• 'The Book of Will': Why is there a bobble-head on that set?

    by John Moore | Jan 17, 2017
    The Book of Will Perspectives Sandra Goldmark'The Book of Will' Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark on her commitment to incorporate recycled and reclaimed materials into all of her designs. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The upcoming world-premiere play The Book of Will takes place in a number of locations including a tap house, a print shop, and the stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. But to Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark, “location is the least interesting part of my job.”

    The Book of Will Perspectives Lauren GundersonWhat interests her more is how she and her team of collaborating designers can create a world that is distinct and relevant to each play. And the team from The Book of Will wanted to have a little fun with the idea that a life in the theatre today has not fundamentally changed all that much over the past four centuries.

    So even though the story begins in 1619 London, Goldmark has fashioned an intentionally anachronistic set that cleverly links the past to the present by mingling modern elements into the otherwise Elizabethan world of the play. For example, eagle-eyed audience members might spy, say, a small model car on a print-shop shelf, or a baseball bobble-head, or family photos tacked onto a bulletin board. “This is 2017, after all,” said Goldmark, "so why not have some fun with that?”

    Here are five more fun things we learned last Friday at Perspectives, a series of free conversations hosted by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Director Douglas Langworthy with cast and crew on the evening of each first preview performance. He was joined by Goldmark, Playwright Lauren Gunderson, Lighting Designer Paul Toben, Sound Designer Stowe Nelson, Assistant Director Alyssa Miller and actors Triney Sandoval and Thaddeus Fitzpatrick.

    (Pictured above and right: Playwright Lauren Gunderson wore your study guide to the first preview performance of 'The Book of Will.' The opening performance is Friday, Jan. 20. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    NUMBER 1A The Book of Will Perspectives 400 2As important as it was to Goldmark to be playful in creating her set, she is equally serious about carrying her considerable personal interest in climate change and sustainability into her all of her work across the country. So her sets are almost entirely made up of reclaimed and recycled materials, or in the case of the DCPA, pulled from storage. “I hope that adds a richness and history and integrity to the objects and the materials that are on stage,” Goldmark said. The Ricketson Theatre floor, for example, is now made up of old wooden bleacher boards that came from an old school gymnasium. The beams and railings that denote the Globe Theatre come from trees that were cut down to make room for the expansion of a local ski resort. “The set does feel like it very much could exist in 1623, but it does have these subtle modern touches that make it feel very current as well," added Sound Designer Stowe Nelson. 

    NUMBER 2Ben Jonson, the Shakespeare contemporary perhaps best known for writing The Alchemist, would not approve. So says the playwright and the actor playing him, Triney Sandoval, who doubles as the famous actor of the day, Richard Burbage. It's great fun for Sandoval to play both, he said, “because Ben Jonson had an utter disdain for actors." Added Playwright Lauren Gunderson, with a laugh: "Every time I see Triney as Ben Jonson, it reminds me of how (bleeped) off Jonson would be by the way I have written him.” The fierce rivalry between Shakespeare and Jonson reminds Sandoval of the famous feud between the painters Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. “The actor John Houseman was having lunch with Picasso one day at a restaurant and there was a hair in Picasso’s soup,” Sandoval said. “And Picasso's response was, 'Oh look - a Matisse.’ ”

    A The Book of Will Perspectives 800 4

    NUMBER 3

    The Theatre Company has recently presented A Weekend with Pablo Picasso and One Night in Miami, both plays where the writer completely imagines what might have happened during an otherwise unrecorded moment in history. So Gunderson was asked how much of her play is true, and how much of it is imagined? “The most important thing to me is that the true things are all true in the play - and most of it is absolutely true,” she said. "It’s true that Shakespeare died in 1619. It's true that only 18 of his plays had been published, and that were they not printed on paper that was meant to be saved. It’s true that Burbage and Henry Condell and John Heminges decided to publish the complete collected works after Shakespeare was gone. We know they published the book in 1623. And there are a couple of fabulous plot elements that I am not going to tell you here, but I did not make them up; I just took them from history. The small stuff we invented is still, at heart, true, and it honors the people and their story."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4

    The DCPA Theatre Company has launched dozens of world premieres over the years, but The Book of Will is the first to have its second staging lined up before the original even bows in Denver. The Book of Will already has been added to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival summer lineup in New York, where it will run from June 9 through July 28. That production also will be directed by the DCPA's Davis McCallum, and Gunderson said that staging will feature about half of the Denver cast. By the time The Legend of Georgia McBride closed in Denver in 2014, plans were set for that premiere to have its New York debut at the MCC Theatre.

    NUMBER 5If you saw the reading of The Book of Will at the Colorado New Play Summit last February, Gunderson promises that the play opening on Jan. 20 has a new ending. There were two potential endings written into the original script. “The ending we did before worked very well, but this one has a little more …” Gunderson said as Sandoval suggested the word “pizazz” to complete her sentence.  “Exactly," Gunderson teased. "You'll see.”

    Bonus: The cost of publishing Shakespeare’s collected works in 1623 was the equivalent of the average yearly salary for most working-class people in London at that time. 

    Bonus: It was mentioned above that the actor’s life has not essentially changed in 400 years. But here are three ways that it has: 1. The advent of the director. “They didn't have them back then,” said Sandoval. 2. Actors today primarily perform indoors. And 3. Actors are provided full scripts. In Shakespeare’s day, they were only given their own handwritten lines, as well as the cues that told them when to speak. That was all to save on paper.

    The next Perspectives will cover The Christians at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, in the Conservatory Theatre. All are welcome. It’s free.

    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 Book of Will: Ticket information
    The Book of WillWithout William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without two of his friends, we would have lost Shakespeare’s plays forever. A comic and heartfelt story of the characters behind the stories we know so well.

    Jan. 13-Feb. 26
    Ricketson Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described Matinee 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Photo gallery: The making of The Book of Will in Denver:

    'The Book of Will' in Denver
    Photos from the making of Lauren Gunderson's world-premiere play 'The Book of Will' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    Meet the cast: Rodney Lizcano
    Guest columnist Lauren Gunderson: How one word can change a play
    Five things we learned at 'The Book of Will' opening rehearsal
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    Video: Our look back at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Summit Spotlight: Playwright Lauren Gunderson
    Lauren Gunderson wins Lanford Wilson Award from Dramatists Guild of America
    Just who were all the king's men, anyway?
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     The Book of Will Perspectives
  • Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit

    by John Moore | Jan 17, 2017
    A Playwriting Scenester finalists 800Meet your 2017 Scenesters: Teen playwriting finalists (from left) Parker Bennett, Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Ryan Patrick McCormick and Jessica Wood.



    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has announced a record four finalists for its fourth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition for Colorado high-school students:

    • Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School, Counting in Clay MEET PARKER
    • Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School, Chill Winds MEET JESSICA
    • Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School, Spilt Lava MEET RYAN
    • Jasmin Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak Preparatory Academy, The Boy on the Tree
      MEET JASMIN

    Because of a tie, an unprecedented fourth finalist was named. The four will receive mentoring from a professional playwright and have their plays read by professional actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, in The Conservatory Theatre. Finalists also receive a $250 cash scholarship and complimentary pass to all Summit activities.

    A Playwriting Scenester finalists QuoteWood is the first student in the competition's history to place as a finalist two years in a row. Two of the finalists come from different high schools in Fort Collins. The finalists' plays represent a wide swath of storytelling ranging from a gender-bending variation on Rapunzel, to a modern take on Frankenstein, to a historical drama about sisters on the eve of World War II, to the love story of a boy and girl “who float across each other in a world where the floor is lava.”

    DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals first determined 10 semifinalists from  132 submissions received from high-school students across the state. The blind judging produced a first - twins sisters Sarah and Samantha Shapard of Overland High School both made the top 10.

    From that field, a record  four finalists were chosen, up from three in previous years. After the Colorado New Play Summit, one of the four scripts will be selected for full production during DCPA Education’s 2017 summer program.

    “These young playwrights are the next generation of theatre. It is our responsibility and our privilege to encourage them and give them the tools to succeed,” said DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous. “We launched the one-act play playwriting competition in 2013 to nurture Colorado’s promising young playwrights, create new plays and inspire creativity. In just four short years, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response: 577 submissions and nearly 12,000 students served through the program, giving voice to the next generation of American theatre.”

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of the 2017 Semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School


    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. </p?>
  • Meet the cast: Rodney Lizcano of 'The Book of Will'

    by John Moore | Jan 16, 2017
    Rodney LizcanoRodney Lizcano, right, at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit reading of 'The Book of Will.'  Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    MEET RODNEY LIZCANO

    Ralph Crane in The Book of Will

    At the Theatre Company: Frankenstein, Hamlet, American Night, Merchant of Venice, Spinning Into Butter, Inna Beginning, Tempest, Gross Indecency, The Rivals, Kingdom, Winter's Tale, A Christmas Carol. Other theatres: Colorado Shakespeare Festival (Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Henry V, Tempest, Merry Wives, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, Equivocation, Cymbeline), Arvada Center (Archbishop’s Ceiling, The Crucible, A Man For All Seasons), Dallas Shakespeare Festival, Stories on Stage, Theatre Aspen and Off-Broadway with Actors Ensemble Theater and DreamScape Theatre Company. TV/Film: Silver City and "Stage Struck."

     

    • Rodney Lizcano QuoteHometown: Pharr, Texas
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: MFA from Southern Methodist University; master's degree from DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory
    • What was the role that changed your life? Playing the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz in high school will forever be my "a-ha!" moment. I was a part of a very progressive theatre program and we performed an annual children’s production that was seen by thousands of elementary-school kids. Those children later wrote and told us how they were impacted by the storytelling and about the profound experience they had watching live theatre. Many of them came from broken families and struggled with poverty. But for those very few moments they were transported to another reality. Art has that ability. I realized early on that I wanted to make that kind of impact.
    • Why are you an actor? Acting is the most satisfying job I’ve ever had. A lot of people are skeptical of acting as a profession because the work is inconsistent. But to me this is a job, and I show up every day happy and ready to work. I’m very lucky and profoundly grateful to have the work.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: Well, I’ve played several real-life roles in theatre administration, education and graphic design, and I still find those opportunities just as satisfying. For me, the important thing is staying in a creative environment.
    • Jamie HortonIdeal scene partner: Jamie Horton will be forever my ideal scene partner. He was a Denver Center Theatre Company member while I was receiving my training here at the National Theatre Conservatory. As an apprentice, I had the opportunity to watch him perform, dissect a role and explore the life of a character. I was later taught by Jamie in class and then I got to perform with him onstage. He remains one of the kindest, most generous and giving actors I’ve come across. I learn something new just by being in the same room with him. I pray for the day I get to be in a scene with him again. Jamie Horton, are you reading this? The Dresser! Let’s do it.
    • Why does The Book of Will matter? It matters because Shakespeare matters. This particular play focuses on the creation of the First Folio. Our world would be very different without these published works. It’s an important story to tell.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of seeing it? I hope they walk away learning a bit of Shakespeare’s world they didn’t know about before. I hope they get a sense of his impact on the world. I also hope they learn a few more names:  Richard Burbage, Henry Condell, Richard Sharpe and John Heminges were some the greatest actors of the time, and we learn in this play that some of them were were pivotal in the creation of Shakespeare's first collected works.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      I sense the imbalance in everyone’s worlds right now. People are sad and angry, confused and feel betrayed.  So, right now in this moment ... "All I want is for everyone to find peace."

