• 2016 True West Award: Jeffrey Neuman

    by John Moore | Dec 21, 2016
    True West Award. Jeffrey Neuman

     



    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 21: Playwright Jeffrey Neuman

    Today's True West Award presented by Leslie C. Lewis, Haley Johnson,
    Susan Lyles and Emma Messenger

    When the annual True West Awards invited the public to submit names for consideration in November, Jeffrey Neuman started popping up like popcorn. His plays have been performed on four continents, but he is beloved by the local theatre community because he’s the rare playwright who's also a tireless community builder.

    Neuman entered 2016 on a high. His new play Exit Strategies, winner of the Edge Theatre’s new-play competition, had just completed its well-received debut production. But now what? For a playwright, working toward the next performance opportunity can be just as grueling and time-consuming as the writing itself.

    But Neuman is constantly working to broaden opportunities for all Colorado writers. He is, actor Emma Messenger says, “an instigator of other people’s talents.”

    True West Awards Jeffrey Neuman Quote“Jeffrey has done more than anyone to activate, elevate and bring cohesion to the Denver theatre community, all while creating some of our region's best new work himself,” said local playwright Leslie C. Lewis.

    Neuman, Lewis and Alice Miller are co-founders of the Rough Draught Playwrights, which for four years has hosted quarterly gatherings that give local playwrights the opportunity to hear excerpts of their developing plays read aloud by professional actors in a supportive, public setting. (With beer!)

    This year, Neuman and his friends got even more proactive by co-founding Dirtyfish Theater, a collective of seven local playwrights who will no longer sit around waiting for theatre companies to pick their scripts for production. Instead, they work together to stage their own works themselves. Their debut production in March, Wedding Cake Vodka, was an evening of their short plays. Why name the new company Dirtyfish? “Because in today’s theatre, playwrights are too often nothing more than unwanted leftovers, the dirty fish of the theatre,” says co-founding member William Missouri Downs. “Will this collective last? We don’t know. Will it succeed? We don’t care. Will every play be brilliant? No. But for one brief moment, the bottom-dwellers of the theatre will stage the plays they want to stage without getting permission from the usual chaperones of the theatre world.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The word “co-founder” shows up a lot on Neuman’s resume. In 2016, he joined the co-founding efforts of Rachel Bouchard and Haley Johnson to launch the new Benchmark Theatre as Director of Literary Management. On behalf of Benchmark, Neuman and Kate Folkins immediately spearheaded a local response to the massacre at an Orlando nightclub that left 103 dead or wounded.

    True West Awards Jeffrey NeumanThe ongoing national initiative is called After Orlando. In most cities, one theatre company has hosted an evening of short plays written in response to the terrorist attack. But Benchmark instead rallied a dozen local theatre companies to join them, making the Denver event a true celebration of collaboration and unity in the face of unspeakable evil. And it never would have happened, said Johnson, without the tireless efforts of Neuman and Folkins. “They truly embody artists and collaborators,” she said. “We're so lucky to have them involved in Benchmark.”

    True West Award. Jeffrey Neuman. John IrvingProfessionally, Neuman rolled along in 2016. Exit Strategies was nominated for a Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for Outstanding New Play. His On The Horns of a Dilemma was a finalist for FUSION Theater Company's national new-play festival in Albuquerque, and Dangling Participles, his short play about grammar and sex, was presented at a festival in San Diego.

    Neuman also facilitates literary events for the Denver Post's esteemed Pen & Podium series and in September led a 90-minute discussion with the great John Irving (The World According to Garp) at the University of Denver’s sold-out Newman (no relation!) Center.

    (Photos above and right: Jeffrey Neuman reads from one of his developing works at a recent Rough Draught Playwrights event with actor Andrew Uhlenhopp. Photo by John Moore. Also: With John Irving at the 'Pen & Podium' series at DU.)

