The brand new Curran

The Curran Whisperer

Take a Detour with Carole Shorenstein Hays.

  Take a Detour with Carole Shorenstein Hays

There was a 1998 Robert Redford film based on the 1995 Nicholas Evans novel, The Horse Whisperer, which put forth the concept of someone so finely attuned that he could whisper a kind of healing into being with his empathy and guidance and could bring something back to a more fully lived life with the gentle force of a willful sort of love. I have often thought of Carole Shorentstein Hays as The Curran Whisperer. It is with her empathetic guidance that she “healed” this cultural hub and has now gotten it ready after more than two years of renovation and restoration for all its new inhabitants even as she revered its past and respected all those who performed onstage and worked in its wings.

Everyone can now experience what the Curran itself experienced when they take the immersive audio tour from Detour which is narrated by Carole with such a soothing, insistent cadence that you can feel the love she herself feels for the place as well as the grit and grace of her resolve to see this project through to this its final remarkably beautiful stage. I took the tour on Sunday and it was informative, funny, and moving. It even inspired me to break into a march when Seventy-Six Trombones from THE MUSIC MAN struck up on the tour’s own soundtrack since it was the first show that Carole ever saw at the Curran when she was a child.

That is what the Detour experience is itself: it makes the Curran come alive by combining technology and memory and voices and your own imagination.

The tour is filled with personal and private moments like that as James Earl Jones, Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, Tommy Tune, and Carol Channing let you in on some of their fondest memories of appearing at the Curran. My favorite part of the tour was hearing how each of these stars prepare before going onstage as I stood centerstage listening to them confide in me. Indeed, that is what is so great about the Detour concept. There is an intimacy at the heart of it that Carol and her cast of stars so stirringly and touchingly instill in the tour with their reminiscences.

It’s not all about the stars - although I was fascinated as well by all the cinema history imparted by San Francisco Film Society’s Executive Director Noah Cowan’s as he walked me through the saga of All About Eve having been filmed at the Curran - for I loved all the backstage lore and nitty-gritty that second-generation Curran stagehand George Oldham, our fly man, let me in on when I was up in the fly space high above the stage even though my vertigo was kicking in up there. I can tell you now a bit about battens and rigging and lift lines just as I can tell you about James Earl Jones’s meditative process as he prepares quietly in silence in the darkness before he goes out into the lights to create art as a living and lived-in experience. That is what the Detour experience is itself: it makes the Curran come alive by combining technology and memory and voices and your own imagination.

Carol. Stagehands and stage stars. The ghosts of Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis. Meredith Willson. And just wait to you see the bathrooms.