• Former hostage Thomas Sutherland is freed a second time

    by John Moore | Jul 23, 2016
    Jean and Tom Sutherland. Photo by John Moore. Jean and Tom Sutherland at the Bas Bleu Theatre's 'Burn the Mortgage' party. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Former Colorado State University professor, arts benefactor and occasional actor ​Thomas Sutherland was held hostage in Beirut for more than six years - or 2,353 agonizing days. The genial Scotsman said he contemplated suicide several times during his ordeal, but he was repeatedly brought back from the edge of despair by the lyrical poetry of Scotsman Robert Burns.

    If there is another world, he lives in bliss.
    If there is none, he made the best of this.

    In 2003, at the age of 72, the indefatigable Sutherland made his first foray into acting, starring in in Athol Fugard's play A Lesson From Aloes at the Bas Bleu Theatre in his adopted home of Fort Collins. The apartheid play explores how the relationships between an elderly white couple and their black friend are strained by South African repression. Sutherland said performing in the play was a way to repay Burns and other artists whose work helped him through the ordeal.

    Sutherland died Friday (July 22), in Fort Collins. He was 85.

    Seeing Sutherland in his final days, friend Wendy Ishii was reminded of Sutherland's time as a hostage, wanting nothing more than freedom.

    "He asked to have the window open and I thought, 'He just wants to fly out of here,'" said Ishii, co-founder of the Bas Bleu Theatre. "Now he has."

    Sutherland was Dean of Agriculture at the American University in Beirut when he was kidnapped near his home on June 9, 1985, by Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah terrorists wanting U.S. military forces out of the bloody Lebanese civil war. He was released on Nov. 18, 1991.

    In the introduction to the book At Your Own Risk, President George Bush said of Sutherland, "Tom is a true American hero. He was a hostage, yes, but he never felt sorry for himself, nor did he complain of his situation. He inspired us all with his grit and his unfailing faith in God and his country."

    Tom Sutherland in Bas Bleu Theatre's 'A Lesson from Aloes.' Thomas Sutherland was born May 3, 1931, in Falkirk, Scotland. He earned degree in Agriculture from Glasgow University, and a master's degree and PhD in animal breeding from Iowa State University. He then taught animal science at Colorado State University for 26 years.

    He moved to Beirut in 1983 for a three-year term at the American University in Beirut. He stayed despite the assassination of University President Malcolm H. Kerr and the kidnapping of Professor Frank Reiger in 1984. Sutherland later said his kidnappers mistook him for University President Calvin Plimpton.

    (Pictured above right: Former Denver Broncos player Earlie Thomas, Thomas Sutherland and Wendi Ishii in Bas Bleu Theatre's 'A Lesson from Aloes.')

    In June 2001, the Sutherland family won a $323 million verdict in a lawsuit against the frozen assets of the government of Iran, because of evidence that Iran had directed terrorists to kidnap Americans in Lebanon. Sutherland and his family received $35 million from frozen Iranian assets. Sutherland liked to joke that he was on "an extended vacation paid for by the Shah of Iran.”

    Sutherland used his settlement for a variety of public uses. He underwrote the initial $1.1 million purchase of the historic Giddings Building in Fort Collins, which provided a new home for the Bas Bleu Theatre Company. Sutherland pledged $500,000 of that himself.

    On Nov. 19, 2011, the Bas Bleu Theatre christened its playing space as the Tom Sutherland Stage. Ishii said the Sutherland name will be used "to help carry forward his legacy of love and fostering of this energetic and optimistic place, Fort Collins, with Tom's name gracing our voices."

    Bas Bleu board member Peter Springberg once asked Sutherland how his life had changed since his release from captivity, and the subsequent award of so much cash.

    "He thought a moment, then said, 'We still live in the same house. Once in a while I buy a better bottle of bourbon. But mostly, I get to give away more money to deserving nonprofits." 

    Sutherland is survived by his wife, Jean; with whom he co-authored memories of his hostage experience in the book At Your Own Risk. The book tells each of their stories in alternating chapters. Jean Sutherland,  who taught English at the American University while her husband was held captive, said their goal in writing in writing the book was to show that "the situation was an enormity between hostages, hostage-takers, governments and families of hostages.”

    There were times during his captivity when Sutherland thought of Jean and said, "Am I really married to that woman? God, how could I have been so lucky? It took me a long time to convince myself that I really was married to Jean.”

    They have three daughters Kit (Scott Kintz); Joan Sutherland Sears (Mike Sears); Ann Sutherland (Ray Keller). On Valentine's Day, 1988, as he lay shackled to a wall in a windowless cell, Sutherland read in a Beirut newspaper that grandchild had been born to his daughter, Ann. After his release, he met his son-in-law, Keller, for the first time. His first meal as a free man was mince and patties, a Scottish specialty of ground beef over mashed potatoes.

    Sutherland told the New York Times that fellow hostage Terry Waite was "a great, great guy - even though his snoring was unbearable." And he said Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press at the time of his capture, taught him how to play bridge and chess. In return, Sutherland taught Anderson how to speak French, and a bit about agriculture.

    “I spent six years out of the seven years I was in captivity with Tommy,” Anderson told The Associated Press on Saturday. “We were kept in the same cells and sometimes on the same chain. Whenever they moved us, generally Tommy would show up with me. He was a kind and gentle man.” 

    Anderson said Sutherland “was a guy who remembered everyone he ever met. He never forgot anyone. I don’t know how he did it. He was such a people person that he remembered everybody. When we were in prison, we would sit and talk about things we had done and places he had gone. He always talked about the people he met there, and he remembered them. He was a very, very good man.”

    Colorado State University President Tony Frank, called Sutherand's homecoming in 1991 "One of the greatest moments in the history of Colorado State University. His spirit and optimism inspired the world, and the deep devotion of his family during the bleak years he was a hostage taught us a profound lesson of courage, faith, and hope."

    Jacques Rieux of Fort Collins, who edited At Your Own Risk, said Sutherland was not just another hostage. "He was one of us," Rieux said. "He suffered horribly as a hostage, but he had few choices to make during his ordeal. Jean was the one who had choices to make. The public image she presented showed dignity and courage. She refused to play the victim card. She showed no self-pity and expressed no bitterness. I was amazed at how she could maintain such composure. Ultimately, they won because they did not let the events in Beirut warp them. That would have been an irreparable loss.

    "Tom and Jean are wonderful people who appreciate the simple things in life: A beautiful sunset, a glass of wine, time with friends. They are a blessing to the town.”

    A public celebration of Sutherland's life will be held in mid-August.

    The following is an interview with Thomas Sutherland and Terry Anderson by Theatre Critic John Moore originally published in The Denver Post in 2008:

    Tom Sutherland: Humanity held hostage
    By John Moore

    As fellow Beirut hostages Tom Sutherland and Terry Anderson sat bound to a wall in near- total darkness year after endless year, they told stories to keep each other alive. Their captors could chain their bodies, but they could not chain their minds.

    Anderson, the Associated Press war correspondent, helped Sutherland picture how a differential transmission worked, without benefit of pencil or paper. Sutherland, the Colorado State University prof, in turn taught Anderson agricultural science and French.

    “We spent hours practicing irregular verbs — to the utter dismay and horror of those we were pent up with,” Anderson says with a grim laugh.

    For six years. A combined 4,808 days.

    “If it hadn’t been for Terry, I probably would have committed suicide,” said Sutherland, who was a dean at the American University in Beirut when he was kidnapped by Iranian- backed Shiite Hezbollah terrorists wanting U.S. military forces out of the bloody Lebanese civil war.

    “Every time I got discouraged and put my head down on the pillow and said, ‘I’m done with all this,’ Terry encouraged me, and that’s the reason I am alive today.”

    They read “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad” and “Darkness at Midnight.”

    “Can you imagine reading a book about a man stuck in a basement prison in Siberia, while you are sitting in a basement prison in the Bekaa Valley?” Anderson said.

    But of all the lifesaving literature these bound brothers scavenged like bread, one line echoes most resoundingly in Anderson’s mind, 17 years after their 1991 release. And it’s a line Vietnam-era “Pogo” cartoonist Walt Kelly put into the mouth of a possum:

    “We have met the enemy — and he is us.”

    Anderson, the longest-held of 54 civilian Beirut captives from 12 nations, is angered and bewildered that it’s now the United States that’s detaining and, he says, torturing suspects as a matter of approved policy.

    “It is wrong. It is evil, there is no question about it,” Anderson said. “To have a government that not only condones (torture), but excuses it and practices it, is shameful. I am very proud of my country, but I am ashamed of this government. We are not supposed to be the ones who are doing this sort of crap.”

    Anderson, speaking from his home in Ohio, joined Sutherland on a conference call to talk about their captivity, the bond that still tethers them in ways far mightier than any chain, and their common disgust with the Iraq war.

    They also talked about fellow hostage Brian Keenan, whose story was turned into the drama “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me,” opening Saturday at Bas Bleu Theatre in Sutherland’s hometown of Fort Collins. It’s about the friendship that Keenan, an Irishman, developed with Englishman John McCarthy while in captivity. An American character is said to be somewhat based on Anderson.

    Anderson, a theater major at NYU and a Marine in Vietnam, first saw the play in New York in 1992. Last summer he watched the film adaptation, “Blind Flight,” at Keenan’s home in Ireland. Sutherland served as consultant on productions of the play by the Denver Center Theatre Company and University of Northern Colorado.

    The message of the play is now the mantra of these men: When one man unjustly imprisons any other, he holds not only the human hostage, but humanity itself.

    “It’s about what a trauma it is to be kidnapped, but how it’s possible to survive with humor and argumentation and by supporting each other,” Sutherland said.

    In the play, Keenan has an epiphany of understanding when his character says, “Just as I was chained in darkness for almost five years, my captors were chained to their guns in a profound darkness I could see into. Tell me now — who is the prisoner here?”

    Anderson, now 60, and Sutherland, 76, have a much less sympathetic opinion of their captors. Sutherland believes they were cowards, and that if not for the guns, “every last one of them would have skedaddled out of there.”

    Anderson remembers when one of his captors once said to him, “We’re prisoners, too.”

    “And I said, ‘Well, that’s just fine. Give me the gun, and you take the chain,’ ” he said. “Of course, they are prisoners of their violence and their own mental blindness. But the guy with the chains and the blindfold? He’s the prisoner. The guy with the gun? He’s not.”

    After his release, Sutherland returned to Fort Collins and served as professor emeritus at CSU for a period of life the genial Scotsman jovially refers to as his “extended vacation paid for by the Shah of Iran” — after being awarded $35 million in frozen Iranian assets. Anderson also won a multimillion-dollar judgment, which he used in part to build schools in Vietnam.

    He’s also co-chair, along with former CBS-TV news anchor Walter Cronkite, of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since March 2003, 125 journalists and 49 media workers have been killed in Iraq — most of them Arabs, Iraqis and Syrians working for Western news agencies.

    “This is the most dangerous war that journalists have ever covered, by far,” Anderson said. “Eighty percent of the murders of journalists around the world are never investigated. No one is ever arrested. No one is ever convicted. Journalists are fair game in many places around the world, because … dictators and oppressors always go for the press first. Always.”

    Civilians are still being kidnapped, tortured and killed. Anderson and Sutherland empathize with anyone of any nationality thrust into the struggle to maintain one’s humanity in an inhumane situation.

    “You do it through force of will,” Anderson said. “You use everything you have ever learned and truly believe in — and you refuse to budge from that. As we used to say, ‘They cannot take your dignity, no matter what they do. You can only give it to them.’ ”

    But the U.S. now finds itself in a confusing imbroglio that looks far too much to Anderson like 1985 Lebanon.

    “We are involved in what is essentially a civil war in Iraq,” he said. “We don’t have any idea who our friends or who our enemies are. Does this sound familiar to anyone? We don’t apparently learn our lessons very well in American foreign policy.”

    He’s referring to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ refusal to rule out waterboarding and other techniques deemed torture by the Geneva Convention.

    “Not only is it morally insupportable and inexcusable — it doesn’t work,” he said. “Where we got into this evil charade, I don’t know, but we are now a country that as a matter of policy not only tortures its prisoners, but we conspire to ship them out of any jurisdiction where the law might interfere.”

    Why the citizenry does not stand up against such practices may be tied to the fact that primetime TV shows like “24” offer increasingly absurd examples of prisoner torture for our amusement.

    “When torture becomes entertainment, we’re sick,” said Anderson.

    “I think the U.S. has become less than it was in many ways, and that’s a shame.”

  • 'Beautiful' stars tell students: 'Don't give up'

    by John Moore | Jul 22, 2016

    Two stars of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical talked with a DCPA Education class on Thursday, July 21, 2016, about auditions, creating roles and more in the Jones Theatre. Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig play Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in the national touring production that visits Denver through July 31. The session was moderated by DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg. Our video includes comments from the students. 

    For more information on DCPA Education classes, click here. Registration for fall classes begins Aug. 10.

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Interviews conducted by Greg Moody of CBS-4 Denver.

