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National act, local script

Selected Shorts tells a local story

(Jon Jaehnig / for the Daily Mining Gazette) Selected Shorts coming to the Rozsa Centre was more than a theater performance. Prior to the show, guests could read short stories in the lobby and listen to festive music performed by the handbell choir “Bells by the Bay.”

HOUGHTON — Selected Shorts performed at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts on Michigan Technological University’s campus in Houghton on Saturday evening. 

Selected Shorts is a nationally syndicated radio program as well as a popular podcast, featuring actors and actresses performing dramatic readings of short works of fiction. Having Selected Shorts perform a show live in Houghton was already unusual but the cast of the performance and a bit of public outreach contributed to the excitement, and to the attendance.

The host of the evening, Mike Doyle, is a writer, directors, and actor best known for his work in “Jersey Boys,” “Green Lantern,” and “New Amsterdam.” In addition to introducing the program and the readings, Doyle performed a reading of the short story “The Snowmen,” by Pulitzer Prize winning fiction writer Steven Millhauser. The nostalgic story told the fantastic tale of a group of young boys trying to make the most of a long, snowy weekend.

“We are so happy to be together with you in Houghton,” Doyle said, introducing the show. “Some of us came from the left coast, some of us came from the right coast, but we all agreed that we’ve never been this cold before.”

Also performing was four-time Tony Award winning actor Boyd Gaines. Gaines concluded the evening by performing a reading of “The Silver Frog” by Jeanette Winterson, OBE. The story was the tale of a group of woefully mismanaged orphans who receive their just reward after helping a mythical creature.

The first and third stories were read by Kirsten Vangsness who attracted her own crowd of fans who know her from TV’s Criminal Minds – Vangsness has played the role of FBI technical analyst Penolope Garcia for almost 15 years.

Vangsness first read the story “Where Do Good Trees Go When They Die?” by best-selling memoir writer Laurie Notaro. The story was the comical rants of a woman keeping a natural Christmas tree in her living room year-round in order to irk her paranoid and controlling mother. The second story that she read was the winner of a short story competition held by the Rozsa Center and the Portage Lake District Library.

“Selected Shorts was delighted to work with the Rozsa Center to incorporate the winning entry into our December 7th program.” said Drew Richardson, Lead Producer of Literary Programs at Symphony Space – the studio that produces Selected Shorts. “We loved the idea of the story contest, and the winning entry fits perfectly with our lineup of holiday tales.”

While all of the 36 short story entries were available in the lobby prior to the show, the winner was a closely guarded secret until the night of the event.

“We are proud to announce the winner of our first Houghton Selected Shorts Story Contest,” said Doyle.

The winner was Tamara Lauder. While Lauder calls Northern Wisconsin home, she has been a frequent visitor to the Copper Country for some thirty years. She found out about the competition through the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association, of which she is a member. Her story tells the true life tale of her and her husband encountering an early blizzard while cross-country skiing on the Swedetown trails – only to remember that a chalet attendant had forewarned them by telling them about an ache in her knees.

“I wrote the story specifically for the contest … as soon as I heard the theme I knew immediately what I was going to write about,” Lauder said in an interview. “The Keweenaw Peninsula is a very special place to me so I feel honored.”

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