Worth a Look

This week's art events

This week, catch the opening of Palo Alto Players' magical realist musical "Big Fish," check out color prints by American photographer William Eggleston at Bryant Street Gallery or go online to the Revs Library to cruise Stanford's new collection of classic car photos.


Big Fish

Attention, Broadway buffs: This weekend, Palo Alto Players presents the West Coast premiere of "Big Fish." Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, the critically acclaimed musical tells the story of traveling salesman Edward Bloom -- who likes to tell tall tales -- and his son Will, who yearns to uncover the truth beneath his father's fantastic stories.

With a book by John August ("Go," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa ("The Addams Family"), it's an entertaining and emotional journey that invokes myth and magic, crosses generations and blurs the line between fact and fiction. The Palo Alto Players under the direction of Patrick Klein will offer up a charming rendition of this family-friendly production, replete with giants, witches, mermaids and plenty of dancing.

Following a preview on Sept. 12, "Big Fish" opens Sept. 13 (with a reception following the performance) and runs through the 28th at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Select performances include a post-show talk-back with the cast. For a full schedule and tickets, go to paplayers.org or call 650-329-0891.

Visual Art

William Eggleston's Democratic Forest

Between 1983 and 1986, American photographer William Eggleston took a series of color photographs that would eventually be published in his 1989 monograph, "The Democratic Forest," with an introduction by Eudora Welty. Characterized by their unusual perspectives on ordinary, often urban scenes and subjects, these photos remain an important part of Eggleston's artistic legacy and helped legitimize color photography as a fine art form.

Next week, there's a chance to admire (and even, perhaps, to purchase) 17 Eggleston prints from this period when Sotheby's presents a pop-up exhibition of the artist's work at Palo Alto's Bryant Street Gallery (532 Bryant St.)

You don't have to be a collector to appreciate Eggleston's eye for finding beauty in the mundane. As Welty put it, "In landscapes, cityscapes, street scenes, roadside scenes, at every sort of public converging-point, in dreaming long view and arresting close-up, through hours of dark and light, he sets forth what makes up our ordinary world. What is there, however strange, can be accepted without question; familiarity will be what overwhelms us."

The selling exhibition is free to the public, and will be open Sept. 16-18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To learn more, go to sothebys.com/eggleston or call 650-321-8155.


Revs Digital Library

We build our cities around them, spend hours in them daily and see them as signifiers of our social status. Now, thanks to Stanford's new Revs Digital Library, the public has access to hundreds of thousands of images documenting the automobile.

From photos chronicling the history of auto racing to those that follow the rise of the car as a cultural icon, the site is a stunning visual compendium. Whether you're a scholar or a fan -- or you're simply curious -- it's worth a visit to revslib.stanford.edu, where you can scroll through featured collections, and even search the image archives by year, make or model of car that interests you most, from Alpha Romeo to Vauxhall.

That's not all; historians of car racing can edit their searches by race track or event to find what they're looking for.

The library comes to Stanford thanks to the Revs Institute for Automotive Research in Naples, Florida. Of course, the history of the automobile is a story of innovation and triumph, as well as one of ecological disaster and social injustice. Among the stranger historical marvels of the collection is documentation of the "Negro Motorist Green Book," a Jim Crow-era guidebook that helped African-American motorists to find the gas stations that would serve them. That stinks.

Regardless of your destination, it's worth a quick spin through this collection -- you're bound to see the car in a whole new light.

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