• 2014 True West Award: Henry Lowenstein

    by John Moore | Dec 21, 2014

    True_West_Awards_HENRY LOWENSTEIN_800Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post


    TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

    True_West_Award_300

    At the close of 2014, giants of Colorado theatre and beyond began falling like mighty oaks in a forest: Randy Weeks. Henry Lowenstein. Kent Haruf, back-to-back-to-heartbreaking-back. Ironically, None of them ever acted or directed for a local stage. Still, irreplaceable losses all.

    What Lowenstein accomplished as a producer and scenic artist could fill a book, and no doubt will one day. He escaped Germany with the Kindertransport at age 13. He was accepted into Yale's masters program as a scenic designer -- without ever having earned an undergraduate degree. He ran the Bonfils Theatre, Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils' crown jewel on East Colfax and Josephine Street, from 1956 until it closed 1986, by then rechristened in his name. In "retirement," he founded the Denver Civic Theatre that is now the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center.

    He created opportunities for hundreds of artists, and made theatre available to hundreds of thousands of audiences. But of all his accomplishments, Henry once told me, the greatest to him was this:

    "I really was instrumental in bringing the various races together and opening the doors to everybody," he said, "at a time when a lot of otherwise perfectly nice people did not see that as a priority."

    How big of a deal was Henry Lowenstein? When he died on Oct. 7 at age 89,  his achievements in theatre and his lifelong commitment to equal opportunity were read into the official Congressional Record by Rep. Diana DeGette from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. That is an incredibly rare honor.

    Helen Bonfils hired Lowenstein to run her theatre on the very same day in 1956 that she hired Donald R. Seawell to be her attorney. Seawell would succeed Bonfils as publisher of The Denver Post and target funds from Bonfils' estate to create the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which engaged more than 750,000 people last year through its theater and education programs. But the DCPA's decision to close the Lowenstein Theater in 1986 would remain a source of contention between the two theatre titans.

    So you know it means something when Seawell said of Lowenstein, "If anybody looks back on the last 50 years in Denver, Henry would have to be considered one of the 10 most important people in shaping this city."

    Read our complete tribute to Henry Lowenstein by clicking here


    2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
    1: Norrell Moore
    2. Kate Gleason
    3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
    4. Ben Cowhick
    5. Robert Michael Sanders
    6. David Nehls
    7. Adrian Egolf
    8. Emma Messenger
    9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
    10. Tim Howard
    11. Gleason Bauer
    12. Daniel Traylor
    13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
    14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
    15. Rick Yaconis
    16. Michael R. Duran
    17. Laura Norman
    18. Jacquie Jo Billings
    19. Megan Van De Hey
    20. Jeremy Palmer

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
    The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

    The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

    *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

    Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

  • The #CarolCallout is spreading across the country

    by John Moore | Dec 21, 2014


    Last week, the DCPA launched the #CarolCallout: A lyrical, coast-to-coast challenge to other theatre companies currently staging A Christmas Carol to make a video spreading greetings for the season.

    The cast of the DCPA's 22nd annual holiday staging started things off by daring Chicago's Goodman Theatre to make its own brief Carol-inspired video and challenging other Carol companies to do the same. It is all the brainchild of DCPA Music Director Gregg Coffin. For more on the story, click here.

    Here are the other videos to date, in order of receipt, Please spread the goodness by using hashtag #CarolCallout.

    Goodman Theatre, Chicago:



    McCarter Theatre, Princeton, N.J.:




    Milwaukee Repertory Theatre:



    Our previous coverage of this year's A Christmas Carol:
    By the numbers: A Christmas Carol over 22 years at the DCPA
    ​Video montage of scenes
    Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
    Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
    Meet the cast video: Leslie Alexander


    A Christmas Carol
    : Ticket information
    Performances run through Dec. 28
    Stage Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    A_Christmas_Carol_2014_800_Callout
  • Meet the cast video series: Leslie O'Carroll

    by John Moore | Dec 20, 2014



    Meet_The_Cast_Leslie_O'Carroll_300In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 76: Meet company veteran Leslie O'Carroll, who is back to play Mrs. Fezziwig in the DCPA Theatre Company's holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. O'Carroll, who will also appear next month in Benediction, is one of only three actors to play the role of Mrs. Fezziwig at the DCPA over the past 22 years. O'Carroll talks about appearing on Breaking Bad, how Angela Lansbury changed her life, and being married to Steve Wilson, retiring artistic director of the local Phamaly handicapped theatre company. A Christmas Carol plays through Dec. 28  in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds.


    A Christmas Carol
    : Ticket information
    Performances run through Dec. 28
    Stage Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our previous coverage of this year's A Christmas Carol:
    Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    By the numbers: A Christmas Carol over 22 years at the DCPA
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
    Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
    Meet the cast video: Leslie Alexander

    Bonus video: Watch Leslie O'Carroll perform A Christmas Carol solo ... and in 5 minutes



    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

    Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies

    Click here for "meet the cast" episodes from the 2013-14 A Christmas Carol
      Meet_The_Cast_Leslie_O'Carroll_800Leslie O'Carroll, as Mrs. Fezziwig, with Allen Dorsey, left, and Michael Fitzpatrick, in the DCPA's 2014 staging of "A Christmas Carol." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
    • 2014 True West Award: Jeremy Palmer

      by John Moore | Dec 20, 2014
      True_West_Award_JEREMY_PALMER_800
      Jeremy Palmer will star as El Gallo in "The Fantasticks" for Phamaly. Photo by Michael Ensminger.


      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      True_West_Award_300

      Few people can say they have made an impact on the local theatre community as equal parts writer, director, actor, volunteer and even board member. Pretty sure Phamaly Theatre Company’s Jeremy Palmer is the only one doing all that with one lung.

      On paper, Palmer is a saint. He’s a P.K. (preacher’s kid) who began sponsoring orphaned children while he was a student at Chaparral High School in Parker. He married his college sweetheart, and he now teaches Special Ed kids at Barnum, one of Denver Public Schools’ most impoverished elementary schools.

      Through his work with Denver’s internationally hailed all-disabled theatre company, Palmer has empowered dozens of novice handicapped actors to write about themselves and perform their material on a stage, no doubt enlightening thousands of audience members along the way. In 2012, Palmer was presented with the Denver Foundation’s Outstanding Volunteer Award. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock even declared Nov. 15, 2012, “Jeremy Palmer Day” in Denver.

      On the stage, Jeremy Palmer is a force. Behind the typewriter, he’s a quick wit. In the director’s chair, he has the patience of Job. (And playing any type of trivia at a bar, he’s a freakish savant.) But he'd be the first to tell you: He's no saint. He's too much of a wiseacre for that.

      In March, Palmer was both director and head writer of a full-length play called Disorderly Conduct, the third annual installment in Phamaly’s disLabled comedy series at the Dairy Center in Boulder. It took place in a courtroom following an incident involving disabled protestors. Palmer’s take-no-prisoners tagline for the piece? “Is justice as blind as members of the cast?”

      Palmer was also a writer and assistant director to Edith Weiss for Vox Phamalia, an annual sketch comedy at The Avenue Theater written and performed by actors with disabilities. Vox lampoons the condescension and dehumanization the able-bodied often perpetrate on the disabled, often (hilariously) unintentionally. No punches are pulled. Simply consider the 2014 title: Pity Pity Bang Bang.

      That same caustic attitude inspired Palmer to introduce a line of real “Phampathy” greeting cards a few years ago. You know, for when you really want to say something specific about a friend's disability or mental illness. Such as: “I hope you come out of the coma before they throw this card away.” Before you do a spit-take: That punchline was written by Palmer after he was put into a medically induced coma following his third open-heart surgery.  "Had I woken up from my coma to be greeted by that card, I definitely would have found it funny," Palmer said at the time.

      Palmer even made light of his "lung-light" situation during a Full Monty strip-tease bit he whipped up with his Phamaly mates at Miscast 2014, which raised money for the Denver Actors Fund.

