When Isaiah was host of Selected Shorts, a particular perk of the program was available only to audiences who attended the live performances at Symphony Space: the chance to hear the brief talks, or riffs, that Isaiah delivered during each intermission.
In the early years, these were fundraising pitches of various kinds; in later years they evolved into more wide-ranging social and political commentary. Sometimes the riffs captured a unique moment in Symphony Space history. Whatever the focus, they contained Isaiah’s trademark wit and intelligence – and, frequently, his particular series of gripes and pleasures along with his enthusiasm for rewriting classical sonnets and other literary works.
Until now, the riffs were a treat offered only to the theatre audiences, but we have now collected some of the best and are making them available here. Keep checking back, because we expect to add more in the coming months.
4-13-88: Comparing arts organizations in sonnet form
3-15-89: Isaiah as Julius Caesar
3-14-90: Isaiah offers answers to the NYT crossword puzzle
3-28-90: Isaiah showcases radio voices: NPR vs. commercial radio
4-11-90: Isaiah’s “fundraising sermon”
4-25-90: After Selected Shorts wins a National Press Club Award, Isaiah vows to be more serious
5-23-90: A “Longfellow” poem recounts the history of Selected Shorts as Literary Director Kay Cattarulla prepares to move to Dallas
2-13-91: Soliciting membership renewals through great love poetry
10-25-91: At the Getty in Los Angeles
10-26-91: V. S. Pritchett praises Fritz Weaver’s Selected Shorts reading
1-15-92: Isaiah delivers a “State of the Symph” address, with a reference to the historic lawsuit
2-15-92: Isaiah refers to a recent fire at the theatre
3-4-92: Voices of Selected Shorts listeners
3-18-92: A Village Voice ad showcases Selected Shorts as a matchmaking venue
1-27-93: In a letter to President Clinton, Isaiah confesses his parking fines
2-24-93: Isaiah tries to be succinct and get right to the point
3-10-93: The “membership follow-up renewal sonnets”
3-24-93: What it’s like to take Selected Shorts on the road
11-7-93: What are radio fans doing while they listen?
1-31-96: Isaiah conducts field research with the audience
2-14-96: Isaiah confronts radio censorship
5-8-96: Poe’s new poem, “The Maven”
5-22-96: Isaiah’s television commercial experience
6-5-96: Kathy Minton heads off to maternity leave