    'Beautiful' cast members Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig (center) with DCPA Education students and staff. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Beautiful in Denver: Our photo gallery:

    'Beautiful' in Denver

    Photos include opening night and a talkback with DCPA Edcation students. To see more, click the arrow on the image above.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

    Video, photos, story: A Beautiful Opening Night in Denver
    Mann and Weil: How Beautiful bloomed 'On Broadway'
    Video montage: The show at a glance

    Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Ticket information
    • Through July 31
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. July 31
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Beautiful cast members Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  'Beautiful' cast member Ben Fankhauser. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 
  • All our photos from the 2016 Henry Awards

    by John Moore | Jul 21, 2016
    2016 Henry Awards
    Photos from the Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2016 Henry Awards ceremony held July 18 at the PACE Center in Parker. To see more photos, click the arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded and shared for free, with proper credit. Click on any photo to download.

    Photos by John Moore and Brian Landis Folkins for the DCPA NewsCenter. To read our full report from the Henry Awards, click here.

    Watch our 2016 Memoriam video

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards:
    2016 Henry Awards a triumph for Theatre Aspen, Rabbit Hole
    Our video coverage of the Henry Awards (more to come)
    Preview: Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers

    A Henry Awards co-host Steven J. Burge. Phto by Brian Landis Folkins, BLF Photography.
    Henry Awards co-host Steven J. Burge. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins, BLF Photography.
  • Video, photos: A 'Beautiful' Opening Night in Denver

    by John Moore | Jul 21, 2016

    Denver welcomed the national touring production of Beautiful — The Carole King Musical on June 19, and we spoke with stars Abby Mueller (Carole King), Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia Weil), along with DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg after the opening-night performance about what makes the Tony Award-winning musical so much more than a revue of pop hits from the 1960s and 1970s.

    Beautiful is the empowering, true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, but at a great personal cost to her family. Along the way, King wrote the soundtrack to a generation. Watch the video above, and read more from our conversation below:

    A BeautifulOpening QAuoteAbby Mueller: Beautiful is such a fun journey through the pop era of the 1950s and ‘60s. Carole and her first writing partner (and later husband) Gerry Goffin started writing songs when she was a teenager. And then they met Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and you get some of their songs as well. So this is a really is a deep, deep catalog of music that everyone knows - but perhaps they don’t know that Carole wrote this song, or Cynthia wrote that song. It’s a fun journey the audience goes on. We hear these gasps of recognition when they hear songs they know, but have never attributed to these writers.

    John Moore: Becky, tell us more about Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

    Becky Gulsvig: Becky and Cynthia are amazing. They wrote so many songs that everyone knows and loves. Songs like, You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling, which is still the most-played song on the radio - ever. They wrote On Broadway and Rockin’ in the Rain and We Gotta Get Out of This Place and Uptown and so many more. You don’t necessarily know Cynthia and Barry as well as you know Carole King, but you really know a lot of their music. And they provide a balance to the love story because as Carole and Gerry fall apart, they come together. You also get to hear some of the back stories that tell you what was going on in their lives as some these songs were created.

    John Moore: John, what do you think makes Beautiful a different kind of musical?

    John Ekeberg: Our Denver audiences don’t always have the opportunity to go to New York to see Broadway shows, but the production I saw tonight was Broadway quality. It was just top-notch across the board. And to hear the audience’s reaction, I think, was really powerful.

    Read the Denver Post review of Beautiful

    John Moore: Abby, people might presume all they are going to get are these hit songs, but there is a pretty compelling story being told here as well.

    Abby Mueller: It is such a challenging and rewarding journey. People come to this show knowing they love these songs, but maybe they didn’t totally anticipate the emotional journey that everyone goes on. There is a lot of humor; there is some drama, some pathos and ultimately triumph. I think it’s a really satisfying night at the theatre.

    John Moore: You both play real people. Talk about the additional responsibility of portraying characters who are still very much among the living.

    Beautiful Opening Becky Gulsvig Abby MuellerBecky Gulsvig: I think there is definitely a different level of obligation when the person you are playing might come to see your show and either love you or hate you. That is daunting. They have casting approval, so we know they wanted us in the show, which is always nice. But you want to be respectful of their story and be truthful to what they did in real life. It’s an honor, to be honest, because all of these people are musical icons, and they did such amazing work. It’s great get to stand on their shoulders and share their stories with even more people. So many people grew up with this music, but it’s still reaching more new people every day.

    Abby Mueller: It is an honor to play Carole - and there is a responsibility that comes with that. That helps me focus on the fact that this is not about me. My responsibility is to Carole and to bring the most truth to her story that I can. It’s been a gift. People come and they just love Carole and Cynthia and Barry and Gerry so much, and we can feel that coming from the audiences. We get to borrow that for a little while. I feel like I am stealing love. It’s really special.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: I was surprised by how much of an empowerment story Beautiful turns out to be for women of all ages.

    Abby Mueller: I really find Carole inspiring on so many levels. At a time when women were not doing what she was doing, she was writing songs and raising a family and having a career on her own terms, which is really admirable and enviable. That’s something I really look up to.

    John Moore: You both have connections to our favorite daughter of Denver, Annaleigh Ashford (pictured right).

    ASHFORD_ AnnaleighBoth: We love Annaleigh!

    Becky Gulsvig: Yes, I was in the original Broadway cast of Legally Blonde, The Musical, and I adore every inch of that magical unicorn. I love her.

    Abby Mueller: Yes, and I was a replacement swing in Kinky Boots, and she made me feel so welcome. She is a marvelous human being, and I love her.  ​

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

    Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Ticket information
    • Through July 31
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. July 31
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Photo gallery: Beautiful in Denver

    'Beautiful' in Denver

    Our photos from opening night of 'Beautiful - The Carole king Musical' in Denver. To see more, click the arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Video at top of page by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

  • Cancer 'the only thing' that could have beat Amy Malmgren

    by John Moore | Jul 21, 2016

    Amy Malmgren Denver Actors Fund
    Amy Malmgren at the very first Denver Actors Fund seed-gathering fundraiser on June 1, 2013. Photo by John Moore.

    Amy Malmgren of Highlands Ranch beat Stage 4 cancer in 2014. So when doctors delivered a new and unrelated Stage 4 diagnosis less than a year later, she took on the challenge with her typical quiet and confident determination.

    “I beat the highest stage of cancer in just four months,” she said at the time, “and I will beat it again.”

    This would just be the newest Herculean obstacle in Malmgren’s path, and the most recent she would take on with good cheer and a ferocious faith.

    “God and I are tight,” she wrote on her Facebook profile to summarize her religious views.

    Amy Malmgren quoteMalmgren, one of three inaugural board members of the Denver Actors Fund, died Wednesday night. She was also founder and CEO of Loops Media and a cheerful performer in the massive annual Magic Moments music revues in Denver.  She was 41.

    “Words don't do justice to the level of human being she was,” friend Jamie Spicer Anderson wrote on her Facebook page.

    Malmgren, a 1993 graduate of Arvada High School and in 2007 from Metro State University, was a single mother of three – from a wheelchair. She was paralyzed in a near-death car accident 24 years ago.

    Since then, Malmgren has battled infection, illness and worked tirelessly to help overcome the public stigma of living with a disability. All while raising three young men, including two now 17-year-old twins, Dev and Dominic Elliott. Her eldest son is 25-year-old Joseph Lewton.

    “Cancer is the only thing to ever beat Amy,” said Malmgren’s sister-in-law, Heather Gregg Spillman. “She was the strongest person I've ever known.”

    In July 2014, Malmgren was diagnosed with bladder cancer. After a strict regimen of chemotherapy and radical surgery, doctors miraculously declared her cancer-free by October. But cancer returned eight months later, again as Stage 4. It metastasized from her lymph nodes and spread into her small intestines and bones.

    “Life is crazy sometimes,” she said at the time. “We don’t get to choose all our paths, or I certainly wouldn’t have chosen cancer. But here I am again.”

    Amy Malmgren Denver Actors Fund familyMagic Moments is an annual revue of Broadway and pop songs that provides up to 150 physically or mentally challenged actors the opportunity to perform alongside able-bodied castmates. It is performed each year in the spirit of inclusion and equality.

    “My son Dom was doing Magic Moments, and he talked me into getting in,” Malmgren said. “That’s what really brought me back into the theatre. I loved it. Magic Moments is a fabulous community to stumble across.”

    (Pictured right: Amy Malmgren with her sons Joseph Lewton, Dev Elliott and Dominic Elliott.)

    Magic Moments Director KQ Quintana said he had been planning to design the 2017  revue around Malmgren until her cancer returned.

    "She was a delight to work with because she was always prepared, and she made rehearsals go better with her positive attitude," Quintana said. "And she was good. She could sing and act."

    Malmgren, born Feb. 8, 1975, sat on several boards, preferring to concentrate on issues that impact the health, independence and quality of life of individuals living with spinal-cord injury or disease. It was a passion for advocacy that took her from Washington D.C. to Italy.

    When she attended the Denver Actors Fund’s inaugural karaoke fundraiser three years ago, she rolled right up to founder John Moore and offered her financial and accounting services. Malmgren was named Treasurer of the Board of Directors. In the three years since, the non-profit organization has raised $117,000 to help members of the local theatre community in situational medical need. In April, Denver Actors Fund President Brenda Billings died of a sudden brain aneurysm.

    “You just can’t measure the toll of losing two incredible life forces like Amy and Brenda back-to-back,” said Moore. “At a time when this little non-profit was nothing more than an idea, this very small group of people stepped up to the plate and willed it into being.”

    Although in Malmgren’s case, it was more like she rolled up to the plate.

    “She came straight up to me and said, ‘I want in,'" Moore said. "Without that kind of can-do spirit, we never would have gotten off the ground.”

    Amy Malmgren Denver Actors Fund Family, Spillman said, meant the world to Malmgren.

    “I'll miss performing with her and cheering our kids on together,” she wrote this morning. “I'll miss our annual giggle-fest on Christmas night. I'll miss going dancing with her. That was our favorite thing to do. I'll miss our two-hour phone conversations where we'd cover everything from our kids to a TV show we both liked to politics. I'll miss going shopping with her. I'll miss traveling to Cabo with her. I'll miss celebrating our birthdays together. I'll miss preparing a family meal together. I'll miss her being late to everything. I'll miss putting her wheelchair in the back of my car. I'll miss her shining example of how to be the best kind of person. I'll miss Amy.”

    (Pictured above right: Amy Malmgren, front left, appeared on 'In Focus with Eden Lane' (back right) on behalf of the Denver Actors Fund at the Town Hall Arts Center in 2014.)

    Spillman said Malmgren was a natural at disarming some people’s discomfort with disability. “I'll miss watching the ease she had with kids when they were curious about her chair,” she said.

    Malmgren is also survived by her brothers, Jason and Mike Spillman; parents Scott Malmgren and Janet Benson; stepfather Mike Benson; stepmother Stacy Malmgren; and many aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

    "This world has lost a shining light today," Jason Spillman wrote on his Facebook page today. "My heart is heavy but I am glad that my beloved sister Amy is out of pain. She told me a few days ago, 'I will save you a good seat.' "

    A celebration of Malmgren's life will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4, at First Plymouth Congregational Church, 3501 S. Colorado Blvd, Cherry Hills Village, CO, 80113. Attendees are asked to wear purple. MAP IT

  • Video: Bobby G Awards winners sing Denver Outlaws anthem

    by John Moore | Jul 20, 2016

    Bobby G Awards Denver OutlawsCharlotte Movizzo and Curtis Salinger, Colorado's 2016 Bobby G Awards winners, were invited to sing the National Anthem at the Denver Outlaws' professional lacrosse victory over the Atlanta Blaze on July 16. It also happened to be "Star Wars Night" at Mile High Stadium, hence the appearance of stormtroopers. The Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre. Salinger and Movizzo were named Outstanding Actor and Actress. The rehearsal pianist and anthem arranger was Martha Yordy.

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk with interviews by DCA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore. Anthem footage provided by the Denver Outlaws.   

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    Video: Colorado's Bobby G Awards reps win scholarships in New York 
    Bobby G Award winners' Road to the Jimmy Awards
    Video, story: Kinship and camaraderie at 2016 Bobby G Awards
    Video: 2016 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Video: Outstanding Musical nominee performances
    Photos: 2016 Bobby G Awards (Download for free)
    Mountain View scales Bobby G Awards' 2016 peak
    Meet your 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Finalists
    Meet your 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Finalists
    2015-16 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'

    Bobby G Awards Denver Outlaws

    Photo gallery: 2016 Bobby G Awards, after Denver

    2016 Bobby G Awards: After DenverThis gallery follows our Colorado representatives since winning at the 2016 Bobby G Awards. To see more, press the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video Playlist: Our 2016 Henry Awards coverage

    by John Moore | Jul 20, 2016

    The third in our series of videos from the 2016 Henry Awards brings you highlights from six performed songs. Outstanding Musical nominees to perform were Spotlight Theatre Comany's The Big Bang, Theatre Aspen's Cabaret, Creede Repertory Theatre's Guys  and Dolls, Aurora Fox Arts Center's Jekyll and Hyde and Performance Now Theatre Company's Ragtime: The Musical. An additional song from Grease was performed by the host PACE Center in partnership with Inspire Creative. The Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards were held on July 18, 2016, at the PACE Center in Parker.

    More videos will be added to this special YouTube playlist as the week goes on. Videos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Watch Deborah Persoff accept the Lifetime Achievement Award

    Watch our 2016 Memoriam video

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards:

    2016 Henry Awards a triumph for Theatre Aspen, Rabbit Hole
    Preview: Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers
    DCPA leads way with 11 2015 Henry Awards

    Our complete photo gallery from the Henry Awards:

    2016 Henry Awards

    Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the forward arrow above.

