• Art and Artist: Meghan Anderson Doyle on stitching Chekhov with Snow White

    by John Moore | Oct 22, 2014


    Actor Kathleen McCall as a Hollywood star named Masha who wants to go to a costume party dressed as an age-inappropriate Snow White. Design by Meghan Anderson Doyle. Photograph by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Vanya_Sonia_Masha_Spike_Zombie_Costumes_Meghan_Anderson_Doyle_400At first glance, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike would not appear to be a costume designer’s dream. More like a snooze. The play opens with contemporary adult siblings in modern dress wearing basic, muted earth tones. 

    But from the moment their sister Masha walks in, “There is just this explosion of Hollywood color,” says Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle (pictured at right).

    In Christopher Durang’s Tony-winning comedy rooted in the anachronistic world of Anton Chekhov, Masha is a successful actor, and her adult siblings are living off her largess.

    “We laughed most about figuring out the Masha celebrity look,” said Doyle, a graduate of Denver North High School and the universities of Denver (B.A.) and Florida (M.F.A). “We came up with everything from Kim Kardashian's mother to The Housewives of New York.”

    But then, out of nowhere, Durang tosses Doyle and costume designers around the world a bright, technicolor bouquet: The family has been invited to a costume party. And Masha -- a woman in her 50s -- has decided she will be going as Snow White. And she has ruled that her siblings will be accompanying her … as dwarfs. Enter Grumpy and Dopey.


    For Doyle, “It’s like getting to design two plays in one.” And the bigger the separation – from a mundane breakfast conversation to a costume party later on -- “the more dynamic the payoff,” she said.

    Durang is known as an absurdist comic writer, but Doyle and Director Jenn Thompson chose to keep the Snow White party costumes true to the Disney movie. That means they are very much drenched in cartoon colors – “vibrant yellow, blue and red,” said Doyle. “She's got the traditional blue bodice with the yellow skirt, and the big red bow in her hair.

    “Of course … the proportions are so completely different from the original characters, so that’s part of the fun, too.”

    Doyle has always loved playing dress-up, so designing a show like this one fulfills a childhood dream.

    “You know, I am still a princessy kind of girlie girl, but I don't know that I was ever exactly a Snow White person,” she said. “I think I was more The Little Mermaid. But whatever the occasion – I do love to dress up.”


    Kathleen McCall as a Hollywood star named Masha. Design by Meghan Anderson Doyle. Photograph by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    No surprise then, that Halloween Doyle’s favorite time of the year. Last weekend, she again conspired with fellow DCPA Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver to scare the bejeezus out of downtown passersby during Denver’s annual Zombie Crawl.

    “Oh, yes: Kevin and I definitely love anything to do with zombies,” she said. (See photo at top of this page.)

    Doyle began working at the DCPA as an intern while still a student at North High School, and was hired as a full-time designer after she earned her masters degree in 2006. Doyle has since designed six Theatre Company mainstage shows herself and assisted on dozens of others.

    “To have a job in the arts where you are using your degree? That’s pretty fantastic,” she said.

    Doyle has been the lead designer on Jackie & Me, Superior Donuts, Well, The Giver and the world premiere of Ed, Downloaded for the Theatre Company. Interesting trivia: Doyle worked closely with Ed, Downloaded playwright Michael Mitnick for its Denver debut – and Mitnick wrote the screenplay for the new film adaptation of The Giver. “So getting to work with him was pretty exciting,” she said.

    Doyle also designed the first four seasons of Off-Center’s Cult Following, and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! and Five Course Love for the Garner Galleria cabaret theatre. When the National Theatre Conservatory was in operation, Doyle designed 16 productions. She has also worked about town at the Curious Theatre Company (Good People, The Brothers Size, A Number, Up, tempOdyssey) and The Aurora Fox (Metamorphoses).

    Her DCPA status is called “full-time seasonal,” meaning she works full-time as long as the Theatre Company is in process. That covers about nine months a year.

    So how big of a deal is it when you get to be the lead designer on a Theatre Company show?

    “Oh, it is huge,” Doyle said. “Especially, I think, being a Denver person and to get to design in the place where you have come to see so many shows growing up.”

    While designing period or Shakespearean pieces often draw the most attention to the designer, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike presented Doyle with several unique challenges. The play is a contemporary comedy but is laced with Chekhov underpinnings.

    So how do you approach a show when it’s a parody -- but it's not? That is rooted in the world of Chekhov -- but it's not? 

    “You know, we really started the whole design process saying, ‘Things are thinly veiled,’ “ Doyle said. There are Chekhovian references, but they are in plain sight. I think a lot of the Chekhov plays more directly into Lisa Orzolek’s set design than into the costumes. But it’s no accident that the script initially references Vanya (Sam Gregory) as being in a nightshirt – even though I don't know too many grown men who wear a nightshirt anymore. So I think the Chekhov is definitely in there.”

    Doyle also had the logistical challenge of designing for a director who lives in New York. Doyle starts the creative process months in advance, and typically an out-of-town director does not arrive in Denver until rehearsals begin about a month before opening. That made for many phone conversations and Dropbox file-sharing between Doyle and Thompson.

    “We did have an initial design conference in May here in Denver, which is great because you meet face-to-face, and you get a real sense of how someone wants to work,” Doyle said. “So we knew even then that Jenn is really easygoing and fun to work with.”

    It’s also fun, she added, “when the actors are such good sports about it. You can go, 'We are going to give you giant plastic ears and a really hot green robe that has arms that are way too long, and ... I hope you do something magical and fantastic with it.’ And they do.” 

    Lesley Shires as Nina ... as a dwarf. Design by Meghan Anderson Doyle. Photograph by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Here is more  of our conversation with Meghan Anderson Doyle on her life as a costumer. And check out her full online portfolio here.

    John Moore: Do you think costumers get the credit they deserve for designing contemporary shows, when actors are dressed in everyday clothes?

    Meghan Anderson Doyle: No. I think people see contemporary shows and assume the same kind of planning hasn't gone into it. But just look at television: All those sit-coms and commercials. If it's contemporary, it's got a costume designer who created that look,  but nobody ever knows who that is. The tricky thing about contemporary costumed shows is you really do want to make a piece that's cohesive to the world. You don't want the costumes to stand out as awkward or strange or flashy ... until they should. It's definitely a different way to approach a show. I wouldn't say that it is better or worse, but it is definitely different.

    John Moore: So is it more fun when you get to design a period piece because it's more noticeable? 

    Meghan Anderson Doyle: I think it's a different challenge. You get to do all the fun things that you practiced in school, and you get to research the period, and you get to pick the fabrics. You get to make more of your own choices, I think, as opposed to a contemporary story where it’s more about going shopping and just making choices just on what's in stores.

    John Moore: Does it drive you crazy when costumers win awards for shows when it turns out the costumes were all just rented?

    Meghan Anderson Doyle: Oh … yeah. There are a lot of times where you are like, 'Not cool.' But, you know...

    John Moore: So here's my beef with Shakespeare. In many stories, things get really dirty, muddy and bloody. In The Tempest, there has been a storm and a shipwreck, and the actors walk out of the ocean and they all wearing these beautiful, clean, dry, pristine costumes. It’s pretty obvious that there is more concern for keeping these fancy clothes clean than being true to that moment of the play.

    Meghan Anderson Doyle: Yeah. I think sometimes that happens. I think it depends on the verisimilitude of the world you have created. Sometimes they are supposed to be pristine and perfect. I like more grungy, and a little more grit.

    John Moore: I am sorry to interrupt, but that’s such a good word. For the sake of those who don’t know, I am going to tell readers that means “the appearance of being true or real.”

    Meghan Anderson Doyle: Yes. You have to be true to the world you have created.

    John Moore: Most audiences (and critics!) are undereducated as to what all goes into the costume craft. And sometimes you work on a dress for months, and it’s only on stage for 15 seconds.

    Meghan Anderson Doyle: Yes. Sometimes you are kind of disappointed in that, but then you think, 'If we hadn't done that, it would have been a wasted opportunity.'

    John Moore: And sometimes a moment on stage only has to be a moment.

    Meghan Anderson Doyle: Right. If you ever look at our programs, you can see how many people are working backstage. It really takes so many of us to do what we do. 

    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.

    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: Ticket information
    Performances run through Nov. 16
    Ricketson Theatre
    303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our previous coverage of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Video: Watch a montage of scenes from the production
    Cold coffee, hot popcorn make for a good Vanya stew
    Durang strikes an unexpected peace with an indifferent Broadway
    Vanya ... is the most popular play in America
    Opening Night photos
    Vanya ... First rehearsal photos
    Meet the Cast video: Eddie Lopez
    Check out our Study Guide

    Previous DCPA 'Art and Artist' profiles:
    Scenic Designer Kyle Malone
    Stage Manager Kurt Van Raden
    Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen
    Head of Acting Lawrence Hecht
    Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod
    Director of I.T. Bruce Montgomery
    Stage Manager Lyle Raper


    "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike": Costume designs by Meghan Anderson Doyle.


    Kevin Copenhaver, Christine Rowan, "Animal Crackers" and the art of costume quackery. A video project by John Moore.
  • Meet the Cast video series: Eddie Lopez

    by John Moore | Oct 21, 2014

    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 70: Meet Eddie Lopez of Sacramento, who plays the lovably oblivious boy-toy Spike in the Theatre Company at the DCPA's new production of Christopher Durang's celebrated comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

    Lopez talks about capoeira (the national sport of Brazil), his first impressions of Denver and his thoughts on Meryl Streep ... and kindness.

    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play. It's about adult siblings whose lives are disrupted by a visit from their Hollywood star sister ... and a boy named Spike. It plays through Nov. 16 in the Ricketson Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 3 minutes.

    And, hey: Check out our new media outlet covering Colorado theatre at MyDenverCenter.Org

    Let's just be honest: Eddie Lopez has the assets you need in an actor who plays a muscular boy toy named Spike.
    Photo by Jennifer L. Koskinen

    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    : Ticket information
    Performances run through Nov. 16
    Ricketson Theatre
    303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies
    Patty Goble
    , The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies

    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies

    Meet the cast episodes from the 2013-14 season:
    Death of a Salesman
    Just Like Us
    Jackie & Me
    The Most Deserving
    A Christmas Carol
    black odyssey
    The Legend of Georgia McBride
    Animal Crackers

      Our previous coverage of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Opening Night photos
      Video: Watch a montage of scenes from the production

      Cold coffee, hot popcorn make for a good stew
      Durang strikes an unexpected peace with an indifferent Broadway
      Vanya ... is the most popular play in America
      Vanya ... First rehearsal photos
      Check out our Study Guide
    • 'Pippin' dedicates entire national touring production to Randy Weeks

      by John Moore | Oct 21, 2014
      Pippin_Randy_Weeks_800_2 Randy Weeks, center, with "Pippin" cast members Kristine Reese, John Rubinstein, Matthew James Thomas and Lucie Arnaz on the Opning Night of the new touring production Sept. 12 in Denver. Photo by Emily Lozow.

      Pippin_Randy_Weeks_300The entire national touring production of Pippin The Musical, which launched here in Denver last month, has been dedicated to Denver Center for the Performing Arts President Randy Weeks, who died suddenly on Oct. 9 in London.

      Tribute messages began coming in from the Pippin team almost as soon as word of Weeks' death became known.

      "I was devastated to hear the tragic news," said Pippin general manager Alecia Parker. "Having just spent time with you all it truly breaks my heart. I'm sure it will take a lot of healing and time. He was a true gentleman and will be missed."
      Added Anita Dloniak, Pippin's national press rep: "There are no words to even describe my feelings. I am stunned, shocked and every adjective in-between.  I am literally shaking. I am sending big hugs to the entire Denver team."

      Here's the message as it will appear in all Pippin programs as the tour moves from city to city:


      This touring production of Pippin began its magical journey at the Buell Theatre in Denver, Colorado under the guidance of Randy Weeks. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He was such a fan of our show and part of it belongs to him. Sadly on Thursday, October 9, the theatre lost one of its fiercest advocates, one of our finest colleagues, and a dear friend. We are honored to be a part of his extraordinary legacy!

