Actor Lesley Nicol at Chapman WordTheatre Event Sept. 16, 2013
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

» WordTheatre® at Chapman University

Celebrated Authors’ Short Stories Brought to Life by Film and Television Celebrities & Chapman Students

This event is free and open to the public.

The WordTheatre series at Chapman University brings America’s finest short story writers to Orange for celebrity and student performances. Join us for short story readings by author Bobbie Ann Mason (In Country, Patchwork, Shiloh & Other Stories) and acclaimed Hollywood actors Tess Harper (No Country For Old Men, Tender Mercies), Cassidy Freeman (Righteous Gemstones, Longmire), and a Chapman student actor (TBA). 

Performances will take place on Monday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Fish Interfaith Center at Chapman University.

Bobbie Ann Mason

Bobbie Ann Mason burst onto the American literary scene during a renaissance of short fiction that Raymond Carver called a “literary phenomenon.” Anne Tyler hailed Mason as “a full-fledged master of the short story.” Mason’s work, charged with a spirit of exploration, garnered both popular and critical acclaim.

Tess Harper

Tessie Jean "Tess" Harper is an American actress. She was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her first film role in 1983's Tender Mercies, and for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 1986 film Crimes of the Heart.

Cassidy Freeman

Cassidy Freeman is an American actress and musician. She is known for her role as Tess Mercer in The CW's superhero drama Smallville and Cady Longmire in Longmire.


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Past Authors

John Edgar Wideman

Author John Edgar Wideman

John Edgar Wideman was the second African-American Rhodes scholar and studied 18th-century narrative at Oxford. He played basketball for Penn State and wrote Hoop Roots: Basketball, Race, and Love. He writes short stories, novels, and nonfiction. His most recent book is Writing to Save a Life, which investigates the life of Louis Till, a man executed by the Army ten years before Till's son, Emmett, was murdered. His award-winning novel Philadelphia Fire is based on the 1985 bombing of a cult.

TY Boyle

Author TC Boyle is a recipient of over 40 awards and honors. TC Boyle has received the PEN/Faulkner Prize for best novel of the year (World's End, 1988); the PEN/Malamud Prize in the short story (T.C. Boyle Stories, 1999); and the Prix Médicis Étranger for best foreign novel in France (The Tortilla Curtain, 1997). His stories have appeared in most of the major American magazines including The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire and The Atlantic Monthly.

Author Tim Obrien

Tim O'Brien is an American novelist best known for his work of fiction, The Things They Carried, a critically acclaimed collection of semi-autobiographical, interrelated short stories.

Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle is a Canadian writer whose children's books have been adapted into both movies and plays. Many of his stories are drawn from his experiences growing up in Ottawa and vicinity.

Stuart Dybek

Stuart Dybek is a poet and fiction writer. His fiction includes Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, I Sailed With Magellan, a novel-in-stories, Paper Lantern: Love Stories, and Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories. His work has been anthologized and has appeared in magazines such as Harper’s, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Tin House, Ploughshare, and Triquarterly. Dybek is the recipient of many awards including Lannan Prize, a PEN/Malamud Award (1995), a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an O. Henry Award.

Ann Beattie

Ann Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections, in John Updike’s The Best American Short Stories of the Century, and in Jennifer Egan’s The Best American Short Stories 2014. She received the PEN/Malamud Award in 2000 for achievement in the short story and the Rea Award in 2005. Beattie was the Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia (Emerita) and is currently a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters and of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum  - is the author of two novels, Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award, and Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, the Georgia Review, and the Best American Short Stories 2004 and 2009. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship, she was named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by The New Yorker. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Otis College of Art and Design.

Marisa Silver

Marisa Silver - is the author of the novel, Mary Coin, a New York Times Bestseller, published in 2013 by Blue Rider Press/Penguin. Silver made her fiction debut in The New Yorker in the magazine’s first “Debut Fiction” issue. Her collection of short stories, Babe in Paradise was named a New York Times Notable Book and The Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year in 2001. Her novel, The God of War, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Winner of the O. Henry Prize, her fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, as well as other anthologies.

