• Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of 'The 12'

    by NewsCenter Staff | Mar 31, 2015
    Neil Berg. Photo by John Moore.
    Neil Berg. Photo by John Moore.


    By Douglas Langworthy
    DCPA Literary Manager

    Composer and co-lyricist Neil Berg traces his interest in musicals to an unlikely origin: seeing Annie on Broadway as a boy. “While everyone else loved ‘Tomorrow,’ ” he remembers, “I loved ‘Maybe,’ her ‘I Want’ song.” In an “I Want” song, the protagonist expresses her dreams (e.g. "Annie wants parents"). It’s telling that the budding composer was interested in the song that sets the entire play in motion. Prologue spoke with Neil during rehearsals for The 12, the rock musical he created with book writer/co-lyricist Robert Schenkkan.

    Douglas Langworthy: When did you start writing musicals?

    Neil Berg: From the time I could play the piano, around 9 or 10. I was the youngest of three and rock 'n roll was what I grew up listening to. From my brother I got The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and classic rock. My sister was into folk — Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Peter, Paul and Mary. And my mother and father were into classical, jazz and opera. Being the youngest, it all trickled down. When I came into my own, I was into the classic rock movement. My favorite albums were all those rock operas — The Who’s "Quadrophenia" and Genesis’ "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," but my very favorite was probably Pink Floyd’s "The Wall."

    Front, from left: Anthony Federov, Terence Archie and Jordan Barbour with other cast members from 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. When I got to high school, I chose baseball, but I always loved the theatre. When I got to college my best friend bet me 20 bags of Oodles of Noodles that I wouldn’t audition for the musical. I got into Brigadoon; I was the fifth fellow from the left — I’m not a very good actor — but I loved it. When they found out I could play piano, someone asked me to write my first musical — Ghost Story. My life was changed. I got asked my senior year to compose for Cider Mill Playhouse where I wrote scores for Trelawny of the Wells and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

    I arrived in New York City a little behind because I wasn’t "that “Juilliard guy," but I forged my own path. I auditioned for the BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc. Musical Theater) workshop and got in. That’s how I started writing musical theatre.

    (Note: Photo above: Front, from left: Anthony Federov, Terence Archie and Jordan Barbour with other cast members from 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)  

    Langworthy: Talk about how The 12 came about.

    Berg: I wrote a musical version of The Prince and the Pauper that ran Off-Broadway for two years at the Lamb’s Theatre in New York. Lamb’s Theatre was in a former church, so every day I was going to work in a church. Being Jewish from New York, I was always fascinated by religion; by these new televangelists.

    I was asked if I wanted to write a musical about the disciples, but that never got off the ground, so I came up with my original concept to write a rock song cycle. Christianity and rock ’n roll were both revolutions that changed the culture. With Christianity you have all these splinter groups, just as rock has all of its sub-genres.

    So my intention was to give each disciple his own rock style — one could be Elvis, then John Lennon and Bono. I was working with a producer, Adam Friedson, who had just produced Robert Schenkkan’s play By the Waters of Babylon. When I mentioned that I was interested in taking this into a book musical, he put Robert and me together.

    Langworthy: Once Robert came into the picture, how did the project change?

    Berg: Robert liked my parallel concept, but he felt a stricter focus would be more effective. So it was his idea to narrow it down to the story of the disciples in the room just after Jesus’ death. What happens when you have a revolution and the leader is suddenly cut off? What do the followers do? This became about having belief.

    Then we tried a few framing devices. What if this was a rock band on the verge of breaking up, but before they do they make this one last record. So all the different players in the band would come out and become a different disciple. It was cool, but we ultimately felt it was a near-miss. The device was more confusing than helpful, so we decided to simplify. And that’s where we are now, where the struggle of the disciples is the story.

    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through

    Langworthy: What musical influences are reflected in your music for The 12?

    Berg: This is my love letter to classic rock ’n roll. You’ll hear some of The Who, a little Led Zeppelin, a little Tom Waits. John Lennon’s in there in the song called “Why.” And of course the ending is very U2 — the hopefulness, everything Bono has stood for in his career.

    There’s a gospel song called “Rise Up” that I’m excited about because I was thinking about how the first gospel song ever would have been written. It could have been inspired by the first time anyone thought that their leader was risen.

    Langworthy: Do you have a sense of how this will play to theatre audiences and audiences of faith?

    Berg:  Absolutely. We’ve done a few different workshops in different places. One of them was in suburban New Jersey. A large part of that audience was suburban churchgoing Catholic. Their response to the reading was incredible. They felt this is a part of the story that’s not told. They felt that this story was theirs; they could wrap themselves around it and embrace it. And then we did it at B.B. King’s in Times Square, and they loved it too. If we’re telling the story the way we want to tell it, and everyone can bring their life history to it and celebrate it, that would be fantastic.


    The 12
    : Video montage:





    The 12
    : Ticket information

    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12

  • Meet the cast video series: Colby Lewis

    by John Moore | Mar 30, 2015


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 91: Meet Colby Lewis, who is making his DCPA debut playing "The Greatest": Cassius Clay (soon to be Muhammad Ali) in the Theatre Company's "One Night in Miami."

    Lewis is a basketball player-turned-actor whose very first acting job - ever - was playing Steve in a professional staging of Rent in Wilmington, N.C. He talks about his affinity for Denzel Washington, Voodoo Donuts, and how playing hoops helps him as an actor.

    One Night in Miami
    is a powerful new play that imagines what occurred the night Cassius Clay spent with activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Brown after Clay's historic win over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in 1964.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

    One Night in Miami: Ticket information
    Performances Through April 19 
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily except Monday
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    More One Night in Miami cast videos:
    Meet Morocco Omari
    Meet Nik Walker
    Meet Jason Delane
    Meet William Oliver Watkins


    Colby Lewis, as Cassius Clay, in rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'One Night in Miami.'  Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
    Colby Lewis, as Cassius Clay, in rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'One Night in Miami.'  Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Joyce Cohen, Benediction
    Amelia Marie Corrada, Benediction
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Meet Adrian Egolf, Benediction
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

    Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    James Newcomb, Benediction
    Leslie O'Carroll, A Christmas Carol, Benediction
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies
    Nance Williamson, Benediction

  • Japantastick No. 7: Historic performance before Phamaly's largest audience

    by John Moore | Mar 30, 2015
    Note: This is Day 7 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip that culminated over the weekend with a performance of "The Fantasticks":



    Above: Our Phamaly photo gallery in Japan (to date)

    Phamaly Theatre Company’s goodwill trip to Osaka, Japan, climaxed on Sunday with a performance of The Fantasticks before 1,300 - the largest audience in the company’s 26 years of presenting theatre by actors with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.

    And it was performed to an international gathering of people whose mutual interest is in advancing the independence of people with disabilities.

    Phamaly performs before 1,300 in Japan. “Having that many people watching was daunting, but once the show got started, the nerves all went away, and we focused,” said Jenna Bainbridge, who played Luisa.

    Actor Robert Michael Sanders said that despite a few technical difficulties, it was one of the company’s best performances of The Fantasticks, which it had presented at the Aurora Fox and Arvada Center in the weeks leading up to Japan.

    ​Lyndsay Palmer, who played the Mute, said the curtain call at the end of the show was surreal. “To hear the audience clap while taking my bow was the most beautiful moment and the coolest thing I've ever heard. I truly felt like I was a famous actor performing on the Broadway stage."

    But the most unforgettable experiences happened in the lobby after the show.

