Index (and links to less active productions at bottom of the index page)  
Abe Lincoln in the 21st Century  |  Coming Together Coming Apart  |  To Kill a Mockingbird  |  The Dickens!  
Fred and Adele Astaire: The Last Dance  |  Mark Twain: Telling Tales  |  The Belle of Amherst  |  Fahrenheit 451 
Study in Scarlet
  |  Joy Comes in the Morning

For "Long Island Reads" 2008

David Houston 

An hour-long Performance Reading in the Style of Radio Drama
(with background music and sound effects) from

A novel by Chang-rae Lee

Jerry Battle takes us into the clouds over Long Island in his used but cherished "nifty little Skyhawk," the airplane he bought "not for work or travel or the pure wondrous thrill of flight . . . but for the seriously unexamined reason of my just having to get out of the house." In Aloft, Chang-rae Lee examines his character's wants and fears, impatience and inertia, as he brilliantly explores life on our unique and diverse island early in the 21st Century, with back-stories of when we all led (apparently) simpler lives. A New York Times bestseller that like Gatsby indisputably spotlights (or exposes) Long Island on the map of the world.

"A wise, keenly observed and even more keenly felt picture of the 'endlessly curious circumstances and befuddlement' that attends its hero's life." NEW YORK TIMES

"With gorgeous prose and sharp-eyed metaphors, Lee reminds us of things we hold important but have somehow lost track of." LOS ANGELES TIMES

"A masterful treatment of a man coming to terms with his own disaffection . . . Lee just keeps getting better and better." SEATTLE TIMES

"Lee's genius is this confidential voice, full of cultural analysis, ironic asides, sexual candor, and unconscious revelations, laced along through one breathless paragraph after another in improbably extended sentences, perpetually buoyed by wit and insight." CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

"Lee is extremely adept at satirizing this uniquely American and relentless obsession with real estate and home improvement, epitomized by Battle's son and wife and their nouveaux riches friends. BOSTON GLOBE

"A majestic, moving novel. Lee isn't the first to point out that the suburbs hide uncharted depths of misery and discontentment--Updike, Rick Moody and John Cheefer among many others, have been here before. But Lee's portrait feels somehow more up-to-date than anything else out there. TIME


Chang-rae Lee was born in Korea in 1965. He emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 3 and was raised in Westchester, NY. He graduated from Yale with a degree in English and from the University of Oregon with a Masters in writing. His first novel, Native Speaker (1995), won the Hemingway PEN Award; it explores themes of alienation and betrayal as felt by immigrants and first-generation U.S. citizens. In 1999, he published his second novel, A Gesture Life, which elaborated on his themes of identity and assimilation through the narrative of an elderly physician who treated Korean comfort women during World War II. His 2004 novel Aloft features Lee's first protagonist who is not Asian American, but a disengaged and isolated suburbanite forced to deal with his world. Lee teaches writing at Princeton University, and currently serves as the director of Princeton's Program in Creative Writing.


Jerry's Donnie, his "nifty little
[Cessna] Skyhawk."

In his performance-reading, David Houston takes us ALOFT, where Jerry Battle confronts his puzzlements and shortcomings high above and beyond the realities of his daily life on Long Island . . . . 

David Houston has appeared in leading roles in scores of plays and musicals, including Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Senex in A Funny Thing, Ben in Death of a Salesman, Herr Shultz in Cabaret and Horace in The Little Foxes.  He is a published and produced writer of fiction and non-fiction.  His original plays - including Let's Do It!, The Last Dance, The Ghost of Dorothy Parker, Great Scott and Zelda, Murder and Madness and Poe, and The Dickens! - have been seen at a number of Long Island theatres, schools and libraries.  His Joan Crawford biography Jazz Baby (St. Martin's Press) was optioned for movie production, as was his mystery novel Shadows on the Moon (Leisure Books). His performance reading for "Long Island Reads 2007" was The Color of Water, featuring Debbie Starker as Ruth.



David Houston

(516) 293-2638 /

Performance runs about 70 minutes
$225 fee includes actor, reading stand, music and effects player; facility is
asked to supply an
8 x 12 acting space, basic lighting, and
amplification if the space is large

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Scheduled Performances

References, Reviews, Comments

Background: Literary Entertainments

  Scheduled Performances, 2008

Wednesday April 2, 7:00 p.m., Patchogue-Medford Library 
Thursday April 3, 1:00 p.m., Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library
Sunday April 6, 2:00 p.m., Bellmore Public Library
Monday April 7, 7:00 p.m., Middle Country Public Library, Centereach
Tuesday April 8, 1:00 p.m. Manhasset Public Library
Wednesday April 9, 2:30 p.m. H
alf Hollow Hills Community Library, Dix Hills
Thursday April 10, 11:00 a.m. Shelter Rock Public Library
Friday April 11, noon, Port Washington Public Library
Saturday April 12, 2:00 p.m. North Shore Public Library, Shoreham
Sunday April 13, 2:00 p.m. The Oceanside Library
Monday April 14, 2:00 p.m. Elmont Public Library
Tuesday April 15, 12:30 p.m. East Meadow Public Library
Wednesday April 16, 2:00 p.m. Jericho Public Library
Sunday April 20, 2:00 p.m. Massapequa Public Library, Massapequa Park
Thursday April 24, 2:30 p.m. West Babylon Public Library
Friday April 25, 2:30 p.m. Freeport Public Library
Sunday April 27, 2:00 p.m. Glen Cove Public Library
Monday April 28, 2:00 p.m. Long Beach Public Library