      The DCPA will celebrate Randy Weeks' life at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3 in the Buell Theatre.  Pippin_Randy_Weeks_800

      Our coverage of the death of Randy Weeks:
      DCPA president Randy Weeks dies at London conference
      Video: Randy Weeks honored with dimmed lights, moments of silence
      Video project: Share your unforgettable Randy Weeks stories with us
      Randy Weeks photo gallery
      DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life on Nov. 3
      A look back at Randy Weeks' 'It Gets Better' video

      Our Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

      Photos, video: Opening-night festivities in Denver
      Video: 5 questions for Composer Stephen Schwartz

      9News anchor Cheryl Preheim has a walk-on cameo on Sept. 16
      Video: Audience testimonials reacting to seeing the show
      Video series: The 'Pippin' Personalities: Five questions with creatives
      'Pippin' meets Denver: Media Day photos
      Broadway's Matthew James Thomas to play Pippin in Denver
      Hello, Denver! 'Pippin' cast and crew arrive

      Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

      My three Pippins gather at Sardi's to honor John Rubinstein
      Photos: Exclusive look at first 'Pippin' rehearsal
      Lucie Arnaz joins Denver-bound ‘Pippin’ as Berthe

      From Pippin to Pappa: Denver tour launch will feature John Rubinstein
      2014-15 season: ‘Pippin,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ are Denver-bound!

      'The Pippin Profiles' interview series:  

      Pippin_Randy_Weeks_800_ActionPhoto by Terry Shapiro.
    • Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends; playwrights announced

      by NewsCenter Staff | Oct 20, 2014

      2015 lineup includes works by Theresa Rebeck, Tanya Saracho, Catherine Trieschmann and Jason Gray Platt.

      The scene from the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore.

      To mark its 10th anniversary, the Theatre Company at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is expanding its signature Colorado New Play Summit to two weekends, it was announced today.

      CNPS_2014_CatherineThe 2015 lineup of readings for February’s gathering will include new works by Theresa Rebeck, Tanya Saracho, Catherine Trieschmann (pictured at right with Iris Goodwin) and Jason Gray Platt. 

      The expanded Summit will include interactive programming for the first time, including workshops by Denver Center Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez (The Legend of Georgia McBride, The Whipping Man), a Playwriting Boot Camp with Paula Vogel (How I Learned To Drive), readings of the DCPA Education’s statewide High School Playwriting Competition finalists and the addition of a second, all-local Playwrights’ Slam.

      Three of the four featured playwrights were commissioned by the DCPA’s Women’s Voices Fund, an endowment that supports the development of new plays by women. Just last week, the Women’s Voices Fund endowment surpassed the $1 million mark for the first time.

      The 2015 Colorado New Play Summit will take place over the weekends of Feb. 14-15 and 21 and 22. For more information and to order tickets, click here.

      As both the national industry and the theatre public gather for the Summit, the Theatre Company will be fully staging two world premiere plays as part of its 2014-15 season: Appoggiatura, by three-time Pulitzer finalist James Still, and Benediction, the completion of celebrated aurthor Kant Haruf’s Colorado plains trilogy, adapted for the stage by Eric Schmiedl. Both plays were read at the 2014 Summit and then selected for full production

      “We’re celebrating 10 years of new plays with two weekends full of exciting, new programming, including two world premiere productions,” said Bruce Sevy, the Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of New Play Development. “Most important, this expansion gives us the opportunity to provide our participating playwrights with two full weeks to work on their plays with directors, actors and dramaturgs. This development time is extremely vital to the new-play process, and we are honored to be one of the few theatres in the nation that can provide this level of creative support for these artists.”

      Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson said it is no coincidence that three female playwrights were chosen at a time when the DCPA’s ongoing commitment to women’s voices is hitting an important milestone.

       “The continued support of the Women’s Voices Fund allows us to invest in the future of women in the American theatre,” said Thompson. “In our current season alone, the endowment allowed us to hire two of the finest female directors in the nation, Kathleen Marshall (Molly Brown) and Jenn Thompson (Vanya and Masha and Sonia and Spike), and to continue our tradition of commissioning leading female playwrights.”

      To date, the Women’s Voices Fund has enabled the Theatre Company to produce 24 plays by women (including nine world premieres), commission 14 female playwrights and hire 19 female directors.

      Over the past decade, the Summit has introduced 40 new plays, more than half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit World Premieres include Jason Grote's 1001, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, Catherine Trieschmann’s The Most Deserving, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.


      "The Legend of Georgia McBride" as it looked at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit, above, and as it was fully presented on the mainstage last year. (Production photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen)


      The There There by Jason Gray Platt
      One couple traverses a lifetime in a single sitting in Jason Gray Platt’s expansive, stirring new play, The There There. From their first touch in the present day through the next forty-five years, the dynamics of their relationship fluctuate as quickly as the latest twists of technology. Packing an entire life into six potent scenes, Platt’s masterful dialogue probes the heart and questions what it means to hang on to humanity as the 21st century advances.

      The Crown by Theresa Rebeck
      A Theatre Company Commission

      For the small-town regulars at The Crown, life is an endless series of jokes and over-the-top conversations that liven up the neighborhood watering hole… until a well-heeled woman walks in and tries to buy the beautiful antique bar. With quirky humor and quick wit, The Crown is a standout new comedy from Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck.

       A new comedy by Tanya Saracho (untitled)
      A Theatre Company commission

      Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina character on an L.A.-based TV series. She soon discovers that Abel, the Chicano studio custodian, hais a windfall of plot ideas. As their friendship grows and she begins incorporating Abel’s insights into her scripts, Lucia’s professional stardom starts to rise, but her personal life only becomes more and more complicated. A smartly-drawn Hollywood insider comedy from Tanya Saracho, recently named Best New Playwright by Chicago Magazine. 


      Holy Laughter by Catherine Trieschmann
      A Theatre Company commission

      An Episcopal priest finds that the reality of leading a church is radically and hilariously different than what she learned in seminary. As she wrestles with church finances, eccentric parishioners, changing sexual mores and her own doubting human heart, Abigail struggles to make peace with the realities of contemporary church life. Hymns, liturgical dance and a wicked tongue lift Catherine Trieschmann's antic portrait of a small, struggling congregation to comic heights.


      This is a list of playwrights whose new works are in various stages of development through the DCPA Theatre Company's  development program:
      Eric Schmiedl
      Regina Taylor
      Paula Vogel
      Robert Schenkkan
      Theresa Rebeck (in Summit)
      Tanya Saracho (in Summit)
      Catherine Trieschmann (in Summit)
      Kimber Lee
      Mat Smart
      Jose Cruz Gonzalez
      Lauren Gunderson

      Talking "Appoggiatura" with Director Risa Brainin and James Still. the 2014 Summit reading premieres as a mainstage offering in January.

    • Video: Talking 'Appoggiatura' with James Still and Risa Brainin

      by John Moore | Oct 19, 2014

      Appoggiatura_Video_Interview_800The world premiere of the play Appoggiatura will be performed Jan. 16 through Feb. 22 in the Ricketson Theatre. It's a sun-drenched romance about love, loss, and a broken family re-living the past and healing their hearts in Venice. Followed by a violin-playing Vivaldi, a charming but bogus Italian tour guide accompanies a widow and a bereaved middle-aged man who both mourn for the same person while a granddaughter questions her future.

      Appoggiatura is a Denver Center commission by three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist James Still, who In this video talks with director Risa Brainin about the play, and staging it in Denver. When it debuted as a reading at the  2014 Colorado New Play Summit, the word that came up most in response to it was "sweet." 

      "And I think it takes enormous courage right now to approach a new play with that kind of deeply sweet quality," says Still, "because it is risky."

      The plays that have been selected to be read at the 2015 Summit will be announced Monday, Oct. 20.

      "I can't imagine any writer not wanting to have a play premiere at the DCPA," says Still. "That's just an incredible honor."

      For ticket information to Appoggiatura, go to http://www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore.

    • Photos: Opening night of 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'

      by John Moore | Oct 18, 2014

      If only they liked each other. From left: Amelia White, Lesley Shires, Socorro Santiago, Kathleen McCall, Director Jenn Thompson, Eddie Lopez and Sam Gregory. Photo by John Moore.

      To see our complete gallery of opening-night photos from "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," click here.

      Photos from opening night at the Theatre Company at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.

      This Chekhovian mash-up erupts into chaos when Vanya and Sonia receive a surprise visit from their Hollywood star sister, Masha, and her boy-toy Spike.

      The Theatre Company production runs through Nov 16, 2014 in the Ricketson Theatre.

      Photos by John Moore. 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org

      Cast members from "Lord of the Flies" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" lend their support to the cast of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at the opening-night party. Photo by John Moore.

      To see our complete gallery of opening-night photos from "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," click here.

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

      Through Nov. 16
      Ricketson Theatre
      Accessible Performance: Nov. 15, 1:30 pm
      Tickets: 303.893.4100 | denvercenter.org
      Talkback: 3:30 p.m., Oct. 19, Ricketson Theatre
      Page to Stage Discussion: Noon, Nov. 4, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Higher Education Advisory Council Talkback: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9
      Theatre & Theology: 8:30 p.m., Nov. 11
      Book Club Discussion: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 12, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Theatre Thursday: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 13, Ricketson Theatre
      Events information: Click here

      Our previous coverage of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Video: Watch a montage of scenes from the production
      Cold coffee, hot popcorn make for a good stew
      Durang strikes an unexpected peace with an indifferent Broadway
      Vanya ... is the most popular play in America
      Vanya ... First rehearsal photos
      Check out our Study Guide

      Cast list
      Vanya: Sam Gregory
      Sonia: Amelia White
      Masha: Kathleen McCall
      Spike: Eddie Lopez
      Nina: Lesley Shires
      Cassandra: Socorro Santiago

    • Video montage: Scenes from 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'

      by John Moore | Oct 17, 2014

      Absurdist master Christopher Durang blends melancholy with mayhem in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which The New York Times declares a “deliriously funny” black comedy.

      Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, this Chekhovian mash-up erupts into chaos when Vanya and Sonia receive a surprise visit from their Hollywood star sister, Masha, and her boy-toy Spike. Here are scenes from the DCPA Theatre Company production opening Oct. 17 and running through Nov 16, 2014 in the Ricketson Theatre. Featuring Kathleen McCall, Sam Gregory, Amelia White, Eddie Lopez, Lesley Shires and Socorro Santiago. Directed by Jenn Thompson. Video by David Lenk. 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Through Nov. 16
      Ricketson Theatre
      Accessible Performance: Nov. 15, 1:30 pm
      Tickets: 303.893.4100 | denvercenter.org
      Talkback: 3:30 p.m., Oct. 19, Ricketson Theatre
      Page to Stage Discussion: Noon, Nov. 4, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Higher Education Advisory Council Talkback: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9
      Theatre & Theology: 8:30 p.m., Nov. 11
      Book Club Discussion: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 12, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Theatre Thursday: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 13, Ricketson Theatre
      Events information: Click here

      Kathleen McCall and Masha with her boy-toy, Spike (Eddie Lopez). Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

      Our previous coverage of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Cold coffee, hot popcorn make for a good stew
      Durang strikes an unexpected peace with an indifferent Broadway
      Vanya ... is the most popular play in America
      Vanya ... First rehearsal photos
      Check out our Study Guide

      Cast list
      Vanya: Sam Gregory
      Sonia: Amelia White
      Masha: Kathleen McCall
      Spike: Eddie Lopez
      Nina: Lesley Shires
      Cassandra: Socorro Santiago

    • Molly Brown kin: New Denver musical is 'icing on the cake'

      by John Moore | Oct 17, 2014

      Helen Benziger, with her dog, Brojan, gave her blessing to the DCPA's new "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" at the opening-night party. Photo by John Moore.   