    Phamaly in Japan. Bainbridge was approached by a woman in a wheelchair, accompanied by her daughter.

    “She spoke no English, but her message was loud and clear," Bainbridge said. "She was crying and clutching her heart and kept repeating the word arigatou. She grasped my hand and hugged me and I could tell this performance had meant the world to her.”

    The woman searched her bag and took out an old glass charm on a leather rope and placed it in Bainbridge’s hand. The woman and her daughter also gave the actors little handmade origami cranes and roses. “They were so touched, they created presents out of nothing for us,” Bainbridge said. 

    ​The actors were showered with candy, handmade thank-you cards, photographs and chopsticks. Sanders called it “an endless parade of gratitude.”

    After a week of leading dozens of young Japanese, many of them with disabilities, in theatre workshops, actor Jeremy Palmer said performing The Fantasticks was an anti-climax of sorts. “It almost felt selfish to put the focus back on us after sharing it with the people of Osaka,” he said. 

    During the performance, the American actors were shadowed by theatre students from a local Japanese college who “live dubbed” their words into Japanese so the audience could listen on earpieces while watching the American actors onstage. They were assigned this task by their professor, who provided them with a DVD of one of Phamaly’s earlier performances of The Fantasticks back in Colorado.

    “They spent weeks watching our show to get the timing right,” Palmer said. “Their professor told us most of them had never worked in a real theatre before, and they were amazed and intimidated at the prospect - which is why they were working so hard. But they nailed it, and they became another memorable and important part of this trip."

    After the performance, they all had dinner together and exchanged gifts. “Three of the guys even staged a ninja-style re-creation of the sword fight in our show, complete with a re-enactment of El Gallo's death scene,” Palmer said.

    The night ended in a dorm-room style sake party with the full cast, musicians, staff interpreters and guests all crammed into a hotel room drinking sake, talking, laughing and taking photos late into the evening, Sanders said.

     CLICK HERE TO WATCH OUR JAPAN YOUTUBE PLAYLIST

    “There's no question this event has made a difference for many people, disabled and able-bodied alike,” he said. 

    Even though Phamaly’s time in Japan is growing short, “Our work in Japan has only just begun,” Bainbridge said. “Phamaly has sparked something that I hope will continue to grow. One of the young boys from our workshop told me that it is now his goal to create a theatre company like Phamaly here in Japan.”

    As Daniel Traylor, who played Matt, looked out on the crowd of 1,300 at the end of the performance, he wondered how many people in the audience might be seeing a musical for the first time.

    “And even the idea that an audience member with a disability might have had the realization that, ‘Hey, that could be me up there,’ sent chills up my spine,” Traylor said. “All the possibilities of how we might have just changed someone's life are limitless.”

    Phamaly in Japan


    Here are more observations from the Phamaly team:
     

    Phamaly in JapanRobert Michael Sanders (Bellomy): “At first, the Japanese audience did not know where to clap or where to laugh. The sound of that many people in silence was deafening. And then suddenly they learned it was OK to participate. But it is live theater, and that means things have to go wrong somewhere. Stewart Caswell's scooter was having technical difficulties, and it would shut down every time he tried to go up the ramp, which was both terrifying and comical. He played it off like a pro, and everyone adjusted.” 

    Lyndsay Palmer (The Mute): I wish I could stay here longer with my new friends and keep performing The Fantasticks. This country and its people are beautiful, charming and caring. I wish everyone could experience the warmth, the welcome and the care we did. I hope this won't be the end.”

    Barb Lepke Sims (Harpist): “A true cultural exchange program is successful if positive relationships are built among the participants. The Japanese students became buddies with the Phamaly actors. The translators became our friends. The workshop participants became friends with the actors. The two institutions developed mutual respect with each other. And as an outsider, I was welcomed into the Phamaly family with open arms.”

    Mark Dissette (Hucklebee): “For 20 years, I have taken a rose petal to the center of each stage we have performed on said a silent prayer. I raise the petal to my lips, kiss it and then slip it into my pocket for the show. This tradition has been my personal acknowledgement of those in my ‘Phamaly’ who have died. I carry them with me to remember each one. The kiss is to remind me that there has been a heavy price paid in tears to get to this point. I did not feel overwhelming emotions at the close of our groundbreaking show. Just a feeling of calm and a sense of accomplishment. What started on Greg Vigil's kitchen table has come literally thousands of miles. I believe all of my angels on my shoulders would be proud of everyone involved, I am."

    OUR PREVIOUS JAPANTASTICK PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:

    No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins
    No. 2: It's raining yen​
    No. 3: Boundaries created by war can be broken
    No. 4: Overcoming barriers and finding commonality 
    ​No. 5: Making music with total strangers
    No. 6:  Tears of joy as personal stories are turned into theatre

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:

    Phamaly to take The Fantasticks to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director

    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors

  • Video and photos: Your first look at 'The 12'

    by John Moore | Mar 30, 2015


    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA.


    Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen for the DCPA.


    Rock music and one of the most influential stories of all time unite in the DCPA Theatre Company's The 12, which explores the ultimate test of faith faced by the disciples in the wake of their leader’s death.

    Created by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan ("All the Way," "The Kentucky Cycle") with an original, classic rock score by award-winning composer Neil Berg ("Grumpy Old Men," "Prince and the Pauper.")

    The 12 is directed by Richard Seyd and features Terence Archie, Mike Backes, Jeannette Bayardelle, Anthony Fedorov, Colby Foytik, Colin Hanlon, Jordan Leigh, Andrew Mayer, Christina Sajous, Maximilian Sangerman, Heath Saunders, Jordan Barbour, Brad Standley, Gregory Treco, Tony Vincent and  Erin Willis.

    The 12: Ticket information
    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or buy online
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    Front, from left: Anthony Federov, Terence Archie and Jordan Barbour with other cast members from 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Front, from left: Anthony Federov, Terence Archie and Jordan Barbour with other cast members from 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    Our previous coverage of The 12:

    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12
  • Photos: Opening Night of 'One Night in Miami'

    by John Moore | Mar 28, 2015

    Kemp PowersHere's a look in photos at Friday's opening night of the DCPA Theatre Company's One Night in Miami. All photos by John Moore, who was allowed to trail actor Nik Walker (who plays Sam Cooke) backstage before the show. Also: photos from the cast party after the show, including a visit from playwright Kemp Powers (pictured at right).

    The play imagines what happened just after Cassius Clay’s historic win over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in 1964 when Clay gathered to celebrate with activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Brown.

    Clockwise from top left: Colby Lewis as Cassius Clay, Jason Delane as Malcolm X,  Morocco Omari as Jim Brown and Nik Walker as Sam Cooke. Photos by John Moore.


    One Night in Miami
    : Ticket information
    Performances run through April 19
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Our previous coverage of One Night in Miami:
    Video: Bringing four icons to the stage in One Night in Miami
    Video, photos: Your first look at One Night in Miami
    Watch a montage of scenes from the play

    Fourth-graders have tough questions for One Night in Miami cast
    Photos: One Night in Miami is getting ready to rumble
    Video: An inside look at the making of One Night in Miami
    Video: DCPA cast gives shout-out to Baltimore Center Stage
    Full casting announced
    Video: Interview with One Night in Miami Director Carl Cofield
    New Denver Center season includes One Night in Miami
    Go to the official show page

    One Night in Miami cast videos:
    Meet Morocco Omari
    Meet Nik Walker
    Meet Jason Delane
    Meet William Oliver Watkins

    From left: Nik Walker, William Oliver Watkins, Morocco Omari, York Walker, Carl Cofield, Colbty Lewis and Jason Delane on opening night of 'One Night in Miami. Photo by John Moore.