      As a playwright, Palmer was the co-writer of a play called L.A. Diner, which was staged twice locally in 2014 – once at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, and later in Denver at the Crossroads Theatre (presented by The Wit Theatre Company). The story is set at a little diner in 1962 Hollywood, near where Marilyn Monroe is making her final film. It introduces a swath of characters whose lives intersect at a time of great change in America.

      As an actor, Jeremy has been performing with Phamaly for 17 years, with many lead roles along the way, including a starring turn together with his wife, Lyndsay, as the adorably love-struck newlyweds Paul and Corrie in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park. Palmer headlined Phamaly’s seminal 2004 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat  and returned this past summer to play a more grown-up brother Simeon. Palmer can be seen early next year as El Gallo in Phamaly’s highly anticipated fresh take on The Fantasticks. It runs at the Aurora Fox (Jan. 29-Feb. 15) and Arvada Center (Feb. 27-March 1) before traveling to Osaka for performances and workshops in Japan.

      At just 31, Palmer still seems impossibly young to be considered a mentor, role model and leader in the Colorado disabled community. But the fact is, he has been for years.

      “Because of my condition, it got into my head that I was somehow different," Palmer once told me in an interview. “But being in Phamaly just made me a lot more empathetic to people who have experienced real hardships."

      Listen to our podcast interview with Jeremy Palmer here.

       Video coverage of Jeremy Palmer earning major volunteer award in 2010:




        2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS
      TO DATE:
      1: Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor
      13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
      14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
      15. Rick Yaconis
      16. Michael R. Duran
      17. Laura Norman
      18. Jacquie Jo Billings
      19. Megan Van De Hey

      ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
      The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

      The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

      *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

      Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    • Meet the cast video series: Leslie Alexander

      by John Moore | Dec 19, 2014


      Meet_The_Cast_Leslie_Alexander_800In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 75: Meet Leslie Alexander, who is back to play Mrs. Cratchit in the DCPA Theatre Company's holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Alexander, who most recently appeared in last year's Carol and, before that, Taming of the Shrew in 2012, talks about, among other things, snow-tubing with her family on Copper Mountain, and her second career as a professional organizer. A Christmas Carol plays through Dec. 28  in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds.


      A Christmas Carol
      : Ticket information
      Performances run through Dec. 28
      Stage Theatre
      Performances daily except Mondays
      Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Our previous coverage of this year's A Christmas Carol:
      Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
      Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
      By the numbers: A Christmas Carol over 22 years at the DCPA
      First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
      Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
      Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes

      A Christmas Carol: Montage of scenes:



      Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

      Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies
      Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
      Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
      James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
      Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies

      Click here for meet the cast episodes from the 2013-14 A Christmas Carol
      • 2014 True West Award: Megan Van De Hey

        by John Moore | Dec 19, 2014
        True_West_Award_MEGAN_VAN_DE_HEY_800


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        Every year at awards season, I think, “Well, maybe we can give Megan Van De Hey a year off.” Only here’s the problem: She never takes a year off.

        The double-threat actor and singer has made making magic mundane by consistently achieving impossible standards of artistic excellence in roles large and small. I am convinced that constancy is rooted in the tireless, grounded, business-like work ethic she brings to every project.

        Van De Hey grew up in Greeley and graduated from Greeley Central High School and the University of Northern Colorado before moving to Chicago for a time. Since then, she has done a lot of shows … and won a lot of awards ... so let’s just skip ahead to 2014:

        • Miss Casewell, Arvada Center’s The Mousetrap
        • Little Edie and Big Edie, Vintage Productions’ Grey Gardens
        • Jen, Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s John and Jen
        • Veronica, Little Theatre of the Rockies’ God of Carnage
        • Violet, University of Northern Colorado’s August: Osage County
        • Ensemble, Arvada Center’s She Loves Me

        Other actors would happily work a decade to amass credits like that. Van De Hey did it in one year. The range of characters is impressive, too, including a reprisal of her award-winning turn in Grey Gardens, which follows Jacqueline Kennedy's eccentric aunt and cousin as they change from rich aristocrats to filth-dwellers. She also shone opposite Casey Andree in John & Jen, a retro musical about a young woman’s relationships with her brother, who is killed in the Vietnam War; and son, also named John.

        But of particular note was her work in August: Osage County. Van De Hey was asked by her alma mater to play the role surrounded by actors from the UNC theatre program and  the local community. By embedding herself with the students and putting the show on together, she would, in essence, be teaching them a master class in how a professional comports herself on and off stage. It’s a smart academic model the University of Denver recently employed when it hired multiple award-winner John Arp to play Tevye in a student production of Fiddler on the Roof.

        I’m sure Van De Hey found the opportunity irresistible. She’s true to her school, and, after all, Violet is the greatest theatrical role written for a woman since Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

        But Violet is 75 years old, and I am guessing Van De Hey is in her 30s. Despite her resume, that alone should make her inconceivably wrong for the part. See you in 2054, Van De Hey.

        Except … she wasn’t wrong for the role.

        Violet is a tough-as-Oklahoma-tumbleweed matriarch whose cancer of the mouth is both literal and metaphoric. She’s developed a pill addiction from a diseased mouth that's constantly on fire. What any actress playing her is asked to do every night is daunting. And Van De Hey was astonishing, first in late-night scenes when the pills turned her speech incoherent (every syllable of it scripted) and again at the dinner table, where Violet delivers one of the great stage speeches of all time. It is vicious, calculated … and it leaves no one unscathed.

        The role also requires a rigorous physical commitment ranging from the unbalanced running of stairs to several physical altercations ... and Van De Hey licked up every drop from her acid cup.

        After the show, I was stopped by a more age-appropriate actor who will be playing Violet herself next year, and she was shaken by Van De Hey’s performance. “I can’t follow that,” she said. She can, and she will, but the comment made utterly inconsequential any concern I might have had about Van De Hey’s age.

        I mean, when John & Jen opens, she’s 6. When August: Osage County ends, she’s 75. Clearly, Megan Van De Hey is timeless.  


          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • Sale of building will close LIDA Project's performance space

        by John Moore | Dec 17, 2014

        Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_500

        Brian Freeland and wife Catherine at the opening of the Laundry on Lawrence space in 2011. Photo by John Moore


        A once-thriving artists collective just north of downtown Denver will soon turn into a collective of trial attorneys.

        The warehouse known as the Laundry on Lawrence at 27th and Lawrence streets is in the process of being sold to law firm, and the theatre will be converted into offices, Brian Freeland, founder of the venerable LIDA Project experimental theatre, confirmed today.

        In 2011, Neil Adam and S. Brian Smith opened their fourth artists collective in the RiNo Arts District, and their first anchored by a live performance space. Adam and Smith divided the 20,000 square-foot warehouse that had operated for more than a century as public laundry into 30 individual artist studios, with the LIDA Project as the designated resident theatre company.

        Freeland signed a six-year lease through 2017 to rent and run 90-seat theatre that soon became home to several other small, renegade theatre companies. Ripple Effect, And Toto Too, Maya Productions, Feral Assembly and Maya Productions have all staged productions there in 2014, and all are now scrambling to find new space.

        The theatre closes for good with Sunday’s matinee performance of Maya’s Reason, a new play by Boulder’s Ami Dayan about soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dyan is a DCPA commissioned playwright.

        Because the sale is pending, the purchase price and the name of the law firm that is purchasing the building are being withheld. But more than a dozen tenants already have moved out, and Freeland said LIDA will be gone no later than Jan. 31.

        Maggie Stillman, founder of the Ripple Effect Theatre Company, had hoped to make the theatre her company’s permanent home. She launched Ripple Effect with Waiting for Godot in September, and was well into plans for a March 13 opening of Lee Blessing’s hostage drama Two Rooms. Instead, the play will be staged in a non-theatre environ in The Bakery Arts Warehouse at 2132 Market St.

        “I was completely blindsided,” Stillman said.

        But this is not one of those dramatic “Lawyers-evict-artists” kind of stories, Freeland is sorry to say. “We were not evicted,” he said. “They simply gave us the option to vacate our lease, and we took it."

