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South Pacific

Who woulda thunk that James Michener’s 1948 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific was brimming with hit-musical potential? But in the hands of Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein and World War II veteran Joshua Logan, South Pacific became one of the greatest musicals to grace the Broadway stage.

The musical, which candidly explores issues of war and racial prejudice, garnered the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1950. From “Bali Ha’i” to “Some Enchanted Evening,” its songs have become standards around the world. The original Broadway production swept the Tony Awards with 10 wins, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best libretto.

And the show’s 2008 Lincoln Center revival lived up to the South Pacific legacy, winning five Drama Desk Awards, seven Tonys and the praise of Broadway’s top critics.

The Newark Star-Ledger called it “a show you will remember forever!” And this week it’s your chance to catch the wave, when the national tour of the Lincoln Center production sails into Schenectady.

South Pacific opens on the mainstage at Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) on Wednesday (April 14) and runs through April 18. Tickets range from $20 to $65. For more info, or to purchase tickets, call 346-6204.

David Sedaris

It’s midnight at David Sedaris’ Paris home, one week before a whirlwind North American reading tour will take him to 34 cities on 34 consecutive nights, and he’s busy making preparations. “I have a list of what to pack. I’ve already started my ironing. I’m wrapping birthday presents that I will mail when I get to the United States. And I’m washing all the windows because it’s bad luck to leave the house with dirty windows.” When asked about this superstition, he concedes that it’s really born of his own tendency toward voyeurism. “The house across the street from me has really filthy windows, so I can’t look into them, and it drives me crazy. I just don’t want [the neighbors] to have the same feeling.”

On top of his busy work, the humorist and best-selling author of Naked, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames—not to mention countless contributions to NPR’s This American Life—is finalizing a new book of fiction that he’ll be road-testing and revising while on tour.

“I wrote this thing maybe five years ago, a little story about a cat who goes to a baboon to get her hair cut,” he says. “Like a fable, it had a moral and was short. When I started writing more of them, I decided to set some rules, like no character can have a name. Then I wrote one about a cat who joins an AA program in prison and the morals got a little, um, fuzzier.” The book, slated for release in October, is called Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary—“bestiary” being Sedaris’ preferred term to “fable,” as “the morals haven’t really changed. You could rewrite ‘fables’ and modernize them, but they’re all the same lessons: Don’t be greedy; work hard. A bestiary is just a story where animals do human things.” For example, in one story, an Irish setter ponders the flavor of his wife’s hysterectomy.

Currently, Sedaris has written 28 bestiaries but is looking to whittle that number down to 15 for the book. His reading series, which comes to the Palace Theatre on Monday, is crucial in determining which make the cut. Known as much for his distinctive voice and radio persona as for his books, Sedaris admits he writes for oration and relies on both the laughs and awkward silence of an audience to know what’s working in a new story. “You can feel people drifting off,” he says. “You can tell when they don’t understand. The reaction can be different on different days of the week or the order in which you read something.” Now that he lives abroad, Sedaris says there are issues of cultural resonance that also need to be taken into account.

It may strike some as odd that Sedaris, a celebrated social critic and satirist of American culture, now resides in France, but the author appreciates the peculiar perspective it allows him.

“There’s an underground mall here in Paris called Les Halles,” he says. “It’s a horrible place, but I went there the other day to see a movie, and they had these life-sized posters of nude men embracing, hanging from the ceiling. I thought, ‘Good for you, France. No American mall would ever put up a big photo exposition celebrating gay love.’ In the first photo, one guy is about 20, the other is 40. In the next, one is 40 and the other has thin hair and liver spots. And I thought, ‘Especially, no American mall would celebrate gay love with such an age discrepancy.’ The last one had a boy age 12, and finally I saw a sign that said, ‘Fathers and Sons: A Celebration’! Sometimes you don’t realize how American you are until you leave. I was completely wrong, and it was just in my way of thinking.”

Despite the grueling schedule, Sedaris says he truly enjoys reading before an audience. “You can only read something for the first time once, but nothing feels better than that. When I’m working on something I want to change it every night I’m on tour so I can think, ‘Oh, I’ve got that new line on page seven. Let’s see if that works.’ I was looking over what I read last time I was in Albany. I read three things I’d never read before, one of which I threw away and two that I changed a lot. So, I thought, maybe if I was in that audience I’d say, ‘Forget it. I’m not going back to see him.’ But I never want to be afraid to try new things.”

David Sedaris will read from new work and favorites when he comes to the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave., Albany) on Monday (April 12) at 8 PM. Tickets are $40 and $44. Call 465-3334 for more info.

—Josh Potter

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