    From left: Nik Walker, William Oliver Watkins, Morocco Omari, York Walker, Carl Cofield, Colby Lewis and Jason Delane on opening night of 'One Night in Miami.' Photos by John Moore.

  • Japantastick No. 6: Tears of joy as personal stories are turned into theatre

    by John Moore | Mar 28, 2015
    Note: This is Day 6 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip that will culminate with a performance of "The Fantasticks":



    The cast of Phamaly Theatre Company's "The Fantasticks" does a runthrough of the show with theatre students from a local university "live dubbing" the show so that when the performance takes place, the Japanese audience will understand the words.


    Phamaly Theatre Company’s first week in Japan culminated with unique performances by local Japanese actors they guided through a series of creative workshops.

    At the start of the week, members of Denver’s acclaimed handicapped theatre company coaxed the local Japanese, most with disabilities themselves, into sharing their true, personal stories. Together, they turned those stories into performance pieces.

    Phamaly actor Robert Michael Sanders called it an unforgettable day of memorable stories set to music and dance.

    Stewart Caswell in Osaka. “I saw people who were really shy come out of their shell and perform in front of an audience for the first time,” added Stewart Caswell, who will play Mortimer in Phamaly’s upcoming performance of The Fantasticks in Osaka.

    “I saw a Hitomi, a woman who has been confined to a wheelchair all her life, burst into tears because she was able to sing a song on stage."

    Caswell should know how meaningful the moment was to that Japanese woman. Caswell has cerebral palsy from a brain injury at birth. He uses what he calls "a tricked-out mobility scooter" himself, but that hasn’t stopped him from acting since age 9.

    “A lot of people ask me why I am an actor,” he said. “I love being able to leap into the skin of another person. But more than that, I love that at the beginning of a project, what begins as a room full of people who don’t know each other transforms into a giant family you call really good friends."

    That’s what’s been happening all week in Osaka.

    "It was a very personal day for everyone," said Daniel Traylor, who plays Matt. “There was a sense of accomplishment throughout the room. Things came together flawlessly. Theatre magic is a beautiful thing. “

    Added Jenna Bainbridge, who plays Luisa: “The performances were so moving that I cannot even put it in words.”

    Added Sanders, who plays Bellomy in The Fantasticks: “There were tears and hugs and the overwhelming sound of barriers breaking down. There were lessons learned and memories made across continents, time, abilities and languages. Yet somehow we all landed together and found our light.”

    Curtain call for the workshop performances in Japan.

    Curtain call for the workshop performances in Japan.


    Preparing for the Fantasticks performance

    After the workshop performances, Phamaly actors conducted a table read of The Fantasticks incorporating theatre students from a local Japanese college who have been assigned to play their “counterpart roles” in the upcoming performance.

    The Japanese thespians will shadow their American partners and repeat all of their words in Japanese. The process is called “live dubbing.”

    “They were a joy to work with,” Bainbridge said. “After rehearsal they joined us for dinner and a rousing round of Uno before bed. At dinner, they graciously helped us order and taught us some proper etiquette. They could not have been more gracious.”

    The day’s lesson, said Phamaly actor Mark Dissette: Lead with your heart.

    “You can travel halfway around the world and discover that no matter how far you go, you can't outrun your fears,” said Dissette, who plays Hucklebee. “You must turn and face them. Lessons forgotten rap against your heart sometimes gently at other times with a rending fury.”

    CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW FOR OUR NEXT JAPANTASTICK UPDATE 

    OUR PHAMALY PHOTO GALLERY (TO DATE):



    OUR PREVIOUS JAPANTASTICK PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:

    No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins
    No. 2: It's raining yen​
    No. 3: Boundaries created by war can be broken
    No. 4: Overcoming barriers and finding commonality 
    ​No. 5: Making music with total strangers
     

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:

    Phamaly to take The Fantasticks to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director

    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors

  • Video: Bringing four icons to the stage in 'Miami'

    by John Moore | Mar 27, 2015


    The actors from the DCPA Theatre Company's One Night in Miami, opening tonight  (March 27), talk about portraying four of the greatest entertainment and cultural icons of the 20th century at varying stages of their fame. Set in 1964, audiences will not necessarily meet the same men pop-culture history would have us remember.

    "What I love about what Kemp Powers has written with this play is he takes these four extraordinarily public figures and he reveals something human about each of them that we might not have known," says actor Jason Delane, who plays activist Malcolm X.

    The play imagines the meeting between Cassius Clay, football player Jim Brown, recording star Sam Cooke and Malcolm X immediately after Clay’s historic win over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in Miami. At the time, Clay was only 22. Within a year, both Cooke and Malcolm X would be dead. Jim Brown was walking way from the NFL at the height of his fame to start a movie career.

    Each man argues his vision for what it means to be black in 1964. The real-life meeting culminated in an early morning announcement from Clay that shocked the world. The play runs through April 19 in The Space Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    One Night in Miami production photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen:




    One Night in Miami: Ticket information
    Performances run through April 19
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Our previous coverage of One Night in Miami:
    Watch a video montage of scenes from the play
    Fourth-graders have tough questions for One Night in Miami cast
    Photos: One Night in Miami is getting ready to rumble
    Video: An inside look at the making of One Night in Miami
    Video: DCPA cast gives shout-out to Baltimore Center Stage
    Full casting announced
    Video: Interview with One Night in Miami Director Carl Cofield
    New Denver Center season includes One Night in Miami
    Go to the official show page

    One Night in Miami cast videos:
    Meet Morocco Omari
    Meet Nik Walker
    Meet Jason Delane
    Meet William Oliver Watkins

    Jason Delane and Colby Lewis in 'One Night in Miami.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Jason Delane and Colby Lewis in 'One Night in Miami.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
  • Surprise: New York Times critics really like theatre

    by John Moore | Mar 27, 2015
    Theatre lovers, this may be the best info graphic you are ever going to see. Broadway producer Ken Davenport (Kinky Boots), who created the web site DidHeLikeIt.Com as a way of tracking the tone of New York theatre reviews, has come up with some surprising data that defies many stereotypes the theatre community holds dear about critics. 

    In the past 10 years, 71 percent of all theatre reviews written by The New York Times were mixed or positive. Only 29 percent were negative.

    The New York Times does NOT hate plays, as has been the reputation of reviewers Charles Isherwood and Ben Brantley for lo these many years. Both have reviewed plays more positively than musicals.

    The New York Times
     reviews do not make or break a show. Yes, while only 18 percent of negatively reviewed shows recouped their investments, those shows clearly had bigger problems than The New York Times . Because only 29 percent of positively reviewed shows recouped their investments. The leader in the recouping category - at 33 percent - were shows that received mixed reviews.

    The New York Times prefers plays directed by women (50 percent) to plays directed by men (43 percent).

    And yes, while I did once win an award for writing a snarky, backhanded compliment of an essay titled I Hate Mamet, I really don't. But guess what? A full 75 percent of Mamet plays have been negatively reviewed by the Times. On the other hand, the Times loves Stephen Sondhem (75 percent) and is middling on Shakespeare (38 percent). Probably unsurprising, they really love Tom Stoppard (83 percent). 

    Pull up a chair and take it all in. This graphic receives a positive review from me:

    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, where he is the editor of a new media outlet that covers the Colorado theatre community.


