• Summit stands in thanks to departing founder Kent Thompson

    by John Moore | Feb 24, 2017
    Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore
    Kent Thompson drew a standing ovation tonight from attendees at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, his last as Producing Artistic Director. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    Colorado New Play Summit pauses to thank
    departing founder Kent Thompson

    To understand the impact the Colorado New Play Summit has had on the development of new works for the American theatre, one need look no further than Skokie Ill., home of the Northlight Theatre.

    Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore"I just found out today that the Northlight Theatre will be doing two Colorado New Play Summit plays in its next season: The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez, and The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson," DCPA Director of New Play Development Douglas Langworthy said tonight during a tribute to departing DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson.

    Thompson is resigning after 12 years effective March 3, leaving a legacy that includes founding the Colorado New Play Summit in 2006 and the Women's Voices Fund, a $1.4 million endowment that supports new plays by women female creative team members.

    Kent Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    “I feel like for the past 12 years, I've had a great opportunity to present many different windows on the world, from many different peoples' viewpoints,” Thompson said from the pulpit of the Seawell Grand Ballroom.

    Kent Thompson. 1001

    The Colorado New Play Summit, which is presenting readings of five featured new works through Sunday, has workshopped 50 new plays, leading to 29 fully produced world premieres as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. Thompson has commissioned 44 new plays, almost half written by women.

    A video honoring Thompson was shown at the tribute, followed by a prolonged standing ovation. "I don't think there are words that can possibly the countless contributions that Kent Thompson has made to this organization," said DCPA CEO Janice Sinden.

    Thompson first thanked his predecessor, Donovan Marley, who grew the Theatre Company’s national reputation as a home for new works with premieres ranging from Quilters to Black Elk Speaks to The Laramie Project. He then thanked his family. Thompson’s late father was a well-known Southern Baptist preacher, and his mother a writer, publisher and editor. His brother is a psychiatrist. 

    “My mom once said we're kind of all in the same profession,” Thompson said. “We either listen to stories to make sense of our world around us, and our place in it; or we tell stories to make sense of our world and our place in it. My dad was really upset by this, not because he was being compared to a theatre director, but because he was being compared to a psychiatrist.”

    Thompson’s father, he said, was not an evangelical preacher, Thompson said. “He was a human storyteller. And he’s who I learned theatre from.”

    Thanks pour in from around the country for Kent Thompson

    Reflecting on his time in Denver, Thompson said “I think the opportunity to tell stories that reveal the world to us in a new way is a great privilege. We have accomplished so much in a short period of time. I want to thank everybody for their support and generosity. But most of all I want to thank the writers, the artists, the actors, the craftspeople, the managers the administrators, and everyone who has made this such a wonderful place for new plays in the American theatre.”  

    (Photo below right: Douglas Langworthy and new Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Praise from playwrights for Kent Thompson:

    Douglas Langworthy. Photo by John MooreLauren Yee, Manford at the Line, Or The Great Leap: Kent Thompson is such a champion of new plays. He is such a champion of new and different voices. He always puts his money where his mouth is and makes sure that the world we live in is reflected on the stage. I feel like he has done so much for new plays, for new playwrights and for young playwrights over the years he has been here at the Denver Center. I can't imagine what it is going to be like without him.

    Rogelio Martinez, Blind Date: I am extremely sad because I have seen this Summit grow to this incredible stage where hundreds of people come in just to see our plays. There's heartbreak because I know this is Kent's vision. I love the fact that whenever we start a Summit, Kent says, 'This is my favorite time of the year.' I think he’s done an incredible job, and he has offered a lot of people a home. He offered me a home.       

    Robert Schenkkan, Hanussen: Kent Thompson is that complete theatre individual. He is a true Renaissance man. A creator in his own right, a director, at one time a performer, and an artistic director. That's a lot of hats to wear, and he wears them all with a great deal of grace and dignity and compassion. He has a quiet sense of humor, which I particularly enjoy, and a real spirit of generosity, which I think is at the heart of his success here at the Denver Center. I think that sense of generosity, that sense of family, is real, and that’s very much a reflection of Kent Thompson 's personality and his aesthetic. I think Denver has been extraordinarily fortunate to have Kent Thompson for this time period.

    José Cruz González, September Shoes: When Kent Thompson first came to Denver, he called me out of the blue and he said he wanted to do the second production of my play September Shoes. And that play grew in such amazing ways. I found the play here. And then he had me back, first for Sunsets and Margaritas and again last year for American Mariachi. When I cane to Denver, American Mariachi was 150 pages long. Then Kent gave it a second workshop last July in Los Angeles, and now it is down to 101. Now, I feel like the play is ready, and that is all thanks to him. Kent has given opportunity to new writers, and given writers a place to do really great work in a great theatre. When you come here, you feel the spirit.

    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.

    Kent Thompson in Denver: A photo retrospective

    Kent Thompson: A retrospective

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the danger of denial

    by John Moore | Feb 24, 2017

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Next up: Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle), author of the new history play Hanussen.

    Pulitzer-winning playwright speaks bluntly
    on the danger of denial in a time of authoritarianism

    In 1930s Berlin, the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolf Hitler.

    John Moore: Let’s first review your recent history here at the Denver Center.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well here in Denver, you would know The 12, the musical that Neil Berg and I created a year and a half ago, which won the (Colorado Theatre Guild) Henry Award for best new work. Great production. It was very successful.

    John Moore: Well, there have been quite a few more awards since the Henrys. Emmys, most recently I believe a $10,000 Humanitas Prize for writing Hacksaw Ridge. (Note: Shenkkan donated his share of the prize to Doctors Without Borders). You are not exactly a late bloomer, but the last few years have been extraordinary for you, really starting with the 2014 Tony Award for All the Way.

    Robert Schenkkan: I have had a great run. On stage with All the Way and The Great Society, and then the HBO film version of All the Way starring Bryan Cranston that Steven Spielberg and I co-executive produced. Also here in Denver with The 12, and now Hanussen. And then with the movie Hacksaw Ridge, which I co-wrote with Andrew Knight that Mel Gibson directed and Andrew Garfield starred in, which is currently nominated for six Academy Awards. … Stay tuned!

    John Moore: We have gotten happily accustomed to seeing you on the awards circuit: The Emmys. Writers Guild of America. Screen Actors Guild. And coming Sunday:

    Robert Schenkkan: I have eaten a lot of rubber chicken lately, yes.

    Robert Schenkkan. Photo by John Moore

    John Moore: The Academy Awards are Sunday night, so let's talk briefly about Hacksaw Ridge, which manages to be a remarkable story of warfare and pacifism at once.

    Robert Schenkkan: It's an extraordinary story, and it has taken 10 years to get it on screen. It is the true story of the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, Desmond Doss. A country boy from Virginia whose faith and principles insisted that he go to war, and that same faith and principles also insisted that he not take a life. He became a medic, and in one extraordinary engagement in the battle of Okinawa, he saved upward of 75 or more American and Japanese lives.  It's a mind-boggling story, really.

    John Moore: That's an fascinating transition into the war story you are writing here for the DCPA Theatre Company. Can you introduce us to the story of Hanussen?

    Robert Schenkkan: Hanussen is based on the true story of Erik Jan Hanussen, who was the leading headliner in 1931 in the last days of the Weimar Republic in Berlin. Hanussen was a mentalist. He had a mental act. He could red your mind. He had psychic powers. He could hypnotize and he claimed he could predict the future. He's fascinating character. Very contradictory in many ways. Kind of Shakespearean in his size. It is always hard to parse the truth here, but it is said that Hanussen coached Hitler on how to be a more effective public speaker, and that he cast Hitler's horoscope, that he was his astrologer, and that he had something to do with the Reichstag fire. Hanussen was also Jewish.

    Hanussen. Jamison Jones. Photo by John Moore


    John Moore: How does his religion play into the story?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's something that he keeps on the down-low while he plays this extremely dangerous game with the Nazis. The play is very much about the human condition, in particular our tendency to avoid that which is unpleasant, or that which we don't want to see. It's about denial, and the dangers of denial.

    You have said very forebodingly that this is not the worst time for us to be revisiting the Weimar Republic. Why is this play that goes so far back into history the right play at the right time for what is going on in the world right now?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's pretty fascinating. The playbook for authoritarianism is an old one. It's pretty well understood. I think one could make a very good claim that we are seeing that play out right now in American politics in this last election. JuRobert Schenkkan Quotest as in the Weimar Republic in Berlin, in the United States in 2017, I think it will be increasingly important for individuals to look to their own conscience and be careful in their decisions. This is not a time to stay silent. This is not a time for denial or avoidance. This is a time for action. 

    John Moore: Who are some of the other historical figures we meet in your play?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, part of the pleasure of Hanussen is that it is a so-called history play; that it is set with events that actually happened and people we know, and in this case there are some very prominent people that we know. Count Wolfe Von Heldorf, Joseph Goebbles and, of course, Adolf Hitler. It's not often that you see these characters on stage, and of course there is so much baggage that they carry; it presents a unique challenge to the writer I think. What can you do with this that we haven't seen before? Or how can you play with our expectations - what we expect that we will see with this? I have had a lot of fun with this. I think I've gotten it right. I think it will be extremely entertaining and very thought-provoking.

    Robert Schenkkan. Richard Thieriot.John Moore: I don't know how much you have to do with casting, but we here at the Denver Center find it enjoyable that the actor who is playing Hitler (Richard Thieriot) we remember as a masters student who played the Jimmy Stewart role in Harvey (pictured at right by John Moore).

    Robert Schenkkan: That is kind of perfect. He's a wonderful actor, by the way.

    John Moore: This is your first Colorado New Play Summit as a featured playwright.

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I have been an observer at two Summits, and I am really very grateful to be here. The way Kent Thompson has structured this is really kind of brilliant. You have the first week of work, ending with a public reading, And then you get another week of work culminating in a second and final reading. That second week of work is absolutely unique. I don't know any other theatre festival in the United States that does anything like that. And it's a really critical for the writer because so often, you are just beginning to get your arms around it just as you near the end of that first week. You are just beginning to say, "Now I see what I need to do." … And then it's over. Well, that's not true here. You get to take the tings that you learned at the first reading and really thrash it out and take all of that complexity and nuance and additional richness back into the text, culminating in a second public reading.

    Sarah Schenkkan. Photo by Adams VisCom. John Moore: This is the first time you have ever gotten to work with your daughter, who is playing three roles in Hanussen (pictured at right by Adams Viscom).

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I am very proud to say that I will be working with my daughter, Sarah Schenkkan, who is a professional actress living in New York City. Obviously I have followed her career very closely, but this is the first opportunity we have had to work together. As proud as I am of my professional achievements, my greatest achievement is my children. So it's a real thrill to be here working side-by-side as a professional colleague with Sarah.

    John Moore: Total right turn here: Going back for a second to LBJ and All the Way, what did you think of the guy who played LBJ in the new Natalie Portman movie Jackie?

    Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line

    Robert Schenkkan: I thought he did a very credible job. I thought that he brought a certain gravitas to it. I thought he avoided cliché. And he did not give us any of the more sensationalized - and to my way of thinking less interesting - aspects of LBJ.  

    John Moore: I ask that because the actor is John Carroll Lynch, and he is from Denver.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, I thought it was a very dignified performance. It was very accurate.

    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.

    Hanussen
    Directed by Kent Thompson
    Dramaturgy by Liz Engelman
    Hanussen: Jamison Jones
    Hitler: Richard Thieriot
    Wolfe: Kevin Kilner
    Ernerst Juhn, Bruno Frei and Stage Manager: Andy Nagraj
    Fred Marion, Joseph Goebbles, Young Man and Manager: Robert Montano
    Fritzi, Katrina and Maria Paudler: Sarah Schenkkan
    Servant, Rudolf Steinle and Nobleman: Leigh Miller
    Businessman and Kurt Egger: Jason Delane
    Stage Directions: Luke Sorge

    Leigh Miller and the cast of Hanussen. Photo by Adams VisComLeigh Miller and the cast of 'Hanussen' in rehearsal. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Building the Wall: A new Schenkkan play coming to Curious Theatre
    Note: Immediately after the presidential election, Robert Schenkkan wrote the play Building the Wall, which imagines the first six months of the Donald Trump presidency while invoking George Orwell’s 1984 and the Nazi regime. The play focuses on the frontman of the new administration, who loses his humanity amid chaos and martial law. It is, Schenkkan says, “a terrifying and gripping exploration of what happens if we let fear win.” The play, starring John Jurcheck and Brynn Tucker (who is appearing at the Colorado New Play Summit in Last Night and the Night Before) from April 4-19 at Curious Theatre, 1080 Acoma St., Call 303-623-0524.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit


    Hacksaw Ridge
    : The official trailer

  • Kevin Kilner: 'The Christians' is for anyone who is on a path

    by John Moore | Feb 23, 2017

    How do you know veteran actor Kevin Kilner? Perhaps "House of Cards," Home Alone 3" or the film that still gets him recognized around the globe, Disney's "Smart House"? Maybe you saw him playing the Gentleman Caller in the 50th anniversary Broadway production of "The Glass Menagerie." In our video above, he talks about them all. Video by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    Kevin Kilner: The actor playing Pastor Paul says
    The Christians is a play for anyone who is on a path

    Through Sunday (Feb. 26), Kevin Kilner is playing Pastor Paul in DCPA Theatre Company's The Christians, Lucas Hnath's new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.