David Houston's "radio style" performance readings

ALOFT by Chang-rae Lee (David in a solo reading)

Linda White, Program Director, Elmont Public Library: "A wonderful performance. Patrons who attended responded with great excitement; one said David was "superb" and others agreed. They all thanked me for having the program and are looking forward to David's return." Marian Fontaine, for Michelle Young, Program Coordinator, Oceanside Library: "David Houston's performance was very good. The sound effects were effective and added to the story. His selections from the book told the whole story beautifully."  Davida Harris, audience, Patchogue Medford Public Library: "I enjoyed your radio drama style and appreciated your exciting presentation; there was fine music accompaniment; you enriched my retired senior-citizen life greatly." North Shore Public Library, Shoreham: "Very good. It deserved a larger audience." Jessica Ley, Program Coordinator, Port Washington Public Library: "Even readers less than enthusiastic about the book loved what David did with it; they said his interpretation brought the story and characters to life." Millie Scott, Librarian, West Babylon Public Library: "Excellent, as always!" 

THE COLOR OF WATER by James McBride (David with Debbie Starker as Ruth)

Beth Saltalamacchio, Cultural Program Specialist, Plainview Old Bethpage Public Library: "Excellent interpretation of James McBride's book. It brought the characters to life." Barbara Minerd, Public Relations Director, Shelter Rock Public Library: "The musical selections were a perfect choice, a wonderful enhancement for the performance. If this radio drama doesn't inspire those who haven't read the book to read it, I don't know what will." Jude Schanzer, Program Director and Publicity, East Meadow Public Library: "Stupendous meticulous thought obviously given to the material and the venue in which it was to be performed.  The audience was visibly moved."  Marion Waller, Professional Theatrical Director, at Copiague Library: "The performances were mesmerizing.  You "saw" these people and never had to wonder who was speaking.  Eras and places were evoked to maximum effect." Penelope Wright, Director of Adult Programs, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton: "A brilliant adaptation of a remarkable book.  The superbly acted production conveys the pure essence of Mr. McBride's poignant tribute to his remarkable mother." Melissa Gabrielle, Programs, South Country Library, Bellport: "A powerful and wonderful performance that had a great impact on the audience.  The high school students who attended were impressed with the quality of the performances and commented that they found that the actors made the story even more relevant to their experiences in class." Linda May, actress, at Port Jefferson Free Library: "It was wonderful!  David Houston has done an excellent job of taking excerpts from the book and turning them into a seamless, entertaining evening.  He does the narration and all the other voices to wonderful effect. Debbie Starker reads the mother, and she is mesmerizing. I was completely drawn into the mother's world, and even though I had read the book, I was waiting on the edge of my seat for what came next." Patricia Eren, Program Coordinator, Floral Park Library: Excellent in all categories; "Everyone was delighted with the performance."

TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY by John Steinbeck (David in a solo reading) 

Millie Scott, Librarian, West Babylon Public Library: "The West Babylon Literary Club was looking forward to your presentation and again were not disappointed!  An excellent program.  Thanks!"  Kate Horan, Adult Services Librarian, South Country Library: "I am so impressed with how you coordinated text selections with the music of Aaron Copland.  I'm sure you could tell by the audience's enthusiastic response that everyone loved the various voices you highlighted in our narrative journey across America."  Linda Kundla, Librarian, Sea Cliff Library: "My patrons enjoyed the performance thoroughly."  Fran Carey, patron, Half Hollow Hills Community Library: "I loved Copland's music accompanying the lively and animated reading; this was a delightful and engaging performance." Barbara Minerd, Program Director, Shelter Rock Public Library: "Accents are wonderful and the selection of background music perfect; the audience was mesmerized."  Tracey Simon, Program Coordinator, Lynbrook Public Library: "The feedback was quite positive and inspired a few members of the audience to read the book and join us for the book discussion the following week!"  Jessica Ley, Program Coordinator, Port Washington Public Library: "Another stellar interpretation of a literary work—moving and impeccably presented."