    Jeffrey Neuman/At a glance

    • Originally from Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
    • Received his masters degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Colorado-Boulder
    • In 2000, he was commissioned by the Denver Center’s Wilbur J. Gould Voice Research Center to develop and direct Paul Revere: The Voice Heard ‘Round the World, an outreach program designed to teach children about vocal health. The piece was performed in elementary schools, reaching more than 40,000 students.
    • Nominated for the 2012 Heideman Award
    • Recently published Modern Goddesses: Two Short Plays of Mythic Proportions
    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
    The True West Awards, now in their 16th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

     
    True West Awards Jeffrey Neuman. Matthew Lopez

    Above: Jeffrey Neuman takes advice from DCPA Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez ('The Legend of Georgia McBride') during a workshop at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit. Below: Alice Miller, Leslie C. Lewis and Jeffrey Neuman, founders of Rough Draught Playwrights, hosting the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit's local Playwrights' Slam. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 

    True West Awards Jeffrey Neuman. Rough Draught Playwrights


    THE 2016 TRUE WEST AWARDS

    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride
  • In the Spotlife: Mark Collins of 'Lost Creatures'

    by John Moore | Nov 01, 2016
    Mark Collins. Lost Creatures
    Photo of Mark Collins by Sara Harris.

    (The DCPA NewsCenter regularly profiles actors performing in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)

    MEET MARK COLLINS

    The former Boulder theatre critic is playing renowned theatre critic Kenneth Tynan in Melissa Lucero McCarl's 'Lost Creatures' for And Toto too Theatre Company

    • Lulu Mark Collins Lost CreaturesHometown: Reidsville, N.C.
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Boulder High School
    • College: I have a BFA in Acting from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and an MFA in Acting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    • What have you done for us lately? I played Michael in God of Carnage at Miners Alley Playhouse
    • What is Lost Creatures all about? In 1978, former British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan visited reclusive former silent-film star Louise Brooks in her dingy one-room apartment in Rochester, N.Y. Tynan, a fan of Brooks', was there to interview the 71-year-old for a profile he wrote that eventually ran in the New Yorker. Playwright Melissa Lucero McCarl imagines what happened when these two kindred spirits – two lost creatures – met and drank and talked and ...?
    • Tell us about your character: Kenneth Tynan was a foremost drama critic, and a notorious and purposefully provocative sexual deviant; he suffered from emphysema and had a life-long stammer. As an actor, though, the big stretch for me has been that Ken speaks in complete and often flourishing paragraphs. I, on the other hand, have trouble speaking in complete sentences. So that’s been a challenge.
    • Lost CreaturesWhat do you love most about this experience? First, to get to work with this dynamite team – the supportive and miracle-making duo of (producers) Susan Lyles and Darren Smith; our onion-peeler-of-a-director Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski, our smokin’ hot writer Melissa McCarl, clever stage manager Lauren Myer, and the lovely tandem of Billie McBride and Annabel Reader - is a real treat. Billie will break hearts as Louise, I guarantee it. But one of the things I’m most looking forward to is how the audience responds to the character of Lulu, played by Annabel. She, as Louise Brooks’ iconic film character from the 1929 pre-talkie Pandora’s Box (you’ll recognize the hairstyle she made famous), is a silent character. She is (mostly) unseen by others on stage, yet Lulu is ever present and ever mischievous, and Annabel has created this fully realized character without words wonderfully.
    • From 2012: Moore & Collins: Two ex-theater critics having coffee

    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I think many people in the local theater scene know I was a theater critic for the Boulder Camera for several years. Many don’t realize that was a freelance position, and my full-time work for much of that period was as a sports editor/writer for the (University of Colorado) Buffalo Sports News. Truth be told, I’m much more fluent on the history of the Colorado Buffaloes football than I am on, say, Bertolt Brecht.
    • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? Um, so, as an audience member, my pet peeve is those increasingly present, but frustratingly intrusive post-curtain marketing speeches. Please don’t tell me to like you on Facebook when I’m absorbing and processing and feeling what’s just happened on your stage. Oh, but that’s a downer note to end on. So, I want to get this off my chest, too: Theater is filled with lost creatures, and I’m so grateful to be among that tribe here in Colorado!

    KennethTynan


    Lost Creatures: Ticket information

    • By Melissa Lucero McCarl
    • Directed by Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    • Nov. 3-19
    • Presented by And Toto too Theatre Company at 1245 Champa St. (In the brand new performance space called The Commons.)
    • Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays 
    • Tickets $15-25
    • Info: 720-583-3975 or go to andtototoo.org 

    Cast List:
    • Mark Collins as Kenneth Tynan
    • Billie McBride as Louise Brooks
    • Annabel Reader as Lulu

    About the Next Stage NOW Project
    Lost Creatures is supported in part by Next Stage NOW, a public initiative with a mission to enliven and diversify the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Denver Arts & Venues in partnership with the Boettcher Foundation and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts has made $200,000 available to support public performances, programming and place making initiatives at the Arts Complex in 2016.

