It’s Who You Know at Evergreen Theatre 

Did he fight with Julia Roberts? Did he piss off Madonna? And what's up with Meryl Streep and Val Kilmer? Were they misbehaving? Or did they do something wonderful?

Chambers Stevens is a Tennessee actor and storyteller exiled in Los Angeles where he encounters a lot of movie stars. He works as an acting coach for top-shelf Hollywood talent these days. In another life, he founded the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and he's never stopped being drawn to live performance.

click to enlarge werec_whoyouknow.jpg

Swimming to Cambodia actor Spalding Gray was an especially strong influence on Stevens, whose latest solo performance, It's Who You Know, is formally inspired by one of Gray's patented sit-down comedies. In A Personal History of the American Theatre, Gray would sit at his desk with a box of cards representing all the plays he'd performed in. He'd shuffle the deck, pull a card, read the play title, and then proceed to tell a personal story inspired by the card. Substitute names of celebrities for play titles, and you've got It's Who You Know.

Stevens' history with celebrity doesn't begin with his trip to the left coast. His father and Elvis were in the army together. Barbara Mandrell was a neighbor. Johnny Cash sponsored his little league baseball team.

Because cards are chosen at random, and only so many stories can be told in one evening, no two shows are alike. On any given night, the audience may be treated to stories about Will Smith or Kristin Chenoweth. Or they might get an earful of Memphis.

"I've been to parties all over the world," Stevens says, ticking off a list of European capitals. "But the best party I've ever been to was in Memphis. It was the Blues Ball, and Isaac Hayes was playing. And every room had a different themed drink."

Stevens and Hayes were co-writing a musical about Stax records when the Soul Man died in 2008.

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