Arts and Entertainment

From page to stage: Bainbridge authors and actors team for dramatic readings

Dinah Manoff, left, and Mary Guterson in rehearsal for the Books on Stage reading of Guterson’s upcoming novel, “Gone to the Dogs.”  - Kathleen Thorne Photo
Dinah Manoff, left, and Mary Guterson in rehearsal for the Books on Stage reading of Guterson’s upcoming novel, “Gone to the Dogs.”
— image credit: Kathleen Thorne Photo

Kathleen Thorne has always been a big fan of audio books. And mercifully, she said, they’ve evolved.

“It used to be, in the old days, it was the author reading his book,” Thorne said. “You had one voice, and usually they weren’t all that great. But now they’re having professional actors do the readings, and they’re really good.”

That’s the logic behind Tuesday’s Books on Stage, an evening of dramatic readings by island actors of new and upcoming work by local authors.

Bainbridge Performing Arts Artistic Director Steven Fogell came up with the idea for Books on Stage, working with Thorne to flesh out a low-cost, multi-disciplinary project that could showcase home-grown talent, incorporate a variety of island theater organizations, and be offered for free to the community.

After the effort received funding from the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council Projects Support Program last fall, Thorne forged ahead, approaching Eagle Harbor Book Co. to find out which local authors had written new and upcoming work; getting buy-in from authors; and then pairing their work with a director and actor. Participating theater groups include BPA, Island Theatre, and the Bainbridge High School Drama Department.

The work runs the gamut, from true crime to memoir to fiction.

One of the selections will be Mary Guterson’s second novel, “Gone to the Dogs,” coming in July from St. Martin’s Press. Guterson selected stage and screen veteran Dinah Manoff to read.

Guterson, friends with Manoff since the two met at a New Year’s Eve party a while back, said she knew Manoff would “get” her characters, among them a semi-hysterical Jewish mother, a slightly befuddled ex-fiancée, and the heroine, Rena, who in a random act of revenge steals the ex’s dog.

The author, who’d never heard her work read out loud in this way, found unexpected confirmation through the process of seeing and hearing the story as it moved from her head to the page and out of an actor’s mouth.

“It’s funny,” she said. “You can’t tell when you’re writing something that you think is funny, if it’s really funny.”

Manoff echoed Thorne’s point about the evolution of read-aloud books, albeit from the actor’s end, saying the rhythm of Guterson’s writing has made for a book that’s seamless to give voice to.

“It’s a really easy step for me into her characters,” Manoff said. “And it’s really fun because I get to breathe a little life into the page...and step out of the page, if you know what I mean.”

From your mouth...

Books on Stage takes place at 7:30 p.m. May 19 at BPA. Kathleen Thorne will emcee; a reception and book signing will follow.

The lineup: Carol Cassella, “Oxygen,” read by Kim Failla; Kathleen Alcalá, “Do You Know the Way to the Monkey House?” directed by Fred Saas; Mary Guterson, “Gone to the Dogs,” read by Dinah Manoff; Jennifer Culkin, “Final Arc of the Sky,” read by Rozzella Kolbegger; Jonathan Evison, “Happy Hour,” read by members of the Bainbridge High School Theatre Department; and Anthony Flacco, “The Road Out of Hell,” read by Steven Fogell and Anthony Flacco.

Suggested donation is $5. For information, see www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.

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