• Soggy skies can't shake 5,000 students' Shakespeare spirit

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2016
    2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos may be downloaded and recirculated with source attribution. Click on any photo to download.

    "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

    Michael Berger grew up with a stutter. On Friday, the high-school senior stood ebulliently in the rain and welcomed thousands to the 32nd annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    A DPS Shakespeare 160"This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my theatre career,” said Berger, a senior at Denver School of the Arts who was chosen from hundreds of DPS students to perform as none other than the Bard himself at the festival’s opening ceremonies in Skyline Park.

    “My first performance as an actor was here. It was in the fourth grade, I was 8 or 9, and I performed Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1,” he said. “Because of that, I was inspired to continue in the theatre. And it was through Shakespeare that I learned how to speak clearly. So this is very much full circle for me.”

    The rain-snow mix didn’t dampen the students’ spirits, but the chill surely put the shake in the Shakespeare as nearly 5,000 chilly students from 80 schools in grades kindergarten through high school braved the cold to perform more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex while bundled in an array of colorful costumes that were often covered in parkas.

    DPS Shakespeare Fetsival opening ceremonies: Micael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    DPS Shakespeare Festival opening ceremonies: Michael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Denver Center or the Performing Arts CEO Scott Shiller served as Grand Marshall for the three-block opening parade alongside Berger and George Washington High School senior Vicky Serdyuk, who won the annual honor of playing Queen Elizabeth I at the oldest and largest student Shakespeare festival in the country.

    “Shakespeare was the first live performance I ever saw – and I was in daycare,” Serdyuk said with a laugh. “I remember that the actors talked funny, but that they made it sound so good.”

    Shiller told the students that by participating in arts-education programs like the Shakespeare Festival, studies indicate they will be more likely to graduate, enroll in college, contribute meaningfully to civic life and volunteer. “Plus, children who are exposed to live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree,” he said.

    Gillian McNally, who served as a festival adjudicator and general encourager, was undaunted by the cold. Despite the gloomy weather, she declared Friday to be the most beautiful day of the year.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote “This might be the only time most of these students ever perform on a stage in their whole lives – and we celebrate that,” said McNally, an Associate Professor of Theatre Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Just look at these wonderful, handmade costumes,” she added, indicating young students from the DaVinci Academy dressed as a human forest. “That tells me teachers collaborated with students and their parents, and they made something together. That’s what this is all about: We are making something together.”

    More than half of all students enrolled in Denver Public Schools speak English as a second language. Serdyuk says it makes sense that many DPS English teachers use Shakespeare as a language-learning tool in the classroom. “Shakespeare’s English follows a lot of the same rules as many of these students’ first languages,” she said. 

    Berger serves as student teacher for Denison Montessori School’s Shakespeare program.  He says Shakespeare is less intimidating for students whose native language isn’t English because they are already learning one foreign language – so what’s another? “It’s neat seeing kids learn to speak Shakespeare while they are learning English at the same time,” Berger said.

    Christine Gonzalez, who teaches kindergarten through 6th grade students at Denison, said Berger has been a big help to her students. “He keeps it light and fun and inspirational,” she said. “It’s easier to learn when you make it fun.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Mary Louise Lee, an accomplished performer and also the First Lady of Denver, addressed the crowd about the importance of arts education. “I am a proud product of the Denver Public Schools,” said the graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee, wife of Mayor Michael B. Hancock, has made restoring arts-education programs in schools her top priority since founding her nonprofit, Bringing Back the Arts.

    The DPS Shakespeare Festival draws students of all ages and experience levels. While hundreds were performing for the first time Friday, Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger was performing in his seventh DPS Festival.

    “I remember feeling nervous my first year because I was performing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Bruenger, who was born in Mexico. “But I looked around and I saw younger kids who were only 6 or 7 years old and they were completely into it. That gave me confidence that I could do it, too.”

    Seven years later, Bruenger is not only a recent winner of a True West Award and Denver Mayor's Award for the Arts, but also a full scholarship to the University of Oklahoma from the Daniels Fund. After he performed in his final Shakespeare Festival on Friday, he was off to star in the opening of a world premiere musical about the Armenian genocide called I Am Alive.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. This is the first year the DCPA served as a full producing partner in the DPS Festival. The DCPA’s Education Department offered up its Teaching Artists to assist all 80 participating schools in their preparations for Friday.

    “We are proud to partner alongside the largest school district in the state,” Shiller said. “Colorado’s commitment to arts integration outpaces the national average in nearly every category. In fact, 64 percent of our high schools offer theatre education, just like our own Shakespeare Festival.”

    Friday’s crowd was peppered with prominent figures in the local theatre community. Susan Lyles, founder of the city’s only company dedicated to female playwrights (And Toto Too) was on hand to root on her son, Harrison Lyles-Smith, who played a shepherd with a wicked death scene in As You Like It.

    Lyles said Harrison and his 5th-grade classmates at Steck Elementary School have been practicing for two hours every Friday since February. “It has given him self-confidence and a fearlessness when it comes to Shakespeare that a lot of adults don’t have,” she said.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sara McPherson Horle, Executive Producer of The Catamounts Theatre Company of Boulder, happened to have a nephew in that same class at Steck. For her, one of the great rewards young Samuel Davis, has gotten out of the experience is the lost art of listening.

    “You have to be self-disciplined to be an actor at any age,” Horle said. “Learning to listen is a huge thing, but especially at this age.”

    McNally said the emphasis of the festival is not on producing professional-quality performances – although many of the older students come awfully close. What the judges want more to encourage is passion, which leads to the development of useful life skills such as public speaking and boosted self-esteem.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But occasionally there are performances that make even the Shakespeare purists turn their heads. DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken was particularly impressed with the 3rd through 5th graders from Isabella Bird, a “heart-centered” community school where teacher Rebecca Sage says students are all made to feel valued for their own specific, individual talents.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote 2“The general clarity of their storytelling was astounding, and their delivery were astounding,” McCracken said after watching Sage’s students perform a Cinco de Mayo-informed take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Ricketson Theatre. “That was an amazing throughline for elementary-school actors." 

    Sage said her approach to the project was not unlike the approach of any director who takes on a full-fledged theatrical production: “It all starts with table work,” she said. That means working through the script with the students line-by-line, making sure they understand the meaning, the innuendo and most important, the comedy of the words they speak.

    Sage’s students fully bought into the project, she said, in part because Friday’s festival was only the start of their reward. Next week, the students will perform the full story back at the school for parents and friends. Sage said her students have been putting in half-mornings two days a week since January.

    “It was hugely gratifying for them to put in the work, both at home and at school, and then to get that kind of validation and respect once they got here today,” she said. “This whole experience is a huge incentive for them to continue doing things that challenge them and take them to their edge.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's Romeo and Juliet

    DCPA Teaching Artists John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes starred in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Also new this year was the evening Shakespeare After-Fest program, when arts organizations from across Denver came together to continue the celebration of the Bard. The program included music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY. DCPA Education also performed its hour-long production of Romeo and Juliet from its outreach program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.

    The First Lady of Denver left the kids with a Shakespeare quote whose authorship has been disputed over time – but its meaning was indubitably apropos for Friday’s occasion:

    “The meaning of your life is to find your gift,” Lee told the gathered crowd. “The purpose of your life is to give it away.”

    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.

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Hickenlooper puts SCFD renewal on November ballot

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2016

    Gov. John Hickenlooper signs Senate Bill 16, which places the renewal of the SCFD on the November ballot.Gov. John Hickenlooper signs Senate Bill 16, which places the renewal of the SCFD on the November ballot.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill this afternoon that will ask voters to extend the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) this November. The SCFD provides nearly $55 million each year to 313 arts, culture and science organizations throughout the seven-county Denver metro community. 

    Hickemlooper SCFD The SCFD, first approved by voters in 1988, is a penny-per-$10 sales tax that now generates about $55 million a year. It must be reauthorized at least every 12 years. After overwhelming approval by the Colorado Legislature, Senate Bill 16 places the renewal of the SCFD on the November ballot.

    Now in its 28th year, the annual impact includes:
    •    10,000 employed
    •    4,250,000 students served
    •    14,000,000 guests attended
    •    $1,850,000,000 in economic activity

    The SCFD was renewed by regional voters in 1994 and 2004. Counties comprising the SCFD include Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas (except for Castle Rock and Larkspur) and Jefferson.The SCFD currently provides the non-profit Denver Center for the Performing Arts with $5.5 million each year.

