On the fourth stop of a national “barnstorming” book tour, Garrison Keillor, one of America’s most popular storytellers, will entertain an audience Tuesday night in the intimate setting of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré, reading passages from his latest book, “The Keillor Reader.”
Renowned for his nostalgic reminiscences about Midwestern customs and culture, Keillor will present from the set of Willy Loman’s kitchen, the stage backdrop for Le Petit’s current production, “Death of a Salesman” — another story about fading Americana.
Keillor has been a frequent visitor to New Orleans and has a loyal local following.
“He loves New Orleans and recognizes the rich literary history we have here. So coming to New Orleans was very natural for him,” said Paul Maassen, general manager of WWNO-FM, which is co-sponsoring the 7:30 p.m. event with Octavia Books.
The Minnesota Public Radio host, humorist and author of 19 books is touring 10 cities in 10 days, introducing a volume that includes many of his most heartfelt monologues, poems, newspaper columns, magazine stories from The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, excerpts from novels and two never-before-published essays, “Cheerfulness” and “What We have Learned So Far.”
The $30 admission price includes a signed copy of “The Keillor Reader.”
Tuesday’s performance is Keillor’s second New Orleans event in a year. His radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” was presented to a full house at the Saenger Theatre in October.
“Garrison Keillor knows how to imagine place and to bring it alive with all of the quirky characters, sounds and objects that make it unique. This may have a special appeal to New Orleanians, who also know how to appreciate the importance of place. And Keillor seems to have a special affinity for New Orleans,” said Tom Lowenburg, owner of Octavia Books.
Keillor’s storytelling talent was discovered at age 16 when he was a sportswriter for the Anoka Herald in Minnesota. Later, as a college student majoring in English at the University of Minnesota, he worked on the student-run radio station. His professional career began in 1969 hosting the morning program, “A Prairie Home Entertainment,” on KSJR-FM at St. John’s University in Minnesota. He quit two years later when management tried to tamper with his musical programming. Returning a few months later, he debuted “A Prairie Home Companion,” showcasing local musicians and comedy sketches.
His long-running show, two months shy of its 40th anniversary, is modeled after an old-fashioned radio program with musicians, returning characters such as private eye Guy Noir, fictitious advertising sponsors and hokey sound effects. His weekly monologue on the show describing small-town goings-on, “The News from Lake Wobegon,” has become a classic.
“A Prairie Home Companion” is broadcast on 600 public radio stations and heard by 4 million listeners a week.
“We will always remember how he came here on his own following Katrina to give a benefit performance before an overflow crowd,” Lowenburg said.
“Now, we have a chance for another face-to-face encounter and to hear him read from his new book of collected writing in the intimate surroundings of America’s oldest community theater located in the very heart of this place.”
Tickets are available in advance at www.octaviabooks.com or by calling (504) 899-7323.
Le Petit Theatre is at 616 St. Peter St.