People never forget where they come from. That’s the message of “Firelight,” Tobias Wolff’s short story about a poor boy and his mother who go apartment-hunting for places they know they can’t afford.
The timeless piece will be performed live on Apr. 30 at 1 p.m. in a radio event hosted by San Francisco’s NPR affiliate, KALW-FM 91.7 FM and Z Space’s Word for Word, a theater company that takes written prose directly to the stage.
“Firelight” was praised as one of the best short stories from Wolff’s collection, The Night in Question, by The New York Times in 1996. It’ll be the first installment in KALW’s new Corona Radio Theater, which airs as part of its weekly Open Air radio magazine. Every Thursday at 1 p.m., performers with different Bay Area theaters — like SF Playhouse or The Marsh — will present a live show. There’ll also be a podcast of the show after, for those who can’t tune in at one.
Word for Word has been inspired to bring Wolff’s works to life since 2002, but this is the first time they’ll be doing so during a pandemic like COVID-19. Wolff has received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, and is considered to be one of the greatest American short story writers.
“Firelight” explores how class dynamics create desire, as a young child desperately wishes for a fancy university apartment to be his. He’s mesmerized by the fireplace, and dreams himself into a warm home that doesn’t belong to him.
Years later, he’s still fixated by a fireplace he now owns: “I watch the fire, watch the changing light on the faces of my family. I try to feel at home, and I do, almost entirely. This is the moment I dream of when I am far away; this is my dream of home.”
Hear Wolff’s words from performers Molly Benson, Paul Finocchiaro, Stephanie Hunt, Anthony Nemirovsky, and JoAnne Winter. This segment will be directed by Joel Mullennix.
Apr. 30, 1 p.m. Free.
94.1 FM & kalw.org