    Additional NewsCenter coverage of SCFD reauthorization:

    SCFD moves forward with united front
    Largest metro arts organizations offer major concession
    SCFD board: Unanimous decision to stay the course
    Ritchie resigns to focus on SCFD reauthorization

  • I Am Alive: 'Who today remembers the Armenians?'

    by John Moore | Apr 28, 2016

    AUTHOR'S NOTE: Fourteen years ago, I interviewed Denver actor Jacqueline Antaramian about her family's harrowing experience during the Armenian genocide a century and 6,000 miles from here. That was in relation to a Denver Center world premiere musical being staged at the time called The Immigrant.
    On Friday (April 29), writers Denise Gentilini and Lisa Nemzo present another developing new musical from the same period. It is called I Am Alive, and it will be presented for one night only at the Mile Hi Church in Lakewood.

    I am Alive This original dramatic musical follows the love story of Gentilini's grandparents (pictured right), who survived the Armenian massacre as children in 1915. I Am Alive is described as "a testament to the Armenian people who endured atrocities - yet their culture, faith and history survives"

    The cast includes veteran area actors, some of whom have performed with the Denver Center Theatre Company. The ensemble includes Erik Sandvold (A Flea in Her Ear), Mehry Eslaminia (Appoggiatura), Mare Trevathan (The Sweetest Swing in Baseball), Michael Morgan, Paul Page, Jennifer Burnett and Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger. The director is Christy Montour-Larson (Shadowlands).

    To mark the return in subject to the Armenian genocide, I am reposting excerpts from my 2002 interview with Antaramian, which underscores the magnitude of that man-made tragedy. The following story was originally published in The Denver Post in January 2002. Antaramian does not appear in I Am Alive.


    By John Moore
    For The Denver Post

    Antaramian quoteActor Jacqueline Antaramian's path from Armenia to America is rooted in the carnage of one of the most horrific tragedies of the 20th century. That she is now entertaining audiences here in the United States and not in, perhaps, Libya, is a story of genocide and pure chance.

    On April 24, 1915, 235 Armenian intellectuals were arrested in Istanbul, Turkey, sparking massacres that left an estimated 1.5 million Armenians dead. Thousands were marched into the Syrian desert and others, including Antaramian's four grandparents, escaped to other countries.

    In 1914, there were an estimated 5 million Christians in the Islamic nation of Turkey. Today that number is only 150,000.

    "The horror was that the massacre was denied for so long, and is still denied today by the Turkish government, so no one really knew what happened to the Armenians," said Antaramian. "Before Hitler killed all the Jews, he was quoted as saying, literally, 'Who today remembers the Armenians?' as a way of making the point that he could get it done," and get away with it.

    Every year, nearly 840,000 people become naturalized American citizens. And every one has a story to tell.

    All of Antaramian's grandparents eventually settled in Fresno, Calif., which before the collapse of the Soviet Union was home to the largest populace of Armenian Americans in the western United States. They got there via Ellis Island, New York, Ohio and Chicago, and there are as many twists in their stories as family trees have branches.

    Antaramian's own story began when she was born in 1962 in the Soviet-controlled Armenian capital of Yerevan. Her father, Paul, was born in Kenosha, Wis., but in 1946 was pulled back to a world where he never wanted to return.

    I Am Alive: Ticket information

    "After World War II, there was a repatriation. The communists were calling Armenians back to the homeland," Antaramian said of a three-year forced campaign that lured 100,000 home. "They said, 'Come back, it's so great here, things are free.' So a lot of people went back. My grandfather wanted his son to marry an Armenian, and so he took my father and his brothers. My father never wanted to go back to Armenia. He even ran away. He  was 17 and he wanted to go to school. He wanted to be a doctor."

    But Paul Antaramian followed his father's orders and returned to Armenia, where the family built a house made entirely from material they brought with them from America. As an "American Armenian" family, the Antaramians were considered better-off than  most. Paul met and married French-born Virginie Hekimian, who bore Hazel and Jacqueline.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    "At one time my mother's family had pianos and many other nice things, but my grandfather got sick and they had to sell everything," she said. "They became really, really poor. It came to a point where my mother had only one dress. It was devastating  and sad."

    Paul Antaramian's goal always was to return to America with his family, and he did so in 1966, when Hazel was 5 and Jacqueline 3.

    George Clooney marks Armenian anniversary

    "My parents were very anxious to get out of Armenia," she said. "They really, really wanted their girls to have the opportunities and education they could only get in America."

    Leaving Armenia in the 1960s, however, was no easier than leaving it in the 1910s. "But certain nationalities had more of an opportunity to get out under Khrushchev," she said. "The French minister had Armenian ties, and he made a deal with Khrushchev to get the French nationals out. We were only able to leave because my mother had French citizenship."

    Jacqueline's maternal aunt wanted the family to join her in Libya, but they chose to settle in Wisconsin, where they lived for seven years before moving to Fresno.

    Jacqueline became a U.S. citizen at age 14, when her mother was naturalized. Now 39 and with bloodlines that span three continents, she very much feels like a citizen of the world.

    "I am as proud to be an American citizen as I am to be Armenian," she said. "I have an Armenian history that I am very interested in remembering and maintaining. We can all only benefit  from knowing more about every part of the world and all its different cultures."

    "The Immigrant" gives her an opportunity to do that. The story shows how author Mark Harelik's Jewish grandfather's life is changed forever when he asks a Southern Baptist banker and his wife for a drink of water from their well.

    "This play deals with issues that are very important to me, especially people learning to live with things they are afraid of," she said. "Most of the time, that's strangers who have a  different religious background or have different customs. It's about how human beings on a basic level are all the same, but yet we get so frightened of one another when we come from different  places. It's about how beautifully we can come together if we let  go of our prejudices."

    What she hopes comes through most in the music  is a lesson that can be applied to our troubled world today.

    "The whole reason there is this hatred in the world is because everyone thinks God is on his side," said Antaramian, whose mother was raised by French Catholic nuns and whose father is an atheist, so she says she grew up "on equal parts faith and common sense."

     "What we really need to connect with is to humanity. We are all the same under one umbrella of God. I really believe in the beauty of science and the universe and a benevolent force. I would be very sad without 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. 

    I Am Alive: Ticket information
    I Am Alive

    Scene from a concert presentation of 'I Am Alive' in 2015.
  • May: Colorado theatre openings

    by John Moore | Apr 28, 2016
    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of all upcoming Colorado theatre openings. Companies are encouraged to submit future listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.

    DCPA May Openings

    Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy from the ONCE tour company. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    photo of Sam GregoryIn addition to the DCPA offerings above, highlights for May include DCPA favorite Sam Gregory (right) starring in Curious Theatre's incendiary White Guy on the Bus; 1970's pop star Debby Boone headlining Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Into the Woods; and the opening of Creede Repertorty Theatre's summer season with The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence
    directed by Christy Montour-Larson (DCPA Theatre Company's Shadowlands).

    There are also many special one-night only events in May, including a fundraiser for the Matthew Shepard Foundation at Lannies Clocktower Cabaret, and the return of the developing musical I Am Alive, about the Armenian massacre. It's Friday, April 29, at the Mile Hi Church in Lakewood. It, too, is directed by Christy Montour-Larson.

    Here is the complete list of more than 55 new and continuing theatregoing options for May, including 30 openings: 


    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    April 28-May 7: square product theatre's This Aunt is Not a Cockroach
    In collaboration with Hoarded Stuff Performance
    At the Wesley Chapel, Boulder, squareproducttheatre.org

    April 28-May 14: And Toto Too's The English Bride
    Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 720-583-3975 or andtototoo.org

    April 28-May 15: TheatreWorks' Girl of the Golden West  
    3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    April 28-May 8: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s Ivy & Bean: The Musical
    30 W. Dale St, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    April 29-30: Off-Center's Cult Following
    At The Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    April 29-May 29: Vintage Theatre's Sunset Boulevard
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    May 3-22: The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek
    At the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ OUR STORY

    May 12-June 5: Thingamajig Theatre Company's A Few Good Men
    Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.or

    May 6-21, 2016: Longmont Theatre Company's Cabaret
    513 Main St., 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    May 6-22: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Velocity of Autumn
    At the Outlets at Silverthorne, 246-X Rainbow Drive, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    May 6-21: Coal Creek Theatre of Louisville's Dancing at Lughnasa

    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org

    May Opens Boys Next DoorMay 7-June 5, 2016: Theatre Esprit Asia's Animals Out of Paper
    At ACAD Galery, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-492-9479, or theatre-esprit-asia.org

    May 9-June 12: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s 9 to 5: The Musical
    30 W. Dale St, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    May 12-22, 2016:  Lost and Found Productions’ The Blue Room
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., lostandfoundproductions.net

