"Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic were two staples of my nighttime reading," says Stephanie Carll of her childhood love of Shel Silverstein's popular books of kids' poetry. "As a kid, I tended toward... the darker humor, the more macabre. And so Shel's tone and really unique style stuck with me. And when I found out that he had adult stuff..."
Shel Silverstein is likely best remembered for his work for children, but he was also a well-known songwriter (he won a Grammy for writing Johnny Cash's hit "A Boy Named Sue") and a prolific writer of more adult material. That's the Shel Silverstein that's on display in the aptly titled An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein, a vaudeville-style collection of Silverstein's R-rated poems, songs, and skits that's currently being produced by Carll for Present Company.
Sally Strecker is a performer in the show, which has also served as her introduction to Silverstein (apparently he's not as famous in Strecker's native Australia). "It's really interesting to see how he's famous for his children's poetry -- which is really kind of deep, actually -- but then there's this whole other side to him that I don't think a lot of people know," she says. "And it's interesting to watch people's reaction when they see this other side to this person."
"What I read a lot as a kid, and how I knew him, was The Giving Tree. And then a little later, The Missing Piece," says performer Elizabeth Mason. "I knew those two and loved them... but I didn't know about any of this [adult material]. And it's been a real joy to dive in. It's surprising but then it's not."
Though the subject matter in An Adult Evening is very far removed from his children's poems, his style and tone remain remarkably similar.
"It feels very Shel Silverstein. You can hear his tone in it," Carll says. "It's an interesting thing to have connected with and loved his poetry and his sense of humor as a child and then come back to it as adult and have that same nostalgia, because it's familiar. That sense of humor is familiar. But now it's rated 'R'."