    The Book of Will: Ticket information
    The Book of WillWithout William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without two of his friends, we would have lost Shakespeare’s plays forever. A comic and heartfelt story of the characters behind the stories we know so well.

    Jan. 13-Feb. 26
    Ricketson Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described Matinee 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    Guest columnist Lauren Gunderson: How one word can change a play
    Five things we learned at 'The Book of Will' opening rehearsal
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    Video: Our look back at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Summit Spotlight: Playwright Lauren Gunderson
    Lauren Gunderson wins Lanford Wilson Award from Dramatists Guild of America
    Just who were all the king's men, anyway?
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    More 2016-17 'Meet the Cast' profiles:

    Michael Bouchard, The SantaLand Diaries
    Steven J. Burge, An Act of God
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grundei, Frankenstein
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God
    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein and Siren Song
    Erik Sandvold, An Act of God
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
    Wesley Taylor, An Act of God


    Rodney Lizcano. The Book of WillRodney Lizcano, left, at the first rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Book of Will.'  Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 
  • Ghost Light Project: Theatres gather Jan. 19 'to be a light'

    by John Moore | Jan 13, 2017

    Ghost Light Project

    On Thursday, Jan. 19, theatres around the nation are leaving a light on for anyone who is feeling disenfranchised on the eve of the presidential inauguration. And while organizers say The Ghost Light Project is not a direct response to the recent election, it is specifically timed to coincide with the final night of the Obama administration.

    Theaters from Broadway to community theatres to high schools are scheduling short, symbolic and simultaneous gatherings across the country to 'create light' and support vulnerable communities through what organizers are calling “the challenging times ahead." As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of Ghost Light events have been scheduled in 43 states.

    Inspired by the tradition of leaving a “ghost light” on in a darkened theatre, artists and communities will make or renew a pledge "to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation."

    Ghost Light Project“January 19th is a moment of gathering within a larger resistance to intolerance at all levels,” national organizers said in a statement. “We aim to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. We aim to activate a network of people across the country working to support vulnerable communities. This is not a substitution for protests or direct action, but rather a pledge for continued vigilance and increased advocacy.”

    Organizers define a safe space as "a place where diverse opinions, dissent and arguments are not only tolerated, but invited."

    Most (but not all) events will take place at 5:30 p.m. regardless of time zone. Attendees are encouraged to bring flashlights.

    The primary Denver community gathering will take place at the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park. Organizer Meghan Anderson Doyle hopes Denver’s theatre community will always strive to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. "Bring a light, be a light," she said.

    Curious Theatre Company is encouraging supporters to gather at 5:15 p.m. outside its theatre at 1080 Acoma St. for a short ceremony. “Curious Theatre has long been committed to diversity, inclusion and conversation about important issues,” said organizer Jeannene Bragg.  “We're proud to be part of The Ghost Light Project to celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to equity and spaces for brave art-making.” Neighbors, artists and audiences alike are welcome.

    Those who have work or family commitments at that time are asked to light a light wherever they are at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19.

    A Ghost Light 800 3The Edge Theatre had previously scheduled a one-night-only reading of John Moore’s recent New York International Fringe Festival play Waiting for Obama for Jan. 19 as a fundraiser for the Denver Actors Fund. The play (pictured right) attempts to offer a humanistic and evenly represented look at the issue of gun safety and its ongoing impact on American families.

    But after the recent election, the creative team decided to gather one last time to read the play specifically on Jan. 19 because, they said in announcing the event, “in all likelihood, all meaningful dialogue on the issue of guns led by anyone in a position of real power ends on Jan. 20, at least for the next four years. But the mass shootings, in equal likelihood, will not.”

    Organizers are now aligning the event with the larger Ghost Light Project initiative by incorporating the basic message into pre-show activities. Social hour is at 6, and the reading starts at 7 at 1560 Teller St. Free. No advance ticketing. Just show up.

    Here is a roundup of other events being organized in Colorado:

    • Community College of Aurora, 16000 E. Centretech Parkway. Organizer: Stacey Ryfun D'Angelo
    • The Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia, Fort Collins, 5 p.m. Organizer: Kate Austin-Groen

    Any other local schools and theatre companies that still want to organize a Ghost Light event are asked to email state coordinator Gavin Lodge, a Broadway veteran and graduate of Green Mountain High School and CU Boulder, at gavin.k.lodge@gmail.com.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Saheem Ali, one of the national organizers, says he has been asked about the need for (and value of) such an inherently symbolic evening. “To that I say it is not merely necessary, but essential,” he wrote today in an essay for HowlRound. “The act of expressing something out loud has significance. Protests and public proclamations are important because they demonstrate solidarity and a firmness of belief. … On Jan. 19, the theatre community will reiterate and reaffirm, to ourselves and the world, our humanistic stance in the face of hateful and divisive rhetoric: All are welcome.”

    Moving forward, Ali said The Ghost Light Project will become a resource for theatres, arts communities and individuals to identify and create meaningful action steps, or to continue social justice work that is already underway.  Examples of future initiatives might include creating a volunteer team to do monthly community service projects, developing experts on key issues that affect vulnerable communities and becoming a resource hub for that issue, and more.

  • The 2017 Scenesters, No. 10: Samantha Shapard

    by John Moore | Jan 13, 2017
    Scenesters Samantha Shapard

    Today at the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fourth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, we will announce the writers whose plays will be read at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.)


    SCENESTER NO. 10: SAMANTHA SHAPARD

    • School: Overland High School, Aurora
    • Class: Senior
    • Teacher: Eric Eidson
    • Your play title: The Sincerest Form of Flattery
    • What is your play about? My play is about a girl named Addison who is essentially a copycat. She craves attention and material possessions, and she's started stealing people's entire personalities. She lives as a form of self-gratification. The story follows her interactions with another girl, Tanya, who is a skateboarder.
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? Addison is actually a character of mine I've written about in many previous stories. I was doing a playwriting independent study with my theater teacher, Mr. Eidson, and thought she would be a really cool character to write a play about. I love villains, and Addison is as bad as it gets.
    • Favorite word that appears in your script: "Ollie." Tanya is a skateboarder, so I had to look up some skateboarding lingo! It's basically a trick where the rider leaps into the air with a board without the use of the rider's hands.
    • A Scenesters Willow ShieldsKiller casting: I think I would have to cast Willow Shields (The Hunger Games) as Addison. She has big eyes that make her look really innocent, and I also feel like she could play a shifty character really well!
    • What did you learn from writing this play? I learned more about how to revise my work many times to make it the best it can be. I worked on my play with my theater teacher and some friends from school, and I edited it several times before it was finished.

    Meet Samantha Shapard's semifinalist twin sister, Sarah

    A Scenesters Samantha Shapard Quote


    Our countdown of the
    2017 'Scenesters' (to date):
    No. 1: Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    No. 2: Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School

    No. 3: Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    No. 4: Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    No. 5: Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    No. 6: Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    No. 7: Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School
    No. 8: Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    No. 9: Daniela Villalobo, York International

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'The Christians': Gary Grundei on music to move the masses

    by John Moore | Jan 11, 2017
    The Christians Gary Grundei


    Longtime DCPA composer Gary Grundei leads a community gospel choir in Boulder that does not require its members to believe in any specific religious precepts. All comers are welcome to sing out as a powerful means of spiritual reflection and contemplation. “At its best, I believe that church is a place to participate,” Grundei said, “especially when you don't have to have everything all figured out.”

    Which sounds a bit like Lucas Hnath’s highly acclaimed The Christians, one of the most-produced plays in the American theatre this season. Set in an “actual” 18,000-seat megachurch service, this provocative new play is the story of an evangelical pastor who comes to question a basic tenet of his faith - and his changing perspective will prove challenging to his tens of thousands of followers.

    A The Christians Gary Grundei Quote“When music works to maximum effect in a church service, I think it gives you a chance to consider big questions in a way that is not necessarily linear or rational,” said Grundei. “It gives you the space to sit with it in your body, ear, and voice. The music I am drawn to in church doesn't necessarily tell you what to think or feel in a dogmatic way. When you sing those phrases over and over again, there's room for you to have it mean something a little different each time or change as you're singing it. I find that to be a very rich experience.”

    The Christians will feature live music at every performance from an 11-member praise band made up of eight singers and three musicians. The score of known contemporary gospel and traditional spirituals, including "God's Unchanging Hand" and "Farther Along," will be arranged by Grundei, who has spent most of his 20 years with the DCPA Theatre Company composing original underscoring for homegrown productions such as the Plainsong Trilogy.

    “We are definitely going to church with this play,” said Grundei, who was also the choir director at Parker United Methodist Church for two years. “We haven't determined yet how participatory it will be. But honestly, my hope is to get some of the audience to participate.‘’

    The DCPA describes The Christians as “an intimate look at the moments that define who we are and what we believe.” Grundei says the play is respectful to people of faith, and opens a two-way ideological dialogue that proves relevant to anyone who has ever questioned something they believe in, whether they are a person of faith or not.  

    Video bonus: Chicago Mass Choir's take on 'God's Unchanging Hand'

    “Honestly, I really love this play,” Grundei said. “It is beautifully written. It brings such sensitivity to progressive ways of thinking about a spiritual life. And it offers a really smart perspective on what it's like for someone who is going along on the spiritual path and is now struggling with whether to lose some of the dogma he has been taught. I tend toward not telling folks exactly what to believe, but rather let's steep ourselves in the tradition of stories that have wisdom and stories and music.”  

    Grundei, MeridithGrundei first came to the Denver Center to design sound for A Servant of Two Masters in 1997. He has a band called High Fictions and teaches music at Naropa University in Boulder. He is also the co-creator of Bar Choir, a kind of flash mob of melody-makers who take over hipster bars once a month by breaking into songs by artists ranging from Pat Benatar to the White Stripes to Prince. Grundei’s wife is actor Meridith C. Grundei (pictured right), whose recent DCPA credits include Sweet and Lucky and Frankenstein.

    Here is more of our conversation:

    John Moore:  How big would a real praise band be in a megachurch that’s the size of the one represented in The Christians?

    Gary Grundei: The church in our play has a huge choir of 100 or so, but they are not there this day. Today, when we stop in on the story, there is instead this small worship choir made up of eight very talented and enthusiastic singers.  

    John Moore: What is the role of a praise band in an actual large community church service with as many as 18,000 people in attendance?

    Gary Grundei: Our job at the beginning of the service is to raise the energy of the people gathered, get them on their feet and get them participating in the service. We'll see if anyone in the congregation wants to sing along or not.

    John Moore: What’s different when you are putting together a band for a church service as opposed to a band to play for a live musical in a theatre?

    Gary Grundei: For The Christians, we are looking for musicians who really understand contemporary and gospel music. In a traditional musical, you read charts that tell you exactly what to play. We're not looking for that. We are looking for people who are willing to bring out their own musical personalities in their music.

    John Moore: Did you attend services at one of these 18,000-seat community churches as part of your research?  

