Once Upon a Time, In a Library Turning 100…

Tuck in with The New Yorker and enjoy “Bedtime Stories for Grownups,” a free after-hours reading at The New York Public Library with Tony Award winning actors David Hyde Pierce and Anika Noni Rose, on Saturday, May 21 at 9 p.m.
Who says bedtime stories are just for kids?
In honor of the 100th birthday of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the actors will be joined by other talented artists to read stories by Tobias Wolff, George Saunders, and ZZ Packer. Join the festivities and celebrate the Centennial with a nightcap of humor, chills, and captivating narratives.
“These wonderful stories all have strong narrative lines and protagonists,” says Rhonda Sherman, director of The New Yorker Festival, who proposed the event. “And the casting of story to actor is a great fit.”
Sherman had pondered the idea — call it a dream — of bedtime stories from The New Yorker for years. “The time was right,” says Sherman, “and the Library’s Main Reading Room is the perfect place. This is a great way for one great literary institution to salute another on its Centennial.”
Directing the event will be Tony Award winner Gregory Mosher, whose staggering list of stage productions includes That Championship Season, currently on Broadway. “Gregory will make this an evening that transports us,” says Sherman, “as will actors, who bring an interesting dimension to the words on the page.”
As a hush descends, Hyde Pierce will take on Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain,” a story that appeared in The New Yorker in 1995. In it, Anders — a literary critic known for his “elegant savagery” — witnesses a hold-up in his bank. The plot revolves around his bizarre reaction to the occurrence, which spins out of control in a series of cinematic images.
“I’m very glad to support the Library as it turns 100,” adds a droll Hyde Pierce. “I just turned 52, so I know how it feels.”
Still to be cast is George Saunders’s “The Barber’s Unhappiness,” a story that appeared in The New Yorker in 1999. In this comic tale, readers climb inside the head of a squat, middle-aged bachelor who still lives with his mother. The barber’s quest to find love ebbs and flows with his hilariously vivid fantasy life.
“Dayward” begins in a post-Civil War Mississippi. Two slave children, one of whom is deaf, make a harrowing flight on foot to Louisiana to find their only living relative. The story, excerpted from ZZ Packer’s novel-in-progress, appeared in The New Yorker in 2010, as part of their “20 Under 40” issue featuring young writers.
Rose, best known for her performances in the Broadway musical Caroline, or Change and the musical film Dreamgirls, will read “Dayward.”
“Like ‘Bullet in the Brain’ and ‘The Barber’s Unhappiness,’ the third story, ‘Dayward,’ works well aloud because of its strong characters,” says Sherman. “All three will fill listeners with renewed admiration for the power of the written word.”
The event is free, but reservations are required. Reserve your spot online or call 1.888.71.TICKETS.

Anika Noni Rose. Photo: Andrew Macpherson

David Hyde Pierce. Photo: Joan Marcus