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Ira Glass

To see This American Life host Ira Glass onstage is like spying an alchemist at his cauldron. Into his brew he casts fistfuls of anecdote, pinches of pain, dashes of wit and generous yarns of laughter. The product is pure gold.

Although the setting is stark — Glass sits behind a draped table topped with audio equipment — the effect is hypnotic. In the same way pianists sway and tense as they play, Glass becomes an extension of his production. With graceful, seemingly choreographed hand movements, he flips switches and turns dials to temper his live narrative with recorded music and interviews. The show is strangely voyeuristic, a glimpse into the magic and awe-inspiring skill that goes into fine storytelling for radio.

Glass once said that an epiphany, or character change, is the key to a compelling tale. What he forgot to add is that by hearing a good story, the audience is changed, too. Saturday, April 27, 7:30 p.m.; Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center, 301 Symphony Drive,, $26-$99