Carole welcomes a new audience to the Curran. Alison Bechdel, FUN HOME cast (L) and the Hays family (R) look on. (c) Drew Altizer

Opening Night at the Curran

On January 26th, the newly-renovated Curran reopened after two years of reconstruction. The inaugural show, FUN HOME, was a stunning success.

Carole and Alison on the stage

Carole Shorenstein Hays (center) embraces Fun Home author Alison Bechdel. The FUN HOME cast (L) and the Hays family (R) look on.

On January 26th, FUN HOME opened at the newly refurbished and restored Curran. The bars on all three floors were buzzing with excitement before the show and afterward as Carole Shorenstein Hays and her husband Dr. Jeff Hays and children Wally and Gracie hosted a party on all of the levels - orchestra, mezzanine and balcony - which have been glamorously redesigned by Brian Murphy and curated with murals and art and specially chosen wines. Out on Geary Street, a brass band greeted the opening night audience, all of whom were moved to cheers and tears by the musical based on Alison Bechdel’s memoir in graphic novel form.

"No one has done more for this business and industry and for theater and culture than Carole."

Bechdel and her wife, artist Holly Rae Taylor who has one of her sculpted glass works displayed in the orchestra lobby, were on hand for the night as was the show’s composer Jeanine Tesori. Someone whispered afterward that they even saw George Shultz, who was there with his wife Charlotte, shed a tear or two at the final curtain. “Sshshsh,” the person said. “Don’t tell anyone. George has a reputation to protect.” But making Shultz shed a tear or two just shows how powerful FUN HOME is and attests to the sense of community and comfort that audiences are already discovering at the Curran.

The night began with a welcome from California’s Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom who himself attested to the diversity of San Francisco and how the musical, one that celebrates diversity in its moving and personal way, was the perfect show to open the new Curran, which he described as “one of North America’s - not just northern California’s - iconic theatres. We couldn’t be more proud of our city and we couldn’t be more proud of one of San Francisco’s greats, Carole Shorenstein Hays. No one has done more for this business and industry and for theater and culture than Carole. I just want to express my appreciation to her for being a steward for this extraordinary and glorious place.”

Newson was accompanied onstage by Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of New York’s Public Theater, the place where FUN HOME got its start before moving to Broadway where it won the Tony for Best Musical. “I don’t need to tell you about the genius of Alison Bechdel or the genius of Lisa Kron, the lyricist and book writer, and Jeanine Tesori, the composer, and what they have made from Alison’s book because you’re about to experience it. I do want to tell you,” he continued, “that we at the Public Theater in New York held a ceremony last week on the steps of the Public at dusk. It was called The Ghost Light Ceremony. We were joined by 700 theatres across the country in every state of the union. And what we did was we lit a ghost light. The ghost light is what we leave lit onstage at a theatre at night so that nobody hurts themselves and even in a dark theater everybody can be safe."

...even in a dark theater, everybody can be safe.

"By lighting that ghost light we were saying that the theatre will always be - and is now - a sanctuary. It is a place where everyone is embraced. Everyone is safe. Everyone is celebrated. No one is discriminated against. Hate will never be tolerated. That ghost light will stay on in our lobby at the Public until we have a government that we believe is as committed to those values as we all are. But right now - tonight - I am so happy to be back here in San Francisco, a city where I came into my adulthood, a city I love, to help bring you this extraordinary production of FUN HOME.”

It was a bit of heartfelt politics before the curtain rose on a show that itself transcends politics and comes to rest right there: in the heart.