    John Moore: Oftentimes I notice that when a play talks about faith, it parodies or lampoons it. How is The Christians different?

    Kevin Kilner: I would not want to go to the theatre myself if I felt like my faith was being insulted. None of that happens in The Christians. This is an incredibly respectful and very nuanced study of one pastor's journey within a church that he founded that has grown to an enormous size. He's had a cathartic moment, and now he wants the original mission statement of his church to be opened up and broadened to be more welcoming to more people. This comes about because he has had deeper reading of the Bible than he’s ever had before.

    John Moore: What is the epiphany?

    Kevin Kilner. The Christians. Photo by John Moore


    Kevin Kilner: Reading the Bible in Greek, Pastor Paul discovers that the word 'hell' is never used. Instead, the word is Gehenna, which was the name of a trash dump outside of Jerusalem where in ancient times they would often throw the bodies of criminals to burn. And these were our original images of hell. So when you are translating from the ancient Hebrew to Greek to Latin, it gets very tricky. Pastor Paul wants to make this a more loving and expansive and open church, but he is quickly tested by his own members - including his Associate Pastor, who decides he can't stay. He can't abide this new interpretation of the Bible. And that sets off a whole ripple effect of questions that continue all the way into his own home.

    John Moore: Can you explain to audiences who come from more traditional religions like Catholicism how exactly these megachurches can change positions on major questions like the existence of hell simply by the declaration of a pastor? If you are a Catholic, this kind of question just isn’t up for debate at the parish level.

    Kevin Kilner: Regardless of what faith you were born into, every faith talks about being on the road to discovery - both self-discovery, as well as the discovery of deeper truths within your faith. I think everyone, regardless of your background or beliefs, is on a road of some kind trying to figure out what it is that you believe, and why you believe it. And I am including atheists, because choosing not to believe is a belief. If you have ever asked yourself, 'Do I stay in my job? Or is it time for me to go down a new and different path?' then this play will speak to you.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: So clarify the audience experience for me: Is this a church service? Or is this a play?

    Kevin Kilner: It’s a play. But when you walk into the theatre, the idea is that you are walking into a big, huge Christian church where we are having a sermon. Now, first of all, we have a rocking - and I mean rocking - gospel choir and band. We open with 10 minutes of songs, and I promise you, your foot will be tapping, your hands will be clapping and your heart will be beating. You are going to have a lot of fun. Now, you are not going to be asked to participate. You aren't going to be given a microphone and asked to testify. You are not going to be brought up onstage. This is a play. But in very short order, the play moves out of the service and into a series of very private scenes between Pastor Paul and church officials, with a confused church congregant, and with his wife. By then, an audience member might be thinking about the deeper questions the play is raising. But as a theatregoer, you might be asking the same kinds of question you would be asking as a theatregoer attending any other play: "Is Pastor Paul going to find his way back to his best friend? To his wife? To the church that he founded?” Those might be your questions.  
    John Moore: Has your own religious background informed how you have played Pastor Paul?

    The Christians. Kevin Kilner. Photo by Adams VisComKevin Kilner: I was born into the Catholic faith. I went to mass every Sunday and attended Sunday School all the way through high school. However, I went to an Episcopal day school that my mom taught at, so we attended the Episcopal service every Wednesday. So I grew up going to church twice a week. And I have cousins who went to Catholic service every morning before school. Coming here to Denver, our director, Kent Thompson, and our dramaturg, Heidi Schmidt, have introduced us to a variety of super-churches here in the Denver area on multiple Sundays. In particular, Pastor Mark Tidd at Highlands Church has been very helpful in giving his feedback. I have tried to encompass every priest or pastor or vicar I have ever had the pleasure and the honor of experiencing in my life into the role of Pastor Paul, as well as all the new pastors I have discovered here in the Denver area. I am telling you: Being a leader of one of these churches is so much more complex and nuanced than people realize. Even Pastor Mark Tidd told me, "I am still on my own road to self-discovery. It never ends."

    (Photo above and right: Kevin Kilner in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Christians.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)


    Bonus coverage: Pastor Paul is a three-time NCAA lacrosse champion!

    John Moore: You may be the first actor in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA who has been a member of an NCAA champion lacrosse team.

    Kevin Kilner: Ah, yes! I grew up in Maryland, and a cousin of mine had played lacrosse at the University of Maryland in the 1950s. So I was given a lacrosse stick back in the days when they were wooden. I was 3 or 4 years old and I literally used to sleep with that stick in my bed. When I was 12, I was very fortunate that my dad sat me down and said, "You seem to have some real passion for this, and you have some real talent. We don't have the money to send you to college, but you might get an athletic scholarship if you work hard at this." So I was a young boy on a mission from age 12 on. I was very fortunate to play on a state championship high-school team, and I was named an All-American. I was recruited by Johns Hopkins University, and I was fortunate to go there and play on arguably some of the school's greatest teams ever. We were the first team in the game's modern history to win three NCAA championships in a row - in 1978, '79 and '80. My final year, we lost 14-13 to the University of North Carolina, which was really heartbreaking. We had three goals called back, which I am still not quite over. I was an average player but I played with a half-dozen other players who are in the lacrosse Hall of Fame.

    John Moore: Did anything you learn carry over into your acting?

    Kevin Kilner: Lacrosse taught me a lot about being an actor. In any team sport, you are just one component making a complex piece of machinery work. And it’s the same in theatre. You have your job but you have to work in concert with your castmates to make it sing.

    John Moore: You are certainly in lacrosse country here with the No. 1 ranked University of Denver Pioneers so close by.

    Kevin Kilner: Yes, I am. (Coach) Bill Tierney was brought here to the University of Denver from the University of Princeton, where he coached the second modern team to win three NCAA championships in a row. He’s won at least half a dozen now. He has built a brilliant program here in Denver. I really tip my hat to Bill and his program here, because the game is a beautiful game, and it is a fast and high-scoring game, and it has an almost balletic artistry and beauty to it. And the University of Denver is the first team west of the Mississippi to ever win the national championship. I have another dear friend named Stephen Betz, who started the youth lacrosse program down in Telluride. I am telling you: Colorado high-school lacrosse athletes are being recruited by every Division I team in the U.S., including the big East Coast schools, because the game has really spread. And Bill Tierney is really responsible for that.

    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.


    The Christians: Audience Mythbusters:


    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    270x270-the-christians-art-ttA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Plays through Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Playwright: The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    Behind the scenes video: Making stained glass for The Christians
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Video: What audiences are saying about The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    Video: How do you know Kevin Kilner?
    Meet the cast: Krystel Lucas
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    Meet the cast: Cajardo Lindsey
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

  • In the Spotlife: Denise Freestone, 'August: Osage County'

    by John Moore | Feb 23, 2017

    Denise Burson Freestone as Violet Weston and Sydney Parks Smith as Barbara Fordham in OpenStage Theatre’s 'August: Osage County.' Joe Hovorka Photography.


    ('In the Spotlife' is a regular feature of the DCPA NewsCenter calling attention to performers in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)

    MEET DENISE BURSON FREESTONE

    Denise Burson Freestone, who plays Violet Weston in Openstage Theatre & Company's 'August: Osage County,' founded the troupe 44 years ago with her husband, Bruce K. Freestone, who is playing Beverly Weston.  

  • Hometown: Denver
  • Home now: Fort Collins
  • High School: South High School
  • College: Bachelor of Arts, Colorado State University
  • What have you done for us lately? I played Aoife in OpenStage's Outside Mullingar
  • What's next? I will be directing The Three Musketeers for OpenStage from June 3-July 1 with performances at at 907 Worthington Circle. 
  • What is August: Osage County all about? This Pulitzer Prize-winning story centers around the Weston family, who all come home after the patriarch, a world-class poet and alcoholic named Beverly Weston, disappears. The matriarch, Violet (Vi) is depressed and addicted to pain pills and “truth-telling.” Her daughters Barbara, Ivy and Karen are each harboring their own deep secrets. Adding to the family dynamic is Violet’s sister Mattie Fae - who is well-trained in the Weston family art of cruelty - and her husband and son. Tensions heat up and boil over in the ruthless August heat as this ferociously maladjusted family finds themselves holed up in their large family home on the desolate plains of Osage County, Okla.
  • Tell us about the challenge of playing Violet: In addition to being an addict, Violet is vulnerable, vicious, manipulative, broken – the list goes on. Her deterioration through the arc of the play is a phenomenal acting challenge. Violet gets under my skin in an incredibly rewarding way as an actress, and her story personally reverberates through my bones. The “meat” and breadth the role offers is infinite, and it is an honor to wrestle with playwright Tracy Letts’ passionate, honest, magnificent script.
  • What do you love most about this play? I believe Tracy Letts' play is a new American classic that will live for decades and beyond in the world of theatre.
  • What do you love most about OpenStage? As a co-founder with my husband, Bruce, in 1973, this company is incredibly close to my heart. The OpenStage family of artists are talented, passionate and dedicated, and it is a joy to work with each and every one of them, whether a veteran or a newcomer to the company.
  • Read John Moore's 2009 interview with Tracy Letts

  • What do you love most about the Fort Collins community? We believe that true change happens in communities rather than states and nations, and that, through the shared theatrical experience, our community becomes more broad-minded, tolerant and civil.
  • What's one thing most people don't know about you? Over the decades, I have supported my addiction to theatre by working a plethora of jobs for numerous employers. In this journey, every job I have worked has given me knowledge that I have applied to my theatrical passion, whether it is as simple as mastering technology that helps to run the day-to-day business of OpenStage ... or printing, design and layout for marketing the company ... or as complicated as researching organizational culture while working for Colorado State University's president and applying that knowledge to nurturing a theatrical culture where artists celebrate each other’s work ... or immersing myself in leadership styles and gender cultures as the Assistant Director of CSU’s Institute of Women and Leadership, and again, applying that knowledge to the theatre.
  • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? I have been passionate about civil rights and the environment since my activist days as a hippie in the 1960s and '70s, and I am shocked by the current political climate. Bookends for my adult life: It’s again time to be outspoken, visible and engaged.
  • (Photo above and right: Denise Burson Freestone in Openstage Theatre & Company's 2002 production of 'Wit.')

    OpenStage's August: Osage County: Ticket information

    • Written by Tracy Letts
    • Directed by Dulcie Willis
    • Through March 18
    • Performances:
    7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23
    8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
    2 p.m. Sundays
    • Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins
    • Tickets $25
    • Info: 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Cast list:
    • Bruce K. Freestone: Beverly Weston
    •Denise Burson Freestone: Violet Weston
    •Sydney Parks Smith: Barbara Fordham
    •Shannon Parr: Bill Fordham
    •Rachael Jacobs: Jean Fordham
    •Nicole Gawronski: Ivy Weston
    •Rebecca Spafford: Karen Weston
    •Judith Allen: Mattie Fay Aiken
    •Charlie Ferrie: Charlie Aiken
    •Bas Meindertsma: Little Charles Aiken
    •Jennifer Lauren Bowers: Johnna Monevata
    •James Burns: Steve Heidebrecht
    •Mark Terzani: Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Mark Collins of And Toto Too's Lost Creatures
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet John Hauser of Curious Theatre's Hand to God
    Meet Jim Hunt of Buntport's The Zeus Probem
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
    Meet Angela Mendez of Beauty and the Beast
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Cory Sapienza of Miners Alley Playhouse's Hir
    Meet Sean Scrutchins of the Arvada Center's Bus Stop
    Meet Jane Shirley of Santa's Big Red Sack
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Sharon Kay White of the Arvada Center's I'll Be Home for Christmas

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line

    by John Moore | Feb 23, 2017

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Next up: Lauren Yee, author of the basketball play Manford at the Line, or The Great Leap.

    Chinese-American playwright Lauren Yee
    lays it all on the free-throw line

    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game in the post-Cultural Revolution 1980s, both countries try to tease out the politics behind this newly popular sport. Cultures clash as the Chinese coach tries to pick up moves from the Americans, and a Chinese-American player named Manford spies on his opponent.

    John Moore: What do we need to know about your play?

    Lauren Yee: My father grew up in San Francisco Chinatown. And until he had kids,
    the only thing he was good at was basketball. I know this because even today, walking around San Francisco, people stop us on the street and say, “I used to play you in basketball!” And as we're walking away, my dad will smile and say, “Yeah … and I kicked your (bleep).” In the 1980s, he and his American teammates traveled to China to play a series of exhibition games against various teams throughout the country. I asked him, “Did you win?” And he told me, “They demolished us in almost every single game.” I think the first game they played was against Beijing. It was either a high-school or a college team. And my dad was like, “No, joke, Lauren, their players were, like, 7-foot-6. My father is 6-foot-1, and he was the tallest guy on his team. He said, “We would have to tell our teammates when their guy had the ball, because if you were guarding your man, you couldn't see what he was doing.” I think they only won one game, which was in Hong Kong when the players happened to be closer to 6-feet tall than 7-feet tall. And I think they only won that game by two points.

