Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony and Pacific Northwest Ballet Announce New Fellowship for Arts Leaders of Color

Three of Seattle’s biggest arts organizations have announced a new initiative to support emerging arts administrators and leaders of color.

Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Symphony have announced the inaugural cohort of the Seattle Arts Fellowship, a new initiative for emerging arts leaders and administrators of color. The 2021/22 fellows are Dalanie Harris (Seattle Symphony), Kierra Nguyen (Seattle Opera), and Gabriela “Gabi” Páez Shutt (Pacific Northwest Ballet). Each fellow will be placed at one of the presenting organizations for a year. Areas of focus will range from marketing, community education, and artistic planning. Beginning in 2022, the program will also include broadcasting as Classical KING FM 98.1 joins the roster of presenting organizations.

Kierra Nguyen, a dancer and visual artist from Seattle, is looking forward to broadening her tools as someone dedicated to a lifetime in the arts, “The foundational goals of this fellowship uphold my belief that art and artists must be cared for in a way that will sustain their growth for generations to come. As a recent college graduate, I want to continue to engage in arts administrative roles that promote the arts in informed and innovative ways.”

The paid fellowship includes hands-on work experience in administration and learning opportunities including leadership training, skill building, mentorship and networking. The cohort will engage in peer-to-peer learning, connect with local arts leaders, and build a strong network to support their career development.

In addition to making a positive impact on Seattle Symphony, Dalanie Harris, a bassist and podcaster from Los Angeles, reflects on what she hopes to gain during the experience, “Ultimately, I’d like to be in a position to uplift, celebrate, and bring awareness to Black music in return for all the joy it has brought to my life and the world. I’d like to be challenging the ways we as individuals interpret and analyze music.”

The Seattle Arts Fellowship is available to individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) or as ALAANA (African/African American (diaspora), Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American/Indigenous, and Asian Pacific Islander). The program is designed for those who have just entered the workforce such as college graduates or those transitioning into nonprofit arts careers.

“My ultimate goal in the arts is to increase access to arts education for students, specifically low-income students,” said Gabi Páez Shutt, a recent graduate from Florida State University with an M.A. in Arts Administration. “I was very fortunate to have incredible performing and visual arts education through my public schools, but this is not the case for many students.”

Theatre of Possibility Brings Heart and Humanity to a Complex Global Conflict in “Abraham’s Land”

The world premiere of Abraham’s Land tackles one of the world’s most tragic, enduring and intractable geopolitical conflicts—Israel and Palestine—with the three lead roles played by Jewish-American, Israeli, and Palestinian-American actors.

Seattle’s vibrant theatre community returns to live performance after the pandemic with the world premiere of Abraham’s Land, an original musical by Seattle playwright, Lauren Goldman Marshall and Pulitzer-nominated composer, Roger Ames, in association with Theatre of Possibility. In addition to in-person performances on July 15–18, the musical will be livestreamed nationally and internationally, with the goal of reaching audiences in the Middle East.

Abraham’s Land tells a human story set against the backdrop of the Israeli occupation of Palestine during the First Intifada. Israeli Sergeant Yitzhak prides himself on being an ethical soldier, but when a Palestinian demonstration in Jerusalem appears threatening, he fatally shoots the provocateur, Ismail. Devastated to learn that the victim was unarmed, Yitzhak is haunted by Ismail’s ghost. Disguising himself as a Palestinian, Yitzhak journeys to a refugee camp in Gaza to return Ismail’s identity card and ask his family for forgiveness. In the process, he experiences the humanity of the other side and the darker aspect of his own. Ultimately, he must choose between making amends and his duty to his country.

With recent changes in Israeli leadership, increasing tensions and violence in the region, the reexamination of the United States’ role in the Middle East, and the rise of antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism and tribalism in the United States and abroad, this work is especially timely. 

Hassan Nazari-Robati, Netanel Bellaise, Maria Habeeb, David Studwell, Bobbi Kotula in "Abraham's Land".
Cast of “Abraham’s Land”. Photo by Paul Bestock

“I am honored to pursue justice through this art form. One of my desires is that audience members would allow themselves to lean into discomfort, look within, and hopefully leave grappling with some larger questions,” said cast member Chandry Abreu.