    Gary Grundei: Actually, whenever I visit a new town I like to find the local gospel church, just to have that experience. I have many times been moved, crying, moving my feet and shouting during these services. But I've only been to two actual local megachurches: One was very new-age, and I found that to be very affirming. The other, to be honest, was not very dynamic, and the music was not very good. I found myself not engaged by anything except the Jumbotron. Now, that was gorgeous. They had good lighting and good camera work, too.  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: What is your role as arranger here?

    Gary Grundei: The songs will be based on common traditional arrangements. There will be a little bit of scoring throughout the piece, too, in the tradition of an organ player who plays under the sermon a little bit.

    John Moore: Are you a member of the band?

    Gary Grundei: I'm not because I am committed to doing a production of Beowulf that my wife is directing for The Catamounts in Boulder.  It conflicts with the performance schedule.

    John Moore: Tell us about how you got started at the Denver Center.

    Gary Grundei: The first thing I did at Denver Center was the sound design for A Servant of Two Masters in 1997. I had a paid internship in the sound department, so I designed three shows that year.  It just so happened that Anthony Powell was directing Macbeth, and they didn't have a composer budgeted.  And so I said,  ‘Well, I'm already on contract. How about you put me to work composing music for Macbeth? And he did. I had a good run of doing all the Shakespeare plays with Anthony Powell for a number of years.  And then when Kent Thompson came onboard, he brought me in to do some of the new plays, like the Plainsong trilogy. That was great.

    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.

    Video bonus: Watch Gary Grundei lead a recent Bar Choir event:

    Here's a video glimpse at a recent Bar Choir gathering where drop-ins learned songs including Pat Benatar's "We Belong" and the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To read more about Bar Choir, click here.


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    The ChristiansA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Jan. 27-Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    The Christians: Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    The Christians
    is 'a pathway to empathy
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics




  • The 2017 Scenesters: Parker Bennett

    by John Moore | Jan 11, 2017
    Scenesters Parker Bennett
    Today at the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fourth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Jan. 13, we will announce the three scripts that will be read at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.) Tuesday: Scenester profile No. 9.


    SCENESTER NO. 8: PARKER BENNETT

    • School: Fossil Ridge High School
    • Class: Sophomore
    • Teacher: Kristin Rust
    • Your play title: Counting in Clay
    • What is your play about? A sculptor lives on a secluded island where he crafts living people from clay. However, all of his projects so far have been flawed, until he manages to create something he thinks might be perfect ...
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein and the film Swiss Army Man.
    • Favorite word that appears in your script: "Haven." 
    • Scenesters Parker Bennett James McAvoyKiller casting: I would cast James McAvoy to play The Sculptor. I think he could bring a lot of energy and anxiety to the character, and could play the gentleman and the pyschopath simultaneously.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? This was a writing experience unlike any I've ever had, because I wasn't just writing for myself. I was writing for an audience. People were actually going to read this, so the message of my story had to be crystal clear. I tend to go into writings with basically no care or planning, but this competition made me look at my writing in the same way I've looked at Shakespearean literature in English class. I treated my work with respect, and learned to think of myself as an artist.

    Scenesters Parker Bennett Quote

    Our countdown of the 2017 'Scenesters' (to date):
    No. 1: Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    No. 2: Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School

    No. 3: Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    No. 4: Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    No. 5: Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    No. 6: Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    No. 7: Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'Fun Home' opening postponed by road closures

    by John Moore | Jan 10, 2017
    Fun Home. Joan Marcus

    Alessandra Baldacchino as 'Small Alison' and Robert Petkoff as Bruce in the touring production of 'Fun Home.' Photo by Joan Marcus.


    Tonight's scheduled opening of Fun Home has been canceled because of road closures on I-70 preventing the trucks transporting the set to Denver from arriving in time.

    The Denver Center Box Office will contact all ticket-holders who purchased for the Tuesday, Jan. 10 performance through denvercenter.org by Thursday to exchange into another performance or discuss other options.

    Alternatively, ticket holders may call 303-893-4100. Otherwise, they may contact their point of purchase for additional ticket options.

     

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter



    Fun Home
    : Ticket information

    • Jan. 11-22, 2017
    •  The Ellie Caulkins Opera House
    •  Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic-novel memoir; book and lyrics by Lisa Kron; music by Jeanine Tesori; directed by Sam Gold
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    For more information on the production, please visit FunHomeBroadway.com.


    Video bonus: Broadway's Beth Malone sings the national anthem:


    Video: Colorado native Beth Malone returned home to talk about the Denver-bound Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home and sing the national anthem before the Denver Broncos' Oct. 30 win over the San Diego Chargers at Mile High Stadium. Malone is not appearing in the touring production, but she was here as an ambassador for 'Fun Home,' opening Jan. 11 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Fun Home:

    Beth Malone on Fun Home: ‘It’s about anyone born of a mother'
    Denver’s Sweeney Todd will return with Fun Home tour
    Another Malone takes spotlight at Denver Film Festival
    Fun Home
    highlights Denver Center's 2016-17 Broadway season
    Denver’s Beth Malone returning to Broadway in Fun Home

  • The 2017 Scenesters: Jessica Wood

    by John Moore | Jan 10, 2017
     Scenesters Jessica Wood
    Today at the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fourth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Jan. 13, we will announce the three scripts that will be read at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.) Tuesday: Scenester profile No. 8.


    SCENESTER NO. 7: JESSICA WOOD

    • School: Denver Christian School
    • Class: Senior
    • Teacher: Tami Zietse
    • Your play title: Chill Winds
    • A Scen Free Trial Log in Open Save Share Add to HubBETA Make the ads disappear. Try Royale for free!esters Jessica Wood 800 2What is your play about? It's about the relationship between two sisters and their interactions with the residents of a small town on the eve of America's entrance into World War II.
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? I saw Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie with my school and was struck by how effective the use of sound can be in manipulating emotion. I attempted to write a play where action was secondary to sound, and where meaning was based as much on tone as dialogue.
    • Favorite word that appears in your script: "Chattanooga." 
    • Killer casting: I would pick Sierra McCormick to play Eden because I think she'd do an excellent job portraying the intricacies of the character.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? I learned a whole lot about flower symbolism and more than I ever thought I'd need to know about the military drafting process before Pearl Harbor.

    • (Photo above and right: Jessica Wood, center, was one of three 2016 Scenester finalists along with Kendra Knapp, right, and Gabrielle Moore, right. To read Jessica's 2015 Scenester profile, click here. She is also featured in the video below.)
    A Scenesters Jessica Wood quote

    Our countdown of the 2017 'Scenesters' (to date):
    No. 1: Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    No. 2: Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School

    No. 3: Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    No. 4: Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    No. 5: Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    No. 6: Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • NewsCenter: Our 10 most popular articles of 2016

    by John Moore | Jan 08, 2017

    Hamilton in Denver. Broadway Nothing got readers more excited last year than the news that the hit Broadway musical 'Hamilton' will be coming to Denver as part of the 2017-18 Broadway season.


    The DCPA NewsCenter was launched in October 2014 as an unprecedented new media outlet covering theatre at the Denver Center and throughout the state and nation telling stories with words, videos, podcasts and photos. It is a service made possible by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts as a shared resource for the Colorado theatre community as a whole. Here are the 10 most-clicked stories on the NewsCenter in 2016 from among the nearly 430 posted. Thanks to our readers for making it a record-breaking year:

    NUMBER 1HamiltonBroadway’s Hamilton is heading to Denver: The national tour of the Broadway musical Hamilton will play the Buell Theatre as part of the Denver Center's 2017-18 Broadway subscription series. Information regarding engagement dates and how to purchase single tickets will be announced at a later time. READ IT

    NUMBER 2Brenda Billings 1Brenda Billings: 'A warrior of acceptance':  Brenda Billings died while doing what she loves most – conducting auditions for an upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors. She was the co-Artistic Director of Miners Alley Playhouse and  President of the Denver Actors Fund, and she was only 57. “Her passion for storytelling and art is carried on through all of us who were lucky enough to call her friend,” said Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford. READ IT

    NUMBER 3Fun Home. Joan Marcus2016-17 Broadway season: Frozen, Fun Home, Finding Neverland and more: The DCPA announced a landmark 2016-17 season lineup that includes both of the most recent Tony Award-winners as well as the pre-Broadway debut of the highly anticipated stage adaptation of Disney’s record-breaking hit Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film in history. It was later announced that the Denver dates for Frozen will be Aug. 17 through Oct. 1, 2017. READ IT 

    NUMBER 4Terry DoddTerry Dodd: a playwright, director who bled empathy: Terry Dodd will be remembered as one of the most prolific local directors in the Colorado theatre community, as well as an accomplished playwright and screenwriter who was known for exploring deeply personal family issues. Dodd died of a heart attack at age 64. READ IT 

    NUMBER 5osg-christiana-clark2In Ashland, converting rage into action: In many ways Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, seems to be an insular, harmonious bubble immune to outside social realities. But on June 24, the bubble burst when an African-American company member had an ugly encounter with a white supremacist. Now the local and national theatre communities are asking difficult questions about race. READ IT

    NUMBER 6Finalists for the 2015-16 Bobby G Awards announced: The annual Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre in Colorado. The year-long program culminates in a Tony Awards-style ceremony at the Buell Theatre. Here’s who was nominated from among the 40 participating schools. READ IT

    NUMBER 7Tom SutherlandFormer hostage Thomas Sutherland is freed a second time: Former Colorado State University professor Thomas Sutherland was held hostage in Beirut for more than six years - or 2,353 agonizing days. The genial Scotsman made his first foray into acting at age 72, and later donated $500,000 to Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s new performance space. He drew it from the $35 million he was awarded in frozen Iranian assets. Sutherland died July 23 at age 85. READ IT http://dcpa.today/EX6aBY

    NUMBER 8David Bowie Elephant ManDavid Bowie's acting career began in Denver: David Bowie’s death had the world mourning the loss of one of rock’s most chameleonic performers. But he was also a versatile stage and screen actor whose legit theatre career began in Denver starring as the ultimate “Broken Man,” John Merrick, in a 1980 touring production of The Elephant Man. "Judging from his sensitive projection of this part, Bowie has the chance to achieve legit stardom,” one critic wrote. READ IT 

    NUMBER 9Buell TheatrePhantom return will mark Buell Theatre’s 25th anniversary: The Buell Theatre was built, in large part, to host the national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera in 1991. It was, Denver Post critic Jeff Bradley wrote at the time, “the most successful theatrical event in Denver history.” We take a look back at the Buell’s first 25 years. READ IT 

    NUMBER 10Theresa Rebeck quoteRebeck's The Nest flies in face of national gender trends: Theresa Rebeck, author of the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere play The Nest, says the need to level the gender playing field in the American theatre is urgent. “Women's voices have been marginalized in the theatre, and in film and television,” said Rebeck. But the Denver Center, she said, is bucking the trend. “Kent Thompson and everyone at the Denver Center have always been way ahead of the curve on this issue.” READ 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.
  • Ignite Theatre to cease operations after 'The Wiz'

    by John Moore | Jan 07, 2017


    Keith Rabin Jr., Rob Riney and Lindsey Falduto in Ignite Theatre's 'tick…tick…BOOM!'  Photo by Olga Imaging.


    Denver’s Ignite Theatre somehow caught a spark during the worst economic nadir since the Great Depression – and still caught fire. But after seven years of brazen and unapologetically provocative fare, the torch is soon going out on the most unlikely success story in Denver theatre over the past decade.