    DidHeLikeIt graphic
  • Japantastick No. 5: Making music with total strangers

    by John Moore | Mar 27, 2015
    Note: This is Day 5 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip that will culminate with a performance of "The Fantasticks":


    Video above: Phamaly Theatre Company Musical Director Mary Kay Dailey leads four random Japanese students she met in a park in a song.


    Taking a respite from rehearsals and workshops, Phamaly Theatre Company Music Director Mary Kay Dailey and harpist Barb Lepke-Sims took to the streets and quickly found themselves at a loss for words. Specifically a loss for Japanese words.

    Phamaly in Japan. Mary Kay Dailey. “Barb snapped pictures of the station stops so we could backtrack our way home like leaving breadcrumbs in the forest,” Dailey said. But if there is a universal language, it is music. As Daily arrived at her destination of Osaka Palace, she heard faint singing in the distance.

    “Four young girls in proper school uniforms stood in a circle by the entrance to the park. They had sheet music in their hands and they seemed to be practicing,” said Dailey, who couldn't help but ask to listen.

    “Through an awkward game of charades, I found out that they were in a choir and their high school was right across the street,” Dailey said. “I explained that I am a music teacher.”

    And then they communicated the only way they really could.

    “I pointed to the soprano and alto lines of the four-part vocal score," Dailey said. "They were all sopranos. I hummed a note, and we all sang the tune.

    “My entire day before and after was a communication challenge, but for those brief 30 seconds, we totally understood and communicated in the same language – music. I am truly blessed to be able to share and receive the gift of music, for it has no boundaries.”


    'Frozen' barriers melt away in Disney song: 


    Video above: In case you wanted to know, here is how the monster hit song "Let it Go" from "Frozen" sounds in Japanese. Video by Jenna Bainbridge.

    Back at the Big-I – headquarters for Phamaly’s week of cultural goodwill – actor Jenna Bainbridge discovered if there is one more universal language besides music, it is Disney music. As Bainbridge began to try to find a commonality with her assigned Japanese students, she discovered they all knew – and love – the song “Let it Go” from Disney’s global animated hit film, Frozen. And the teacher became student.

    “They proceeded to teach me how to sing it in Japanese,” she said. “One girl was so helpful, that she wrote everything down phonetically so the Americans could sing it, too. We now know it all in English and Japanese, and are eager to perform it in the workshop."


    Lennon song still making, not imagining, a better world:  

    Video above: Phamaly Theatre Company Artistic Director Bryce Alexander directing, interpreted first into Japanese, then into Japanese Sign Language. The final piece has no words but is still understandable to anyone watching. Video by Jeremy Palmer.

    Jeremy Palmer is not only a Phamaly board member but also an actor, director and writer as well. He has headed the company’s now longstanding venture into creating original comedy performance opportunities for disabled actors through ongoing  programs called Vox Phamilia and dislabled. Palmer, Alexander and actor Robert Michael Sanders took three chosen “storytellers” from among the Japanese workshop participants and helped them shape their personal stories into original staged pieces.

    “The first woman had a piece that was already so beautiful and expressive, we all understood it even though it was completely silent,” said Palmer, who plays El Gallo in The Fantasticks. “Bryce added and expanded her movement and it was done.” Later Bainbridge and Palmer added other choral singers at the end as the woman, named Hirowei (“But I can't swear to that spelling,” he says) signed and danced to John Lennon’s song, "Imagine."

    A young transgendered girl with autism named Syuyo asked for a script to read, so Palmer did what he has always done with new Phamaly actors back home in Denver. He let her talk - through an interpreter. Over lunch, Palmer formed his notes into a narrative monologue. The interpreter then read his words to Syuyo’s mother, who then wrote it out in Chinese characters – and then rewrote it again in Japanese characters Syuyo could  understand. A circuitous and successful journey toward communication.

    At one point, Syuyo told her Phamaly group leaders she wants to help others like her, because she feels like she can't express herself.

    “Bryce and I explained that 26 years ago, that's why Phamaly was founded,” Palmer said. “One can only hope that many years from now, Syuyo might look back on this week as a spark that started something just as significant as Phamaly.”

    More observations from the day from Phamaly members in Japan:

    Lyndsay Palmer (The Mute in “The Fantasticks): “After a shaky start, I ended up working with my fellow cast members to teach my parasol dance originally choreographed by Phamaly's Debbie Stark to a full room of workshop participants. And they locked it up in a snap. It brought tears to my eyes to see us all work together like that, in spite of barriers of disability and language. I'm so proud, and I know we will put on a beautiful show together tomorrow.”

    Daniel Traylor (Matt): “I'm sitting among so much passion right now, it's overwhelming. We're breaking down language barriers and constructing a production in a matter of hours. I feel like I'm witnessing passions blossoming that have otherwise been stifled. Something has been awakened in them, and I hope that when we leave, we won't be taking their only creative outlet away. Some of these performers will want to follow in Phamaly's footsteps. Maybe Big-i will be a part of that.”

    Jenna Bainbridge (Luisa): "We went to a wonderful restaurant where our waiter handed us the translation app on the phone. It said, in very broken English, ‘You has pictures of all?’ I assumed the waiter was asking if we wanted a picture of the whole table, so I handed him my phone - and he ran away. He came back a moment later with a Polaroid camera and asked to take a picture of us all to put on a wall in the back. He was so helpful and eager to talk to us that he kept handing his translation app to us so we could communicate. We wrote on our picture: ‘Phamaly, The Fantasticks, March 2015. Wonderful food, Love Stewart, David, Lyndsay, Jeremy, Jenna.’ What a great time.

    CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW FOR OUR NEXT JAPANTASTICK UPDATE 

    OUR PHAMALY PHOTO GALLERY (TO DATE):



    OUR PREVIOUS JAPANTASTICK PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:

    No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins
    No. 2: It's raining yen​
    No. 3: Boundaries created by war can be broken
    No. 4: Overcoming barriers and finding commonality 

     

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:

    Phamaly to take The Fantasticks to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director

    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors

     

     



    Phamaly in Japan.
  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'One Night in Miami'

    by John Moore | Mar 27, 2015


    Here is your first look in video and photos at Kemp Powers' celebrated play, One Night in Miami, which opens tonight  (March 27) at the DCPA Theatre Company.

    The play imagines what happened just after Cassius Clay’s historic win over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston.

    Declining a glamorous party, Clay celebrates with his friends: Activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Brown. Each man argues his vision for what it means to be black in 1964. The evening culminated in an early morning announcement from Clay that shocked the world. Runs through April 19 in The Space Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    One Night in Miami production photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen:



    One Night in Miami cast list (in order of appearance):
    Sam Cooke: Nik Walker
    Jamal: York Walker
    Kareem: William Oliver Watkins
    Malcolm X: Jason Delane
    Cassius Clay: Colby Lewis
    Jim Brown: Morocco Omari
     
    Director: Carl Cofield
    Scenic Design: Lisa Orzolek
    Costume Design: Meghan Anderson Doyle
    Lighting Design: Charles R. MacLeod
    Sound Design: Tyler Nelson
    Dramaturg: Douglas Langworthy
    Voice and Dialect Coach: Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D
    Stage Manager: Rachel Ducat

    One Night in Miami: Ticket information
    Performances run through April 19
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Our previous coverage of One Night in Miami:
    Fourth-graders have tough questions for One Night in Miami cast
    Photos: One Night in Miami is getting ready to rumble
    Video: An inside look at the making of One Night in Miami
    Video: DCPA cast gives shout-out to Baltimore Center Stage
    Full casting announced
    Video: Interview with One Night in Miami Director Carl Cofield
    New Denver Center season includes One Night in Miami
    Go to the official show page

    One Night in Miami cast videos:
    Meet Morocco Omari
    Meet Nik Walker
    Meet Jason Delane
    Meet William Oliver Watkins
  • Four Westword Best of Denver Awards go to DCPA

    by John Moore | Mar 26, 2015
    Westword Best of Denver
    Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen and Terry Shapiro.