    John Moore: But I bet they could describe the waistbands of their opponents in great detail.

    Lauren Yee: Oh yeah. Have you ever seen one of those Mickey Mouse cartoons where Mickey is being chased by a train? That's how my dad felt: Like Mickey Mouse in China.

    Lauren Yee. Photo by  John Moore

    John Moore: So how does that turn into a play?

    Lauren Yee: I always thought that idea was so interesting of a Chinese-American young man like my father going to the country of his parents for the first time, playing an opponent who looks like him - but not quite.

    John Moore: What do we need to know about the title?

    Lauren Yee: Manford at the Line begs the question of whose play this is. And it foreshadows what is going to be important further down the line. It's almost the final play of the game.

    John Moore: Your play was originally called Manford from Half Court.

    Lauren Yee: Yeah. The final play longer happens at half-court. It happens at the free-throw line, so that necessitated changing the title.

    John Moore: The game of basketball has become very global in the past decade, especially in the NBA. But your play takes place in 1989. When did basketball become such a national priority in China?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Lauren Yee: The interesting thing about that is basketball is the only Western sport that has never been banned in China. I think we Americans think of basketball as a sport that is completely ours. And that whenever go abroad, we are bringing basketball to a different part of the world. But the truth of it is, China has had basketball since the 19th century. American missionaries first brought the game there in the late 1900s. And ever since then, the Chinese have viewed basketball as a symbol of their country. If you think of all the sports out there, basketball is the one in which you can really lay the ideals of communism on top of it. Everyone gets to touch the ball. Everyone is equal in their position. Mao (Tse-tung) was a big, big fan of basketball. Prior to him coming to power in the 1930s, he used to play basketball with his colleagues. I think the shift in the game has just been the professionalization of it. In the 1990s, right after my play takes place, you begin to see the national league in China start up, the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). That’s been really fascinating because you have players like Yao Ming coming out of the CBA and going to America, but you are also have NBA players like Stephon Marbury coming to China and playing in the CBA. Stephon Marbury is beloved in China.

    (Note: Stephon Marbury, now 40, is a two-time NBA All-Star who has played for three Chinese teams since 2010, winning three CBA championships.)

    Lauren Yee QuoteJohn Moore: How does the culture clash play out in your story? Because from a very young age, American kids are taught to shoot the ball. And your lead character at one point explains very comically how a Chinese player almost needs permission to shoot.

    Lauren Yee: My father told me that Chinese players, as opposed to his team of Americans, did not like to go inside. They didn't like to get aggressive. They loved to stand back and sink the ball from the 3-point line. I find that sport is always such a great analogy for how a country works and how two countries interact and that space where they rub up against each other and conflict in terms of strategy and styles and priorities. 

    John Moore: You have said you main character is not, specifically, your father.

    Lauren Yee: No.

    John Moore: What does he think about you writing a basketball play inspired by his experiences?

    Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide

    Lauren Yee: I feel like my father is always simultaneously a little mortified and a little delighted by the idea of there being a play about his experiences. I am sure there is a lot about the play that he will say I got wrong. I feel like the biggest difference between my main character and my father is that my father was always celebrated for the great basketball player he was.   

    John Moore: What is the tone of your play?

    Lauren Yee: My plays tend to be comedies ... until they are not. They also tend to be comedies that hopefully show you something in a way you have never seen before. This is a basketball play, but hopefully I am showing you something about the game in a delightful way that you have never seen before.

    Lauren Yee 2016 Colorado New Play SummitJohn Moore: Last year, you were a guest here at the Colorado New Play Summit as a commissioned writer for the DCPA Theatre Company. Now you are here as one of the five featured Summit playwrights. What are your thoughts on the Summit?

    Lauren Yee: I think the Colorado New Play Summit is such a wonderful playground. The Denver Center supports pieces starting from the inception of a commission and continues after the Summit. I feel like the Denver Center is really invested in telling lots of different types of stories from lots of different perspectives. I also think there is incredible freedom for playwrights to tackle the story any way they want to.

    John Moore: Let’s get perfectly real here: If you are anything other than a white male, you are probably underrepresented in the American theatre right now. And as a Chinese-American woman, you are about as under-represented as it gets. But you have broken through and really have gotten the attention of the American theatre. Do you see that as a burden or an obligation or a wide-open opportunity?

    Lauren Yee: For me, in order to spend the two or three years needed to follow a story and really see it through to its end, I think it has to be a story that feels personal and urgent and specific enough to me that I think I really am the best person to tell that story. And that I would really love to spend all those years of my life in the room with this idea. Sometimes it boils down to, "This is a story that shares something in my DNA culturally.” And other times, it has nothing to do with that. It can be a burden,  but there is also this joy in being able to tell an audience a story in a way that no one else can tell it.

    Lauren Yee QuoteJohn Moore: Obviously gender disparity has been a major topic of conversation in the American theatre for several years. What does it mean to you as a female playwright that the Denver Center is a place with the $1.2 million Women's Voices Fund?

    Lauren Yee: I think the Women's Voices Fund is such an exciting and vital venture. It makes sure that you are representing the groups that you want to be representing - and then letting them run with it. I may be sponsored by the Women's Voices Fund, but I am not being told to write a play that stars all women, or has to have some female-specific topic. My play is about a Chinese-American man playing basketball in China. I think the Women’s Voices Fund embraces the multiplicity of views that come with what your gender is, and what your ethnicity is. I am Chinese-American, but part of the joy of my work is that I get to inhabit all of these different worlds.

    John Moore: Why is your play the right play at the right time?
    Lauren Yee: I think this play is relevant now because it explores the idea that one person can make a difference in the world they live in. It's also a play about diplomacy. It's a play about relating to different people from different countries. It is a play about protest. And it is a play about realizing when it is your turn to step up.

    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.

    Manford at the Line, or The Great Leap
    Written by Lauren Yee
    Directed by Josh Brody
    Dramaturgy by Kristen Leahey
    Manford: Kevin Lin
    Saul: Brian Keane
    Wen Chang: Francis Jue
    Connie: Jo Mei
    Stage Directions: Samantha Long

    Manford. Photo by John MooreFrancis Jue, left, and Brian Keane in Lauren Yee's 'Manford at the Line, Or The Great Leap.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

  • Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide

    by John Moore | Feb 22, 2017

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Next up: Rogelio Martinez, author of the political thriller Blind Date.

    Playwright Rogelio Martinez on watching
    Ronald Reagan transform on a global stage

    Blind Date centers on Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's first meeting at the  Geneva Summit in 1985 to try to open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. And while the odd couple chip away at the mistrust between their countries, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev play out a passive-aggressive tango that mirrors their husbands’ negotiations.

    John Moore: You have been to the Colorado New Play Summit many times as a commissioned playwright, mainstage playwright and audience member. What has the Denver Center come to mean to you?

    Rogelio Martinez: It's one of the few theatres I can call home. It's a special place for me, and I am always happy to be here. Great energy. Great writers.

    John Moore: How did your history with the Colorado New Play Summit begin?

    Rogelio Martinez: It started in 2008 when they asked me to bring in 10 pages of something I was working on, and I brought in the first 10 pages of When Tang Met Laika. There was a very positive response. We then workshopped it at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp in Steamboat Springs. That is a beautiful place to get away from the world, and get inside the world of your play. It was then read at the 2009 Colorado New Play Summit, and then it had its world premiere on the DCPA Theatre Company's mainstage season in 2010. It was an amazing production.   

    Rogelio Martinez. Photo by John Moore.

    John Moore: Tell people who weren't here in 2010 about When Tang Met Laika.

    Rogelio Martinez: It is a play set on the International Space Station during the Cold War. It’s about former adversaries working together. The Russians got to space first, and they created the first space station, Zarya. So we had a lot to learn from them. I was just fascinated by the idea of people who were enemies on this planet suddenly being friends up there in the universe.

    Rogelio Martinez. Blind DateJohn Moore: That’s perfect segue into the play you are writing now as a commission for the DCPA Theatre Company, Blind Date. Tell us about it.  

    Rogelio Martinez: Blind Date is about the Geneva in 1985 where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev first met. Reagan was 74 at the time and Gorbachev was much younger, 54. But at that Summit, they both did a pivot. They changed. Yes, you can still change at (that age). Up to that point, Reagan was anti-Communist. He did terrible damage as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was not a great governor of California. But suddenly he had this naiveté. He said, "You know what? Let's abolish nuclear weapons. Let's just get rid of them.” And he saw across the room from him this man he thought could do this with him. It's fascinating to see somebody change before your very eyes.  

    (Photo above: Victor Slezak as Ronald Reagan and Triney Sandavol as Mikhail Gorbachev in 'Blind Date.')

    John Moore: So what did you learn about Reagan in your research?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Rogelio Martinez: One thing is that Reagan worked in narratives. You couldn't talk statistics to Reagan. You had to tell him a story. He saw the ending of the Cold War as a story, and he was one of the main actors in it.

    John Moore: Blind Date is the conclusion to your Cold War Trilogy. And when you look at it alongside some of your other works, such as Ping Pong, about Nixon and Mao, it's clear you have a continuing fascination with opposites attracting on a global scale.

    Rogelio Martinez: I love the idea of worlds colliding. I was born in Cuba and I came here when I was 9.

    John Moore: You didn’t just come here when you were 9. You came here during the Mariel boatlift in 1980.

    Rogelio Martinez. Photo by Adams VisCom Rogelio Martinez: Yes. And until then, I had been taught one way of life, because there was no expectation that I was ever going to leave the country. And then suddenly, here I am. I remember going to Sears for the first time. My aunt said, “vamos a cia,” or, "Let's go." But she dropped the r and the s so it literally sounded like she was saying, "Let’s go to the C.I.A." There was this sudden culture shock. But I am able to see the world from two points of view, because I have lived from two points of view. So I love it when leaders crash into one another. But it’s not so much personalities colliding that excites me as it is people behaving unlike how we know them to be. Take Nixon: Warmonger. Nasty man. But he is able to reach out and start this friendship with China. I love contradiction. That is the most exciting thing to me: People who contradict themselves.

    John Moore: You obviously wrote this before the recent presidential election, but you are here now at the Colorado New Play Summit doing major rewrites. Does your play in any way acknowledge the new Reagan?

    Rogelio Martinez. Blind Date
    The cast of Rogelio Martinez's' 'Blind Date." Photo by Adams VisCom.


    Rogelio Martinez: Absolutely. As I was writing the play, I was aware of the coming election. And as I was rewriting it, the election was happening. So I was aware that the play would have to somehow echo what is going on in the world right now. We're Tweeting now. Things get lost in the translation. In the time I am writing about, people were extremely articulate. Gorbachev is an extremely articulate man, so there was a chance for a conversation then that is not happening today. But I hope it does at some point.

    John Moore: This might seem like an obvious question when we are talking about leaders from Russia and the United States meeting for the first time at a tense time in history, as they do in your play. But your story is set in 1985. So why is this the right play at the right time?

    Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays the aftermath of trauma

    Rogelio Martinez: The world was a scary place in the 1980s, and you never thought it was going to get scarier. But then there were about 20 years there where the younger generation never lived under the fear of nuclear annihilation. They don't understand it. So when they watch this play, they will begin to understand that there is this longer narrative that has been going on for a long while now. But it can be solved. It just needs the kind of leadership where people go beyond the character they have shown so far. So Blind Date is actually a hopeful piece. And hope is not a bad thing to have.

    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.


    Blind Date

    Written by Rogelio Martinez
    Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
    Dramaturgy by Douglas Langworthy
    George Shultz: Liam Craig
    Eduard Shevardnadze: Steve Brady
    Mikhail Gorbachev: Triney Sandavol
    Ronald Reagan: Victor Slezak
    Edmund Morris: Kurt Rhoads
    Raisa Gorbachev: Kathleen McCall
    Nancy Reagan: Nance Williamson
    Peter, Politburo Member, Dimitri Zarechnak: Rodney Lizcano
    Stage Directions: Mehry Eslaminia

    Blind Date. Adams VisCom

    Liam Craig, left, as George Shultz, and Steve Brady as Eduard Shevardnadze in Rogelio Martinez's 'Blind Date.' Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

  • In the Spotlife: Sean Scrutchins of 'Bus Stop'

    by John Moore | Feb 22, 2017
    Sean Scrutchins Arvada Center 'Bus Stop.' M. Gale Photography
    Sean Scrutchins in the Arvada Center 'Bus Stop.' M. Gale Photography.

