Featured Authors and Actors 11/12/16

JacindaTownsend_webJacinda Townsend is the author of Saint Monkey (Norton, 2014), which is set in 1950s Eastern Kentucky and won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for historical fiction. Saint Monkey was also the 2015 Honor Book of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was longlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and shortlisted for the Crook’s Corner Book Prize. The novel received critical acclaim from numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, where it was reviewed in the Sunday Book Review and listed in Paperback Row. Saint Monkey was also listed in the Louisville Courier Journal’s Year-End Favorites, named a Top Novel of 2014 by The Root, and chosen as the May 2015 Book of the Month by the Go on Girl! National Book Club.

RabihAlameddine_webRabih Alameddine is the author of the novels I, the Divine (Norton) and The Hakawati (Knopf), which was an international bestseller, as well as Koolaids and The Perv (both Grove Atlantic). His novel An Unnecessary Woman (Grove) won the NCIBA Award 2014 and California Book Award 2014, and was a finalist for the National Book Award 2014, the PEN Open Book Award 2015, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and longlisted for the IMPAC Award. The French translation won the 2016 Prix Femina étranger. His most recent novel, The Angel of History (Grove Atlantic), has been nominated for an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence (finalists to be announced Oct 26, 2016). Alameddine was a 2002 Guggenheim fellow. He divides his time between San Francisco and Beirut. (Photo by Oliver Wasow)

Alana MathewsAlana Mathews will read an excerpt from Jacinda Townsend’s novel-in-progress. In addition to performing for Stories on Stage Davis and Sacramento, Mathews has appeared in several productions with Celebration Arts and received an Elly nomination for Best Lead Actress for her role of Marta in Sorrows and Rejoicings. She played Martha in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Sacramento Theatre Company. Mathews most enjoys the role of mom to her three children, Caleb, Jordan, and Josiah.

BobCooner_webBob Cooner will read an excerpt from The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine. Cooner has performed in plays and musicals in Sacramento, Chicago, New York City, Houston (his hometown), and on tour, most recently as Scottie in Tribute at the Woodland Opera House. Woodland Opera House theatergoers have also seen him as Arthur in Camelot, Georg in She Loves Me, Tateh in Ragtime, and in the musical revue Swinging on a Star. Other local productions include Assassins (Charles Guiteau) with Artistic Differences, Side by Side by Sondheim with the Actor’s Theatre of Folsom, and Love Letters (Andy) with Knockabout Stage. As a cabaret performer, Cooner has created and performed I’ve Heard That Song Before: The Songs of Sammy Cahn and Uptunes for the Downturn with musical director Sam Schieber, as well as It’s Not Too Late, By Hart: The Songs of Lorenz Hart, Two for the Road: The Travel Show, and It’s Not Me, It’s You with musical director Graham Sobelman. As a director, Cooner has helmed the Woodland Opera House productions of Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical, A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, Noises Off, Brigadoon, Man of La Mancha, Once Upon a Mattress, and the world premiere of Second-Best Bed, written by his husband, Matthew Abergel. The world premiere of Cooner’s new retro comedy, Prime Time for the Holidays, with music by Sam Schieber, runs from October 28–November 20 at the Woodland Opera House. (Photo by Karen Alexander)

Gratitude and the Power of Fiction


In September 2013, Jeri Howitt founded Stories on Stage Davis with the support of a small grant and a group of volunteers. We started out in the cozy, upstairs Learning Center at the Pence Gallery and quickly outgrew the space. To accommodate our loyal audience, we moved downstairs to the main gallery, where, every month, we continue to present fiction introduced by authors and read by actors, surrounded by beautiful, sometimes surprising, and always thought-provoking art.

From the beginning, we have been committed to paying our authors and actors for the work they share with us. This August, in need of additional funds to sustain the series and help cover the costs of our 2016-17 season, we launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. We are thrilled to announce that, on October 5, hours before our deadline and with the help of 70 backers, we met our fundraising goal. (If you selected a perk with your donation, know that we’re busy fulfilling them this week and next!)

More than ever, we are proud to call Pence Gallery—and Davis—home, and we offer our sincere thanks to you for supporting our fundraising campaign by donating, telling your friends, and sharing our links; for joining us month after month at the Pence to celebrate the literary, theater, and visual art that makes our region special, and to our authors, for trusting us with their words, and our actors, for bringing words to life.

At our October 8 event, we were moved by author Carmiel Banasky’s remarks on the power of fiction: “Especially in the immediate political climate, fiction is a tool for empathy,” she said. “It is not an escape from reality. It is an invitation to think broader, deeper, and beyond our own skin. It is an invitation to figure out how we are connected.” In the months ahead, we hope every event—every story—will invite you to reflect on the many connections we share as a community, here in Davis and beyond, and inspire conversations that will continue outside the gallery doors.

And yes—Naomi Williams is getting that tattoo!

Thank you,

Elise Winn Pollard and Naomi Williams, co-directors, and the entire Stories on Stage Davis board