Jill McCorkle

Jill McCorkle
Author of five novels and four short story collections, five of which have been named New York Times notable books, her stories have been collected in the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction and New Stories from the South. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, The New York Times Book Review, and Allure to name a few. She chaired Harvard’s Creative Writing program for five years and currently teaches at NC State.

David Means

David Means
Winner of a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship, Means is a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner. He has published over 50 stories in magazines ranging from Esquire to The New Yorker to Zoetrope and his writing can be found in the O. Henry Prize collections, The Best American Short Stories, and several other anthologies. He joins us from New York where he teaches at Vassar.

Percival Everett WordTheatre

Percival Everett
Everett is author of twenty-five works of fiction including Erasure, for which he won a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. He is the recipient of a PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, New American Writing Award and The Believer Book Award, among several others. His stories have appeared in The Pushcart Prize Anthologies and Best American Short Stories.

Danzy Senna

Danzy Senna
Senna is the author of the national bestselling novel Caucasia. Winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award, it was named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year and has been translated into eight languages. She is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award.


Allan Gurganus
Author Allan Gurganus is best known for his novel “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,” which won the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and spent eight months on the New York Times bestseller list. The CBS adaptation of the work, starring Donald Sutherland and Diane Lane, won four Emmy Awards, including a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for Cicely Tyson as the freed slave Castalia. Gurganus’ other works include his two novels “White People” (Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Pen-Faulkner Finalist) and “Plays Well With Others,” as well as two collections of novellas. Gurganus was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and is the recipient of an Ingram Merill Award.

Past Actors


Chapman Student Actor Antonio Onofre Abarca

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, he moved to San Antonio, Texas at the age of five. Antonio started acting when he was in the 5th grade and has continued since. Now a college student, as a professional young artist with experience on stage as an actor, singer and dancer, he is dedicated to his love for acting. In March of 2014, he got the opportunity to perform in his first movie role with actors Pepe Serna and Jesse Borrego, under Director Aaron Lee Lopez of Mutt Productions in the movie Gino's Wife. His peers have called him a character actor. He brings realness to his performance, whether it is just a small part or lead.

Tommie Russell Jr

Chapman Student Actor Tommie Russell

Tommie Lee Russell, Jr was born in Houston, Texas to a mother in the Navy and a father in the Air Force. The family was stationed in Oakland, California, Beaufort, South Carolina, and Okinawa, Japan, before settling in Fort Worth, Texas. After his short stint at Xavier, Tommie committed to his passion for acting and followed this conviction back out to California where he would first receive his Associates Degree at Santa Monica College. After a rigorous application and audition process, Tommie was the only transfer student of his class to be granted admission into Chapman University's BFA Screen Acting program. Tommie, now in his senior year, played the lead in Chapman's main stage production of Intimate Apparel and has acted in an array of films at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, one of which achieved a finalist position in the 2016 Sundance Ignite Challenge. Tommie has worked alongside University Alum and Stranger Things creators, The Duffer Brothers, during the school's biggest and most profitable fundraiser showcase.

Gary Dourdan

Actor Gary Dourdan

Gary Dourdan was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA as Gary Robert Durdin. He is an actor, known for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000), Alien: Resurrection (1997) and Thursday (1998).

Roger G Smith

Actor Roger Guenveur Smith

Roger Guenveur Smith is an American actor, director, and writer. Smith was born in 1955 in Berkeley, California, the son of Helen Guenveur, a dentist, and Sherman Smith, a judge. He attended Loyola high school in Los Angeles, Occidental College in Los Angeles and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he successfully auditioned for the Drama School, switching from his pursuit of a graduate degree in History.