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

    MEET SEAN SCRUTCHINS

    Sean Scrutchins, who plays Bo Decker in the Arvada Center's 'Bus Stop,' is a DCPA Teaching Artist who won the 2012 Henry Award for Best Actor ('9 Circles') and the 2014 Henry Award for Best Ensemble ('The Whipping Man'), both at Curious Theatre. 

  • Hometown: Shawnee, Okla.
  • Home now: Denver
  • High School: Shawnee High School
  • Sean Scrutchins Quote College: BFA from the University of Central Oklahoma and MFA from the University of Southern Mississippi
  • What have you done for us lately? I played Damis in the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
  • What's next? I will be playing Guildenstern this summer in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (opening July 21)
  • What is Bus Stop all about? The setting is 1955 Kansas, where a blizzard has stranded a bus of passengers in a small Kansas town diner. Stuck inside, people are forced to deal with each other and themselves. Everyone has something to learn and share about how to live and love one another.
  • Tell us about the challenge of playing Bo Decker: Bo is a young cowboy inexperienced with women. He's spent all his life on a ranch and now has fallen in love with a nightclub singer named Cherie. The character has a challenging journey as overnight he transforms from an inexperienced bucking bronco with no clue how to behave around women into a mature and humbled young man. This transformative journey, mixed with a strong Montana accent - and some really tight Wrangler jeans - makes Bo a very challenging feat.
  • What do you love most about this theatre community? I love this city! I'm from small-town Oklahoma. I lived in a small town in the Deep South for four years and spent several summers along the East Coast. Nothing compares to the Mile High City. It's a mecca of culture for this part of the country. Anything from art, food, craft beer, outdoors and innovation is at my fingertips. Anyone who lives here and isn't appreciative of its beauty and intrigue should try living where I've lived for a while.Devon James Full Code Michael Ensminger
  • What's one thing most people don't know about you? My career as an actor was decided on a coin flip. While looking at colleges, I was either going to pursue my passion for theatre or my passion of the outdoors as a National Park Ranger. I am not exaggerating. The day before enrolling in either the University of Central Oklahoma for theatre or Eastern Oklahoma State for Ranger School, I flipped a coin. It landed heads, and that gave me the amazing life I have today. I am doing theatre in a wonderful community with my talented my wife, Devon, and adorable 2-year-old son, Liam. I'm thankful for how it turned out (but I still fantasize sometimes about wearing that green-and-khaki ranger uniform).

    (Pictured above: Sean Scrutchins' wife, Devon James, recently appeared in the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's world-premiere play Full Code.' Photo by Michael Ensminger.)

  • Sean Scrutchins Arvada Center 'Bus Stop.' M. Gale PhotographyWhat’s one thing you want to get off your chest? I think this country needs to have a Bus Stop-ian scenario, where everyone is forced to deal with one another stuck inside. Unable to move forward or back, we must face each other. Listen to each other. Learn from each other. We're all on the same bus headed to the same destination, so why not unify and fight for each other? It's easy to distance ourselves from others when they aren't sitting across the table from you. The true challenge we face as a citizenry, if we're ever going to move forward, is to seek understanding and to empathize. 

  • Arvada Center's Bus Stop: Ticket information

    • Written by William Inge
    • Directed by Allison Watrous
    • Feb. 24-April 15
    • In the black-box theatre
    • Performances:
    7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
    1 p.m. Wednesdays
    2 p.m. Sundays
    Also 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 29
    • 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
    • Tickets $45
    • Info: 720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page

    (Photo at right: Sean Scrutchins and Emily Van Fleet in the Arvada Center 'Bus Stop.' M. Gale Photography.)

    Cast list:

    • Emily Van Fleet as Cherie)
    • Sean Scrutchins as Bo
    • Kate Gleason as Grace
    • Sam Gregory as Dr. Lyman
    • Geoffrey Kent as Will
    • Michael Morgan as Virgil
    • Jenna Moll Reyes as Elma
    • Josh Robinson as Carl

    Sean Scrutchins in Arvada Center's 'Tartuffe.' M Gale Photography
    Sean Scrutchins as Damis in the Arvada Center's recent production of 'Tartuffe.' M. Gale Photography.

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Mark Collins of And Toto Too's Lost Creatures
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet John Hauser of Curious Theatre's Hand to God
    Meet Jim Hunt of Buntport's The Zeus Probem
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
    Meet Angela Mendez of Beauty and the Beast
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Cory Sapienza of Miners Alley Playhouse's Hir
    Meet Jane Shirley of Santa's Big Red Sack
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Sharon Kay White of the Arvada Center's I'll Be Home for Christmas

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on navigating trauma

    by John Moore | Feb 21, 2017

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Next up: Donnetta Lavinia Grays, writer of the family drama Last Night and the Night Before.

    Playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays on finding
    your voice in the aftermath of trauma

    So, right off the bat: Tell us what you have in common with Taran Killam and Jim Belushi

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays (laughing): I just did a pilot with those two. Talk about typecasting: I played a lesbian goat farmer, and I will tell you: That was right up my alley. They did not have to go too deep into the costuming because I had all the gear already. I was like, “Seriously, how many flannel shirts do you need? Because I have plenty of them.”

    John Moore: And when do we get to see your network television debut as a lesbian goat farmer?

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: Sadly, the pilot was not picked up.

    John Moore: That is sad. Well, at least you have your writing to fall back on.

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: Yes, I do.

    John Moore: You're here in Denver as a playwright, but as we just alluded, you are an accomplished actor as well, having appeared on Broadway in plays by Lisa Kron (Well) and Sarah Ruhl (In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play). Has your playwriting been guided by working with such iconic women?

    Last Night and the Night Before. Donnetta Lavinia Grays. Photo by John Moore.

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: What was wonderful about working with Lisa Kron and Sarah Ruhl is that I was in on the process of watching them do the work of new-play development from the start. I saw them in communication with wonderful directors like Leigh Silverman and Les Waters. I watched how they took in information. I watched how their plays evolved. I had the opportunity to just observe and absorb all of that. So I had great teachers from the outset. And from the very beginning of my own writing, I tried to pattern what I saw in them. Over time, I developed my own way of listening and my own way of interpreting notes and feedback. But I got a good foundation from the two of them.

    John Moore: How do you think being an actor has informed you as a playwright?

    Last Night and the Night Before. Valerie Curtis-Newton. Photo by Adams VisCom. Donnetta Lavinia Grays: I’m an actor, so I write for actors. That’s the only way I know how to write. At our first rehearsal here in Denver, my director, Valerie Curtis-Newton, had me read the entire play to her by my lonesome. All of it. Which is interesting, because that's actually how I write. I am constantly talking to myself and trying to see things from each character's point of view. So as traumatic as that experience was, it was sort of familiar to try to see the play from each character's point of view.

    (Pictured above and right: Director Valerie Curtis-Newton with actors Brynn Tucker and Olivia Sullivent. Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    John Moore: You were born in Panama and raised in South Carolina. Growing up must have been interesting for you.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: I am an Army brat. I was born in the Canal Zone - just like John McCain. So we have that in common. My family moved to the Long Island area when my dad was stationed there. But my parents' game plan from the start was for us to have a consistent household, so we moved to South Carolina, where my maternal grandmother lived. We were there from the time I was 5 or 6 up until I graduated from college. So South Carolina is home.

     John Moore: I want to ask you about your name. First there is Lavinia, a character in Titus Andronicus. But also, I have known many people named Gray but never anyone named Grays. You even offset that part of your name on your website. The first thing that came to my mind is that the job of the playwright is to write life in shades of gray. How awesome is it that you live and work inside the world of your name?

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: I really dig my name. I don't know if my parents understood the poetry of it, or even that Lavinia is a Shakespearean character. I just really enjoy it, rhythmically. When I first signed with my manager, he was like, "The whole name, though? ... Really?" And I was like, "Yeah. The whole thing." Because I also want to celebrate my parents wherever I go. I want them to know that my name is their unique stamp on me – and I carry that with me. It's in honor to them that I don't deviate from any part of it.

    Last Night and the Night Before. Donnetta Lavinia Grays. John Moore: The official description of your play tells us that when a woman named Monique and her 10-year-old daughter, Sam, show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. It says the family’s deep Southern roots have a long reach. What do you want us to know about Last Night and the Night Before?

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: Sam has suffered a traumatic event in her life. She is in the unfortunate position of being at the mercy of the adults in her life who are trying to safeguard her from what she has suffered. And now she is having to suffer the consequences of their decisions. I think Last Night and the Night Before is a play about the tremendous, enduring component of love in our lives. It is a play about loss. It is a play about family. And it is a play about finding your singular voice as a woman coming into adulthood. 

    John Moore: Your original title was simply, Sam. Tell us about the change to Last Night and the Night Before.

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: Throughout the play, Sam plays these childhood hand games as a way of settling her spirit a little bit. One of the games is [singing]: "Last Night and the Night Before, I Met My Baby at the Candy Store." I think that particular phrase also supports the structure of the play as well.

    Last Night and the Night Before. Cajardo Lavinia Grays. Photo by John Moore. John Moore: When I visited your first rehearsal last week, I was taken by actor Cajardo Lindsey's observation that in two decades of performing on Colorado stages, he has never had the opportunity to play an open and vulnerable African-American male until now. This is a guy who has won many awards playing many different characters written by voices from August Wilson to Matthew Lopez. So that has me very intrigued about the character he plays - Sam's father. (Pictured above: Cajardo Lindsey as Reggie.)

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: The role of Reggie is based on the abundant love that I found in my household. I mean, I grew up just lousy with love. And my father is probably the most gentle creature I have ever met. He is full of humor and warmth - but he is also a tiger. He's not going to let anything happen to his family. He's a man, you know? So I tried to put that on paper. What honestly frustrates me is that we have become very comfortable with the negative depictions of black men we see onstage today. We don't see bigness or a breadth of emotion unless there is an aggression or a hardness attached to it; unless it's hurting someone else. So I wanted to create a full guy who is attached to his emotions. The kind of man I have seen and witnessed in my life but not seen onstage. But I also play into what you expect of a black man, too. I twist the story a little bit.

    Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the comedy of a divided America

    John Moore: This is your first time at the Colorado New Play Summit. What are your first impressions?

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: This is the most massive facility I have ever been in. It's beautiful. I am super-duper impressed. But more than that, the people here are just lovely.

    John Moore: What does it mean to you to be one of the chosen five playwrights for the 2017 Summit?

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: I had never been to Colorado, and I had never worked at this theatre before, even as an actor, so it was exciting to be selected. And the other playwrights here are just so exceptional. For my little play to be a part of this is super-exciting to me.

    John Moore: You have said you seek to write strong roles for women of various ages, races, sexual identities and economic standings. So what does it mean to you that the Denver Center has a $1.2 million Women's Voices Fund, and it essentially puts its money where the women are?

    Last Night and the Night Before. Photo by Adams VisComDonnetta Lavinia Grays: It means a lot to me to now be a part of an organization that has such a great mission toward women's voices, because that is something I am passionate about. I grew up in a very loving, very female-centered household, and so strong women are just a part of my culture. So I put those women in my plays. I put working women in my plays. I put women of various incomes in my plays. I want to give them a strong voice wherever they are. It means a lot. 

    (Pictured above and right: Valeka Holt and Jasmine Hughes. Photo by Adams Viscom.)

    John Moore: One of the things that makes this festival unique is the second week of rehearsals and public readings. How do you think that will impact what you will take away from the Summit?

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: It's nice to have two weeks for development because you get to play. You get to set up these large, beautiful failures for the first week, see how it goes over, get feedback, and then go back and clean some stuff up for the second week. Instead of going home with all of these notes and not knowing how they might land the next time around, you get an actual next opportunity to find out right here.

    John Moore: So why is this the right time for your play?

    Donnetta Lavinia Grays: We are in a violent moment in time right now. And by “violent,” I am talking about an internal kind of disruption. How do we channel the justifiable rage of something that has hit us? How do we manage depression? How do we manage chaos? How do we manage our expectations of each other? How do we care for each other? I think that is a big part of this play, and a big part of where we are at right now. The world feels kind of like an unsafe place. We don't know what's going to happen next, and Sam mirrors that. So how do we get back to a safe place?

    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.


    Last Night and the Night Before

    Written by Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
    Dramaturgy by Lauren Whitehead
    Sam: Olivia Sullivent
    Monique: Brynn Tucker
    Reggie: Cajardo Lindsay
    Rachel: Jasmine Hughes
    Nadima: Valeka Holt
    Stage Directions: Tresha Farris

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

  • Two concerts announced: Beth Malone, 'The Last Five Years'

    by John Moore | Feb 21, 2017

    Beth Malone. Andam Kantor. Betsy Wolfe.


    DCPA Broadway announced two new concert shows this morning: Beth Malone: So Far and Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years in Concert starring Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe.

    DCPA subscribers can purchase tickets now. (Direct emails will be sent with instructions.) Tickets go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 27, at DenverCenter.Org

    Beth Malone is a Colorado native who was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in Broadway's Fun Home. Prior to that, she starred in the DCPA Theatre Company's reimagining of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which has its next staging this summer at the Muny in St. Louis. Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe are acclaimed Broadway stars with eight credits between them.