    Mehry Iris Eslaminia Henry Awards Guys & DollsMehry Iris Eslaminia Henry Awards Guys & Dolls. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.
  • Henry Awards a triumph for Theatre Aspen, 'Rabbit Hole'

    by John Moore | Jul 18, 2016

    RagtimePerformance Now presents a powerful medley from "Ragtime" at Monday's Henry Awards. Phtoo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Here’s a sure sign of growth: Last year, Theatre Aspen was nominated for eight Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards. This year, it won eight.

    In an uncommonly well-spread evening celebrating statewide achievement in Colorado theatre, two upstarts clearly emerged: Theatre Aspen, which won both the Outstanding Musical for Cabaret and the prestigious Outstanding Season by a Company awards; and Vintage Theatre, which swept nearly all of the acting awards for the family drama Rabbit Hole.

    Rabbit Hole, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for David Lindsay-Abaire, is the wrenching story of a family coming to grips with the death of a child. The Vintage staging, directed by Bernie Cardell, was named Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Marc Stith) and Outstanding Actress (Maggy Stacy - who was also nominated in that category for her performance in The Edge’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)

    While the annual Henry Awards often turn into landslides, this year the 25 competitive awards were distributed among 11 different companies and 13 different shows. That still left a number of the state's most prestigious companies on the sidelines this year, including the Arvada Center, Curious Theatre Company, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Phamaly Theatre Company, BDT Stage and Creede Repertory Theatre.

    The evening drew many standing ovations - none more fervent than for Performance Now's medley from Ragtime. It culminated with the lines "We'll never get to heaven till we reach that day," which took on added significance given recent tragic events in America.

    Perhaps the biggest upset of the night? Three hours and not a single reference to the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton.

    Jonathan Farwell, otherwise known as “The Force of Fort Collins,” won his second Outstanding Actor Henry Award – since turning 80. Seriously. Farwell won in 2013 for his performance as Salieri in OpenStage’s Amadeus. On Monday, now 84 and legally blind, Farwell won his second Henry, for Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s The Outgoing Tide. Farwell delivered a fully fleshed and close-to-the-bone portrayal of a man whose encroaching Alzheimer’s disease steels his determination to control the final course of his life. Farwell, who also won a True West Award for his performance in The Outgoing Tide, was The Fantasticks’ first-ever El Gallo, back when the enduring musical was a college workshop project.

    "The joy is in the doing, and in the sharing of the work," said Farwell, who cited encouragement from a young and not-yet Dame Maggie Smith for propelling him on his acting journey.

    Outstanding Actress in a Play went to Missy Moore, who played a newly tamed, just-released jailbird in The Edge Theatre's Getting Out. That broke a streak of two straight wins by Emma Messenger, who was again nominated in the category for The Edge's Exit Strategies.

    The DCPA Theatre Company led all companies with 27 nominations and won five Henry Awards, including four for its DeVotchKa-infused staging of Sweeney Todd. Linda Mugleston, who made the human pie-maker Mrs. Lovett seem downright motherly, was named Outstanding Actress in a musical. Other DCPA winners included Director Kent Thompson, Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver and Scenic Designer Jim Kronzer for Sweeney Todd; as well as Sound Designer Craig Breitenbach for Tribes.

    (The Henry Awards split the four design categories, honoring winners in both larger budget and smaller-budget productions. The dividing line between tiers is whether the presenting company’s annual budget is above or below $1.2 million.)

    Theatre Aspen won five Henrys for Cabaret, including Jon Peterson as Outstanding Actor in a Musical, and Lori Wilner as Outstanding Supporting Actress. Peterson described Theatre Aspen as "a magical kindom of theatre."

    Like Theatre Aspen, the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre of Grand Lake won its first competitive Henry Award when Steven Sitzman was named Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for “The Addams Family.”

    2016 Henry Awards memoriam video:

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Lifetime Achievement Award: Deborah Persoff

    Deborah Persoff Henry Awards Rabbit HoleThe winner of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award was Deborah Persoff, who was part of Vintage Theatre’s winning Rabbit Hole ensemble. Persoff was born in Philadelphia to a composer father and pianist mother. She moved to Colorado in 1969. Her first show was at the Changing Scene.

    "I was the fifth narrator on the left, which meant that I sat in a chair, opened a book and just babbled. Everyone who paid their dues in those days had to work at the Changing Scene," Persoff, who later player Glinda in the Bonfils Theatre’s 1971 production of The Wizard of Oz, said in a previous interview.

    In recent years, Persoff has played Maude in Harold and Maude, Edith Bouvier Beale in Grey Gardens and a 91-year-old Communist in Miners Alley Playhouse’s 4000 Miles. She has worked for most every theatre company in the metro area and beyond, and has been president of Vintage Theatre’s Board of Directors since 2013.

    “I want to have a bumper sticker that says. ‘Got gas. Will work,’ " she said. "I feel like the border patrol. I do all four sides of the I-25 corridor. I’ll go anywhere.”  

    Persoff took seven years away from acting to raise her two sons. And while women are often told the best roles tend to dry up with age, Persoff says instead, “I’ve been lucky. I don’t find that to be true in Denver. The roles are terrific. I’ve been working in a city that is just abounding with fabulous women, and it’s just been a joy to watch this city grow and grow up.”

    While presenting the award, Vintage Theatre founder Craig Bond said, "to receive this award is to work with legends of the community."

    Persoff was one of many who took time to honor the late Miners Alley Playhouse Artistic Director Brenda Billings, who died in April of a sudden brain aneurysm. She was known for her motto, "Be Brave." Said Persoff: Those are not just two words.

    "Keep shining," she told the crowd, "because dreams have no expiration date." 

    Denver Actors Fund going statewide

    Other special Henry Awards went to the Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has raised $117,000 to support artists (on stage on off) facing situational medical need. In accepting the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Community Impact Award, President Will Barnette announced the non-profit’s breaking news that it is expanding eligibility to theatre artists statewide.

    Denver East’s legendary and recently retired Melody Duggan was named Theatre Educator of the Year.

    The evening was again hosted by GerRee Hinshaw and Steve J. Burge and directed by Jim Hunt and Josh Hartwell.

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


    Theatre Aspen

    Rabbit Hole PlayOUTSTANDING PLAY
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions
    Bernie Cardell, Director

    Theatre Aspen Musical Henry AwardsOUTSTANDING MUSICAL
    Theatre Aspen
    Mark Martino, Director; Eric Alsford, Musical Director

    Sarna Lapine Henry AwardsDIRECTION OF A PLAY
    Sarna Lapine
    Other Desert Cities
    Theatre Aspen

    Eric Alsford 5 Henry AwardsMUSICAL DIRECTION
    Eric Alsford
    Theatre Aspen

    Kent Thompson Henry AwardsDIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
    Kent Thompson
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Rembrandt Room Henry AwardsOUTSTANDING NEW PLAY
    The Rembrandt Room
    Buntport Theater

    Missy Moore Henry AwardsLEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY
    Missy Moore
    Getting Out
    The Edge Theater

    Jonathan Farwell Henry AwardsLEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY
    Jonathan Farwell
    The Outgoing Tide
    Bas Bleu Theatre Company

    Linda Mugleston Henry AwardsLEAD ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
    Linda Mugleston
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Jon Peterson Cabaret Henry AwardsLEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
    Jon Peterson
    Theatre Aspen

    Ensemble Rabbit HoleENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions

    Maggie Stacy Henry AwardsSUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
    Maggy Stacy
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions

    Marc Stith Henry AwardsSUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY
    Marc Stith
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions

    Lori Wilner
    Theatre Aspen

    Steven Sitzman Henry AwardsSUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
    Steven Sitzman
    The Addams Family
    Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre

    Mark Martino Henry AwardsCHOREOGRAPHY
    Mark Martino
    Theatre Aspen

    Craig Breitenbach Henry AwardsSOUND DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Craig Breitenbach
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Jonathan Scott McKean Henry AwardsSOUND DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Jonathan Scott-Mckean
    Pump Boys and Dinettes
    Miners Alley Playhouse

    Paul Black Henry AwardsLIGHTING DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Paul Black
    Peter and the Starcatcher
    Theatre Aspen

    Shannon McKinney Henry AwardsLIGHTING DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Shannon McKinney
    Local Theatre Company

    Kevin Copenhaver Henry AwardsCOSTUME DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Kevin Copenhaver
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Cindy Franke Henry AwardsCOSTUME DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Cindy Franke
    Ragtime: The Musical
    Performance Now

    Jim Kronzer Henry AwardsSCENIC DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Jim Kronzer
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Michael R. Duran Henry AwardsSCENIC DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Michael R. Duran
    The Explorers Club
    Lone Tree Arts Center


    Deborah Persoff Henry AwardsLIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
    Deborah Persoff

    Denver Actors Fund Henry AwardsCOMMUNITY IMPACT AWARD
    Denver Actors Fund

    Melody Duggan Henry AwardsTHEATRE EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
    Melody Duggan, Denver East High School

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards: 
    Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers
    DCPA leads way with 11 2015 Henry Awards

  • Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party

    by John Moore | Jul 18, 2016
    Theatre Aspen. Cabaret. Photo by Jeremy Swanson

    Theatre Aspen's 'Cabaret' is the most-nominated musical of the year in Colorado theatre, with 11 Henry Award nods. The winners will be announced Monday night, July 18.  Photo by Jeremy Swanson.

    The Colorado Theatre Guild expanded in 2012 to make companies beyond the metro area eligible for its annual Henry Awards, which celebrate overall excellence by member companies. And ever since, Theatre Aspen Artistic Director Paige Price has crossed her fingers and hoped: “Maybe this will be our year.”

    2016 is looking like Theatre Aspen’s year. What with 25 nominations for three of its four offerings last summer: Cabaret, Other Desert Cites and Peter and the Starcatcher.  That’s second only to the 27 nominations for the DCPA Theatre Company.

    “I was in a board meeting when we got word of the nominations,” Price said. “I was sitting there counting them up and I couldn’t believe it. I felt like Sally Field. I definitely feel more welcome to the party now.”

    Theatre Aspen, located 160 miles southwest of Denver, has been presenting Broadway-quality summer repertory theatre in the idyllic setting of the Rio Grande Park for much of its 33 years, and with a roster of Broadway alumni including Tony Award nominee Beth Malone. But other than a special nod as the state’s outstanding regional theatre company of 2009, Theatre Aspen has yet to win an actual Henry Award.

    That seems all but certain to change tonight. The most-nominated musical of the year is Theatre Aspen's Cabaret, with 11, and the most-honored play is Other Desert Cities, with eight.

    “This acknowledgement is nothing short of huge for our entire organization,” Price said. “It’s fun to let people know that we are playing in the same ballpark with the Denver Center. And we have been saying that it in every curtain speech since the nominations came out.”

    That Theatre Aspen performs in a tented theatre in a park may give potential audiences the wrong impression about what kind of theatergoing experience they are in for there. “People hear we are in a park, and often they don’t even think we have a roof,” Price said. “But when they walk in, they see that it’s like walking into any studio theatre off-Broadway – except that the walls wobble with the wind.

    “What I tell people is that if you could take Broadway and shrink-wrap it - that’s the caliber of theatre we offer.”

    Sex With Strangers: Read our profile of Paige Price

    The Hurst Theatre, with a capacity of less than 200, makes for an unlikely home for Broadway musicals and intense dramas. Audiences experience stories in extreme close-up and with great emotional immediacy.

    “It’s really in-your-face theatre,” Price said, “and our audiences respond to that.”

    While Cabaret has been around for nearly 40 years, Theatre Aspen presented the recent Broadway revival that Price says is much darker and deeper than people remember. And Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities is a brutal family drama that centers on a daughter who returns home with news she is publishing a divisive family memoir focusing on the suicide of her late brother.

    “I think Other Desert Cities really spoke to the people of this community,” Price said. “It was both the polarity of political views here, combined with the very real problem of suicide in mountain towns. I know some of our patrons were uncomfortable – which is a good thing.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    2016 was not only a transformational year for Price as Theatre Aspen’s Artistic Director but also as an actor herself. Price has several Broadway credits but had not performed in eight years when she was cast in Curious Theatre’s Denver staging of Laura Eason’s Sex with Strangers. That’s a two-person play for which Price and Michael Kingsbaker earned a Henry Award nomination as Outstanding Ensemble. And Price has the DCPA Theatre Company’s production of Theresa Rebeck’s world-premiere play The Nest to thank for it.

    “While I was watching that play at the Denver Center, I had an epiphany,” she said. “I was seeing all those wonderful actors just going at it with all they had, and I said to myself, ‘This is exactly what I’ve been missing in my life.’ Sometimes you just have to jump off a new cliff, and after eight years of not doing that, it was important for me to tap into the part of me that makes me click as an artist.”

    Theatre Aspen. Other Desert Cities. Photo by Jeremy Swanson
    Theatre Aspen's 'Other Desert Cities' is the most-nominated play of the year, with eight  Henry Award nods. Photo by Jeremy Swanson.

    Here’s more of our conversation with Paige Price: 

    John Moore: When did you start to sense things were changing as far as the outside perception of Theatre Aspen?