Thirty years in the making, Abraham’s Land began as a Jewish/Palestinian collaboration, by Lauren Goldman Marshall, Hanna Eady, and David Nafissian, and was first performed in Seattle in 1992. Marshall further developed it with Palestinian and Israeli youth at Seeds of Peace International Camp in 1999. The current rendition features a new libretto and score.

In efforts to ensure the musical is more than just a performance for audiences, each showing will be followed by a post-play discussion, with representatives from local Jewish and Muslim communities. In addition, the Saturday performance will feature a pre-show talk by a visiting public health professional and mother from Gaza, Alaa Hammouda, who will share her story from her perspective as a 30-year resident of Gaza. An interactive workshop on Saturday 1–3 p.m. will use techniques from Theater of the Oppressed to explore issues in the play.

“The content shows political knowledge of the situation and it has characterization, psychological depth and transformation. The writing is amazing. Not didactic, not judgmental, not righteous, just heart and human,” said Vibha Thompson, an audience member from the 2019 workshop.

Abraham’s Land will run July 15–18 at the Kirkland Performance Center. Tickets to live performances and the livestream are available online or by calling 425.893.9900.

Arts Organizations Are Showing Their Pride With These Events in June

Even though many in-person Pride parades and events have been canceled this year, that doesn’t mean the celebration is also canceled. Arts organizations throughout the Greater Seattle Area and the Bay Area are presenting performances, discussions, and other events to celebrate Pride during the month of June in a safe way.

Seattle Choruses Present Out on the Porch

No parade? No problem! Seattle Men’s Chorus, Seattle Women’s Chorus, and The Supertonics are all out on the Porch for Pride this year. Hosted by Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht (Head Judge from The Big Flower Fight on Netflix and named Top Florist in the World by Harper’s Bazaar) the streaming show features ten new music videos from the choruses, all filmed safely in quarantine.

But that’s not all. The choruses created a competition, transforming porches into amazing Pride parade floats. You’ll get to see the porches…from concept to completion. And once you’ve seen the porches, we want to see yours. Show your Pride during the month of June by creating your own Pride porch.

Streaming June 10–30

Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, The Musical

Welcome (back) to 28 Barbary Lane as A.C.T. celebrates the 10th anniversary of its world premiere musical hit, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City! One of the highest-selling productions in A.C.T. history, this is the first time the original production, captured before a live audience in June 2011, will be seen by the public—streaming for one week only to celebrate San Francisco Pride.

Audiences around the world will finally get to hear Mary Ann, Mona, Brian, Mouse, and their joint-rolling landlady Mrs. Madrigal sing their Tales of the city. Based on Maupin’s landmark series of novels about San Francisco in the 70s, and featuring a cast of Broadway favorites, the acclaimed musical was directed by Jason Moore (The Cher Show, Avenue Q, Pitch Perfect), featured music and lyrics by the Scissor Sisters’s Jake Shears and John Garden, and a book by Tony Award winner Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q).

Streaming June 21–27

Pacific Northwest Ballet is Listening

This month Pacific Northwest Ballet’s discussion panel is turning their focus to Pride and what it means to them. Director of Company Operations Kiyon Ross sits down with Major Gifts Officer Jackson Cooper, Corps de Ballet dancer Christopher D’Ariano, Senior Marketing Manager Noel Pederson, and Principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite to share their own experiences and to continue the dialogue around inclusivity, diversity, and Pride in our community.

You can watch the virtual panel discussion below.

Village Theatre Will Return in 2022 for an Uplifting and Emotive Season of Four Shows

Village Theatre has announced their 2022 season which will return in January 2022, skipping their usual start time in the fall.

Perhaps in a nod to the general public’s eagerness for moving forward into a brighter future, the season includes three Village Theatre premieres—Songs for a New World, The Book Club Play and Raisin. The fourth show, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, hasn’t been seen on Village Theatre’s stage since their first season 42 years ago.

