"Downton Abbey" star Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) will read stories by author Jill McCorkle in the debut of WordTheatre at Chapman University.

“Downton Abbey” star Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) will read stories by author Jill McCorkle in the debut of WordTheatre at Chapman University.

WordTheatre’s fall series at Chapman University brings America’s finest short story writers to campus for celebrity and student performances. On Monday, Sept. 16, actors Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey) and Cassidy Freeman (Longmire, Smallville) will read stories by North Carolina-based writer Jill McCorkle, who will be present, in a special free event introducing the series.

President Jim Doti will be on hand to welcome attendees.  In the two ticketed events following, David Means will join the program from New York on Monday, Oct. 14; and Percival Everett and Danzy Senna will wrap up the series on Nov. 4. Each evening, a selection of film and television celebrities, as well as one of Chapman’s theatre students and the authors themselves, will perform the featured authors’ stories, followed by a Q&A with the artists. Signings will conclude the evening. Each performance will be at 7 p.m. in the Fish Interfaith Center.

The entire series includes:

  • September 16 (free event): Chapman University President James L. Doti introduces the series. Performances from:
    • Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey)
    • Cassidy Freeman (Longmire, Smallville)
    • Jill McCorkle (writer) – Author of five novels and four short story collections, five of which have been named New York Times notable books, McCorkle has seen her stories collected in the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction and New Stories from the South. Her writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, The New York Times Book Review and Allure, to name a few. She chaired Harvard University’s Creative Writing program for five years and currently teaches at North Carolina State University.
  • October 14 (ticketed event):
    • 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. Means’ stories have made several appearances in The New Yorker and the O. Henry Prize collections, and have been included in The Best American Short StoriesThe Best American Mystery Stories and numerous anthologies.
  • November 4 (ticketed event):
    • Percival Everett has penned 25 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 is the author of the nationally 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.

“Smallville” Actress Cassidy Freeman is a scheduled reader in the Sept. 16 WordTheatre event.

Cedering Fox, WordTheatre’s artistic director, selects the stories, casts esteemed film and television actors and directs the performances.  Each event will feature one Chapman theatre student.

WordTheatre performs in Los Angeles, New York and London, and Fox is careful to find the perfect voice for 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.

WordTheatre has partnered with Chapman University’s Department of English and with distinguished author and professor Richard Bausch to bring these world-class writers and actors to Orange. Fox is delighted by the opportunity.

“I have been a fan of Richard Bausch’s short stories for 20 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,” she said.

Admission to the Sept. 16 introductory event is free and open to the public.  The two subsequent performances, on Oct. 14 and Nov. 4, are free for students with ID, $18 for the general public.  Tickets for the October and November shows will be available at www.chapman.edu/wordtheatre.  Check for cast updates at www.WordTheatre.com; casting is subject to change.