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Soggy skies can't shake 5,000 students' Shakespeare spirit

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2016
    2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos may be downloaded and recirculated with source attribution. Click on any photo to download.

    "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

    Michael Berger grew up with a stutter. On Friday, the high-school senior stood ebulliently in the rain and welcomed thousands to the 32nd annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    A DPS Shakespeare 160"This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my theatre career,” said Berger, a senior at Denver School of the Arts who was chosen from hundreds of DPS students to perform as none other than the Bard himself at the festival’s opening ceremonies in Skyline Park.

    “My first performance as an actor was here. It was in the fourth grade, I was 8 or 9, and I performed Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1,” he said definitively. “Because of that, I was inspired to continue in the theatre. And it was through Shakespeare that I learned how to speak clearly. So this is very much full circle for me.”

    The rain-snow mix didn’t dampen the students’ spirits, but the chill surely put the shake in the Shakespeare as nearly 5,000 chilly students from 80 schools in grades kindergarten through high school braved the cold to perform more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex while bundled in an array of colorful costumes that were often covered in parkas.

    DPS Shakespeare Fetsival opening ceremonies: Micael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    DPS Shakespeare Festival opening ceremonies: Michael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Denver Center or the Performing Arts CEO Scott Shiller served as Grand Marshall for the three-block opening parade alongside Berger and George Washington High School senior Vicky Serdyuk, who won the annual honor of playing Queen Elizabeth I at the oldest and largest student Shakespeare festival in the country.

    “Shakespeare was the first live performance I ever saw – and I was in daycare,” Serdyuk said with a laugh. “I remember that the actors talked funny, but that they made it sound so good.”

    Shiller told the students that by participating in arts-education programs like the Shakespeare Festival, studies indicate they will be more likely to graduate, enroll in college, contribute meaningfully to civic life and volunteer. “Plus, children who are exposed to live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree,” he said.

    Gillian McNally, who served as a festival adjudicator and general encourager, was undaunted by the cold. Despite the gloomy weather, she declared Friday to be the most beautiful day of the year.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote “This might be the only time most of these students ever perform on a stage in their whole lives – and we celebrate that,” said McNally, an Associate Professor of Theatre Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Just look at these wonderful, handmade costumes,” she added, indicating young students from the DaVinci Academy dressed as a human forest. “That tells me teachers collaborated with students and their parents, and they made something together. That’s what this is all about: We are making something together.”

    More than half of all students enrolled in Denver Public Schools speak English as a second language. Serdyuk says it makes sense that many DPS English teachers use Shakespeare as a language-learning tool in the classroom. “Shakespeare’s English follows a lot of the same rules as many of these students’ first languages,” she said. 

    Berger serves as student teacher for Denison Montessori School’s Shakespeare program.  He says Shakespeare is less intimidating for students whose native language isn’t English because they are already learning one foreign language – so what’s another? “It’s neat seeing kids learn to speak Shakespeare while they are learning English at the same time,” Berger said.

    Christine Gonzalez, who teaches kindergarten through 6th grade students at Denison, said Berger has been a big help to her students. “He keeps it light and fun and inspirational,” she said. “It’s easier to learn when you make it fun.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Mary Louise Lee, an accomplished performer and also the First Lady of Denver, addressed the crowd about the importance of arts education. “I am a proud product of the Denver Public Schools,” said the graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee, wife of Mayor Michael B. Hancock, has made restoring arts-education programs in schools her top priority since founding her nonprofit, Bringing Back the Arts.

    The DPS Shakespeare Festival draws students of all ages and experience levels. While hundreds were performing for the first time Friday, Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger was performing in his seventh DPS Festival.

    “I remember feeling nervous my first year because I was performing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Bruenger, who was born in Mexico. “But I looked around and I saw younger kids who were only 6 or 7 years old and they were completely into it. That gave me confidence that I could do it, too.”

    Seven years later, Bruenger is not only a recent winner of a True West Award and Denver Mayor's Award for the Arts, but also a full scholarship to the University of Oklahoma from the Daniels Fund. After he performed in his final Shakespeare Festival on Friday, he was off to star in the opening of a world premiere musical about the Armenian genocide called I Am Alive.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. This is the first year the DCPA served as a full producing partner in the DPS Festival. The DCPA’s Education Department offered up its Teaching Artists to assist all 80 participating schools in their preparations for Friday.