    May 13-June 4: Buntport’s Greetings From Camp Katabasis
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.org

    May 13-June 12: Gerimal Stage-Denver's Echoes
    73rd Avenue Playhouse, 7287 Lowell Blvd., 303-455-7108 or www.germinalstage.com

    May 13-28: Springs Ensemble Theatre's Clown Bar

    The Zodiac Venue, 230 Pueblo Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    May 13-July 24: Jesters Dinner Theatre's The Music Man
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    May 14-June 24, 2016: White Guy on the Bus
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    May 14-June 11, 2016: Fire house Theatre Company's The Boys Next Door
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page
    Photo Credit above: Soular Radiant Photography ​

    May 14-June 4: Theater Company of Lafayette’s Time of My Life
    Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson St., 720-209-2154 or www.tclstage.org

    Candlelight Dinner Theatre Debby BooneMay 19-July 10, 2016: Into the Woods
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    May 19-June 4: 5th Wall Productions’ Measure for Measure
    At the Three Leaches (formerly Spark) Theater,  985 Santa Fe Dr., 5th-wall-productions.com

    May 20-June 25: Off-Center's Sweet & Lucky
    4120 Brighton Boulevard, 303-893-4100 or sweetandluckydenver.com READ OUR STORY

    May 20-June 19, 2016: Town Hall Arts Center's Legally Blonde
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    May 20-June 26: Miners Alley Playhouse's Biloxi Blues
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or map’s home page

    May 20-29: Lone Tree Arts Center's Motones vs. Jerseys
    10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, lone tree’s home page

    May 21-Sept. 3: BDT Stage's Footloose
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    May 24-29, 2016: ONCE
    At The Ellie, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    May 27-Aug. 14: The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence 
    124 Main St., Creede, 81130, 719-658-2540 or go to creederep.org

    May 28-June 6: Bas Bleu Theatre's Good People
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    May openings Lafayette Photo by Ian Gerber.


    Through April 30: Buntport Theater's The Rembrandt Room
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Through April 30: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Cyrano At the Lone Tree Arts Center, 10075 Commons St., 720-509-1000 or lonetreeartscenter.org

    Through April 30: Wonderbound and Curious Theatre's Dust
    At the Wonderbound Studio, 1075 Park Avenue West, 303-292-4700 or wonderbound.com

    Through April 30: OpenStage's Orphans
    Lincoln Center 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Through April 30: Equinox Theatre's SILENCE! The Musical: The Unauthorized Parody of The Silence of the Lambs
    At The Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or bugtheatre.org

    Through May 1: Miners Alley Playhouse's You Can’t Take It With You
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or map’s home page

    Through May 1: Bas Bleu Theatre's Love, Loss and What I Wore
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through May 1: Town Hall Arts Center's Smokey Joe’s Café
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Through May 1: Germinal Stage-Denver's The Glass Menagerie
    73rd Avenue Playhouse, 7287 Lowell Blvd., 303-455-7108 or germinalstage.com

    Through May 1: Denver Children's Theatre's Art Dog (Sundays only)
    Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6360 www.maccjcc.org

    Through May 7: Spotlight Theatre's Steel Magnolias
    At the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    Through May 7: Upstart Crow's Our Town
    At the Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder, theupstartcrow.org

    Through May 8, 2016: Ignite Theatre's The Wild Party
    At the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., 720-362-2697 or ignitetheatre.com

    Through May 8: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Little Women
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Through May 8: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s South Pacific
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through May 14: BDT Stage's Peter and the Starcatcher
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Through May 15: Arvada Center's Death Takes a Holiday
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through May 15: Aurora Fox's Catch Me If You Can
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org

    Through May 15: DCPA Theatre Company's Sweeney Todd, featuring DeVotchKa
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through May 21: Avenue Theater's November
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

    Through May 22: Edge Theatre's Casa Valentina
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com​

    Through May 22: Midtown Arts Center's Lost in Yonkers
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through May 29: Midtown Arts Center's The Fantasticks
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com


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

    May 17: The Great Debate: Arguing dumb topics
    May 18: The Narrators: True stories centered on a monthly theme
    May 27: untitled (at the Denver Art Museum)
    April 30, May 28: Duck Duck ... DUPE (all-ages family theatre, season finale)
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.org

    May 23: Screening of Legally Blonde (the film)
    Pre-screening entertainment by the Town Hall Arts Center
    Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 7301 S Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. TICKETS

    Brenda Billings HARD ROCK CAFE DENVER
    May 10: Be Brave! An Evening of Songs Honoring Brenda Billings
    Proceeds benefit the Denver Actors Fund and Miners Alley Playhouse
    16th Street Mall at Glenarm Place TICKETS INFO

    May 8: Mother's Day Concert to benefit the Matthew Shepard Foundation
    D&F Clock Tower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or lannies.com

    April 29: I Am Alive
    9077 W Alameda Ave, Lakewood. TICKETS


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


    May 1: Welcome To Austenland
    1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver. 303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org
    Performers: Jessica Austgen, Allison Watrous, John Jurcheck
    Authors: Jane Austen, Deborah Yaffe, Jane Rubino and Caitlin Rubino-Bradway

    Through May 1: WordFest
    Through May 1 Lakou Mizik
    Through May 1: desktop
    May 8: Serenata Madrelinda Brunch and Concert
    721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

  • Friday: Celebrate Shakespeare with live music, performances and art

    by NewsCenter Staff | Apr 27, 2016
    2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival returns to the Denver Performing Arts Complex for a 32nd year this Friday, April 29. Last year's celebration drew more than 5,000 students from 70 schools in grades kindergarten through high school. They performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets.

    Take a look back at last year's festival in photos (above) and video (below).

    DCPA expands partnership with DPS Shakespeare Festival

    New this year is the Shakespeare After-Fest from 4-7 p.m., when arts organizations from across Denver will come together  to celebrate the Bard. Hear music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman, as well as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, watch mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY.

    You'll even get sucked into the scene as local musicians, performers and painters use Shakespeare's works for inspiration. And best yet - it's all free.

    The DCPA is a co-producer of the 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Its Education Department reached all 80 participating schools in preparation for the festival.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore. 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Meet the cast: Michael Brian Dunn of 'Sweeney Todd'

    by John Moore | Apr 26, 2016

    Michael Brian Dunn. Photo by Adams Visual Communications. Michael Brian Dunn as the presumably Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Sweeney Todd. Photo by Adams Visual Communications.

    Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd

    At the Theatre Company: Debut. On Broadway: Dr. Zhivago, Amazing Grace, Cats, The Life, Guys & Dolls, Big River, Baby, Sweeney Todd. Off-Broadway: Death of Von Richthoffen and Lenny and the Heartbreakers (New York Shakespeare Festival), Perfect Crime, Kennedy's Children, Gifts of the Magi, Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know, Love in Two Countries. National and International tours: Amadeus, H.M.S. Pinafore (also Stratford Festival Canada), My Fair Lady, others. Regional: The Underpants at Syracuse Stage, The Music Man at Arena Stage, Radio Gals at Cape Playhouse, Crazy for You at Maltz Jupiter, Aspects of Love at The Walnut St., Sunset Boulevard at Portland Center Stage, Reckless at Cincinnati Playhouse, more. Film/TV: Julie & Julia (Ivan Cousins), Law and Order SVU and Criminal Intent.

    • Michael Brian Dunn QuoteHometown: Utica, N.Y.
    • Training:  Boston Conservatory and NYU
    • What was the role that changed your life? Every play I do changes my life in some way. Large or small, it makes no difference. The people I meet, the places I travel to, the experience I gain, the connections I make - they all affect the next one I do, and the next, and the next, and so on. I couldn’t do the play I’m doing now if I hadn’t done all the previous ones before. In some cosmic way, they are all connected to each other. This also helps me when I don’t get a role I wanted so badly. It just wasn’t meant to be. It doesn’t fit into that path I’m meant to be on.
    • Why are you an actor? The longer I’m in this business, the more frequently I ask myself this question. Why? There are periods of time when I love what I do. Acting brings me great joy. It allows me to look at life in a different way and to see things from different perspectives. The euphoria and elation when everything lines up in a performance, and you have that connection with the audience, is pure joy. Then there are the desperate times - and every actor experiences them. The times when rejection, self doubt, anxiety and stress consume you. When that happens, you better have a really strong connection to those moments of joy, or you’ll be buried by it. And those joyful moments always return, if you trust.
    • What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t an actor? I would want to return everything I have learned in the theater to young people who have an interest and passion for theater themselves. 
    • Robert Petkoff Ideal scene partner: It’s always the scene partner I’m currently working with. Each new partner represents a new challenge of discovering how that actor works. Working with our very own Sweeney Todd, Robert Petkoff, has been such a thrill. His passion, energy and instincts are so spot-on with where I want to go. Not to mention his humor. It is all so important. There is an inherent trust there. And when someone is holding a blade to your throat, that trust carries a lot of weight.
    • Why does this production of Sweeney Todd matter? Because the music is so brilliant and complex and the story so compelling that people who haven’t seen it need to. And people who have seen it need to see it again, with this brilliant cast and concept and design. And then there’s DeVotchka
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of it? I hope the audience is just swept away by this glorious score. I think it’s one of the best musical scores ever written, and I would hope that the audience will forget everything else in the world for just those few hours and experience the world of Sweeney Todd.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... Equality for all!"

