Isaiah is perhaps most widely known as host of Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story, in which actors read short stories live on stage and in recorded programs produced with WNYC that air on public radio stations throughout the United States. Isaiah selected the stories together with Symphony Space Director of Literary Programs Katherine Minton, and he directed the actors in the nuances of character and language that each story involved. He regularly saved a few favorites to perform himself, like this classic reading of Daniel Menaker’s "The Treatment":
Isaiah’s intermission riffs and sing-along quizzes [the quiz begins at 46:40] were notable features of the live performances of Selected Shorts on the Symphony Space stage and also in the many other venues around the country that welcomed the show. Taking the show on the road often led to adventures and observations that he chronicled in occasional blog posts, like this one about performing Selected Shorts on a cruise ship through the middle east and this one about roaming through Texas.
Shortly after Isaiah’s death, Colum McCann hosted a special tribute radio program of the series, with stories read by Isaiah and comments from Roy Blount, Jr., T.C. Boyle, Jane Curtin, and Sonia Manzano. The radio series and live programs, both at Symphony Space and on the road, continue today with a variety of hosts.
With Leonard Nimoy at Selected Shorts at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2010.
At the Crandall Public Library, Glens Falls, NY, 2010.
Working with actor Jerry Stiller in a rehearsal for a Selected Shorts reading.
Hosting Selected Shorts on the radio.