        And he saw it coming.

        “There weren’t any artists left,” Freeland said. Instead, there were businesses and young professionals moving in.

        Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_Quote_1

        Over time, he said, the tenancy has shifted from hip young artists, and then to creative industries, and then to entrepreneurial businesses – a far cry from the bohemia of the beginning.

        “But quite frankly, we always expected it to go away from the beginning," Freeland said. "It was never a secret that they were going to sell the building at some point. It doesn’t make me happy, but this was probably the right time for us to leave anyway.”

        By 2011, Adam and Smith had quietly built up RiNo as an artists’ mecca, starting with the Wazee Union artist collective, followed by 44 individual artist studios at 35th and Wazee streets; then the Walnut Workshop - 17 more studios two blocks to the east; and then the Laundry on Lawrence. But just three years later, only the Wazee Union is still fully functioning according to its original plan. And the owners divested themselves of that property more than three years ago.

        If that sounds like a spectacular crash, Freeland says, it was more like a slow, three-year attrition. And it was actually the owners’ plan all along: To cash in on a temporary window of economic opportunity.

        “Three years ago, RiNo was an attractive spot for an investor to provide work space for artists,” Freeland said, “and they provided it.” But RiNo is now one of the hottest real-estate neighborhoods in one of the hottest real-estate markets in the country.

        Smith, a Denver native, is Managing Partner at zeroventures of Los Angeles, a company that invests in the early stages of ambitious and innovative start-ups. (He has not yet returned a request for comment on this story, which will be updated when he does.)

        “Their business plan was to take blighted warehouses, subdivide them and turn them into viable spaces for artists to work at,” said Freeland. "But the demand isn’t the same now as it was three years ago.”

        What’s changed? Three years of continuing economic recovery. Skyrocketing property values. And, of all things … legalized marijuana.

        “Thanks to marijuana, warehouse space in RiNo is at a (bleeping) premium,” Freeland said. “There is no space left.” 

        But Freeland isn’t stressed about it. Even though he moved his family to New York City a year ago and has split his time between Denver and New York since, Freeland said the LIDA Project will “march on unfettered” into its 21st year.

        “Space has never been a defining thing for us as a company,” said Freeland, whose troupe has had more than six home bases in its 20 years … including the street. "Frankly, we never saw this as our ‘forever home.’”

        In 2015, LIDA plans to bring Ludlow, its collaboration with Colorado Springs TheatreWorks about the historic mining massacre, to Denver. But that project already had grown too large for the Laundry, Freeland said, so he will rent out a larger theatre such as the Aurora Fox, Boulder’s Dairy Center or Metro State.

        Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_800_2

        When playwright Ami Dayan's "Reason," featuring Josh Robinson and James O'Hagan-Murphy, closes this Sunday, so too will the theatre it is being performed in. Photo by Una Morera.



        Freeland said his company’s recent six-part dialogue on firearms titled Happiness is a Warm Gun will return in February, but those performances very intentionally take place not in the theatre but are hosted in area living rooms to spark neighborly, post-show discussions. He also plans to remount his award-winning production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape in New York – with original star Lorenzo Sariñana playing the menacing Yank who speaks entirely in Spanish and mostly to five female mannequins. And his core ensemble will soon dive into a new creation that will take 6-12 moths to develop. “None of those plans depend on finding a permanent home anytime soon,” Freeland said.

        “We’ve had a very busy year, but when you think about it, we haven’t staged one show in 2014 in our ‘home’ theatre,” said Freeland.

        Stillman believes the larger story here is the continued attrition of affordable performing spaces for theatre companies in the city of Denver. While mainstays like Buntport and Su Teatro are stabilized in the Santa Fe Arts District, there seems to be an ongoing exodus of grassroots theatre from Denver proper over the past five years. 

        Paragon moved to RiNo and folded a month later. The Victorian Playhouse closed. Germinal Stage-Denver moved to Westminster. Vintage Theatre moved to Aurora. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is leaving the Boettcher Auditorium behind. New theatres and arts centers have been built in Lone Tree, Parker, Creede and Grand Lake – everywhere but Denver.

        Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_Quote_2

        Freeland sees this as a real problem for the performing arts within the city of Denver.

        “Denver is incredibly receptive to live music, the visual arts and even the culinary arts,” Freeland said. “But I think the performing arts are struggling for audiences at every level.”

        When Stillman ponders her company’s impending homelessness, she puts it more bluntly.

        “Artists are being driven out of central Denver,” she said, “and I don’t like that at all.”

        Updates:
        Susan Lyles, founder of And Toto Too, reports that her company - the only one in Colorado dedicated exclusively to producing new work by women playwrights - will be announcing its 10th season "in early to mid-January, along with a location for at least the spring show," she said. There will be a SWAN Day performance on March 23 - that's the new international "Support Women Artists Now Day" - to be announced later,  and the company's annual summer Play Crawl along Tennyson Street will continue. "This is an unfortunate bump in the road for us - but we love a challenge," Lyles said.


        More on the story: 
        From 2011: In Colorado, an unexpected building boom
        From 2012: LIDA Project founder moving to New York
        From 2013: Exit interview, LIDA Project founder Brian Freeland: 'Director and designer of mayhem'


        Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_800_3Hart DeRose before the opening of 'The Hairy Ape' at the Laundry on Lawrence in 2012. Photo by John Moore.

      • 2014 True West Award: Laura Norman

        by John Moore | Dec 17, 2014
        True_West_Award_LAURA_NORMAN_800


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        Just call her Stormin’ Norman.

        Laura Norman, the best local actor you hardly ever get to see, has stormed back from a four-year hiatus with back-to-back, award-winning performances for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. First, in a period drama called Ghost-Writer, she won a Henry Award for playing a tightly contained secretary who becomes convinced her dead employer is speaking through her to finish his final novel. Norman, as Westword’s Juliet Wittman aptly called it, “made an art out of stillness and silence.” And then in September, Norman was as tightly wound as a roadside bomb just waiting, waiting to detonate in Grounded, a tough and tender morality play by George Brant that explores how technology has taken the bravery out of modern warcraft.

        Norman flew solo in this searing one-woman drama about an unnamed F-16 pilot who is grounded by an unexpected pregnancy and then reassigned to maneuver military drones from the safe confines of a windowless trailer outside Las Vegas. Conferred with god-like powers to mete out vengeance on terrorists at no personal risk to herself, this female version of Tom Cruise in Top Gun is reduced to not much more than a highly skilled video-game player. Only those are real bombs she’s dropping half a world away before she drives home to tuck her kid into bed in Nevada. Inevitably, though, she does detonate. When TV screens allow the pilot to see the real carnage she is inflicting, well - war has never seemed so calculated or cowardly.

        Norman, who grew up in Franktown and graduated from Ponderosa High School and the University of Northern Colorado, is locked-in from the start of this play (like Ghost-Writer, directed by Josh Hartwell). Grounded is by definition a political play, given the ongoing controversy over civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes. But in Norman’s hands, the theatrical experience we enjoy is human, personal, messy and necessarily complicated.

        We’ll never forget Norman’s Ovation Award-winning performance in 2004 playing Harper, a sex-starved, pill-popping Mormon wife who struggles to face her demons in Angels in America. Harper has much in common with the pilot Norman is now playing. But while the flights of fantasy Harper embarked on in Angels caused little damage to anyone other than herself, the flights our pilot conducts here result in real collateral damage - all from the safety of a basement La-Z-Boy.

        In assessing Grounded for Westword, Wittman called Norman “one of the few local actors who can be called ‘great’ without hyperbole.” I couldn’t have said it better, so I won’t even try.

        If you missed Norman’s singular performance at the Avenue Theatre in Denver, you now have another chance. The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company has just announced it is bringing the play back for two weeks only, from Jan. 8-18 at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder. Call 303-444-7328.

        Listen to John Moore's podcast featuring Laura Norman of "Grounded" here.


