Join us for Philip Roth Unbound, a weekend-long festival that will celebrate, challenge and explore the life, legacy and work of novelist and Newark-native Philip Roth, on what would have been his 90th birthday weekend.

Beginning Friday, March 17, and ending Sunday, March 19, 2023 NJPAC will host a three-day series of entertaining and engaging events, featuring over forty of the most prominent writers, actors, journalists, artists and public intellectuals working today. Designed to appeal to audiences of all backgrounds, whatever their level of familiarity with Philip Roth’s work, the program will include star-studded readings, conversations, comedy, controversy, and debate that will explore the significance and impact of Roth’s unique literary legacy utilizing his writing as a springboard to explore the broader questions it raises about life in America today.

To purchase tickets for multiple Philip Roth Unbound events, please call 1-888-MY-NJPAC from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, to speak with an NJPAC Ticket Services and Sales representative or visit the NJPAC Box Office.

events

mar  17

Visitors are invited to have an intimate look into Philip Roth’s mind as both reader and writer by taking an exclusive audio tour of the Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library. Bequeathed to the Library when Roth died in 2018, this unique collection houses the 7,000 books Roth collected over a lifetime, many of which include his handwritten notes and underlinings. Created specially for Philip Roth Unbound and narrated by actor and star of HBO’s Plot Against America, Morgan Spector, the tour will be made available via QR code throughout the Festival.

The Philip Roth Personal Library is located within the Main Branch of Newark Public Library at 5 Washington Street, Newark, NJ, a short walk from NJPAC. Festival attendees are welcome to visit the space and listen to the audio guide:

  • Friday March 17, 9am-5pm
  • Saturday March 18, 9am-5pm
  • Sunday March 19, 10am-1pm

JOIN US | LEARN MORE

Join us as we explore the writers and thinkers who most influenced Philip Roth, from the sports and adventure novels that captivated him as a boy to the works of history that informed his late-career fiction – including the works of fiction he considered the most significant in his life and work, such as Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe, The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, The Trial by Franz Kafka, and Cheri by Colette. Panelists include biographers Claudia Roth Pierpont and Steven Zipperstein. The panel will be moderated by historian Sean Wilentz.

RSVP | LEARN MORE

Join us for a pair of dramatic readings that feature two of Philip Roth’s most brilliant reflections on his hometown of Newark. In “’I Always Wanted You to Admire My Fasting’; or, Looking at Kafka,” Roth comedically and poignantly combines fiction and nonfiction to reimagine the fate of Franz Kafka, transforming the deceased Czech writer into his Hebrew School teacher in 1942 Newark. In “The Ruthless Intimacy of Fiction,” written when he turned 80, Roth moves from vivid recollections of the Newark of his youth to a favorite passage from his National Book Award-winning novel Sabbath’s Theater, illuminating the close ties between his life and writing.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

Philip Roth noted that “American writers leave where they come from and write about it for the rest of their lives.” This was Roth: relentlessly mining his Newark childhood to fuel his fiction. This showcase features contemporary Newark-based storytellers sharing original work that’s as dynamic and distinct as the City’s five wards. The teenage authors of the Festival’s “Your Newark Story” citywide writing contest will also read their winning pieces aloud. Join us as we celebrate the creative voices of a city that has been telling its own story for generations.

Participants include playwrights Chisa Hutchinson, Richard Wesley, author Mikki Taylor and others to be announced.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

mar 18

Visitors are invited to have an intimate look into Philip Roth’s mind as both reader and writer by taking an exclusive audio tour of the Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library. Bequeathed to the Library when Roth died in 2018, this unique collection houses the 7,000 books Roth collected over a lifetime, many of which include his handwritten notes and underlinings. Created specially for Philip Roth Unbound and narrated by actor and star of HBO’s Plot Against America, Morgan Spector, the tour will be made available via QR code throughout the Festival.

The Philip Roth Personal Library is located within the Main Branch of Newark Public Library at 5 Washington Street, Newark, NJ, a short walk from NJPAC. Festival attendees are welcome to visit the space and listen to the audio guide:

  • Friday March 17, 9am-5pm
  • Saturday March 18, 9am-5pm
  • Sunday March 19, 10am-1pm

JOIN US | LEARN MORE

Join Liz Del Tufo, President of Newark Landmarks Commission, to visit real and fictional settings from Roth’s books and his own life. Stops will include Newark Public Library, Weequahic High School, Roth’s childhood home on Summit Avenue, Essex County Courthouse, Little Theater and much more. At each stop, we’ll read a corresponding passage from Roth’s work that brings the location to life.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

Join us for this provocative panel on the cathartic power of discomfort.  With each new novel, Roth predictably delighted and shocked readers with his frank depictions of human frailty and immorality. No aspect of behavior was spared his withering critical eye – sex, gender, race and religion were all fair game. Roth’s willingness to wrestle with our worst impulses, and his ability to transform outrage into art, blew the doors off what was possible in fiction for a generation of writers and readers. Participants include novelists Ayad Akhtar, Susan Choi, Ottessa Moshfegh and Gary Shteyngart.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

A dramatic reading by actor Morgan Spector (HBO’s The Gilded Age and Plot Against America) of one of Roth’s earliest and boldest stories. The story of a Jewish Army sergeant and the Jewish draftee who repeatedly seeks favors from his superior because of their religious bond, “Defender of the Faith” was received with both acclaim and outrage upon its publication, prompting accusations of self-hatred and anti-Semitism. In confronting identity politics and the questions it raises about an artist’s obligations to his community, the story remains as timely today as it was in 1959.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

