‘Olive Kitteridge’ live onstage

Word for Word founders Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter agree that they “scored” the rights to “Olive Kitteridge,” the Pultizer Prize-winning book of linked short stories by Elizabeth Strout.

This week, the acclaimed San Francisco theater troupe known for presenting short works of fiction literally as they’re written on the page, brings two of the book’s stories, “Tulips” and “River,” to Z Space at Theater Artaud this week.

“We wanted to show the arc, which is tricky to do in two stories,” Harloe says.

Noting that the production will “go from dark to light” in a piece directed by longtime Word for Word collaborator Joel Mullennix and starring Patricia Silver as the title character, Winter and Harloe describe the process of bringing “Olive Kitteridge” to the stage as “not easy,” but ultimately rewarding.

“I heard about the book from a woman in my sister-in-law’s gym, before Strout got the Pulitzer,” Harloe says, noting that “it kept cropping up” as material that would be perfect for Word for Word.

According to Winter, the company is drawn to writing that is evocative, with juicy language, a fun story and a narrative that can be shared among the characters: “You would think the story would have to have a lot of dialogue, but it doesn’t. It just needs to be something that can be activated.”

They started searching for the rights, and thought they might be derailed when Frances McDormand made a deal with HBO to produce and star as the title character in an ensemble drama based on the stories, which are set in a fishing town in Maine.

Staying in touch with Strout’s agent, who was “nice, courteous and trying to help out,” they prevailed, thanks, at least in part, to excellent references from big-time writers who have liked what Word for Word did with their stories. Amy Tan, Tobias Wolff and John Sayles are among those who champion the company.

Due to the different natures of the art forms at hand, Harloe and Winter aren’t worried about competing with the TV project — “it can only help us and in our little way we can help them,” Harloe says — and believe that one positive goal of both presentations is simply to get more people to read the book.

Winter and Harloe emphasize that the story is for people of all ages, calling Strout “such a human writer.” They add, “We have such a reverence for writers. They’re our rock stars.”

The pair, pleased to be in their inaugural season with Z Space, a group dedicated to fostering innovative local theater, also is looking forward upcoming projects: a Nov. 1 staged reading at the Jewish Community Center of works by Lydia Davis, and, in March, a production of Andrew Sean Greer’s “The Islanders.”

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

IF YOU GO

Olive Kitteridge

Presented by Word for Word

Where: Z Space, Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., San Francisco

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays–Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays; closes Sept. 26

Tickets: $20 to $40

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.zspace.org

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

From left, California state Sen. Milton Marks, Sen. Nicholas Petris, Assemblyman John Knox and Save San Francisco Bay Association co-founders Esther Gulick, Sylvia McLaughlin and Kay Kerr watch Gov. Ronald Reagan sign the bill establishing the Bay Conservation and Development Commission as a permanent agency in 1969. (Courtesy Save The Bay)
Sixty years of Saving San Francisco Bay

Pioneering environmental group was started by three ladies on a mission

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be added to sections of state Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101, including Park Presidio Boulevard, to keep traffic flowing as The City reopens. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes coming to some of The City’s busiest streets

Changes intended to improve transit reliability as traffic increases with reopening

Tents filled up a safe camping site in a former parking lot at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin in June 2020.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Proposal for major expansion of safe sleeping sites gets cool reception in committee

Supervisor Mandelman calls for creation of more temporary shelter sites to get homeless off streets

A surplus of	mice on the Farallon Islands have caused banded burrowing owls to stay year round instead of migrating, longtime researchers say. <ins>(Courtesy Point Blue Conservation Science)</ins>
Farallon Islands researchers recommend eradicating mice

The Farallon Islands comprise three groups of small islands located nearly 30… Continue reading

Once we can come and go more freely, will people gather the way they did before COVID? <ins>(Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo)</ins>
What happens when the pandemic is over?

After experiencing initial excitement, I wonder just how much I’ll go out

Most Read