In true Village Theatre fashion, the 2022 season is chock full of uplifting, fun and heartwarming shows that will provide a reprieve from the real world and a happy change from our recent physical and emotional separation.   

Songs for a New World

Issaquah performance dates: January 14–February 13, 2022

Everett performance dates: February 18–March 13, 2022

Get swept away with this moving collection of powerful songs that explore life, love, and the choices that we make. Even the most challenging events can inspire something powerful within each one of us. This production embraces every turn, unexpected bend and strives to show us that renewal and survival is always within reach.

The first musical from Tony Award winner, Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Bridges of Madison County), reflects on the human condition, brings stories to life, and contemplates the ways we can feel and understand each other.

The Book Club Play

Issaquah performance dates: March 3–April 3, 2022

Everett performance dates: April 8–May 1, 2022

Laughter and literature collide when five friends of a cherished book club become the focus of a documentary film. The Book Club Play is a fast-paced smart comedy about books and the people who love them. With novels that audience members of all ages will recognize, this compact and hilarious production will keep you guessing what will happen next as the friends face the inescapable camera lens and shake up the group dynamic with plenty of twists and turns.

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

Issaquah performance dates: April 21–May 22, 2022

Everett performance dates: May 27–June 19, 2022

Growing up is serious business! Explore a day in the life of Charlie Brown as he goes from wild optimism to utter despair. Linus, Lucy, Schroder, and the whole Peanuts gang will bring us along as they learn how a great big dose of sunlight and positivity can be the best medicine. This musical comedy will remind us all that the truth can hurt and sometimes it’s gut-bustingly funny!


Issaquah performance dates: June 9–July 10, 2022

Everett performance dates: July 15–August 7, 2022

Soulful and inspiring, Raisin won the 1974 Tony Award for Best Musical and wowed audiences. This pulsating, inspirational musical is an adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s breakthrough Broadway play, A Raisin in the Sun. We journey with a proud black family, motivated by a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move out and move up. This story of deep determination and a quest for a better life explodes in song and incisive human drama while reminding us all what it means to dream and to reach for those dreams.

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Berkeley Rep Announces an Ambitious Project “The Waves in Quarantine”

Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer today announced an ambitious new work, The Waves in Quarantine, a project consisting of six short films that meditates on friendship, loss, and the making of art in this world-changing year, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s 1931 masterpiece. Produced by the Theatre and based on a musical adaptation of Woolf’s novel, The Waves, the film features a celebrated Broadway cast including Alice Ripley (Tony Award winner, Next to Normal) Raúl Esparza (Tony Award nominee, Company, and star of Law & Order: SVU), and Carmen Cusack (Tony Award nominee, Bright Star), directed by two-time Obie Award winner Lisa Peterson with award-winning cinematographer Zelmira Gainza (Luxor, The Outside Story) serving as director of photography.

The Waves in Quarantine will be available for free beginning, April 29 through May 28 and can be streamed on the Berkeley Rep website.

In kitchens and on couches, at beaches and on rooftops, The Waves in Quarantine invites an audience into the creative process. As Virginia Woolf ingeniously excavated the inner lives of six friends in her groundbreaking novel, Peterson and her collaborators create a film in six movements that meditates on themes from the musical adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece The Waves.

“The musical adaptation of The Waves is a project that Lisa and Raúl and I have been in a long-term conversation about, since we did a developmental production of it at New York Stage and Film in 2018,” said Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer. “As the pandemic took hold, they began to imagine a way to make use of this time of isolation, shutdown, and longing—whose themes are so poignantly paralleled in Woolf’s novel itself. An extraordinary group of artists assembled around this effort, coming together remotely from far-flung locations, and this series of six short films is constructed to share their exploration of Woolf’s text (as reimagined by Lisa) and the gorgeous music composed by David Bucknam and Adam Gwon. Making films (and making them remotely!) is certainly new territory for Berkeley Rep, but this time has required that we all learn new ways of supporting artists, engaging with audiences, and sharing stories. I am incredibly proud of the form-breaking work that this team has created, and can’t wait to bring it to an audience.”