      Helen Benziger is not like most descendants of Margaret Tobin Brown. She actually liked the 1964 movie that made her great-grandmother famous. Even if it got almost everything about her life wrong.

      “I actually adored the movie,” Benziger said of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the celluloid adaptation of what many theatre aficionados have, until now, considered the unfixable Broadway musical.

      And she really likes the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company's launch of a brand-new take on the original 1960 musical.

      “I was overwhelmed with what they did with the play,” said Benziger. “A lot of us have been trying to get the real story out about who Margaret really was, and this is the icing on the cake. This is going to make people understand more about her.”

      Benziger has inherited the mantle of representing those “please-don’t-call-her Molly” Brown family members who have cringed at how the most famous survivor of the Titanic disaster has been portrayed in pop culture since she died more than 80 years ago.

      Starting with that first name. For the record, Margaret never went by Molly. Not even as a nickname.

      “They changed it to Molly (for the musical) because it was easier to sing,” said Benziger, who has devoted much of her life since 1999 to setting the record straight on behalf of a family that, for the most part, wanted to hear nothing of it when Dick Scanlan set out in 2005 to revisit the Meredith Willson musical. Generations of family have complained about gross misrepresentations of Brown in the character Debbie Reynolds made famous.

      “My grandmother wouldn’t have anything to do with the movie,” Benziger said. “She would always say, ‘This is not the mother I knew. This is someone I don’t even know.’ ”


      The movie shows Molly as an uneducated mountain girl with only a surrogate father. Margaret had two loving parents, including a mother, Johanna Tobin, who insisted she receive an eighth-grade education, which was three years more than the average woman for the time.

      “Margaret was quite sophisticated, and she spoke many languages,” said Benziger. “She ran for Senate before women even had the right to vote.”

      Brown didn’t drop out of that 1914 race because of a scandal involving her philandering husband, J.J., Benziger said. “Oh make no mistake -- he was very much a philanderer,” she said. “But Margaret really dropped out because her sister married a German baron at a time when such a relationship was scandalous. But she couldn't say, 'Hey, sis drop the baron because I am running for office.’ ”

      The film depicts Molly coming down the Colorado River in a basket, and being raised by a drunken Irishman named Shamus. “It's so ridiculous,” Benziger said. But her family cringes most over the scene in the movie where J.J. Brown accidentally burns his own money after Molly hides it in the stove.

      “What makes that so funny is that they didn't even have paper money in Leadville at that time,” Benziger said.

      Given all that misinformation, it was a bit unexpected when Benziger accepted an invitation to attend the opening performance of Scanlan’s delightfully received retelling of the Molly Brown musical at the DCPA.

      “You have to understand, I first saw the movie at a rather young age,” Benziger said. “It was just a big movie to me, and I thought it was great. It was only later on and I kept watching it that I realized most of it wasn’t true. But what was true is that the original movie captured her heart, her spirit and her soul.”


      Benziger, who is visually impaired, couldn’t be living the spirit and soul of Margaret more. She lives in a log cabin with her husband and guide dog, Brojan, in Story, Wyo. That’s a quiet a town of 800 people nestled in the Bighorn Mountains about 400 miles north of Denver near Sheridan.

      Molly_Brown_Benziger_Beth_Malone_400What Benziger loved most about the movie, she said, “is that it kept Margaret alive until we could start telling the real story.”

      What Brown’s family most want from pop culture is what Scanlan most wanted when he approached a new The Unsinkable Molly Brown: To show a more human, complicated and significant Molly Brown. A woman who served as director of the American Committee for Devastated France during World War I and was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her work. Who wielded her influence in national politics, particularly in the area of workers' rights.

      Brown was motivated to action by the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, when 11,000 workers went on strike and resorted to living in tents after their families were turned out of company-owned housing. When the miners' union refused to surrender two petty criminals, the National Guard fired into the crowd, killing five men. That night, the Guard doused tents in oil and burned them to the ground, killing nearly a dozen children. Brown sent nurses, shoes and clothing to Ludlow. She then spearheaded the investigation into the miners' deaths.

      Not that all of this is depicted in the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

      Scanlan rewrote the book to show audiences a more significant heroine and a more complicated love story. Which is not to say that Scanlan and his team felt beholden to write a stage documentary set to Willson songs.

      “This is still very much a musical,” said Director Kathleen Marshall, who set out to stage an old-fashioned musical and not apologize for it. Only improve it.

      Benziger was particularly charmed by actor Beth Malone’s portrayal of her great-grandmother. She was perfect,” Benzinger said. “She embodied her spirit. And she's just a doll. She’s so sweet.”

      Benziger appreciated Malone’s pluck, her powerful voice and her dancing. But the primary reason she liked Malone may surprise you. 

      Molly_Brown_Benziger_Cup “I really like the fact that she's not fat,” said Benziger. “People always portray Margaret as being a large woman, and she wasn't. Kathy Bates, who played Margaret in the Titanic movie, was three times her size. If you look at the picture of Margaret presenting the ‘Loving Cup’ Arthur Rostrand, the captain of the Carpathia, her waist is tiny.”

      Now that the new stage musical of The Unsinkable Molly Brown has Benziger’s seal of approval, she predicts it will … not have much impact on the rest of her extended family.

       "I am really the only one on my side of the family who is doing this,” she said. “And I don’t have children, so there is no one to take over.” 

      If any of her relatives ever do see the show, she predicted, “I think they will love it. And I think they will get a lot out of it. I don’t think they will, but I hope they do.”

      And if Benziger has any say in it – and  she does not -- they will have another chance after the show closes in Denver on Oct. 26.

      “It’s going to New York,” she said. “My word on it. I mean, it has to go. It will go.”

      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.

      Helen Benziger, with her dog, Brojan, meet cast members from the DCPA's new "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" at the opening-night party. Photo by John Moore.   

      The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      : Ticket information
      Stage Theatre
      Runs through Oct. 26
      303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Our Previous Molly Brown coverage on Denver CenterStage:
      'Molly Brown' Meet the cast videos:
      Beth Malone
      Burke Moses
      Patty Goble
      Paolo Montalban
      Linda Mugleston
      Donna English


      Beth Malone and Burke Moses, above, bring levels of complexity to their roles as Molly and J.J. Brown in the DCPA's new "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Below, Malone meets Molly Brown's granddaughter, Helen Benziger. Photos by John Moore.   

    • Video: Off-Center's improv parody of 'Lord of the Flies'

      by John Moore | Oct 16, 2014

      All season long, the improvisational wizards from Off-Center @ The Jones' Cult Following are presenting their own 2-minute silly/fun/stupid parodies of the DCPA Theatre Company's mainstage offerings. 

      In that spirit, we proudly present this inspired adaptation of Lord of the Flies, as interpreted by Jessica Austgen, Sarah Kirwin, Nanna Sachiko Thompson and Chris Woolf. Your narrator is Emily Tarquin. 

      In theory, none of these accomplished improv comics have ever read Lord of the Flies ... or at least, recently. 

      The video above captured this one-time only piece of magic in 720 pixels of high-definition glory. But to add to the fun, Off-Center is about to open a big old aerosol can of island whup-*** with Lord of the Butterflies. That is drag queen Shirley Delta Blow’s retelling of Lord of the Flies, opening Oct. 24 and running through Nov. 7 at The Jones. In Shirley's tropical world, the struggle for island dominace pits drag queens versus lesbians.

      What’s Cult Following, you might ask? It’s Off-Center’s signature night of unscripted, unrehearsed theatre. The next themed show, scheduled for Feb. 13 and 19, is called Secrets & Confessions. Share your deep, dark, embarrassing baggage, and you will inspire ... well, art. Almost certainly.

      Now, check out how the "Cult Following" kids lampooned "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"


      Do meat-eating "Lord of the Flies" cast members (from left) Gregory Isaac Stone, Skyler Gallun, Charlie Franklin and Allen Dorsey look amused by the "Cult Following" parody? We think not. Photo by John Moore.

      DCPA Theatre Company's
      Lord of the Flies
      Performances run through Nov. 2
      Space Theatre
      7:30 p.m. Fridays, 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturdays;
      303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Off-Center @ The Jones’ Lord of the Butterflies
      At The Jones, Speer and Arapahoe streets​
      Oct. 24, 30, 31, and Nov. 7
      7:30 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show
      For more info about Off-Center @ The Jones, click here   

      Our Previous Lord of the Flies coverage on Denver CenterStage:
      "Meet the Cast" video episodes:
      Charlie Franklin
      Matthew Gumley

      Ben and Noah Radcliffe
      Gregory Isaac Stone

    • Broadway stars Jessie Mueller and Jarrod Spector to headline 2015 Saturday Night Alive

      by John Moore | Oct 15, 2014
      Jessie Mueller and Jarrod Spector have a personal message to the people of Denver they recorded backstage at Broadway's Beautiful: "The Carole King Musical."

      Jessie Mueller and Jarrod Spector, stars of the Tony Award-nominated hit Broadway musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, will share the stage March 7, 2015, as co-headliners of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ 35th annual Saturday Night Alive.
      Saturday Night Alive is the Denver Center’s signature annual fundraiser. Last year’s gala, with Matthew Morrison headlining, netted a record $842,000 for the DCPA’s Arts in Education programs.
      Mueller won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, and Spector was nominated for Best Actor. Their appearance in Denver will be a brand new concert, with the singers sharing solos, duets and stories from their careers.
      Mueller’s Broadway resume includes starring roles in Nice Work If You Can Get It opposite Matthew Broderick, and a Tony-nominated performance in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever opposite Harry Connick Jr.
      Spector, who plays the iconic songwriter Barry Mann in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, played Frankie Valli for more than 1,500 performances in the Tony-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys. His latest solo concert, titled A Little Help from My Friends, has sold out New York’s 54 Below nightclub 12 times this year. He was a contestant on the original Star Search as a child, and he made his Broadway debut at age 9 in the original Broadway production of Les Miserables.
      The duo's Denver date will include a variety of songs ranging from standards to showtunes to contemporary pop songs.
      “You know what? From us, I think you can expect the unexpected,” Mueller said. “We are excited to be coming to Denver. It’s a great city.”

      Added Spector: “We can’t wait to come, and we hope that you have fun.”
      Saturday Night Alive is the primary means of support for DCPA education programs that benefit more than 67,000 youth and adults from Colorado and surrounding states. Which is why a ticket starts at $400. (Of that, $275 is tax-deductible.) Tables of 10 start at $6,000.

      Net proceeds from the event have totaled more than $17.4 million over the past 35 years.

      The gala is a black-tie evening that features dinner, dancing, a silent auction with more than 100 luxury items, and, of course, the concert featuring Mueller and Spector for a crowd of 740 in the Stage Theatre.
      Kay Burke, president of the Denver Center Alliance – the volunteer organization that supports Saturday Night Alive and other DCPA fundraising activities – recently saw Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway. She said if Mueller and Spector aren’t household names in Denver yet, they will be after March 7.
      “Jessie Mueller’s voice is flawless,” she said. "And when she sang with Jarrod Spector together, they just took it to another level. I am so excited to see them again in Denver. They are just … Broadway.”
      Tickets are available at denvercenter.org/sna or by calling 303-446-4812.


      Jarrod Spector, left, and Jessie Mueller.
    • DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life on Nov. 3

      by John Moore | Oct 15, 2014

      On Oct. 10, one day after the death of Randy Weeks, a tribute throughout the Denver Performing Arts Complex included dimmed lights, pre-show announcements, a moment of silence and visual displays. Video by John Moore, David Lenk, Heidi Bosk, Hope Grandon, Emily Lozow, Chelley Canales and Emily Kent.

      The Denver Center for the Performing Arts will host a celebration of President Randy Weeks’ life starting at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, in the Buell Theatre, it was announced today.

      “This gathering will be a true celebration of life – with an emphasis on 'celebration' –  that reflects Randy’s joyful and playful spirit,” said DCPA Director of Programming John Ekeberg.

