Talk to Me: Celebrating Wallace Shawn at CUNY

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

If the meek are going to inherit the earth, then Wally Shawn will be in the vanguard. The diffident playwright and essayist, known for such works as "My Dinner with Andre," "Aunt Dan and Lemon," and "The Designated Mourner," presented readings of a wide range of his essays and dramas last month at the CUNY Graduate Center. Each piece of his work offered a passionate view of a world corroded by power, but redeemable through art.

The Obie-Award winner was joined by a group of literary and theatrical friends who voiced his work, including writers Fran Lebowitz, Peter Carey and Deborah Eisenberg; poet Mark Strand; and actors Mary-Louise Parker, Julianne Moore, Bob Balaban and Josh Hamilton.

Shawn's most recent play, "Grasses of a Thousand Colors," premiered in London in 2009. His first book of nonfiction, "Essays," was also published last year.

Bon Mots:

On differences in taste, from Shawn's essay "Aesthetic Preferences": "When certain people take their clothes off in public, they’re worshiped and rewarded, while others are arrested or taken to an insane asylum.”

On why art makes a difference, from Shawn's essay "The Quest for Superiority": "People beguiled by beauty are less dangerous to others than those obsessed by thoughts of supremacy…A poem really is more enjoyable than an empire."

On life, from Shawn's play "The Fever": “Life should be celebrated. Life is a gift.”

Click above to hear an excerpt from the evening celebrating Wallace Shawn, or below to watch a video of the event. The CUNY event was sponsored by Shawn's publisher, Haymarket Books, and the Theatre Communications Group.


More in:

Comments [2]


The audio and video are from the same event. However, Julianne Moore did not sign a form allowing us to show her on video. Therefore, we had to cut all instances of her out of the video.

Mar. 02 2011 01:13 PM

These must be two separate events because the audio file is completely different than the video file. I loved Julianne Moore's reading in the audio file, but she is nowhere to be found in the video (nor is anyone else from the audio version). Is there a video of the audio version?


Jan. 29 2011 04:11 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About Talk to Me

Talk to Me brings you downloadable readings and conversations with writers, artists, and scholars – from author Joshua Ferris to choreographer Mark Morris to poet Sharon Olds – recorded at cultural institutions in New York City and beyond. Stream, download, or subscribe to the full-length podcasts here.


Supported by