    The DCPA was singled out for four of Westword’s Best of Denver Awards for 2015, it was announced today. The alternative weekly produces an annual special edition with a wide swath of both traditional and quirky award categories. 

    Best Ensemble
    Animal Crackers

    Directed by Bruce Sevy Animal Crackers was a romp of a musical, a trifle, a bright, funny nothing full of bad puns, visual jokes and silly stunts. The cats included Michael Fitzpatrick, Celia Tackaberry, Christine Rowan, Jeremy Benton, Stephanie Rothenberg, M. Scott McLean, Jim Ferris, Jonathan Brody, Jonathan Randell Silver, Jeffrey Roark, Shannan Steele, Brett Ambler and Justin Walvoord. Read more

    Best Light Entertainment
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    The Garner Galleria is the place to sit back with a drink in hand, ease off your shoes under your seat and catch some laughs. Read more

    Best Page-to-Stage Adaptation
    Benediction

    Author Kent Haruf, author of luminous novels about life on Colorado's eastern plains, died last fall, and this year, the Denver Center presented Benediction, dramatized by Eric Schmiedl, the third of Haruf's novels the company has staged. Read more

    Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy
    Amelia White,  Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

    Having dressed up for a costume party, Sonia, played by Amelia White, transforms from a down-at-the-heels, enraged and self-pitying nobody in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike into a magnificent sequin-clad dowager. Read more
  • Japantastick No. 4: Overcoming barriers and finding commonality

    by John Moore | Mar 26, 2015
    Japan Workshop
    The first day of workshops. Photo by Barb Lepke Sims. 



    Note: This is Day 4 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip that will culminate with a performance of "The Fantasticks":


    Today the members of Phamaly Theatre Company went from tourists to cultural ambassadors. It was the first of four days of workshops led by cast and crew of The Fantasticks for nearly 100 Japanese children and young adults, most of them with disabilities. They have traveled to Osaka from a geographical region that spans 733 square miles.

    “We were a little terrified that the language barriers would make it impossible,” said Jenna Bainbridge, who plays Luisa in The Fantasticks. “We had to interpret all speech through both Japanese-to-English interpreters and sign-language interpreters. Luckily for us, everyone was patient and helpful.”

    Those barriers, said actor Lyndsay Palmer (The Mute in The Fantasticks) are real, and they are many. They include the language, the culture, and a Japanese resistance to opening up and expressing feelings. “These people are very reserved and communicate more as a community than as individuals,” said Palmer.

    But the first day of work, Bainbridge said, was profound.

    The participants were split into groups. Bainbridge and actor David Wright were assigned six Japanese. Two had learning disabilities, and all but one had varying degrees of hearing loss. “One had no disability,” Bainbridge said, “but she wanted to be an actress.”

    These workshops are covering a wide variety of topics from mock auditions to acting workshops. At the end of the four days, the workshop participants will conduct their own original performance for Phamaly company members in which they will share their own personal stories.

    One woman who is completely deaf told the group she was bullied in school for using sign language, and the only way she could deal with it was by escaping into dance. Two other women then said they, too, had the same experience in school. “And then they all took a moment to dance together,” Bainbridge said.

    The bullied woman also said that she had never liked music as a child. “She couldn't understand it because she couldn't hear it, so she never understood how or why it moved people,” Bainbridge said. Then she saw the video for John Lennon's song, “Imagine.”

    “Suddenly she understood and appreciated music,” Bainbridge said. “Later in the day, she signed and danced the entire song for the group. I was moved to tears.”

    JAPAN WORKSHOP 800 1Lyndsay Palmer and castmate Robert Michael Sanders (Bellomy) were assigned a group of seven spanning in age from 12 to 27. They have a range of performing experience from none to college. Some had mild autism; others extreme autism. Some had disabilities; others had none. “Now add in the language barrier, and we had our work cut out for us today,” Sanders said.

    But Sanders and Palmer learned much, too. “We learned about ourselves and how we communicate,” he said. “As American actors, we relish having our own voice. The culture here tends toward one unified voice where no one tries to stand out, and there's always a reserved group dynamic.” 

    Palmer was sad to hear that many Japanese families don't know what to do with their disabled members beyond simply taking care of them. Some, she said, simply shut them away from the world.

    “There aren’t a lot of known facilities or access to help their disabled,” said Palmer, whose goal for the day was to help her students “understand and feel comfortable with themselves and to open up.” She hopes Phamaly’s example will give the Japanese students “a better perception of how disabled people can do anything and can achieve their dreams.”

    Her husband, Jeremy Palmer (El Gallo), was paired with Daniel Traylor (Matt) to help draw six very different people out of their shells.

    “It was an arduous task,” said Palmer, who credited the help of “a rock-star interpreter.” But seeing a pair of young strangers spontaneously break into a duet of "A Whole New World" from Aladdin – and then turn that into an improvised number complete with back-up dancers and a carpet/rolling table, he said, made it all worthwhile.

    “Thanks, ’90s-era Disney movies!” he said.

    Mark Dissette, who plays Hucklebee, found running his workshop to be tough, but not impossible.

    “The wheels on every show come off at least once, and ours came off at the end of today,” he said. “The people in our workshop are insanely focused, which is grand, and they accomplished so much in a short amount of time. But we learned how tough communication can be today.”

    Dissette took a moment to consider how far he and Phamaly have come since the theatre company’s humble beginnings in 1989 out of the controversial “Boettcher School for Crippled Children.” It was the first building in Colorado designed specifically for the education of the physically handicapped, and yes, they really called it that.

    “From Boettcher to Osaka my mind reels thinking about the shows, the stories, the people who are now gone, but whom I carry with me the journey that delivered us here,” Dissette said.

    Bainbridge was moved most by the story of a 9-year-old girl. “Her mother helped her explain that she had been diagnosed as autistic because she had trouble deciphering different sounds, and that her brain was ‘broken,’ ” Bainbridge said.

    “The mother said the girl was ‘broken’ because she was actually a boy and only thought she was a girl. The girl then told us that she wanted to be a singer because she saw a show once and loved the music and decided that would be the way that she would learn to express herself, but has been unable to start singing because of fear.

    By the time the day was over? “She volunteered to sing all by herself,” Bainbridge said.

    Jeremy Palmer later commented: “If I had a bucket list, writing a monologue for a little transgendered Japanese girl with autism to explain about her condition just might've made the Top 5. Check.”

    It was, in Bainbridge’s words, an incredible day. Sanders acknowledged there is  “much more work to do this week for the teams to come together and create a performance together."  But …

    “Challenge accepted.” 

    Pictured above: Music Director Mary Dailey works with a Japanese student.


    OUR PHAMALY PHOTO GALLERY (TO DATE):



    CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW FOR OUR NEXT JAPANTASTICK UPDATE
     

    OUR PREVIOUS JAPANTASTICK PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:
    No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins
    No. 2: It's raining yen​
    No. 3: Boundaries created by war can be broken

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:
    Phamaly to take The Fantasticks to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director
    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors

    The 1,500-seat theatre in Osaka where Phamaly will perform 'The Fantasticks.' Photo by Barb Lepke Sims.
  • Meet the cast video series: Morocco Omari

    by John Moore | Mar 25, 2015

    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 90: Meet Morocco Omar, who is making his DCPA debut playing film and football star Jim Brown in the Theatre Company's "One Night in Miami."

