Happy Ending Series Makes Our Town Summer Guide!

HE gets picked for good summer fun and I get interviewed! Read there other picks here.

The Interview follows…

Risky Readings and Sing-Alongs

By Nick Broad

Amanda Stern is curator of The Happy Endings Reading Series, a monthly event held at Joe’s Pub. Writers and musicians come to the stage, but there’s a twist—readers are required to take one public risk and do something they’ve never done before, and musicians have to perform one cover song and try to get the audience to sing along. Stern recently explained how her one-woman production company manages to pull together such big names for an evening of unexpected entertainment. The following transcript has been edited.

You started doing weekly sessions in a Chinatown bar called Happy Endings. Now you’re doing bigger productions in Joe’s Pub. Is this your happy ending, or is it just the beginning?

Ideally I’d like this to be the beginning of a much larger cultural program. However, I don’t have a salary, staff, grant money, a sugar daddy or an anonymous benefactor, so I need to figure out a way to get at least one of those things, stat.

Some of the upcoming readings this summer include Zadie Smith, Nick Laird, Adam Gopnik and Lisa Randall. How do you get such good names? (AMANDA: some of these names have changed).

The most important reason is that I am patient. It’s a courtship. I will wait as long as it takes to book someone whose work I believe in. I spent five months talking to James Salter. David Markson and I have been talking for a year and a half. I’ll wait.

You get authors to do on stage something they’ve never done before. What have been some highlights?

Ben Greenman reading aloud his pin code numbers, Ian Chillag getting a volunteer to cut his hair onstage, Andrew Sean Greer swapping outfits onstage with a volunteer from the audience, a random audience member singing opera while Lydia Davis played synthesizer and John Lurie playing harmonica for the first time onstage in 25 years and then almost fainting and falling down the stairs.

Has anything ever gone horribly wrong?

When I was trying to quit smoking, a doctor put me on Wellbutrin, but gave me too high a dosage so I had a panic attack on stage, which I described to the audience in great detail as it was happening.

Happy Endings reading series, first Wednesday of the month at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St., 212-254-1263, $15. Dates and times vary; visit amandastern.com/happyending for more information.


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