The Waves musical adaptation was originally produced by New York Theatre Workshop in 1991 and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award (Outstanding Music); it was recently revived and reworked at New York Stage and Film in 2018. This 2021 version, The Waves in Quarantine, was shot at home and outside by the six actors and a team of theatre professionals spanning the United States and Europe, working remotely using DSLR cameras and iPhones.

A virtual opening night is planned for April 29 at 6 p.m. and will include a screening of all six movements and a conversation with Lisa Peterson, Raúl Esparza and Adam Gwon. A second virtual event is scheduled for May 6 and will include a conversation with members of the cast. Both events will be moderated by Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer and Berkeley Rep’s Resident Dramaturg Madeleine Oldham live via Zoom.

RSVP for The Waves in Quarantine.

Playwright Danielle Mohlman Announces ‘Nexus,’ a Live Theatre Project Performed by Quarantined Couples

Nexus will run April 17 to May 17, with a different couple performing the play each night.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle-based playwright and Encore Spotlight contributor Danielle Mohlman is bridging the digital divide with a three-week run of her two-character play Nexus, with a different quarantined set of actors performing the play live from their living room each night. Nexus, which was developed at Arena Stage from 2013–2014 before premiering at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, NY in 2015, is a modern love story that explores what transpires when two people become addicted to each other. It’s a play about two people who can’t stop seeing each other, a theme that’s become increasingly literal in the age of self-quarantine.

Tickets to Nexus are pay what you can, with ticket sales going directly to the artists involved. The play will be performed on Zoom, with a different set of performers broadcasting live from their living room each night.

Nexus features actors from across the country, representing Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; and Jersey City, NJ—among others. Performers include Erika Vetter and Adam Fontana, Jenna Berk and Danny Cackley, Alia Thomaier and Ricky Spaulding, Keiko Green and MJ Sieber, Corinne Magin and Andy Buffelen, Emily Huntingford and Mike Lion, Mariella Klinger and Dave Seamon, and Noelle Viñas and Kevin Vincenti, with additional performers to be announced.

About the Play

When two iPhone-armed strangers meet at a bus stop in Washington, DC, they’re entirely unprepared to spend three years falling in and out of love with each other. But, of course, that’s exactly what happens. This unexpectedly honest and refreshingly modern love story explores what transpires when two people become addicted to each other — putting them metaphorically on display at the Museum of Broken Relationships.

About the Playwright
Playwright Danielle Mohlman. PHOTO BY KATIE GULLICKSON

Danielle Mohlman is a nationally produced playwright based in Seattle, WA. Her plays have been developed or produced at Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, the Cherry Lane Theatre, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, Rorschach Theatre, Forum Theatre, dog & pony dc, Hubbard Hall, Pinky Swear Productions, Dreamwell Theatre, and Field Trip Theatre, among others.

Her plays include Stopgap (Field Trip Theatre, DCCAH Larry Neal Award finalist); Nexus (Hubbard Hall, Dreamwell Theatre, Kilroys honorable mention, DCCAH Larry Neal Award finalist, Woodward/Newman Award finalist); Dust (Dacha Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center semi-finalist, Finish Line Commission); Halcyon (Seattle Public Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center semi-finalist); Rushing (The Scratch, Umbrella Project Writers Group); Voyagers (ACT Theatre, ART/New York); and Frankenstein.

Danielle is an alumna of Playwrights’ Arena at Arena Stage, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellowship, and the Umbrella Project Writers Group. She is a proud graduate of both Cal Poly Pomona and Emerson College.

Updated May 4, 2020: Nexus was originally scheduled to close on May 3, after a successful three-week run. The production is now scheduled to run until May 17. The extension week will include performances from Claire Idstrom and Dylan Zucati, Leah Sainz-Jones and Ben Swenson-Klatt, Kathryn Metzger and Rob Hille, and Julia Holden-Hunkins and Spencer Funk.

Tickets and more information can be found at

Bringing Hanns Eisler’s Music Back to Life

Coming to Bing Concert Hall this December, Hell’s Fury examines the extraordinary life of composer Hanns Eisler. Known for his Marxist politics, Eisler was exiled in turn by three countries—and three of the most powerful ideologies of the twentieth century: Nazi Germany, McCarthyist United States, and communist East Germany.