    Omari is a Marine who, like Brown, is also a former football player (Jerry Rice had nothing on him, he says with a laugh). Omari, who played college ball for Jackson State, found his direction toward acting after returning from war. He talks about how serving and surviving afforded a second lease on life, and he acknowledges the gift by making an international trip abroad every year.

    Omari also talks about performing on Broadway alongside Richard Chamberlain, Holly Hunter and Bill Pullman in David Rabe's Sticks and Bones.

    One Night in Miami
    is a powerful new play that imagines what occurred the night Cassius Clay spent with activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Brown after Clay's historic win over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in 1964. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

    One Night in Miami: Ticket information
    Performances March 20 through April 19, 2015 
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily except Monday
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    More One Night in Miami cast videos:
    Meet Morocco Omari
    Meet Nik Walker
    Meet Jason Delane
    Meet William Oliver Watkins


    Morocco Omari. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
    Morocco Omari, as Jim Brown, in rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'One Night in Miami.'  Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Joyce Cohen, Benediction
    Amelia Marie Corrada, Benediction
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Meet Adrian Egolf, Benediction
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

    Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    James Newcomb, Benediction
    Leslie O'Carroll, A Christmas Carol, Benediction
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies
    Nance Williamson, Benediction

  • Japantastick No. 3: Boundaries created by war can be broken

    by John Moore | Mar 25, 2015
    Phamaly group photo at Japanese theme park.

    Note: This is Day 3 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip that will culminate with a performance of "The Fantasticks":



    Last night, as a group from Denver’s Phamaly Theatre Company sat down for dinner on their second full day in Japan, an older man who spoke very little English approached them.

    “He apologized the best way he could for interrupting our dinner,” said Phamaly Artistic Director Bryce Alexander. “He had a gentle, kind look in his eyes. He managed to introduce himself to us by simply saying: 'I ... 1950s ... Hiroshima.'  

    “He smiled, shook our hands very warmly, and bowed with the deepest respect. He had no other words.” 

    Welcome Phamaly The Americans, representing Denver’s acclaimed theatre company made up entirely of actors with disabilities, had no way to respond. “We were rendered speechless - and not because we know so very little Japanese,” Alexander said. 

    Such are the ordinary, extraordinary encounters the Phamaly contingent is in for during their 10-day goodwill trip to Osaka, which will culminate in their performance of The Fantasticks before 1,500 at the Communication Center for Persons with Disabilities, also known as “Big-i” in Osaka. 

    “It became very clear that being here, in this culture, is so very important for so many reasons,” Alexander said. “That with all of the awful news in the world, there is hope, and love, and forgiveness, and openness between peoples. That boundaries created by war, or poverty or disability, can be broken. That in the end, life should be about living - struggles, triumphs, and all.”

    Added actor Robert Michael Sanders: “Everywhere we go, we are witness to what seems to be a lifestyle of kindness and efficient simplicity.”  

    Actor Daniel Traylor said the overwhelming courtesy is a big part of the culture shock he's experiencing. “People have gone out of their way to be helpful, rather than turning a blind eye,” he said. “One steward in particular never left our side from the instant we got off the plane until we had gathered our bags and left. He never acted as though we were keeping him from something else, and was patient until we said our goodbyes.” 

    Theme of the day: Theme park
    The Phamaly team had a full day to themselves on Tuesday before today’s first official workshop. They spent it at a Japanese movie studio theme park in Kyoto. Some observations: 

    Robert Michael Sanders (Bellomy): “Today we saw some samurai demonstrations as well as films being made. While trying to make conversation with a local woman in a gift shop, I remembered to give her my card that says, “American actor" in Japanese. “As she read, she began jumping up-and-down as if George Clooney had just entered the building. I assured her he hadn't.  But it was quite amazing. The people are busy but never rude. In fact, they are very patient, accommodating and willing to help.” 

    Jenna Bainbridge (Luisa): I've learned children in particular love to talk to Americans. I had quite a few run up to me, yell “hello” at me and run away -- some as young as 4. I can't wait for another adventure tomorrow.”

    Lyndsay Palmer (The Mute): “They were actually filming a ninja movie at the park. We also got to show off our anime drawing skills and have fun in a trick art museum. We ate at a place called Lotteria, which served hamburgers and French fries but Robert Michael Sanders was convinced it was kangaroo meat. You could even smoke in the restaurant, but not during lunch hour. ... We were not there during lunch hour ... Eww!”

    Jeremy Palmer (El Gallo): “We spent the day at a watching ninja and samurai shows. Fingers crossed we replace our sword fight in The Fantasticks with an epic katana blade battle! 

    More on where the conference is happening:
    The Big-i in Osaka. The location of the conference is called “The Big-i," which is the International Communications Center for Persons with Disabilities. The institute was established in 2001 for the commemoration of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992). Among the ideas The Big-i promotes: 

    • Persons with disabilities play the leading role.
    • Promotion of social participation by persons with disabilities through art, cultural activities and international communications.

    “It is a state-of-the-art facility,” said Phamaly harpist Barb Lepke-Sims."We are staying in the Western rooms where they even have heated toilet seats. (Definitely something that should be adopted by the Colorado housing industry.)

    OUR PHAMALY PHOTO GALLERY (TO DATE):



    CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW FOR OUR NEXT JAPANTASTICK UPDATE
     

    OUR PREVIOUS JAPANTASTICK PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:
    No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins
    No. 2: It's raining yen​

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:
    Phamaly to take The Fantasticks to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director
    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors

  • Meet the cast video series: Nik Walker

    by John Moore | Mar 24, 2015


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 89: Meet Nik Walker, who is making his DCPA debut playing Sam Cooke in the Theatre Company's One Night in Miami. Nik talks about his appreciation for British actor Idris Elba, Motown Night at Denver's Beauty Bar and performing in the Flaming Lips' world premiere concept musical, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. "That's one of the best things I have ever worked on in my life," Walker said. One Night in Miami is a powerful new play that imagines what occurred the night Cassius Clay spent with activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football player Jim Brown after Clay's historic win over heavyweight champ Sonny Liston in 1964. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

    One Night in Miami: Ticket information
    Performances March 20 through April 19, 2015 
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily except Monday
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    More One Night in Miami cast videos:
    Meet Jason Delane
    Meet William Oliver Watkins


    Nik Walker in rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'One Night in Miami.' Photo by John Moore.
    Nik Walker in rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'One Night in Miami.' Photo by John Moore.


    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Joyce Cohen, Benediction
    Amelia Marie Corrada, Benediction
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Meet Adrian Egolf, Benediction
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

    Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    James Newcomb, Benediction
    Leslie O'Carroll, A Christmas Carol, Benediction
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies
    Nance Williamson, Benediction

  • 2015 Bobby G Awards announces list of participating schools

    by John Moore | Mar 24, 2015


    The Bobby G Awards, a year-long celebration of Colorado high-school theatre administered through the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, has released the list of 30 participating schools for the third annual awards to be presented on Thursday, May 28, at the Buell Theatre.

    After just two years, the DCPA has expanded the Bobby G Awards into a year-round program. And for the first time, Colorado high schools statewide are now eligible for consideration. One of those new high schools is Glenwood Springs.