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sweeney Todd: Ticket information

  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • Through May 15
  • Stage Theatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that's 'loud and proud'
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    ​Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa
    Five things we learned at Perspectives: Use a dull blade!
    Interview, video: Sweeney Todd actors sing for Denver Actors Fund
    Opening Night photo gallery and story

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick
    ​Meet Daniel Berryman 

    Previous 2015-16 'Meet the Cast' profiles
    Meet Adeoye of Lookingglass Alice and All the Way
    Meet Kevin Berntson of The Nest
    Meet J. Paul Boehmer of As You Like It
    Meet Molly Brennan of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Courtney Capek of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Todd Cerveris of All the Way
    Meet Brian D. Coats of The Nest
    Meet Tad Cooley of Tribes
    Meet Paul DeBoy of All the Way
    Meet Allen Dorsey of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Kevin Douglas of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Napoleon M. Douglas of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Brian Dykstra of The Nest
    Meet Isabel Ellison of Tribes
    Meet Mariana Fernandez of FADE
    Meet Kate Finch of Tribes
    Meet Ella Galaty of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Mike Hartman of All the Way
    Meet Ben Heil of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Carolyn Holding of As You Like It
    Meet Drew Horwitz of As You Like It
    Meet Maurice Jones of As You Like It
    Meet Geoffrey Kent of As You Like It and All the Way
    Meet Emily Kron of As You Like It
    Meet Nick LaMedica of As You Like It
    Meet Victoria Mack of The Nest
    Meet Bianca Mikahn of How I Got Over
    Meet Andrew Pastides of Tribes
    Meet Ralonda Simmons of How I Got Over
    Meet Shannan Steele of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Carly Street of The Nest
    Meet Samuel Taylor of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Lindsey Noel Whiting of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Jake Williamson  of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Matt Zambrano of As You Like It

  • 5 things we learned at Sweet & Lucky's first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Apr 25, 2016
    Making of 'Sweet & Lucky'

    Photos from the first rehearsal for 'Sweet & Lucky.' To see more, just hit the forward arrow on the image above. Click on any photo to download. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Much of what the audience is in for when they come to Sweet & Lucky next month is being kept from them. And that is entirely intentional.

    Sweet and Lucky QuoteDenver native Zach Morris, co-Artistic Director of New York’s Third Rail Projects, has come home to oversee the Denver Center’s first massive foray into producing off-site, immersive theatre. And he says withholding advance information about the experience is the company’s way of paying audience members the highest respect. If they come with few preconceived notions, then their visceral response to what they see, hear and feel is more likely to be emotionally true.

    “You are coming to an experience that is beyond the scope of what you might normally expect as a theatregoer,” Morris said at Thursday’s opening rehearsal. “If Chekhov is a novel, then Third Rail is like a Neruda poem. Our work isn't about presenting a traditional narrative. In fact, one of the things that is most important to us is that every audience member who comes is able to take away their own story.”

    So what can we tell you about Sweet & Lucky, which is being created in collaboration with the DCPA’s adventurous Off-Center programming wing? Here are five things we learned as the cast gathered for the first time:

    1 PerspectivesMorris calls Sweet & Lucky "a treatise on memory set in a speakeasy antique shop that opens up into a labyrinth of dreamlike worlds and fragments of time." Oh - and it is a love song.  

    2 PerspectivesSweet and Lucky Lisa OrzolekSweet & Lucky will be the largest physical undertaking in the Denver Center’s nearly 40-year history. It will take place in a 16,000-square-foot converted warehouse on Brighton Boulevard. How big is that? “It’s big enough to hold five Space Theatres,” said Scenic Designer Lisa Orzolek (pictured above). Now consider this: You can put 2,750 people in five Space Theatres. Sweet & Lucky will be limited to 72 people per performance, so you can imagine just how individualized each person’s experience will be. Likewise, Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod describes his task as "unlike anything we have ever attempted here before at the DCPA. It will be reactive. It will be recurring. And it will be reflective," he said. 

    "This is a massive undertaking for our team," added  DCPA Managing Director Charles Varin. "But for the 10 years I have been here, the DCPA has never shied away from anything. The attitude here is always, 'Let's do it.’ ”

    3 PerspectivesAll but one of the dozen cast members have strong Denver ties. It is a mostly young and accomplished group, including past or present DCPA Education Teaching Artists Diana Dresser, Justin Walvoord and Mackenzie Sherburne; DCPA National Theatre Conservatory masters graduate Leigh Miller; The Catamounts Artistic Director Amanda Berg Wilson and company member Meridith C. Grundei; and noted local director and playwright Edith Weiss. Coincidentally, Sweet & Lucky  reunites four actors from the DCPA Theatre Company's 2013 baseball play, Jackie & Me: Dresser, Walvoord, Miller and Ryan Wuestewald. Morris graduated from George Washington High School and was a student intern in the DCPA's costume shop. FULL CAST STORY

    4 PerspectivesSweet & Lucky will be a 360-degree, mobile experience, so the audience is encouraged to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. As your journey continues, you may recognize set pieces from recent DCPA Theatre Company productions, including the bar from The Nest, and dozens of props and pieces of furniture from past DCPA productions.

    5 PerspectivesSpeaking of the bar, it’s not giving anything away anything to say that audiences will enter through a storefront and into something of a speakeasy vibe. At the end of the experience, audiences will be treated to a cocktail from nationally recognized Williams & Graham mixologist Sean Kenyon. 

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

    Sweet & Lucky opens May 20. Tickets are now available. BUY ONLINE 

    Sweet and Lucky

    'Sweet & Lucky' cast photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweet & Lucky:
    Zach Morris is home to seize the cultural moment
    Casting announced; tickets onsale
    DCPA to create new immersive theatre piece with Third Rail Projects
    Kickstarter campaign allows audience to dive deeper
    Kickstarter home page

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Wally Larson held his theatre students to a higher standard - proudly

    by John Moore | Apr 22, 2016
    Wally Larson. Courtesy of Heather Larson Fritton.
    Photo courtesy of Heather Larson Fritton.

    There was real meaning behind the mundanity whenever legendary high-school theatre teacher Wally Larson told a student to go “sweep the stage.”

    At some point, everyone was made to sweep the stage, from the star to the spotlight operator.

    Wally Larson Quote  Beth Malone“Only later did I recognize this for the Zen act it really was,” said Tony Award-nominated actor Beth Malone (Fun Home), a graduate of Douglas County High School. “It was a way to keep our budding egos in check. It created a level playing field.”

    “Sweeping the stage” meant that everyone was expected to get involved, added Larson’s daughter, Heather Larson Fritton. “Everyone was expected to help build the sets, paint the sets and tear them down. And yes, sometimes, you had to sweep the stage.” That in a nutshell, is what made her father an extraordinary teacher.

    “He made every star do technical work, and he made every technical student feel like a star,” she said. “He made everyone feel special.”

    Larson died April 6 after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 75.

    Larson taught theatre at Douglas County High School and Highlands Ranch High School for a combined 33 years. Over that time, he directed 173 school productions. His hundreds of students have included Malone, Broadway actor Kurt Domoney (A Chorus Line), longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor Kathleen McCall, DCPA Teaching Artists Brian Landis Folkins and Brian McManus, and area actors Kenny Moten, Damon Guerrasio and Trina Magness.

    “His style of mentorship was treating you like you were capable - therefore making you capable," Malone said.

    Malone keeps thinking back to one particular afternoon when it was just she and Larson and a table saw.

    “We were on the stage and he had a pile of 1x4s that he needed ripped in half,” she said. Malone had never operated Larson’s loud and powerful table saw before, but Larson worked with Malone over and over until they had produced a perfect pile of 1x2s.