          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • 'A Christmas Carol': Opening Night photo gallery

        by John Moore | Dec 16, 2014
        A_Christmas_Carol_Opening_800_1

        Backstage, actor Philip Pleasants prepares for his eighth opening night as the DCPA Theatre Company's Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo by John Moore. To see our complete gallery of Opening Night photos, click here

        A_Christmas_Carol_Opening_800_2


        A_Christmas_Carol_Opening_800_3
        Actor Leonard Barrett (Ghost of Christmas Present) was diagnosed with a retinal tear in his eye on the afternoon of Opening Night, but he went on as scheduled. Three days later, he had surgery, necessitating at least two weeks of recovery time. He's being replaced for the time being by Colin Alexander. Photo by John Moore.

        TO SEE OUR COMPLETE GALLERY OF OPENING NIGHT PHOTOS, CLICK HERE

        A Christmas Carol
        : Ticket information
        Performances run through Dec. 28
        Stage Theatre
        Performances daily except Mondays
        Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

        Our previous coverage of
        this year's A Christmas Carol:
        Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
        Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
        By the numbers: 'A Christmas Carol' over 22 years at the DCPA
        First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
        Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
        Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes
      • 2014 True West Award: Michael R. Duran

        by John Moore | Dec 16, 2014
        True_West_Awards_MICHAEL_DURAN_800


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        Michael R. Duran didn’t have to announce his return to Denver last year. It's evident in his work: The dank, surrealistic warehouse in Curious Theatre’s Venus in Fur. The brightly hued and wonderfully economical SS American in Town Hall Arts Center’s Anything Goes. Life on the run for a young girl in Theatre Or’s Kinderstransport at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center. Duran, as he once had for 35 years, is back creating entire evocative worlds on stages large and small across the Denver area.

        Duran’s history goes back to the glory days of Loretto Heights College and the Bonfils Theatre, where he was a personal mentee of the late, legendary producer Henry Lowenstein. As a grown-up, Duran established himself as a director, playwright, actor, stage manager and scenic designer. (Remember that pool of water that kept actors in the swim for nine months of Metamorphoses at The Avenue Theatre?) He also designed three national touring productions, and earned The Denver Post’s 2004 Ovation Award as Theatre Person of the Year.

        Duran took his mid-life leave of us in 2009 to earn his masters degree at Tulane University in New Orleans. He came home to a professorship at Metropolitan State University and an appointment as resident scenic designer at the Lone Tree Arts Center. Since then, he has quickly re-established himself in the local theatre community.

        His work in Curious’ Venus in Fur was particularly compelling – and even somewhat controversial. David Ives wrote his play to suggest the locale was a bare and spare rented warehouse with a suspect fuse box. But the where could have been anywhere. Here, a frustrated, misogynist playwright has wasted his day trying to find a substantive actress to play the lead character in his adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel, Venus in Fur. In the source story, the god Dionysus comes down and reduces the king of Thebes to “a mass of quivering feminine jelly in a dress.” Only here, it’s not Dionysus – it’s Aphrodite. And when lightning crashes and an impossibly late tart of a wannabe actress waltzes in hoping to be seen for the role? Well, she just might be Aphrodite herself. Over the next 90 minutes, she certainly seduces, teases and tortures the poor schlub down to … well, a mass of quivering feminine jelly.

        Duran created a living, breathing character for actors Karen Slack and Brett Aune to dance in that challenged audience members to decide for themselves whether this was a literal studio – or if perhaps we had all somehow been transported to some kind of ancient, mythological torture chamber. The grimy windows; the ominously humming ceiling fan; the hanging chains and the red velvet divan suggested either a metaphorical prison cell -- or a modern-day house of urban, erotic fetishes. Duran’s canvas certainly lent itself to an array of interpretations that Ives may or may not have intended. One reviewer came right out and said the play takes place “in a dilapidated old garment-district building in New York” – which the script says nothing about. That speaks to the power of a picture.

        Now a full-fledged theatre professor, Duran describes his teaching philosophy thusly: “I firmly believe the desire to express oneself, our emotions, our dreams and passions is elemental to our very being. Throughout our work, our dress, our choice of associates, everyone without exception has an insistent desire for self-expression.”

        And we’re all the better for having Duran back in Denver and expressing himself on area stages again.  

          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

        This video takes you backstage with Michael R. Duran on the making of the scenic design for Lone Tree Arts Center's "Big River."

      • 2014 True West Award: Rick Yaconis

        by John Moore | Dec 15, 2014
        True_West_Award_RICK_YACONIS_800_2


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        Over the years, I have enjoyed a playful repartee with genial tough guy Rick Yaconis, who's from Pittsburgh, though you'd swear he walked straight outta Jersey. Bada bing. Yaconis took over the E-Project Theatre in 2010 and renamed it The Edge with the stated objective of lifting it out from the overcrowded pack of small, similar neighborhood troupes in the Denver area. And I have chided and cajoled, championed and chastised him every encouraging step of his way.

        Growing into the ranks of Denver’s few mid-sized, professional theatre companies will be no small – or fast – task. But it is clear that the smallest company having the most noticeable growth spurt at the moment is The Edge Theatre.

        In 2014, Yaconis and wife Patty delivered solid stagings of challenging titles that were worthy of the company’s bold name, even if the edgiest days of the plays he chose came a decade or more before: Orphans, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Buried Child. Solid work all around. Then there were decidedly non-Edgy titles that muddled the message, such as The Graduate and Gifted. But Yaconis sent out his clearest signal to date that things are changing by expanding his director and actor pool. 2014 brought Augustus Truhn, Michael Bouchard, Emily Paton Davies, Michael Stricker, Adrian Egolf, Jack Wefso, Mark Collins and other respected actors to The Edge for the first time. But there were also examples of the kind of preferential casting you see from small friends-and-family companies that were not always in service to the plays, or the company's overall mission. It's at times, confusing. 

        What was made crystal clear in September is that Season 5 will be a jaw-dropper: The Mother****er with the Hat, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ surprisingly funny comedy about jealousy and addiction by America’s reigning King of Nasty. Mike Bartlett’s Cock, a title we can print here because it’s a relationship comedy some might describe as "the ultimate cockfight." As the winner of The Edge’s annual new-play festival, local playwright Jeffrey Neuman's Exit Strategies earned a full staging. It's about a man who is drawn back into explosive family dynamics when he returns home for his father’s funeral. And Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? will never not be considered edgy. Then there are some less edgy-sounding titles, but at least they will be new to the area: American Girls by Hillary Bettis, about two God-fearing, celebrity-starved Iowa farm girls. And Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind, a British comedy about a cleric’s frustrated wife.

        And then there is Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth. Nothing any local theatre company has ever scheduled has scared me more than the prospect of The Edge taking on this incredible opus about a drunken, wanted man who faces eviction from his trailer home in the rural woods of Wiltshire. Seeing Mark Rylance perform Jerusalem on Broadway was to humbly acknowledge the unlikelihood that any of us in the audience will ever see a greater live performance in our lifetimes. But hey, good luck with that, Edge.

        How a Nora Ephron title (Lucky Me) made the cut escapes me, but I'll focus instead on the fact that The Edge’s expanding director pool will include big-time Edge newcomers Josh Hartwell, Warren Sherrill and John Ashton.

        The first few years of The Edge seemed to be a lot of “two steps forward, one step back,” but those steps back now seem to be much fewer and further between. And, by taking many more steps forward than back, just look at where The Edge is now: Miles further down the road from where the Yaconises started five years ago.

        One thing we know as 2014 ends is that it will be impossible not to watch The Edge in 2015.
          

          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • M Scott McLean: Actor, songwriter and, now, published children's author

        by John Moore | Dec 14, 2014
        Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_1

        M Scott McLean co-authored "Fairy Tale Christmas" with his father, Michael. Photo by John Moore.



        Scott_McLean_A_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_Book_1M Scott McLean is one charming guy, he'd be the … last one to admit. Now ... charmed? Yep, he’ll own that.

        The affable actor and songwriter is now the rare first-time author to be published. By a real publisher. And less than a year after he started writing the book.

