A View from Backstage

On October 4, the Curran opened its doors for a celebration of Curran Arts Education, our supporters and the much anticipated opening of the Tony-nominated musical BRIGHT STAR. The lobbies were filled with the joyous sounds of Bay area school and community performance groups treating guests to their unique renditions of BRIGHT STAR songs; performances from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass headliners and a showstopping performance from BRIGHT STAR lead, Carmen Cusack.
As part of our Curran Education Initiative we invited high school reporters to join us and give us the inside scoop on the evening’s festivities. Liam Idilio is a senior from San Francisco’s Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. Here’s his take:

Carole Shorenstein Hays with student reporters Luna Alcorcha and Liam Idilio. Photo by Little Fang Photography

Carole Shorenstein Hays with student reporters Luna Alcorcha and Liam Idilio

When I first arrived at the Curran — which has very round and curving archways and a red-striped carpet — I was welcomed in warmly from the chill of Geary Street and Union Square. There were men with nice golden rings and fitted suits who shook our hands and said their names, and Miss Kitt Grant— a woman with long, swinging earrings and a raised cup of cold coffee— who swept us into the theater.

The theater has a certain saturated silence, beautiful glass light fixtures and seats that are soft and red. I could see through the darkness a banjo-strumming-man, a fiddler, and a pianist surrounding Miss Carmen Cusack, the star of the Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Tony-nominated musical BRIGHT STAR rehearsing all in momentous unison, much like my farmer relatives after some wine and celebration. They sang heartfully of the shining of suns and stars and it was at this moment that I was pulled from here and led backstage.

Backstage was in many ways like an ant farm filled with fast-moving and hard-working people. One photographer wore a little hat and the other had a bale of pink hair. There were tall and short fellows who held clipboards and had little wires and ear-pieces. The fitting room was quiet and bright and decorated only with three chairs and a white boudoir. To be inside the dressing room of the Curran was alike to being in a military bunker, the stillness of it as though buried deep below the microphones and banjos and flashing cameras.

It was there that we spoke briefly with Carmen Cusack, the star of BRIGHT STAR, which premieres at the Curran on November 28, who told us stories of growing up in the London West End and of her teenager-hood filled with theatre and the diaper changing of her baby sisters. She talked of uplifting the people and the perfectness of the water that surrounds San Francisco and the importance of unity.

Then like a fish is pulled from his watery home, I was led to a long opening where we were quickly photographed and introduced to Mrs. Carole Shorenstein, the CEO and owner of the Curran, who recruited us youngsters in helping with the show, and with the brightness of the camera-flash still dancing in my eyeballs, we followed her into the dressing room to discuss the night. Of BRIGHT STAR she said it was an anthem to optimism.

The show began with a fiddling woman and a tall man, Ron Thomason and Heidi Clare, who played the mandolin whilst she tapped the rhythm with her shoes. Mr. Tomason once again returned with the other musicians and they played the song that goes “the sun will shine again,” and I suppose this was the very anthem to optimism. We sang along by the direction of the famous sixties music producer Mr. Peter Asher, and it harkened back to Miss Cusack’s philosophy of unity. There was a folkish notion in the banjo and the fiddle and the clapping and singing and stomping of feet. And so the evening ended with us all spilling out onto the streets of SF with the spirit of optimism reverberating in our ears.

  • Attendees fill the lobby before the show begins.

  • Musicians from the Community Music Center jamming in the orchestra boxes.

  • Carmen Cusack performs music from BRIGHT STAR.

  • Peter Asher shares the story of bringing BRIGHT STAR to the stage.

  • A jar of BRIGHT STAR buttons await guests to take them home.

  • Bay Area students celebrate at A Curran Occasion.