    Paige Price: We didn’t really hit our stride until we decided to do Les Misérables in 2013. That was a seminal year for us. The Broadway cast was something like 28, and we were given the opportunity to explore how it might look in a much more intimate setting, with a cast of only 18. Until then, we had been doing the kind of shows you would expect for the size and scope of the theatre we are in. But with Les Misérables, the proximity to the actors delighted our audiences.

    John Moore: What impression do you hope your 25 Henry Award nominations will have, both on Denver actors and audiences?

    Paige Price: I hope the actors in Denver will be more interested in coming up here and working. And for potential audiences, we have added more matinees to make it easier for people in Denver to make a day trip and still get home at a reasonable hour.

    John Moore: So you also have been nominated for your performance in Sex with Strangers at Curious Theatre. It’s been an ongoing controversy within the Henrys as to whether two people should constitute a true ensemble. What are your thoughts on that issue?

    Paige Price: I thought it was an interesting and flattering way of looking at that show because I don’t think one person works without the other. I don’t know. I think you could make the case that every show is an ensemble effort. But that’s the judges’ perview.  

    John Moore: What does Theatre Aspen have in store for the audience at Monday’s Henry Awards?

    Paige Price: Jon Peterson will be performing a song from Cabaret. It will be a great way to underscore what we do here at Theatre Aspen, and give people a taste of the quality of the actors who come and perform for us. I am really looking forward to it. Feeling like we are part of the larger community is very important for us.

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

    Theatre Aspen's 2016 Henry Award nominations:
    Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company

    Other Desert Cities
    Outstanding Production of a Play
    Outstanding Direction of a Play: Sarna Lapine
    Outstanding Ensemble Performance
    Outstanding Actress in a Play: Lori Wilner
    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play: Curran Connor, Jack Wetherall
    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play: Peggy J. Scott
    Outstanding Scenic Design: Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams

    Outstanding Production of a Musical
    Outstanding Direction of a Musical: Mark Martino
    Outstanding Musical Direction: Eric Alsford
    Outstanding Choreography: Mark Martino
    Outstanding Ensemble Performance
    Outstanding Actor in a Musical: Jon Peterson
    Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Kirsten Wyatt
    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical: Richard Vida
    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical: Lori Wilner
    Outstanding Lighting Design: Paul Black
    Outstanding Sound Design: ​David Thomas

    Peter and the Starcatcher
    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical: Michelle Coben
    Outstanding Costume Design: Annabel Reader
    Outstanding Lighting Design: Paul Black
    Outstanding Scenic Design: Paul Black
    Outstanding Sound Design: ​David Thomas

    2016 Henry Awards: Ticket information
    6 p.m. Monday, July 18
    PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, MAP IT
    Tickets: $23 for CTG members, $30 non-members or $50 VIP. Tickets are available at  parkerarts.org, or by calling 303-805-6800. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door for $35

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards: 
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers
    DCPA leads way with 11 2015 Henry Awards

  • New Benchmark Theatre plans to have a deep bench

    by John Moore | Jul 15, 2016

    Benchmark, clockwise from left: Susannah McLeod, Marc Stith, Lauren Bahlman, Jeffrey Neuman, Rachel Bouchard, Kate Folkins and Haley Johnson. Photo credit: McLeod9 Creative.
    Benchmark, clockwise from left: Susannah McLeod, Marc Stith, Lauren Bahlman, Jeffrey Neuman, Rachel Bouchard, Kate Folkins and Haley Johnson. Photo credit: McLeod9 Creative.

    To use sports parlance, the founders of Denver’s newest theatre company promise to have a deep bench. That’s just one reason they are naming it Benchmark.

    “We were looking for a name that encapsulated our slogan: ‘Unique Productions. Uncompromising Quality. Theatre with Intention,’ ” said actor Haley Johnson, whose partner is actor and director Rachel Bouchard. “Benchmark fit the bill for us with its solidity, aspiration - and the fun of being able to play on the word ‘bench.’ ”

    Benchmark LogoThe core Benchmark team also will include actors Lauren Bahlman, Marc Stith (Vintage’s Rabbit Hole) and Susannah McLeod (Creede Repertory Theatre and McLeod9 Creative); director Kate Folkins (Boulder Ensemble’s The Few); and playwright Jeffrey Neuman (The Edge’s Exit Strategies). The founders emphasize this is not the announcement of a core creative company, but rather those who will have specific initial duties ranging from social media to marketing to production management.

    Johnson is one of the busiest actors in Denver, having starred in Vintage Theatre’s Henry Award-nominated Rabbit Hole and currently appearing in Spotlight’s Night Watch. Bouchard just completed an incendiary turn in Curious Theatre’s White Guy on the Bus and is next set to direct Sabrina Fair at Spotlight.

    And while the dialogue within the national theatre community has long centered on gender disparity both onstage and in crucial creative decision-making roles, Johnson says Benchmark being created (and largely run) by women is not intentional.

    “Rachel and I respect and trust each other,” Johnson said. “We share the same passion and goals in terms of creating theatre. As we were putting together our initial company, it just happened that we have an abundance of brilliant women – and men - in the Denver theatre community, and we were excited to be able to utilize some of these strong, intelligent, talented female artists. 

    “So while we're not intentionally making a statement, we happily embrace the idea of bringing more attention to - and helping to eliminate - the gender disparity gap.”

    That there is a new theatre company in town is not particularly noteworthy given that start-up companies often tend to appear and disappear in the span of a single production. But that there is a new theatre company in town that does not take the stage until next March actually is. Because Benchmark is laying the groundwork for a lasting foundation.

    “Our initial goal is to raise a full $100,000 before the curtain goes up on Season 1,” Bouchard said. “And our ultimate goal is to double our operating budget within the first three years.”

    Benchmark plans an initial three-show season as well as an annual new-play festival - with a twist. Just as Theatre Company of Lafayette has a longstanding tradition of presenting an annual new-play festival centered on a rotating theme, Benchmark is accepting submissions for its 2017 Fever Dream Festival - a collection of new works in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. More info about the festival is available here

    Benchmark isn’t announcing its christening title just yet, but it will open March 31 at the Buntport Theater. “We can tell you that the theme of our inaugural season is ‘Cultivation,’ ” said Johnson. “We will be offering imaginative and unique productions and events that delve into the nooks and crannies of humanity, encouraging thought, conversation and interaction within our community.”

    Benchmark: Rachel Bouchard and Haley JohnsonMore of our interview with Benchmark co-founder Haley Johnson:

    John Moore: Why did you feel the need to create a new theatre company in Denver at this time?

    Haley Johnson: Denver is a thriving city with a fantastic amount of constantly evolving theatrical and artistic work. This community feels ripe for a Renaissance-esque explosion of art, and we wanted to take a more active role in helping to bring that about. And we wanted to create additional job opportunities for theatre professionals.

    John Moore: What do you want to tell artists (onstage or off), or potential volunteers and audiences who read this, about what they can do to join your cause?

    Haley Johnson: We welcome their interest and look forward to forging strong relationships with them. They can reach us at info@benchmarktheatre.com. We are also hosting an Open House to celebrate our launch at RedLine (2350 Arapahoe St.)  from 5-7 p.m. Aug. 1.

    John Moore: March seems like a long way away. What will you be doing in the meantime?

    Haley Johnson: We will be sponsoring a few events in the interim - some performance-based and others more activity based. Obviously, it will also involve a bit of fundraising. We also plan to create community through partnerships. Not just other theatres but other businesses and enterprises in the area as well. We're really wanting to look at Denver as a whole and not as an island. Also, we are partnering this year with Modest Arts, a college preparatory program, as part of our Youth Arts Initiative. We will be assisting them in raising funds for underprivileged youth to attend a year's worth of classes, as well as providing internships for their students.

    About the founders

    Rachel Bouchard began her professional career at summer stock while attending college at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre with Honors. She has since worked as a director, actor and stage manager in Chicago, as well as at a number of Colorado theatre companies including Backstage Theatre, Creede Repertory Theatre, Cherry Creek Theatre, Curious Theatre, The Edge Theater, Miners Alley Playhouse, Spotlight Theatre, Starkey Productions and Vintage Theatre. 

    Haley Johnson is an award-winning actress, director and playwright who has been actively working in the Denver theatre community for the past 12 years. She has performed with companies including Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Vintage Theatre, The Edge Theater, Miners Alley Playhouse, Spotlight Theatre, The Avenue Theater, square product and more. She recently appeared on screen at the Cannes Film Festival in the locally produced film, Genesis.


  • How a straight man brought you 'Sex Tips' from a gay man

    by John Moore | Jul 11, 2016


    This is the story of how a straight man brought you Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man.

    University of Colorado graduate Matt Murphy is a rising New York theatre producer whose breakout hit is now entering its third provocative year off-Broadway. He’s also touring the show to cities like Denver, where it is now playing the Garner-Galleria Theatre through July 24.

    “As the producer and writer, I do think people naturally assume I'm ‘the gay man,’” Murphy said last week in an interview joined by his wife and three wee children. “I’m totally good with that. And I am kind of a gay guy anyway, because I work on Broadway.”

    A Sex Tips QuoteMurphy, who has been a smaller part of large New York producing teams such as Side Show, Memphis and Altar Boyz, formed his own production company because he wanted a more direct hand in the creative and financial decision-making. He has since turned The Berenstein Bears LIVE! into an Off-Broadway cottage industry. And 10 blocks up the street on New York’s Eighth Avenue, he’s exploring … well, the opposite of children’s theatre.

    Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man is Murphy’s own adaptation of the best-selling 1997 book by Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman. He picked it because he’s a producer – “and this is the best title in the history of mankind,” he said. “You can't say it without laughing.”

    Murphy had been kicking around the idea of developing a show centered on a sex-tips seminar when his wife remembered a book her friends passed around in college. “Something about sex tips from a gay guy,” he said. “So I Goggled it and, sure enough, there it was.” The book had its moment in the cultural zeitgeist when it was prominently referenced in the 2012 film Hope Springs – a sex therapist played by Steve Carell prescribes the book to Meryl Streep as essential reading to spice up her sex life with Tommy Lee Jones.

    The book’s writers were all about a possible stage adaptation, so Murphy took on the tricky task of turning their straightforward “how-to manual” into a theatrical story with a beginning, middle and end.

    The premise he came up with is a ‘meet-the-authors’ event, with Anderson himself as the evening’s featured author. “But the moderator for the event is a substitute named Robyn who is about as mousy and buttoned-up as she could possibly be – and she doesn't know what book she will be discussing,” Murphy said. “As soon as she finds out, she goes ashen white and wants to get out of there as quickly as possible. But she forges on and attempts to engage Anderson in a scholarly discussion.”

    The author has other ideas. He wants to give the audience a full-on sex-tips seminar complete with props and audience interaction and visuals and sound effects and exploding confetti cannons.

    “And then the third character is this sexy, hunky stage assistant named Stefan, and it’s clear that Robyn has an attraction for one him,” Murphy said. “And so our gay man spends the evening not only teaching sex tips to the audience, but also encouraging Robyn to act on her own passions and go for what she wants. Dan really helps her find her inner tiger.”

    The play, he said, makes for the ultimate girls night out. Denver Center theatergoers might naturally equate Sex Tips with the popular Dixie’s Tupperware Party franchise that has visited the Galleria four times.

    “The difference is that with Dixie, the title brings you in. And then you are actually kind of shocked because the show is more risqué than you would think that title suggests,” Murphy said. “Our show is actually the opposite. Our title is shocking, but when you come into the show, you find that it’s really a romantic comedy with some sex tips speckled throughout.”

    Murphy’s anachronistic ride from Indiana to Boulder to becoming a producing partner on Broadway's 2010 Tony Award winning Best Musical Memphis took an unlikely (but essential) turn through Steamboat Springs.

    Murphy moved to Colorado in 1996 to study Anthropology and Classical Guitar. He was President of the CU Hiking Club and played in several music ensembles, both as a guitarist and percussionist. He studied white-face capuchin monkeys abroad and was the stage manager for the CU opera program. No wonder he was destined to create theatre as antithetical as The Berenstein Bears and Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Guy.

    Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. Photo by Jeremy Shaffer
    From 'Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man.' Photo by Jeremy Shaffer.

    His path changed when he took a class on the history of musical theatre from CU Theatre Professor Bud Coleman. “I loved that he was talking about Jerome Robbins and Harold Prince and George Abbott and Michael Bennett and Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter and all these people who shaped what theatre was,” Murphy said. “But I was specifically interested in the producers and the directors. I had never realized that those were actual positions in the theatre.”

    After reading Prince’s biography A Life in the Theatre, Murphy was hooked. And his new passion sabotaged his immediate postgraduate goal of moving to Steamboat Springs to be a ski bum. “I wasn't a very good ski bum, because I got immediately involved with the local theatre there,” he said.

    Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. Photo by Jeremy ShafferOn his second day in Steamboat Springs, Murphy went to a board meeting for the Steamboat Community Players, where he learned the troupe not only didn't have anyone to direct or produce the winter musical - they didn’t even have a winter musical in mind. “I raised my hand and said, ‘I'll do it – and I want to do Little Shop of Horrors,’ " Murphy said. "And they were like, ‘Who the (bleep) are you? Oh, and … yes!’ ”

    Murphy produced what he calls "a perfect run." Little Shop of Horrors sold out and the run was extended, selling nearly 10,000 tickets in a town of just 12,000. Murphy had written himself a smart advance deal that seemed absurd at the time, but instead turned into a tidy paycheck. A producer was born.

    “That was my first taste of a hit. We were the toast of the town,” he said.

