The New York Times: It’s Not a Reading, It’s Literary Cabaret

Lucas Wittmann and Amanda Foreman

Lucas Wittman and Amanda Foreman (Photo: Karsten Moran for NYT)

By Joshua Barone

When Amanda Foreman and Lucas Wittmann founded House of SpeakEasy, the organization behind their literary cabaret series, “Seriously Entertaining,” they wanted to break from the format of typical bookstore readings and hark back to the performative styles of authors like Dickens and Twain.

Now in its third season, “Seriously Entertaining” is closer to realizing its goal. For the next show, on Monday, it has moved to Joe’s Pub, a high-profile site that will raise House of SpeakEasy’s visibility. (In fact, Monday’s show sold out two weeks in advance.) Ms. Foreman said that when Joe’s Pub reached out about a partnership, “We spent a nanosecond thinking about it.” Continue reading…

The Huffington Post: At Lunch With Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts

By Regina Weinreich

La Grenouille experienced a British invasion yesterday for a lunch celebrating the film Far From the Madding Crowd, based on Thomas Hardy’s beloved 19th century novel. Carey Mulligan, currently starring in Skylight on Broadway, plays Bathsheba Everdene, a strong-willed and occasionally wrong-headed heroine, a pre-feminist, you could call her. Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts portrays Gabriel Oak, the pre-feminist hunk who protects her. He is loyal, kind, brave, talented, hard-working, and dreamy. When I asked Schoenaerts, memorable for his performance opposite Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone what he thought of this character, he enthused, “I can learn from him. I want to BE him.”

The film shares with another fine recently released period film, Effie Gray: the actor Tom Sturridge. In FFMC, he’s a soldier, a lout, who briefly wins Bathsheba’s heart, “beneath her” in Gabriel’s estimation. She marries him anyway, bringing on a set of misfortunes. In Effie Gray, about the wife of essayist and art historian John Ruskin, Sturridge portrays the sensitive artist with whom Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning), another pre-feminist, truly connects.

The luncheon being a Peggy Siegal affair, Amanda Foreman (who goes by Bill) interviewed Mulligan and Schoenaerts, with Finding Neverland’s Matthew Morrison, Julie Taymor, Tina Brown, Stefano Tonchi attending. Sir Peter Westmacotts, British Ambassador to the United States and Danny Lopez, British Consul General in New York, introduced her, noting her contribution to literature. Everyone always asks how Foreman does it, writing her books, managing a household including her five children, and hosting House of Speakeasy which that night would convene at City Winery featuring authors Elif Shafak, Tom Robb Smith, and House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon. By working all the time, she says.


The Observer: ‘After The Storm That Wasn’t, New York’s Party Set Felt the Need for More Scotch Read

Photo: Waris Ahluwalia, Uma Thurman, Andrew Karsch and David Schwab at SpeakEasy. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)

Photo: Waris Ahluwalia, Uma Thurman, Andrew Karsch and David Schwab at SpeakEasy. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)

By Benjamin-Emile Le Hay

There was calm after almost-storm Juno. Too much of it, according to city night owls who found the enforced curfew and lack of Ubers infuriating until they were let let loose at House of SpeakEasy’s Gala Wednesday night, sponsored by Aberfeldy and Craigellachie single malt scotches.

“I’m excited to be here!” smiled top guest Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey as he was speedily whirled around the room.

“Sorry!” Uma Thurman chirped, arriving a little late to proceedings, pausing only to pose for a few photos before joining her friend Waris Ahluwalia at her table. By then, patrons were enjoying Simon Doonan recounting an uproarious tale of his audition for the part of Nigel in the Devil Wears Prada. Actor Jim Dale, writer/producer Susan Fales-Hill and political satirist P.J. O’Rourke followed with their own stories on the theme of  “Runnin’ Wild,” or trying not to…

Continue reading…

The Huffington Post: Atwitter With Dan Stevens: House of SpeakEasy

By Regina Weinreich

“Are there any thespians in the house?” asked Simon Doonan at City Winery for the second annual House of SpeakEasy gala on Wednesday night, looking for sympathy. The writer and window dresser long associated with Barney’s (he’s now the store’s creative ambassador at large), had launched into his story about having been tapped for the part of Nigel in the movie of The Devil Wears Prada, a good choice in everyone’s estimation, but he had reservations. “It’s the role of the helpful homosexual,” he quipped, “and I’m not that helpful.” Concluding they were merely picking his brain, “Nigel” did in fact go to a thespian, Stanley Tucci, and yes, there were at least three thespians present in a roomful of writers and other book lovers: Uma Thurman, Jim Dale and Dan Stevens.

Riffing on the theme of Runnin’ Wild, Doonan was one of three featured performers for the event celebrating an organization dedicated to supporting writers, building new literary audiences, and connecting the two in entertaining ways. Another speaker was Susan Fales-Hill, a memoirist and writer for television who began her career as an apprentice on The Cosby Show. A mixed salad of genetic material, she revealed that though she is married for 18 years to the same man, and therefore not wild in the least, she secretly yearns for Downton Abbey’s Mr. Bates. Only Dan Stevens from that cast, a heartthrob to many as the ill-fated Matthew Crawley, attended with his wife Susie Hariet. A sometime writer, known to tweet, he’s editor-at-large of a literary magazine, The Junket.

Humorist P. J. O’Rourke went wild on the subject of baby boomers’ absorption in the self. This entertainment was leavened by Jim Dale’s skillful recitation of familiar quotes from Shakespeare, two of John Dewar and Son’s Last Great Malts, Aberfeldy and Craigellachie single malt whiskies, and a literary quiz masterminded by the evening’s M. C. Amanda Foreman. A mother of five who goes by the name of Bill, Foreman’s latest credit is with BBC2. She will present a show called The World Made by Women, based on a book of the same title that will be published by Random House in 2016.