    Co-founder Will Adams made the announcement at tonight’s opening performance of The Wiz that Ignite is ceasing operations after the show closes at the Aurora Fox on Jan. 29.

    “We’re not mourning; we’re celebrating 31 incredible productions,” Adams said.

    Ignite Keith Rabin QuoteIgnite was facing several significant challenges moving forward, including an overextended board, the impending departure of co-founder Keith Rabin Jr., and the increasing challenge of finding viable performance spaces in the metro area. But Adams said Friday there was no single tipping point. “It’s just time,” he said.

    Ignite was launched in 2009 as Gravity Defied Theatre Company by Rabin, Adams and Reace Daniel, with initial support from the Rocky Mountain Arts Association, home of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus and others. But the driving artistic force was always Rabin, who is co-directing the farewell production of The Wiz.

    “I am so lucky,” Rabin said. “I don’t really know how many people get to say, ‘I wanted to start something new and different and make an impact in my community.’ Well, I get to say that.”

    Ignite was started as a musicals-only company that would introduce regional premieres and revisit groundbreaking musicals of the past. And from its opening staging of bare: the musical, the story of two gay high-school students and their struggles at a Catholic boarding school, Ignite didn’t just push the envelope. It pushed the envelope over the edge and into the fire.

    “No, we were never afraid to be overtly sexual,” Adams said with a laugh. “And the further we pushed the sexuality, the more successful we were for our audience.”

    Rabin told Westword early on that Ignite intended to do shows that no other companies would want to touch because they might have too many f-bombs, or too much sex or drugs. “Those are the types of shows we like to do," Rabin said, “more risqué shows, definitely stuff that nobody has been beating the hell out of. “

    Gravity Defied distinguished itself from all other companies from the start by writing into its mission statement a commitment to donating a portion of its ticket revenues to a designated local charity. While the service commitment was ultimately unsustainable for a bare-bones non-profit, the company did raise $2,000 for Phamaly Theatre Company, which creates performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, and $1,500 for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, among others, before giving up the ghost. In 2011, the Rocky Mountain Arts Association ended its partnership with Rabin, which is what had made Gravity Defied eligible for public funding. So after five productions, Rabin and Adams created their own nonprofit called Lucent Performing Arts and changed the name of the theatre company to Ignite. Their new mantra: "Ignite the night." 

    Even with a new name, the theatre continued to live up to its original moniker by defying the odds, if not gravity. “This was always a very unlikely proposition,” Adams said. But Ignite slowly made its name and reputation presenting highly sought regional or Denver premieres like Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, Heathers and American Idiot alongside provocative classics like Pippin, A Chorus Line, Cabaret and Rent - with the occasional You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Into the Woods thrown into the mix to keep audiences off-balance. But Ignite’s bread and spicy butter was a regular stream of smaller cutting-edge titles for the Smash generation like bare, The Wild Party and [title of show]. Ignite's only non-musical title ever was 2011’s The Busy World is Hushed

    (Pictured above and right: Seph Hamilton as Edgar Allan Poe in 'Nevermore.' Photo by Olga Lopez.)

    Adams cites two seminal productions as Pippin (which was somehow accompanied by a 21-piece orchestra) and Green Day’s in-your-face American Idiot.

    “American Idiot was just bad,” Adams said, “And I mean that in the best possible way. It was a risky production, and I think it really sums up what Ignite Theatre can do.” (Story continues below.)

    Photo retrospective: A look back at Ignite Theatre Productions

    Ignite Theatre: A retrospective

    "bare: the musical" was Ignite Theatre's inaugural staging in 2009. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    Although Ignite was never a bricks-and-mortar company, it staged 30 of its 31 productions as a tenant of the Aurora Fox. Adams would like to believe Ignite made the Fox  a more energized and vital force in the growing Aurora Cultural Arts District, which includes the two stages at the Aurora Fox and two more at the nearby Vintage Theatre. And Aurora Fox Executive Producer Charles Packard could not agree more.

    "Ignite attracted people to the neighborhood I was not as focused on with their programming, so that is fantastic,” Packard said. "It’s been great to watch them grow and fill a niche we weren’t filling. That allowed me focus on other under-represented audience groups with mainstage shows like Black Elk Speaks and Porgy and Bess. The same is true with Vintage. When you have a variety of  different companies performing within a few blocks of each other, you are naturally going to attract a wider span of potential audiences." 

    But the partnership hit a hiccup last summer when Aurora city officials informed the Fox it could no longer present simultaneous shows on its mainstage and in its busy studio theatre next door if both were going to require dressing-room space for the actors. That's too many people in too small of spaces. That forced Ignite to move or cancel three upcoming productions. Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allen Poe became the first Ignite show ever hosted outside the Fox when it was staged instead at the Crossroads Theatre in Five Points.

    The job to expand the Aurora Fox dressing rooms went to bid just this week, Packard said, and he expects the work to be completed by the end of May. He said he is sad to see Ignite go, “but they have come to the end of a great run.”

    Adams emphasized that Ignite was not in financial straights, but acknowledged the board and artistic leadership could no longer dedicate the time and necessary resources to continue operating a semi-professional theatre company at its current pace. He said Lucent Performing Arts will remain in operation, “and that leaves us open to the possibility of future programming that would carry on in Ignite’s footsteps, such as educational workshops, guerilla theatre or remounts of past productions."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Adams said he can move on with his head held high knowing Ignite Theatre has made a difference in the Denver-area theatre community.

    “Ignite Theatre has positively impacted the lives of many thousands of audience members, as well as hundreds of the actors, directors, designers and musicians who have passed through our doors, many when they were just starting out and have moved on to much bigger things." Adams cited Denver Post Ovation Award winner Rebekah Ortiz, Norrell Moore, Anna High and Lindsey Falduto, among others.

    “This company began as Keith Rabin’s dream,” Adams said. “And I feel very proud that I helped make his dream happen. We made some amazing theatre as a result of that dream."

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



    A Ignite Theatre. Lysystrata Jones. Cast of Lysistrata Jones in 2013. Suzanne Simone Poshtography. 

    The Wiz: Ticket information

    • Through Jan. 29
    • Presented by Ignite Theatre at the Aurora Fox
    • 9900 E. Colfax Ave.
    • Performances 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Monday, Jan. 16.; 2:30 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets are $20-28
    • 866-811- 4111 or ignitetheatre.com

    Ignite Theatre: Production history
    2009
    bare: the musical*

    2010
    You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
    Totally Electric*
    The Wild Party*
    [title of show]*

    2011
    Seussical
    The Last 5 Years
    Pippin
    A Chorus Line

    2012
    The Busy World is Hushed*
    The Great American Trailer Park Musical
    Spring Awakening*
    Sweeney Todd
    Next to Normal

    2013
    Cabaret
    Lysistrata Jones*
    Avenue Q
    Aida

    2014
    See What I Wanna See*
    35MM*
    Rent
    Into the Woods

    2015
    Dreamgirls*
    tick … tick … BOOM!
    La Cage Aux Folles
    Dogfight*

    2016
    Green Day’s American Idiot*
    Heathers The Musical*
    The Wild Party (Aurora Fox and Brighton Armory)
    Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe*

    2017
    The Wiz

    *Regional premieres

     

  • 'Two Degrees': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 06, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal of Tira Palmquist's play 'Two Degrees' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    When Director Christy Montour-Larson went looking for the key to unlock Tira Palmquist’s new play Two Degrees, she looked no further than her own pocket.

    “All I had to do is pull out my own house key, because when I read this play for the first time, I felt like I was home,” said Montour-Larson, who will direct the upcoming world premiere for the DCPA Theatre Company opening Feb. 3.

    Two Degrees. Director Christy Montour-Larson and Tira Palmquist. hoto by John Moore. Two Degrees is about a woman – and a planet – in crisis. Emma is scientist who has been called to Washington to testify to a congressional committee on climate legislation. And it’s the anniversary of her husband's death.

    “I love this play because it is about something,” Montour-Larson said on the first day of rehearsal. “Climate change isn't just another issue in a world proliferating with other issues. Climate change is the one issue that, left unchecked, will swamp all other issues.”

    New calculations from Scientific American magazine indicate that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, the average temperature of the Earth will rise 2 degrees Celsius by 2036, crossing a threshold that will devastate human civilization, Montour-Larson said.

    “We are the first generation in the history of humanity to feel the effects of climate change,” she said, “and we are the last generation who can do anything about it.”

    And if you are a playwright, the thing you do about it is you write a play about it.

    “For me, as a playwright, the personal is political, and the political is personal,” said Palmquist, who wrote Two Degrees as opportunity to write roles for women older than 45, and also as an opportunity to talk about climate change. For her, that’s as political – and as personal – as it gets.

    “Humans aren't the first species to alter the atmosphere,” added Two Degrees Dramaturg Heather Helinsky, quoting Elizabeth Kolbert’s book Field Notes from a Catastrophe. That distinction belongs to early bacteria, which invented photosynthesis 2 two billion years ago. “But we are the first species to be in a position to understand what we are doing.”

    And that’s why, Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod said, “This is a play we have to do. And not 20 years from now - we have to do it now.”

    (Pictured above and right: 'Two Degrees' Director Christy Montour-Larson and Playwright Tira Palmquist. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Here are five things we learned at that first rehearsal for Two Degrees, opening Feb. 3 in the Jones Theatre:

    NUMBER 1 It’s melting! That’s right. Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan has fashioned a series of hanging painted panels that will look like different forms of ice. But look closely, because about six of them are going to be literally made out of ice that will slowly melt throughout the performance. The idea: The world of the play is the world of our world. “Our hope is that maybe 50 percent of the audience will say afterward, ‘Hey, wasn't it really cool that part of the set melted?’ And the other 50 percent will say, 'I didn't see that,’ ” said Montour-Larson, adding to laughs: “And then you can say to that person: 'Yeah, and that's why you are part of the problem! You didn't notice!"  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Book of Will

    NUMBER 2Credit is due. A small local collective called The Athena Project is responsible for Two Degrees coming to the attention of DCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. Montour-Larson directed a reading of the play as part of the Athena Project’s 2015 new-play festival, then handed the script over to Thompson, who shouted out founder Angela Astle and her 3-year-old company at the first rehearsal. “Athena envisions a world where women's voices are powerfully expressed and recognized for their artistic merit in the community,” Thompson said.

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Christians

    NUMBER 3Mr. Jones and you. Two Degrees will be the first play the DCPA Theatre Company presents in the Jones Theatre as a mainstage production since David Mamet’s A Boston Marriage in 2004. At 200 seats, The Jones is the Denver Center’s smallest theatre. “It's just perfect for Two Degrees because it’s so intimate, and the audience is going to be right there with us as we tell the story,” Montour-Larson said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4Two Degrees. Jason Ducat The sound of ice. Sound Designer Jason Ducat (right) promises to replicate the sound of real, cracking ice at key points of the story. He and fellow DCPA soundman Craig Breitenbach embedded microphones into real ice and then recorded the sound as it broke up. “We're going to have speakers underneath the seats so the audience will really be able to feel that rumble,” said Ducat, who grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, hometown of Olympic figure-skating champion Scott Hamilton. “For about 15 years of my life, I pretty much lived on a sheet of ice. It is one of the most peaceful things you can ever experience," Ducat said. But the sound ice cracking also can be terrifying. I know this because when I was young, I was really stupid and I would see how far out on the ice I could get before it started to crack - and then I would have to fly back in to try to beat it. But when I think of the character of Emma, I think she really wants to be on that ice. So I wanted to create that as the soundscape of the play."