      Weeks died last week in his sleep in a London hotel room. He was 59.

      The Nov. 3 program will include performances  and a variety of reflections from friends and family from various parts of Weeks’ life.

      Meantime, poignant tributes have continued to come in from around the world, both directly to the DCPA and through social media.

      Here is one post from Kriss Anderson, whose outrageous Dixie Longate character has performed at the DCPA’s Garner Galleria Theatre four times:

      "The theatrical world is a little worse off for losing such a pioneer and champion of the arts. Randy Weeks was the top dog at the DCPA and ended up bringing the Tupperware Party to Denver. It was through his guidance and enthusiasm of his entire team that I have had the opportunity to create my new show Never Wear a Tube Top.... Randy saw in this little gal from the trailer someone with something to say and he gave me the stage where I could say it.

      "What set Randy apart from many of the other presenters that I have met was not just his golf sweaters that he wore around his shoulders like he was a guest star on an old episode of The Love Boat but also his genuine excitement about how we were going to make each engagement even more fantastic than the last. He was not only a good friend, but he was also a visionary who constantly worked to develop new artists and cultivated impressively supportive audiences. He was instrumental in pushing me to be more creative and take more risks than even I was comfortable doing. I will always be indebted to him for seeing something in me that was worthy of being part of the Denver Center family.

      "He truly lived the way I talk about in my show. He was always looking for a way to make things better, to have a positive effect, to “Bump A Duck.” Even now, I know he will be up there looking down and making sure that everyone he knew goes out and keeps sharing something truly beautiful with the world.

      "Take a moment to do that today. Go out and do something that is exciting or daring or breath taking. If someone needs a little help in life or a little chance to shine and feel special, be like Randy and give them the opportunity. Go out there and Bump a Duck.” 

      At an employee meeting on Tuesday, Director of Marketing Jennifer Nealson told DCPA staff that Weeks’ unexpected death would not change the timing of the DCPA’s ongoing search for a new CEO to replace the retiring Daniel L. Ritchie, who is staying on as chairman of Trustees.

      “That is moving forward,” Nealson said.

      For updated news, comments, condolences, a photo gallery and more, visit the Denver Center's NewsCenter


      Director of Programming John Ekeberg addresses employees at a DCPA company meeting on Tuesday to discuss the death of Randy Weeks. Photo by John Moore. 

      Our previous coverage of the death of Randy Weeks:

      DCPA president Randy Weeks dies at London conference
      Video: Randy Weeks honored with dimmed lights, moments of silence
      Photo gallery
      Revisiting Randy Weeks and the Colorado theatre community's "It Gets Better" video"


    • 'Vanya': Cold coffee, hot popcorn and an opening this Friday

      by John Moore | Oct 14, 2014

      Director Jenn Thompson (in the super-cool shades) with, from left: Eddie Lopez, Kathleen McCall, Amelia White, Lesley Shires, Sam Gregory and Socorro Santiago. Photo by John Moore. To see our full gallery of photos showing "the making of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," click here


      Vanya_Jenn_Thompson_300Director Jenn Thompson is an experienced Broadway and regional actor, so she knows what she speaks of when she says making live theatre isn’t always “kismet and magic.”

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, she said of her DCPA directorial debut, “is a really nice stew.”

      Her ingredients included assembling a cast from all over the country, and inheriting an entire Denver-based design team.

      “That is an unusual circumstance for a director who is coming into a place where everybody is established and has worked together -- and you are the new person,” Thompson said at Perspectives -- a gathering of audience members before last week’s first preview performance of Christopher Durang’s 2013 Tony Award-winning best play.

      As a child actor, Thompson played Pepper in the original Broadway production of Annie, starred in the film Little Darlings and appeared in the TV series Harper Valley PTA. She later appeared on Broadway in Ah, Wilderness! and The Heiress and is now the co-artistic director of The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) in New York. So she is more used to mixing her own stew.


      “Often, you bring your own team to a theatre like Denver,” she said. “But here they bring the creative team to you. That is something that is unique here, and it ended up being incredibly successful. But also two of the leads (Kathleen McCall and Sam Gregory) are Denver-based actors who are very well-known to this audience -- but were not known to me at all before I got here.”

      Thompson rounded out her cast with two actors she has worked with extensively in the past (Amelia White and Lesley Shires) along with two actors who were new to her who won their roles cold in auditions (Eddie Lopez and Socorro Santiago).

      The result, she believes … “is kismet and magic.”

      “But it’s a little bit of a psychological experiment, because there is matchmaking involved. We got really lucky with this cast because not only was everyone really well-suited to their roles in terms of their skill-sets as actors, but it was a really fun process. When there is trust there, I find that actors will do anything for you.”

      Thompson told the story of how Lopez won his role as Spike, the hunky young boyfriend who seems to spend more time with his clothes off than on. Thompson had any number of beefcake actors to choose from. But Lopez got the job, she said, not just because of what he did with his 15-minute audition, but because he was a nice guy.

      “I cast Eddie because he was the one I would most want to be in the same room with for the next six weeks,” she said.


      "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" actor Sam Gregory ... before and after. Scenic design by Lisa Orzolek. Photo by John Moore. To see our full gallery of photos showing "the making of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," click here

      Thompson knew she had struck the right chemistry at the first rehearsal last month.

      “It’s always a good sign when actors bring food to share,” she said. “I am not kidding. They brought brownies, popcorn ... And we all go to dinner every Sunday after rehearsal. That is another good sign: When the week is over, and people still want to see each other.”

      Dramaturg Allison Horsley called the rehearsal space “a fantastically inappropriate room. It was always funny, and it was always fun.” Thompson termed it “an NC-17 room.”

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a chaotic Chekhovian mash-up, but Thompson said it stands on its own as a serio-comic look at adult sibling relationships.

      The story takes place in the Bucks County countryside of Pennsylvania. Siblings Vanya (Gregory) and the adopted Sonia (White), who were named by their eccentric parents after Chekhov characters, are wiling their adult lives away without much purpose. They live at their childhood home off the largess of their Hollywood star sister, Masha (McCall).

      When Masha and her boy-toy, Spike (Lopez), arrive unannounced, the residents of the normally quiet household are thrown into comic upheaval as they confront issues of sibling rivalry, regret, lust, love and, of all things … cold coffee.

      Not unlike Chekhov, “Durang offers these huge, philosophical questions in tandem with the more mundane misery of everyday life,” said Horsley. “I think it is very funny that Durang’s characters become very upset that the coffee has gotten cold -- and they see that as a metaphor for their lives having been unfulfilling.”

      It is Durang’s ability to celebrate Chekhov and send him up at the same that is a big reason Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is currently the most popular play in America. With 27 professional productions slated across the country this season, Durang’s ditty will be produced nearly three times more often than any other play not written by Dickens or Shakespeare.

      “But what’s most amazing is that it’s not a parody,” Thompson said. “I think this play is a little bit of a departure for him, because of this Chekhovian flavoring that he drew from for inspiration. There is always an element of pain and sadness in his work, which for me only heightens what is funny.”

      For those who might be intimidated by the title, Thompson emphatically stated that it’s not important to know Chekhov to enjoy the play.

      “No, not even a little bit,” she said. “I think it’s an enhancement if you do. But you can know nothing about it and go completely along for the ride and enjoy it.” 

      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.

      Director Jenn Thompson addresses her cast after the final rehearsal before previews began last week. Photo by John Moore. To see our full gallery of photos showing "the making of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," click here

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

      Through Nov. 16
      Ricketson Theatre
      Accessible Performances: Nov. 15, 1:30 pm
      Tickets: 303.893.4100 | denvercenter.org
      800.641.1222 | TTY: 303.893.9582
      Groups (10+): 303.446.4829
      Talkback: 3:30 p.m., Oct. 19, Ricketson Theatre
      Page to Stage Discussion: Noon, Nov. 4, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Higher Education Advisory Council Talkback: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9
      Theatre & Theology: 8:30 p.m., Nov. 11
      Book Club Discussion: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 12, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Theatre Thursday: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 13, Ricketson Theatre
      Events information: Click here

      Cast list
      Vanya: Sam Gregory
      Sonia: Amelia White
      Masha: Kathleen McCall
      Spike: Eddie Lopez
      Nina: Lesley Shires
      Cassandra: Socorro Santiago

      Our previous coverage of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Durang strikes an unexpected peace with an indifferent Broadway
      Vanya ... is the most popular play in America
      Vanya ... First rehearsal photos
      Check out our Study Guide
    • 'Vanya': Durang strikes an unexpected peace with an indifferent Broadway

      by NewsCenter Staff | Oct 13, 2014
      Kathleen McCall and Sam Gregory play a couple of "Snow White" siblings in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. 

      When some people hear Christopher Durang’s newest comedy has undertones of Anton Chekhov, they might mistake the play for “spinach theatre.” You know the kind: You take it because you know it’s good for you, but you don’t particularly like it going down.

      But in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, characters are running around in their underwear. They rant and rave. They are dressed as dwarfs—and a highly dubious Snow White.

      For those in the know, Durang’s 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play is smart, silly entertainment with wonderful literary roots.

      But Chekhov isn’t the spinach. It’s the cherry on top.

      And curiously enough, Russia’s hilariously dour dramatist has become an unlikely hot commodity of late. Chekhov takeoffs by Durang, Donald Margulies (The Country House) and Aaron Posner (Stupid F***ing Bird) abound. Why, he’s become the most popular 154-year-old in theatre.

      Just don’t blame it on Durang, who has never before been produced in the 36-year history of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company. He didn’t set out to write the next big comic play to sweep the nation.

      He just did it.


      Durang says he took Chekhov themes and characters and put them into a comic blender. But he emphatically denies that what poured out into the juice cup is a parody of Chekhov. But if not, then what is it?

      Perhaps it’s easier to say what it isn’t.

      The play is not set in pre-revolutionary Russia. It’s set in Bucks County, Pa. “They don’t have samovars, and they don’t pay for things with rubles,” Durang wrote of his own play. It also isn’t a play with a cast of characters named Nikolayevna, Konstantin, Irina or Boris—and that doesn’t begin to hint at the middle and last names.

      Instead, it’s “Chekhov-lite.” 

      “I’m as old as Uncle Vanya,” Durang said in an interview with Applause from his home in Pennsylvania. “I read all the major Chekhov plays when I was in my 20s, so I’d always been a young man empathizing with the older characters but not really identifying with them as I do now.

      “Unlike Vanya or Konstantin, I did try the things I wanted to do with my life and had some nice luck getting my plays done. From there I went into a kind of ‘what-if’ mode. What if…I had not? What if…I had gone to college, but then gone back home and then my parents got sick and blah-blah-blah…? That was my jumping-off point. And as I was writing, the play just took on a life of its own.”

      A life that is poignant, pointed and very funny. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike reflects the themes and characters of Chekhov—regret, reflection, self-doubt and pain. It just so happens that pain, in the live theatre, is often quite funny.

      Durang had written a draft of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike before being offered a commission from the McCarter Theatre at Princeton, and also had started a political play he had not yet finished.

      “I did an unusual thing,” he said. “I asked them if I could have a reading of Act One of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Act One of this unfinished political play. I wanted to see which one they preferred, secretly hoping that they would go for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

      Well, now we know they did. The McCarter then invited Lincoln Center to co-produce.

      Did he have any idea that this quirky little comedy would become a hit?

      “I did not. It was a lovely surprise,” said Durang, whose writing has been described as “manic,” “wicked,” “ferociously funny” and “ecstatically angry.”

      “Early in my career I had two plays on Broadway: A History of the American Film (1978) and Beyond Therapy (1982). They weren’t disasters, but they weren’t very successful, either, and had short runs.

      “I sort of made peace with the fact that seemingly my plays didn’t work for Broadway.”

      Who would have thought that Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike would not only make it to Broadway, but also win the Tony? Not Durang.

      “It was not aimed for Broadway,” he confirmed. “I did no major rewrites, just semi-important rewrites at McCarter and then a little more at Lincoln Center. But the audience response was very strong.”