    Beth Malone: So Far
    April 14 and 15
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    Tickets start at $50
    About the show: Tony-nominated Beth Malone (DCPA Theatre Company’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown) brings her acclaimed solo show back to where it all happened. Follow this adorably insane little lesbian as she takes you on a journey from Castle Rock, Colorado, to the South Pacific. From little girl crushes to grown-woman heartbreak. Join us for comedy, tragedy, and a crush on Connie Chung.

    The Last Five Years in Concert starring Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe
    May 22
    Seawell Grand Ballroom
    Tickets start at $45
    Adam Kantor (Fiddler of the Roof, RENT and Next to Normal on Broadway, Avenue Q off Broadway) and Betsy Wolfe (Falsettos, Bullets Over Broadway and The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Broadway) star in The Last Five Years in Concert. This intimate musical by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs for a New World, Honeymoon in Vegas, The Bridges of Madison County) chronicles the five-year relationship between two New Yorkers, struggling actress Cathy and promising writer Jamie, from their first meeting to their last goodbye. The Last Five Years is a powerful and personal look at marriage told from both points of view – Jamie’s story begins at the first meeting and follows through to the couple’s ultimate breakup, while Cathy relates the story in reverse, from falling out of love back to the first spark of romance.  This innovative storytelling structure makes for a show nearly entirely comprised of solo songs, with the actors meeting just once in the middle of the show in a duet.

    Ticket information
    Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – online at DenverCenter.Org – is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for these productions in Denver. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party should be aware that the DCPA is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance.

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the Denver Center for the Performing Arts News Center.

     Selected previous Beth Malone coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter:

    Photo gallery: Beth Malone in Denver: Beth Malone in Denver

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Denver's North High School gets real with 'In the Heights'

    by John Moore | Feb 20, 2017
    Video preview: In the Heights

    Video above: Rehearsal footage from 'In the Heights,' which will be performed Feb. 23-25 at Denver North High School. 

    Everyone from a Pulitzer Prize-winner to the Flobots are helping to launch a unique high-school collaboration.

    Long before Hamilton was a distant rhyme in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ear, his breakthrough Broadway musical In the Heights was changing the landscape – and the shade – of the Great White Way.

    In the Heights, the 2008 Tony Award winner for best musical, is the story of a close-knit Manhattan barrio where Latino immigrants struggle to eke out small pieces of the American dream as their neighborhood is gentrifying and splitting apart. Broadway hadn’t seen anything even remotely like it since perhaps West Side Story.

    For three nights starting Thursday, Denver’s North High School and Strive Prep Excel High School will collaborate on the work that changed the language of the American musical by bringing hip-hop and spoken-word rap to mainstream stage life.

    North High School. In The Heights. Photo by John Moore

    With a cast of 26, In the Heights is not only introducing many minority students to the joy of live theatre performance, it gives them a story to tell that most of them feel in their bones. Students like North High junior Maya Stone, who plays Nina, an overachiever who drops out of Stanford. “It is really amazing to be able to put on a show that the whole cast can relate to on a personal level,” she said.

    And students like Strive Prep Excel High School junior Alan Sanchez, whose first role on a stage of any kind will be starring as the narrator Usnavi – yes, the role same role that made Miranda a star. Usnavi runs a struggling bodega out of familial obligation but has dreams of a larger life.

    “This show is important to me because, as a fellow immigrant, I can relate to my character, and I'm sure many others can, as an immigrant not trying to make it to the top but to try to live a good and healthy life,” said Sanchez.

    Motown the Musical cast visits North High School

    Music Director Edwina Lucero of Strive Prep said her kids were born to play these roles. “I think Lin-Manuel has given us this art that students who are not white or particularly well-versed in musical theatre can step in and play so genuinely,” she said.

    In the Heights has only one featured character who is not Latino. The minority enrollment at North High is 90 percent - 85 percent of whom are considered economically disadvantaged. In other words: It’s a perfect fit.

    North High School In The Heights. Photo by John Moore“My goal has been to create a comprehensive drama program at North that is not only sustainable but open to all students, no matter their experience or social-economic status,” said director Megan Gilman, who is in her fourth year at North. (Pictured: Edwina Lucero, left, and Megen Gilman. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Choosing to do In the Heights, Gilman said, was a simple decision.

    “The show speaks to the gentrification that several North Denver neighborhoods are facing,” she said. “It also gives voice to students who are not used toIn the Heights quote seeing characters like themselves on a stage. The talent in North Denver is astounding, and I am proud to be a small part in bringing it to the larger community.”

    That larger community has lent its support as well, helping to raise $15,000 to stage the play. Quiara Alegria Hudes, who wrote the speaking portions of In the Heights, recently beamed in for a 30-minute Skype conversation with the Denver cast to offer encouragement and answer questions. Hudes won a Pulitzer Prize for writing the play Water by the Spoonful, which recently was performed at Curious Theatre. 

    “She was amazing,” Lucero said. “She talked about her process in writing the show, about the role that storytelling plays in her life, and about the importance of authenticity in musical theatre.”

    Photo gallery: North High/Strive Prep's In the Heights

    'In the Heights' at North High School
    Photos from rehearsal for Denver North/Strive Prep's upcoming production of 'In the Height.' To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded for free by clicking. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Among the 10-person live orchestra will be Stephen Brackett and drummer Kenny O of the Flobots, a Denver-based band that is committed to social justice and global betterment. (Brackett is the co-founder of Youth on Record.) The creative team includes choreographer Ricardo Changeux, Set Designer Allan Trumpler, Sound Designer Michael Cousins, Music Advisor Erin Cisney and Costume Designer Mona Lucero. Former North High School drama director Antonio Mercado has helped raise funds.

    Michelle Alves and CJ Wright of Motown the Musical at North High SchoolMichelle Alves, a Puerto Rican-born actor in the national touring production of Motown the Musical, stopped by North High School last week to offer words of encouragement. And the students, in turn, performed a song from the show for her. (Pictured right.)

    In the Heights is one of my favorite musicals because it represents my culture in such a beautiful way, and to know that a high school in Denver is doing the show makes me so happy,” Alves said. “If I can be honest, it’s really hard to find In the Heights in performance because it is so culturally specific. It’s really hard to find the people you need to do the show. So I think this production at North High School is going to be phenomenal. Magnificent.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The support the students have gotten from all over, says Stone, “has been absolutely inspiring.”

    For everything new that In the Heights represented when it burst onto the Broadway landscape in 2008, Miranda told me in an interview at the time that the musical should also feel as familiar to audiences as Fiddler on the Roof, with nods to Our Town, Rent and West Side Story. Listen closely, and you’ll pick up Miranda’s references to Cole Porter and even Lord of the Rings.

    North High School In The Heights. Fiddler on the Roof really was our template,” said Miranda, who won 2016 Tony Awards for writing and starring in Hamilton. “For the story we wanted to tell, about a community in the face of change, there’s really no better example to look to. We saw the parallel where Anatevka is a community where everything has been the same way for hundreds of years, and now the world is changing around it. They had to decide, ‘What do we take with us, and what do we say is non-negotiable?’

    “In the Heights’ is almost the inverse of that,” he continued. “When everyone is from everywhere, and we all have our disparate traditions, coming from so many different Latin American countries, we have to decide: What do we pass on?”

    As for the language of hip-hop, which seemed like such a novelty to Broadway audiences at the time, Miranda said it was never a novelty to him.

    Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with Molly Brown

    “I never existed in a time when hip-hop didn’t exist,” he said. “It’s how any character my age who grew up in this neighborhood would express himself.”

    For Alan Sanchez, the young actor playing the starring role at North High School, the experience of putting on this play has been not unlike his character’s search for a place to belong.

    “With all the things that have been happening with the economy and politics, escapism should be something we value,” he said. “And this musical shows people this is our home.”

    There couldn't be a better place or time to put on In The Heights, added his castmate. “I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this huge accomplishment for the North Denver community," said Stone. "This is only the beginning 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.

    In the Heights posterIn the Heights: Ticket information
    • Feb. 23, 24 and 25
    • 7 p.m.
    • 2960 Speer Boulevard
    • Main entrance located on West 32nd Avenue at Eliot Street
    • Adult tickets are $10; students and seniors $5
    • Tickets available at the door.


  • Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America

    by John Moore | Feb 20, 2017

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. First up: Eric Pfeffinger, writer of the comedy Human Error.

    Playwright Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy
    of an unfunnily divided America

    John Moore: Tell us about your play.

    Eric Pfeffinger: In Human Error, a couple goes to what they think is a routine appointment at their fertility clinic and are devastated to discover that their fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted into somebody else. So obviously, it's a comedy. You know: Another one of your standard-issue switched-fertilized-embryo farces.

    John Moore: Not another one of those!

    Eric Pfeffinger: Exactly.

    John Moore: So tell us about this couple.

    Eric Pfeffinger: They are a couple of blue-state, latte-sipping, NPR-listening liberals. And they go to meet this other couple and discover that they are NRA-cardholding, pickup-truck-driving, red-state conservatives. So you have two families who, under normal circumstances, would never choose to be in the same room with each other, now having to spend nine months working their way toward building this family - and hopefully not killing each other along the way. It’s a comedy about the state of the nation currently and the political polarization we are all grappling with.

    John Moore: So help me understand your style of comedy. Are we talking mean, David Mamet funny? Or punchline kind of funny?

    Eric Pfeffinger: It's BIG funny. When I heard about this actually happening at fertility clinics, my first response was, 'Oh that sounds like an episode of Three's Company: 'Wait, that's not your embryo - that's my embryo!' And … cut to commercial. This is my approach to a lot of my plays: Let's take this thing that does not seem particularly funny to the people it is happening to and find the humor in it. It's people being very funny in a very stressful situation.

    Human Error. Eric Pfeffinger. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore

    John Moore: We just went through a brutal two-year election cycle where the divisions in this country were just laid bare, deeply and profoundly. Is that reflected in your play?

    Eric Pfeffinger: I started working on the play quite a while ago but this is a phenomenon that has been percolating for a long time, and has only gotten more pronounced in the past year or so. None of the people in my play know anybody else like the other couple. They all live in a world, as most of us do, where geography and social strata and technology have made it possible for them to isolate themselves from anybody who doesn't already think the same way they do. All their friends on Facebook, in their neighborhood and at their workplace are all pretty much like them. They don't have to confront the reality of someone who thinks differently until they are thrown together by this clerical mix-up at the fertility clinic. The play is really less about fertility technology - as dramatic as that can be - and more about the silos and the echo chambers that Americans in particular often find themselves in, and the defense mechanisms we adopt when we are forced to step outside our comfort zones and acknowledge that there are other people in the world who are not just like us.

    Human Error. John DiAntonio. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John MooreJohn Moore: Why is now a really good time in the American theatre for us to laugh?

    Eric Pfeffinger: Everything I write is a comedy. That's how I function. A lot of people embrace comedy as an escapist opportunity; as a way to get away from what is stressful about the world. I happen to believe that comedy is also one of the best ways to confront difficult ideas, and to examine and articulate those ideas. I would much rather explore a difficult idea through comedy than through some other genre. Comedy lowers your defenses by making you laugh. Comedy is a welcoming way to entice you into spending some time with ideas that you might find challenging.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: You're from Ohio, so would you say this is a Midwestern comedy?

    Eric Pfeffinger: This is definitely a Midwestern comedy. It takes place in the same northwestern part of Ohio where I live, right on the Michigan-Ohio border. The characters clash over the Michigan-Ohio athletic rivalry, in fact. So it's definitely about people in flyover country, and how they live their lives.

    John Moore: That is also Ground Zero for the American Divide.

    Eric Pfeffinger: Absolutely. Some people feel like it's possible these days to move to a city and feel fairly confident that you are going to be comfortable with the political orientation of most of your neighbors. Where I live, everybody is all over the political map. During the election, there was every kind of sign imaginable in my neighborhood, in yards right next to each other. We also have a lot of different religious communities, cultural communities and racial makeups and I think those things express themselves in a very particular way in a Midwestern city like the one I live in, and these characters live in.

    Human Error. Caitlin Wise. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John MooreJohn Moore: You used to be a newspaper cartoonist.

    Eric Pfeffinger: Yes, among other productive roles in society.

    John Moore: Has that experience guided you as a playwright in any way?

    Eric Pfeffinger: To me, playwriting and cartooning are two very similar media, only you express your ideas with different tools. I used to draw a daily comic strip with recurring characters. So in both cases, you have multiple characters living out stories that you are telling primarily through dialogue. You also had a punchline every four panels. There was a rhythm to it, but it also had some very specific restrictions. You didn't have the opportunity for stream-of-consciousness or delving into people's thoughts the way you can if you are writing a novel. It was really like writing a four-panel play every day and moving the characters around on this very small, two-dimensional stage. So to me, cartooning was just a variation on what I am doing now.