    NUMBER 5Do I know you? Montour-Larson met Palmquist at the 2012 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, Idaho. They got to talking and soon learned they both grew up in Minnesota. Then they figured out that they both had performed in a summer repertory theatre program in Duluth, Minn., decades before. So Montour-Larson asked Palmquist what shows she was in, and Palmquist answered, “Oh a few, like, Dames at Sea and Play it Again Sam.” And Montour-Larson dead-panned: "I was in all those shows with you." Everyone talks about six degrees of separation, but in Palmquist’s play every character has, appropriately enough, just two degrees of separation. “And here we discovered that Tira and I had two degrees of separation, because we already knew each other through our younger selves,” said Montour-Larson.

    Bonus: There will be some Greenlandic spoken during the play. That is all.

     

    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.


    Video bonus: Spotlight on Two Degrees



    Two Degrees
    : Cast list

    Written by Tira Palmquist
    Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

    • Jason Delane (One Night in Miami) as Clay Simpson

    • Kathleen McCall (The Glass Menagerie) as Emma Phelps

    • Robert Montano (Colorado New Play Summit) as Jeffrey Phelps/Eric Wilson/Malik Peterson

    • Kim Staunton (Fences) as Louise Allen


    Two Degrees: Ticket information
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

    Feb. 3-March 12
    Jones Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Two Degrees. Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore.
    First rehearsal for the upcoming 'Two Degrees': Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

  • Kent Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    by John Moore | Jan 05, 2017

    Photo gallery: A retrospective of Kent Thompson's years in Denver

    Kent Thompson: A retrospectiveTo see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    Thompson will leave as acclaimed playwright Theresa Rebeck once described him in everyday action: Walking the walk.

    By John Moore
    For the DCPA NewsCenter  

    When Kent Thompson was hired as Producing Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company in 2005, he announced two essential goals: To increase the presence of women and minorities on Denver Center stages, and to rebuild the company’s dormant new-play program into one of the most vital in the country. He has achieved both and more.

    Thompson, only the third Producing Artistic Director in the nearly 40-year history of the Theatre Company, announced his resignation this morning, effective March 3.

    Kent Thompson. Then and Now“Serving as Producing Artistic Director for the past 12 seasons has been a fulfilling and rewarding period of growth and achievement,” Thompson said before going back to work on rehearsals for The Christians, opening January 27 in The Stage Theatre – his 21st production as a director at the Denver Center.

    Upon his arrival in June of 2005, Thompson identified a problem: 54 of the most recent 55 Theatre Company productions had been written by men. In addition, the company had not produced a play by a Latino playwright in six years.

    “We have worked to diversify our programming, company and staff to create a theatre that better reflects the communities we serve,” said Thompson. Twelve years later, the proof of his promise is forever sealed into Denver Center’s well-trod boards:

    • Thompson co-founded the $1.2 million Women's Voices Fund, which has enabled the company to commission new plays by 15 female playwrights and hire 15 female directors. In total, Thompson has produced 30 plays written by women as part of the mainstage season.
    • He also has produced 31 plays by writers of color and hired 16 directors of color.
    • One of Thompson’s most significant achievements has been the creation of the Colorado New Play Summit, which after 12 years has established itself as one of the top new play festivals in the country. The Summit has workshopped 48 new plays, leading to 27 fully produced world premieres as part of the mainstage season. He has commissioned 39 new plays, supporting playwrights to create new work for the Theatre Company.

    "Kent Thompson absolutely walks the walk," said Rebeck, whose plays Our House and The Nest came into being through the Colorado New Play Summit. “But to me, the thing that is electrifying about Kent is that he went out in front of everybody 10 years ago and said, 'We are not doing enough plays by women.’ I wish more people knew about what is happening in Denver.”

    Kent QuoteThompson also kept a promise by completing the 10-play August Wilson “decade cycle” started by his predecessor. Under Donovan Marley, the late director Israel Hicks directed eight of the 10 Wilson plays at the Denver Center. Having worked with him several times elsewhere, Thompson asked Hicks to direct the final two plays, making Hicks the first and still only director to helm all 10 of Wilson’s plays for the same theatre company. That is an achievement Denzel Washington (Fences) is now undertaking on film.

    DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden called Thompson “an exceptional artistic leader,” citing many of his other accomplishments including “his creation of Off-Center to develop innovative and immersive programming, and a robust commissioning program.” Another achievement was commissioning and staging the adaptation of three plays from the works of quintessential Colorado novelist Kent Haruf that came to be known as The Plainsong Trilogy.

    “With the support of so many at the DCPA and in the Denver community, the Theatre Company’s efforts have brought national acclaim and foundation support to the DCPA, Denver and Colorado,” Thompson said. (Story continues below.)


    Photo gallery: Productions directed by Kent Thompson

    Kent Thompson: Plays directed in Denver
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Through it all, Thompson’s mantra has been relevance – “making our theatre engaging, thrilling and thought-provoking to audiences and artists,” he said. “We seek to create theatre that evokes discussion, serves as a town hall of ideas and relevant issues while producing new plays that will advance the American Theatre.”

    He often said his legacy would one day be judged on the success of the new-play program, and specifically whether the plays he nurtured went on to additional stagings by companies around the country. More than a dozen plays that were nurtured in the Summit have gone on to have 70 subsequent productions at some of the country’s leading theatres, including Playwrights Horizons, Victory Gardens, Theatre Works, South Coast Repertory, The Women’s Project, Trinity Repertory, The Magic Theatre, INTAR and Primary Stages. Some of these successful plays include The Whale, 1001, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Lydia, Our House, The Most Deserving, Sunsets and Margaritas, and FADE.

    Prior to Denver

    After a decade-long career directing across the U.S. and Canada, Thompson was hired in 1989 as Artistic Director at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He inherited two theatres in an idyllic cultural park in Montgomery but also a modest endowment. And 16 years later, he left it with $18.5 million. He also launched the Southern Writers’ Project, a new-play festival that produced 16 world premieres, including Romulus Linney’s adaptation of A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines. Thompson directed the premiere and the first follow-on production at the Signature Theatre in New York as the opening show of its 10th season. His tenure culminated with a production of Macbeth he toured to 13 military bases around the country.

    Thompson diversified casting, programming and staff, and built strong relationships with the African-American community, as well as African-American playwrights, directors, designers and actors. He took that same approach with him to Denver, where the population is about 31 percent Latino.

    “It’s very important for me to allow the Latino community to have an artistic voice,” he said when he was hired. Some of his landmark productions here have included Octavio Solis’ Lydia, and more recently Just Like Us, a close-to-the-bone adaptation of journalist Helen Thorpe’s true accounting of four straight-A Denver high-school seniors whose college opportunities become divided by their immigration status. The play was controversial, it was local — and it drew the largest Latino audiences of his tenure.

    One of Thompson’s favorite quotes comes, appropriately enough, from Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well: “The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and ill together.” And his life has not been without its challenges, on or off the stage.

    When Thompson was interviewed and hired by the DCPA, there would be challenges and opportunities that have faced many theatres, notably the reductions in funding following the Great Recession. The DCPA closed its National Theatre Conservatory masters program in 2012. And as Thompson increased the commitment to new plays, he faced a difficult decision.

    The resident theatre company concept had been dwindling nationally long before Thompson arrived. In Denver, the core company was down from a high of about 28 in the 1980s to about 12 in 2005.

    One of the most difficult challenges for Thompson was publicly acknowledging in 2011 that, for all practical purposes, the days of audiences seeing many of the same actors in up to four plays in a single season were over. “And that was agonizing,” he said. “But we actually stuck it out longer than the vast majority of our (regional theatre) compatriots across the country.”

    Moving forward, Thompson announced something he called a “frequent-flier company”— familiar actors from Denver and around the country appearing in one or more shows here every season or two.

    A recovery of late

    In recent years, as the economy has rebounded, Thompson continued to take bold, innovative steps to create the “next generation of theatre, artists and audiences,” by creating Off-Center in 2010. Last year Off-Center, which is responsible for creating fresh, environmental and mobile theatre experiences aimed at millennials, presented Sweet & Lucky in a 16,000-square foot warehouse, which made it the largest physical undertaking in DCPA history.

    Always trying to find new ways to produce a new, engaging version of a classic, Thompson jumped at Artistic Producer Emily Tarquin’s suggestion that he direct Sweeney Todd, engaging Denver’s own gypsy punk band, the internationally beloved DeVotchKa, to re-orchestrate Stephen Sondheim’s score. They performed in every show – and had their necks sliced nightly onstage.

    For all of his accomplishments, there is little question that Thompson’s tenure in Denver will be most remembered for his unyielding commitment to underrepresented voices.

    “What that means for people who have been marginalized in the theatre is that Kent is affecting the reality of the world we live in,” said playwright Amy Gonzalez (September Shoes). “The world out there is made up of all sorts of people, and it is really exciting that Kent is respecting that in his choice of plays.”

    For Rebeck, Thompson has been a champion of women, of audiences, and of common sense: “Women are more than half our audience and more than half the human race,” she said. “But for some reason, the rest of the American theatre is still catching up with Kent’s vision.”

    In his statement this morning, Thompson wished the DCPA, the Theatre Company and the entire theatre community of Colorado “much success in the future.” Sinden said, “We will miss his commitment to artistic excellence and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

    Thompson has been contracted to write a book on professional directing for a major publisher of drama and theatre books in the U.S. and the U.K. He plans to take the next few months to write his book, and then pursue other opportunities in the American theatre.

    In the coming weeks, DCPA executive staff and Theatre Company leaders will create a transition team that will develop an interim plan, including a national recruitment effort.


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

    Kent Thompson/At a glance

    • Served for eight years on the Board of Directors for Theatre Communications Group (TCG, is the national organization of not-for-profit theatre) and as its president for three years.
    • Artistic Director of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, 1979-1981
    • Producing Artistic Director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival 1989-2005
    • Producing Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company from 2005-17
    • Served on peer review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts (also chair), TCG, Pew Charitable Trusts, The Fulbright Scholars Program, The Wallace Funds, The Doris Duke Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, among others.
    • Graduate of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Theatre and Speech, 1976. Phi Beta Kappa.
    • Graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, U.K., 1979. The Draper’s Guild of London Scholarship.

    DCPA Theatre Company productions directed by Kent Thompson

    • The Christians
    • Sweeney Todd
    • As You Like It
    • Benediction
    • Hamlet
    • Just Like Us
    • Other Desert Cities
    • Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (twice)
    • The Taming of the Shrew
    • The Liar
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Othello
    • Eventide
    • Noises Off
    • Dusty and the Big Bad World
    • Plainsong
    • Amadeus
    • Measure for Measure
    • A Flea in her Ear

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage:
    The Christians: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Where the blade meets the band: Kent Thompson on Sweeney Todd
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season: Two world premieres and a return to classics
    Westminster High School tackles immigration with DCPA's Just Like Us
    How Thompson turned questions into exclamation points


    Video retrospective: Kent Thompson on his commitment to new-play development:

  • Kent Thompson resigns as Producing Artistic Director of DCPA Theatre Company

    by John Moore | Jan 05, 2017
    Kent Thompson



    Denver Center for the Performing Arts President and CEO Janice Sinden and DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson jointly announced his resignation to Trustees, staff and subscribers earlier today. Kent will remain head of the Theatre Company through March 3, 2017 and will direct the upcoming production of The Christians (Jan, 27  through Feb. 26).