    “We are proud to partner alongside the largest school district in the state,” Shiller said. “Colorado’s commitment to arts integration outpaces the national average in nearly every category. In fact, 64 percent of our high schools offer theatre education, just like our own Shakespeare Festival.”

    Friday’s crowd was peppered with prominent figures in the local theatre community. Susan Lyles, founder of the city’s only company dedicated to female playwrights (And Toto Too) was on hand to root on her son, Harrison Lyles-Smith, who played a shepherd with a wicked death scene in As You Like It.

    Lyles said Harrison and his 5th-grade classmates at Steck Elementary School have been practicing for two hours every Friday since February. “It has given him self-confidence and a fearlessness when it comes to Shakespeare that a lot of adults don’t have,” she said.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sara McPherson Horle, Executive Producer of The Catamounts Theatre Company of Boulder, happened to have a nephew in that same class at Steck. For her, one of the great rewards young Samuel Davis has gotten out of the experience is the lost art of listening.

    “You have to be self-disciplined to be an actor at any age,” Horle said. “Learning to listen is a huge thing, but especially at this age.”

    McNally said the emphasis of the festival is not on producing professional-quality performances – although many of the older students come awfully close. What the judges want more to encourage is passion, which leads to the development of useful life skills such as public speaking and boosted self-esteem.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But occasionally there are performances that make even the Shakespeare purists turn their heads. DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken was particularly impressed with the 3rd through 5th graders from Isabella Bird, a “heart-centered” community school where teacher Rebecca Sage says students are all made to feel valued for their own specific, individual talents.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote 2“The general clarity of their storytelling was astounding, and their delivery were astounding,” McCracken said after watching Sage’s students perform a Cinco de Mayo-informed take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Ricketson Theatre. “That was an amazing throughline for elementary-school actors." 

    Sage said her approach to the project was not unlike the approach of any director who takes on a full-fledged theatrical production: “It all starts with table work,” she said. That means working through the script with the students line-by-line, making sure they understand the meaning, the innuendo and most important, the comedy of the words they speak.

    Sage’s students fully bought into the project, she said, in part because Friday’s festival was only the start of their reward. Next week, the students will perform the full story back at the school for parents and friends. Sage said her students have been putting in half-mornings two days a week since January.

    “It was hugely gratifying for them to put in the work, both at home and at school, and then to get that kind of validation and respect once they got here today,” she said. “This whole experience is a huge incentive for them to continue doing things that challenge them and take them to their edge.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's Romeo and Juliet

    DCPA Teaching Artists John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes starred in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Also new this year was the evening Shakespeare After-Fest program, when arts organizations from across Denver came together to continue the celebration of the Bard. The program included music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY. DCPA Education also performed its hour-long production of Romeo and Juliet from its outreach program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.

    The First Lady of Denver left the kids with a Shakespeare quote whose authorship has been disputed over time – but its meaning was indubitably apropos for Friday’s occasion:

    “The meaning of your life is to find your gift,” Lee told the gathered crowd. “The purpose of your life is to give it away.”

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 2015 True West Award: Susan Lyles

    by John Moore | Dec 06, 2015
    True West Awards Susan Lyles
    James O’Hagan Murphy and Kate Poling in 'Smoke,' by Kim Davies. Photo credit:  Meghan Ralph, Soular Radiant Photography.


    2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    ​Today’s recipient:
    And Toto Too Theatre Company founder Susan Lyles

    Today’s presenter: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore


    According to a recent sampling, just 22 percent of all plays produced on American stages between 2011-14 were written by women. Even though women historically average about 57 percent of the theatregoing audience.

    As the issue of gender disparity in American playwriting finally emerged as a major topic of national conversation in recent months, Denver’s only theatre company dedicated to exclusively presenting women’s voices was quietly celebrating its 10th anniversary.

    Susan Lyles QuoteAnd Toto Too Theatre Company came to life in 2005. Susan Lyles had given birth to her second son just five weeks before she went into rehearsals for her company's first production. As a longtime actor, costume designer and especially as both mother and role model to young boys, she said, enough was enough.

    “It was just time to take the leap,” said Lyles, who had moved to Colorado from Kansas with her husband, Darren Smith, in 1998. “I felt it was important for me to continue to be creative around my children. And as a woman, I realized how underrepresented we were, and how little control we had over our art form.

    “And also as a woman, I wanted to hear my own voice up there on the stage,” she added. And she wanted her boys to hear that voice as well.

