GREAT BARRINGTON -- Actress Kate Burton knew nothing about the writings of Alice Munro until she was given one of her stories to read for a "Selected Shorts" program by its creator, the late Isaiah Sheffer -- founder of Symphony Space, a not-for-profit multiarts theater on New York’s Upper West Side.
She’s been a fan ever since.
Burton didn’t know Robert Coover’s writings either. That all changes at 8 tonight when Burton reads a Coover story, "The Waitress," in a "Selected Shorts" presentation at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, where she will be joined by Jane Curtin and Campbell Scott, who will be reading stories by Louise Erdrich and Malle Meloy.
Burton, who is hosting tonight’s program, knows the Berkshires well. The first of many summers at Williamstown Theatre Festival was 1987, her first summer as a professional actress. Four years earlier, she apprenticed at Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge and appeared in Paul Osborne’s "The Vinegar Tree."
"I have several friends, alums of Williamstown, who live in and near Great Barrington who have been wanting me to come down," she said by telephone from New York, where the Emmy-nominated actress is doing a pre-Broadway workshop of "Gigi."
"I’m always happy to get to South County. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do this."
The art to reading, she says, involves finding the right balance in your voice.
"You are playing the part of the narrator and you are taking on the various characters in the story," she says. "The art is finding that tiny little hint of inflection to distinguish one voice from another."
After the "Gigi" workshop in New York, she is planning to take the rest of the summer off. She hasn’t heard yet about her shooting schedule for the ABC television series "Scandal," for which Burton has received an Emmy nomination for her recurring role as U.S. Vice President Sally Langston.
"You never really know what your schedule is going to be if you have a recurring role. But isn’t that (Emmy nomination) exciting?" she said with child-like glee.
Burton finds joy in these "Selected Shorts" readings.
"I love what they choose for me," she said. "I think it’s the most fun we have as actors.
"I remember (actress) Linda Lavin saying to me once, ‘Who knew adults liked being read to.’ "