    John Moore: So would you say your play is more sit-com in style or a series of panels? 

    Eric Pfeffinger: Human Error does draw explicit connections to various kinds of classic comedy, particularly the TV sit-com. One of my characters is an academic who studies the theory of humor, and in doing so squeezes all of the enjoyment out of it. The points of reference in Human Error are probably more like TV comedy, which is what I grew up mainlining. But I have definitely appropriated the rhythms of the daily comic strip in some of my plays as well. 

    John Moore: This is your first time at the Colorado New Play Summit. What are your initial impressions?

    Eric Pfeffinger: It’s been fantastic. This community is just amazing. Being in that room with everyone on that first morning and seeing this huge population of people who all have different specialties but who are all committed to this one common artistic goal is really inspiring. The team that I have - the actors and the director and the dramaturg and stage management - is amazing. We just have a blast every time we close that door and spend a few hours working on the play together. The community here is really supportive and really, really fun.

    John Moore: One of the things that makes this festival unique is the second week of rehearsals and public readings. How do you think that will impact what you will take away from the Summit?

    Human Error. Eric Pfeffinger. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John MooreEric Pfeffinger: That's going to be huge, especially with a comedy. The response of an audience is invaluable. Even with an early version of a play, where we haven't figured everything out yet, seeing how that plays in a room with an audience, and feeling the energy is going to be completely integral to what I work on during the second week. I am going to be constantly referring back to what was going on in that space in terms of how specific lines and moments landed. It's so much more valuable than trying to draw only on the discoveries that we make in the hermetically sealed rehearsal room together.

    John Moore: One of my favorite Pfeffinger lines isn't even from your play. It was from an interview where you described the outcome of an earlier workshop of Human Error. You said the play “no longer displays a first-draft's need for radical de-suckification."

    Eric Pfeffinger: That's probably me at my best right there. I can only hope to strive for the pithy expression that is de-suckification. I think we could all use a little radical de-suckification right now. 

    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.

    Human Error
    Written by Eric Pfeffinger
    Directed by Jane Page
    Dramaturgy by Amy Jensen
    Madelyn: Caitlin Wise
    Keenan: Robert Manning Jr.
    Jim: John DiAntonio
    Heather: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Dr. Hoskins: Wesley Mann
    Stage Directions: Drew Horwitz      

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

  • 'Motown' performers visit D-Town's North High School

    by John Moore | Feb 17, 2017

    Video above: Cast members from the national touring production of Motown the Musical visited students from Denver's North High School to sing a song and answer their questions about life in the theatre.

    Michelle Alves, who plays 15 roles, and 11-year-old CJ Young, who plays a young Michael Jackson, offered advice and encouragement before returning to the Buell Theatre for 'Motown,' the story of founder Berry Gordy's journey from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul. His American dream launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson. The conversation was led by DCPA Education’s Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski.

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    Photo gallery: Motown at Denver's North High School:

    'Motown' in Denver 2017
    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Motown the Musical: Ticket information
    Motown The MusicalThrough Sunday, Feb. 19
    The Buell Theatre
    ASL, Open Caption and Audio Described performance: 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Motown the Musical:
    How Berry Gordy turned a slogan into The Supremes

    Michelle Alves and CJ Young, center, with students from Denver North High School. Photo by John Moore. Michelle Alves and CJ Young of 'Motown the Musical,' center, with students from Denver North High School. Photo by John Moore for the DCA NewsCenter.
  • Meet the cast: Cajardo Lindsey of 'The Christians'

    by John Moore | Feb 16, 2017
    Cajardo Lindsey

    Cajardo Lindsey of 'The Christians.' He is pictured below right on the first day of rehearsal for the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit on Tuesday.


    MEET CAJARDO LINDSEY

    Understudy to Associate Pastor Joshua in The Christians, Reggie in Last Night and the Night Before (2017 Colorado New Play Summit)

    Cajardo Lindsey. 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. At the Theatre Company: All the Way, A Raisin in the Sun, Just Like Us. Other Theatres: A Raisin in the Sun, Wait Until Dark, To Kill a Mockingbird (Arvada Center) The Whipping Man, The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, Marcus: or The Secret of Sweet, Fences (Curious Theatre). TV/Film: "Medium," "Crash," "In Plain Sight," "Easy Money," Silver City, MacGruber, Force of Execution, Assassins' Code, Independence Day: Resurgence (2016), Shot Caller (2016), Somnio (2016)."

    • Hometown: Cincinnati.
    • Training: BA from Miami University and a JD (law degree) from Indiana University. (I was home-schooled in the arts.)
    • What was the role that changed your life? Playing Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun at the Arvada Center. My life was changed in the arts because of the look and embrace I received from my mentor after the show.
    • Why are you an actor? Acting called ... and I answered.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: I presently enjoy two careers,  one as an actor and the other as an attorney. I am unaware of what I would be doing for a career if I were not an actor and an attorney. Maybe a poet, a writer or a coach … I do all of these things in some capacity.
    • Cajardo Lindsey Jeffrey NickelsonIdeal scene partner: My mentor, Jeffrey Nickelson. He was the founder of Denver's Shadow Theatre Company. If he were still alive, it would be great to show him that I was listening.
    • Why does The Christians matter? Because if we, as an audience, can see ourselves in a play and begin to do self-inquiry, I believe the byproduct will be growth and evolution.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of this play? Love and compassion.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... for the people in this world to love one another."

    Cajardo Lindsey in Curious Theatre's 'The Brothers Size.' Photo by Michael EnsmingerCajardo Lindsey in Curious Theatre's 2013 production of 'The Brothers Size.' Photo by Michael Ensminger.


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    270x270-the-christians-art-ttA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.

    Plays through Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Playwright: The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    The Christians: How do you know Kevin Kilner?
    Behind the scenes video: Making stained glass for The Christians
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Video: What audiences are saying about The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
     
    Meet the cast: Krystel Lucas
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    More 2016-17 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Steven J. Burge, An Act of God
    Liam Craig, The Book of Will
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grundei, Frankenstein
    Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Jennifer Le Blanc, The Book of Will
    Rodney Lizcano, The Book of Will
    Wesley Mann, The Book of Will
    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein
    Erik Sandvold, An Act of God
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
    Kim Staunton, Two Degrees

     

  • Video: 'Circus 1903' brings baby elephant to Children's Hospital

    by John Moore | Feb 15, 2017

    To see the video above, push play.


    The Denver-bound Circus 1903 is a family friendly new spectacle that celebrates The Golden Age of Circus with all the strong men and acrobats and aerialists you might expect, alongside magnificent elephant … puppets.

    Circus 1903. Photo by John MooreDavid Williamson, who plays Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade, and Luke Chadwick-Jones, who brings Peanut the baby elephant to life, visited Stevens Elementary School in Wheat Ridge, as well as patients at Children's Hospital, offering the youngsters there a fun taste of magic and the circus. They appeared in the hospital's in-house Seacrest Studios, so that kids who could not leave their rooms could watch on their televisions.

    "As a parent, I know how much it means for people to stop by and give a little bit of their time," Williamson said. "I hope for those few moments, those kids forgot they were in a hospital."

    Circus 1903 plays under the Buell Theatre Big Top from Feb. 21-26.

    Photo gallery:
    'Circus 1903' in Denver
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Cassie McHale and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Circus 1903 - The Golden Age of Circus: Ticket information
    The story: Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of CircusSensational puppetry puts elephants back in the ring as never seen before with a cast of unique, amazing and dangerous circus acts, from strong men to contortionists, acrobats to musicians, knife throwers, high wire and more.
    • Feb. 21-26
    • Buell Theatre
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Circus 1903:
    Circus 1903: Death-defying humans ... and puppet elephants

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Photos: 2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal

    by John Moore | Feb 14, 2017
    Colorado New Play Summit opening-day photo gallery:

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded simply free by clicking on them. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The DCPA Theatre Company today welcomed dozens of actors, playwrights, directors and crew for the first day of rehearsal for the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. The 12th annual festival will feature readings of new works by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Rogelio Martinez, Eric Pfeffinger, Robert Schenkkan and Lauren Yee.

    The Colorado New Play Summit presents readings of new plays over two weeks as the playwrights continue to craft their developing works alongside a full, professional creative team. Audiences also are offered the opportunity to see two fully staged world premiere productions that emerged from the previous year's Summit: The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson and Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist. In addition, the DCPA Theatre Company is presenting the regional premiere of Lucas Hnath's The Christians. Most of the Summit actors are also appearing in one of those three mainstage plays.

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit "I always feel blessed at this time of year when we get to tell new stories that provide windows on the world," said DCPA Artistic Director Kent Thompson. "Our audiences can see how these playwrights and these artists are responding to the world around them today."

    (Pictured right: Olivia Sullivent in rehearsal for 'Last Night and the Night Before.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Tuesday's launch was bittersweet given that the 2017 Summit will be Thompson's last. Thompson, who founded the Summit upon his arrival in Denver in 2006, has announced his resignation effective March 3. 

    "We have workshopped 50 plays at the Summit," Thompson said. "We have had 44 playwrights, including 20 female playwrights. We have had 27 world premieres that began at the Summit, and we have launched two major musicals (The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Sense and Sensibility the Musical)."

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Kent ThompsonThree years ago, Thompson (pictured at right) expanded the Summit by a week so that once playwrights get their work in front of an audience, they can take feedback and come back for another round of rehearsals and readings.

    "These two weeks are really about the playwright," Thompson said. 

    The five 2017 Summit readings will take audiences from an American suburb to Brooklyn to China to Nazi Germany to the first meeting between Reagan and Gorbechev.

    New DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said this is an important time in history for playwrights. "It's the playwright's responsibility to always have their ear not only to the present, but also to the future," she said. "What I am most most excited about the plays we are about to unpack at the Summit is that these playwrights have one foot in the present and one foot in the future. We will get to the other side."

    Here is a look at each featured Summit play, with an introduction from each of the playwrights:

    Last Night and the Night Before
    By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Donetta GraysWhen Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble, and her husband is nowhere to be seen. The family’s deep Southern roots have a long reach, and they grab hold of Rachel’s life stronger than she could have ever imagined.

    Says Grays: "It's fitting that today is Valentine's Day because I think this play is squarely about the power and dynamic of love. There are questions around motherhood, what defines motherhood, what defines being a woman, what makes a family, and what loss is as well."

    Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
    Dramaturgy by Lauren Whitehead
    Sam: Olivia Sullivent
    Monique: Brynn Tucker
    Reggie: Cajardo Lindsay
    Rachel: Jasmine Hughes
    Nadima: Valeka Holt
    Stage Directions: Tresha Farris   

    Blind Date
    By Rogelio Martinez

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Rogelio MartinezThis play centers on odd-couple Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's first meeting in Geneva in an attempt to  open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Though members of their cabinets try to keep them on track, the leaders steer the conversation to pop culture and films. While the men chip away at the mistrust between their countries, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev play out a passive-aggressive tango that mirrors their husbands’ negotiations. This play is the conclusion to Martinez’s Cold War trilogy. Martinez previously wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere of When Tang Met Laika.

    Says Martinez: "At some point in their lives, both of these men took a huge pivot. They they were from completely different philosophies and had different ideas. But for a small moment in time they became idealists and they believed in something that no one else believed in. Ultimately the play is about trust: Can one person trust the other across the negotiating table?

    Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
    Dramaturgy by Douglas Langworthy
    George Shultz: Liam Craig                                                                                   
    Eduard Shevardnadze: Steve Brady
    Mikhail Gorbachev: Triney Sandavol
    Ronald Reagan: Victor Slezak
    Edmund Morris: Kurt Rhoads
    Raisa Gorbachev: Kathleen McCall
    Nancy Reagan: Nance Williamson
    Peter, Politburo Member, Dimitri Zarechnak: Rodney Lizcano
    Stage Directions: Mehry Eslaminia                            

    Human Error
    By Eric Pfeffinger

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Eric PfeffingerMadelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing a nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely friendships.

    Says Pfeffinger: "One couple's fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted in a stranger so, obviously, it's a comedy: One of those classic 'switched embryo' farces. What ensues is the two couples trying to come to understand a kind of people they have never had any interest in knowing before."

    Directed by Jane Page
    Dramaturgy by Amy Jensen
    Madelyn: Caitlin Wise
    Keenan: Robert Manning Jr.
    Jim: John DiAntonio
    Heather: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Dr. Hoskins: Wesley Mann
    Stage Directions: Drew Horwitz               

    Hanussen

    By Robert Schenkkan

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Robert SchenkkanIn 1930s Berlin, the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolph Hitler. While his star seems to be on the rise, the consequences of his next major prediction (and his own true identity) may break his spell. Based on true events. Schenkkan is a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (All the Way, The 12).

    Says Schenkkan: "The Weimar Republic seems like a good place to be visiting right now. It is said that Hanussen helped coach Hitler to improve his public speaking. That he cast Hitler's horoscope. And that he may or may not have had some part in the Black Flag Operation known as The Reichstag fire. Hanussen was Jewish. This is a play about denial and avoidance and individual responsibility."

