Isaiah Sheffer was the Co-Founder and Founding Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York City, where he directed the hit literary series Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story, and hosted the public radio series of the same name, heard on more than 160 NPR stations across the country. For many years, he also staged a season of Selected Shorts at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. He created Symphony Space’s Wall to Wall marathon concerts that celebrated, initially, the work of particularly composers (beginning with Wall to Wall Bach in 1976) and, later, included broader themes like the Harlem Renaissance (Wall to WallHarlem Renaissance, 2012) and music from the Soviet era (Wall to Wall Behind the Wall, 2010). Each June 16th, Sheffer directed Symphony Space’s annual James Joyce extravaganza, Bloomsday on Broadway.
His writing efforts for screen and stage included Clair de Lune by the Pale Moonlight, a tapestry of his new translations of French romantic poets and songs of Gabriel Fauré; a PBS documentary on music in the 12th century; the book and lyrics to the off-Broadway musical The Rise of David Levinsky (which had its first production at the 92nd Street Y); the screenplay of the short feature film Pair of Jokers, starring Jerry Stiller; the book and lyrics of the off-Broadway musical Yiddle with a Fiddle, adapted from the classic 1936 film, Yidl Mitn Fidl; and Dreamers and Demons, about Isaac Bashevis Singer’s life and work. Two other plays by Isaiah Sheffer were premiered at the 92nd Street Y—A Broadcast Baby, and his new English version of Sholom Aleichem’s Hard to Be a Jew. He also wrote the libretto for A More Perfect Union, a satirical opera-ballet about the 1787 Philadelphia Constitutional Convention composed by Victoria Bond. Mr. Sheffer died on November 9, 2012.