Shubha Venugopal's short stories performed live
on February 14th
by Ada Tseng, February 11, 2010
The New Short Fiction Series, headed by spoken word artist Sally Shore, is giving the Los Angeles community a literary option for Valentine's Day. Four actresses -- Amrapali Ambegaokar (Heroes, Grey's Anatomy), Puja Mohindra (Three Rivers), Viji Nathan (Leverage, The OC), and Shore herself -- will perform four stories from Shubha Venugopal's upcoming short story collection, The Name of Longing.
Since 1997, The New Short Fiction Series has paired live performance with the written word. "It's like radio," explains David St. James, Shore's co-director. However, in addition to reading from the text, the actors animate the language in order to actively engage the audience.
Viji Nathan performs "English Lavender," about a British Indian grandmother who hides her boxes of lavender soap. Amrapali Ambegaokar plays the title role in "Amritha," about an Indian mother revealing her true self to her American daughter. Sally Shore reads from "A Brief Bombay Visit," which begins with an American's discomfort in India. Puja Mohindra takes on "Neela's Lucky Penny," about a recently-married Indian woman who distrusts her new Indian American family but finds solace in a new puppy.
"Shubha's collection starts from the mythic past in India," says Shore, "and it goes all the way to the present in America. So with these four pieces, I wanted to encapsulate the journey that the collection sets up."
Previously held in the Beverly Hills Library, The New Short Fiction Series is now in a new location, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Hollywood's Barnsdall Park. The actors perform inside of the gallery, creating a mixed-media experience that combines visual art with performance art and literature. The intimate stage is set up in a section of the museum that features rotating exhibits; because of this, every performance will boast a slightly different backdrop, depending on what the museum is displaying that particular week.
Shore is involved in the entire process -- from selecting short stories, to choosing the cast, to working with the writer if the text needs to be excerpted, to rehearsing with the actors and making sure everyone is prepared for ShowTime. There's a skill to adapting fiction for performance, and while Shore acknowledges the differences each medium requires, she takes the writer's opinions very seriously. Her goal is to bring to life the writer's intention.
This week's writer is Shubha Venugopal, a 2009 Robert Olen Butler Short Story Prize finalist and the winner of the 2008 Ellen Meloy Literature for Social Change Award. A graduate of Bennington College's MFA in Fiction, Venugopal currently teaches literature and writing at California State University, Northridge.