Bright Lights, Big City

The Marsh event last night was a good time. A different kind of reading than any I’ve done before. It was held at a performance theatre in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. An intimate horseshoe theatre that let the audience sit close to the stage. For us, the set consisted of a music stand for a podium and a lone microphone.

I was first to go up, and nearly blinded by the stage lights. It has been a long time since I’ve acted on stage(high school), and I’d forgotten about the brightness. We couldn’t see the audience, just darkness. Dim silhouettes and hazy outlines of people sitting in the front rows was all that I could make out.

I read most of “A Prude in Patpong” from Sand In My Bra and did my best to look to all parts of the theatre. The six of us read from paper, as no one had memorized their “travel(mono)logues.” But I tried to look up as often as I could, smile and pause appropriately, and gesture as needed. Mostly, I stood with my hands behind my back because I didn’t know what else to do with them and didn’t want them just hanging neanderthal-like at my side. The audience laughed and I was happy, but had no idea how the others were going to read. Or perform?

Next, Carla King read an excerpt from her upcoming book China Road. It was the best reading I’ve ever seen Carla give. She was lovely as always, but had the crowd laughing and engaged at her story about a Tibetan monk. You can read more from Carla in Wild Writing Women: Stories of World Travel.

Laura Fraser, author of An Italian Affair, read from something she was publishing with Gourmet. Those who hadn’t eaten before the show were definitely hungry after hearing about her moveable feast through the Aeolian Islands.




Tanya Shaffer, who organized the event, read from her new release, “Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Tale of a Woman Wanderer in Africa. Tanya has been performing since she was eight, and opened the show with a lively African song that the audience could participate in, “I Want Somebody to Carry Me Home.”

We had a brief intermission with normal house lighting. Brad Newsham, author of Take Me With You: A Round the World Journey to Invite a Stranger Home was there and chatting with Wild Writing Woman, Jacqueline Harmon Butler.

After the break, Lynn Ferrin read “Across Mongolia on a Horse with No Name,” a sensitive and graceful recount of her ride through the Mongolian steppes. The vastness of the starlit night sky she described made me want to go.

Finally, award-winning newspaper columnist Adair Lara had the crowd howling as a wind up to the evening. She read a variety of previous columnns involving travels with her husband Bill — not carpet shopping in Turkey, and afternoons spent writing a novel in a Parisian cafe in the footsteps of Hemingway. She is the author of five books including her latest, Normal is Just a Setting on the Dryer:And Other Lessens from the Real, Real World.

Jeff Greenwald and Jesse Kalisher were there to invite everyone to their travel show, Tales From the Edge, which begins tomorrow night. They will be talking abou their travels Thursdays thru Sunday, July 10-July 19, 2003, at 8pm. You won’t want to miss Jeff’s Travel Wheel of Fortune!

Big thanks to The Marsh for having us, and happy 14th birthday.