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‘This American Life’ Host To Perform At Bushnell For Twain Gala

On his long-running, award-winning National Public Radio show "This American Life," Ira Glass often cedes the microphone to guests, who tell long stories about their experiences and beliefs. Many of the show's episodes have later been turned into movies, and some of the show's guests — from David Sedaris to Mike Birbiglia — have channeled their storytelling prowess into lecture tours and books.

When he appears Nov. 12 at The Bushnell, as the featured entertainment at the annual gala benefit for the Mark Twain House and Museum, Glass has a few things of his own to say. Seven, to be precise.

"Seven Things I've Learned" is the latest format Ira Glass has chosen for the medium of live performance. He brought his unconventional stage show "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host" to the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven two years ago.

In a phone interview on Halloween night, Glass discussed how important a sense of presentation can be for him in his work:

"The bane of my existence is people to whom something interesting has happened but who are not able to turn those experiences into a compelling story."

When asked if "Seven Things I've Learned" is a structured story, he chuckles and calls it "a crude frame for a story. It's seven things. Sometimes it's even more than that, once I get going. Then we add quotes and music from ["This American Life"]. We have sound and video clips, a mix of favorite stories we've done in the past."

At the Hartford show, he expects he'll include a snippet from "21 Chump Street," a short original musical devised by "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, based on a previous "This American Life" journalism segment, that the program broadcast in 2014.

So is the audience Glass' live shows the same as the audience for his radio series?

"Sometimes I ask the audience if anyone has only a vague idea of who I am," he says. He says that as much as a third of the audience has raised their hands. "One of the reasons I started doing speeches was promotional," he continues. "It was for events at [NPR] member stations."

Aware that his Hartford appearance is hosted by the Mark Twain House and Museum, he plans to "talk about Mark Twain a bit — a couple of pieces of his journalism, the writings of his that I love."

Then he mentions another act of respect: "I'll dress up. I'll wear a suit. Like a job interview."

Why? He's already got the job. The question begs to be asked, what does he wear when he turns up to work at the recording studio?

"Until two months ago, every day, I wore exactly the same thing: jeans and a white shirt. Or a blue shirt. Or a gray shirt.

"One day, I decided I would wear a suit. I'm almost 60, so it was time. I bought a bunch of suits."

One of Glass' neighbors, he says, told him "You're going to ruin the radio show! You have a horizontal structure there." He's amused that she knew to use the phrase "horizontal structure." She was concerned that the host, acclaimed for his conversational style and his distinct lack of loftiness, would no longer seem to exist on the same plane as his guests.

She needn't have worried.

"I am getting no more respect than I ever did," Glass says, laughing. "This was just another mark of adulthood. The first," he continues, "was when I was in my 20s, and I bought a couch."

AN EVENING WITH IRA GLASS, FEATURING "SEVEN THINGS I'VE LEARNED" is part of the Mark Twain House & Museum's Annual Gala, starting at 8 p.m. Nov. 12 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Tickets are $28 to $68, with discounts for Mark Twain House members and college students. A VIP Gala package, including a pre-show dinner reception with Glass and a post-show dessert reception, costs $275, of which $125 is tax-deductible; for details on that package, call 860-280-3112. Regular ticket sales are arranged through the Bushnell: 860-987-5900 and bushnell.org.

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