A meek academic, a young boy, and a feisty working girl all have defining, character- testing moments in the three works on this program, hosted by Jane Kaczmarek.

First, a SELECTED SHORTS favorite, Tobias Wolff’s “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs.”  It’s the title story of Wolff’s 1981 collection, and its profile of a docile academic who goes off the rails after years of careful conformity still packs a punch.  The nuanced read is by Jane Curtin, another of our frequent guest hosts, and well-known star of such series as “Saturday Night Live;”  “Kate & Allie;” and “Third Rock from the Sun.”  Most recently, she had featured roles on “Unforgettable” and “The Good Wife.”

“Martyrs,” is set in a posh college town; Doris Lessing is deliberately imprecise about the holiday location of “Through the Tunnel,” because what matters is that the story’s young hero is English, and “other.”  When he comes across a group of local boys making a dangerous swim, he creates his own personal rite of passage.  A gentle, straightforward tale from the usually highly politicized and often metaphysical Lessing, author of such books as The Golden Notebook, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, and The Good Terrorist.   The reader is SHORTS stalwart James Naughton, a multiple Tony Award-winning stage star.

Our final, brief story has the longest history.  In September 2009 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opened the exhibit “Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans,” which recreated Frank’s legendary book The Americans in a series of stills.

The book first appeared in 1959, and presented an unvarnished view of American life — poor people, people of color, the achingly lonely, the alienated, the tawdry — that was considered controversial at the time, but which we now recognize as part of the complex texture of life in this country.

The Museum exhibit included a contest sponsored by the Met’s College Group and Symphony Space, in which college students were asked to write short fictions in response to one of ten photographs. Our final story is one of the winning selections.  Bianca Galvez’ deliciously titled “Barbara Stanwyck It’s Your Time to Shine” gives the bored operator of Frank’s “Elevator, Miami Beach, 1955” a robust and irreverent inner life. Reader Condola Rashad is a Tony-nominated actor whose stage appearances include “Stick Fly,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”   On television she’s appeared on “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and “Submissions Only,” and is currently featured in “Billions.”

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