    Private and public high school musical theatre programs in Colorado were invited to have their shows adjudicated by professional theatre experts. Participating schools receive detailed feedback on their musical production and are considered for the annual awards show, which is modeled after the Tony Awards. Students named outstanding actor and Actress move on to the  National High School Musical Theater Awards  in New York City.

    For more information, click here




    2014/15 Participating Schools

    School Name

    Show

    Bear Creek High School

    Footloose

    Castle View High School

    Legally Blonde

    Chaparral High School

    Puck's Potion

    Cherokee Trail High School

    The Addams Family

    Cherry Creek High School

    Rogers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

    CIVA Charter High School

    Seussical the Musical

    Colorado Academy

    Into the Woods

    Denver School of the Arts

    Hairspray

    Discovery Canyon Campus High School

    Bye Bye Birdie

    Durango High School

    Les Misérables

    Erie High School

    Shrek

    Fairview High School

    Anything Goes

    Front Range Christian School

    Shrek

    Gateway High School

    Seussical the Musical

    Glenwood Springs High School

    Legally Blonde

    Grandview High School

    Thoroughly Modern Millie

    Green Mountain High School

    Beauty and the Beast

    Lakewood High School

    Hello, Dolly!

    Legacy High School

    Aida

    Montezuma-Cortez High School

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

    Mountain View High School

    Aida

    Mullen High School

    Les Misérables

    Palmer Ridge High School

    Hello, Dolly!

    Pomona High School

    Chicago

    Resurrection Christian School

    Seussical the Musical

    Rock Canyon High School

    Guys and Dolls

    St. Mary's Academy

    Junie B. Jones

    Valor Christian High School

    Beauty and the Beast

    Westminster High School

    Rent

    Wheat Ridge High School

    Oklahoma!



    2014 Bobby G Awards. Photo by Chris Arneson.

    Scene from the 2014 Bobby G Awards. Photo by Chris Arneson. More photos below:



  • Japantastick No. 2: It's raining yen

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2015


    Note: This is Day 2 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip culminating with a performance of "The Fantasticks":



    The contingent from Denver's Phamaly Theatre Company has arrived in Japan after nearly 24 hours of traveling. Upon arrival in Osaka, the only goals were food and sleep. And the food adventures began almost immediately. In the company's words:

    Phamaly chopsticks photo Barb Lepke-Sims, harpist: "We are on major jet lag. We ate dinner last night at 8 p.m. Japan time, which is around 4 a.m.  Denver time. This nice gentlemen (pictured right), who speaks no English, took it upon himself to teach us how to use chopsticks. We are already meeting wonderful and friendly Japanese people."

    Mark Dissette, Hucklebee: "We have arrived. We are tired, sore and excited, but we aren't complaining. It's wonderful. We had a late dinner where a wonderful Japanese gentleman took the time to show us how to use chopsticks."

    Lyndsay Palmer (Mute):
    "We made it! That was first time I have ever been up for more than 24 hours. We are so hungry, tired and delirious, but at the same time so excited and honored to finally be here. We decided to go eat at the mall that is right across the street from us ... and we got lost within a matter of seconds. However, we did find a place to eat, and how we ordered was from a window filled with wax food." (Pictured below.)

    Phamaly 'pick your food' photo


    Robert Michael Sanders, Bellomy:
    "Things we've learned on our journey to Japan: 1. Jenna Bainbridge gets nauseous during takeoff and landing. 2. Stewart Caswell never did have to urinate on the plane. 3. I started getting a little stabby. Our late-night dinner felt like a 3 a.m. Denny's: We pointed to pictures on the menu and hoped for the best."

    ​Stewart Caswell, Mortimer: "The Big I (a.k.a. The Communication Center for Persons with Disabilities) has welcomed us with open arms. They are so hospitable that I'm working on getting my Japanese citizenship, and I'm moving here permanently."


    PREVIOUS PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:

     Japantastick No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins

    PHAMALY PHOTO GALLERY:

    Phamaly company meeting in Japan.

    First Phamaly company meeting in Japan.



    Sister City San Francisco.

    Traveling through San Francisco, the cast discovered the "City by the Bay" is also the sister city of Phamaly's destination: Osaka, Japan.
  • Photos: Best of 2015 'Saturday Night Alive'

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2015

    Saturday Night Alive. Photo by Emily Lozow. The 2015 "Saturday Night Alive" gala raised a record $914,000 for the DCPA's Education programs on March 7. Last year, the Education Division engaged more than 68,000 students of all ages. The gallery above includes some of the best photos taken during the night, including the benefit concert headlined by Jessie Mueller and Jarrod Spector at The Stage Theatre. Photos by Steve Peterson, John Moore and Emily Lozow. (Photo above by Emily Lozow.)

    To see EVEN MORE photos we took at the gala, click here. (Seriously: There are, like,  four times more photos at this link here.)  All photos are downloadable for free in a variety of file sizes.

    Our previous coverage of the 2015 Saturday Night Alive:


    Watch our video podcast with Jessie Mueller and Jarrod Spector (push play)
    Broadway stars to headline 2015 Saturday Night Alive

    The complete 'Saturday Night Stars' video series:
    Meet Roger Hutson
    Meet Susan Stiff
    Meet Claudia Miller
    Meet Fred Churbuck
    Meet Hassan Salem

    Denver Post Editor Greg Moore and wife Nina Henderson Moore at Saturday Night Alive. Photo by Steve Peterson
    Denver Post Editor Greg Moore and wife Nina Henderson Moore at Saturday Night Alive. Photo by Steve Peterson

  • 'The 12': Three days that rocked the world

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2015

    In the video above, Robert Schenkkan introduces 'The 12' to DCPA subscribers. Below right: Neil Berg and Robert Schenkkan. Photo by John Moore.



    Robert Schenkkan quote


    They are perhaps the three most impactful days in the history of man, and remarkably little is known about them: the 72 hours between Jesus’ crucifixion and what Christians believe was his resurrection. It was the birth of what is now the world’s largest religion, with about 2.1 billion followers worldwide.

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s new rock musical The 12 imagines what those three days must have been like for his closest followers in the immediate, dangerous aftermath of the death of Jesus.

    Neil Berg and Robert Schenkkan. Photo by John Moore. “It’s useful to remember how young these people were,” Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Schenkkan said of the disciples. “These are very blue-collar, gritty, uneducated men. Yet their passion and their ultimate commitment to this individual — and the ideas that he embodied — are so fierce that they all will ultimately give their lives for him. That’s a very powerful idea, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

    But The 12, opening in preview performances on Friday (March 27), is not a narrative play. Set against the backdrop of composer and co-lyricist Neil Berg’s classic rock ’n’ roll score, it is a big, loud, crank-it-up-to-10 musical.

    “The culmination of this event in history was, of course, a world-changing revolution of the most potent kind,” said Berg. “Rock ’n’ roll is the anthem of revolution, so that entirely supports this kind of passionate musical expression in our show.”

    What The 12 is not, both men said, is a treatise on religion. It is not a polemic. It does not take a stand on the certainty of the resurrection — although, Berg teases, “Everyone will have their own very clear idea of what happens at the end.”

    The 12  is instead an imagined, human story, Berg said, based on a real historical event. It is set to original music inspired by Berg’s love of classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who. In addition to being a trained writer of musical theatre, Berg has a long history as a touring musician with groups like the still-active Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan. He has opened for Bruce Springsteen and The Doors, and has played at Red Rocks and McNichols Sports Arena.