SNOW IN AUGUST by Pete Hammill (David with Matt Stashin reading boys' voices)

Lorraine Paesano and Mary Frayne, Librarians, Middle Country Public Library: "It's too bad we had time constraints; our whole group would have loved to hear more.  The accents, the shifting of characters, the musical accompaniment – all added to a magical reading.  [The reading brought] Snow in August to life for us." Marcia Johnson, Program Coordinator, North Shore Public Library, Shoreham: "Both performers were well prepared, relaxed and professional.  Mr. Houston's adaptation of the book into the style of an old-time radio broadcast, complete with music underscoring, was deftly done.  Finally, the accents effectively delineated the many characters portrayed." Beth Saltalamacchio, Cultural Program Specialist, Plainview Old Bethpage Library: "This program gave me a better sense of the whole book than I thought was possible.  The segments were well planned, and the actors did a wonderful job creating characters and voices.  The background music added to the creation of an atmosphere."  Evelyn Pusinelli, Program Coordinator, Hicksville Public Library: "The audience was enthralled with the reading; the presentation held their attention.  Excellent."  Barbara Minard, Program Director, Shelter Rock Public Library: "The performance was much more than I expected.  Music selections augmented the reading perfectly.  Foreign accents beautifully transported the audience to a different time and place.  All in all, it was relaxing, entertaining, and very professional."

SHERLOCK HOLMES: STUDY IN SCARLET (David in a solo reading)

Monica Brennan, Program Chairman, Montauk Library: "Very good.  We will be in touch for future programs."  Penelope Wright, Director of Adult Programs, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton: "Today's very wonderful Halloween entertainment was even better than I had hoped.  We were all riveted!"  Carol Byrne, Program Director, Deer Park Public Library: "Excellent. Patrons loved it." Phyllis Cox, Program Coordinator, Jericho Public Library: "The audience was very impressed with the overall presentation and change of voices.  I heard comments about how wonderful the 'radio style' was." Jude Schanzer, Adult Program Director, East Meadow Public Library: "Excellent audience response, literary effectiveness, performance quality; I recommend it." Barbara Minerd, Public Relations, Garden City Public Library: "Another excellent program, reliable, professional, timely." Patricia Brandt, Program Director, Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor: "I'd definitely recommend the show to others.  Here are comments from patrons: 'Terrific job!', 'I haven't missed one of his shows here; he's terrific.', 'Very good.', 'Please keep having these shows; they are always great.'"

Literary Entertainments

David Houston's series of small-scale theatrical productions, on themes of history and literature, got its start in 2000 when he portrayed Charles Dickens, circa 1867, at a New York theatre and gathered impressive reviews. In 2001 he toured THE DICKENS! to Long Island libraries, where interest in additional plays was expressed. Houston—an accomplished writer and experienced actor—jumped at the opportunity. He wrote, produced and directed GREAT SCOTT AND ZELDA, with Melanie Lipton and Steve Corbellini, which toured libraries during the 2002 “Long Island Reads” celebration of THE GREAT GATSBY.  Since then he has added other original plays to the repertoire: LILLIE ALONE, a one-woman tour-de-force starring Mary Ellin Kurtz as Lillie Langtry backstage in 1900 as she prepares lies to tell an interviewer and presents monologues from her classic stage successes; MARK TWAIN TELLING TALES, in which Houston, as the elderly Twain, gives a lecture on humor and wit, derived from Twain essays and stories; MURDER AND MADNESS AND POE, starring Rick Heuthe as Edgar Allan Poe attempting to secure a lucrative lecture tour in 1848, quoting and reading poetry and stories in the process; LET'S DO IT!, developed at the request of the Port Washington Library, a one-act musical in which Noel Coward (Houston) and Cole Porter (Heuthe) test material for Coward’s cabaret debut in Las Vegas, ending with Coward's outrageous lyrics for Porter's "Let's Do It"; JAZZ BABY JOAN, with Melanie Lipton as Joan Crawford in 1934 defending her career and reliving her childhood, based on Houston's Crawford biography Jazz Baby (St. Martin's Press); THE GHOST OF DOROTHY PARKER with actress Diana Heinlein as the famed Algonquin Round Table wit trying to make sense of her turbulent life through her poetry and stories; WALT WHITMAN, TO BEGIN WITH in which Houston impersonates Whitman and his critics; FRED AND ADELE ASTAIRE: THE LAST DANCE, starring Melanie Lipton and Steve Corbellini, in which, backstage in 1932, Fred and Adele reminisce in song and dance as she leaves their famous act for good; and new editions of THE DICKENS! featuring "A Christmas Carol" and “The Chimes.” In addition to original plays, Houston's group currently presents Melanie Lipton as Emily Dickinson in William Luce's Broadway play THE BELLE OF AMHERST; Houston in a reading of the first Sherlock Holmes novel STUDY IN SCARLET; Houston in readings of three short stories of ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER; a three-actor "radio style" dramatization of Ray Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451 with Houston, Lipton and Matt Stashin, and a reading from JOY COMES IN THE MORNING with David and and Gail Merzer Behrens.  For Long Island Reads in past years, Houston provided "dramatic readings in the form of radio drama" in 2003 HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS, with Houston and Lipton; 2004 SNOW IN AUGUST with Houston and Stashin; 2005 Houston ’s solo reading from Steinbeck’s TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE; 2006 Houston’s solo reading from Mark Mills’s AMAGANSETT; 2007 from James McBride's THE COLOR OF WATER with Houston and Debbie Starker; and for 2008 a solo reading from Chang-rae Lee's ALOFT.


Copyright © 2007, David Houston