    So naturally, he thought, “Let’s go take over Broadway.”

    There were some hard knocks to come, but Murphy soon found his way by creating a musical for kids called Virtually Me that toured on the educational circuit, raising awareness about technology, texting, social media and cyber-bullying.

    Now he’s riding the Sex Tips wave, which is still going strong in New York while also touring the country – every producer’s dream. He admits it is a show that appeals mostly to straight women (and their gay best friends), but he says straight men both enjoy the lighthearted innuendo and also inevitably pick up a tip or two probably no one ever taught them about, say, hygiene and the effectiveness of their pick-up lines.

    Murphy said Sex Tips is certainly a show of its moment, with social attitudes about the gay community changing radically alongside an explosion of television exposure as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage.

    “I do feel like we really are the right show at the right time,” he said. “It is acceptable to a lot more people now than it would have been even five years ago. It's also in vogue to be exploring gay culture right now. And I am proud that we are a part of pushing that envelope.”

    But the message of the show, he said, is more universal.

    "It's about really going after what you want and being yourself," he said. "That applies to everyone."

    Murphy was asked about a potential Sex Tips theatregoer who wanted to know whether the show would make for a good date night – making it clear that she was not yet sleeping with the man she is dating.

    “I kind of feel like if you're not sleeping with him yet,” Murphy said, “then this show might help you get there.”

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

    Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man: Ticket information
    • Through July 24
    • Garner Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    Official web site
  • Ann Guilbert: Denver's next-door neighbor passes away

    by John Moore | Jul 08, 2016
    Remembering Ann Guilbert

    A photo retrospective of Ann Guilbert's stage work at the Denver Center. To see more, press the forward arrow on the image above.

    Ann Guilbert was best known in the 1960s as America’s next-door neighbor on The Dick Van Dyke Show. But over 11 years, she was Denver’s next-door neighbor, performing in 14 plays on multiple Denver Center stages.

    “Annie was absolutely typecast as the friendly neighbor,” said longtime DCPA Theatre Company stage manager Chris Ewing. “She would literally go around backstage asking people, ‘Do you need a cup of sugar?’ ”

    Ann Guilbert Dick Van Dyke ShowGuilbert, who played perky Millie Helper on the classic TV sit-com from 1961-66, died of cancer on June 14 in Los Angeles. She was 87.

    “She was a great lady,” said Jacqueline Antaramian, Guilbert's frequent acting partner in Denver. “Always with a kind heart, good humor, a gracious presence and a beautiful soul.“

    Guilbert (pronounced “Gilbert”) acknowledged and appreciated America’s recognition of her as Millie, Ewing said. “But she was so much more than that as a theatre person.” 

    Guilbert performed in several seminal DCPA productions between 1984-94. She played Dolly Levi in Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker play (a precursor to the musical Hello, Dolly!), Estragon opposite Kathleen M. Brady in a gender-bending Waiting for Godot, and Miss Helen in Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca. She also helped launch the Denver world premieres of two plays from Mark Harelik’s The Immigrant series, which the DCPA later developed into a musical.

    “She was the ultimate pro,” Ewing said. “She would come in with her lines memorized before the first rehearsal. As you might expect, she was also a natural comic, and she could break the tension in a room with a one-liner.”

    She was also, added former DCPA crew member Michelle Olguin, everyone’s favorite smoke buddy.

    Kathleen M. Brady and Ann Guilbert in 'Waiting for Godot' at the DCPA in 1988.

    Guilbert’s final performance at the Denver Center was a personal and innovative retrospective of her life and career called Life Lines, directed and developed by Randal Myler. It was an evening of favorite poems that, when strung together, reflected a chronological tapestry of Guilbert’s life covering romances to childbirth to her life on the stage. It was an expansion of a Guilbert’s own teaching technique - she would often give her acting students poems and ask them to act them out.

    “I've been extremely lucky over the years to work with some fine, fine actresses, but none finer than Annie Guilbert,” Myler said. “On and off stage, Annie was truly remarkable. So full of life. We all loved her so much.”

    A year after Life Lines, Guilbert returned to Broadway in the comedy A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, starring Jill Clayburgh and Richard Thomas. It was her first Broadway appearance since making her debut in The Billy Barnes Revue 46 years earlier. TV Producer Carl Reiner saw Guilbert’s performance in that show and remembered her when he was casting The Dick Van Dyke Show.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Guilbert’s road to Denver, like so many others', went through Santa Maria, Calif., where she met and worked with future longtime DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Donovan Marley at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. While still a busy TV actor, Guilbert sought out stage work to feed her creative soul, and she later joined Marley’s artistic pilgrimage to Denver.

    “She was like a diamond falling in Donovan’s lap,” Ewing said.  

    Jacqueline AntaramianAntaramian first worked with Guilbert at the PCPA on Marley’s production of Blood Wedding. It was directed by Laird Williamson and designed by Andrew Yelusich – two others who would become key figures in DCPA Theatre Company history. “I will never forget that experience for a myriad of reasons,” said Antarmian, who played The Wife opposite Harelik in that play. “It blew everyone's mind who saw it. It was truly one for the American Theatre history books.” 

    Seven years later in Denver, Guilbert and Antaramian starred in the DCPA’s The Road to Mecca, the apartheid-era story of an elderly South African named Miss Helen fighting for the freedom to live on her own and express herself artistically.

    “I was maybe 27 at the time; still growing into who I was going to be as an actress and human being,” said Antaramian, whose character championed Miss Helen’s cause. “Playing that role was very challenging, and Annie was my exceptional partner and mentor.

    "She was a true example of what it was to have grace, intelligence, humor and heart as you navigate through a beautiful, difficult journey of storytelling," added Antaramian, who is currently playing Volumnia in Coriolanus at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

    Guilbert also performed frequently at the Denver Center with her second husband, the vaudevillian comic Guy Raymond, who died in 1997. He won rave reviews for his performance opposite his wife in The Immigrant plays, which later toured the country.

    "When we get on stage, there's a chemistry involved that wouldn't be there between two people who weren't married," Raymond told The Los Angeles Times in 1996. "An arch of an eyebrow has meaning to us. It's very easy - and it's fun."

    Guilbert was born Oct. 16, 1928, in Minneapolis. She graduated from Stanford University’s Department of Speech and Drama, where she met the producer and actor George Eckstein. They married and had two daughters who survive her: Actor Hallie Todd and Nora Eckstein, a writer, actor and acting teacher. The couple divorced in 1966.

    In the 1990s, Guilbert was a regular on the CBS sitcom The Nanny playing Fran Drescher’s feisty grandmother, Yetta. She was in Nicole Holofcener’s 2010 movie Please Give, a Sundance Film Festival selection, and on the HBO series Getting On. Most recently, she appeared on the CBS comedy Life in Pieces.

    “The world is a bit dimmer without Annie in it,” said Antaramian. “But her light graces all of us who knew her and had the great fortune to work with her, laugh with her and be around her.”   

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

    News reports contributed to this report.

    Ann Guilbert at the Denver Center:
    Play, role, season
    Female Entertainer, The Old Woman, 1984-85
    The Immigrant, Ima Perry, 1984-85
    Woman Without a Name, Woman, 1985
    The Immigrant, Ima Perry, 1985-86
    Koozy's Piece, Grammie 1987-88
    A Lie of the Mind, Lorraine, 1987-88
    Holiday Memories, Ms. Prothro and Woman, 1987-88
    Waiting for Godot, Estragon, 1988-89
    Matchmaker, Dolly Levi, 1988-89
    The Road to Mecca, Miss Helen, 1989-90
    Three Men on a Horse, Mabel, 1989-90
    Arsenic & Old Lace, Abby Brewster, 1991-92
    To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie Atkinson, 1991-92
    Lifelines, as herself, 1993-94

    Click here to see Ann Guilbert's full TV and movie resume on IMDB.com
  • Diane Paulus on the rise of 'adventure theatre'

    by John Moore | Jul 07, 2016

    A video look at 'Sweet & Lucky.'

    Theatre that does not take place in a traditional performance space has been called lots of ambiguous things, including “immersive theatre,” “environmental theatre” and even the primly phrased “promenade theatre.”

    But Diane Paulus – one of the nation’s leading purveyors of this emerging form and, according to Time Magazine one of the 100 most influential people in the world - may have nailed it.

    “I call it adventure theatre,” said Paulus.

    Diane Paulus Quote. Sweet And Lucky. This fun and fluid new theatregoing genre essentially describes tales that are being told in new spaces where audience are fully integrated into the storytelling. In short, it’s theatre that gets you on your feet. And it can happen anywhere.

    And much of the American theatre braintrust is banking on this growing phenomenon to seduce sensory-overloaded millennials into becoming the next generation of live theatregoers. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, for example, has captured the fancy of adventurous attendees of Sweet & Lucky – at once the company’s first foray into immersive theatre, as well as the largest physical undertaking in its nearly 40-year history.

    Sweet & Lucky takes place in a sprawling, 16,000-square-foot warehouse on Brighton Boulevard where audiences step into a mysterious antique store and plunge into a labyrinth of dreamlike encounters. The unusual experience has sold out nearly every performance since its May opening, and has been extended through Aug. 7.

    Paulus thinks she knows why.

    (Photo at right of Diane Paulus by Susan Lapides.)

    “We are at a moment where the ‘presentness’ of theatre is more important than ever,” said Paulus, who brought the London theatrical phenomenon Sleep No More to America in 2011 on its way to New York, where it has been playing in an abandoned, five-story warehouse in Manhattan’s meatpacking district since 2011. It’s a movement-based piece (meaning lots of dance) that takes its story from Macbeth and Hitchcock's thrillers. The audience is let loose to follow stories and characters at their own pace. So they may or may not discover the lunatic asylum, the padded cell or the taxidermist’s menagerie. And they may or may not witness a hanging, an act of domestic violence or boldly peer over the shoulder of a lone actor typing out a letter at his desk.

    “The idea is that as the audience, your presence matters. That is the definition of immersive theatre,” Paulus told the DCPA’s NewsCenter. “You get up. You walk around. You chase Macbeth down a hallway after he has committed a murder. You are a character. You, as an audience member, are as important as the action.”

    Sweet And Lucky. Diana Dresser. Patrick Mueller. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.
    Diana Dresser and Patrick Mueller in 'Sweet and Lucky.'  Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.

    Paulus got her start 20 years ago in the first New York International Fringe Festival with a piece called The Community Show that played out on Lower East Side fire escapes. She is known to Denver audiences for having launched the kinetic, gymnastic new national touring production of Pippin in Denver in 2014. Her work returns in December when her newest touring production, Finding Neverland, arrives at the Buell Theatre. That Broadway musical tells how playwright J.M. Barrie found his inspiration to create Peter Pan.

    When Paulus was named artistic director of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., in 2009, she made waves with her unorthodox first two shows. One was a disco-themed, avant-garde nightclub experience called The Donkey Show. The other was Sleep No More, which requires audience members to wear anonymity masks throughout.

    Purchase Sweet & Lucky tickets here

    Sweet & Lucky was developed by Off-Center, the DCPA's  unconventional programming arm, in collaboration Brooklyn’s Third Rail Projects, which since 2001 has emerged as one of the nation’s foremost companies in creating site-specific, performances. Its still-running, breakout hit is titled Then She Fell, an intimate exploration of Lewis Carroll’s writings set in a cramped hospital ward – an experience so intimate, it can accommodate only 15 audience members per performance. Then She Fell was named one of the Top 10 shows of 2012 by The New York Times. Third Rail Projects has since opened The Grand Paradise in New York and Sweet & Lucky in Denver.

    Sweet & Lucky explores the fragility of memory by having audience members follow performers through a wide array of intricately designed environments, where they witness a series of seductive and haunting flashbacks involving characters they catch glimpses of over decades.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Denver native Zach Morris, one of Third Rail Projects’ three founders, believes there is an appetite for stories that allow an audience to explore various kinds of storytelling threads that are happening simultaneously. “I also think that because of all of the amazing advances in our technology, we’re craving human-to-human interaction,” he said.

    Paulus could not agree more. “I think it's satisfying a desire in our culture right now for audiences to participate in their entertainment, and not just on their computers and their laptops, but in life,” she said. “People want to be present in a room with other people. And they want to have their hearts beat. This is ritual, and the human condition needs ritual to survive.”

    And while that idea might seem sort of radical - it really isn’t.

    “This kind of things really goes back to the very roots of theatre,” she said.

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

    Sweet & Lucky: Ticket information
    Sweet & Lucky plays through Aug. 7 at 4120 E. Brighton Boulevard, with newly added performances. Only 72 audience members per performance. Wear comfortable shoes. Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Note: Sweet & Lucky has its own web site. You should check it out here. 

    Please note that each performance is limited to 72 audience members.

    Sweet & Lucky production photos:

    Sweet & Lucky
    To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Adams Visual Communications.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweet & Lucky:
    Sweet & Lucky extended through Aug. 7
    Photos: Opening night coverage
    5 things we learned about Sweet & Lucky
    Zach Morris is home to seize the cultural moment
    Casting announced; tickets onsale
    DCPA to create new immersive theatre piece with Third Rail Projects
    Kickstarter campaign allows audience to dive deeper

    More photos: The making of Sweet & Lucky: 

    Making of 'Sweet & Lucky'
    To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

  • Mann and Weil: How 'Beautiful' bloomed 'On Broadway'

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jul 07, 2016

    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewwCenter

    Beautiful is subtitled The Carole King Musical and contains many unforgettable Carole King songs (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “A Natural Woman”). But this show is a musical anthology that King had little to do with beyond agreeing — kicking and screaming — to let the producers base it on her life and songs. Crazy?

