In October, the Canadian short-story writer, Alice Munro, now 82-years old, won the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the 13th woman to do so. Speaking of Stories, Santa Barbara’s well-loved evening of stage-read shorts, decided to honor the author with an evening celebrating her 13th and most probably last story collection, “Dear Life,” as Ms. Munro has announced plans to retire. The two performances at Center Stage Theater this Sunday afternoon and Monday evening consist of three stories taken from Ms. Munro’s latest, read by three of SoS’ regulars.
Alice Munro’s work has appeared frequently throughout Speaking of Stories’ history. Executive Director Maggie Mixsell put on her story, “The Bear Goes over the Mountain,” — a tale about Alzheimer’s — after it had been made into the movie, “Away from Her,” for a film-tie-in-based evening. Ms. Munro is better known to the reading crowd, however, not the film crowd, as not many of her stories have been adapted for screen.
“Her stories, and I don’t mean this in any pejorative way, are slow moving,” Ms. Mixsell says. “It takes people who are devoted to literature … and her. But I’m finding that the shows we put out with her, the more people we get saying that they just absolutely love her.”
Writing in the Boston Globe about Ms. Munro on the occasion of her win, Edith Pearlman says she can “write whole novels in 20 pages;” so it’s maybe not the slowness that people see, but the meticulousness. Mostly, her stories are set in Canada with characters stuck in humdrum lives, or trapped by circumstances. Often, travel starts the plot with either the characters leaving or being visited. And her closing stories featuring a young protagonist are thinly veiled autobiography, according to Ms. Munro. “Her young characters, they see through, if not her eyes, at least a same set of eyes,” says Ms. Mixsell.
There are three stories in the evening.
“To Reach Japan,” read by Pamela Dillman Haskell takes place on a train with a mother and daughter traveling into the city to stay with a friend while the husband is away on business, only to have the mother get a bit tipsy on the journey. In “Corrie” read by Anne Guynn, a well-off, single woman begins an affair with a married architect, and a worker who comes between them. “In Sight of the Lake,” read by Sylvia Short, takes on old age as a woman becomes increasingly confused, searching for her doctor’s office and a train home.
Three is a short number for the series, but as Ms. Mixsell says, she couldn’t really cut the stories down, and adding another would have made it too long.
Fans of Ms. Munro and those just getting into her stories will discover a lot this evening. In an earlier work, the author summed up her characters in this description, and it’s held true over her career:
“People’s lives, in Jubilee, as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing and unfathomable — deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.” Speaking of Stories intends to explore those caves.
‘Speaking of Stories: Stories by Alice Munro’
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Center Stage Theater, Paseo Nuevo
Cost: $20 general, $10 students and military
Information: 963-0408, www.centerstagetheater.org