I missed the memo about this when it first went around this fall, but the historic Curran Theatre, in addition to undergoing a major renovation right now, is no longer going to be a part of the SHN network of houses (which includes the Orpheum and the Golden Gate theaters) hosting only national tours of Broadway shows. In 2014, producer Carole Shorenstein Hays left the board of the organization she co-founded decades ago with Robert Nederlander SHN stands for Shorenstein Hays Nederlander, and the org. used to be called Best of Broadway and as of September she announced that she'd be claiming the Curran as her own venue for producing edgier, less populist work.
"It’s my goal to create a beacon here for theatrical artists and audiences the world over," Hays said at the time. "We want to take giant creative risks and, in doing so, introduce new audiences to the power of the theater.”
For SF theater lovers this is fantastic news, especially given we often have to travel to Berkeley Rep for such artistically challenging work SHN typically puts on more crowd-pleasing, direct-from-Broadway fare and perennially touring stuff like Chicago and Wicked, and ACT still needs to make good on its promise to bring some cool, envelope-pushing stuff to their new, smaller house, The Strand.
After a couple of low-key, out-of-the-box productions as part of their "Under Construction" series, in January the Curran will be putting on two parts of Taylor Mac's critically acclaimed, epically ambitious A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. (See a breakdown of the decades here.) Mac, who's been getting recent raves for an off-Broadway production of his play Hir which premiered at The Magic Theatre in SF in 2014 is touring the country with his multi-part, 24-hour piece of experimental theater, and will be doing Parts I and II for SF audiences at the Curran, covering the decades 1776 to 1836. Part I: 1776-1806 will play for three performances on January 21-23, and Part II: 1806-1836 will play on January 26-27. A six-hour marathon of both Parts I and II will be presented at the final performance on January 30. Find tickets here.
Here's a clip of Mac doing the 1920s at Lincoln Center last year:
While the 1922-built theater is being renovated at the hands of Perkins + Will and interior designer Brian Murphy, performances and seating are on the Curran's stage itself, with the stage door entrance on an alley made famous in the film All About Eve being used as the theater entrance.
The rest of the "Under Construction" festival has not yet been announced, but it will be ongoing through the year, until the renovation is complete in early 2017, and the choice of Taylor Mac's piece certainly marks a shift and an envelope-pushing indicator of what's to come.
Hays, 66, declined to comment when she departed SHN last year, but this means that the organization will no longer have a local force behind it the SF-born Hays partnered with the New York based Nederlander Organization.
Over the past four decades, Hays has become a powerful force on Broadway in her own right, producing dozens of highly acclaimed plays that went on to win Pulitzer Prizes and Tony Awards. She was a producer of August Wilson's Fences, both for its original 1987 production (Tony Award for Best Play) and the 2010 revival (Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play), and lead producer of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (Tony Award for Best Play; Pulitzer Prize for Drama). The 2015 Tony winner for Best Musical, Fun Home, is also hers, and past credits include Take Me Out (Tony Award for Best Play), David Auburn’s Proof, Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change, and Suzan- Lori Park’s Topdog/Underdog (Pulitzer Prize for Drama). In SF in recent years she was responsible for bringing Kevin Spacey's Richard III to the Curran, as well as the Broadway production of August: Osage County.
The project to remake and rebrand the Curran, Hays says, "is inspired by the spirit of the Bay Area, which is on the cutting edge of so many world-shaping industries."
Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music plays January 21 to January 30 at the Curran. Tickets available here.