    The other players in this jaunty evening of musical comedy — a breezy mix of nostalgia, great songs, spirited dance and romance from the 1960s and 70s — are Cynthia Weil (words) and Barry Mann (music), good friends of King and King’s then-husband and collaborator, the late Gerry Goffin.

    The Manns’ own romance and marriage is prominently featured in it, often as comic relief. So are some of their compositions (“On Broadway,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”), along with snippets by others and including that 1929 anthem, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” used by Franklin Roosevelt as his 1932 presidential campaign song, but offered here with reinvented Weil-d new lyrics.

    So, what gives…?

    Enter sunny producer Paul Blake, strongly suspected to be the mastermind behind this Beautiful gambit.

    “Yes…! No,” he said, quickly reversing himself. “The phone rang one day and it was the president of EMI music who said, ‘Paul, we own these songs and I think there’s a show in there.’ Why call me? ‘Well, you got the [Irving] Berlin sisters to give you the rights to “White Christmas.” You’re the most persistent producer I know.’ ”

    Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Production photo gallery

    Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
    Photos by Joan Marcus. To see more, press the forward arrow on the image above.

    It was a comment Blake had to live up to. But when he approached Carole King, she demurred. A musical? About her? Too personal! Too private! Too invasive! He pleaded, she hemmed; he begged, she hawed; persisting, he made a commitment: “You say no,” he told King, “I say yes. And if you don’t like it, I’ll kill it.”

    It was reassurance enough to get King to relent, but when invited to a first reading, she walked out. What?! When Blake caught up with her, she said she had to leave; the musical, which prominently features her break-up with Goffin, was too emotional for her to watch. But, she added, she could see “people loved it, it was very well written and performed” and, while she didn’t want to get any closer to the production, she would allow it to go on...

    Beautful Barry Mann Cynthia WeilTime to exhale.

    It took another couple of years to pull it together. The bookwriter Blake wanted, Doug McGrath, also kept saying “no,” but Blake told him what he’d told King: “That’s the first no; we’ll eventually get to yes,” for which he smartly enlisted the help of McGrath’s wife. Bingo.

    “Once we really got going,” said the persistor-in-chief, “it worked!” By then, Weil and Mann were on board and the messy collaboration was underway. McGrath wrote the book, made decisions and song choices, with the others — except King — chiming in, disagreeing or not.  

    Interviewed at their Los Angeles home in June, Mann and Weil said the idea for this musical had started with Carole’s manager at the time.

    “She thought it should be a story about all four of us,” offered Mann, “Cynthia, me, Carole and Gerry.”

    “Because we were best friends and also fierce competitors, we were to have equal weight,” Weil clarified. “Then Paul came in and we interviewed writers with him. When we settled on Doug [McGrath], the first version was about the four of us. But after that first reading, which ended with us getting married and Carole going off to California, everybody felt cheated that they hadn’t heard a single song from Tapestry, which is Carole’s big album.”

    “We saw this was a problem,” Mann added. “Of the four of us, she was the famous one. It was her album. People wanted to hear that story.”

    Ben Fankhauser as Barry Mann and Becky Gulsvig as Cynthia Weil in Beautiful - the Carole King Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus

    King, meanwhile, continued to insist the show should be about the four of them, but by then everybody knew better. “We kept telling Doug that Carole and Gerry were Lucy and Desi and we were Fred and Ethel,” Mann deadpanned, “and it kind of worked out that way.”    

    How difficult was this to sort out?

    “You can imagine,” said Weil, “four people, all with different ideas of what the show should be…” Less difficult, Mann insisted, because McGrath is “a great guy and real talent who was very sensitive to us.”

    Ben Fankhauser (“Barry Mann”) and Becky Gulsvig (“Cynthia Weil”)_Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Weil and Mann have seven songs in Beautiful to King’s 14, and while they would have loved to have more, “we had to go home with it. Carole is a terrific talent and she’s family,” said Mann. “If she were a lousy person, it might have been hard, but Carole is so wonderful, we took the realistic view.”

    “Carole is not someone who seeks to be the center of attention,” Weil affirmed. “The show is what it was meant to be. That Carole walked out of that first reading saying ‘I don’t want to relive that,’ tells you everything.”

    “The musical zips along,” Mann concurred, “and we did get to approve the actors who play us.”

    Beautiful had a pre-Broadway try-out in 2013 at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre selling out its run. It opened on Broadway in January 2014.

    Fearful of her emotions, King did not attend. When Beautiful was declared a hit, recouping its investment in a dizzying eight months, and when her friends told her how much they loved it, King again relented.

    “She sat in the audience in full disguise,” said producer Blake, chuckling at the memory. “No one knew she was there! She couldn’t stop crying. ‘I wasn’t ready for Cynthia and Barry getting married,’ she told me.”

    They got her out of her disguise, up on stage and eventually joining in song with the show’s star and King impersonator, Tony Award-winner Jessie Mueller. It was the joyous capper to an exhilarating evening.

    Some kind of wonderful.

    Sylvie Drake was Director of Media Relations & Publications for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts 1994 – 2014. She is a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times and current contributor to culturalweekly.com

    Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Ticket information
    • July 19-31
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. July 31
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829
  • Colorado Shakes pumping up the pulp this summer

    by John Moore | Jul 06, 2016
    2016 Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Selected production photos from the 2016 Colorado Shakespeare Festival. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen and Gabriel Koskinen.

    The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is bringing a little pulp fiction (not the movie) and a lot of Mad Max (the movie) to Boulder this summer. You know: Love, laughs, guts and gore – only often in the very same plays.

    In an era when many Shakespeare festival purveyors around the country are playing it safe by relying on an ever-dwindling list of about 10 sure-fire Bard box-office titles, Colorado Shakes is bucking the trend by offering up one of its most adventurous slates in years.  

    “We don't want a Top-10 list of plays to explore,” fourth-year artistic director Timothy Orr said. “We want a Top-37 list.”

    2015 was the biggest-selling season in the CSF’s now 59-year history, thanks to reliable attractions including Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V. This year is considerably more risky with the mythic Cymbeline and a feral, fever-pitched (and almost never produced) Troilus and Cressida. Even its safest title, The Comedy of Errors, is being presented with a major, gender-bending twist: The two romantic couples have been cast by actors of the opposite gender.

    Orr says the gamble is working. Nearing the halfway point of the season, he said, “This season could very well pass last year” in ticket revenue.

    “The season is pretty risky, not only in the titles we chose, but in where we chose to stage them,” added Orr, whose outdoor slate includes Troilus and Cressida in the 1,000-seat Mary Rippon Amphitheatre – stories that are more challenging to market because they don’t fit neatly into the traditional Shakespeare categories of tragedy, comedy or history.

    Colorado Shakespeare Festival Timothy Orr

    Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. 

    “There's a little bit of everything in these plays,” Orr said. “No one does them anymore, but they are still highly entertaining and enlightening plays. They just need to be stirred back up to the top of the list.”

    Take for example, Troilus and Cressida, which scholars describe as a definite problem play but Orr calls instead "a dark, funny and sexy satire" — with a Mad Max feel to it.

    “There’s violence and comedy and a steamy love story,” Orr said. “But what makes it so entertaining is when you take all three of those things to their extremes, then it becomes almost like pulp fiction.”

    Colorado Shakes actors with local ties

    He means pulp fiction with the lower case, not the upper-case Tarantino film of “Royale with cheese” fame. The term refers to the fantastic, escapist fiction magazines of the 1930s and '40s known for larger-than-life heroes, pretty girls, exotic locales and mysterious villains. You know — like Shakespeare.

    A CSF Quote Geoffrey Kent 3“We would be laughing so hard in rehearsal — and then all of a sudden, these epic battles come out of nowhere that are really quite shocking,” Orr said. “It's just as funny as The Comedy of Errors, but then you get intense violence, a love scene and a song right in a row. It’s a blast.”

    Geoffrey Kent, who is directing The Comedy of Errors and Henry VI, Part 2, as well as portraying Achilles in a Troilus and Cressida that fully embraces his same-sex affair with Patroclus (Spencer Althoff), says he adores Shakespeare chestnuts like A Midsummer Night's Dream. But  Colorado Shakes “is out to prove Shakespeare wrote more than 10 great plays," he said. And for an actor, getting to work on a Shakespeare title for the first time is like working on a brand new play.

    “It's wonderfully challenging to work on a Shakespeare play you have never seen or performed,” said Kent, also the DCPA’s longtime Fight Director. “Troilus and Cressida was a new road for almost the entire cast, and it made for a pretty thrilling rehearsal process.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    At age 59, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is targeting 2017 for a major milestone. When it stages Henry VI, Part 3 on the University of Colorado campus, the CSF will become the second American Shakespeare festival to have presented the Bard’s entire canon twice. (This year, the 81-year-old Oregon Shakespeare Festival is completing its fourth trip around the Shakespeare sun.)

    “As part of a big research university, I feel it's our mission to explore the whole canon,” Orr said. “And it’s a perfect way to celebrate our 60th season.”

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

    Oregon Shakes turning rage of hate crime into action

     Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Troilus and Cressida. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen

    Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'Troilus and Cressida.' Photo by Gabriel Koskinen.

    Timothy Orr on the 2016 plays:

    The Comedy of Errors
    Directed by Geoffrey Kent
    The story*: Shakespeare’s purest comedy — with a twist. Set in jazzy, sexy 1930s Paris, this new production bends the classic adventure of mistaken identities in a different direction that puts the women in charge ... and the men in their places.
    Orr: “Since this play comes around at most Shakespeare festivals every five or six years, your core audience has seen it at least three or four times. But reversing genders makes it a whole new play. A lot of the jokes are funnier because the language is heightened in your ear when you hear it come out of the opposite gender's mouth. And putting it in Paris makes it even more fun. It's not some sort of bizarre, unknowable setting that you have to adjust to. You can walk right in the front door.”

    Equivocation (indoors)
    Written by Bill Cain
    Directed by Wendy Franz

    Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Equivocation. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. The story: This year’s non-Shakespeare title is "Shakespeare enough." Reluctant playwright and sleuth “Shag” — aka William Shakespeare — finds himself at the perilous crossroads between artistic integrity and survival when King James I commissions him to rewrite the history of England’s infamous Gunpowder Plot. Under the Orwellian gaze of a security state not far removed from today’s headlines, he must find a way to tell the truth without selling his soul. The cast features longtime DCPA Theatre Company favorite John Hutton
    Orr: “We thought this is a play that really celebrates Shakespeare, the man. It takes such a warm and passionate look at what it means to be part of a theatre company.”

    Troilus and Cressida (outdoors)
    Directed by Carolyn Howarth
    Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Troilus and Cressida. Photo by Jennifer M. KoskinenThe story: God-like heroes, embattled kings, doomed love and a sinister, snarky clown mark Shakespeare’s dystopian epic of the Trojan War. Like grown-up versions of Romeo and Juliet all too familiar with life’s stark realities, the eponymous lovers face painful choices in this mythic mélange of drama, comedy and history, set in a world on the verge of apocalypse.
    Orr: It's set in a kind of 'futuristic ancient' Greece, as if these guys have been at war not for seven years — but for maybe 700,000 years. They just keep fighting and (having sex).”

    Cymbeline (indoors)
    Directed by Jim Helsinger
    The story: Cymbeline is a vassal king of the mighty Roman Empire, but Britain herself remains a wild and untamed land in this mythic, idyllic romance. When the king banishes Posthumus — his beautiful daughter’s illicit, low-born husband — Imogen flees into a Welsh forest that still rings with Britain’s legendary past. By turns comic, heroic and harrowing, this tale of gods and villains, lovers and warriors, brings the entire CSF company together onstage.
    Orr: "Like Troilus and Cressida, this is a kind of pulp-fiction experience where something bloody and violent is followed immediately with humor and jokes and a passionate love story. It is also wrapped in this incredible fairy tale."

    Henry VI, Part 2 (outdoors)
    Directed by Geoffrey Kent
    The story: CSF’s annual “Original Practices” presentation will be staged for one night only (July 31) and, for the first time, on the outdoor stage. Shakespeare’s exploration of England’s War of the Roses, which also inspired the hit cable series Game of Thrones, drives toward the conclusion of one of his greatest cycles. “Original Practices” productions replicate the practices of presenting theatre in Shakespeare’s time. Actors are not handed entire scripts. They work from “cue” scripts that are based on the First Folio printing of Shakespeare’s plays from 1623. That means they only know their own lines, as well as the cue lines that immediately precede theirs. There is minimal rehearsal time (15 hours in this case), as well as limited costumes, lighting and props. (Note: This performance is already sold out.)

    *Play descriptions provided by Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Ticket information
    The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2016 season runs through Aug. 7 in Boulder on the campus of the University of Colorado. Tickets are available by calling 303-492-8008 or going to www.coloradoshakes.org

  • In Ashland, turning rage into action

    by John Moore | Jul 01, 2016

    Christiana Clarke OSF
    Actor Christiana Clark was confronted by a racist while walking her dog on June 24 in Ashland, Ore. She later told her story at the local Juneteenth rally. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ashland is a hamlet, built on Hamlet.