      Durang admits he was “totally surprised” when Broadway producers came calling. It was the validation of a life’s work and of his very idiosyncratic skewed puppy-dog wit and off-beat style, much admired when he was young and now finally welcomed into the mainstream.

      Editor's note: This article was complied from an interview by Sylvie Drake, former DCPA Director of Publications, and materials made available by the McCarter Theatre.

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

      Through Nov. 16
      Ricketson Theatre
      Accessible Performances: Nov 15, 1:30 pm
      Tickets: 303.893.4100 | denvercenter.org
      800.641.1222 | TTY: 303.893.9582
      Groups (10+): 303.446.4829

      Our previous coverage of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Vanya ... is the most popular play in America
      Vanya ... First rehearsal photos
      Check out our Study Guide

    • Video: Randy Weeks honored with dimmed lights, moments of silence

      by John Moore | Oct 10, 2014

      How the DCPA honored Randy Weeks on Friday night. Video by John Moore, David Lenk, Heidi Bosk, Hope Grandon, Emily Lozow, Chelley Canales and Emily Kent.

      UPDATE: DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, at the Buell Theatre. Click here for details.

      The Denver Center for the Performing Arts recognized Randy Weeks' significant contributions to the Denver community at all six evening performances on Friday.

      Tributes to the DCPA's President were visible on city marquees, Bonfils kiosks and in programs.

      At 7:15 p.m., all electronic marquees throughout the Denver Performing Arts Complex stopped their rotations and froze for 15 minutes with an announcement of Weeks' death on Thursday in London.

      At 7:20 p.m., lights were dimmed in the Garner Galleria and Buell theatres, and outside along Speer Boulevard at Sculpture Park.

      All performances at the Buell, Stage, Space, Ricketson, Jones and Garner Galleria theatres observed a moment of silence.

      The performances included:



      An announcement of Randy Weeks' death, and a tribute to his career accomplishments, was inserted into every DCPA on Friday. Photo by John Moore.


      At 7:15 p.m., all electronic marquees throughout the Denver Performing Arts Complex stopped to announce Randy Weeks' death. Photo by Emily Lozow.
    • DCPA president Randy Weeks dies at London conference

      by John Moore | Oct 09, 2014
      DCPA President Randy Weeks. To see our full gallery of Randy Weeks photos, click here.

      UPDATE: DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, at the Buell Theatre. Click here for details.

      Randy Weeks, who worked his way from the ground up to become President of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, died today while attending the Independent Presenter’s Network Conference in London, DCPA Chairman and CEO Daniel L. Ritchie confirmed. He was 59.
      When Weeks missed a conference meeting, colleagues requested a wellness check at his hotel, Ritchie said. Weeks was found undisturbed in his bed.
      Weeks was named Executive Director of the DCPA’s Broadway division in 1991. He was promoted to president in 2004, succeeding Lester Ward. Weeks continued as Executive Director of the DCPA’s Broadway touring division.
      Under Weeks, the DCPA landed the openings of 10 national touring productions, including The Book of Mormon, Peter and the Starcatcher, Pippin, A Chorus Line, Sunset Boulevard, Carol Channing in Hello Dolly! and Disney’s The Lion King, as well as the pre-Broadway run of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
      “It is unquestionable that Randy has left an indelible mark on Denver, Colorado and the national theatre community,” Ritchie said. “He will be greatly missed by all of us at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.”
      Listen to Dave Lefkowitz's interview with Randy Weeks about the 2012 Tony Awards on the "Daves Gone By" radio program.

      Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, called Weeks "a leader in the presenting world, and a very engaged former member of our Board of Governors. He has always made a difference in his leadership of our league. We will miss him, but be thankful for the leadership and friendship that he provided to us all. He gave his all."

      Weeks was born June 21, 1955, in Durham, N.H. He joined the DCPA in 1978 while still a senior at CU-Boulder. He began working in the box office, getting a taste of ticketing, marketing and public relations.

      After a foray into his parents’ restaurant business and later as Theatre Operations Manager at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Robert Garner, the founder of the DCPA’s Broadway division, tapped Weeks to be his hand-picked successor. Weeks took over as head of Denver Center Attractions in 1989. In that time, he became known as much for his love of bow ties, golf and $1 wagers as his love of Broadway musicals.
      In all, Weeks presented more than 400 shows at the DCPA. He also opened the Garner Galleria Theatre in 1992. The Galleria is a cabaret space that debuted with the hit Forever Plaid and went on to host long-running hits such as Always…Patsy Cline and Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women. The granddaddy of them all was I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, which ran more than four years and remains the longest-running production in Denver theatre history. Weeks later changed the name of the Galleria to the Garner Galleria to honor his mentor, who died in 2012.

      Jeff Hovorka, DCPA Director of Media and Marketing, said adding off-Broadway fare to the traditional Broadway series was unheard of in 1992. "And we're now known throughout the country for that model," he said.

      Kent Thompson was hired as Producing Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company just a few days before Weeks was promoted to President in late 2004. Thompson called their partnership remarkable and symbiotic. They became close friends. Thompson called his sudden death both a personal and professional loss.

      "I liked to think that we represented a new generation and a new direction for the DCPA," Thompson said.

      Thompson liked to call Weeks the "Mr. Broadway of Colorado" because "it was so clear that his affinity for the Broadway musical is where his heart lay." 

      But he also said Weeks was the rare producer of Broadway touring shows who also had a deep love for the innovative and the new.

      Weeks may have been in charge of the Broadway division, but he was an early adopter of new theatre as well, including launch of the first national tour for Traces. Thompson cited that Montreal street acrobatics show, and even bringing New Kid on The Block Joey McIntyre here last year to workshop his one-man play, The Kid. That kind of programming adventurousness has helped cement Denver’s place as a launching pad of new works destined for national prominence.

      "Randy comes from the world of commercial theatre, and yes, that is what makes it possible for the DCPA to serve its overall mission, but Randy never got enough credit for his appreciation of new work," Thompson said.

      Thompson also praised Weeks' commitment to bringing risky Broadway musicals to Denver, such as the domestic bi-polar tragedy Next to Normal and the sexually charged Spring Awakening.

      At first, Weeks wasn't so sure that unusual Duncan Sheik musical would find its audience as a road show in middle America. "But over time, it's become clear to me that that nothing has more galvanized older teens and young adults since Rent," Weeks said in announcing his decision to bring the show to Denver in 2009. "It does speak to a younger generation, and those people are very important to us if we are going to develop new audiences."

      Weeks was one of the founding members of the DCPA's Women’s Voices Fund, which creates writing opportunities to female playwrights. Weeks made gifts in honor of his mother and aunt.

      Weeks also had a soft spot for sassy Dixie Longate, whose one-woman Tupperware party in the Galleria Theatre was so popular with audiences that Weeks has since brought her back three times, including the launch of a sequel earlier this year. The character of Dixie is played by a man named Kris Andersson, who has said the franchise owes much of its ongoing success to Weeks' sense of programming adventure.

      "This is absolutely horrible news," Andersson wrote on Facebook. "Randy brought me to the Denver Center, developed my show, supported my work, gave me the opportunity to do a new show and was unwavering in his faith in me. We have not just lost a great man today, but we have lost one of the few people in this industry who truly wants to shepherd new talent and see it grow. The arts in America have truly lost one of its greats today."

      Ritchie said the timing of Weeks' death is all the more painful given that he and Weeks had been planning a new direction for Weeks that would take fuller advantage of his eye for what's new.

      "We had been quietly talking about his next phase, and what Randy really wanted to do was travel the country and find new shows and find new talent and keep us posted on the rest of the theatre world," Ritchie said.

      Last year, Weeks was tickled to have spearheaded the creation of the Bobby G Awards, which honor statewide achievement in high-school theatre and foster the development of aspiring youth. More than 1,000 attended the second annual gala at the Buell Theatre in May.
      On the night of the Columbine massacre, Weeks was involved with the deeply difficult decision whether to go on with the shows. Denver actor Eric Fry was a student at the time who had tickets to attend Les Miserables on the night of April 20, 1999.

      "Given the horrific events at Columbine that day, we considered not going, but thought we wouldn't stay hidden and let the bastards win," Fry said. "Randy walked onstage before curtain and gave a moving, loving speech about how they'd considered canceling, but decided to go on in honor of those who had lost their lives -- to not let terror rule ours."

      Ritchie called Weeks "a man you could absolutely trust. He had superior professional skills and a sterling character. This place meant so much to him. He put the Denver Center ahead of himself over and over, and in ways that were not always recognized."
      John Ekeberg, the DCPA's Director of Programming, said Weeks did not give a lick about titles. "Whenever he was asked his title, he liked to just say, 'I am a doer of things,' " said Ekeberg. 

      As a boss, Weeks was known for his open-door policy. He enjoyed mentoring staff throughout the organization. Weeks often credited Garner not only for putting Colorado on the theatre map, but as a model for his own enthusiastic and friendly leadership style.
      "I owe my entire career to him," said Ekeberg, who, like Weeks, started his career in the DCPA's box office. In 1992, Weeks urged Ekeberg to apply for a Business Manager vacancy.

      "I showed up in my shirt and tie, and the only question Randy asked me was, 'Do you balance your own checkbook?' " said Ekeberg, who was newly married. "I said that I did, which was totally untrue. But he hired me anyway."  
      Weeks was active in the community as well, supporting reauthorization efforts for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and serving on the Denver School of the Arts Board, Independent Presenter’s Network and The Broadway League, which recognized Weeks with the Outstanding Broadway Presenter Award.
      Thompson said Weeks will be remembered for always being upbeat, having a positive outlook for the future, and a terrific sense of humor. "I never thought he had a mean bone in his body," Thompson said.

      Away from the stage, Weeks was a staunch fan of the CU football team. He was also a competitive golfer who loved to participate each year in the DCPA’s annual Swing Time Golf Tournament at Lakewood Country Club. And even more -- he loved to win it.

      Weeks' sense of friendly competition was legendary -- as well as his impersonations of Dame Edna and Eddie Izzard. Rarely did a marketing meeting pass without Weeks conjuring up some $1 wager or another over often hilariously tangential topics.

      "Randy just loved to win," said Hovorka. "And he loved to play." Often at the same time.

      Weeks once arranged a marketing stunt that allowed fans to bowl with Patsy Cline (played by Melissa Swift-Sawyer). That, of course, led to a competition. "We had to have a bowl-off to determine who was the best bowler," said Hovorka. "It came down to Randy and me -- and of course, he won." 

      Weeks was especially proud of his ongoing commitment to the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at CU-Boulder, hosting many of the young men at the theatre.

      "He had a real strong sense of mentorship," Ekeberg said. That was evident in his loyalty to his frat brothers. He was so passionate about the Bobby G's. It was just so important for him to always be involved with mentoring young people and furthering their dreams -- and no one benefited more from that than me."

      Weeks is survived by his father, David Weeks; brother, Joel Weeks; and sisters Pamela Weeks and Stephanie Gamble.

      Tributes to Weeks are already pouring in from around the world:

      *"What a terrible loss for the DCPA and our industry as a whole." -- Jennifer Gallagher, national press rep for the next big Broadway show to come to Denver, the Tony-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots, opening Oct. 29.

      *"There are no words to even describe my feelings. I am stunned, shocked and every adjective in between.  I am literally shaking. I am sending big hugs to the entire Denver Team." -- Anita Dloniak, national press rep for Pippin the Musical, which just launched its national tour in Denver. 

      *"Our hearts go out to you all in Denver … unbelievably sad news." -- Marya K. Peters, national press rep for The Book of Mormon

      *"Randy's death is a huge loss for the cultural community, and more so for those close to him. So sorry to learn of his passing." Charlotte  Charlotte D'Armond Talbert, Ph.D. Coordinator of the Scientific and Cultural Collaborative, the group that gathers the heads of all SCFD Tiers to work on collaborative projects.

