Listening is believing: New series brings literature to life

Listening is believing: New series brings literature to life
From left, David Fenner, Veronica Murphy, Walter Ritter and Amanda Sitton will all present readings during the La Jolla Anthanaeum’s “Write Out Loud” program beginning Jan. 16. Courtesy photo

LA JOLLA — Remember being read to as a child?  Vivid worlds could be summoned by little more than spoken words.  San Diego based theater group, “Write Out Loud” knows the magic of listening to stories.

“One of the biggest challenges is getting people to come,” said Artistic Director Veronica Murphy.  “They don’t understand what we do until they come … And then they come back.”
Founded in 2007 by actors Veronica Murphy and Walter Ritter, “Write Out Loud” reads stories, related by similar theme, to a live audience.  In an age of Xbox and iPhones, it may not seem extraordinary until you consider that vocal storytelling, contrary to popular thought, is the world’s oldest profession.

“It’s very vulnerable,” explained Murphy.  “The actor is there, alone, in front of the audience.  All he has is his voice, and the words on the page.”

She stresses that actors don’t just read the story — they become it.

“You are not just reading the story; you are being the story.  You have to dig into the same inner place to read a character or even narrate a character as you do when you are performing a play.”

Readings are selected from a vast collection of stories based on a common theme, the actor chosen for his or her suitability for the material.   Rehearsal typically involves Murphy watching the performance and offering notes to enhance its believability.   As it is for most artists, emotional honesty is a must for her.

Murphy confides, “I give this note to my actors:  Paint this scene (with your mind).  Because if you see this, then (the audience) will see it.”

In little more than a week, “Write Out Loud” will present a series of lectures called “Orpheus Speaks” at the Athenaeum in La Jolla.  The selection includes “Chopin in Winter,” “The Singing Lesson,” “The Listening Woman,” and “The Agonies of Writing a Musical Comedy,” with performances by Walter Ritter, Amanda Sitton, Murphy, and David Fenner.

Normally reserved for formal lectures on art and music, the Athenaeum is making special exception for “Write Out Loud.”

“We are an institution of art and music, and I want to stay away from poetry reading,” said Erika Torri, the Athenaeum’s executive director.  “But Walter came in… and suddenly he…transformed…from an administrator to a performer right before my eyes!  That’s when I said ‘We have to have them here.’”

In keeping with the Athenaeum’s mission, “Orpheus Speaks” is specially designed to give insight into the world of music.

In a culture increasingly estranged from the tradition of oral storytelling, “Write Out Loud” is awakening the joy of collective dreaming.

“The very first show we did, there was a 40 year-old woman with her father,” said Murphy.  “She said ‘This is so amazing, my father and I are going to go home and read to each other!’”

“Orpheus Speaks” will take place Jan. 16, and again April 16 at 7:30 p.m.

The Athenaeum is at 1008 Wall Street, La Jolla. Call (858) 454-5872 or visit ljathenaeum.org for more information.

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