Victoria Bohush headshot Chapman University Theatre student, Victoria Bohush

Actor James Allen McCune

Talented young actor James Allen McCune's most notable performances include recurring guest star roles Jimmy in AMC's hit show The Walking Dead and Matty Baker on Shameless as well as protagonist James in the 2016 film Blair Witch. Since April, McCune has played a recurring role as a fictional, improvised version of himself in Sugar Pine 7's award-winning "Alternative Lifestyle" web video series.


Actor Gregg Henry

This prolific and versatile is perhaps best known for his roles as Val Resnick in Payback and more recently Hollis Doyle in Scandal and Grandpa Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy. Gregg Henry has 'one of those faces'. You may not know where you saw him but he looks awfully familiar. With 168 film and television credits alone, it isn't any wonder! This past summer Henry made heated headlines controversially depicting Donald Trump as the title character of Julius Caesar in the Public Theater's Free Shakespeare In The Park production.

Danraj Brandon James Somerville (Chapman Student Actor) 
Brandon Somerville is an actor, known for Still James (2017), They Came! (2017) and Strip for me (2017).
Aurelio Danraj “Danny” Rajasansi (Chapman Student Actor)
Brandon Aurelio De Anda (Chapman Student Actor)
Jon Jon Huertas (known for his work on Castle, Generation Kill, Sabrina The Teenage Witch).
Jackson Rathbone Jackson Rathbone (Twilight Films, Finding Carter, The Last Airbender)
Vanessa Lengies Vanessa Lengies (Glee, Hawthorne, Lego Stars, Stick It)
Fred Melamed  Fred Melamed (Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Good Wife)
Cohen Assaf Cohen (Weeds, Heroes, 24, Fast & the Furious, American Sniper)
Nicholas Bustamante Chapman University Student Actor Nicholas Bustamante
(Senior, BFA)
Chelsea Davis Chapman University Student Actor Chelsea Davis
(Junior, BFA)
Francesca Artalejo Chapman University Student Actor Francesca Artalejo
(Junior, BFA)
Word Theater Actors Joely Fisher is an American actress known for her roles in the film The Mask and TV shows such as Ellen, Last Man Standing, and Desperate Housewives.
Christopher Gorham Christopher Gorham is an actor and director, known for Covert Affairs, Popular and Justice League: War.
Student Actor Kiera Quealy - Student Actor
Jason George Featured Actor: Jason George - (Grey’s Anatomy, Mistresses, Barbershop)
Roma Maffia Featured Actor: Roma Maffia - (Pretty Little Liars, Nip/Tuck)
Zenoni Student Actor: BFA Acting Student Laura Zenoni
Xander Berkeley

Xander Berkeley – Xander Berkeley made his film debut in the cult classic Mommie Dearest. He went on to land roles in films ranging from the offbeat - Sid and Nancy, Terminator 2, Leaving Las Vegas and Gattaca - to modern classics including The Rookie, Apollo 13, A Few Good Men, and Amistad, making him one of the most well-respected actors around. Television credits include the Fox hit 24 and the CW's Nikita. His next feature film will be Louder Than Words, and he's recently completed roles in the upcoming films Interstellar and Solace. He is married to Sarah Clarke, whom he met on the set of “24.”

Sarah Clarke

Sarah Clarke – Sarah Clarke is best known for her role on Fox’s acclaimed television series 24, where she portrayed “Nina Meyers” for three seasons. She recently starred on Trust Me and has had recurring roles on Men of a Certain Age, the hit drama Covert Affairs, and Nikita. In film, she is known for her role in the teenage vampire phenomenon Twilight; (portraying Renee Dwyer, Kristen Stewart’s mother). Sarah returned to the role in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. She also co-starred in the independent feature Women in Trouble and the independent film The Signal. Sarah is currently recurring on the new sci-fi drama The Tomorrow People and filming the highly anticipated pilot of the new drama Line of Sight.

Sterling Suleiman

Sterling Sulieman – Sterling Sulieman has appeared in TV’s “The Vampire Diaries,” “24,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “NCIS,” “Bones,” “Entourage” and many more series.  He had a long run on the daytime drama “All My Children,” on which he starred as “Dre Woods” from 2007-08.  On film, he appeared in 2011’s “In Time” with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.