Thank goodness! The word is alive and well!

Publisher’s Weekly: House of SpeakEasy Takes the Stage

By Clare Swanson

At the January 27 inaugural gala for Seriously Entertaining, a monthly “literary cabaret,” the actress Uma Thurman read three fiery passages as part of a literary quiz called “Tip of My Tongue.” The 380 audience members at the City Winery in downtown Manhattan were charged with identifying the titles and authors of the texts from which the passages were quoted, as well as the decade when each piece was originally published. Only one member of the very literary crowd nailed all three: Salman Rushdie.

Emcee Andy Borowitz, a New Yorker writer and author of the Borowitz Report, proclaimed Rushdie the victor and, throughout the night, introduced the event’s cast of performers who riffed, ruminated, and reflected on the night’s theme: “Plays with Matches.” New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik shared a story about delivering a somewhat improvised keynote address at a conference, while historian Simon Winchester scored with a comical and gory account of working as a mortuary assistant when he was a teenager. Susan Orlean, also of the New Yorker, pondered the city’s papaya chain phenomenon, and singer/songwriter Dar Williams closed out the evening with an acoustic set.

Continue reading…

The Huffington Post: Uma Thurman Reads from Moby Dick and Salman Rushdie Wins a Prize at House of Speakeasy

By Regina Weinreich

Good news: the written word thrives downtown. The brainchild of Doctor Amanda Foreman, the author of historical works like Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, “House of Speakeasy” was founded to keep writers visible, engaged with audiences, and earning money for their craft. At a sold-out salon at City Winery on Monday night, the first of a series, some writers who do, also showed another side of their chops as performers: moderated by humorist Andy Borowitz, authors Adam Gopnik (The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food), Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief), Simon Winchester (The Men Who United the States), and songwriter Dar Williams sang–in other words, working writers at The New Yorker magazine and other venues– who also earn a living–told stories on the theme of “plays with matches.”

Wit, particularly in the form of irony, has not died. Gopnik told a tale of addressing a crowd on the topic of “pluralism and the individual,” whatever that means, understanding finally that all such speeches are really variations on that subject. Orlean recounted her observations upon first moving to New York, on the city’s proliferation of Papaya Kings. Winchester’s piece was about working in a morgue, the perfectly explosive accompaniment to the evening’s comfort dinner: chicken on mashed potato.

The four hundred or so guests included Dick Cavett, Steve Croft, Barbara Goldsmith, Kurt Andersen, Marina Rust, and Salman Rushdie who picked up a prize for knowing three famous but not obvious passages from world literature–from Mary Shelley, Robert Frost, and Herman Melville– read to this erudite group by Uma Thurman. His prize: books by the entertaining authors. In something of a summation and echo of his talk, Adam Gopnik said he did not know what he was getting himself into. He just showed up and to his surprise, “It was a big deal. Everyone was there.”

The Wall Street Journal: Uma Thurman, Susan Orlean Host A Night for the Literary Elite

Photo: Amanda Schwab

Photo: Amanda Schwab


Last night, City Winery in downtown Manhattan hosted the inaugural gala event for a new monthly literary showcase, ‘Seriously Entertaining,’ presented by the non-profit House of SpeakEasy Foundation. The organization was created six months ago by historian and WSJ columnist Amanda Foreman.

The emcee—Andy Borowitz, former sitcom writer and creator of satirical news column “The Borowitz Report”—began the evening explaining the group’s missions: to bring writers together with their audience, and to support the principle that writers should be paid for their craft. One of the foundation’s goals is to have SpeakEasy performers visit schools and reach young audiences.  He also shared haiku:

Continue reading…

The Wall Street Journal: ‘Think-y Entertainment’ for New York’s Book-Loving Crowd




In 1962, the author Simon Winchester attended a London science fair and lost his heart to a young woman as the two toiled over their science experiment.

“We built a hydroponic tomato and fell head over heels in love,” he told the audience at Monday night’s House of SpeakEasy gala.

Sadly, the girl lived in Canada, and a young Mr. Winchester (who went on to write “The Men Who United the States” and “The Professor and the Madman”) desperately wanted to buy a ticket to visit her. To raise the funds, the then-17-year-old applied for, and got, a job as a mortuary assistant, mostly because he was the only one who answered the ad.

“Basic anatomy preferred but not essential,” the classified read, according to the dapper Briton, who was wearing canary yellow pants and a matching pocket square.

Continue reading…

Vogue: House of SpeakEasy’s Inaugural Gala

House of SpeakEasy’s Inaugural GalaBy Caroline Palmer

The House of SpeakEasy’s inaugural event opened with writer and host Andy Borowitz regaling-slash-horrifying the legions of literary-minded folk in attendance with a tale of being asked to live-tweet the Oscars last year by an unnamed newspaper owned by “an Australian man” and turned the offer down once informed it was for no actual fee. “They said they would mention my website,” he dryly quipped. And while the online editors in the audience (ahem) may have cringed, the point was quite, and rightfully, clear: Writing is a profession, and professional people deserve to be not only paid, but respected and supported. And so the House of SpeakEasy was born. The philanthropic idea was dreamed up by Dr. Amanda Foreman, the author of several books (including Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which was made into a movie with Keira Knightley), mother to an astonishing five children, and current girl crush of multitasking women everywhere. The overarching idea—to provide cultural entertainment with community outreach through live monthly events with authors and school programs, among other things—was properly ushered into existence by a bookish lot, including Susan Orlean, Salman Rushdie, Uma Thurman, Dar Williams,and the hilarious Simon Winchester, who gathered  at City Winery for an evening of stories, games, and song, all touching on the evening’s theme, “Playing with Matches.”

For more information on House of SpeakEasy,