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Royce play returns to Nevada County for two performances

Submitted to The Union


WHO: Paul Emery and Nevada City Live presents “Beyond Our Mountains: The Story of Josiah Royce”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday

WHERE: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City

TICKETS: Thursday $15, Friday $20, Students $10

Available online at http://www.paulemerymusic.com, in person at The BriarPatch Co-op 530-272-5333, Yabobo ­530-270-9114, or by phone 800-838-3006

Back by popular demand, “Beyond Our Mountains” — the story of Grass Valley native and famous American philosopher Josiah Royce Jr. — returns to the stage this Thursday and Friday at the historic Nevada Theatre.

The two-act staged reading of the play is mainly set in the years of 1862 to 1866 and puts the spotlight on the famous philosopher’s formative years growing up in Grass Valley.

As an adult, Royce went on to international eminence as a philosopher, heading the department at Harvard for 37 years.

Royce’s early work is associated with idealism, but he was influenced greatly by the pragmatism of William James and Charles Peirce.

The later works of Royce, with a focus on interpretation and community, are now recognized as significant contributions to pragmatism and the history of philosophy.

Royce also stands out starkly in the philosophical crowd because he was the only major American philosopher who spent a significant period of his life studying and writing history, specifically of the American West.

“My goal in writing this play was for people here in Nevada County to learn about this world famous philosopher, Josiah Royce, who was born in a canvas-walled house on the site of the Grass Valley Royce Library,” said Nevada City playwright Robin Wallace.

“Each time it is performed, the actors go deeper, and I, too, am more informed.”

“Beyond Our Mountains” was first performed last August to positive reviews during the “Royce, California, and the World” conference held at the Holbrooke Hotel by the Josiah Royce Society. Serious scholars from universities across the country attended the symposium.

“The play had a quiet beauty which was deeply moving at many points, particularly the Lincoln news moment. But my favorite moments were always when, particularly at the beginning, Royce was looking back over his life,” wrote Marc Anderson, a Royce scholar from Montreal, Canada.

Dinah Smith returns to direct the talented local cast of Marion Jeffrey, Patrick Moore, John Bush, Jozi Gullickson, Amalia Dummet, Camille Cadeaux, Andrea Baruch de la Pardo, Graham Collings and Orion Molaro as the young Josiah Royce.

“Being part of this production has touched me deeply,” Smith said. “I am delighted and inspired to discover that such an amazing child became such a brilliant and thoughtful man — dedicated to truth. And I am thrilled to bring this child/man’s life to the attention of this community and to have the good fortune to do it with local people whom I care about and admire.”

Wallace explains that this performance at the Nevada Theatre is an important one for both the actors and the community.

“The Nevada Theatre opened on Sept. 9, 1865, having been built with the surviving brick from a hotel fire,” she said. “The Royce family would still have been living in Grass Valley then, and perhaps they came to the new theater. I could use that in a new scene yet to be written!”

Royce’s words and ideas still resonate today. When outlining an education focus as a tenet of his gubernatorial tenure, California Governor Jerry Brown invoked Josiah Royce to highlight the importance of community in his inaugural 2011 address.

“One of our native sons, Josiah Royce, became for a time one of the most famous of American philosophers,” Brown said that January day. “He was born in 1855 in a mining camp that later became the town of Grass Valley. I mention him because his ‘Philosophy of Loyalty’ is exactly what is called for. Loyalty to the community, to what is larger than our individual needs.”

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