        “Amazing, isn’t it? Lucky, lucky, lucky … and a complete surprise,” said McLean, who is currently playing Fred and young Ebenezer Scrooge in the DCPA Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol through Dec. 28.

        McLean and his father, Michael, are the co-authors of a new children’s novella called Fairy Tale Christmas, which was published Oct. 1 by Shadow Mountain Publishing. And the McLeans have developed an accompanying live theatre adaptation, complete with a 15-song original score.

        McLean will host the DCPA's “16th Annual Holiday Reading” at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the Colfax Tattered Cover. He’ll read from several holiday classics, as well as his new book. 

        Scott_McLean_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Quote_1The adorable premise: Santa Claus has been kidnapped by some recognizable, archetypal villains. They are a gang of thugs who have been made unemployed by all those “happily ever after” fairy tales. We’re talking Rumpelstiltskin, an evil queen, a wicked stepmother, a sorceress and a certain beanstalk giant. Their diabolical mission? To erase that term -- Happily Ever After -- from our storybooks forever.

         “The villains have conspired to hold Santa for ransom until all of the good fairy-tale characters agree to change their endings,” McLean said. “If they don’t, Christmas will be ruined for all children of the world.”

        Well, hold your sleigh bells. Not with Pinocchio, Cinderella, Jack and Belle on the case. To save the day, the fairy-tale heroes wrestle with a holiday conundrum: Should they sacrifice “happily ever after” to save Christmas? Isn’t that a little like negotiating with terrorists? Think of all this as a bit Into the Woods, a bit How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and a bit 24.

        The book, recommended for readers age 7-14, is available through the Tattered Cover web site or also on Amazon.Com ($15.99).

        After just 10 weeks, McLean already is hearing back from children around the world. One message that particularly struck him was from a 10-year-old named Raymond:

        “I had so much fun reading this book. I laughed so hard one time, I think they heard me from China. It was such a happy story. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel good inside.”

        “That made me cry,” said McLean. “It is fun to be a part of something that is that uplifting.”

        The story is resonating with readers, McLean believes, because it offers a simple and reparative message for children at an evidently troubled time in our world.

        Scott_McLean_A_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_Book_2“In our story, Santa Claus has decided to change his policy that all naughty kids get coal,” McLean said. “This year, every kid is going to get a gift, because there is good in every kid. Maybe the reason kids are naughty is because no one has told them that they are good. Maybe the gift they get this Christmas will turn them around and open their hearts so they can see that they are part of so much good in the world.”

        If that sounds like a holiday miracle, consider what it took to get A Fairy Tale Christmas published ... in a matter of just months.

        That story begins 31 years ago in Heber, Utah, a tiny town of 13,000 near Park City. Michael McLean, Scott’s father, had the idea for the “heroes vs. villains” story 30 years ago, and wrote the first two songs to go with it.

        “The idea at the time was for it to be a little children’s coloring book with crayons and a cassette recording so you could listen to the songs,” said Scott McLean, who moved to Denver in 2006 as a member of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. He has performed in 12 mainstage productions for the Theatre Company, including Death of a Salesman, Animal Crackers and five different annual stagings of A Christmas Carol.

        Last Christmas, when McLean went home to visit his family for the holidays, he and his father decided to write some songs and stories together, as they had done throughout Scott’s youth. “I said, ‘Well, what about Fairy Tale Christmas? That thing from 30 years ago? Let’s flesh that out and make that into a real play,’” Scott said.   

        Michael McLean is a songwriter and storyteller by trade who has released more than two dozen albums and produced several award-winning films. His annual Christmas production, adapted from his book The Forgotten Carols, has been performed throughout the U.S. since 1991.

        Scott_McLean_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Quote_2“He’s a very encouraging and supportive dad who has been a sounding board in my own writing throughout my life,” said Scott. “I consider him a mentor and a really good friend.”

        The two went into their writing cave in January and came out a few weeks later with what they thought was a 45-minute stage musical, complete with six news songs. But they had no luck finding a theatrical producer. Shadow Mountain Publishing, based in Salt Lake City, told the McLeans if they adapted the idea into a children’s novella, they would publish it.

        “That was a complete surprise, because we pitched it as a musical,” McLean said.

        In addition to the book, complete with illustrations by Jason Quinn, the McLeans have completed a full-length musical stage adaptation that is available for licensing.

        In the meantime, Scott McLean is  immersed in his fifth staging of A Christmas Carol for the DCPA. He is performing 10 shows a week throughout December. McLean welcomes the fatigue.

        “It sounds corny, but I do genuinely love this gig,” he said. “It’s a grueling schedule, but there is something about this story -- and there’s something about the people who come to see this who really need this story. It surprises me every night how energized I am by it.”

        While he also pursues his acting career in New York, McLean is grateful that the DCPA has given him an artistic home for the past decade.

        “We all accept that Broadway is the greatest stage for American theatre, but outside of New York, I think this is the greatest theatre to work at in the country, without a doubt, in terms of the quality of the work and the quality of the people who work here,” he said.

        “I’m happy when I get a job here, and I’m sad when I have to leave.”

        Fairy Tale Christmas: An excerpt:

        Once upon a Christmastime, just a few bedtime stories before Christmas Eve, and long after every “happily ever after” ending, a clandestine meeting was being held. Of course, you’d expect such a meeting to be undercover, underhanded, sneaky, and dishonorable, but that’s not why it was called a clandestine meeting. Before this meeting, at the annual Long Ago Island Job Fair for disenchanted fairy-tale villains seeking new employment, a bossy stepmother, a hungry Giant, a vengeful six-foot Fairy Queen, a self-absorbed Drama Queen, and a creepy little schemer with a truly bizarre name decided to skip the job fair altogether and call themselves “The Clandestines.” They did this partly because all of them were, in fact, underhanded, sneaky, and dishonorable, but it was mostly because “The Clandestines” made for a much better sounding name than “Evil Fairy Tale Villains.” And “The Temptations” had already been taken.



        DCPA's 16th Annual Holiday Reading:
        • 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15
        • Free
        • Warm drinks, treats provided
        • M Scott McLean reads from several holiday classics, including his new book for young readers, A Fairy Tale Christmas
        • Colfax Tattered Cover Book Store, 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
        • Guests are encouraged to bringing a new or gently used book as a donation to Tattered Cover’s annual Children’s Book Drive, which benefits Reach Out and Read Colorado. More information: Click here


        Order Fairy Tale Christmas online:

        The book, recommended for readers age 7-14, is available through the Tattered Cover web site or also on Amazon.Com ($15.99).

        A Christmas Carol: Ticket information
        Performances run through Dec. 28
        Stage Theatre
        Performances daily except Mondays
        Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

        Our previous coverage of
        this year's A Christmas Carol:
        Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
        By the numbers: 'A Christmas Carol' over 22 years at the DCPA
        First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
        Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
        Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes


        Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_4

        M Scott McLean has appeared in five DCPA stagings of "A Christmas Carol." Photo by Terry Shapiro.


        Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_3

        M Scott McLean in last spring's "Animal Crackers." Photo by Jennifer M.. Koskinen.



        Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_5M Scott McLean with Lauren Klein in the 2013 staging of "Death of a Salesman." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

        Meet the cast video series: M Scott McLean
      • 2014 True West Award: Cast of 'The Whipping Man'

        by John Moore | Dec 14, 2014
        True_West_Award_WHIPPING_MAN_800


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        Audiences are never meant to know the obstacles a production tackles on its often rocky road to Opening Night. Any piece must be considered on its ultimate and evident merit. But in the case of The Whipping Man, we knew: A press release was issued less than a week before Curious Theatre’s highly anticipated Civil War drama was to bow announcing that multiple award-winning actor Cajardo Lindsey would be stepping into the central role of Simon, an elderly slave who has spent his entire life in service to a wealthy Jewish Confederate family in Virginia. This could not be good: Lindsey was at least 35 years too young for the part. Plus, it had been previously announced that area veteran Russell Costen would be playing the role. And it wasn't good. Costen was having health issues, and would soon after be diagnosed with lung cancer that would require surgery and a six-week stay in a V.A. Hospital. So, ready or not, Lindsey was the man. The 70-year-old man. On six days’ notice.  