      *"There are people who are put in your life, on your path, who make imprints in your personal history that can never be erased. People who you wouldn’t be quite who you are, or where you are, without. My DCPA family are “those people.” Randy Weeks is “those people.” I’m at a complete loss in how I can possibly capture the enormity of the news of Randy’s ludicrously sudden passing. Before a DCPA re-org, he was our Denver Center Attractions dad - in all the cliché, sneaker-wearing ways that a dad is a dad. I keep thinking of the model 757 airplane he gifted me when I flew the coop, a chit for a never-cashed-in flight to NYC to rejoin the family for a Broadway retreat, which I displayed proudly in my office at DIA, a full job-move later. It gave me some aviation street cred and served as an equal reminder of how far I’d spread my wings and where my roots lay. --Jenny Schiavone, former Denver Center Broadway press rep.

      "I am truly stunned with sadness at the sudden loss of my dear pal for more than 35 years. We just grilled steaks on my deck and laughed. Imagining life without him is impossible right now. He babysat my niece the night my now 30-year-old nephew was born. He taught her to sing "Yellow Balloons" in French — a song he totally invented, and never let either of them forget it. Those who knew him well know his “randy” side, which would make you laugh despite your better instinct. I am not sure he knew his own power or strengths. He dismissed personal and professional accolades. If only he knew ..." -- Former DCPA Director of Marketing Nancy Rebek.

       *"I was devastated to hear the tragic news from London about Randy. Having just spent time with you all, it truly breaks my heart. He was a true gentleman and will be missed." -- Alecia Parker, general manager of the national touring production of Pippin The Musical

      *"Randy was a kind soul and knew almost every person at DCPA by name. He was a mean poker player and a good soul. Breaks my heart." -- Geoffrey Kent, fight director and actor in the DCPA Theatre Company's Lord of the Flies.

      Randy _Weeks_800_1

      Randy Weeks at the 2014 Bobby G Awards honoring achievement in Colorado high-school theatre. Photo by John Moore.

      Randy _Weeks_800_2

      Randy Weeks, center, with his mentor, Robert Garner.

      Randy _Weeks_800_3

      Randy Weeks with Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee at a performance of Million Dollar Quartet.
      Photo by John Moore.

      Randy _Weeks_800_GolfRandy Weeks was an avid golfer and supported the DCPA through its annual Swing Time Golf Tournament at Lakewood Country Club. Photo by John Moore.


      Randy Weeks on the set of "Dixie's Never Wear A Tube Top While Riding A Mechanical Bull
      ." Photo by John Moore.

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

      by John Moore | Oct 08, 2014

      Luis_Miranda_Lin-Manuel_800_1Lin-Manuel Miranda, left, and his pops, Luis: "I never had a chance to be anything but a musical theatre guy." Photo courtesy Luis Miranda.

      You’re about to learn everything you need to know about how Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony- and Grammy-winning composer, rapper, lyricist, and actor of In the Heights, turned out the way he did:

      His padre is obsessed with The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

      No joke. Miranda’s 60-year-old father, who grew up poor in a small Puerto Rican town, remains, to this day, obsessed with The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

      “Every time people ask my son about his life in the theatre, he always says, 'I never had a chance,’ ” said Luis Miranda, a community activist turned political consultant who still lives in Inwood, the uptown New York City neighborhood that inspired his son’s 2008 Tony-winning Best Musical, In the Heights.  

      “He's always telling people: ‘If you have a dad whose favorite musical is The Unsinkable Molly Brown -- a title that is not at the top of everybody's list -- how can I have a chance but to be in musical theatre?’ ”


      Just how obsessed is Luis Miranda? He endured a troubled eight-hour flight to Denver to visit the Molly Brown House Museum and attend the opening performance of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ launch of a newly reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown helmed by Broadway royalty Kathleen Marshall and Dick Scanlan.

      Because of those flight problems – which included engine trouble AND a diversion to make way for another plane carrying Vice President Joe Biden -- Luis had to beg the museum staff to stay open late so he could zip through the home where Molly Brown lived on Pennsylvania Avenue (now Pennsylvania Street). Miranda made it to the museum, saw the opening performance, ran out of the Stage Theatre during the curtain call and hopped into a car that took him to the airport for his midnight return flight to Newark.

      And then there was … the birthday party.

      “I just turned 60 on Aug. 23,” said Luis, “and so I held a big party for several hundred people at an unbelievable theatre in Washington Heights called United Palace.”

      Guests were told Luis would screen the 1964 The Unsinkable Molly Brown film starring Debbie Reynolds to end the party. And because most of Luis’ friends know of his proud obsession with Molly Brown all too well, he anticipated many of them might simply slip out as soon as the film started.

      So what did he do? 

      “I lied to everyone,” he said. “I did it in a way that you had to see the movie before you could go into the party. So people had no choice but to sit through The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

      Diabolical. How did all of this happen?

      It turns out Luis Miranda, a prominent New York political consultant who has served in three New York City mayoral administrations, feels a tremendous kinship with the girl from Hannibal, Mo.

      Molly Brown left Missouri at age 18 with nothing and came to Leadville, Colorado. Luis Miranda left Puerto Rico at age 18 with nothing and came to New York City. But by then, Molly Brown was already in his blood … thanks to Debbie Reynolds.

      “I am from a small town of 3,000, but my grandparents lived in San Juan,” Miranda said. “Every Sunday, my family would visit my grandparents, and in the afternoons, my dad and I would go to the movies at a theatre called The Metro."

      And one day in 1965, he took Luis to see The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

      Not because he particularly liked it -- because he knew I liked musicals. I mean, I had seen The Sound of Music, like, 80 times. 

      “I was 10 years old when The Unsinkable Molly Brown came out, and I was captivated by the movie. Thinking back on it now, as an adult, I can see that I always thought there was something bigger for me than just being in my small town. And that's the theme of Molly Brown's life, too: ‘There is more to life than what I have. There is something bigger out there that I am called to do.’”

      And as quickly as Molly Brown came, she left.

      Eight years later, Miranda moved to New York with no plan, no job and no friends. But on his very first night in New York, he knew a larger plan was in action. And he believes its author was, if not Molly Brown, then certainly the woman he calls “Miss Debbie Reynolds,” who starred as Molly Brown in the 1964 film.

      "This was 1973. There was no cable in those times, so you actually had to look at the TV Guide,” Luis said. "And that night, they are showing The Unsinkable Molly Brown on the TV. When I saw that movie again, I knew that leaving my small town and coming to New York without knowing anybody was part of my plan. That is just fate. It is fate that the first day I am in New York, they are showing this movie that meant so much to me when I was 10, but I have not seen again for the last eight years.”

      Miranda rose through the ranks to become a successful businessman and influential player in New York City politics. He raised his family in a neighborhood similar to Washington Heights, one Lin-Manuel has described as similarly “made up of immigrants, Spanish speakers and urban decay softened by panoramic vistas.”

      Luis_Miranda_Lin-Manuel_In_The_HeightsBut in part because of his father’s success, Lin-Manuel went to an elite public high school on the upper East Side, then on to the playwrights’ breeding ground of Wesleyan University. When In the Heights exploded onto Broadway alongside Passing Strange, Lin-Manuel was credited with changing the color and language of the American musical by introducing hip-hop and spoken-word into a mainstream musical. In The New York Times, Charles Isherwood called Miranda “music personified; commanding the spotlight as if he were born in the wings.”

      Actually, he was simply born in the wings of a man who had subjected his son to “If I Were a Rich Man, “The Hills Are Alive” and “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys.”

      Several years ago, Lin-Manuel was hosting a live show for People en Espanol in San Antonio. The hosts gave Lin-Manuel 10 unexpected tickets upon his arrival, and he didn’t have anyone to give them to. So Lin-Manuel took to Twitter. His dad picks up the story from there.

      “He said the first person to name my dad's favorite movie gets the tickets, and the response was unbelievable,” Luis Miranda said. “At least 20 people said, The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

      How did they know?

      “Because every time a reporter ever asks my son about how he ended up this way, he tells them.”

      The Mirandas keep a home in Montauk, N.Y., in the East Hamptons of Long Island. Lin-Manuel hadn’t visited in years, so he took collaborator Tom Kitt (Bring it On) there to work on their hilarious opening number for the 2013 Tony Awards. Back home in the city, Luis checked his very active Twitter account, and chuckled.

      “I see this Tweet from my son saying that he’s taping several hundred musical LPs that I have left back in my place in Montauk,” Luis said. “He Tweeted out: 'I never had a chance to be anything but a musical theatre guy.’ ”


      It was Lin-Manuel who informed his father that the DCPA was going to launch a newly conceived iteration of the original 1960 Broadway The Unsinkable Molly Brown musical in Denver. Luis immediately wrote to Lin-Manuel’s agent and said, “You have got to get me invited to this.”

      Luis was told the DCPA would be delighted to have him at the opening performance on Sept. 19, as well as a guest. But this would prove to be a problem. Keep in mind, all of this was happening just a week or so after … the birthday party.

      “I tried to get everyone I know to come with me,” Luis said. “And the only one who had a real excuse was Lin-Manuel.”

      Lin-Manuel was deep into preparations for his highly anticipated new musical Hamilton, which explores the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It opens Jan. 20 at the Public Theatre in New York. Luis calls it “pure genius.” Lin-Manuel was off the hook.

      “So then I asked my wife, and she says, 'I just saw The Unsinkable Molly Brown with you on your birthday, honey, and you make us watch The Unsinkable Molly Brown every year!’ He said back to her: “But honey, this is a very different production.” And she responded: “I'll see it with you when it comes to New York.”

      In her defense, Luis’ wife took a vow to be with him in sickness and in health -- but not at every opportunity to see every incarnation of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

      “So then I asked my daughter, who is 40 years old and has three kids. She was sincere when she said, 'Dad, I would love to go with you, but I don't know if you remember this but I have three kids -- and you are asking me the week before you are going to Denver. No.' ”

      Next on the list was Luis’ 13-year-old nephew. “He has been with me since he was born, and I am his legal guardian, so I invited him. He was my last hope. He never says no.”

      He said no.

      “He’s like, 'Tio! We just saw The Unsinkable Molly Brown a week ago!' And so I gave up. I went by myself."

      Then came the troubled flight. But eight hours later, there he was in Denver dashing through Molly Brown’s house. Then came the performance on The Stage Theatre.

      “And the minute it ended, I ran out,” Luis said. “I didn't even stay for the applause.”

      The musical Luis saw in Denver was significantly changed from the movie he fell in love with. The book has been completely rewritten. Writer Dick Scanlan and Musical Director Michael Rafter were given permission to overhaul the original score. Only six songs remain untouched from the original Meredith Willson score, and Scanlan has introduced 11 “new" Willson songs.

       So … what was Luis’ assessment?

      “People have got to see this new version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” he said. “I was delighted that I did. I had a great time.” 

      Miranda had been prepared to expect something new from an article he had read in The New York Times.

      “I read about how the musical starts at a different place -- just as she was surviving the Titanic disaster,” he said. “Through the years, I have read enough about Molly Brown to know that the movie was a little bit of a fantasy. I knew she had parents -- but in the movie, there is only a surrogate dad. I knew Molly Brown had kids -- and in the movie, there are no kids.

      “Today, people want their stories to be a more faithful to real life. In the 1960s, the studios didn't care. So I knew that I would be seeing a more historically accurate production of the life of Molly Brown, and that did not bother me at all. The important thing to me was that I knew my favorite songs will continue.”

      Luis_Miranda_Lin-Manuel_Molly_Brown_800Beth Malone and Burke Moses in the DCPA Theatre Company's "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen

      Miranda also offered praise for Beth Malone, the actor who plays Molly Brown -- even though he admits she had an impossibly high bar to clear.

      “You have to understand … There is no other woman in the world to me like Debbie Reynolds … other than my wife,” Luis said. “She is my favorite. So I had to erase Debbie Reynolds from my head. 