    Directed by Kent Thompson
    Dramaturgy by Liz Engelman
    Hanussen: Jamison Jones
    Hitler: Richard Thieriot
    Wolfe: Kevin Kilner
    Ernerst Juhn, Bruno Frei and Stage Manager: Andy Nagraj
    Fred Marion, Joseph Goebbles, Young Man and Manager: Robert Montano
    Fritzi, Katrina and Maria Paudler: Sarah Schenkkan
    Servant, Rudolf Steinle and Nobleman: Leigh Miller
    Businessman and Kurt Egger: Jason Delane
    Stage Directions: Luke Sorge

    Manford From Half Court, or The Great Leap
    By Lauren Yee

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Lauren YeeWhen an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game in the post-Cultural Revolution 1980s, both countries try to tease out the politics behind this newly popular sport. Cultures clash as the Chinese coach tries to pick up moves from the Americans and a Chinese-American player named Manford spies on his opponents.

    Says Yee: "What you need to know about The Great Leap is that my father is 6-foot-1. He grew up in San Francisco Chinatown, and before he had kids, the only thing he was good at was basketball. He was never going to the NBA, but he was good enough that even today in San Francisco, people stop us on the street and say, 'I used to play you in basketball.' And as they walk away, my dad is always like, 'Yeah ... and I kicked his ass.' In the 1980s, my father and his Chinese-American teammates went to China to play a series of exhibition games throughout the country. And he got completely demolished in almost every single game. Apparently in Beijing, they played against all these 7-foot-6, 300-pound gods - and remember, my dad was 6-foot-1. And he was the tallest guy on his team. 'We did not even know when they had the ball,' he said."

    Directed by Josh Brody
    Dramaturgy by Kristen Leahey
    Manford: Kevin Lin
    Saul: Brian Keane
    Wen Chang: Francis Jue
    Connie: Jo Mei
    Stage Directions: Samantha Long

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'As One': Groundbreaking opera of transgender youth's emergence

    by John Moore | Feb 13, 2017

    Opera Colorado presents 'As One,' a chamber opera with a libretto co-written by Denver native Mark Campbell, March 2-4 at Pinnacle Charter School in Federal Heights.

    By Mark Campbell
    Special to the DCPA NewsCenter

    Opera composers and librettists are repeatedly asked the rather wearisome question: “What comes first, the libretto or the music?” And the equally wearisome answer — delivered with a slightly Borscht Belt inflection — is “the commission.” (Rim shot.)

    Mark-Campbell QuoteOf course, the real answer to that question is “the story.” In the typical construct of birthing a new opera, the composer and librettist, and eventually the commissioning producer, all agree on a story they want to tell. Once that jolly convergence occurs, the librettist starts writing the libretto — setting up the events in the story, establishing the moments that put the operatic form to its best use and filling it with words to be sung. The librettist then submits that first draft of the libretto to the composer, who then begins setting it to music. Thus, the legendary dance between text and notes begins. Sometimes a minuet — sometimes a stomp.

    But the process of creating As One was as atypical as the opera itself. When composer Laura Kaminsky asked me to join the creative team, she already had come up with the theme —  something about the experience of a transgender individual. She had seized on an intriguing but not yet useful theatrical conceit — a mezzo and a baritone playing the sole protagonist. She had the basis of a visual design — engaging filmmaker Kim Reed to create projections. The principal cast was in place — the amazing Sasha Cooke and Kelly Markgraf). She already had an idea for the accompanying sound — a string quartet. And finally, she had secured a producer — American Opera Projects.

    What was missing was where most operas begin: The story.

    I’ll never forget the evening Laura invited Kim Reed and me to talk about collaborating at the gorgeous, massive apartment she shares in the Bronx with her wife, the artist Rebecca Allan. Neither Laura nor Kim had created an opera before, but their passion for the subject and their freedom from preconceived notions about the form stood them well. They told me their ideas for a story but I felt that none of them would accomplish what they were seeking to accomplish in this opera. I turned to Kim and respectfully asked her, as a transgender person, to relate some experiences in her own life.

    Kim recalled an incident as a male-assigned youth in Helena, Mont. Like almost every boy born into a suburban existence, Kim had a newspaper route. But one morning, she decided to deliver newspapers in a blouse worn under her jacket. It was a galvanizing moment. We discussed a few more experiences (the wine was kicking in nicely), and I left the Bronx that evening with a vague but thrilling notion for a story.

    As One at Bam. Photo by Ken Howard. A few days later, I proposed creating an original libretto about a transgender person from youth to emergence, based very loosely on Kim’s experiences. I invited Kim to co-write the libretto, and that was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. She and I quickly established the themes we wanted to explore and from that created a narrative in three parts that lies stylistically between an opera and a song cycle. We also decided very early on that humor would be a crucial element in connecting our audience with our story.

    About three months later, we delivered a libretto to Laura and she began setting it to music, astonishing us at every turn with the power she was finding in the words. About a year after that, the opera premiered and soon became one of the most produced contemporary operas in the country.

    (Photo above and right: Kelly Markgraf and Sasha Cooke portray the transgender protagonist Hannah in 'As One' at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Photo by Ken Howard.)

    Having As One performed at Opera Colorado has some personal significance for me. I attended Thomas Jefferson High School and was Vice President of the Drama Club — which is about as euphemistic as it gets. I graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, where I now mentor for the College of Music’s New Opera Workshop. In this wonderful initiative designed to train young composers about writing opera, I try to teach some rules about the process of creating opera — but also the importance of knowing when to break those rules, as we did with As One.

    Note: This story originally published in the winter 2017 edition of Ovation Magazine. 

     

    About the Author: Mark Campbell
    Denver native Mark Campbell is one of the most in-demand and prolific librettists in the country. He has written more than 15 operas and five musicals.  His most-known work is the libretto for Silent Night, which received the 2012 Pulitzer in Music for composer Kevin Puts. The work premiered at Minnesota Opera, was broadcast on PBS' Great Performances and has entered the modern repertory with an unprecedented rapidity. Campbell’s other operas include The Manchurian Candidate, Later the Same Evening, Volpone, As One, Bastianello/Lucrezia, A Letter to East 11th Street, The Inspector, Rappahannock County and Approaching Ali. Campbell is the recipient of the first Kleban Prize for Lyricist, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Awards nominations, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, the first Domenic J. Pellicciotti Prize and a Jonathan Larson Foundation Award. Recent and upcoming premieres include The Shining (Minnesota Opera), Elizabeth Cree (Opera Philadelphia), Dinner at Eight (Minnesota Opera), Some Light Emerges (HGOco) and The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (The Santa Fe Opera). He is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School the University of Colorado Boulder.

     

    As One: Ticket information

    • What: A 75-minute chamber opera for two voices sung in English with English subtitles
    • When: March 2-4
    • Where: Pinnacle Charter School, 1001 W 84th Ave., Federal Heights
    • Tickets: 303-468-2030 operacolorado.org 

    As One: Synopsis
    As One.Summary: With humor and empathy, As One chronicles the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world. Two singers share the part of a sole transgender protagonist — Hannah after (mezzo-soprano) and Hannah before (baritone). Inspired in part by the life experiences of acclaimed filmmaker Kimberly Reed. Fifteen songs comprise the three-part narrative; with empathy and humor, they trace Hannah’s experiences from her youth in a small town to her college years on the West Coast, and finally to Norway where she is surprised at what she learns about herself.

    Part I: In “Paper route,” Hannah rides around her suburban neighborhood delivering newspapers and revels in her more feminine impulses. Her youthful challenges in conforming to gender norms are related in “Cursive,” “Sexed,” “Entire of Itself ” and “Perfect Boy” — in such disparate subjects as handwriting, sex, a John Donne poem, and exemplary male behavior. However, in “To Know,” she discovers that she is not alone in the world and seeks understanding about herself at a local library.

    Part II: During her college years, Hannah struggles with her bifurcated existence in “Two cities,” but also encounters the joy of being perceived as she wishes in “Three Words.” In “Close,” she has made the decision to undergo hormone therapy and briefly suffers its vertiginous effects before feeling at one with her own body. “Home for the Holidays,” “A Christmas Story” and “Dear Son” all occur around the Christmas season and relate Hannah’s growing distance to her family and her past, which is countered by an immediate connection with a stranger in a local café. In “Out of Nowhere,” Hannah escapes a harrowing assault that prompts her to find a link to the larger trans community and end her self-imposed alienation. Reacting to the conflicting voices in her head, she finally resolves to escape in the fragment, “I go on to…”

    Part III: “Norway.” In this extended aria, Hannah finds, in Nature, solitude, and self-reflection, the simple yet surprising equation that will help her achieve happiness.

  • 'The Christians' video: How do you know Kevin Kilner?

    by John Moore | Feb 12, 2017

     

    You might know veteran actor Kevin Kilner from dozens of stage and screen credits. In the first part of our two-part video, we asked Kilner to talk about a few of our favorites: House of Cards, Home Alone 3 and the film that still gets him recognized around the globe, Disney's Smart House.

    We also talk about one of his crowning stage achievements: Playing the Gentleman Caller in the 50th anniversary Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie in 1994 opposite Julie Harris, Calista Flockhart and Zeljko Ivanek. Kilner talks about a radical character choice he made for the production that some might find heretic. Wrote the New York Times: “Kilner is the real discovery of this production. Touched by Laura’s timidity, he draws her out of her shell, just as her worshipful manner reawakens the golden boy he was back in senior class.”

    Kilner says when he got to the line each night where he tells Laura he can't call on her again, he wanted it to feel to the audience "as if I was pulling barbed wire out of my stomach."

    Now through Feb. 26, Kilner is playing Pastor Paul in DCPA Theatre Company's The Christians, Lucas Hnath's new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church. In Part 2, Kilner will speak more directly about the play.

    Video by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    The Christians: Ticket information
    270x270-the-christians-art-ttA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Plays through Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Playwright: The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    Behind the scenes video: Making stained glass for The Christians
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Video: What audiences are saying about The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
     
    Meet the cast: Krystel Lucas
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics</copy.>

  • Last Man Out: Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore remembered

    by John Moore | Feb 12, 2017
    Harold G. Moore Quote

    NOTE: In tribute to Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore of Crested Butte, who died late Friday night in Auburn, Ala., we are re-posting John Moore’s 2001 interview for The Denver Post. Hal Moore's book about his experience in Vietnam was made into the movie "We Were Soldiers." He would have turned 95 years old on Monday.

    Hal Moore told his men: “I’m going to be the first man on the ground in any big battle we go into, and I am going to be the last one out.”

    By John Moore
    Originally published March 18, 2001

    For three days in 1965, Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore fought and won the first great battle of the Vietnam War and changed the course of history. Outnumbered 10 to 1, the first battalion of the 7th Air Cavalry not only survived but managed to send the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into a temporary retreat.

    But when a relief battalion arrived, the commander refused to leave. The officer he had put in charge of tracking the 79 dead and 121 wounded as they were being airlifted out had unsettling news. Somewhere out there, amid the knife-like elephant grass where more than 1,000 enemy dead had been left to rot in the 110-degree heat, was Thomas C. Pizzino of Hopedale, Ohio.

    Moore would not leave him there. Three months earlier at Fort Benning, Ga., he had promised his men that none would be left behind on a jungle battlefield. Later, helicopters were so full of dead and wounded men that blood drained out of the cracks in the fuselages.

    "I've always been a strong believer that you bring home your men. If they are dead, you go get them. You bring them back," Moore said in an interview at his home in Crested Butte. "I had told my men that I'm going to be the first man on the ground in any big battle we go into, and I am going to be the last one out. I'm going to bring you all home, and if I go down, I hope you'll bring me home."

    Moore and a company of about 50 men, feeling relief from the imminent possibility of death for the first time in 72 hours, went back out, crawling on hands and knees to the spot where Pizzino had been fighting, and recovered his body.

    "No one thought twice about doing that," said Moore.

    The next day, the battalion that replaced Moore's was ambushed, and 70 percent of the Americans were killed or wounded. The four-day death toll rose to 234 Americans and 3,561 North Vietnamese.

    Harold G. Moore"Hi. I'm Hal Moore."

    That's how the retired three-star general modestly greets strangers at the Queen of All Saints Catholic Church potluck dinner in Crested Butte. Not that there are many in the town of 1,085 who don't already know Moore and his wife of 51 years, Julie, who have blended into the fabric of the community since moving here in 1977 at the urging of former Secretary of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway. The same cannot be said of the bright yellow 1976 International Scout they use to get around town.

    Moore is 79, has had two hip replacements, a broken back and wears two hearing aids. But just try keeping up with him. He skis cross-country three times a week, hikes, fishes and quotes Aeschylus. Everyone here knows him as an avid outdoorsman and devout parishioner. Not everyone knows him as a true American hero.