    This hallowed burg in Southern Oregon is home to the 81-year-old Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the oldest of its kind in the nation. Everywhere you look is a nod to the 400-year-old playwright’s importance to the economic health of this unlikely cultural jewel located five hours south of Portland: Oberon’s Tavern. Puck’s Donuts. The unlikely but busy theatre scalper who holds daily court outside the festival’s three stages.

    The OSF draws 390,000 patrons a year for its year-long slate of 11 new and classic plays and musicals. Its estimated impact on the Oregon economy is $252 million a year – in a town of just 20,000 residents.

    A Bill Rauch quote OSFWhere other communities have panhandlers collecting change on every street corner, here you encounter players on every block strumming cellos, violins and guitars – along with the occasional tie-dyed hipster in long braids busking to get his dog out of the local pound.

    In many ways, Ashland seems to be an idyllic, modern-day Brigadoon – an insulated, harmonious bubble immune to outside social realities. But on June 24, that bubble burst when an African-American company member had an ugly encounter with a white supremacist. And in the incident’s wake, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, residents of Ashland and now performing arts organizations around the country are asking difficult questions about race in America – and in American theatres. “This is a much bigger problem than one incident in Oregon,” OSF actor Christiana Clark said in an interview with the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More local and national theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    While many arts organizations are scrambling to rectify decades of diversity neglect, the OSF seems positively post-racial. For the first time in company history, more than half of the 90-strong acting company are artists of color. The 2016 season includes the world-premieres of Vietgone (Qui Nguyen’s comedy following three young Vietnamese immigrants in the war-torn, free-love 1970s), The River Bride (Marisela Treviño Orta’s Brazilian fairy tale); the OSF’s first-ever Shakespeare play told through an Asian-American lens (The Winter’s Tale); and The Wiz.

    Actors of color – and their stories – are welcome in Ashland. The OSF estimates 87 percent of its audiences travel more than 125 miles just to see its productions. Those numbers are all the more remarkable given that Ashland is 90 percent white. On the current official government census, next to “African-American,” there is merely an X.

    Clark, an African-American and four-year company member, was out walking her dog on June 24 jamming to the second act of Hamilton with her headphones on – “as I am prone to do,” she said – when a man on a bicycle started circling her.

    “I took out my headphones to hear him say, ‘It’s still an Oregon law that I can kill a (black person) and be out of jail in a day and a half. Look it up. The KKK is alive here,’ ” she reported him as saying. 

    And to make certain he was heard, Clark said, the man repeated the threat before speeding off. For the record, there is no such law, and Clark is quick to point out that a nearby white couple immediately came to her aid.

    Clark would like to believe this was an isolated incident. It certainly does not reflect the general affection she has felt from OSF audiences over the past four Christiana Clark quote OSFyears. "I have never felt unsafe before now," she told the DCPA NewsCenter. But she also remembers being called the n-word by a random driver at a stoplight. "So this is not a one-time thing."

    Not long after the incident, Clark decided to tell her story on Facebook, she said, because of the larger implications of the random confrontation. 

    “I have never had such a frightening and sickening encounter,” Clark says in her video. “I feel sick and upset. You all need to know that this isn’t a theory. To be a black person walking around Ashland isn’t as safe as we want to dream it to be.” 

    In the past eight days, Clark’s video has been viewed nearly 200,000 times. Clark took to social media, she told the DCPA, “because we have company members who are here in Ashland for their first year. They come from Alabama and Mississippi and New York, and they have already felt uncomfortable coming into this very, very white populace. They needed to know, for their own safety, that they are not crazy or paranoid. It’s founded.”

    Our photo gallery from Ashland:

    Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2016

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow in the image above. Ashland Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Production photos by Photo by Jenny Graham for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

    Clark understood that her employer might have taken a dim view of her immediately broadcasting her story on social media, “because it is a business with an interest to protect,” she said. But before Artistic Director Bill Rauch even finished watching the video, he was on the phone with Clark offering his support. “He told me, "Whatever you need from us, you have it. We will stand with you and support you. Thank you so much for sharing this,’ ” she said.

    Rauch immediately decided to shine a light on the incident, rather than safely sweep it under the rug. He and OSF Executive Director Cynthia Rider issued a statement the next day calling the incident a hateful, racist verbal attack.

    “We must respond to this ugly incident as a company and as part of the larger community,” they said in a letter to company members. “As far too many of our company members have experienced, this is not an isolated incident – it is happening daily in Ashland, and all over our country. It’s more important than ever that we show up at events where we witness, raise our voices and proclaim our solidarity as a company and our absolute unwillingness to sit silently as toxic incidents like this take place in our own community.”

    The pair encouraged all employees “to make a stand for love, justice and the power of our voices.”

    The OSF quickly planned and carried out several gatherings, including a company meeting and an already scheduled annual Juneteenth rally, which was attended by several hundred members of the Ashland community on Monday. Counseling was made available to all 600 OSF employees, many of whom participated in a march to the place where the incident took place to reclaim it from hate. On Saturday (July 2), the OSF, in partnership with the city of Ashland, Southern Oregon University and others, hosted a two-hour panel to discuss racism in Ashland and Southern Oregon.

    Even the Ashland Police Department took to Facebook offering support for Clark before she even filed her report. Police now believe they are close to identifying the perpetrator. “But I also know of friends who have been stopped by Ashland police for 'driving while black,' and I know of officers of color within the Ashland Police Department who have had a hard time here,” Clark said. “So I found their response to be ... surprising but hopeful.”

    The incident has thrown this largely progressive community into deep throes of self-examination. And Clark, at present, is being treated as nothing less than a rock star around town. “There has been such an outpouring of love and support,” she said. “And I thank you for your rage, because I believe rage can be converted into action.”

    But that action, she said, must go beyond the community talkingJordan Barbour quote OSF about their feelings. It must include forums and town halls, but also practical steps such as increasing security, creating phone trees, knowing which local businesses to support in any given city, and raising scholarship money for students of color.

    Professional acting is an inherently itinerant trade. Actors with DCPA ties performing at the OSF this season include Jamie Ann Romero (The Legend of Georgia McBride), Kate Hurster (The Miracle Worker), Carlo Alban (Lydia), Benjamin Bonenfant (Benediction) and Julian Remulla (Appoggiatura).

    Jordan Barbour, who plays the title role in The Wiz, performed in the DCPA Theatre Company’s recent productions of The 12 and All the Way. He was encouraged by the OSF’s quick and specific response to the incident, and that the community was both enraged and engaged because of it.

    "What happened to Christiana was intense and it was visceral, but what surprised me most is that it surprised anyone," Barbour, who has spent his entire professional life traveling from city to city, told the NewsCenter. "What bothers me is when something like this happens and someone says, 'This sort of thing doesn't happen here.' Yes it does. It just did. It happens everywhere."

    More local and national theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Clark hopes the incident encourages all performing-arts organizations that hire visiting artists of color to re-examine their responsibilities beyond hiring an actor to perform. Rauch agreed that it is incumbent upon the OSF “to provide a safe space for company members to share and be together.”

    Clark suggested that in addition to telling a visiting artist where to buy gas and groceries, perhaps they should also spend time informing them about the racial history of the community. "They need to know the climate they are coming into," Clark said of visiting artists. Barbour suggested that regional theatre companies hire a person who might essentially serve as a 'diversity liaison' – someone a visiting actor can talk to about what it's like being a person of color in a new city. But in the end, he said, "part of my job is to know where I am going."

    Monday’s Juneteenth celebration, planned by OSF company members to  commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, was themed, “That was then ... and then is now.” Clark believes her encounter with the white supremacist only underscores that point. But she is determined to channel the incident into positive change. Clark, who describes herself as “6 feet of talent and strength,” is playing, ironically enough, the Cowardly Lion in The Wiz, as well as Horatio in Hamlet at OSF this season.

    Addressing the Juneteenth crowd, she said: "In the words of one not-so-cowardly lion: Say what you want to say ... but I am here to stay.”

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

    A brief history of Oregon race laws

    • 1844: The “Lash Law” required that all blacks in Oregon – “be they free or slave – be whipped twice a year until he or she shall leave the territory.”
    • 1848: Oregon’s Provisional Government passes an Exclusion Law making it unlawful for any Negro or Mulatto to reside in Oregon Territory. (This was not repealed until 1926.)
    • 1855: Oregon passes a law preventing mixed-race males from becoming Oregon citizens.
    • 1862: Oregon passes a law requiring all blacks, Chinese, Hawaiians and mulattos residing in Oregon to pay an annual tax of $5. If they could not pay this tax, the law empowered the state to press them into service maintaining state roads for 50 cents a day.
    • 1862: Interracial marriages are banned in Oregon. It was against the law for whites to marry anyone one-quarter or more black.
    • 1866: Oregon’s citizens do not pass the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to blacks. Exclusion Laws were still in effect, making it illegal for blacks to live in Oregon. (Oregon passed the 14th Amendment in 1868.)
    • 1867: The total black population in Oregon numbers 128. 
    • 1870: The 15th Amendment, granting black men the right to vote, is added to the U.S. Constitution, despite failing to pass in Oregon.  (The Oregon State Constitution is not amended to remove its clause denying blacks the right to vote until 1927.)
    • 1948: Oregon Realtors proclaim that ”a realtor shall never introduce into a neighborhood members of any race or nationality whose presence will be detrimental to property values.”

    SOURCE: Oregon Department of Education. FULL REPORT

  • July: Colorado theatre openings

    by John Moore | Jun 30, 2016
    July openings Sex Tips
    'Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man' opens July 6 in the Garner Galleria Theatre. Photo by Jeremy Shaffer.

    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of all upcoming Colorado theatre openings. Companies are encouraged to submit future listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.

    If July in Colorado means hiking, hunting, biking ... it also means a whole lot of outdoor theatregoing, from Boulder to the base of the Garden of the Gods.

    July is also when the nationally acclaimed Phamaly Theatre Company, which creates professional performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, presents its annual summer Broadway musical. This year, because of the ongoing renovation of the DCPA's Space Theatre, Phamaly will be presenting Evita at the University of Denver.

    The DCPA will be busy with three new offerings: Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man in the Garner Galleria Theatre, the national touring production of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical in the Buell Theatre, and a one-night-only Diana Ross concert in The Ellie. Off-Center's immersive hit Sweet & Lucky has been extended through Aug. 7.

    July is a big month for Shakespeare. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival continues the rollout of its its 59th season with Cymbeline, while the Longmont Theatre Company tours its All’s Well That Ends Well, and Colorado Springs TheatreWorks returns with its annual  tented performance at the picturesque Rock Ledge Ranch in Colorado Springs. This year's offering is Antony and Cleopatra.

    Waiting for Obama, written by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and featuring a cast including Leslie O'Carroll, Laurence Curry and Chris Kendall, will be presented as free "open rehearsal" run-throughs at the Buntport Theater and Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins on its way to the New York International Fringe Festival in August. 

    There are many special events planned for the month, led by the Colorado Theatre Guild's annual Henry Awards honoring outstanding achievement in local theatre. This years gala, July 18, will be the first at the PACE Center in Parker.

    Also look for the first All-Colorado Theatre Picnic at City Park Jazz. Join your friends from throughout the theatre community for games, sack races, a balloon toss, a bar-be-cue set up and more, culminating with the regularly scheduled concert performance. The party, from 4-8 p.m on July 10, is free, but a collection will be taken for the Denver Actors Fund. For information, email organizer Tracy Shaffer at tracyshaffer1@msn.com.

    While many think of the summer as an primarily outdoor entertainment month in Colorado, there will more than 60 theatregoing options around the Colorado theatre community, including 35 openings. Here they all are:  

    July DCPA Openings. Beautiful

    Beautiful - The Carole King Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.