      “One of the highlights of my life was spending a night with Debbie Reynolds at her home when Lin-Manuel did In the Heights at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. I literally flew out for the last night of the show, because I knew we were going to spend the night with Debbie Reynolds. She was so funny when I finally met her. She was like, 'Oh my God, your wife is going to be jealous.’ ”

      Reynolds sent Miranda home with a signed photo just for his wife. It said: "To a lovely lady who can put up with this man.”


      A smitten Luis Miranda meets Debbie Reynolds at her home in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy Luis Miranda.

      That said, Miranda added, “Beth Malone absolutely lived up to my expectations. I enjoyed her portrayal of Molly Brown very much.”

      While no one knows whether the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown’s future will take it to Broadway, Miranda certainly hopes that it does. “And if it does,” he said, “I will clearly be going to the theatre many more times to see it. But when I like something ... I sort of go a little bit overboard. I saw Wicked nine times.” 

      But as long as the show remains in Denver, Miranda has a message to those in the Mountain Time Zone:

      “I will not understand why anybody who is just a car ride away would not go to see The Unsinkable Molly Brown when I went in a plane for eight hours to see a two hour and 15-minute production,” he said. “It would be unthinkable to me that they would not go and see The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

      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 Unsinkable Molly Brown
      : Ticket information
      The Stage Theatre
      Runs through Oct. 26.
      303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Our Previous Molly Brown coverage on Denver CenterStage:
      'Molly Brown' Meet the cast videos:
      Beth Malone
      Burke Moses
      Patty Goble
      Paolo Montalban
      Linda Mugleston
      Donna English
    • Henry Lowenstein: 'Father of Denver theatre' passes away

      by John Moore | Oct 07, 2014
      Henry_Lowenstein_800_1Henry Lowenstein. Denver Post file photo.

      To see our full gallery of Henry Lowenstein's life in pictures, click here

      Update: A celebration of Henry Lowenstein's life will be held in the Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10.


      To many, Henry Lowenstein was the father of theatre in Colorado.

      To anyone who saw the old man with the big belly, wide smile and billows of grizzled-white hair covering his face, he was Santa Claus.

      He got that a lot, and it made him grin.

      "I’m not Santa," Lowenstein loved to respond. “I'm his cousin."

      His Jewish cousin.

      But given all the opportunities he created during his four decades as a producer of  Colorado theater, his fans thought no one better fit the role. A Henry faceLowenstein, the namesake of the theatre that is now the Colfax Tattered Cover Book Store, died today at age 89.

      Lowenstein escaped Germany with the Kindertransport at age 13. That was a British rescue mission that saved 10,000 mostly Jewish children across Eastern Europe at the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1999, Lowenstein was chosen to be the American representative at Parliament for the 60th reunion of Kindertransport survivors.

      Lowenstein has faced a variety of medical issues over recent years. But he was not afraid of dying. “I’m afraid of dying before I clean out my basement of all my memorabilia," he said.

      Few people have had as much impact on theater in Denver — or the lives of theater people in Denver — as Lowenstein, who ran Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils' crown jewel on East Colfax and Josephine Street until the theater closed in 1986. He discovered new talent. He launched careers. He encouraged women and people of color. For hundreds of thousands of Coloradans, the Bonfils served as their first experience in live theater.

      "Were it not for Henry and the Bonfils Theatre, I would have remained a housewife," said Bev Newcomb-Madden, who has instead directed more plays than any other woman in Colorado theatre history. That's just one reason he's the namesake of the Colorado Theatre Guild's annual Henry Awards. That name came at the insistence of ex-board member Jane Potts.

      "Just having known how much he did to build theater in this city, long before the Denver Center ever came to town," Potts said, "I just always assumed he was the father of live theater in Denver."

      By the time the Bonfils Theatre closed, it had been renamed the Lowenstein Theatre and had hosted more than 400 plays.


      "If anybody looks back on the last 50 years in Denver, Henry would have to be considered one of the 10 most important people in shaping this city," said DCPA founder Donald Seawell.

      Lowenstein shared credit with "all the good people that came along" for his success. But he owned one thing:

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

      Days before the first show was to open after Lowenstein's arrival at the Bonfils Theatre in October 1956, the building's custodian was found dead after having had a heart attack. With a new show opening, a replacement was needed immediately.

      "A man walked in with his son, and he was just outstanding," said Lowenstein. "He obviously had talents that went way beyond being a maintenance man. I was going to hire him, but then I found out that people there were aghast. They said, 'We can't hire a black person. What are you thinking?' " 

      When Lowenstein heard the complaint, he said, "I am going to call Helen Bonfils, because this kind of thing is crap."

      "So I called her up. She said, 'Of course you will hire him.'

      "Before we knew it, he was doing everything. He was helping backstage. He was performing. He was everywhere."

      The man's name was Jonathan Parker. His daughter grew up to be the founder, executive artistic director and choreographer of the now 40-year-old Denver institution known as Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Lowenstein would become a champion in the African-American, gay and Hispanic communities. 

      "I said to everyone, 'The doors are going to be open to everybody here, and everybody is going to be welcome,' " Lowenstein said.

      Childhood with artists

      Lowenstein began a lot of sentences with, "I'm going to make a long story short . . ." when in reality, Newcomb said with a laugh, "it's always the opposite."

      But his is not a short story.

      "Oh, to be 80 again," he said with a chuckle during a 2009 interview.

      Lowenstein was born July 4, 1925, and grew up in Berlin on the same street where the Kit Kat Club would inspire the musical Cabaret. "He often told us stories of peering through the windows to see what was going on," said his son, David Lowenstein. "Apparently the windows were painted with black paint, but there were scratches in the paint that allowed him to see what was going on inside." 

      His parents hosted nightly parties for artists of all kinds. One of his father's best friends was composer Kurt Weill, who worked out his masterpiece The Threepenny Opera on the Lowenstein family piano.

      Henry_Lowenstein_300Lowenstein's war stories are harrowing. At 13, he was part of an illegal scout troop that met in secret to swap tips on staying alive. "We were naïve as hell," he said.

      "But we were doomed if we stayed."

      Lowenstein's father was Jewish, but not at all religious. "And my mother was basically Lutheran," he said.

      His sister grew up to work for the German government as a double-agent. She was imprisoned by the Russians for passing crucial information to the Americans.

      Henry escaped to London as part of the Kindertransport. He spent his teen years working in Europe's largest zoo, where the animals often ate better than he did.

      He came to America in 1947, a 22-year-old whose childhood would inform the artist he would become.

      "There were some very bitter lessons," said Lowenstein, "When we went into hiding, all our friends refused to open their doors to us, because it meant they would probably get killed. You learn very quickly that people will do whatever they must to save their own lives."

      He forged a deep empathy for artists, outcasts and anyone who's been discriminated against.

      ​"Henry arrived in the United States as a typical immigrant with no money and no education,” said Lowenstein's friend and biographer, Christiane Hyde Citron. "Over the next nine years, he worked as a grave-digger and a foundry laborer."

      Lowenstein served three years as an illustrator in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Afterward, friend Rance Howard (father of film's Ron Howard) encouraged Lowenstein to apply to Yale's graduate school to study theatrical design. 

      "I told Rance, 'You're out of your mind,' " said Lowenstein. He didn't have an undergraduate degree. He was a veteran, but he wasn't even a citizen yet.

      "I had nothing," he said.

      He called Yale anyway and was asked to overnight a portfolio. Hah: What portfolio?

      ​(story continues after the jump)

      In this 2008 audio recording, Colorado theatre legend Henry Lowenstein talks about Helen Bonfils and Colorado Theatre history at a public panel held at the Denver Civic Theatre (now the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center). Recording by John Moore.


      That night, he imagined the setting for Weill's "Street Scene," drew it — and got in. During his three years in Connecticut, he moonlighted as a stagehand at Broadway's Shubert Theatre. That led to the surprise call from Helen Bonfils that changed his life.

      "And I didn't know who the hell she was," he said.

      Lowenstein was approached by "Miss Helen" and offered the job of running her theatre in Denver. That very same day, she also offered Seawell a job as her personal atttorney.

      Lowenstein now credits Bonfils with changing the face of theater in Colorado. His charge was to elevate the professionalism of a community theater where celebrities like Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone mingled with locals like Cleo Parker Robinson, Jeffrey Nickelson, Robert Wells, Deb Persoff and John Ashton, who over time would become stalwarts of the arts community.

      Lowenstein modeled the Bonfils after Joe Papp's Public Theatre in New York. But he rarely staged Shakespeare because, he said, "it would merely demonstrate the inability most Americans have of performing it."

      Bonfils took her plays out of the theater and into schools and parks, where they were seen by tens of thousands.

      "And she felt her theater should be at the forefront of breaking down some of the rules," Lowenstein said, citing her staging of gay-themed plays such as The Boys in the Band.

      His best stories about the old Bonfils Theatre, he said, came before he managed the place. "Because when I managed the place, I did my level-best to keep anything from happening that would become a story," he said. "I wanted to have things run smoothly."


      Henry Lowenstein with wife Deborah Goodman Lowenstein at the Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards, named in the longtime producer's honor. Photo by John Moore.

      Fueling actors' dreams

      Newcomb said Lowenstein's legacy will surely be creating opportunities for women and people of color. People like Kent Gash, who graduated from George Washington High School and is now teaching at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. When Gash was just 14, Lowenstein encouraged him in several productions at the Bonfils Theatre. He calls Lowenstein "a kind, gentle and always inspiring giant" of Denver theatre.

      "Henry made it possible for crazy kids like me growing up and working in Denver to believe that we could make good on all our dreams of having a life in the theater," said Gash. "And by example, he also taught us how to be a mensch, while being an artist."

      People don't come any kinder, Gash said -- but that doesn't mean he was always an easy man to work with.

      "I think Henry brought a lot of German attitudes with him when he came here," said Newcomb. "It was hard for him at first to understand American women. There were times when I would look over his shoulder instead of in his face because, frankly, he intimidated me.

      "It was sometimes difficult to get him to understand that I wanted and expected to do more than children's theater. But over time, he gave me the opportunity to move up, make more money and do shows that had more meaning."

      Brian Freeland, Founder of the LIDA Project Theatre, created the sound design for what is believed to be Lowenstein's final show -- a college project for the University of Denver. The director was Curious Theatre Founder Chip Walton, with Lowenstein contributing the scenic design.

      Freeland found a great symbiosis between Lowenstein's work at Bonfils and Walton's work at Curious.

      "Henry was a radical, but he was pushing theatre in directions that it needed to be pushed," Freeland said, "especially in the area of racial content. He gave opportunities to people we would not think of as traditional theatre people in the 1950s, '60s and even into the '70s - meaning they were not all white males." 

      While many in Denver got to know Lowenstein as the genial "Jewish Santa Claus" in his retirement years, Freeland said he could be tough. "And that's because he had standards," Freeland said. "Demanding people tend to ruffle feathers. That's how he got 400 shows produced."

      Citron said there are hundreds of artists who owe their theatre experience to Henry Lowenstein.

      "Henry has been a treasured leader in the Denver's cultural scene," said Citron, who also cited his leadership in establishing and continuing the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. That's a penny-per-$10 sales tax that provides metro artists and organizations with about $35 million a year. It goes before the voters for re-authorization in 2016.

      The end of the Bonfils Theatre

      By the time the Lowenstein Theater was closed, it had been dwarfed by the Denver Center, which had been built by Seawell with funds from Bonfils' estate.

      So Lowenstein took his energy and his mission to the new Denver Civic Theatre, continuing much of Bonfils' mission there until his retirement in '95.

      The Denver Public Library displayed dozens of Lowenstein's set designs in 2009, and the Kirkland Museum has since purchased five of them.

      Lowenstein had three kids with wife Dorrie, who died in 1990: Daniel, David and Joshua. "But everybody in this city who's been involved in theater thinks of Henry as a father figure," said wife Deborah Goodman Lowenstein, who married Henry in '93.

      The father of live theater in Denver.