A highly theatrical recreation of Eisler’s remarkable journey of expatriation and migration, Hell’s Fury resonates in a world of borders and ever-increasing fear of the other. The centerpiece of the production is Eisler’s ironically titled Hollywood Songbook. Written while he was composing Oscar-nominated movie scores in the early 1940s, the song cycle is a lyrical outpouring of wit, anger, and pain.

Stanford Live talked with Hell’s Fury director Tim Albery about bringing Eisler’s life and music to the stage.  

Stanford Live: How did the idea originate to bring Eisler’s music back to life?

Tim Albery: Listening to a recording of The Hollywood Songbook for the first time at the start of this century, I immediately sensed the inherent theatricality of the songs. As I learned more about Eisler’s extraordinary story, the notion of a “day in the life” of Eisler began to take shape.

I was attracted by the fact that Eisler, although a very distinguished composer, is largely unknown. If fictional, his life story would seem utterly incredible; the fact that, with all its unlikely twists and turns, it is true makes it all the more surprising and strangely exhilarating. And his coruscating self-knowledge deflects any potential sentimentality at his cruel fate.       

‘Hell’s Fury’ premiered at Luminato in Toronto over the summer. Photo by Bruce Zinger

What directorial challenges or surprises emerged as you balanced Eisler’s story with the historical context and its contemporary echoes, as well as language and art?

As the narrative began to evolve, the happiest surprise was finding that many of the songs, though all written in Hollywood in the 1940s, applied equally well to Eisler’s later life in communist East Germany. It is something of a liberty to repurpose the songs in this way, but once rehearsals began, their use outside of their original context seemed entirely appropriate.

The challenge throughout was deciding how much biographical information an audience needs and how to include it. I was eager to present an emotional journey told through songs and not a history lesson, so the story of Eisler’s travels and travails between the three ideologies of Nazism, capitalism, and communism is revealed as allusively as possible. The singer and the pianist live out Eisler’s life within the very real world of a mid-twentieth century recording studio. The setting is constantly transformed in surprising and unsettling ways using light, video, and sound to reveal the inner landscape of the songs.

Pianist Serouj Kradjian and baritone Russell Braun. Photo courtesy of Luminato

Discovering which should be the final song of the show was crucial. “Elegy 1943” is a cry of pain at the relentless cycle of history: “From age to age we destroy our neighbors because we fear them.” With this song, Eisler immediately becomes our contemporary, as we witness once again the rise of nationalism and populism, and a determined assault on all the valiant attempts since World War II to devise global laws and institutions that would temper the worst instincts of our species.        

What do baritone Russell Braun and pianist Serouj Kradjian bring to the piece in their portrayals of Eisler’s personal or musical interiority?

Serouj is the brooding introvert of Eisler’s almost bipolar nature, and Russell the ironic, savage, and playful extrovert. The roles are sometimes merged, sometimes almost reversed. Like twins, they each have something of the other. They co-exist while apparently unaware of each other.

A Canadian who was brought up in Germany, Russell is bilingual and bicultural, great assets for discovering Eisler. He is also an entirely instinctive actor, who, in rehearsal, quietly finds his way to the truth of the moment. Serouj listens and breathes with Russell—voice and piano sound as one. And he can turn on a dime; a serious song morphs into a cocktail bar vamp, doodling an improvisation for a movie score crashes into one of Eisler’s manic Piano Sonatas.

‘Hell’s Fury’ is a one-act show running 70 minutes. Photo by Bruce Zinger

Why is it important to bring Eisler’s life and his song cycle—haunted by McCarthyism, displacement, and, even still, beauty—to a contemporary audience, most of whom did not live through the horrors and movements that defined twentieth century?

Displacement is still with us and growing daily—displacement by war, poverty, and increasingly, climate change. The response of many governments is to deliberately breed an atmosphere of fear and contempt for those who can be branded as “not one of us” on grounds of ethnicity, religion, or political views, which is the essence of McCarthyism. Can we really say that fascism or uncontrolled capitalism are merely relics of the twentieth century? And do we not hear contemporary politicians glad, once again, to call themselves socialist, a term that was a death knell for electability only a few years ago? The cycle of history does not stop. Eisler’s life story is mirrored in the lives of countless others today, and it is bracing, salutary, and moving to hear in his songs how relevant his experience remains.