    News report: American hero Harold G. Moore dies in Alabama

    His home sits halfway up the side of Mount Crested Butte amid condos and ski chalets, but it's easy to spot from the bottom by the gigantic American flag he flies from his back deck each day. Dwarfed by the red, white, and blue are three much smaller flags, tattered and gray. Outside an impeccably maintained home with military memorabilia and more than 1,500 books, the withering little rags are the only things that seem less than perfect.

    Life here could not be more unlike the battlefield he left 14,000 miles behind 36 years ago, but has never left his mind.

    "I don't think a day passes that I don't think about that battle," said Moore.

    On Nov. 14, 1965, Moore's mission in Vietnam was a lot more clear than the overall objective of his nation. "My instructions that day were to find the enemy and kill them," Moore said.

    In July, President Lyndon B. Johnson had ordered the Air Mobile Division to Vietnam, thus introducing to warfare the transport of military troops by helicopter. Johnson would do little else, in Moore's opinion, to ensure the success of the U.S. soldiers, and many of the men who went to their deaths there died understanding only one cause.

    "Troops in battle don't fight for what some president says on TV," Moore said. "They don't fight for mom, the flag or for apple pie. They fight for one another. They fight to stay alive. And they become brothers for life."

    Moore's first job in the  Ia Drang River Valley was to secure a tiny helicopter landing zone so that the enemy could be engaged. The area was called LZ X-Ray. Moore had no idea that when he touched down at the jungle base of the Chu Pong mountain that he was being dropped into the center of hell.

    "I had very little information about how many enemy were in the area," Moore said. They were everywhere. Moore's men captured two unarmed North Vietnamese who told him the dense mountain was filled with soldiers who wanted very much to kill Americans, but couldn't find any.

    X-Ray was so small, helicopters could only drop 80 of Moore's 429 men at a time, once every 35 minutes. The PAVN had 2,000 veteran soldiers on the ground and in the trees, and 6,000 more were just a half-day's march away.

    Within 30 minutes of Moore's arrival, long before all of his men could mass, one of the most savage battles in military annals began. The 29 men who would come to be known as the Lost Platoon were tricked into advancing 200 yards from X-Ray and were cut off by the PAVN. All but seven of the Americans were dead or wounded before they could be rescued the next day. "I ordered my men to eliminate that platoon, but they met with fierce resistance," PAVN Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huu An later said. "I suppose that when they had to choose between life and death, the Americans chose life."

    On Day 2, X-Ray was dangerously close to being overrun. "You could hear the screams of men calling for medics, calling for their mothers, wounded men screaming in three languages," Moore said. "When you are in a situation like that, surrounded by noise, smoke, dust, screams, explosions, machine guns, hand grenades, people dropping all around and bullets whizzing around you like a swarm of bees, you have to remain cool and calm. If you ever think you might lose, you've already lost."

    Moore yelled "Broken Arrow" into his radio, a command ordering every available fighter bomber in South Vietnam to come to his aid, and the sky soon turned into a sea of fire. But two U.S. planes were given the wrong coordinates, and the fiery napalm bombs they dropped burned some of Moore's men alive.

    Joseph Galloway was a 23-year-old UPI reporter who managed to get himself dropped by helicopter into X-Ray holding a camera in one hand and a rifle in the other. He could see three American soldiers in the flames. He voluntarily raised up under fire to help drag in one of the soldiers, but the flesh of the ankle came off in his hands. The other two survived.

    The air power gave the PAVN nowhere to hide, and it turned the battle around. By the next day, the enemy had retreated to the other side of the Chu Pong mountain in Cambodia, knowing U.S. policy would keep them from crossing the border. "When that battle ended, I knew we had accomplished something historic," Moore said. "I knew it would be cause for critical decisions to be made in Saigon and in Washington and in Hanoi."

    The slaughter of the relief battalion the next day was precipitated by a decision not to chopper the soldiers out of X-Ray but to make them walk 3 miles through enemy territory toward another U.S. landing zone called Albany.

    But the U.S. government proclaimed total victory, ignoring the casualties at Albany. The U.S. was convinced its helicopters and other air support were unbeatable, even though 6,000 choppers would be downed in the war. The PAVN learned the strategy for combatting air power was mass and constant movement, and they were prepared to accept any human cost. Ultimately, the battle at X-Ray guaranteed a long, bloody, unwinnable war.

    The next day, Julie Moore was gathered back at Fort Benning with other 7th Cavalry wives watching ABC News. She knew something in the celebratory report was amiss. "I was so stunned at seeing my husband with tears in his eyes that I could hardly speak," she said. "But those sergeants who died were his brothers and the privates his sons. No man can lose that many family members and not weep."

    "Guilty."

    That's how Moore feels today, 36 years after he won the battle of X-Ray. "When your men die and you don't, you feel guilty," he said. "You are their leader."

    Moore never has stopped caring about the men who lived and died at Ia Drang, and he vowed then they would not be forgotten. "In the end, when we walked across the enemy dead and picked up his weapons," Moore said, "I knew that I had to write the story of these great soldiers who fought against such odds."

    For a decade, Moore and Galloway interviewed soldiers and family members and traveled to Vietnam to talk with leaders of the PAVN.

    The result was the 1992 best seller, "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," which is being made into a film by Randall Wallace ("Braveheart'') starring Mel Gibson.

    "Hal Moore has a combination of toughness and warmth that I haven't experienced in anybody before," Wallace said. "And he has enormous enthusiasm and a tremendous love of life that I found extraordinary in a general. However you cut it, the Army is an institution about developing efficient ways to kill other people. It's ultimately intended to save lives, but it's still a weapon of destruction. To find a man in it who has such reverence for life is extraordinary. I think General Moore has more reverence for life than many ministers I've met."

    Moore's book is required reading at West Point. It celebrates the heroism of his men, but not the war itself. "I like to think that Hal and I have written one of the great anti-war books of our century," said Galloway. Moore believes passionately the Vietnam War was a mistake, as is any military effort where America's vital interests are not at stake. The price in American lives is simply too high.

    "In my view, the two great tragedies of the 20th century are the decline of morality and the Vietnam War," Moore said, pondering the imponderable. "Think about it: Ten years. 58,000 names on that wall. All those hearts broken, families shattered ..."

    Galloway said the ultimate lesson is that "war is unimaginably horrible. Be careful where you send your sons and daughters, because there are people out there ready to kill your children."

    Moore has been back to Vietnam seven times, and in 1991 he met with An, his enemy counterpart commander at Ia Drang. It was the start of an unusual friendship that would last until An's death in 1995.

    "General An and I just hit it off," Moore said. "He was very straightforward. Soldiers don't create the wars, politicians do. Soldiers are the ones who have to fight the wars."

    When Moore returned again in 1993, this time bringing with him a dozen of his men for a tour of the battlefield, he slipped off his wristwatch and gave it to An, calling it a gift "from one soldier to another."

    An was speechless, and 45 minutes later gave Moore his Army helmet.

    "We corresponded after that, and when I found out he died in March of 1995, I faxed his widow a letter of sympathy," Moore said. "And then in October of 1999, Joe Galloway and I received permission to make a courtesy call to his widow. We went to her home, and she's a little old Oriental lady, 5-feet-1, dressed in a long, black dress. She had two strapping sons who greeted us in suits and neckties. Their daughter, a doctor in the Army with the rank of major, was there in uniform. We had brought flowers and incense, because I knew being a Buddhist home that they would have made a shrine.

    "They had a huge display of all his medals and uniforms, the watch I gave him, the fax I sent her ... and over here in the middle of this wall was a huge framed picture of him, with flowers, fruits and bottled water, which the Buddhists believe that the spirits consume. And I lit the incense.

    Harold G. Moore"He was a soldier, just like me. Thirty-six years ago, we were trying to kill each other, but that was over when I met him."

    Moore will return to Vietnam once more, this time bringing with him An's helmet. "I'm going to return it to the widow," Moore said. "Now that he's gone, it would mean more to her.''

    (Photo at right from Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore's Wikipedia page.)

    When the sun sets in Crested Butte, Moore walks onto his deck to bring down his American flag. As darkness descends on the town perched at an altitude of 9,000 feet, the stars are so close you'd swear you were sitting inside a planetarium. The three small, gray tattered flags continue to flap in the wind. You want to know why he keeps them.

    "They are Tibetan prayer flags," said Moore, who hung his four years ago, when they were green, blue and white. "The Buddhists keep their flags out until they disintegrate. They believe that as every little shred falls off, the wind carries their prayers with them."

    As each piece of Moore's flags wither away, they take with them to heaven not only his love and prayers for every man who has served under him, but for his old enemy as well.


    Note: Harold G. Moore is survived by three sons, two daughters, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist and former Denver Post staff writer John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He is no relation to Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.

  • 'Two Degrees': Opening night photos

    by John Moore | Feb 11, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Above: Photos from opening night of Tira Palmquist's world-premiere play 'Two Degrees' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Director Christy Montour-Larson is on the right. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Video bonus: How do they make that ice, ice baby?

    Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan takes you backstage for a look at how he created the ever-changing world of Two Degrees for the DCPA Theatre Company. The set includes 56 Plexiglass panels that are treated to look like ice - but six of them actually are made of ice and melt throughout the show. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    • Through March 12
    • Jones Theatre
    • ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Video: How do they make that ice, ice, baby?
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Meet the cast: Kim Staunton
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

  • Meet the Cast: Krystel Lucas, 'The Christians'

    by John Moore | Feb 11, 2017
    Krystel Lucas Quote.
    Krystel Lucas in The Christians. Photo by Adams VisCom.


    MEET KRYSTEL LUCAS

    Elizabeth, the wife of Pastor Paul, in The Christians

    At the Theatre Company: Debut. New York credits include Couriers and Contrabands (The Barrow Group) and Love’s Labor’s Lost (Shakespeare in the Parking Lot). Regional: Disgraced (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Twelfth Night (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Good People (Alley Theatre and Dorset Theatre Festival), The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Old Globe), In the Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play (Syracuse Stage and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), Postcards from Earth (The Guthrie), Death and the King's Horseman, Macbeth (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). TV/Film: "Jessica Jones" and "The Blacklist."

    • Krystel LucasHometown: Spring Lake, N.C.
    • Training: BA from UNC-Asheville; MFA from New York University
    • What was the role that changed your life? Playing Rosaline in Love's Labour's Lost profoundly changed my life. It was my first full production and significant role in a Shakespeare play. I learned so much about the craft of acting, the power of language and the beauty of storytelling. It was a revelation for me because it taught me the value of ensemble work and also emboldened me to pick up more classical texts.
    • Why are you an actor? Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose? What is our responsibility to the rest of humanity? What stories do we want to tell and need to tell? There are so many questions we ask of ourselves and each other in our daily lives. I love that as artists we have an opportunity to examine a life, a story, an experience that may be very different from our own ... yet, so richly connects us to each other. For me, acting is about seeking truth - in building your character, dissecting the choices we make and shining a light on another person’s journey in this world. At its best, the work can be exciting, humorous, fascinating, scary, fun, playful, tragic and, hopefully, deeply human. Oh, I love it.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: My background is journalism, so I would probably work in that field. I think it is a profession that has played an important role in our nation’s social, economic and political landscape. Ideally, investigative journalists also seek truth with integrity, ingenuity and care for the greater good of society.
    • carol-burnettIdeal scene partner: I grew up watching "The Carol Burnett Show". She was just fearless, smart, spontaneous, bold and full of joy. It was so much fun to see her living in the moment, evoking genuine laughter and daring audiences to come along for the ride. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to work on a scene with such a comedic genius.
    • Why does The Christians matter? This is a beautiful play that challenges us to look inward and examine our own beliefs, biases and world views. In a time when listening to each other and working to understand different perspectives seems so difficult in our country, this play takes an intimate look at one of our most precious, private and potent sources of conflict … our faith.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of this play? I hope they leave asking questions of themselves and their fellow theatergoers. I hope they leave feeling like they’ve been to church and experienced a sermon like no other. I hope they leave and feel they’ve experienced a moving story that reminds them that we are, all of us, human beings.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... a world where we can all keep our heads up, our hearts open and our feet firmly planted on the ground."
    Kevin Kilner and Krystel Lucas of The Christians. Photo by Adams VisCom. Kevin Kilner and Krystel Lucas play a married couple in 'The Christians.' Photo by Adams VisCom.

    The Christians: Ticket information
    270x270-the-christians-art-ttA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Plays through Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Behind the scenes video: Making stained glass for The Christians
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    The Christians
    is 'a pathway to empathy
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    More 2016-17 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Steven J. Burge, An Act of God
    Liam Craig, The Book of Will
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grundei, Frankenstein
    Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Jennifer Le Blanc, The Book of Will
    Rodney Lizcano, The Book of Will
    Wesley Mann, The Book of Will
    Robert Manning Jr., The Christians
    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein
    Erik Sandvold, An Act of God
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
    Kim Staunton, Two Degrees
    Caitlin Wise, The Christians

     

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

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