      Lowenstein was once asked the secret to drawing audiences in these modern, competitive and challenging times.

      "The audience is going to go where they find good theatre at a good price," he said. "The answer is to do better theatre."  

      John Moore is the former theatre critic at The Denver Post. Much of the reporting for this story was done for a feature he wrote on Henry Lowenstein in 2009. 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. Contact him at 303-893-6003 or jmoore@dcpa.org


      Henry Lowenstein's imagined setting for Kurt Weill's "Street Scene."

      More on Lowenstein's war stories

      On the first attempt to get Lowenstein out of Germany: His parents arranged for him to take a train to France and presumed safety, along with the daughter of a family friend. But Henry's mother couldn't put him on the train because of a high fever. That saved his life, because in France, the Nazis killed the girl he was to travel with.

      On his sister's role as a double-agent:  During World War II, Lowenstein's sister, Karen Wharton, worked as the secretary to the man who would become prime minister of Germany. During that time, she passed crucial information to the Americans. She and a fellow secretary were taken prisoner by the Russians. The other was murdered, but Wharton got out alive.

      On the kindertransport rescue movement: Lowenstein wound up in a little village that was home to the largest zoo in Europe. Part of his job there was to fill sandbags to protect the superintendent's house from bombs, which later came anyway.

      On the fate of his parents during the war: Lowenstein's parents were sent to forced labor camps. His mother, a Lutheran, sewed uniforms, and his father, a Jew, was put to work sorting the valuables and shoes that came back from death camps by trainload. "By 1942, there were only roughly 7,000 Jews still left in Berlin," he said, "and in February of 1943, the Nazis decided they were going to kill all the remaining Jews so that Berlin would be completely cleaned out of them. Before they could begin to carry out their plan, the Germans suffered heavy losses in Stalingrad (600,000) and in North Africa. But the plan went ahead anyway, and one day my mother came home from her job and found that my father was gone. He had been taken to a factory in a big working-class area of the city and locked up. My mother went there and found out, to her surprise, that most of the men in there had non-Jew spouses. Well, these women all stood up together against the Nazis and said, 'If you take them, you must take us, too. We're with our husbands.' This was not what the Nazis wanted. But this group of German women kept growing. Within a few days, there were 3,000 of them. Joseph Goebbels, who was the propaganda minister and governor of Berlin, gave the order to stop - to not go ahead and kill anybody, but instead to release the Jews. Because with all going that was going wrong in Stalingrad and North Africa, they did not want to be actually killing German women in center of Berlin, where they couldn't hide it. Besides, there was nowhere for them to go, so they knew they could just go out and grab them up again later anyway. So any man in the prison who had someone outside asking for him, got out, my father being one of them. It's the only time, to this point, that the Nazis ever backed down. But I'm sure, had the war gone on a few more months, my parents would have been dead."


      Bonfils/Lowenstein Theatre: Some of the names

      A few local Bonfils theater alumni:
      John Ashton, Dwayne Carrington, Tony Church, Joe Craft, Tupper Cullum, Paul Dwyer, Michael R. Duran, Robert Garner, Michael Gold, Bev Newcomb-Madden, Melissa McCarl, Jeffrey Nickelson, Cleo Parker-Robinson, Deborah Persoff, Alex Ryer, Rick Seeber, Roger L. Simon, Robert Wells.

      Celebrities who appeared in Bonfils Theatre productions:
      Helen Bonfils, Mary Jo Catlett, Julia Child (she gave an onstage cooking demonstration), Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Gary Montgomery, Ted Shackelford, David Ogden Stiers, Marilyn Van Derbur (Miss America), Joan Van Ark, Paul Winfield, Emlyn Williams

      A history of the Bonfils/Lowenstein Theatre
      Long before the creation of the Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver's premier theater was staged at the Bonfils Memorial Theater at East Colfax Avenue and Elizabeth Street.

      Over 33 years, the Bonfils' seductive stage called out to everyone from New York celebrities to a state Supreme Court justice to a future Miss America to legions of ordinary folk. It even saw the occasional streaker and bomb threat.

      It was a community theater that was professionally run.

      When former Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils built her 550-seat theater palace as a memorial to her parents, it was the first new live theater built anywhere in Denver in 40 years. It soon became the epicenter of Denver society.

      By the time it closed in 1986 as the Lowenstein Theater, it had hosted more than 400 mainstage and children's productions. Its legacy includes a summer festival caravan that toured city parks, a free annual outdoor summer musical in Cheesman Park and a black-box cabaret. Its long list of legendary directors includes Alexander Ivo, Robert Wells, Harry Geldard, Bob Bannister, Buddy Butler, Bev Newcomb-Madden and Gary Montgomery, nephew of British military hero Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

      The building has sat unoccupied for 19 years, but the Lowenstein has been turned inti  cultural retail center. The Tattered Cover Book Store and Udi's Restaurant occupy  the existing theater, while the Sie Film Center, Denver Folkore Society and Twist & Shout records operate in a new facility that was built next door.

      The Bonfils story includes actors collapsing onstage and being bailed out of jail just before curtain. There are tales of ghosts and hookers both being shooed away by diligent house manager Joe Farrow. Onstage, the canon included antiwar stories, cautionary tales of nuclear destruction and some of the first staged works with homosexual characters ("Boys in the Band"), all playing opposite professionally staged children's stories like "Pippi Longstocking" and "Golliwhoppers."

      In honor of a closed chapter in the city's history, we asked Lowenstein and many of those who performed there for their memories.

      Lowenstein remembers the theater as "one of the best-designed and best-equipped theater buildings that existed at the time." For many actors, Michael Gold said, "it was the start of our careers. And it was all good theater with the sole purpose of entertainment.

      The Bonfils Theatre: A brief history

      1929: University Civic Theatre opens with "Candida" at University of Denver's Margaret Reed Hall.
      1953: Helen Bonfils builds the new 550-seat Bonfils Memorial Theatre, the first new theater building in Denver in 40 years. She names it Denver Civic Theatre at the Bonfils Memorial Theatre.
      1956: Henry Lowenstein is hired as set designer.
      1966: Donald R. Seawell named CEO of The Denver Post and supervisor of the Bonfils.
      1967: Lowenstein is named producer.
      1972: Helen Bonfils dies.
      1985: Renamed the Lowenstein Theater.
      1986: Theater closed by unanimous vote of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts board of trustees.

      Ten unforgettable events in the theater's history

      1. When the Bonfils Memorial Theatre opened in October 1953, millionaire Broadway producer Blevins Davis ("Porgy & Bess") called it the finest theater of its kind in the country. "There is nothing better in New York," he said. A congratulatory telegram was sent to founder Helen Bonfils by president Dwight D. Eisenhower. "All of Denver society would show up for every opening night, presided over by Miss Helen, who would walk to her seat as the audience applauded her," said former theater critic Thom Wise. "The society writers would cover, in detail, what all of the prominent women would wear, and who sat next to whom. In those days, the Bonfils Theater was the social center of the city."

      2. Tragedy struck in 1954. During the intermission of "Jack and the Beanstalk," a crew member fell from 18 feet up the stalk and down through an open trap door to his death. A shaken Bonfils was determined "she better have someone in there who knew what they were doing," said producer Henry Lowenstein. "And that's how I got hired."

      3. People still buzz about the night Carol Channing attended "Sorrows of Stephen" in 1982 and hung out with the cast for hours afterward. But nothing topped a 1955 tribute to Denver playwright Mary Chase. She was being honored after a performance of her "Harvey" when Jimmy Stewart, the star of the film version, emerged from the back row; he had watched the entire performance unnoticed.

      4. In 1957, Judge O. Otto Moore, chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, played the William Jennings Bryan-inspired role in the Scopes Monkey Trial drama "Inherit the Wind." "We all thought that issue was finally behind us, and look what's going on now," Lowenstein said. "Here we are 50 years later and the issue is as alive as ever."

      5. In a 1965 production of "Dark of the Moon," a backwoods Ozarks preacher rapes a woman as townspeople crowd around, shielding the audience from view. Lowenstein was prepared for the worst when he was summoned to the lobby to face a preacher who had an unexpected agenda. "He said, 'I have a couple here who really wanted to see your show before they leave on their honeymoon. But they haven't been married yet. Since you already have the lectern set up, can we marry them onstage here?' They got married right then and there, with all my staff as witnesses. It was absolutely wonderful."

      6. The new "Perry Mason" series was filmed inside the Bonfils from 1987-89, among many other Denver locales. Raymond Burr was a consultant to Helen Bonfils on the original design of her theater. That's why he chose to film his series there, Wise said.

      7. A large portrait of "Miss Helen" graced the building's foyer. The newspaper magnate's first love was the theater. She would spend most theater seasons in New York as an actor and producer. She summered in Denver with her husband, George Somnes, who produced and directed plays at the Elitch Theatre. After her death in 1972, many Bonfils regulars became convinced that in her portrait, the sky behind Bonfils would grow gloomier if the current show were one she would not have liked.

      8. In 1971, 23-year-old Kevin Kline was joined by David Ogden Stiers, Patti LuPone, Mary Lou Rosato and others from John Houseman's The Acting Company to perform three shows in repertory for three weeks. Lowenstein fondly remembers driving the young stars in his beat-up Scout through a blizzard to the Career Education Center, where they conducted a workshop for children. Kline came back for at least two other runs at the Bonfils in the 1970s.

      9. In 1971, 10 days before an opening night, Lowenstein canceled a production of "The Imaginary Invalid," being staged in conjunction with the University of Denver. After four months of rehearsal, it was looking like a disaster. "I was the bad guy," said Lowenstein, who then rushed "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Becket" into simultaneous production so that the entire cast of the canceled show would have parts. But that didn't quell the animosity. Opening night was canceled by a bomb threat. Then the next night as well. "By the third night I said, 'I can't do this anymore. They can close us forever if we do this night after night,"' he said. That night a threatening note was found in a dressing room with letters cut from a magazine. "It was pretty clear that somebody in the cast was involved," Lowenstein said. "But I said, 'I don't give a damn. This show is going on. I am willing to risk it."' Neither show, it turns out, was a bomb.

      10. Lowenstein considers Robert Wells' 1983 production of "Sweeney Todd" the theater's greatest artistic achievement. "That was the one show I would say absolutely got it right," he said. "Everything about it was the way it should be." It was the highlight of Wells' 35-show run as well. "It was a knockout," he said. Three years later, the theater closed.

    • Photos: Opening Night at 'Lord of the Flies'

      by John Moore | Oct 06, 2014

      The Opening Night "Lord of the Flies" afterparty was proof that we really CAN all just get along.  Photo by John Moore.

      Oct. 3 was the opening performance of  Lord of the Flies, the DCPA Theatre Company's provocative adaptation of William Golding's classic novel. Stranded on a deserted island, a group of English schoolboys become intoxicated by sudden freedom. Their time on the beach quickly descends not only into a savage struggle for power, but an exploration into whether man's inherent nature is to be civilized or animals.

      Photos by John Moore. To see our complete gallery of Lord of the Flies Opening Night photos, click here.


      Charlie Franklin (Ralph) takes it all in following the opening performance of "Lord of the Flies" on Oct. 3. Photo by John Moore.

      The cast and design team from "Lord of the Flies" engaged the first preview audfience with a pre-show Prologue panel discussion on Sept. 27. To see more photos from the Prologue event, click here.

      Lord of the Flies
      : Ticket information
      Performances run through Nov. 2
      The Space Theatre
      Featuring Charlie Franklin, Gregory Isaac Stone, Matthew Gumley, Kurt Hellerich, Jack DiFalco, Ben Radcliffe, Noah Radcliffe, Allen Dorsey, Skyler Gallun, Ben Griffin, Charlie Korman and Geoffrey Kent.
      303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Our Previous Lord of the Flies coverage on Denver CenterStage:

      Meet the cast video episodes:
      Charlie Franklin
      Matthew Gumley

      Ben and Noah Radcliffe

      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.

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

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