    “I had a feeling we had accomplished something together as a team,” Malone said. “It was stupid, but it gave me such a feeling of satisfaction and ‘grown-up-ness’ that he would assume I was a reliable-enough assistant to trust with this job. That was how he got you.” 

    Wally LarsonMcCall said Larson pushed her harder than any teacher, mentor, director or friend than she has ever had.

    “Mr. Larson was an intense man, a perfectionist, and he was passionate about the work and the kids he taught," said McCall, who is currently playing the Beggar Woman in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Sweeney Todd. "He was demanding, and he never let us think for a moment that we were just doing ‘high-school theatre.’ He set the bar high - and we rose to the occasion.”

    Fritton said Larson also was a champion of teenagers who had bad home lives.

    “My father left the theatre open at night and on weekends so kids would always have a place to go,” she said. “He also made sure the theatre was open on prom night so that the kids who didn’t have a date would have a place to go and have fun.”

    Larson, McCall said simply, “helped me find my home inside the walls of a theatre." 

    Larson was never much of a drinker, but he didn’t want his students to drink, and he didn't want his own children to, either. So he led by his own example and gave up alcohol in the mid-1980s. He asked every student to sign a pledge promising not to drink, smoke or chew tobacco while working on one of his theatre productions.

    “He held his theatre kids to a higher standard,” Fritton said. “Proudly.”

    Son Brady calls Larson “an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat of a man. He was a husband, father, grandfather, theatre teacher and a Colorado Rockies baseball enthusiast who worked blissfully at Coors Field after his retirement.”

    Wally Larson
    Wally Larson in hic classroom. Photo courtesy of Heather Larson Fritton.

    Wallace Alfred Larson was born Aug. 21, 1940, on the family farm near Pelican Rapids, Minn. His father, Alf, was a farmer, and his mother, Mildred, a schoolteacher. Wally and siblings JoAnn, Richard and Dale attended a one-room schoolhouse through 6th grade.  He graduated from Pelican Rapids High School in 1958 and spent two years at Dakota Business College. He then enrolled at at Moorhead State College, where he met the two great loves of his life: Theatre and Diane Monear.

    The couple were married in the summer of 1965 and moved to Littleton to pursue careers as teachers. They marked their 50th anniversary last summer by taking the whole family to a cabin retreat in Battle Lake, Minn. Wally and Diane privately celebrated, Fritton said, by sneaking off for a moonlight fishing trip.

    Wally Larson QuoteThe Larsons raised three children - Brady, Heather, and Drew - and Fritton said being born of two teachers came with high expectations. “If I ever came home with an A-minus," she said, "they would ask why it wasn’t an A."

    It’s no coincidence, she believes, that the children of these two teachers grew up to become a writer, an actor and an artist.

    “Having a general thirst for knowledge of the world was always part of our upbringing,” Fritton said. The Larsons were the kind of family that would take road trips, and actually stop and read the informational signs at every rest stop.

    Larson enjoyed acting as a young man and never wanted to teach anything other than theatre. He was hired at Douglas County High School in 1966 and directed his first all-school musical the next year: Bye Bye Birdie.

    On most Saturday mornings, Wally would drive all of his children to school, where they would help paint and build sets while mom sewed costumes.

    Summertime was family time. “We spent many summers on road trips and visits to the lakes in Minnesota, camping and family bike rides,” Brady said. “He was a loving and involved father. He proudly attended many school plays, dance recitals, choir concerts, art shows, and was always up for a game of catch.”

    Larson gave his theatre students the challenge – and in some cases the unprecedented opportunity – to take on meaningful, consequential and sometimes controversial stage titles such as Carnival, Equus, Man of La Mancha, The Foreigner, Noises Off and Into the Woods.

    Wally Larson 8003“His favorite plays were the really hard plays that you typically don’t see high-school theatres do,” Fritton said.

    After being present throughout her father’s production of Man of La Mancha, Fritton remembers singing the song Dulcinea to her classmates – her kindergarten classmates. The 5-year-old didn’t realize then the woman in the song is tormented and then brutally raped. “I just thought it was beautiful – and emotional,” Fritton said with a laugh.

    She also saw her father’s Equus at age 8 or 9. That’s the story of a boy who blinds six horses with a metal spike after attempting to make love for the first time. “I didn’t realize what the story was about,” Fritton said, “but I just loved watching my dad pull that kind of intensity out of his students.”

    After 22 years at Douglas County High School, Larson took on the challenge of building a new theatre program from scratch at Highlands Ranch High School, where he worked for another 11 years.

    He was proud whenever his graduates made it to Broadway, but that was never his barometer for success, Fritton said.

    “He didn’t care whether they ended up in the theatre,” she said. “He wanted them to go out and live successful lives in whatever fields they chose.”

    Larson’s retirement in 1998 led to his second dream job - with the Colorado Rockies, which lasted another 16 years. “He started at the gate, and then became supervisor of the Rock Pile seating section in center field,” Brady said. “He quickly moved up to the Command Center Team Leader, where he was in charge of emergency dispatch - all the while having an incredible view of every home game.”

    Larson enjoyed working on his land, trimming trees, gardening with his wife and taking cross-country road trips. He was also the grandfather of six. “He taught them important life lessons such as how to gather firewood, how to build a tree house - and how to yell at a fishing pole!” Brady said.

    Larson spent his final week taking in spring-training baseball games in Arizona. “He was relaxing by the pool alongside his kids and grandkids, with hope eternal for a winning Rockies season,” Brady said.

    McCall said Larson believed theatre has the capacity to hold a mirror up to human nature in all its forms: Beautiful and ugly, confrontational and compassionate. “He challenged us to think and express our beliefs, challenge our assumptions about life, and also allowed us to give joy, and find joy with others and in ourselves,” she said.  

    “And in the midst of creating theatre, the lessons in the costume shop, the scene shop and lighting grid, we learned valuable life lessons. We learned that the only failure is in not trying - that we have more inside of us to give than we can begin to imagine.”

    Malone will never forget seeing her classmate who played Maria in West Side Story sweeping the stage before a performance. “Through these seemingly small acts, he helped us lucky few realize our own innate wisdom and compassion for each other,” Malone said. "But he never said that's what he was doing. ... He just said, ‘Sweep the stage.’ ”

    Larson is survived by his wife Diane; his children, Brady, Heather, and Drew; his grandchildren, Zane, Jack, Norah, Remington, Teagan, and Quinlan; his sister JoAnn Neu (Melvin), and his brothers, Richard (Linda) and Dale (Marsha).

    Memorial Celebration for Wally Larson

    • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 1
    • Denver Center for the Performing Arts
    • Conservatory Theatre (in the Newman Center for Theatre Education)
    • 1101 13th St. (corner of Arapahoe and 13th street. MAP IT

    Memorial contributions

    Donations can be made in Larson’s name to the Educational Theatre Association, which provide scholarships for high school students to pursue theatre studies in college. CLICK HERE. (Please indicate on the donation form that the funds are for Scholarships for Students, and in memory of Wally Larson.)

    Wally Larson
  • Meet the Real(ish) Housewives of ... Cherry Creek?

    by John Moore | Apr 21, 2016
    The Realish Housewives: A Parody. Photo by Kirsten Miccoli

    Get ready, haute Denver: It's 'The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek: A Parody,'  opening May 3.  Photo by Kirsten Miccoli.

    NOTE: This story by John Moore was first published in Reign Magazine.

    If not for the ubiquitous, spore-like Real Housewives reality TV franchise, we might not ever have known there are gold-digging, finger-snapping, cat-fighting, hair-pulling, bed-hopping, beauty-salon divas from Orange County to Melbourne to Israel … to Cherry Creek!

    No, Denver has not yet sunk to the top of the trashy pile of housewives who have been immortalized for the past decade by the anachronistically titled Bravo! cable channel. We’re not in line for our own season following in the broadcast footsteps of those hallowed, heckled housewives of Beverly Hills, Potomac and Dallas.

    But we are next in line for the next-best thing: The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek is a live theatrical parody that opens May 3 in the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    Comedians Kate James and Tim Sniffen are the co-creators of the Realish Housewives, a live stage show the duo customizes and localizes for each new city it visits. They both have backgrounds with Chicago’s famed Second City improvisational comedy empire, and at least one of them (James!) proudly professes to be a hardcore fan of the cable show, without a hint of hidden or even ironic shame.

    Realish Housewives QuoteThe comedy pair now have their Gucci bags packed for Denver to introduce to the world the, yes, Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek. Their names are Rovanka, Claudia Louise, Gwen, Desiree and Brooke.