    “Kent has been an exceptional artistic leader of the Theatre Company for the past 12 years,” said Sinden. “His accomplishments as Producing Artistic Director include the creation of the nationally acclaimed Colorado New Play Summit, the establishment of the Women’s Voices Fund to support the work of women in theatre, the development of innovative and immersive programming through Off-Center, and a robust commissioning program. As a director, Kent has led more than 20 productions at the Theatre Company, most notably Kent Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy, Sweeney Todd, and numerous world premieres and Shakespearean productions during his tenure. We will miss his commitment to artistic excellence and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

    Kent Thompson’s legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    “With the support of so many at the DCPA and in the Denver community,” said Thompson, “serving as Producing Artistic Director for the last 12 season has been a fulfilling and rewarding period of growth and achievement. The Theatre Company’s efforts have brought national acclaim and foundation support to the DCPA, Denver and Colorado. We also have worked to diversify our programming, company and staff to create a theatre that better reflects the communities we serve.

    Photo gallery: A retrospective of Kent Thompson's years in Denver


    Kent Thompson: A retrospectiveTo see more, click the forward arrow on the image above

    “After 12 seasons, I believe it’s now time to move onto other opportunities in professional theatre. In the immediate future, I am writing a book on professional directing for a major publisher of drama and theatre books in the US and the UK. After that is done, I look forward to pursuing opportunities elsewhere in the American theatre. I wish the DCPA, the Theatre Company and the entire theatre community of Colorado much success in the future.”

    In the coming weeks, DCPA Executive Staff and Theatre Company leaders will create a transition team, which will develop an interim plan as we embark on a national search for a new Artistic Director. Thompson will remain in an advisory capacity through the end of the current 2016/17 season.


    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage:
    The Christians: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Where the blade meets the band: Kent Thompson on Sweeney Todd
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season: Two world premieres and a return to classics
    Westminster High School tackles immigration with DCPA's Just Like Us
    How Thompson turned questions into exclamation points

  • January: Colorado theatre listings

    by John Moore | Jan 04, 2017
    Becky's New Car, Firehouse Theatre,

    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of upcoming theatre openings, spotlighting work being presented on stages statewide. Companies are encouraged to submit listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.

    Five intriguing titles for January:

    NUMBER 1Red Hot and Cole. The Cherry Creek Theatre begins its seventh season with a big move out of the Shaver-Ramsey Gallery and into the Pluss Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center. The cast includes Jeremy Rill, Seth Dhonau, Damon Guerasio, Stephen Day, Matt LaFontaine, Sharon Kay White, Lauren Shealy, Shannan Steele, Susannah McLeod and Olivia James. The director is Susan Draus, music director for the tour of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical and creator of last year’s fun romp at the Lone Tree Arts Center Reunion ’85. Jan. 26-Feb. 19 at 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-800-6578 or cherry creek theatre’s home page

    NUMBER 2The Wiz. Ignite Theatre’s 31st production will be the 1975 Broadway musical that tells the story of The Wizard of Oz from an African-American perspective. Ignite intended to ease on down this road last summer, but issues involving the use of the Aurora Fox as a host venue forced the postponement. Featuring Clarissa DuBose as Dorothy. Jan. 7-29  at the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., 720-362-2697 or ignite’s home page

    NUMBER 3Peter TrinhComing to America. Theatre Esprit Asia returns with a compelling collaboration with the Theatre Company of Lafayette: Two monologues addressing issues of immigration. In Boat Person, Peter Trinh recounts the bloody fall of Saigon. In Antecedents, Maria Cheng recollects the Americanization of a precocious Chinese teenager. Jan. 13-22 at the Mary Miller Theater in Lafayette, 300 E. Simpson, 720-209-2154 or www.tclstage.org

    NUMBER 4RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy. James O’Hagan Murphy returns to his signature role as a tribute to his recently departed director, Terry Dodd. Presented by Vintage Theatre Jan. 6-8 at the Dairy Center in Boulder, 2590 Walnut St., 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org; and Jan. 13-22 At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive in Evergreen, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.com

    NUMBER 5The Happiest Song Plays Last. Curious Theatre presents the final chapter of its Elliot Trilogy of plays by Quiara Alegría Hudes. In a cozy North Philadelphia kitchen, a matriarch takes a stand in her new role as the heart and voice of a crumbling community. Halfway around the world in Jordan, her cousin (Elliot) finds that his wartime nightmares have followed him into his new life as a film star. Punctuated by live music from Puerto Rico and the Middle East. Jan. 14-Feb. 17 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Jan. 5-Feb. 4: OpenStage Theatre & Company’s Bright Ideas
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    JANUOARY OPENINGS DCPA 1Jan. 6-28: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Red
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Jan. 6-22: Performance Now's Man of La Mancha
    Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or performance now’s home page 

    Jan. 6-March 18: Midtown Arts Center's Million Dollar Quartet
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Jan. 6-8: Vintage Theatre's RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy
    At the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org

    Jan. 6-29: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Godspell
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Jan. 7-Feb. 4: Firehouse Theatre Company's Becky’s New Car
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or firehousetheatercompany.com

    Jan. 7-29: Ignite Theatre's The Wiz
    At the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., 720-362-2697 or ignite’s home page

    Bright IdeasJan. 10-22: National touring production of Fun Home
    Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Jan. 12-March 12: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s Forever Plaid
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Jan. 12-29: Thingamajig Theatre Company's Buyer & Cellar
    Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org

    Jan. 13-Feb. 26: DCPA Theatre Company's The Book of Will
    Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Jan. 13-Feb. 12: The Edge Theatre's Burn This
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Jan. 13-22: Theater Esprit Asia and Theater Company of Lafayette’s Coming to America
    At the Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson, 720-209-2154 or www.tclstage.org

    Jan. 13-Feb. 4: Town Hall Arts Center's Avenue Q
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Jan. 13-Feb. 12: The Avenue Theater's Almost, Maine
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page


    Jan. 13-Feb. 4: Equinox Theatre Company’s The Who’s Tommy
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Jan. 13-22: Vintage Theatre's A Portrait of Robert Kennedy
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.com

    Jan. 13-22: Vintage Theatre's A Portrait of Robert Kennedy
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.com

    Carter NovingerJan. 13-March 5: Vintage Theatre's Brilliant Traces
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintage’s home page

    Jan. 13-29: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's WYNOT Radio Theatre in The Other Coast Caper
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Jan. 13-22: Longmont Theatre Company's Leading Ladies
    513 Main St., 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Jan. 13-March 18: Midtown Arts Center's Forbidden Broadway (Studio Theatre)
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Jan. 14-Feb. 17: Curious Theatre's The Happiest Song Plays Last
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    Jan. 20-Feb. 19: Aurora Fox's Myth
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Jan. 20-Feb. 12: Parker Arts Center and Inspire Creative's Disney's Beauty and the Beast
    20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, parkerarts.org

    RFK VintageJan. 26-Feb. 19: Cherry Creek Theatre's Red Hot and Cole
    At the Mizel Arts and Culture Center's Pluss Theatre, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver, 303-800-6578 or cherry creek theatre’s home page

    Jan. 27-Feb. 26: DCPA Theatre Company's The Christians
    Stage Theatre, Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Jan. 27-March 5: Miners Alley Playhouse's Hir
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Jan. 27-Feb. 12: Something’s Afoot
    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819, 800-838-3006 or stagedoor’s home page


    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through Jan. 8: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Shrek: The Musical
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Through Jan. 8: Vintage Theatre Productions' Beauty and the Beast
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com READ MORE

    Through Feb. 19: BDT Stage's Thoroughly Modern Millie
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Through March 12: DCPA Cabaret's An Act of God
    Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE
    Ongoing productions
    2406 Federal Blvd., Denver, 303-455-1848 or adamsmysteryplayhouse.com

    THE AVENUE THEATER
    Jan. 26: Scriptprov (improv comedy and theatre actors working together)
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page

    BUNTPORT THEATRE
    Jan. 14: Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey (Monthly theatre for young audiences at 1 and 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month, through May 13)
    Jan. 17: The Great Debate
    Jan. 18: The Narrators (a live storytelling show and podcast)
    Jan. 27: Untitled (in the freight elevator at the Denver Art Museum)
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    THE CATAMOUNTS
    Jan. 27: FEED: Darkness
    An examination of why we need darkness in order to see the light through a  short performance piece and live music. With a four-course meal and drink.
    At Still Cellars, a distillery and arthouse, 115 Colorado Ave., Longmont


    Paula Poundstone

    COLORADO SPRINGS FINE ARTS CENTER

    Jan. 13-14: Staged concert of Next to Normal with Broadway veteran Susan Dawn Carson
    Jan. 27, 2017: An Evening With Paula Poundstone
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    CURIOUS THEATRE
    Jan. 8: Gabriella Cavallero host an evening of music and conversation with the Harlem Quartet. The program will spotlight the music in Quiara Alegría Hudes’ plays.
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org


    Waiting for Obama

    DENVER ACTORS FUND

    Jan. 19: Staged reading of John Moore's play Waiting for Obama
    The Edge Theatre 1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 720-231-7547 email denveractorsfund.org
    (Free, no advance ticketing. Drop in.)

    Jan. 22: Billy Elliot (the movie)
    Denver Actors Fund monthly film series in partnership with local theatre companies)
    Pre-screening entertainment by cast of Vintahe Theatre's upcoming production of Billy Elliot, The Musical
    At the Alamo Drafthouse, Aspen Grove, 7301 S Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, 720-588-4107 or BUY TICKETS

    LANNIE’S CLOCKTOWER CABARET
    Jan. 6: The Jerseys sing the Four Seasons and more
    D&F Clock Tower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or clocktowercabaret.com

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

    STORIES ON STAGE
    Jan. 14: Leaps of Faith
    "The Conversion of the Jews” by Philip Roth Young, performed by Michael Bouchard
    "The Blue Hole” by Erika Krouse, performed by Jessica Austgen
    "A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets” by Kevin Brockmeier, performed by Cajardo Rameer Lindsey
    1:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org

  • Murray Ross: 'He put true beauty and goodness out into this world'

    by John Moore | Jan 03, 2017
    Murray Ross: A retrospective Photo gallery: A retrospective of plays performed at Colorado Springs TheatreWorks under founder Murray Ross. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    'Now all is done, save what shall have no end.'

    By John Moore
    For the DCPA NewsCenter  

    Talking about theatre was Murray Ross’ absolute favorite thing to do.

    I once asked him to describe his directing philosophy in one sentence. His response: “Don’t just do something: Stand there!”  (He was quoting George S. Kaufman, which he could cite as deftly as he could Shakespeare.)

    I asked his advice for an aspiring director. His answer: “Break down the door. You start in the basement shoveling coal if you have to.”

    I asked him to name the single most important personal attribute any good director should have. His answer: Love.

