Joyce Carol Oates, Now Onstage

Now is the time to listen
Joyce Carol Oates will read for WordTheatre at Guild Hall Thursday night. Jeff Fasano

    Pity Joyce Carol Oates — if you can a literary rock star and National Book Award winner who’s expected to land a Nobel before long, who’s sold a stratospheric number of books, and, should she choose to stop writing them, has a secure perch in academia at Princeton.
    It’s just that she can’t catch a break whenever she’s reviewed, which is of course often, or profiled: “Prolific,” they say, “daunting in her productivity,” the volume of which does indeed make Stephen King’s look like Thomas Pynchon’s, but don’t blame her, she can’t help herself. Or, “the author of [your guess here — two score going on three?] novels.” After all, isn’t it hard to keep track given the pseudonyms? And on exactly whose say-so is a novella not a novel, anyway?
    But now is not the time for reading or writing. Now is the time to listen, as Ms. Oates peeks out from behind her mountain of bound paper to give life to a story of her choosing onstage in the John Drew Theater, curtain raised, front and center, under the lights, fully amplified. “Telling Tales: Stories of People Being Mostly Bad to Each Other (and a Little Good)” is the title of the evening she’ll be hosting, a production of WordTheatre, which is setting up shop at Guild Hall for a performance tonight at 8 featuring actors ranging from Chris (“True Blood”) Bauer to Harris (“Training Day”) Yulin, Ronald Guttman of “Mad Men” to Gary Dourdan of “CSI.”
    The beneficiary is the Pushcart Prize, that invaluable outlet and font of encouragement for writers everywhere (note if you will its Wainscott P.O. box), the life’s work of Bill Henderson, anthologist and editor. He apparently won’t be in attendance, he surely regrets, as he’s in Maine, escaping the summer crowds in one of the few Eastern Seaboard locales to out-pastoral his pastoral home, the hamlet of Springs.
    Ms. Oates, don’t forget, is a founding editor of Pushcart, making her appearance a homecoming, intellectually if not geographically. Copies of the 2013 “Best of the Small Presses” collection will be available for purchase.
    The readings will also benefit WordTheatre in Schools, a program that “brings actors, authors, and great contemporary literature to underserved students,” a release said.
    The evening is produced and directed by Cedering Fox, WordTheatre’s artistic director, known hereabouts as the daughter of the late Sagaponack poet Siv Cedering.
    Tickets cost from $25 to $45. V.I.P. tickets, at $100, include a reception with the actors after the show.