    But who are they … really?

    “A Real Housewife of Cherry Creek is a woman whose confidence in herself is as high as the city she resides in,” says James. “She knows how to have a good time and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for it. And if she can’t be married to a Nugget, she’ll find a guy to put a nugget on her ring finger.”

    Reality TV is rife for pop-culture satire, but parody can be one of the most difficult forms to pull off when it might seem impossible to conjure material that is any more laughable than the source material already is. I mean, this is the TV series that brought us that poignant moment when Porsha Stewart, one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, thought the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad. You know … with trains and stuff.

    “The TV show we were inspired by is pretty ridiculous,” Sniffen admits, “so we wanted to have a stage show that gives people all they've come to expect, and a little bit more.”

    Sniffen harbors no delusions that The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek constitutes an evening of deep, thoughtful theatre. “This is not Waiting for Godot, he says, probably to the great relief of his target audience. “So grab a group of friends, grab some cocktails and get ready for a great night out.”

    Here’s more of our conversation with co-creators Kate James and Tim Sniffen:

    John Moore: Go out on a limb: What’s your favorite Real Housewives show of all time?

    Kate James: My favorite cast is New York. I love New York City, so I enjoy seeing where the ladies lunch ... and catfight. Plus, New York is the cast that boasts a woman who took off her fake leg and threw it across the table during an argument. You gotta love that.

    Tim Sniffen: Beverly Hills, hands down. I grew up in New York, so that world is otherworldly and fascinating to me. It’s also the first cast I ever watched, and a man never forgets his first Real Housewives. The dinner party with the psychic making unflattering predictions about people is one of my favorite moments of all time.

    John Moore: How have the “Real Housewives” shows changed the pop-culture landscape?

    Kate James: The franchise has continued to evolve the reality genre. It’s fascinating to see women join the show who already have a public persona but feel like they can advance their careers or social standing by being a part of the TV cast. Instead of reality TV being comprised of “real people” who want to play pretend and be famous, you now have famous people who want to be seen as “real.”

    Tim Sniffen: I think they opened the door for the many other reality shows that followed. Along with The Real World and Jersey Shore, the Real Housewives were pioneers in taking people from everyday life - OK, slightly wealthier everyday life - letting them go and leaving the cameras on.

    John Moore: Let’s get philosophical: Is there anything real about the Real Housewives?

    Kate James: The only thing that is “real” is the women’s desire to be in the public eye - no matter what it takes to accomplish that.

    Tim Sniffen: I think the thing that keeps us coming back is we see some of ourselves in them. Yes, that very worst part of yourself that appears after three glasses of wine and  a public fight in a restaurant parking lot with your best friend. But we love to roll our eyes at these ladies while quietly thinking, “Thank God I’m not that bad ... ”

    John Moore: What is with our fascination with seeing people make fools of themselves on TV?

    Kate James: The schadenfreude factor for Real Housewives fans is very high. That’s the pleasure you derive from another person's misfortune. I know I enjoy watching the show because there is a big part of me that says, “Well at least my life isn’t as crazy as that!”

    Tim Sniffen: I think so many magazine layouts and Facebook posts present such perfect, polished facades of people that it wears you down. It’s gratifying to see people at their unapologetic, train-wreck worst.

    John Moore: And now you are coming to Denver with your parody homage. Will we recognize any “real Denverites” in any of the characters you have created for us?

    Kate James: No, all of our characters are mash-ups of all the best and worst qualities of the actual Housewives. We are celebrating the quirks and personality types of the women who are featured on the TV show. Our characters are kind of a beautiful homage, a love letter, to all of them.

    Tim Sniffen: There’s still lots of room in the show for local personalities. But I’d rather people go into the theater without any spoilers. The same way I appreciated not knowing Han Solo was going to bite it. Oops!

    John Moore: So what kind of a night out are audiences in for when they see “The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek”?

    Kate James: This show is a fast-paced, lighthearted night with lots of laughs. Our goal is to bring everything we love - and love to hate - about the TV franchise to life so that you and your friends enjoy a drink - or three - and have a fun night out.

    Tim Sniffen: When we began writing this show, Kate was a Housewives aficionado, and I was a Housewives virgin. I think that mix created a show where you can love the Real Housewives world, or barely know it, and still have a great time. Our goal was to create the theatrical equivalent of a glass of champagne … that’s been thrown in your face after one too many catty comments about someone’s latest Botox injection.

    The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek
    May 3-22
    Garner-Galleria Theatre
    Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Tickets start at $29303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Photos: Brenda Billings' Life Celebration brings Ashford home

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2016
    Brenda Billings Life Celebration
    Photos from Brenda Billings' Life Celebration. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Sarah Roshan and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. (Read Roshan's accompanying blog here).

    On April 19, an overflow crowd gathered at Denver School of the Arts to honor Brenda Billings, who was the co-Artistic Director at Miners Alley Playhouse, President of the Denver Actors Fund and a longtime contributor to Colorado’s non-profit community. Brenda Billings died April 13 of complications from a sudden brain hemorrhage. She was 57.

    Billings will be remembered as an intuitive director, a ferociously free spirit and a mother to hundreds. She was feted with stories and songs from family and friends, including Tony-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford, who considers Billings a second mother. Ashford sang both "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz and "For Good" from Wicked.

    Read our tribute to Brenda Billings

    Another surprise came when a video was shown featuring members of the cast of the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton. Much was made of not only Billings' love for the show, but also for her personal directing mantra: "Are we telling the story?" 

    Several Hamilton cast members made a selfie video singing "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?" from the show. Its lyrics include: "But when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame?"

    The evening ended with "Song of Purple Summer," from Spring Awakening, led by Billings' daughters Jacquie Jo and Jamie, as well as nephew Tucker Worley, family and friends.

    Annaleigh Ashford They were backed by the cast of Denver School of the Arts' Spring Awakening, which soon will travel to a national high-school competition as one of only two invited productions. 

    Look for video highlights in the days to come.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Actors Fund also announced an upcoming tribute evening in partnership with the Denver Hard Rock Cafe.

    "Be Brave," on Tuesday, May 10, will be a night of songs from musicals directed by  Billings featuring returning cast members from Hair, Hairspray, The Fantasticks, Godspell, Songs For a New World and more. The Emcee will be Paul Dwyer and the Musical Director will be Mitch Samu. Detals below. Tickets $25 and advance purchase is strongly recommended: Maximum capacity is 150. BUY TICKETS

  • 'Sweeney Todd': Opening Night photo gallery

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2016
    Sweeney Todd Opening Night
    Our Opening Night photo gallery, above. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable from our Flickr site by clicking on the desired photo.

    We had cameras positioned all over the DCPA on April 15 to capture the excitement of Opening Night for the Theatre Company's reimagining of Sweeney Todd, with new orchestrations by DeVotchka.

    The gallery above includes photos from backstage before the show as cast and crew prepared, as well as the "fight call" pre-show rehearsal, the electrifying curtain call and the party that followed in the Seawell Ballroom. (Including an appearance by Broadway star Carly Hughes.)

    Photos by Adams Visual Communications, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and Bamboo Booth for the DCPA NewsCenter. Visit us at MyDenverCenter.Org

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sweeney Todd Opening Night. Photo by Adams Visual Communications

    The 'Sweeney Todd' Opening Night curtain call. Photo by Adams Visual Communications

    Sweeney Todd
    : Ticket information

  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • Through May 15
  • Stage Theatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that's 'loud and proud'
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    ​Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa
    Five things we learned at Perspectives: Use a dull blade!
    Interview, video: Sweeney Todd actors sing for Denver Actors Fund

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick
    Meet Daniel Berryman

  • Video: 'Sweeney Todd' actors sing for Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2016

    Video: Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce sing from 'Sweeney Todd' before Monday's Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of the Tim Burton film at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver. 

    They swear it’s a coincidence that the young lovers from off-Broadway’s The Fantasticks have run off together to perform as the young lovers in the DCPA Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed Sweeney Todd.

    Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce in 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Adams Visual Communications. Actors Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce, who were performing as Matt and Luisa only a few months ago in the longest-running production in American theatre history, did not even audition together to play Anthony and Johanna in the DCPA’s new staging, which has been infused with new arrangements by revered local band DeVotchKa.

    “I think I forgot my shoes,” recalled Berryman, who had to leave the Sweeney Todd audition room in New York to retrieve the sneakers he had left under a bench in the waiting area. Now sitting atop that very same bench was Bruce, his castmate in The Fantasticks for eight months.

    “We didn’t even know we were both auditioning for the same show,” Bruce said.