There is perhaps no more contentious debate in the arts today than who gets to tell whose stories. Do artists have the right to create fiction from perspectives beyond their own? Using Philip Roth’s The Human Stain – in which a white writer imagines the life of a Black protagonist – as a springboard, our panelists will debate the ethics of representation and identity, and the limits of artistic freedom. Panelists include Meghan Daum, Lauren Michele Jackson, Jean Hanff Korelitz and others to be announced.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

For all the ferocity in his prose, Philip Roth was an attentive, doting and generous friend – playful and quick to laugh, delighting in gossip. Young writers were known to receive notes of praise from Roth, admiring their work and inviting them to lunch. The lunches often bloomed into friendships. On this intimate panel we’ll be joined by fellow writers and long-time friends who will read from the fan letters they received and share anecdotes from their friendships with Roth. Participants include Bernard Avishai and others to be announced.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

Philip Roth’s writing overflows with humor, irony, satire, wit and the unflinching absurdities of his indelible characters. Roth revered comedian Lenny Bruce, and Roth’s friends have said he would have made a great Borscht Belt comedian. In that spirit, you’re invited to this night of comedy and kibitzing at Hobby’s Delicatessen. Writers and comics will perform stand-up sets and read Roth’s most hilarious excerpts. Come for the laughs, stay for the drool-worthy pastrami and other Jewish delicacies. Hobby’s famous food is included in the price of your ticket! Participants include comedian Eddie Brill, and others to be announced.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

mar 19

Visitors are invited to have an intimate look into Philip Roth’s mind as both reader and writer by taking an exclusive audio tour of the Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library. Bequeathed to the Library when Roth died in 2018, this unique collection houses the 7,000 books Roth collected over a lifetime, many of which include his handwritten notes and underlinings. Created specially for Philip Roth Unbound and narrated by actor and star of HBO’s Plot Against America, Morgan Spector, the tour will be made available via QR code throughout the Festival.

The Philip Roth Personal Library is located within the Main Branch of Newark Public Library at 5 Washington Street, Newark, NJ, a short walk from NJPAC. Festival attendees are welcome to visit the space and listen to the audio guide:

  • Friday March 17, 9am-5pm
  • Saturday March 18, 9am-5pm
  • Sunday March 19, 10am-1pm

JOIN US | LEARN MORE

Join Liz Del Tufo, President of Newark Landmarks Commission, to visit real and fictional settings from Roth’s books and his own life. Stops will include Newark Public Library, Weequahic High School, Roth’s childhood home on Summit Avenue, Essex County Courthouse, Little Theater and much more. At each stop, we’ll read a corresponding passage from Roth’s work that brings the location to life.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

Philip Roth believed that history is fragile and unpredictable. In this panel discussion, we’ll use Roth’s novels – including American Pastoral, The Plot Against America and I Married a Communist – to explore what it means to think “historically” as a writer. Roth’s deep reading of American history attuned him to the cultural patterns and political forces at play in the push and pull of our evolving democracy, and infused his books with observations and haunting hypotheticals that feel prescient today. With the rise in book-banning, speech-policing and librarian-harassing, this conversation will be a timely reminder of just how tenuous freedom is. Panelists include Joshua Cohen, Sean Wilentz, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton University, and others to be announced.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

Join us for a staged reading of The Plot Against America, Philip Roth’s timely and timeless masterwork, by some of the country’s finest actors, co-presented by 92nd Street Y, New York. Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1940s, The Plot Against America tells the chilling story of what it was like for the (fictional) Roth family and Jews across the country when the isolationist and “America First” aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was elected president of the United States. The story’s resonance with our contemporary political and social climate–along with Roth’s deeply moving coming-of age story—have made this remarkable novel a new classic. The reading features S. Epatha Merkerson, Marjan Neshat, Deirdre O’Connell, Mary-Louise Parker, Tony Shalhoub, John Douglas Thompson, and three other actors to be announced and consists of three 90-minute acts with two intermissions. James Shapiro, the renowned Shakespeare scholar, assembled the abridgment.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

You’re invited to a sneak preview of a new theatrical adaptation of Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater. The National Book Award-winning novel tells the story of a notoriously indecent puppeteer grappling with lust, loss and meaning. Emmy-winner John Turturro and New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy adapted the novel for the stage, and Turturro will portray Mickey Sabbath alongside actor Jason Kravits (The Practice). There will be a post-performance chat with the creators, and, because this is a birthday party, your ticket will include pre-performance hors d’oeuvres, champagne, cake and live music.

BUY TICKETS | LEARN MORE

Purchase all 5 conversations, for the price of 4!

“My Newark” (3/17), “Letting the Repellent In” (3/18), “What Gives you the Right” (3/18), “Facts, Fiction and LIterary Friendships” (3/18) and “American Berserk” (3/19) can be purchased as a SERIES TICKET. Click here to purchase.

You may also call NJPAC Ticket Sales and Services at 888-MY-NJPAC from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, or visit the box NJPAC Box Office.

Philip Roth Unbound is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center and co-produced by Newark Public Library Trustee Rosemary Steinbaum and publishing and media executive Cary Goldstein. James Shapiro, the Larry Miller Professor of English at Columbia and Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at the Public Theater, serves as Literary Advisor to the festival, with additional curation from Bernard Schwartz, Director of the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y, New York.  The Festival is supported by Sharon and Jon Corzine, The M & T Weiner Foundation and Judith Lieberman.