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John Lithgow's 'Stories by Heart' on opening night [Updated]

January 6, 2011 |  7:08 pm

Martin Massman and John Lithgow

In John Lithgow’s one-man show “Stories by Heart,” which opened Wednesday at the Mark Taper Forum, he stood alone onstage, acting out favorite short stories from his childhood and sharing memories of his father reading to the family.

“There’s magic in the personal connection between the storyteller and the audience,” said Lithgow at a backstage reception after the show. Compared with live storytelling, he said, “TV and movies feel like eavesdropping on the real event.”

The multiple Oscar nominee and Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe winner pointed to the unexpected in live performances, such as the moment that night when he stopped his narrative to welcome a latecomer, much to the delight of the audience. He also recalled an earlier play when he suggested -- again in a kindly, amusing way -- that a woman awaken her snoring husband, lest he miss an important scene.

On this night, however, the audience seemed riveted by Lithgow’s stories, presented in a manner far different from today’s high-tech varieties with multimillion dollar, computer-generated effects and choices of 3-D formats.

As Michael C. Hall, Ben Schwartz and comedian Sarah Silverman joined the party, Silverman recalled her mother reading to her. “It made me appreciate her more,” she said.

Hall, who plays TV’s “Dexter,” said his mother had him reading to her at a very young age: “It was in the single digits.”

[Updated at 11:30 a.m.: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Martin Massman as Michael Massman]

Also backstage were Martin Massman, chairman of the Center Theatre Group; artistic director Michael Ritchie and his wife, Kate Burton; Judi and Gordon Davidson; and actors Eric Stonestreet, Ben Vereen, Vik Sahay and Robert Wuhl.

-- Ellen Olivier

Photo: Martin Massman, left, and John Lithgow. Credit: Ryan Miller / Capture Imaging

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