    A Murray Ross 800Murray Ross had an abundance love for theatre. He lived and died believing that there is simply never enough good theater in the world.

    Ross, who started TheatreWorks from nothing on the campus of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in 1975 and built it into a fertile incubator of young hearts and minds over 42 years, died today of complications from chronic lung disease. He was 74. And yet ... he was ageless. 

    “I was never sure how old he was, frankly,” actor Steven Cole Hughes said. “To look at him, one might say he was Doc Brown from Back to the Future. I always thought he was the perfect blend of smart and serious and crazy.”

    (Pictured above and right: Murray Ross and Betty Ross. Photo by John Moore.) 

    Ross was the Pied Piper of Colorado theatre. He drew hundreds of serious theatre students to his program and he took in kids off the street who needed an artistic home. No one was immune from his passionate web. He was just so childlike in the enthusiastic way he talked about theatre,” Hughes said.  

    Ross is believed be one of the three longest-tenured artistic directors in Colorado theatre, behind only Ed Baierlein of Germinal Stage Denver and Anthony J. Garcia of Su Teatro.

    But no one expected Ross to ever retire, much less die. Actor Sammie Joe Kinnett sat by Ross in his hospital bed just a few days before he died preparing for their upcoming production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape.


    Once a bohemian, always a bohemian

    Ross was born Feb. 12, 1942, and grew up in Pasadena, Calif. He was a quintessential, wild-haired hippie from Cal-Berkeley when he came to Colorado Springs in 1975 to teach English. The university was just getting started then, so anyone could pretty much do anything they wanted to in those days. Ross wanted to start a theatre company where university students would work in tandem with the Colorado Springs artistic community at large. TheatreWorks was born.

    Murray Ross Quote. Sammie Joe KinnettRoss and wife Betty produced more than 100 shows together while building TheatreWorks into an essential, $1.7 million annual program that in 2018 is scheduled to move into the state-of-the-art new Ent Center for the Arts. That only happens, says UCCS Associate Professor Kevin Landis, because of Ross. “He had a clarity of vision of what he wanted and how he wanted to do it,” Landis said. “There are few industries that are as indebted to a single person as theatre in Colorado Springs is indebted to Murray Ross.”

    Ross “made a successful little theatre in the most improbable of places while creating the most improbable of work,” added Drew Martorella, Executive Director of UCCS Presents. “There was never a more potent and dedicated and exacting artist who was always trying to achieve great work in the community where he lived.”  

    Ross’ first love was Shakespeare, followed closely by Chekhov, Ibsen and a host of other literary suitors. But Ross also adored “devised theatre” – original and often challenging work created by an ensemble through collaboration.

    A Murray Ross 600Ross caused tremors that were felt all the way to Greeley when he wrote and staged Dar al-Harb, a play that imagines the six months Egyptian revolutionary Sayyid Qutb spent studying at the University of Northern Colorado as a young man in 1949. Qutb is considered the founder of modern Islamic radicalism. Ross won a 2014 True West Award for Ludlow 1914, developed by his students in partnership with Denver’s LIDA Project. It explored the massacre that took place about 100 miles south of Colorado Springs when the National Guard opened fire on striking miners.

    But Ross never strayed far from his first love. One of Colorado Springs’ great summer traditions is TheatreWorks’ annual Shakespeare offering in a tent on Rock Ledge Ranch near the base of Garden of the Gods.


    Quotable, loquacious, talkative and eloquent

    Murray Ross was a teaser. He was opinionated. And he didn’t pull any punches. His idea of a compliment was to say to you, “You can do better.” But at least he’d call you sweetheart.

    “He could be blunt,” Kinnett said. “But he was blunt to the point of hystericalness.”

    Murray Ross was funny. Case in point: Ross was invited to be part of an expert panel to evaluate the 2011 movie Anonymous, which makes the case that not only did Shakespeare not write one word that has been attributed to him, he’s also a fraud, a drunk, an extortionist, a blackmailer — and quite probably the murderer of his contemporary, Christopher Marlowe.

     “It’s kind of entertaining rubbish,” Ross said after screening the film. “If I worked hard enough at it, I could probably make the case that Shakespeare was actually written by a cross-dressing Peruvian dwarf.”

    Ross was a voracious blogger who loved to spar with critics, audiences and students alike about all things Shakespeare. But little got his dander up like the modern trend of updating Shakespeare’s words into a more contemporary idiom. Or as he put it, “dumbing it down to a bubble-gum wrapper.” It's all wrong, he said. “That actually erases the Shakespeare experience, cutting to the chase and removing the organism. Shakespeare should explode in your brain.”

    And for generations, Ross exploded Shakespeare into thousands of brains.

    Read Murray Ross' theatre blog

    He is also is responsible for launching dozens of Colorado Springs actors including Kinnett, Jane Fromme and Benjamin Bonenfant. And Ross created a huge pipeline that brought Denver-based actors and directors to Colorado Springs including Billie McBride, Jessica Austgen, Geoffrey Kent, Leslie O’Carroll, Josh Robinson, Laurence Curry, Steven Cole Hughes, Jamie Ann Romero, Mare Trevathan, Shannan Steele, Kyle Steffen and Regina Fernandez.

    When Ross met Kinnett, he didn’t see a teenage community-college dropout. He saw his next Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He saw his future co-writer on an original play called I Am Nikola Tesla. “He was able to see when there was something special in someone,” said Kinnett, "and he was able to bring it out in them just by sheer belief.”

    To Kinnett, Ross was his teacher. His mentor. His friend. And much more than that.

    “Until recently, I had not really understood the powerful relationship that can happen between a student and a teacher,” Kinnett said. “I didn’t grow up knowing my father, and in many ways Murray was a father to me.”

    Ross was hospitalized with pancreatitis shortly before Christmas. Just yesterday, he told his son, Orion, "I lived 20 years longer than Shakespeare and directed more plays."

    On the day he died, Ross was scheduled to leave on his favorite annual excursion: TheatreWorks’ London Theatre Tour. For years, Ross has led a group of theatrelovers to the banks of the Thames. On the docket this year is seeing the great Mark Rylance in a new play he co-authored called Nice Fish, George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan with Gemma Arterton, and Matthew Bourne’s new version of The Red Shoes, for starters. The real fun for Ross is always leading the morning-after conversations at breakfast. Over the years, Ross has somehow cajoled the likes of Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, Janet McTeer and even Rylance himself into joining them for oatcakes and sausages.

    Martorella honored Ross’ memory this afternoon by boarding a plane for London with this year’s tour group, just a few hours after Ross died. “Murray was in every sense of the word my best friend," he said. “He was an artist of the highest regard, an extraordinary academic and a bold leader in the arts. In his 42 years at UCCS, he made wonderful and seemingly impossible things happen — he built a professional theatre company, he produced classic and contemporary plays in classrooms, buses, warehouses, basements and, of course, the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, and he put true beauty and goodness out into this world.”

    Survivors include his wife, Betty, his sisters Susanna, Christina and Kit, and his sons Felix, James, Orion and Matthew.

    A memorial service is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater on the campus of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

    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.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Murray Ross/At a glance

    • Born Feb. 12, 1942
    • Graduated from Williams College (Williamstown, Mass.) and earned his masters degree from the University of California-Berkeley
    • Served in the National Guard from 1963-69
    • TheatreWorks Artistic Director since 1986
    • Teaches theatre history and directing at Universty of Colorado-Colorado Springs
    • Original stage plays include Monkey Business, The Last Night of Don Juan, The Lady of the Camellias, Dar-al-Harb and I Am Nikola Tesla
    • Stage adaptations include Huckleberry Finn, The Odyssey, Plato's Symposium, Treasure Island, Venus and Adonis and several versions of A Christmas Carol
    • Directed original theatre projects (Peer Gynt, The Tempest, The Bourgeois Gentleman) with orchestras in Colorado Springs, New York, San Antonio, Phoenix and Cincinnati.


  • The 2017 Scenesters, No. 2: Ryan Patrick McCormick

    by John Moore | Jan 03, 2017
    Scenesters Ryan Patrick McCormickToday at the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fourth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Jan. 13, we will announce the three scripts that will be read at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.) Tomorrow: Scenester profile No. 3.

    SCENESTER NO. 2: RYAN PATRICK McCORMICK

    • School: Fort Collins High School
    • Class: Senior
    • Teacher: Jason Tyler
    • Your play title: Spilt Lava
    • A Scenester Stranger ThingsWhat is your play about? A boy and girl float across each other in a world where the floor is lava. 
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? The way uncertainty paralyzes us, especially when love is involved.  
    • Favorite word that appears in your script: "Planetarily"
    • Killer casting: That kid from Stranger Things with the missing teeth would be a good fit for the boy. (Gaten Matarazzo, pictured above and right). He's innocent yet boisterous - kind of like how Scrappy-Doo should have been.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? This Orson Welles quote means a lot more to me now: "If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story."
    Our countdown of the 2017 'Scenesters' (to date):
    No. 1: Sarah Shapard, Overland High School



    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in many more around the state. 

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 138 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • The 2017 Scenesters, No. 1: Sarah Shapard

    by John Moore | Jan 02, 2017
    A Scenester Sarah Shapard. 2017 Teen Playwriting Semifinalist. Today at the DCPA NewsCenter, we begin our exciting daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fourth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Jan. 13, we will announce the three scripts that will be read at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.) Tomorrow: Scenester profile No. 2.

    SCENESTER NO. 1: SARAH SHAPARD

    • School: Overland High School
    • Class: Senior
    • Teacher: Eric Eidson
    • Play titleWaiting
    • What is your play about? A woman wakes up in a place called “The In-Between.” It's somewhere between Earth and the Afterlife, and it's for people with unfinished business. There, this woman meets a young girl named Claire, who died in the early 1900s. The play is about how you need to come to terms with yourself before you can resolve anything else.
    • A Raffey Cassidy teen playwritingWhat was your inspiration for writing your play? I find it interesting how people often lie to each other, but they lie to themselves even more. I wanted to write about the importance of coming to terms with yourself and letting go of those lies. I think that’s the only way to move on with your life.
    • Favorite word that appears in your script: “Wisenheimer.” It means a know-it-all. It's an appropriate insult for a character to use who lived in the early 1900s.
    • Killer casting: I would cast Raffey Cassidy in the role of Claire, the child who died in the early 1900s and has been in the “In-Between” ever since. Cassidy (pictured right) played Athena in the Disney movie Tomorrowland, which was a very similar role - a child who thinks she is wiser than all of the adults in the story. The difference is that Athena actually was smarter than most of the other characters in Tomorrowland, while Claire doesn’t know as much as she thinks she does.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? I wrote this play for a summer class, and honestly, I thought my script was amazing. But when we we read it out loud and talked about it, it I realized no one understood what it meant. In fact, no one even understood the concept. So I ended up rewriting the entire thing from scratch, and it turned out so much better. The experience of completely changing a script was very valuable. It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it to take the bare bones of what worked from the first draft and start over to create a much better play in the end.
    A Scenester Sarah Shapard Sample

    A look back at our profiles of the 2016 Scenesters:

    No. 1: Jafei Pollitt, Denver School of the Arts
    No. 2: Jessica Wood, Denver Christian High School
    No. 3: Kristine Guo, Peak to Peak Charter School
    No. 4: Gabrielle Moore, D'Evelyn High School
    No. 5: Ashley Wright and Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    No. 6: Kalina Gallardo, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    No. 7: Kiera Eriksen-McAuliffe, Denver School of the Arts
    No. 8: Stephanie Kiel and Mady McGraw, Chatfield Senior High School
    No. 9: Kendra R. Knapp, Valor Christian High School
    No. 10: Jacob Kendrick, Peak to Peak Charter School

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in many more around the state. 