This Dialogue with Director Tim Albery was originally published in Stanford Live’s November/December program. Used with the permission of Stanford Live.

Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbook is Produced by Luminato, Soundstreams & Pinkhouse Productions with support from Opera North, UK. Hell’s Fury will play at Stanford Live’s Bing Concert Hall December 6–7. 

SIFF Names Andrew L. Haines as Executive Director

Yesterday SIFF announced that Andrew L. Haines will take over the role of executive director in January as Amy Fulford steps down from serving as interim executive director. Fulford served as interim since last March when former Executive Director Sarah Wilke stepped down.

Haines will come to SIFF after serving as director of marketing and communications at Seattle Rep since 2015, where he was also on the leadership team. Haines was responsible for all promotion and communication of Seattle Rep’s artistic programming and core values. He oversaw the marketing, communications, business operations and patron experience departments. Through his leadership, Seattle Rep increased subscriptions by 45 percent over three years.  

Before his role at Seattle Rep, Haines held multiple positions in sales including executive director of the National Group Sales Division, in which he was responsible for more than $32 million in annual ticket sales.

Haines showed excitement about his new role saying, “I am honored to join SIFF, one of the preeminent film organizations in North America, as the next executive director. This is an exciting time for SIFF, and I look forward to collaborating with the staff and board to advance the mission, expand audiences, and deepen engagement within the community.” 

As executive director, Haines will have the opportunity to share his experience in sales and engagement as the Seattle International Film Festival celebrates its 46th year in 2020, in addition to overseeing the year-round cinema and education programs. A fact that SIFF’s team is enthusiastic about. “I’m looking forward to working with and learning from Andrew, who brings a wealth of experience to SIFF,” said Beth Barrett, SIFF’s artistic director. “We are so pleased to have a leader who has exciting new ideas about audience engagement and enhancing our ability to deliver our mission.”

10 More Shows Added to Stanford Live’s Season

Stanford Live has added 10 more performances to their 2019-20 Season. Tickets will be available to the public on November 15, 2019. Check out all the great performers, artists and writers coming in the winter and spring of 2020.

Talisman 30th Anniversary Concert

February 8

For their 30th anniversary concert, Talisman alumni and current members from the past three decades will come together to sing and showcase the many voices that have contributed to Talisman’s growth. 

A Night in the Piano Bar with Brandon James Gwinn

February 15

A crowd favorite at NYC’s famous piano bar, Marie’s Crisis, Brandon James Gwinn  is a singer-pianist, composer-lyricist, and producer lauded as “one hell of an entertainer” by the Bistro Awards. For one night only, Gwinn is bringing his unforgettable piano bar experience to the Bing Studio.

Hanzhi Wang

February 16

Praised for her captivating stage presence and performances that are technically and musically masterful, Hanzhi Wang is the only accordionist to ever win a place on the roster of Young Concert Artists.

Sounds of Cuba: Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

Feburary 28–29

Canadian soprano-sax/flutist Jane Bunnett showcases the best young female artists from Cuba. Drummer Yissy Garcia is the heartbeat and power that propels Maqueque.

Common in Conversation

March 3

Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy-winning artist, actor, and activist, Common continues to break down barriers with a multitude of critically acclaimed, diverse roles, and continued success at the box office.  Let Love Have the Last Word shares Common’s own unique, personal stories of the people and experiences that have led to a greater understanding of love and all it has to offer.

Colin Quinn

March 13

Colin Quinn is a stand-up comedian from Brooklyn (okay, Park Slope). From MTV’s Remote Control to SNL to Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, Mr. Quinn is not one to take a hint and bow out gracefully. 

Bobi Céspedes

March 21

Gladys “Bobi” Céspedes has been at the forefront of representing and promoting Cuban music in the Bay Area and the United States for over 40 years. On her new album, Mujer Y Cantante, Bobi Céspedes thrills us with her prowess as woman and singer. 

