Steven Stolen graduated from Simpson in 1979 with a music degree. He has sung with many of the country’s best orchestras. He still performs frequently, and has co-edited two song collections. He taught voice and directed the choir on campus between 1985-88.
So what’s he doing in a section devoted to Simpson’s theatre program?
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he says.
Today, Stolen is serving his sixth year as managing director of the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis. That makes him one of 70 or so theatre CEOs in the country. He oversees 100 employees and is responsible for making sure 300-plus performances a year occur as scheduled.
“Without question, Simpson absolutely set the tone for me believing that I could do something like this,” he says. “The kind of confidence that it instills in young people is a remarkable thing, and I run into other people with great frequency who had that Simpson Experience. It’s an intangible thing.”
Looking back, Stolen says he probably had better training for his theatre duties as a music student and singing actor than he might have realized. The opera program, for example, built scenery and used the same stages and equipment that a dramatic production would. More than that, he says, he benefited from a campus-wide attitude that excellence was within every student’s grasp.
“I suppose other campuses have it, but we music and arts students experienced something extraordinary there that’s just hard to find the words to describe,” he says, “It’s about being distinctive, and excellent, and an expectation to do so that is not unreasonable.
“Idealism reigns for me,” he adds. “Optimism reigns for me. We start with how we can do it, not with why we can’t, and I think Simpson taught me that. My career shows how the disciplines are inter-related. We just may not know it until later.”