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Video bonus: Student readings at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit:

    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'The Christians': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 01, 2017
    'The Christians' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal of Lucas Hnath's play 'The Christians' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Director Kent Thompson greeted all those gathered for the first rehearsal of the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming staging of The Christians like a pastor with a message for his own flock: That playwright Lucas Hnath’s motivation for writing his thoughtful story about a crisis within a large community church comes from a genuine place.

    Kent Thompson quote“This is a rare play for today's theatre because it actually talks about its subject in an honest and non-judgmental way,” Thompson said. "He doesn't try to make fun or dehumanize anybody. There is no agenda. These are people who are all striving for understanding and vision and to know what is the right thing to do.”

    In The Christians, Pastor Paul is the founder of a huge evangelical megachurch who creates a deep schism among his congregation when he announces a ground-shaking change in his personal opinion regarding eternal salvation. And the theological fallout will be enormous.

    Thompson read a message from Hnath explaining why he wrote the play. Here is an excerpt, along with four other things we learned about The Christians at the first rehearsal:

    NUMBER 1 From Lucas Hnath: “I can feel that rush to understand when people ask me, with respect to The Christians, what I personally believe. I refuse to answer the question. I'm not necessarily cagey about my beliefs — although I do sort of think that the attempt to put those beliefs into words will always result in a misrepresentation of said beliefs. But I suspect that answering the question will somehow diminish the effect of the play. In these kinds of questions, I detect the desire to explain away something. I detect the desire to locate a single, visible point. And while the plot of The Christians is far from ambiguous, the play is a series of contradictory arguments. No single argument “wins.” There’s no resolution. That lack of obvious resolution can be uncomfortable, even agitating. But with a lot of practice, we can also learn to take pleasure in the agitation. And maybe something more complex and true becomes visible within the agitation. A church is a place where people go to see something that is very difficult to see. A place where the invisible is — at least for a moment — made visible. The theater can be that too.”  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for 'The Book of Will'

    NUMBER 2Several members of the creative team have deep personal ties to churches like the one depicted in the play. Hnath’s mother is an evangelical minister – he even thought he might follow in her footsteps until playwriting lured him away. Thompson’s father was an influential Southern Baptist preacher. Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver’s father is a retired Nazarene minister, and Composer Gary Grundei has been a church musician all his life. They all said their experiences will help to ensure that the story will be presented in Denver with credibility, authenticity and respect. “This is not a stereotypical evangelical church you might see on a TV sit-com,” Thompson said.

    Video bonus: Lucas Hnath talks about writing The Christians:


    NUMBER 3The setting of the play is an actual megachurch sermon, so those in the audience for the play are essentially part of the congregation witnessing it. But while the Denver Center's Stage Theatre holds “only” 680 people, in Hnath's story there are many thousands in attendance. “So we want to imply that the church we are in is much, much larger than the theatre,” Thompson said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4The creative team has been researching local megachurches for inspiration, specifically the Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette. Projection Designer Topher Blair and Lighting Designer Richard Devin were specifically interested in studying how these churches integrate multimedia and visual effects into their sermons. “What we learned is that these presentations are not cheesy in any way,” Blair said. “They are very slick and highly professional.” It struck Devin that the grand use of fog, colored lights and other technical effects in church sermons is not unlike the effects artists employ in their live theatrical presentations. “They have immense amounts of equipment at their disposal,” Devin said of the churches, “but I think it’s important we not overdo the spectacle because that’s really not what it’s all about. It’s about the message and the music and the spiritual experience.”

    Coming this week: Gary Grundei on the live music in The Christians

    NUMBER 5The Christians. Kevin Kilner. Photo by John Moore. The enormous role of Pastor Paul will be played at the Denver Center by veteran TV, film and stage actor Kevin Kilner, who is perhaps best known for playing the protagonist in the first season of the Canadian sci-fi series Earth: Final Conflict, and Officer Dean in The Stoned Age. In 1995-96, he starred in Almost Perfect as the romantic interest of Nancy Travis, who played a TV screenwriter. Kilner graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he was a member of the school's NCAA champion lacrosse team. He has appeared in the hit TV series House of Cards (Michael Kern in the first two seasons), Damages and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. His extensive theatre credits include work for the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, L.A. Theatre Works and the Skirball Cultural Center. He has been married since 1998 to actor Jordan Baker (Another Earth, Escape from L.A.). (Photo above: Robert Manning Jr., left, and Kevin Kilner. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

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


    The Christians. Caitlin Wise, Krystel Lucas, Kim Staunton. Photo by John Moore.  From left: Caitlin Wise and Krystel Lucas of 'The Christians', with Kim Staunton of 'Two Degrees.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The Christians: Cast list
    Written by Lucas Hnath
    Directed by Kent Thompson

    • Steve Brady (All The Way) as Elder Jay
    • Kevin Kilner (DCPA debut) as Pastor Paul
    • Cajardo Lindsey (All The Way) Associate Pastor Joshua understudy
    • Krystel Lucas (DCPA debut) as Elizabeth
    • Robert Manning Jr. (DCPA debut) as Associate Pastor Joshua
    • Timothy McCracken (The Giver) Pastor Paul understudy/ Elder Jay understudy
    • Erin Willis (The 12) Elizabeth / Jenny understudy
    • Caitlin Wise (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Jenny


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    The ChristiansA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Jan. 27-Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics




  • 'The Book of Will': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Dec 31, 2016
    'The Book of Will' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal for Lauren Gunderson's world-premiere play 'The Book of Will' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Rehearsals are underway for the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere play The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson. The play tells how two obscure members of William Shakespeare’s acting company took it upon themselves to publish the “First Folio” - the first complete published collection of Shakespeare's plays. Had they not taken on this Herculean task, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever, including Romeo and Juliet. Here are five things we learned at first rehearsal, along with photos (above) and a cast list (below):

    NUMBER 1The Book of Will Davis McCallumThe Book of Will is a new play, so people naturally want to know what it's about. Director Davis McCallum is tempted to say, yes, it is about the publication of the First Folio in 1623. “But I don’t think that's what the play is actually about,” he said. “That is the occasion of the play. I think the play is about a theatre company, and the people who make up that company. It's about the relationships that animate that theatre company. And at the center of that is this relationship between these two guys, John Heminges and Henry Condell. They weren't the greatest actors in Shakespeare's company. They were more like the middle of the batting order, in baseball terms.” Playwright Lauren Gunderson agrees that at heart, her play is about many sets of friendships. One of her favorites is one she couldn’t have made up. “Shakespeare's friends could not physically find a publisher in England to put all of these plays together in one document," she said. "Nobody was able to do it - except for the one guy Shakespeare hated most. Now that’s great drama, and that's real." Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson calls The Book of Will "a love letter to Shakespeare, to actors and to the theatre." 

    NUMBER 2Nance Williamson and Kurt Rhoads. Photo by John Moore. Kurt Rhoads, who plays Henry Condell, and wife Nance Williamson, who plays Rebecca Heminges and Anne Hathaway, are DCPA Theatre Company veterans. Rhoads most recently played Clarence in Richard III in 2009. Williamson first worked at the DCPA in 1999 (A Hotel on Marvin Gardens) and most recently played schoolteacher Alene Johnson in 2015's Benediction. The couple have appeared in 62 plays together – but this is their first time appearing in the same play at the Denver Center. The cast also includes two graduates from the DCPA’s former National Theatre Conservatory: Jennifer Le Blanc and Rodney Lizcano.

    Video bonus: Our profile of Nance Williamson from 2015:


    NUMBER 3Nationally acclaimed Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark is personally committed in using as much recycled and reclaimed material as possible in all of her work. So many of the materials that make up the scenery for the Book of Will are being repurposed from recent productions of Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie. “Our task was to pull as much stuff as we could from (our storage), or find things that people were throwing away that we could somehow repurpose,” said DCPA Director of Design Lisa Orzolek. The planks that will make up Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, for example, were old gymnasium bleacher boards she found on craigslist. “The paint department spent a good deal of time scraping off the nastiness that you often find under old bleachers,” she said to laughs. They are being stained and treated to look as though they are the boards of a theatre stage that have been walked upon for many years. Posts and beams and railings come from raw timber found at a mill just outside of Boulder. The trees had been cut down to make room for the expansion of a local ski resort.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4McCallum, also the Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, is an admitted Shakespeare romantic, but he says no one should be intimidated by the language of the period. “Do you know how Juliet says, 'A faint cold fear thrills through my veins?' " he said. "Some people just see the word 'Shakespeare' and they feel that faint, cold fear. They have this sense they might not understand the language. But Shakespeare’s plays have a very open, warm and human center. They are about people's hopes and dreams and fears. I see a lot of my own life in these 37 plays. I see my family, my relationships and my experience of what it fully means to be alive in these plays. And that will be our guiding principle as we work on this play.”

    NUMBER 5OK, so maybe you remember that the DCPA Theatre Company commissioned the world premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale back in 2012. The play, about a 500-pound home-bound gay man who wants to reconnect with his daughter before his dies, was directed here by Hal Brooks. But when the hot property was picked up for a run in New York by Playwrights Horizons, it was none other than McCallum who directed it there. "Cleanly," wrote the New York Times.

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

    A The Book of Will. Davis McCallum. Photo by John Moore.
    Director Davis McCallum addresses those gathered for the first rehearsal of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Book of Will.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    The Book of Will: Cast list
    Written by Lauren Gunderson
    Directed by Davis McCallum

    • Liam Craig (DCPA Debut) as John Heminges
    • Thaddeus Fitzpatrick (Frankenstein) as Marcus/Boy Hamlet/Bernardo/Crier
    • Miriam A. Laube (DCPA Debut) as Elizabeth Condell/Emilia Bassano Lanier
    • Jennifer Le Blanc (Pride and Prejudice) as Alice Heminges/Susannah Shakespeare
    • Rodney Lizcano (Frankenstein) as Ralph Crane/Barman/Compositor/Francisco
    • Wesley Mann (DCPA Debut) as William Jaggard/Barman 2/Sir Edward Dering
    • Andy Nagraj (Colorado New Play Summit) as Ed Knight/Isaac Jaggard
    • Kurt Rhoads (Richard III) as Henry Condell
    • Triney Sandoval (DCPA Debut) as Richard Burbage/Ben Jonson/Horatio
    • Nance Williamson (Benediction) as Rebecca Heminges/Anne Hathaway

    The Book of Will: Ticket information
    The Book of WillWithout William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without two of his friends, we would have lost Shakespeare’s plays forever. A comic and heartfelt story of the characters behind the stories we know so well.

    Jan. 13-Feb. 26
    Ricketson Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described Matinee 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics
    Video: Our look back at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Summit Spotlight: Playwright Lauren Gunderson
    Lauren Gunderson wins Lanford Wilson Award from Dramatists Guild of America
    Just who were all the king's men, anyway?

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

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