        You may already know the end of the story: The Whipping Man turned out to be one of Curious’ “Curious-of-old” productions. You’ve heard the company’s ubiquitous catchphrase: “No Guts, No Story.” The Whipping Man had guts. Almost literally: I mean, we watched a leg get sawed off in the first scene.

        Lindsey wasn’t just good. He became the core of a powerful staging that went on to win eight Colorado Theatre Guild Awards. To fully appreciate that feat, consider this: A drama with no female actors is only eligible for consideration in nine categories.

        This was a production that soared on every level, including scenic design and costumes (both Markas Henry), lighting (Shannon McKinney), sound (Brian Freeland) and direction (Kate Folkins and Chip Walton). The best you might fairly expect out of an ensemble of three actors on six days of rehearsal might be that they all say the right words, and that they not run into each other on the stage. Instead, you would have no idea this show very nearly fell like Richmond. And for that, salutations go out to actors Lindsey, Laurence Curry and Sean Scrutchins.

        The Whipping Man is ending its second straight year on the list of the 10 most-produced plays in America, but Curious was the first to snag it for Denver. Astonishingly, it was written by Matthew Lopez, who also penned the heartfelt comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride, which was enjoying its world premiere at the DCPA at the same time The Whipping Man was being presented at Curious.

        It opens in the tattered remains of a Virginia estate immediately after the south's surrender. Scrutchins played a badly wounded Jewish soldier named Caleb who returns home to discover his family has fled to safety. All who remain to help him in his desperate medical condition are two of his former slaves: Simon (Lindsey) and John (Curry). Because Caleb’s family was Jewish, their slaves were inculcated into the religion as well, which both now consider a great gift.

        The play takes its most compelling turn when the men realize they have missed the beginning of Passover in the prevailing chaos of the war's end. So they hold a makeshift Seder that makes plain the unresolved hypocrisies of their shared American histories. Jews, after all, hold the Seder to celebrate their exodus from slavery in Ancient Egypt. Now here in Virginia, southern descendants of those same slaves have grown rich from owning slaves themselves. And now, a new kind of exodus is happening all around poor, gangrened Caleb. It's payback time. Or is it?

        This an unexpectedly human play doesn’t work without three actors at the top of their craft. Lindsey (who recently appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company's Just Like Us) not only overcame the physical contradiction between actor and character, he fully transformed into Simon and had us feeling the weight of his burdens down to our bones. Scrutchins, who can hop between comedic and gut-scraping roles with disarming ease, made us feel both empathetic and necessarily put off by Caleb's stubborn adherence to his innate, pillaged privilege. And Curry is, simply, an actor who never lets you see him act. He's just that natural on the stage. As John, Curry was a fully disciplined firecracker who was always in control – and never let you know it. He was a joker, a roach, a smoldering ember and the raging conscience of a most remarkable production. 

        The Whipping Man reunited Curry and Lindsey from their equally astonishing turns in 2013’s The Brothers Size. And because Curious has now committed to staging Tarell Alvin McCraney’s complete Brother/Sister Trilogy, we can look forward to seeing them together again in the regional premiere of In The Red And Brown Water, opening March 7. And again for a reprise of The Brothers Size from July 11-Aug. 15.

          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • Video: Fun highlights from the DCPA's Holiday Box Office

        by John Moore | Dec 13, 2014

        Here are performance highlights from the first weeks of the DCPA’s new Holiday Box Office, an innovative, interactive storefront in Cherry Creek North that offers holiday shoppers musical numbers; actor interviews; a behind-the scenes look at one of the leading arts centers in the nation; and plenty of activities for kids, including origami, storytelling, a stage to play on, props to play with and costumes to try on.

        It's all a fun respite from the hubbub of shopping. And there are no fees on any tickets or gift certificates purchased at the store through Dec. 23.

        Featured guests in this video include cast members from Forbidden Broadway (Katie Drinkard, Jordan Leigh, Sarah Rex and Lauren Shealy); Jersey Boys (Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Nicolas Dromard); How The Grinch Stole Christmas (The Grinch); A Christmas Carol (Elias Harger); and Off-Center @The Jones' Perception (Tom Hagerman). Also: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, DCPA Director of Marketing and Media Jeff Hovorka; and Visit Denver's Richard Scharf. Video by John Moore and David Lenk.

        For ticket information, call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.

        Holiday_Box_Office_Store_800_3_map


        DCPA Holiday Box Office: At a glance

        Our previous coverage from the Holiday Box Office:
        Here's our news story announcing the store opening
        Mayor, Grinch, help DCPA launch new storefront
        Video: Watch Jordan Leigh's fresh take on Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song in full
        Video: Interview with Shaun Taylor-Corbett of Jersey Boys

        Holiday_Box_Office_800_JerseyThe cast of Jersey Boys greets a fan at the DCPA's Holiday Box Office. 


        Holiday_Box_Office_800_Hagerman
        Let's play!

      • 2014 True West Award: Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan

        by John Moore | Dec 13, 2014
        True_West_Award_Jim_Hogan_Aisha_Jackson_MEMPHIS_340


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        How appropriate that Montego Glover performed in the Arvada Center’s Putting it Together in 2001, and nine years later was nominated for a Tony Award for her work on Broadway in the 2010 Best Musical, Memphis. Now comes word that University of Northern Colorado alumna Aisha Jackson, who just played Felicia in the first local production of Memphis at the Arvada Center, will make her Broadway debut next month in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. And if Jackson’s soaring work at the Arvada Center is any indication – (was that possibly Little Jackson playing Little Inez just three years ago in Hairspray?) – it won’t take New York nearly as long to discover that she, like Glover, has been touched by a higher power.

        Jackson and Memphis co-star Jim Hogan each faced huge obstacles taking on this fact-based tale of the first white DJ (loosely based on Dewey Phillips) to put so-called "race" music on mainstream radio in 1950s Memphis. Jackson, a Georgia native, plays a young black singer with no chance of having her voice heard outside her Sunday church service. Until a naïve, white wannabe DJ wanders into her brother’s all-black club and promises to get her heard on the mainstream middle of the radio dial. Felicia is both vulnerable and ambitious, and she will pay the price for both in blood. She’s also an opportunist who understands that, coming from these acidic southern roots, stardom and freedom will only come at a profound cost. The price she is ultimately willing to pay does not make for typical Broadway fare. That Jackson somehow conveys all that swirling complexity without alienating audiences is her greatest achievement.

        Hogan faces a different kind of acting challenge. I mean, the poor sot is cursed by the physical inability to believably embody the short, twitchy, strange-looking - and odd-sounding - man Huey is repeatedly described to be. Hogan, who played Georg in the national touring production of Spring Awakening that came through Denver and Beaver Creek a few years ago – is not that guy. Well, there are curses, and there are curses, I guess. Broadway musicals demand some suspension of disbelief. The most important thing is the chemistry Hogan shares with Jackson, and it is obvious.

        But if there’s one thing that has really annoyed audiences in the preceding Broadway and touring productions of Memphis, it’s that the actor playing Huey was directed to stay true to the source character’s odd spoken cadence that seemed bent on intentionally estranging anyone listening. Arvada Center director Rod Lansberry gave Hogan no such directive. Sparing audiences that obstacle allowed them to connect more deeply with the price Huey pays at the end in a spiraling, self-induced downfall that seemed fueled by equal parts principle and self-destruction.

        Memphis doesn’t offer a traditional happy ending, but the warm-blooded performances by Jackson and Hogan kept the audience from leaving cold. Jackson and Hogan treated us to a fully realized story of two perfectly, imperfectly matched lovers.