    It has not been an easy or obvious go for Lyles. In the first 10 years, her not-for-profit company has fully staged 12 plays by women playwrights (all but one world premieres). The most recent was Kim Davies’ Smoke, a positively Mamet-like exploration of sexual power between a man and woman who hook up at a kink party in New York City.

    READ MORE: HOW THERESA REBECK IS GETTING EVEN

    And Toto Too is perhaps best known for its annual play crawl that takes place amid the funky Tennyson Street Art District in northwest Denver. Each summer, Lyles commissions 12 women to write two-minute plays all presented environmentally by some of the area’s top actors in galleries and shops stretching between 38th and 44th avenues. The Play Crawl, the company’s major annual fundraiser, has introduced more than 50 short new works since it began in 2011. And Toto Too also has launched a reading series that introduced seven new full-length works by women in 2015 alone.  

    Like most any other small theatre company in the metro area, finding a permanent home has proven to be an elusive goal. And Toto Too has had four homes, having most recently settled into the black box at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

    The lack of a permanent home and the economics of producing live theatre have made it impossible and impractical for Lyles to plan full seasons like bigger companies. Instead she produces a fully staged show whenever she can afford to do it. It costs an average of about $7,000 to produce a new play, depending on varying factors including venue, whether a union (Equity) actor is involved, and the cost of building the set.

    And Toto Too. Photo by John Moore.





    Artistic director Susan Lyles, right, had a cheap but reliable labor force at her disposal in 2013, meaning her two young sons, before this performance of the Dorothy Parker drama 'Pardon My Dust' at the former LIDA Project space. Photo by John Moore.


    Another complication: "All of our funding comes from individual donors and ticket sales – not from grants,” she said. “So without people truly wanting to see plays by women, we would have folded a long time ago.”  

    Lyles’ goals heading into 2016 include finding a permanent home, developing local women playwrights, and encouraging the expansion of other underrepresented voices, including transgendered and Native American writers.

    She is impressed that at about the same time she started And Toto Too, new DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson created the Women’s Voices Fund, which has raised more than $1 million to create opportunities for female playwrights and directors. Next month, the DCPA will stage world premieres by Tanya Saracho and Theresa Rebeck.

    “I think it is great that they are actually putting their money where their mouth is,” Lyles said.

    This all comes at a time when the drumbeat for gender parity has been rising from across the nation, both at industry conferences and on the internet. Lyles is encouraged, but skeptical. “I am hopeful that something comes of it,” she said. “But I seriously wonder how long the conversation is going to last because it is a subject that comes and goes.

    "The fact of the matter is I shouldn’t have to form a company just to have women’s voices represented on the stage. It should just be a given.”​

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS

    The True West Awards began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. This year, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from around the state over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS​
    Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
    Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
    Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Day 4: Laurence Curry
    Day 5: Bernie Cardell
    Day 6: Susan Lyles
    Day 7: John Jurcheck​
    Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
    Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
    Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
    Day 11: Shauna Johnson
    Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
    Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
    Day 14: Keith Ewer
    Day 15: Allison Watrous
    Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
    Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
    Day 18: Emma Messenger
    Day 19: Shannon McKinney
    Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
    Day 22: Scott Beyette
    Day 23: Augustus Truhn
    Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
    Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
    Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
    Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
    Day 29: Mark Collins
    Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
    Bonus: Donald R. Seawell

  • Susan Lyles' focus on women playwrights: From crawl to a sprint

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jun 08, 2015
    Susan Quote 800

    Editor's Note:
    The DCPA NewsCenter offers a weekly guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and proposed topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.


    By Susan Lyles

    And Toto too Theatre Company Founder

    It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since And Toto too Theatre Company produced the world premiere play, Appliance, by Canadian playwright Lindsey Price. Ten years later, we are still the only theatre in Denver that focuses entirely on producing new plays by women playwrights, with stories told in our voices and reflecting our experiences.

    We have produced world and regional premieres, workshopped new plays and launched one of the most unique fundraising artistic events in the country, The Play Crawl. The Crawl, which returns Wednesday (June 10), brings together dozens of actors, directors and playwrights who volunteer their time to create an evening of environmentally performed 2-minute plays in the historic Tennyson Arts District.


    This amazing collaboration has been ongoing for the last five years. It not only highlights our local creative talent, but also this vital neighborhood of independently owned stores.  After soaking in the artistry and warm summer evenings, it's back to our silent auction and dancing at the Oriental Theatre.