    Director Kent Thompson later wondered how it was that these two Denver Center newcomers had such immediate chemistry.

    I just thought it was brilliant casting - and it is,” Thompson said with a laugh. "Just not that brilliant.”

    Samantha Bruce sings at the Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc. The Fantasticks has performed continuously in New York for all but four years since 1960. Bruce could feel the theatrical significance from her first day with the show two years ago. “

    When you walk in the door and down the hallway with all of the pictures from previous casts on the wall, and you see Jerry Orbach and Liza Minnelli and all of these other faces, you definitely feel the history,” said Bruce.

    Berryman and Bruce were performing in The Fantasticks when the show passed 21,000 performances. They both say the reason for its longevity is simple.

     “It’s the story - and the intimacy of how it is told, said Berryman. “It speaks to people.”

    Bruce thinks any theatre person should love The Fantasticks because, she says, it is a love letter to theatre.

    “The way that it is told, you can just tell that (writers) Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt are so in love with the art form,” she said. “If you are a theatre person, you can't not love it.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    There are unmistakable similarities between the actors’ roles in The Fantasticks and Sweeney Todd. In both, they play sweet, pure young lovers who are thrown into a world of violence and brutality. But they are not the same, Bruce said.

    “Matt and Luisa have a history. They literally are the boy and girl next door,” she said. “With Anthony and Johanna, it's love at first sight. But like Matt and Luisa, they forge a really deep connection, and then they have to go through hell to be together.”

    The ultimate focus of Sweeney Todd is not the fate of the lovers as it is in The Fantasticks. “You don't know if it works out for Anthony and Johanna,” Bruce said. “Well … they live. And in this show, that's definitely a positive.”

    To quote Sondheim, they both are enjoying being alive.

    “I have been in love with Sweeney Todd since high school,” Bruce said. “Maybe even before. I am so incredibly thankful that I got to be a part of this production, because it's not just Sweeney Todd.

    It's also DeVotchKa, she said of the local band that infuses the score with a variety of unexpected sounds ranging from a toy piano to a drum kit. “The drums add a really cool, tribal pulse to the opening number that gets you really excited to go on and tell the rest of the story,” she said. “But there is also tuba and electric guitars. It’s clearly like no Sweeney Todd you have ever heard before.”

    Berryman, who performed with Theatre Aspen in 2014 as Marius in Les Misérables and Charlie Brown in You’re a Good  Man, Charlie Brown, said “DeVotchKa brings a whole different heartbeat to the show. One with powered by percussion.

    He says he is most proud that the DCPA staging is not so much a melodrama but rather a more primal revenge drama. “Keeping the intensity of that revenge narrative was important to Kent Thompson,” Berryman said, “and we all feel really good that we accomplished that.”

    Although Monday was the cast’s only day off in a 13-day period, Berryman and Bruce sang before a benefit screening of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd film starring Johnny Depp at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver. The monthly film series, benefiting the Denver Actors Fund, pairs a film with its stage counterpart, with live pre-screening entertainment by the participating local theatre company.

    Bruce sang Green Finch & Linnet Bird and Berryman sang Johanna at the screening, which raised money for the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial and neighborly assistance to members of the local theatre community in situational medical need. They were accompanied by David Wohl.

    Daniel Berryman sings atthe Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc.
    Daniel Berryman sings atthe Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc. Photo at top of page: ​Daniel Berryman and Samantha Bruce in 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Adams Visual Communications.

    Sweeney Todd: Ticket information

  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • Through May 15 (opens April 15)
  • StageTheatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that's 'loud and proud'
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    ​Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa
    Five things we learned at Perspectives: Use a dull blade!

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick

    Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd' at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver.  Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc.

    Above: Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of 'Sweeney Todd' at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver. Photo by Carla Kaiser Kotrc. Below: The 'Sweeney Todd' trivia contest champ won tickets to a performance of 'Sweeney Todd' by the DCPA Theatre Company, along with a poster signed by the cast.


  • Arvada Center going retro by hiring core company for plays

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2016

    Lynne Collins, Philip Sneed and Emily Van Fleet
    From left: Arvada Center Artistic Director of Plays Lynne Collins, Executive Director Philip Sneed and Costume Designer Clare Henkel at last year's Henry Awards. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    You might say the Arvada Center is leaping into the future by going back to the past.

    The 40-year-old Arvada Center has announced huge changes to the way it programs its theatre seasons. Moving forward, the Arvada Center essentially will be presenting two simultaneous yet independent seasons – its trademark musicals on the mainstage under the ongoing leadership of longtime Artistic Director Rod A. Lansberry, and a new “salon series” of plays in its studio theatre crafted by Lynne Collins.  

    Lynne Collins QuoteExecutive Director Philip Sneed has hired Collins in the new position of Artistic Director of Plays. She will helm the new four-play salon season, which will be presented primarily in repertory, and largely by a core company of up to seven recurring actors.

    “I think of it as sort of retro,” said Collins, known locally for her directing work with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Like many, Collins grew up on the American regional theatre movement that birthed the Denver Center and other foundational institutions in Seattle, Minneapolis and elsewhere. In their formative years, these theatres would hire “resident acting companies” that allowed as many as 25 actors to put down full-time roots in a given city for decades. The Arvada Center, too, grew around a core company of actors when it was founded in 1975. But a variety of economic, social and artistic factors have long since made permanent resident companies impractical.

    But Collins wants to be clear: She is talking about creating a strictly seasonal company for the Arvada Center, built one year at at a time. So the core actors she chooses for the 2016-17 season will not necessarily be the same core actors she chooses for the season that follows.

    The first company she hires will be tailored for the four plays she has chosen for 2016-17: Tartuffe, Bus Stop, The Drowning Girls and Waiting for Godot. Should the following season produce a wildly different type of fare, you will see a completely different slate of company actors. “This has a clear beginning and a clear end each and every year,” she said.

    Meanwhile, the Arvada Center's mainstage musical season kicks off Sept. 9 with Sister Act and continues with an original holiday production written by longtime Musical Director David Nehls titled  “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” followed in the spring by Jesus Christ Superstar.  “Part of the thinking is to free up Rod so he can pursue new musicals for mainstage, which begins with the holiday show this year,” Collins said.

    Added Lansberry: “The season is a blend of pieces that will truly show off the talent and artistry of the Arvada Center. It is especially exciting to premiere an original work over the holidays that features music by David Nehls.”

    Arvada Center

    From left: Geoffrey Kent, Sam Gregory, Emily Van Fleet and Joshua Robinson.

    Here is how it all shakes down, in 10 easy bullet points.

    1 PerspectivesHow are you defining “company?” Collins is calling anyone a company member who is involved in at least two of her four studio (also called "black box") plays each year.

    2 PerspectivesDo you already know who some of your inaugural company members will be? Yes, Collins already has committed to three longtime Denver Center favorites: Geoffrey KentSam Gregory and Josh Robinson, as well as Creede Repertory Theatre’s Emily Van Fleet. At least three other company members will be determined after general auditions April 24-25. Company members may serve multiple functions. Kent, for example, will act in Bus Stop and direct Waiting for Godot. Gregory will play Orgon in Tartuffe, Vladimir in Godot and a role to be determined in Bus Stop. “Company” also includes directors and designers. The creative company will include Shannon McKinney (Lighting Design), Brian Mallgrave (Scenic Design), Jason Ducat (Sound Design) and Clare Henkel (Costume Design).

    3 PerspectivesWait, Geoffrey Kent is an integral part of both the Denver Center and Colorado Shakespeare Festival families. And Sam Gregory will be taking over as the DCPA Theatre Company’s new Scrooge in its annual stagings of A Christmas Carol. Can these actors do it all? Absolutely, Collins says. “This is not about competition. This is about building an ecology of cooperation and mutual support that will benefit local theatres and the livelihoods of actors alike," she said. "An actor who does the whole season here at the Arvada Center will be offered a 30-week employment contract. And next to the Denver Center, the Arvada Center is the best-paying gig in town. By creating a company, we are creating more work for more actors, designers and directors. That gives them negotiating power, and I just think that's healthy. My goal is to try to work it out so that everyone can take advantage of other employment opportunities that come their way, because that benefits all of us. So yes, Sam will be doing A Christmas Carol, and Geoff will be doing an outside directing gig in the fall. We're sharing talent. I was so excited when (DCPA Director of Education) Allison Watrous said yes to directing Bus Stop. She is integral to what happens at the Denver Center. That's a great crossover.” 