    Neil Berg quoteThe score he has produced for The 12, he said, is a perfect match for the angst, the tension and the drive of Schenkkan’s story. “It is going to be authentic rock ’n’ roll, I can tell you that,” Berg said.

    The 12 has been described as picking up where Jesus Christ Superstar leaves off, and chronologically speaking, Berg said, that is accurate. However, he says his original musical score “is really an open love letter to classic rock ’n’ roll.”

    The 12 will now join a genre of popular Biblical rock musicals of widely different tones, including Superstar, Godspell, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (coming to The Buell Theatre April 22-26) and Children of Eden.

    “I think The 12 is a different, great addition to that group,” Berg said. “Because the characters are all trapped in one room this story is intense from the beginning. You’re in it. And the music reflects that.”

    Christina Sajous, Tony Vincent and Colin Hanlon. Photo by John Moore.  Schenkkan, who also wrote the 2014 Tony-winning best play All the Way (which will be staged by the DCPA Theatre Company early next year), loves Superstar and Godspell, but those musicals are far more stylized than The 12, he said. “This is a more natural and thoughtful approach to the material,” he said. “Our approach is much less sensational. And, I think, more powerful because of it.” (Pictured: Christina Sajous, Tony Vincent and Colin Hanlon. Photo by John Moore.) 

    It was Schenkkan’s decision not to use Jesus’ name in The 12, and he did it for two reasons.

    "First, like so many details in the Jesus story, we can’t be sure about this but it is unlikely in Jewish society at that time that his followers would have addressed him using his name as that would have been considered disrespectful. More likely he would have been called an honorific like, 'teacher' or 'Rabbi.'  Second, it was done to remove a possible barrier between the story and its potential audience.

    “The phrase ‘Jesus the Lord’ is so loaded in terms of what it will later come to mean. By taking the name out of the equation, it puts the focus back on the immediacy of this very human story.

    “The tendency of the audience will be to look at this event with the weight of 2,000 years of bitterly contested doctrine, and everything that comes with that. We are trying to strip all of that away and say, ‘Wait a minute: What if you were one of these fishermen on the sea of Galilee, and this guy you might have heard something about comes up to you and says, ‘Follow me.’ And for reasons that are not clear even to you in that moment, you do, because there is something about him that compels you. What does that mean? It is kind of unfathomable.”

    To Berg, the central question is this: “When the head of this revolutionary group is suddenly killed, what makes these followers continue on?”

    Robert Schenkkan quote

    Still, Schenkkan understands why potential audiences may feel some trepidation about what is, for now, a theatrical unknown.

    “Oftentimes, unfortunately, when writers have dealt with issues of faith, it’s hard not to feel that there is some condescension there. Some smugness. Some superiority,” Schenkkan said. “That’s unacceptable, quite honestly. I think it’s prejudice.

     “We have tried very seriously to get at this fundamental question of belief and commitment to something which cannot ultimately be proved in rational, scientific terms. And to me, that is a very exciting, dramatic proposition: How does one get there? We have all experienced a dark night of the soul. A time where everything we have believed in whether it is a religious expression or an idea or a cause has failed us. And we have to find a way to go forward. To recover our faith and our belief. That’s at the heart of what we are trying to do here.

    "And it’s why I believe that all of our audience — including members of all various faith-based communities — will find this a story that is not only accessible and respectful, but also very compelling.”



    This video offers a sample of a song from 'The 12' called 'Do You Remember?' written by Neil Berg and Robert Schenkkan.

    The 12: Ticket information
    March 27-April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or buy online
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26


    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12
  • Meet Little Orphan Sandy: From death row to national applause

    by John Moore | Mar 22, 2015
    Photos from the national touring production of 'Annie', coming to the Buell Theatre from April 29 through May 10. Photos by Joan Marcus. Pictured below right are Issie Swickle, who plays Annie, and a dog named Sunny who plays Sandy.


    By Sheryl Flatow


    The adorable, sad-eyed terrier mix playing Sandy in the national tour of Annie is Sunny, a 4-year-old rescue dog who was named by her trainer, Tony Award honoree William Berloni, after the lyric “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.” Like her character in the beloved musical, the canine went from a hard-knock life to sunny tomorrows. But when Berloni found her, she had just one tomorrow remaining: she was only a day away from euthanasia.

    Issie Swickle as Annie and Sunny as Sandy. Photo by Joan Marcus.Berloni came across Sunny when he was looking for a dog to play Sandy in the 2012 Broadway production. He already had two candidates and was asked to find a third. He saw an online photo of Bruno — the dog had been misidentified as male — at a Houston shelter on a Friday and called to ask if he could come to see her on Monday. He was told she was scheduled to be put down on Saturday.

    “The thing about my job is I connect with someone, whether it’s online or in person, and if I don’t take them, they sometimes die,” Berloni says. “A trainer who used to work with me was living in Houston and I said, ‘Go over and see the dog, and if she’s sweet pull her and we’ll get her to New York and find her a home.’ It was less about the dog being a candidate for the show than it was about saving her life. It wasn’t until I temperament tested her — saw that she was friendly, and learned her aggression triggers and how she deals with stress — that I told the show we had one more candidate.”

    She got the role, making her the tour’s lone holdover from Broadway. In fact, Sunny aside, the touring version is based not on the recent revival, but the original 1977 production. The show visits Denver's Buell Theatre from April 29 through May 10.

    Martin Charnin, the show’s lyricist and original director, is again directing the musical, which has a book by Thomas Meehan and music by Charles Strouse. The choreographer is Liza Gennaro, who has incorporated selections of her father Peter Gennaro’s original dances. The new design is by Beowulf Boritt (set), Suzy Benzinger (costumes) and Ken Billington (lighting).

    Berloni, who has trained animals for 19 Broadway productions, as well as television and film, owes his career to Annie. He was an aspiring 19-year-old actor when he was asked to find and train a dog to play Sandy at the Goodspeed Opera House, where the show was first produced.

    “I had no idea what I was doing,” he says. So he trained the dog purely by instinct, which became the basis of the methodology he continues to use. “It’s really more of a life philosophy than a training philosophy. It’s taking the time to understand someone else’s feelings and language, as opposed to assuming they should understand yours. You take a dog who’s happy, friendly, likes people, and deals with stress, teach them some behaviors where there’s a cookie involved at the end, and they’ll do what you want eight times a week.”

    Berloni works only with rescue animals and estimates that he’s saved some 400 dogs over the years. When the animals aren’t performing, they live with Berloni, his wife and daughter on their Connecticut farm. “We currently own 25 dogs,” he says. “They’re either actors in training, working actors, or retired actors. We also have a couple of horses and pigs, a llama, a donkey, a pony, two cats and a macaw. The dogs reside in special wings of our home; it’s a communal living situation. They pay the mortgage, so I figure they should have luxury accommodations.”

    Reprinted from Playbill® Magazine, October 2014. PLAYBILL® is a registered trademark of Playbill Incorporated, N.Y.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


    From left: Isabel Wallach as Duffy, Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly, LillyBea Ireland as Tessie, Issie Swickle as Annie, Angelina Carballo as July, Sydney Shuck as Kate and Adia Dant as Pepper. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    From left: Isabel Wallach as Duffy, Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly, LillyBea Ireland as Tessie, Issie Swickle as Annie, Angelina Carballo as July, Sydney Shuck as Kate and Adia Dant as Pepper. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Annie

    April 29 through May 10
    Buell Theatre
    ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open Captioned performance: May 10, 2pm
    Tickets: 303.893.4100 | denvercenter.org
    800.641.1222 | Groups (10+): 303.446.4829

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

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