Danielle Panabaker Danielle Panabaker - (“Friday the 13th,” “Unnecessary Roughness”)
Robert Wisdom Robert Wisdom - (“Nashville,” “The Dark Knight Rises”)
Donathan Walters is the Chapman student who will be performing Donathan Walters - (Chapman Student)
Lesley Lesley Nicol - (Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey)
Cassidy Freeman Cassidy Freeman - (Longmire, Smallville)
Bruce Vilanch

Bruce Vilanch - Vilanch is an American comedy writer, songwriter and actor. He is a six-time Emmy Award-winner. Vilanch is best known to the public for his four-year stint on Hollywood Squares, as a celebrity participant; behind the scenes he was head writer for the show. In 2000, he performed off-Broadway in his self-penned one-man show, Bruce Vilanch: Almost Famous.

Stephen Tobolowsky

Stephen Tobolowsky - Tobolowsky is an American actor and author. He played annoying insurance salesman Ned Ryerson in the Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day, as well as such television characters as Commissioner Hugo Jarry in Deadwood and Bob Bishop in Heroes. He has had recurring roles as Sandy Ryerson on Glee, and as Stu Beggs on Californication.

Gethin Anthony

Gethin Anthony - Anthony (Charles Manson in NBC's Aquarius, Renly Baratheon in Game of Thrones).

Morgran Lauff

Morgan Lauff - Lauff is a senior at Chapman University ('15), majoring in Theater Performance, minoring in Integrated Educational Studies.

WordTheatre’s Artistic Director

Mae Whitman reads Meg Howrey at Soho House West HollywoodCedering Fox, selects the stories, casts esteemed film and television actors and directs the performances. Each event will feature one Chapman Drama student. WordTheatre® performs in Los Angeles, New York and London, and Ms. Fox is known for brilliantly pairing the right actor with each story.

Past actor/author pairings include Board Member James Franco reading Jim Shepard, Honorary Board Member Amanda Seyfried reading Dylan Landis, Julianna Margulies reading Amy Hempel, Jeff Goldblum reading TC Boyle, Marcia Gay Harden reading Pamela Painter, David Strathairn reading Russell Banks, Damian Lewis reading Anthony Doerr, Amy Brenneman reading Jane Smiley and many more.

(Left: Mae Whitman reads Meg Howrey at Soho House West Hollywood.)

Partnering with Chapman

Tracie Thoms and Dorian Missick at WordTheatre 'Storytales' at The Ford AmphitheatreWordTheatre has partnered with Chapman University’s English Department and with distinguished author/professor Richard Bausch to bring these world-class writers and actors to Orange. Fox is delighted. “I have been a fan of Richard Bausch’s short stories for twenty years. I finally had the pleasure of meeting Richard when we featured his work in WordTheatre’s New York series last year. He loved hearing the way the actors breathed life into the stories and was deeply moved. It is an emotional experience to be in the audience. When Richard emailed me to say he was relocating to Chapman, I immediately booked him for our Los Angeles series. That night, the idea of bringing WordTheatre to Chapman was born. We are launching what we hope will be a long and distinguished series at Chapman, that will bring the best writers and actors in the world to Orange County.”

WordTheatre: Giving Voice to Great Writing is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization on a mission to open up new ways of thinking about words, stories, and people through powerful and entertaining performances that bring contemporary literature to life. The organization also creates original themed events to benefit fellow educational and charitable organizations. Full season information is available at

Chapman University is one of California’s oldest and most respected private universities. Founded in 1861, the university attracts high-achieving undergraduate and graduate students from all over the United States, and more than 60 nations around the world. Chapman’s English Department offers students innovative and personalized instruction as the basis for lifelong learning and literary citizenship.

(Left: Tracie Thoms and Dorian Missick at WordTheatre 'Storytales' at The Ford Amphitheatre.)

WordTheatre® Contact Information

(310) 915-5150
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