          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • 2014 True West Award: Daniel Traylor

        by John Moore | Dec 12, 2014
        True_West_Award_DANIEL_TRAYLOR_800


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        I think of myself as a “phriend of the Phamaly.” I have a plaque on my wall from Denver’s professional handicapped theatre company saying as much. But I don’t think I got there as a theatre critic by being patronizing or easy. I’ve watched Daniel Traylor, son of Phamaly co-founder Kathleen Traylor, grow up over 16 productions with this singular company that casts only actors with disabilities. Even in his early teens, it was obvious young Daniel didn’t just want the opportunity to be an actor. He wanted to "be an actor.” So he worked. He attended Denver School of the Arts, and then the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles. Along the way, he has had no shortage of roles with Phamaly both weighty and fanciful: Merrick in The Elephant Man. Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. Buddy in The Diviners. Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. And why not? Traylor, who is hard of hearing and has both arthritis and hip dysplasia, is a triple-threat who can sing, act and dance. But as he kept garnering plum roles and critical raves, I was the bad guy who couldn’t help feeling that it was too much, too soon - and not yet fully deserved. He was blustering his way through his roles like a tornado with a passion and angst not every situation called for. Many times I would sit in a theatre and silently root for him to “bring it down, bring it down.” Actors will tell you that subtlety is a virtue - and emoting is a tool that should be carefully chosen. But one of the many privileges of covering local theatre over time is getting to see artists grow. Too many local actors work on their craft only by performing on the stage. Traylor has continued to work on his craft both on the stage and in the classroom ... and it showed in 2014. Now in his mid-20s, Traylor has matured into a layered actor. He started the year playing the narrator Tom in The Glass Menagerie, which got my attention when Denver Theatre Examiner Deb Flomberg said Traylor “brought wisdom far beyond his years.” He then won a spot in Denver Center Theatre Academy Head of Acting Larry Hecht’s difficult Master Class Project, a musical revue inspired by the songs of Stephen Sondheim and the art of Edward Hopper. And then came word that he had won the title role in Phamaly’s encore staging of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the DCPA. Now, Phamaly’s Joseph is no ordinary Joseph. The 2005 production, set in a mental institution, was one of the seminal productions in Phamaly history, showing audiences how much more powerful a lighthearted musical can be when performed by actors who are disabled or otherwise considered different. And not only was Traylor following in the footsteps of award-winning 2005 star Jeremy Palmer, his predecessor would be dancing, oh, about seven brothers over his shoulder. But Traylor did something remarkable with the role. He turned Joseph from a trifle into a masterpiece. And he did it by playing Joseph as no less than Cervantes in The Man of La Mancha. His Joseph was also a prisoner who helped his fellow inmates to wile away their soul-crushing days by escaping into the world of storytelling. Traylor provided moments of pure exhilaration as Joseph, but there was also a world of thoughtful, meaningful sadness behind his eyes. This time, Traylor went large by going small. He’s a new man. And next year, audiences will get to see him as far away as Japan. Traylor will be playing Matt in The Fantasticks for Phamaly at the Aurora Fox (Jan. 29-Feb. 15) and the Arvada Center (Feb. 27-March 1) before traveling to Osaka for performances and workshops there.

          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *For evident ethical reasons, the DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • Appoggiatura's James Still is running to catch up to himself

        by John Moore | Dec 11, 2014

        Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_James_Still_800Photo by John Moore


        James Still was asked at Tuesday’s first rehearsal to explain his upcoming world-premiere play Appoggiatura.  All of it: The title. What it’s about. Where it came from.

        The pained look on his face was not terribly revealing because Still pretty much always has a pained look on his face. He is a three-time Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright, after all.

        The title, he’s got covered. An appoggiatura is a musical note. It refers to that point in a musical piece where tension builds up just before leaning into a satisfying release. Think of it as being pulled back from the cliff. To Still, the word isn’t nearly as scary as it might sound at first.

        “When I send text messages on my iPhone, auto-correct does not recognize Los Angeles,” he said, “… but it does recognize appoggiatura.

        The storyline is pretty straightforward, too. Appoggiatura is the whimsical story of three Americans, each grieving the loss of the same man in very different ways. They travel together to the romantic city of Venice seeking escape, understanding, solace ... and, yes, appoggiatura. Like those chaotic musical notes, these three are caught up in a moment of profound dissonance - just before the resolve.

        It’s identifying the origin of the play that presents a problem for Still. Because does anyone really know, exactly, where any play comes from? What Still did offer cast, crew and staff at their first gathering for the play opening Jan. 16 at the Ricketson Theatre were fragments from his life that help explain how the play came into being.

        Still took us to Central Park in New York City, where he has often jogged throughout his life. “A few years ago, as I was running, I saw this guy run past me,” Still said, "and I was convinced that it was me 20 years ago, when I was a young guy who had just gotten to New York.

        “It was like I was running to try to catch up to myself.”  

        Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Darrie_Lawrence_800
        Darrie Larence, who plays Helen, is returning to the DCPA Theatre Company, where she was an original member for the first several years of its existence, along with Tyne Daly. Her past Denver credits included 'Night of the Iguana.' She is shown here with castmate Rob Nagle (Aunt Chuck). To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here


        To fully understand where Still was going with all of this, you should know that Appoggiatura takes on a magical, time-bending quality in Venice. Is it still modern day? Or has it somehow become 1951? Is it possible to run into a living being from another time in our lives – like Still being passed on a jog by his 20-year-old self?

        Back in Central Park, Still noticed other men jogging who were also in their 40s. And with that came a monumental epiphany. “When I was in my 20s, I never saw any men in their 40s running with us in Central Park,” he said, “because they were all dead. They had all died of AIDS in a time when it felt like everyone was dying.”

        Still then realized that he had now aged into “that thing” that didn't exist when he was in his 20s – a generation before him wiped out. “And so now here I was both myself in my 40s, and myself in my 20s – running in Central Park together.”

        The revelation overwhelmed Still with feelings of sorrow and yearning and love.

        “I remember hoping that someday I would be able to capture that sensation,” he said. “And that was the beginning of Appoggiatura.” And while the play is not directly about AIDS, he said, it taps into the abyss of our collective grief.

        Appoggiatura_James_Still_Lucca_400Flash forward to about five years ago. Still had moved to a small town in Italy called Lucca -- Puccini’s hometown. It’s a carless city best known for a 5-kilometer wall that lines the town, where modern-day people run and walk and ride their bikes. Still would get up every morning and run there. And every morning, he would see an old man walking toward him. Someone he knew. 

        “I was sure it was my great-grandfather,” said Still, who grew up in a small town in Kansas. And whose great-grandfather died when Still was 22.

        “But it was him,” Still said matter-of-factly. “Every day, I would go running because I couldn't wait to see my great-grandfather. I would make up something to say, like, 'Multe grande, pappa!He would look at me and think I was strange and say, ‘buongiorno,’ and keep walking. But I am telling you: This happened every morning for months.”

        Still had a photo taken of himself with the man, and when he returned to his native Kansas to visit his mother, he showed her the picture. I said to her, 'Who is this?' And she said straight out, 'Well … that's grandpa.’”

        That pretty much made writing Appoggiatura an inevitability.

        “This kind of thing happens to all of us, I am sure,” Still said. “But one of the great privileges of being a writer is that these moments are a doorway into a world that makes my life more beautiful and more hopeful. It allows me to return to a place that I want to go to. It allows me to visit people that I miss.”

        Appoggiatura
        focuses on Helen, a childlike woman in her 70s who knows this might be her last trip to Italy; her wayward granddaughter, Sylvie, who has just graduated from college; and a middle-aged man they both lovingly call Aunt Chuck, who has no idea how to mend his broken heart. They are all lost -- and looking to be found in Venice.

        And what better place? "You go to Venice to get lost,” said Risa Brainin, who will direct the DCPA Theatre Company’s premiere production. “Beautifully lost. Heartbreakingly lost.

        “And James has captured the feeling of Venice perfectly. His plays are passionate and full of what makes real people tick. His plays are authentic and genuine - just like James."


        Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Group_800
        The first reading at the first rehearsal of 'Appoggiatura' at the DCPA on Nov. 9. Photo by John Moore. To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here

        Appoggiatura
        : Cast and crew
        Helen: Darrie Lawrence
        Sylvie: Lenne Klingaman
        Aunt Chuck: Rob Nagle
        Marco/Young Gordon: Nick Mills
        Kate/Ensemble: Mehry Eslaminia
        Old Man/Trio/Gordon: Paul Bentzen
        Vivaldi: Julian Remulla

        Written by James Still
        Directed by Risa Brainin
        Set Design by David M. Barber
        Costume Design by Meghan Doyle
        Lighting Design by Charles Macleod
        Sound Design by Tyler Nelson
        Composer/Musical Director: Michael Keck
        Dramaturg: Doug Langworthy
        Projection Design by Charlie Miller
        Choreography and Movement by Bob Davidson
        Voice and Dialect: Kathy Maes

        Appoggiatura: Ticket information
        Jan. 16-Feb. 22
        Ricketson Theatre
        Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.DenverCenter.Org

        Our previous coverage of Appoggiatura:




        Video: Talking Appoggiatura with James Still and Risa Brainin
        Photos: Our Appoggiatura photos so far
        Appoggiatura Director Risa Brainin named head of National Theatre Conference
        Appoggiatura named to new DCPA Theatre Company season
        Kent Thompson handicaps the season, play by play
        Summit Soliloquy: James Still introduces Appoggiatura
        Appoggiatura: So what's in a name?


        Meet the cast video series:
        Nick Mills

        Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Mehry_Lenne_800
        Castmates Mehry Eslaminia, left, and Lenne Klingaman are excited to hear the "Appoggiatura" designers explain their set, lighting, costume and video concepts. Video by John Moore. To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here


        Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Darrie_Lawrence_2_800Darrie Lawrence (Helen) at work during the cast's first read-through of the script. Photo by John Moore. To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here

      • 2014 True West Award: Gleason Bauer

        by John Moore | Dec 11, 2014
        True_West_Awards_GLEASON BAUER_800

        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        Debris never looked more savage, beautiful and meaningful than it did scattered across the Atlas Theatre stage in Boulder for square product theatre's world premiere of SLAB, a visceral, multimedia meditation on Hurricane Katrina. This portrait of disaster was expressed in such expanse and minute detail, I lingered after the play for almost an hour to study it up close as one might examine a museum exhibit – or a crime scene. Post-apocalyptic New Orleans, after all, was both.

        The first thing you notice are the large words sprayed in red paint on the floor: “Do you believe in life after death?” Then the large tree draped in trash – that’s the random garbage that got caught in its branches while submerged in water. Then the altar. The trashed mailbox. The thousands of Mardi Gras beads. The creepy army of homeless dolls scattered everywhere – each one representing another abandoned childhood. The musical jewelry boxes. The stairs leading nowhere. The tattered flags. The endless junkyard trinkets. The lone refrigerator representing the thousands of appliances that were wrecked in the flood and deserted throughout the city. The actors seated at dressing tables that framed the stage on three sides and gave the proceedings a Brechtian flavor.

        SLAB is an original stage adaptation of a mystical regional novel Selah Saterstrom says she wrote as an essential means of survival and transition in the wake of the flood. Left with nothing, Saterstrom discovered the one thing she would always own is her story. Gleason Bauer, the director of the play, adapted the book for the stage with Emily K. Harrison, who doubled onstage in the role of the narrator. Tiger is an ex-stripper who takes us on a journey while trapped on the slab that’s all that remains of her home.

        It was also Bauer who designed this painstakingly expressed world for the stage; a tapestry of curated miscellany carefully gathered from junkyards and thrift stores throughout Boulder. And it could not have come so meaningfully to life without the accompanying video designed by Christina Battle and projected onto unusual spaces such as the refrigerator and a shower curtain. It was also complemented by animation by Bobby Dartt; an original soundscape composed by Janet Feder and Paul Fowler; and lighting designed by Jess Buttery. This communal labor of litter love involved many other artists, including technical director Rand Harmon, and actors Mark Collins, Lauren Dennis, Emily K. Harrison, Paige Lynn Larson, Hadley Mays and Cage Sebastian Pierre. There are now plans to remount SLAB in Los Angeles.

        It took four years for Bauer, Harrison and their team to bring Saterstrom's work to the stage. That includes writing the script and filming pre-production Super 8 footage in Colorado, Texas, New Orleans, and Mississippi. It was all rooted in imagery from the novel derived from the Tarot and the Hoodoo and Southern Root Work traditions.

        The least they all deserve is a True West Award for Bauer, who I’m guessing on this project has become the first in theatre history to serve a single production as director, co-adaptor, co-producer ... and scenic designer. 

        ​The resulting play finally made it before audiences in July, less than a year after the so-called 100-year flood, and it hit some Boulder-area residents close to home,  To them, this world wasn’t New Orleans but their own yards, and their own garbage. 

          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *For evident ethical reasons, the DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • Video: Interview with Shaun Taylor-Corbett of 'Jersey Boys'

        by John Moore | Dec 10, 2014


        In this brief video, actor Shaun Taylor-Corbett is interviewed by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about the return of Jersey Boys to Denver from Dec. 10-14, 2014.

        Taylor-Corbett, who plays Frankie Valli, is the son of famed choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett, a Colorado native who graduated from Littleton High School in suburban Denver. The interview took place at the DCPA's new temporary Holiday Box Office in Cherry Creek North, where patrons are treated to songs, stories, crafts and more.

        Jersey Boys, the 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical about The Four Seasons (Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi), is the story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop-music history. Songs include “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

        Jersey Boys Ticket Information

        Dec. 10-14, 2014
        Buell Theatre
        Seven performances only
        Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org

        Our previous Jersey Boys coverage:

        Video: Jersey Boy sings national anthem at Denver Broncos game
        Story, video: Jersey Boy walks with Denver Mayor at launch of DCPA holiday store
        Download our Jersey Boys Study Guide
        Try our Jersey Boys crossword puzzle!

        Jersey_Boys_Shaun_Taylor-Corbett_Holiday_Store_800

        Shaun Taylor-Corbett of 'Jersey Boys' sings to patrons of the temporary DCPA Holiday Box Office storefront in Cherry Creek North. Photo by John Moore.
      • 2014 True West Award: Tim Howard

        by John Moore | Dec 10, 2014
        True_West_Award_TIM_HOWARD_800_2

        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is the musical that will never die – though it really should have, long ago. Yes, it was charming for its pre-Mad Men day – it won seven Tony Awards and, somehow, the freaking Pulitzer Prize for drama, after all. But its day (thankfully) was more than 50 years ago. The 1950s source book was meant to be a satire, showing how a self-invented window-washer short-cuts his way up the ranks at a corporation of major insignificance, showing how charisma and guile trump integrity and hard work. But since the world economic collapse, the story of a total fraud who lies, cheats and panders his way to the top just feels ... not so funny. And to anyone watching since, say, 1972, Finch’s dismissive attitude toward women lands somewhere between patronizing and misogynistic. So when you don’t particularly want the protagonist in How to Succeed to, you know - succeed, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

        And then along came Tim Howard to make poppycock of all that. Howard played Finch at the Town Hall Arts Center as a kind of accidental corporate climber, allowing the actor's own casual likeability to trump Finch's ugly, all-consuming ambition. He even seemed like not a total jerk in the way he jerked around poor, dumb Rosemary.

        Howard has been steadily emerging these past few years into a bona fide leading man. Lately the Centennial native’s dance card has included con man Leo in The Producers, con man Freddie in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Prince Herbert in Spamalot and the Lost Boy Nibs in Peter Pan. Currently he’s in the ensemble of the Arvada Center’s throwback musical, She Loves Me. Whether it was Howard’s darkly mischievous performance as predatory German teen Hanschen in this year’s Spring Awakening at Town Hall, or carrying How to Succeed to the top like a determined groundhog, 2014 was clearly a breakout year for Howard. I just hope he avoids the fate of that Lost Boy Nibs. He grew up to work in an office that sounds a lot like the World Wide Wicket Company.  

          2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *For evident ethical reasons, the DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

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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 a not-for-profit 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.