    As we move into our second decade, we have some exciting new programming to look forward to in the form of a new reading series performed in cafés and clubs around Denver. This series will highlight the new work of some of the playwrights we have produced over the last few years. Our fall production will be the regional premiere of the provocative erotic power game, Smoke by Kim Davies.

    As we look back over the last 10 years, it has been a challenge. We lost two performance spaces to encroaching development in the Denver area. Through all of these transitions, we have stuck to our mission of supporting the new works of the woman playwright, in spite of advisers pushing for us to do more well-known plays to pull in an audience.  

    In staying faithful to our mission, we have built up a loyal fan base made up of both men and women with an age range that crosses generations and makes us even more determined to find a solid home base for And Toto too Theatre Company this year.

    Moving forward, it is exciting to see some really big players in the national community choosing to produce entire seasons of works by women. This bold move will cause a ripple effect and open the door to even more women playwrights across all levels of our community. Perhaps this door will open even wider to include more stories from our GLBT playwrights and playwrights of color, thus making our stages more truly reflective of the world in which we live.

    Play Crawl 2015
    Wednesday, June 10
    6-11 p.m.
    Tickets $35 ($8 after 9 p.m)
    Oriental Theatre, 4335 W. 44th St., Denver CO 80212
    Includes mixer, silent auction and DJ Savior Breath
    Featured playwrights: Linda Berry, Christie Brenner Winn, Lisa Wagner Erickson, Jennifer Faletto, Ellen K. Graham, Rebecca Gorman O'Neill, Leslie C. Lewis, Melissa Lucero McCarl, Nina Alice Miller, Carrie Printz, Carol Samson, and Sheila Traister.

    Tickets available online at www.andtototoo.org or by calling 720-583-3975.


    About Our Guest Columnist:
    Susan Lyles is an actor, designer, director and producer with shows in Chicago, Wichita and Denver to her credit. She has worked on stage, in film, TV, print and voiceover.  She has a BA in performing arts from Wichita State University and a certificate in Shakespeare from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She is also the mother of two boys, one of whom is an aspiring playwright/writer; the other an aspiring actor. She is wife to an amazing entrepreneur/artist, and mom to two monster-size furbabies. 

    Our Guest Columns to date:
    Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
    Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
     
    Be Our Guest (Columnist)
    The DCPA NewsCenter offers a weekly guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and proposed topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

    And Toto Too Productions through the years.

    Photos by Darren Smith, Brian Landis Folkins and Sarah Roshan. Actors include Billie McBride, Emma Messenger, Paul Page, Rita Broderick, Adrienne Martin Fullwood, Steven Burge, Mark Collins, Lauren Cora Marsh and more.
  • Video: Shelly Bordas is Colorado's 2013 Theatre Person of the Year

    by John Moore | Jan 04, 2014



    On Sunday, CultureWest named Shelly Bordas Colorado's 2013 Theatre Person of the Year. Here is the third and latest installment in veteran journalist John Moore's ongoing video documentary series chronicling Bordas' story since the Denver actor and mother was diagnosed - for a second time - with end-stage breast cancer that has now spread to her brain and eyes.

    In Part 3, the theater community learns of Bordas' dying wish to take her son on a Disney cruise -- and makes it happen. Performers and interview subjects include Kevin Lowry (Denver Center's "Hamlet"), Allison Watrous (Denver Center Academy), Jesse Greaves-Smith, Adrian Holguin, Mitch Samu, Colin Hearn, Thaddeus Valdez, Susan Lyles, Megan Van De Hey, Sarah Rex, Sarah Roshan, Rob Costigan, Jake Walker, Diana Dresser, Emily MacIntyre and more.

    Click here to read John Moore's story on Shelly Bordas' "Theater Person of the Year" award

    Here's a full rundown of John Moore's 2013 True West theater awards. Now in their 13th year, the True West (formerly the Ovation Awards) are Colorado's oldest continuously administered awards program. Note: Because John now works for the Denver Centrer, there is no separate category specific to Denver Center Theatre Company productions this year.

    More coverage:

    To watch Part 1 of "The Shelly Bordas story," click here

    To watch Part 2 of "The Shelly Bordas Story, click here  

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    How to help: To help Shelly defray her ongoing medical expenses, please mail checks in her name to the Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St, Littleton, CO, 80120  

    How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund: The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

     

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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.