    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    June 30-July 17: Little Theatre of the Rockies' Outside Mullingar
    Norton Theatre on the ​University of Northern Colorado campus, Greeley. 970-351-4849 or ticket information

    June 30-July 16: Lucidity Suitcase's The Archivist
    At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    July 1-Aug. 14: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Cabaret
    At the Outlets at Silverthorne, 246-X Rainbow Drive, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    July 1-Sept. 4: Creede Repertory Theatre's The History Room
    124 Main St., Creede, 81130, 719-658-2540 or go to creederep.org

    July 1-Aug. 27: Thin Air Theatre Company's Pippin
    139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    July 2-31: Millibo Art Theatre's Ice Cream Theatre
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, themat.org

    July 2-Aug. 13: Spotlight Theatre's Night Watch
    At the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    July 6-24: DCPA Cabaret's Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man
    At the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    July 7-Aug. 19: Theatre Aspen's Buyer and Cellar
    In the Hurst Theatre, 470 Rio Grande Place, 844-706-7387 or theatreaspen.org

    July 8-Aug. 27: Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre’s Titanic the Musical
    800 Grand Ave, Grand Lake, 970-627-3421 or rockymountainrep.com

    July 8-31: Evergreen Players’ The Addams Family
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

    July 8-31: Longmont Theatre Company's All’s Well That Ends Well
    At various locations, 303-772-5200 or longmont’s home page

    July 8-17: Theatre Company of Lafayette's The Dali Follies (new-play festival)
    At the Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson, 720-209-2154 or www.tclstage.org

    July 9-Aug. 6: Central City Opera's The Ballad of Baby Doe
    124 Eureka St., Central City, centralcityopera.org or 303-292-6700

    July 9-Aug. 25: Thingamajig Theatre Company's Cabaret
    At the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org

    July 14-Aug. 7: Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Cymbeline (indoors)
    On the University of Colorado's mainstage theatre, CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-0554 or colorado shakes’ home page

    July 14-Aug. 7, 2016: Phamaly Theatre Company's Evita
    At the University of Denver's Newman Center,  2344 E. Iliff Ave., 303-871-7720 or
    phamaly's home page

    July 14-29: StageDoor Theatre's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819, 800-838-3006 or stagedoor’s home page

    July 15-31: Inspire Creative's Grease
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, 303-805-6800 or parkerarts.org

    July 15-Aug. 15: Theatre Aspen's Dear Edwina
    In the Hurst Theatre, 470 Rio Grande Place, 844-706-7387 or theatreaspen.org

    July 15-Aug. 21: Miners Alley Playhouse's Little Shop of Horrors
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or map’s home page

    July 15-31, 2016: Edge Theatre's I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    July 15-Aug. 28: Thingamajig Theatre Company's Always ... Patsy Cline
    At the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org

    July 16-Aug. 7: Central City Opera's Tosca
    124 Eureka St., Central City, centralcityopera.org or 303-292-6700

    July 19-31: DCPA Broadway's Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Buell Theatre  
    At the Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    ​July 21-Sept 11: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's The Wizard Of Oz
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    July 21-Aug. 7: Springs Ensemble Theatre's Titus Andronicus
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    July 22-Aug. 14: Vintage Theatre and Spotlight Theatre's The Big Bang
    At Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    July 28-Aug. 7: Wild Blindness and Bas Bleu Theatre's Waiting for Obama (open rehearsals)
    At Buntport Theater, 721 Lipan St., 720-231-7547 (Aug. 28-31, Aug. 4-7) INFO
    At Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 720-231-7547 (Aug. 1) INFO

    July 28-Aug. 20: Senior Housing Options’ The Last Romance
    At The Barth Hotel, 1514 17th St., seniorhousingoptions.org

    July 28-Aug. 20: TheatreWorks' Antony and Cleopatra
    At the Rock Ledge Ranch Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org DIRECTIONS July 28-31: Little Theatre of the Rockies' The Addams Family

    At the Langworthy Theatre on the ​University of Northern Colorado campus, Greeley. 970-351-4849 or ticket information

    July 29-Oct. 2: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Oklahoma
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    July 29-Sept. 4: Vintage Theatre ‘s Frankie and Johnnie in the Claire de Lune
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com


    Through July 2: Avenue Theater's Bakersfield Mist
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

    Through July 2: OpenStage's The Taming of the Shrew
    At Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Through July 2: Thunder River's Rashomon
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Through July 3: Edge Theatre's By the Waters of Babylon
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Through July 10: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Into the Woods
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com OUR INTERVIEW WITH DEBBY BOONE

    Through July 16: Equinox Theatre's Evil Dead: The Musical
    At The Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or bugtheatre.org

    July openings Collected Stories Little Theatre of the RockiesThrough July 22: Little Theatre of the Rockies' Collected Stories
    Norton Theatre on the ​University of Northern Colorado campus, Greeley. 970-351-4849 or ticket information (Pictured right)

    Through July 24: Little Theatre of the Rockies' I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
    Norton Theatre on the ​University of Northern Colorado campus, Greeley. 970-351-4849 or ticket information

    Through July 24: Germinal Stage-Denver's Hands Around
    73rd Avenue Playhouse, 7287 Lowell Blvd., 303-455-7108 or www.germinalstage.com

    Through July 24: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Chicago
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org  

    Through July 24: Jesters Dinner Theatre's The Music Man
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Through Aug. 6: Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Equivocation
    On the University of Colorado's mainstage theatre, CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-0554 or colorado shakes’ home page

    Through Aug. 6: Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Troilus and Cressida
    At the ​Mary Rippon Amphitheatre on the  CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-0554 or colorado shakes’ home page

    Through Aug. 7: Off-Center's Sweet & Lucky
    4120 Brighton Boulevard, 303-893-4100 or sweetandluckydenver.com READ OUR STORY

    Through Aug. 7: Colorado Shakespeare Festival's The Comedy of Errors
    At the Mary Rippon Amphitheatre on the CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-0554 or colorado shakes’ home page

    Through Aug. 13: Creede Repertory Theatre Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
    124 Main St., Creede, 81130, 719-658-2540 or go to creederep.org

    Through Aug. 13: Spotlight Theatre's No Sex Please, We're British!
    At the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com
    (Performed in repertory with ​Night Watch) Through Aug. 14: Creede Repertory Theatre's The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence 
    124 Main St., Creede, 81130, 719-658-2540 or go to creederep.org

    Through Aug. 18: Creede Repertory Theatre's Kind of Red
    124 Main St., Creede, 81130, 719-658-2540 or go to creederep.org

    Through Aug. 20: Theatre Aspen's Mamma Mia!
    In the Hurst Theatre  470 Rio Grande Place, 844-706-7387 or theatreaspen.org

    Through Aug. 25: Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre’s Rock of Ages
    800 Grand Ave, Grand Lake, 970-627-3421 or rockymountainrep.com

    Through Aug. 26: Thingamajig Theatre Company's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
    Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org

    Through Aug. 26: Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre’s The Little Mermaid
    800 Grand Ave, Grand Lake, 970-627-3421 or rockymountainrep.com

    Through Aug. 27: Thin Air Theatre Company's Darling of the Donkey Derby
    139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    Through Aug. 28: Thingamajig Theatre Company's The Little Mermaid
    Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org

    Through Aug. 28: Midtown Arts Center's Mary Poppins
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through Sept. 3: BDT Stage's Footloose
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    Ongoing productions
    2406 Federal Blvd., Denver, 303-455-1848 or adamsmysteryplayhouse.co


    July 19: The Great Debate: Arguing dumb topics
    July 20: The Narrators: True stories centered on a monthly theme
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    July 27 and Aug. 3: The Impresario (Central City)
    July 28: The Impresario (Nomad Playhouse (Boulder)
    July 28: Musto’s Later the Same Evening (Pikes Peak Arts Center, Colorado Springs)
    July 30: Musto’s Later the Same Evening (at the Denver Art Museum)
    Aug. 5: Musto’s Later the Same Evening (Central City)
    Information: centralcityopera.org or 303-292-6700

    July 31 only: Henry VI, Part 2
    An "Original Practices" presentation on the University of Colorado's mainstage theatre, CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-0554 or colorado shakes’ home page

    July 18: Henry Awards
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, 303-805-6800 or parkerarts.org

    July 25: Screening of Little Shop of Horrors
    Pre-screening entertainment by cast of Miners Alley Playhouse's Little Shop of Horrors
    Hosted by Seth Caikowski.
    Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 7301 S Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. TICKETS

    July 19: Diana Ross in Concert
    At The Ellie, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Every third Monday: Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org

    Youth theatre schedule:
    July 15-23: Seussical Jr. (performers are ages 13-18)
    July 8-9: Jump ‘N’ Jive Juliet (performers are ages 7-13)
    Aug. 5, 7: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (performers are ages 13-18)
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

  • Colorado's Bobby G Awards reps win scholarships in New York

    by John Moore | Jun 27, 2016

    Colorado's The Bobby G Awards representatives Curtis Salinger and Charlotte Movizzo both won $2,500 merit scholarships at tonight's national Jimmy Awards in New York City. And Salinger (just a sophomore!) also has won a place in Carnegie Mellon University's six-week Pre-College Drama program, a prize worth $7,500 in tuition, room and board.  

    Movizzo and Salinger were among six students who won $2,500 special recognition scholarships for their work in the week leading up to the awards program tonight, held at the Broadway's Minskoff Theatre. This is the first time Colorado students have won scholarships at the Jimmy Awards in four years of participation.

    For those with access to Facebook, video of the announcements can be watched here

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    Bobby G Award winners' Road to the Jimmy Awards
    Video, story: Kinship and camaraderie at 2016 Bobby G Awards
    Video: 2016 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Video: Outstanding Musical nominee performances
    Photos: 2016 Bobby G Awards (Download for free)
    Mountain View scales Bobby G Awards' 2016 peak
    Meet your 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Finalists
    Meet your 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Finalists
    2015-16 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'

    A Bobby G Awards 340
  • The Kids are Alive with 'The Sound of Music'

    by Adam Lundeen | Jun 23, 2016

    The Kids are Alive with The Sound of Music:
    A few of our favorite things from the Q&A with Director Jack O’Brien

    By Jacob Pacheco | June 22, 2016

    Every theatre kid has the dream of making it big. And while three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien has proven himself in the world of Broadway, he was once just a teenager. Mr. O’Brien’s high school directing debut of Life With Father was a play written by the same men behind the book of his current Broadway production, The Sound of Music. And perhaps those ties to his teenage past are what allowed Mr. O’Brien to connect with middle and high school students enrolled in the education program at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts during today’s Q&A.

    “It is always impactful for theatre students to meet professionals in various careers in the theatre,” said DCPA’s Director of Education Allison Watrous. “Each artist’s journey is so different in this art form and career. The more perspectives students encounter the more it allows them to strengthen their ability to find their pathway to success.”

    This exclusive opportunity for the DCPA's summer education students took place in The Conservatory Theatre and was led by DCPA Broadway’s Executive Director John Ekeberg. Here are a few of the students’ favorite pieces of wisdom from Mr. O’Brien:

    1.) Hang out with those who do what you love.

    “Although you can learn certain things in class, you have to hang out with the people who do it. You have to stand next to them as they make decisions and you see what it takes. It helps you learn how to connect.”

    2.) Learn from your mistakes.

    “Oddly enough, the one thing about success is that it feels good but it doesn’t teach you anything.  When you try and fail, you learn something.”

    3.) Discover what your passion is, what you do best, and find a way to combine them.

    “I’m amazed that I’m doing this at this point in my life because it doesn’t feel like work. I love working with actors and designers and technicians and writers and composers. And fortunately they pay me to do it. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you love to do.”

    4.) A sense of humor is key with casting.

    “I think there’s a reason we call it a play. When you’re having a good time and you’re pretending and you’re happy, a lot of stuff comes out. But if you’re intimidated and frightened and tense, you don’t expand yourself. You don’t let it out.”

    5.) Casting advice on Technique:

    “I like people whose voices are properly trained, who can sing properly, who stand completely still and are not twisting or looking at the floor and are nervous. I like to know that they are born to perform.”

    6.) It’s okay to say no.

    “If it makes me laugh or it makes me cry then I know it’s my piece. If it touches me, or it’s hilarious or both then I know I can do this. If I can’t get in touch with that as a director to tell the story in a way that would make that happen, then I shouldn’t be doing it. That’s the bottom line: it has to really touch me in someway.”

    7.) Always stay looking for the next thing:

    “When something like HAMILTON happens for instance — who saw that coming? As a result, we’re all wildly excited because we’re telling an American story in an American way that actually happened.”

    A brand new production of The Sound of Music, directed by Jack O’Brien is playing The Buell Theatre June 21 –26, 2016. Students interested in education programs at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts are welcome to contact us at 303.446.4892 or visit us online.

  • Meet Max of 'The Sound of Music'

    by John Moore | Jun 22, 2016
    This week, we are  introducing you to selected members of The Sound of Music national touring company visiting Denver from Tuesday through Sunday (June 21-26). We begin with the actor playing Max Detweiler:

    Meet Merwin Foard:

    • Your role: Max Detweiler
    • Where you grew up: Charlotte, N.C.
    • Where you call home: Mount Kisco, about 35 miles north of New York City
    • Training: BFA from
    • Most recently: 

    1 PerspectivesWhat’s your first remembrance of anything Sound of Music? I remember seeing The Sound of Music at the movie theater when it first came out.  I was so impressed by the children in the cast. I thought Charmian Carr, the actress who played Liesl, was DREAMY! Also, it was so cool that there was an intermission at a movie.

    2 PerspectivesWhy do you think this musical continues to resonate in the hearts of musical and movie fans worldwide? I think resonates today for very different reasons than it did back in the 1960s - our current political climate being chief among them. It will always ring true to the hope of a better tomorrow and the strong family dynamic that's represented in this classic story.

    (Pictured at right: Merwin Foard as Max in the national touring production of 'The Sound of Music' opening in Denver on June 21. Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

    3 PerspectivesFavorite bit of Sound of Music trivia? I love the fact that during the filming of the movie, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumber were so punchy during the song "Something Good" that director Robert Wise had to film them in silhouette to disguise their giggles.

    4 PerspectivesWhat's one thing about you that can’t possibly be true of anyone else in your cast? I am the only father in our entire touring cast! I have two daughters:  Phoebe, who is 22, and Bailey, who's 17. 

    5 PerspectivesHow well do you know Colorado? I love Denver and the state of Colorado. I love that that you can see mountains from almost anywhere. The first time I played Denver was on a national tour of Show Boat starring Donald O'Connor of Singin' in the Rain fame. More recently, I was in Denver appearing in the pre-Broadway run of Disney's The Little Mermaid. I am thrilled to be back here in this fine production of The Sound of Music.


    The Sound of Music:
    Ticket information

    June 21-26
    Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, Audio Described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m., June 25

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Sound of Music

    The Real Von Trapps and the sound of freedom
    The 'President of Theatre' on the enduring popularity of The Sound of Music
    Meet Liesl, Paige Silvester
    Visit the official show page

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

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