Behind the Scenes: A Farewell to Bill Starr
After 20 years with Stanford Live, front of house manager Bill Starr has decided to take a well earned retirement. His commitment to Stanford Live will be missed by all our staff and the many volunteers he managed.
Bill began as a part-time employee in 2001 and came on full-time in 2002. At that time, Stanford Live was known as Lively Arts. While artists traveled from across the country and world to perform at Stanford as they do now, the organization operated on a much smaller scale, with fewer performances each season than Stanford Live presents now. The artists and musicians would arrive, perform, and then leave shortly after. Bill says he has enjoyed witnessing the growth of Stanford Live and the Stanford arts district over the years and the ways in which performing artists now interact and connect with the campus and local community through engagement events, class visits, teacher workshops, and residencies.
As front of house manager, Bill witnessed the shift in audience as a greater variety of artists began performing at Stanford Live. “The audience was primarily a chamber music crowd,” Bill recalls. He met the challenge of the expanding lineup of performances, addressing how to train ushers for the wider range of shows being presented, from immersive theater that included audience participation to musicians inviting patrons onstage to dance.
As the organization and audiences grew, Bill took on recruiting a larger pool of volunteer ushers. When he started, 50 ushers were on the Lively Arts roster. During his tenure, however, he worked with up to 750 volunteers, relying on a consistent group of 150 each season. Because some student ushers graduate and others move on, Bill was always recruiting and reaching out to students and other theater people to build the usher pool. In many cases, word of mouth brought in people interested in volunteering.
“I will miss my usher team most and how much they have supported the arts and Stanford Live. Their continual support and lifelong friendships have been my biggest joys,” Bill says.
In addition to his work at Stanford Live, Bill also directs theater shows across the Bay Area, working for various organizations and theater companies. As a person who likes staying busy, he will continue this work as a theater director. He explains that the director work is very different from his front-of-house responsibilities at Stanford Live because he deals with everything from rehearsal schedules to costumes, lighting, sound actors, and staging sets. Each year Bill directs a play at the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco. Currently he’s working on a new work called Innocent Anarchist and a production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
“Theater is my passion,” Bill says, “and my motto is ‘Keep live theater alive.’”