Alfredo Rodríguez & Pedrito Martinez

March 22

As a result of their beginnings, Rodríguez and Martinez share a natural chemistry that makes for a galvanizing musical experience when they come together. Their first duo outing, Duologue, finds the pair exploring a range of moods and influences, from Cuban classics to collaborative original compositions to a number of unexpected favorites.

Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

April 1 at Memorial Church

April 2 at Bing Concert Hall

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge is known and loved by millions from its broadcasts, concert tours, and over 90 recordings. Founded in the 1670s, the Choir is known for its rich, warm, and distinctive sound, its expressive interpretations and its ability to sing in a variety of styles. 

Margaret Atwood in Conversation

April 8

Acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood will make a visit to Bing Concert Hall for a discussion. Her 2019 release, The Testaments, is a finalist for the Booker Prize.

Being There: The World of Nassim Soleimanpour

Ross Manson, artistic director of Volcano, recounts how his trip to judge a theatre competition in Iran turned into a discovery of much more.

I traveled to Tehran in February 2011 to adjudicate the Fadjr International Theater Festival. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president. The Green Movement had been violently suppressed months earlier.

It was an interesting time to be in Iran. While there, I got to know a young writer named Nassim Soleimanpour. He and I went all over Tehran together, and through him, I developed a more nuanced picture of Iran than I had ever gleaned from the western press: two armies, opposing secret police forces, government censors, artists everywhere circumventing the censors. People would come up to me on the street and apologize for their government.

It was a complicated place.

On February 14—or Bahman 25 in the Persian calendar—Nassim and I witnessed a massive but strangely quiet demonstration: no signs, no slogans, just thousands of people walking calmly towards Tehran’s famous Azadi Tower. The silence was a technique to avoid police violence. What I didn’t realize was that the theater jury I was a part of was scheduled to travel directly through this demonstration. When we were told to get in the minivan, it was a shock.

The theater jury in their minivan going through an anti-government demonstration.
The theater jury in their minivan going through an anti-government demonstration. Courtesy of Ross Manson

We were about to drive through an antigovernment demonstration in Iran to go to a play! I sat in the back with my camera. Nassim had warned us about photos. If you take any, he said, do not get caught.

I got caught.

In the middle of the demonstration, the van was swarmed—young men screaming through the windows, pounding on the van for it to stop. The sliding door opened and plainclothes Revolutionary Guards reached in to drag me out.

But they couldn’t reach, and this gave Nassim time to talk. It was dusk, slipping into night. A surreal blur of electric light illuminated the minivan and the masses of men. Nassim talked to a series of increasingly higher-ranking officers, and somehow engineered my freedom through the cleverness of his words. Nassim is good with words.

A page from the script of 'NASSIM.'
A page from the script of ‘NASSIM.’ Courtesy of Studio Doug

I brought Nassim’s play, White Rabbit Red Rabbit, out of Iran. This allegorical examination of control and violence is designed to be read cold by a new actor every night. My company, Volcano, and our partners, premiered it simultaneously in Edinburgh and Toronto. Every night, I’d email notes to Nassim—trapped in Iran—and he’d email me back a new draft for the next night. It became a global hit.

Nassim is part of a generation born during the horrors of the Iran–Iraq War; a generation that has known no Iran other than the Islamic Republic. They are smart, well-informed, fearless. A theater artist, Nassim uses reality as a dramatic technique. As I learned in the minivan in Tehran, experiencing something for real is a very different experience than watching it on the news. For humans, nothing is like being there. Nassim understands this. He puts you, as audience, into a living connection with something you may not have realized about the world: the thing happening is really happening.

This feature was written by Ross Manson and was originally published in Stanford Live’s September/October program. Used with the permission of Stanford Live.

Ross Manson is the founding artistic director of Volcano in Toronto, the company producing Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha at Stanford Live in April 2020. For more information about his trip to the Fadjr festival in Iran, you can visit his blog.

NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour will be performed November 7–10 in Stanford Live’s Bing Studio. Tickets are available online.