the current issue of Farallon Review, will be read by Sacramento actor Eric Baldwin.  A Stories on Stage favorite, Eric has worked locally, regional, nationally and internationally. He served as the Artistic Director of Quantum Theatre in Los Angeles from 2000-2004 and founded Sacramento’s Resurrection Theatre. Favorite roles include Henry V, Macbeth, Biff in Death of a Salesman, Prospero in The Tempest, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Pale in Burn This and Barry Champlain in Talk Radio.

We’re also pleased to introduce emerging writer Tigh Rickman. He’s a native Sacramentan and a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA at the University of Southern Maine. His writing has appeared in The Bradford ReView, The Conium Review, The Farallon Review, Celebrities in Disgrace and The Salty Beatnik. He lives with his girlfriend Kelly in Oak Park where they tend to a pair of spoiled rotten chickens, and he is currently restoring a 1950s Airstream travel trailer. In his spare time he frequents junk shops, looking for old objects and the stories they tell.

Tigh’s short story eViews.com will be read by Cynthia Mitchell Speakman, another Stories on Stage favorite. Cynthia has been performing with the spoken word group StoryVoices, and teaching children’s theatre for over 10 years. She’s appeared in plays ranging from The Glass Menagerie and Death of a Salesman to Harvey and Alice in Wonderland as the Queen of Hearts. She recently completed work in an independent film, In God We Trust, to be released in March. You may occasionally hear her in radio commercials or see her downtown giving a Segway tour or Hysterical Walk in Old Sac.

Stories on Stage Sacramento

at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th Street, (25th and R Arts Complex,) Sacramento

Friday, February 27

Doors open at 7PM: readings begin at 7:30

$5 donation suggested

Copies of 13 Rue Therese,  In the Red, and Farallon Review will be for sale

 

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Presenting Janis Stevens and James Wheatley, readers for our season opener with Tobias Wolff

For our opening event – Tobias Wolff, January 30 – we are thrilled to announce a dream team of readers for two of Wolff’s best-known short stories.

Janis Stevens will read “In The Garden of the North American Martyrs.”

Janis is an inJanis Stevensternationally acclaimed actress and one of the leading lights of Sacramento theatre.  Talented and accomplished as both an actor and director, she’s currently helming a production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine for Big Idea Theatre. She has appeared internationally in Vienna, Austria, in such shows as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, and Blithe Spirit.  Nationally she has appeared in numerous plays at the Theatre at Monmouth in Maine where she is a member of the Resident Company and at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. She is an Associate Artist with Capital Stage in Sacramento, where she has directed productions such as reasons to be pretty, Fool for Love, American Buffalo, How I Learned to Drive and the Capital Stage adaptation Hedda Gabler.  Recent roles include Katharine Hepburn in Kate at Sacramento Theatre Company and Maria Callas in Master Class at Capital Stage. Janis was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Solo Performance” in Rick Foster’s Vivien at the American Theatre of Actors off-off-Broadway and received the Elly Award from the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance for Best Dramatic Actress for her performance in Becoming Julia Morgan and for Best Direction for Love, Isadora, both at California Stage.  A proud member of Actors Equity, she is also an Adjunct Professor of Theatre Arts at American River College.

James Wheatley will read “Bullet in the Brain”

James Wheatley

James Wheatley, actor, dancer, and musician  is Founder and Artistic Director of Celebration Arts.  He began the much-honored organization as a venue for dance in 1976 and expanded the organization to include choral performance and theatre in 1986.  For nearly three decades he has been the guiding spirit for this all-volunteer organization, which  mounts theatrical, musical, and dance productions and also provides training and performance opportunities for community residents. His original musical play for Celebration Arts, A New Song For Christmas, which he wrote, composed, choreographed and acted in, was presented last season to sold-out audiences. Among his many stage appearances, the most recent have been in Driving Miss Daisy at Chautauqua Playhouse, The Sunset Limited for Actors’ Theatre of Sacramento and The Train Driver and Jitney at Celebration Arts. He has won six Elly awards and a Chesley Award for his acting, an Elly for his original script Petra as well as an Elly for Lifetime Achievement.

His next project will be directing In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney, showing February 6 – March 14 at Celebration Arts.

 

Stories on Stage’s sixth season opening event will take place at Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S Street, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30PM. A $10 donation is suggested.

(None of this is possible without our superb casting director, Peggi Wood. Thank you, thank you Peggi!)

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