Newark festival ‘Philip Roth Unbound’ will celebrate 90th anniversary of writer’s birth

philip roth festival


The New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Newark Public Library will co-present “Philip Roth Unbound,” a three-day festival that, according to a press release, “will celebrate, challenge and explore the life, legacy and work of” Roth, the writer who died in 2018 and would have turned 90 on March 19.

The festival takes place March 17-19, mainly at NJPAC and the library, but also with bus tours of Newark and an event at Hobby’s Delicatessen.

Among the festival’s offerings will be a dramatic reading of an abridged version of Roth’s 2004 novel “The Plot Against America,” featuring S. Epatha Merkerson, Marjan Neshat, Deirdre O’Connell, Mary-Louise Parker and others; and a preview of a stage adaptation of Roth’s 1995 novel “Sabbath’s Theater,” featuring John Turturro and Jason Kravits.

Here is the festival’s schedule. For information, visit

March 17-18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and March 19, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Audio tours of the Philip Roth Personal Library at the Newark Public Library. Roth bequeathed his collection of 7,000 books, many of which include handwritten notes, to the library when he died. The tour is narrated by actor Morgan Spector.

March 17, 4 p.m. “Philip Roth: Reading Myself and Others” at Newark Public Library. A discussion about the writers and thinkers who influenced Roth, featuring Claudia Roth Pierpont, Sean Wilentz and Steven Zipperstein.

March 17, 7 p.m. “Newark in Roth’s Life, Work and Imagination” at Victoria Theater at NJPAC. Featuring dramatic readings of Roth’s 1992 story ” ‘I Always Wanted You to Admire My Fasting’; or, Looking at Kafka” and 2013 speech “The Ruthless Intimacy of Fiction.”

March 17, 9 p.m. “My Newark” at Chase Rom at NJPAC. Featuring readings by Newark-inspired writers including playwrights Chisa Hutchinson and Richard Wesley, and the student winners of the “Your Newark Story” contest.

March 18-19, 10 a.m.: Philip Roth Bus Tours of Newark, visiting locations significant to Roth, including his birthplace.

March 18, 10 a.m.: “Letting the Repellent In: Philip Roth and the Art of Outrage” at Chase Room at NJPAC. A penel discussion on “the cathartic power of discomfort” with Ayad Akhtar, Susan Choi, Ottessa Moshfegh and Gary Shteyngart.

March 18, 1 p.m.: Dramatic reading of Roth’s 1959 story “Defender of the Faith” by actor Morgan Spector at Chase Room at NJPAC.

March 18, 3:30 p.m.: “What Gives You the Right? A Conversation About Representation, Imagination, Empathy, and Exploitation” at Chase Room at NJPAC, using Roth’s 2000 novel “The Human Stain” as a springboard, with Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Lauren Michele Jackson and others.

March 18, 7 p.m.: “Facts, Fiction and Literary Friendship” panel at Chase Room at NJPAC. Participants TBA.

March 18, 8 p.m.: “Stand-up and Challah!” An evening of comedy and food at Hobby’s Delicatessen in Newark, with comedian Eddie Brill and others.

March 19, 10 a.m.: “American Berserk: History, Democracy and the Relentless Unforeseen” panel discussion at the Chase Room at NJPAC. With Joshua Cohen, Sean Wilentz and others.

March 19, 1 p.m.: Staged reading of “The Plot Against America” at Victoria Theater at NJPAC with S. Epatha Merkerson, Marjan Neshat, Deirdre O’Connell, Mary-Louise Parker, John Douglas Thompson and other actors.

March 19, 6:30 p.m.: “Sabbath’s Theater: A Philip Roth 90th Birthday Celebration” at Chase Room at NJPAC. A preview of John Turturro and Ariel Levy’s stage adaptation of “Sabbath’s Theater” featuring Turturro and Jason Kravits, with a post-performance conversation with Turturro and Levy as well as cocktails, cake and live music to celebrate the anniversary of Roth’s birth.


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