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Stanford Live and Stanford Repertory Theater ramp up for summer

Stanford Rep gets things started early with a collaborative production of "An Inspector Calls," opening this week, followed by a program dedicated to Orson Welles.

L.A. Cicero Rush Rehm

Classics Professor Rush Rehm, founding artistic director of Stanford Repertory Theater, will direct "An Inspector Calls."

This spring, Stanford Repertory Theater collaborated with Stanford Theater and Performance Studies and the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society to produce J.B. Priestley's classic British thriller, An Inspector Calls. The play serves as both the closing production to the TAPS 2014 season and the capstone event for the Ethics in Society Ethics Of Wealth series.

The production is directed by TAPS and classics Professor Rush Rehm, who is also the founding artistic director of Stanford Repertory Theater (formerly Stanford Summer Theater).

Inspector plays in Pigott Theater May 15 to May 24. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 18, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5-$15 and available online.

Stanford Rep's 2014 summer festival, Orson Welles: Substantial Shadows, directly follows Inspector on Pigott Stage.

Substantial Shadows celebrates the theater, radio and film work of an American original. Combining the energies and skills of entrepreneur, actor, designer, director, playwright, producer and screenwriter, Welles transformed the theater, radio and film of the last century in ways that continue to amaze.

By the age of 25, Welles had directed for the Federal Theater Project (the black Macbeth in Harlem, Marc Blitzstein's Cradle Will Rock,) co-founded the groundbreaking Mercury Theater (a politically charged Julius Caesar on Broadway, radio-theater adaptations that dazzled audiences at home), and directed and starred in Citizen Kane. As Orson Welles: Substantial Shadows demonstrates, Welles continued to create theater and film of extraordinary range, power and audacity over the next 35 years.

"For our upcoming festival dedicated to Orson Welles, we're thrilled to have Rod Gnapp join us to play Ahab in Moby Dick - Rehearsed, along with many other Bay Area professionals in the cast," Rehm said. "Increasingly, Bay Area professionals recognize what a splendid opportunity Stanford Rep and Stanford afford, a chance to do important work that is fully supported, and to work alongside eager and committed younger theater artists, whom they can inspire and mentor."

An Inspector Calls centers on a wealthy, early-20th century British family whose well-mannered dinner party is shattered by a visit from a mysterious inspector investigating a young woman's suicide. The inspector's interrogation uncovers startling relationships between each family member and the tragic suicide, challenging the characters – and the audience – to reexamine the nature of good conscience.

"The idea to present An Inspector Calls came from Ethics in Society," Rehm said. "I knew the play, and I agreed that it's an ideal way to confront our community with the responsibilities of privilege and to expose how wealth and privilege breed an abiding complacency.

"For all the so-called 'liberal guilt,' many of us refuse as a matter of course to admit the role we play in the injustice and suffering of others. Priestley's play explores individual guilt, to be sure, but his most devastating critique lies in the systematic way privilege builds a wall with the wider world, and the consequences of our privilege on others."

This production exemplifies the way interdisciplinary collaboration enhances academic programming. Although Stanford Rep has collaborated with Ethics in Society three times in recent years, An Inspector Calls is the first three-way collaboration between Ethics in Society, Stanford Rep and TAPS. Students and audiences will appreciate the production not only as a work of theater, but also as a vehicle for discussion on ethical theory.

Two performances – May 18 and May 24 – will be followed with talk-backs hosted by law Professor Barbara Fried and  Associate Professor of history Sean Hanretta, both of whom teach courses on ethics. Beyond enjoying the thrill and art behind this period mystery, Rehm said he hopes audiences "are intrigued, surprised, moved, and ultimately motivated to think harder about the ethics of wealth and privilege."

"The play works a kind of magic built on mystery, and as we're discovering in rehearsal, it explores real human behavior. The characters are anything but cardboard, and in their strategies of self-defense and denial we see ourselves at work. It's so timely, and so now, and although set in England 100 years ago, it is so about us. Silicon Valley, Stanford, most of us will recognize a version of ourselves on stage."

Inspector is presented through a highly successful educational model constructed by Rehm for his summer professional theater program, Stanford Repertory Theater, which brings together students and theater professionals to mount a summer season at Stanford. Like many Stanford Rep productions, Inspector features highly acclaimed professional actors alongside student actors.

"Stanford Rep always hires professional actors, who work alongside Stanford students," Rehm noted. "With Inspector, we are extraordinarily fortunate to have two of the Bay Area's finest performers, Jim Carpenter and Courtney Walsh, in the cast."

This model provides a rare opportunity for students to rehearse and perform in a professional environment. "It's simply invaluable for young artists to work alongside people of this quality, as actors and as people," Rehm said.

Headline performances at Bing Concert Hall

More music continues at Bing Concert Hall this summer with a range of events, highlighted by Stanford Live's inaugural summer series announced today by Executive Director Wiley Hausam.

 The offerings will feature performances by La Santa Cecilia & Los Cenzontles (July 20), Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (July 26), singer Shawn Colvin (Aug. 2) and guitarist Miloš Karadaglić (Aug. 6.)

Single event tickets for Stanford Live's summer 2014 series will go on sale June 4, following a pre-sale period for Stanford Live donors and Bing Members. Tickets are available in person at the Bing Concert Hall Ticket Office, by phone at (650) 724-2464 (BING) or online. The Bing Ticket Office is located at 327 Lasuen St. Regular operating hours are Tuesday-Friday from noon to 5 p.m.

"If the response to our first two years at Bing Concert Hall has taught me anything, it's that there is an enormous audience for the arts in Silicon Valley," Hausam said. "We're launching a summer series that will offer something for everyone and also utilize Bing Concert Hall in new ways. Stanford Live is more than great performances – there is often a lively social component and, as part of Lavay Smith's performance, I'm looking forward to introducing social dancing in the Bing lobby."          

The Grammy Award-winning La Santa Cecilia, named Best Alternative Band of the Year by L.A. Weekly, kicks off the series on July 20 with an afternoon of Latin-alternative music. Named after the patron saint of musicians, La Santa Cecilia consists of accordionist Jose "Pepe" Carlos, bassist Alex Bendana, percussionist Miguel Ramirez and lead vocalist La Marisoul. Bay Area favorites Los Cenzontles (The Mockingbirds) will open the show.          

A brief dance lesson kicks off a festive swing dance party in Bing Concert Hall's Gunn Atrium on July 26, accompanied by live music from the queen of classic jazz and blues, singer Lavay Smith, and her seven-piece band. Smith evokes a sensuous era of glamorous jazz divas and celebrates the popular Swing Era of the 1940s.          

On Aug. 2, singer and guitarist Shawn Colvin – known for her Grammy-winning 1997 single "Sunny Came Home"– brings her storytelling folk songs to Bing Concert Hall. The Montenegro-born rising star Miloš Karadaglić, recipient of Gramophone's Young Artist of the Year Award, closes the series with an intimate recital on Aug. 6.          

In addition to the Stanford Live headline shows, Bing Concert Hall will host performances by the Department of Music, Stanford Jazz Workshop and others this summer.

As part of its annual chamber music seminar (June 23, 25, 27 and 28), the Grammy-nominated St. Lawrence String Quartet will present a series of free concerts; the annual Stanford Jazz Festival will include performances by Kenny Barron (June 21) and Chick Corea (Aug. 9); the Stanford Summer Orchestra and Summer Chorus take the Bing stage July 12 and Aug. 8; and the Midsummer Mozart Festival gives two performances, July 19 and 27. Visit live.stanford.edu for more information.