    Gregory, for one, says he can’t wait to be an inaugural Arvada Center company member, and continue his relationship with the Denver Center at the same time. "I'm so (bleeping) excited about this,” he said, “... and you can quote me on that."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    4 PerspectivesSo this is about building a stronger and more sustainable overall metro theatre ecology? That’s the idea. Many people gauge the overall health of any theatre city by the number of professional, union theatres it sustains that can create a living wage for a broad number of working artists. “It is my goal for this to be a place where a really strong community of local theatre artists can have a home,” Collins said. “Actors would love to be able to stay put. That's then good for the Denver Center. It's good for Curious. It’s good for all of us.

    “There's an old saying that the best place to build a gas station is next to another gas station. I really, truly believe that good theatre is good for all of us, and I am hoping that the Arvada Center Black Box becomes a real part of that ecology." 

    5 PerspectivesBut seven actors – that’s not enough to put on four plays, is it? No. More than a dozen roles will be made available to actors outside the core company. "That means more jobs for local actors," Collins said. "There may be a project where I have to import somebody I can't find here. But I hope not to."

    6 PerspectivesSo for the inaugural season – those four plays sound, well ... pretty old. It’s true: The first four titles average 120 years old. But Collins knows what she is doing – and whom she’s doing it for. Whereas most other companies are ever-scrambling to try and serve a wider and more diverse (and often elusive) group of potential new audiences, the Arvada Center remains mindful of its core demographic. Arvada is a city of 113,000 that is 82 percent white. The Arvada Center serves a much greater radius than just Arvada, but it is not trying to be all things to all people. This is a conservative season for a conservative audience base. “We don't intend to chase all of the cool new titles the way Curious Theatre or the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company does,” Collins said. “And partly that's because they do that so well.” The exception would be The Drowning Girls, the 2008 story of three dead brides who gather evidence against the womanizing, murderous husband they shared in life. But the season is not an appeal to widely varying ethnic or social groups. And that, in turn, serves the repertory concept. That said, Collins said the 2016-17 lineup will present her actors with significant and divergent artistic challenges. “They are going to be asked to make some interesting transformations over the course of the season,” she said. “And that, along with paying the bills, will feed their souls a little bit.”

    7 PerspectivesWhat is the artistic upside? “I grew up on regional theatres with resident ensembles that performed in true repertory," Collins said. "That's where artists really shine - when you have a chance to develop an artistic shorthand with a core group of people, and you give them a real artistic home.

    "We were motivated to see if there is an economically viable way to create the kind of relationship with our audience that I think only a company can really do. When you see an actor in a tiny role in one play, and then starring in the next, then you begin to build a relationship with the audience.”

    Another upside: Large plays - which is becoming more and more of an economic anomaly these days. “Playwrights today are writing small-cast plays - which is smart, because that's the only way to get a new play produced these days,” Collins said. “We're going to stay away from that wheelhouse, and instead look at shows that you can build around a larger number of actors who have real ensemble chops."  

    8 PerspectivesSo where is the Creede Repertory Theatre on your schedule? It’s not. Since 2010, Creede Repertory Theatre, located 250 miles southwest of Denver, has brought one of its summer season offerings down to Denver for a fall run at the Arvada Center, but that no longer fits under the new artistic blueprint. Look for Creede Rep to pop up at other metro theatres, like perhaps the Lone Tree Arts Center, in future seasons. “We haven’t given up the Front Range yet,” said Creede Rep’s Sarah Wallace.

    9 PerspectivesOther big changes are going on at the Arvada Center, right. Big? More like seismic. The Arvada Center is nearing the end a massive, three-year organizational transition from a city-run facility to a semi-independent nonprofit. This is a risky gambit, but one other city-run theatres such as the Aurora Fox will be eyeing closely. Theatres that are run by cities have the benefit of guaranteed funding in place that other non-profits can only dream of. But being a city-run facility comes with all kinds of bureaucracy and programmatic restrictions. Separating from the city should afford the Arvada Center creative staff more control over the activities, programs and theatrical productions offered there. But it will still receive about $4 million from the city each year – which is about the same as it gets now, Sneed said. So once that happens, it should be a win-win for all.  

    10 PerspectivesAnd who is Lynne Collins? She was first brought to Colorado by Sneed when he ran the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Her credits there include Noises Off (2012), Romeo and Juliet (2011), Macbeth (2008) and All’s Well That Ends Well (2007). (Her proudest achievement: R&J, she says.) Since 1990, Collins has been an Affiliate Artist and resident director with the Foothill Theatre Company in Nevada City, Calif., where her directing credits have included Oleanna, The Glass Menagerie and Dancing at Lughnasa. Other theatres include The Western Stage in Salinas, Calif., Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and the Sierra Shakespeare Festival. She steered a bilingual A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring actors from the Maxim Gorky Theatre in Vladivostok, Russia. She studied at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, HB Studio in New York and with Stella Adler. She holds an M.A. from San Francisco State University.

    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. 

    Subscription packages range in price from $120 to $318
    To buy, call 720-898-7200, go to 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., or online at www.arvadacenter.org/subscribe

    Note: Single tickets go on sale Monday, Aug. 1.

    Sept. 9-Oct. 2: Sister Act, Directed by Rod A. Lansberry
    By Alan Menken, Glenn Slater, Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane

    Nov. 18-Dec. 23: I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Directed by Gavin Mayer
    By David Nehls

    March 24-April 16, 2017: Jesus Christ Superstar, Directed by Rod A. Lansberry
    By Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Sept. 30-Nov. 6: Tartuffe, Directed by Lynne Collins
    By Molière, translated by Richard Wilbur

    Feb. 24-May 14, 2017: Bus Stop, Directed by Allison Watrous
    By William Inge

    March 17-May 21, 2017: The Drowning Girls, Directed by Lynne Collins
    By Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic

    April 21-May 20, 2017: Waiting for Godot, Directed by Geoffrey Kent
    By Samuel Beckett

    For individual play descriptions, click here

  • Colorado theatre loses Brenda Billings: 'A warrior of acceptance'

    by John Moore | Apr 13, 2016
    Brenda BillingsJust a small part of the Billings family, back row: Jim Billings, Brenda Billings, Jacquie Jo Billings, Jessica Billings Barnette (holding Liam Paul Barnette), Jamie Billings. Front row: Cody Schuyler, Brady Billings, Will Barnette.

    Brenda Billings had her future husband at “I did.”

    It was 1977, and Jim Billings was directing a musical revue for his University of Kansas fraternity. The theme: "Broadway Bound," naturally. He walked into the Pi Phi sorority, where a stranger named Brenda Worley was assigned to be his Musical Director. "Here is this beautiful brunette playing at the piano," Billings said, "and I said to her, ‘Wow. I have never heard that song. Who wrote it?"

    "I did," she said.

    Brenda Billings Jim was a goner.

    Later that same day, Brenda and her friends were laughing as Brenda passed Jim an old photo showing a boy of about 4 years old standing in front of a house. Jim's first reaction? "That looks just like the house where I grew up in Colorado." And then it hit him: "That IS me!" he said. "How did you get that picture of me?"

    Brenda got that picture from her mother, Ruthie Barker. Turns out the mothers of these destined lovers had been sorority sisters at that same Pi Phi house in Kansas decades before. "Ruthie had given Brenda that picture and told her, 'If you ever meet a guy named Jim Billings at college, you can show him this picture.’ "

    Jim and Brenda Billings would soon start not only one of Denver’s most accomplished and beloved theatre families. Together, they have built an extended family that has come to include hundreds of honorary Billings.

    “Our home came to be known as ‘The Gathering Place,’ ” Jim Billings said. “Our children's friends always knew they were welcome at our house, and they always knew they were safe. They knew they could spend the night. And they knew they could talk to us about anything.”

    His mother, Brady Billings said, "was a warrior of acceptance."

    She was also the co-Artistic Director at Miners Alley Playhouse, President of the Denver Actors Fund and a longtime contributor to Colorado’s non-profit community.

    Brenda Billings died tonight of complications from a sudden and catastrophic brain hemorrhage that triggered while she was doing what she loves most – conducting auditions for Miners Alley Playhouse’s upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors. She was 57.

    “From stage management and directing to acting, dancing and singing – I am most at home in the theatre,” Billings said last July, when she accepted the presidency of the Denver Actors Fund.

    And so, in a very real way, Billings died at home.

    Brenda BillingsBrenda Billings in rehearsal at Miners Alley Playhouse.

    Brenda and Jim Billings have four grown children: Jessica, Jacquie Jo, Jamie and Brady. Jacquie Jo won a 2014 True West Award for her performance in The Fantasticks, directed by her mother. Jamie Billings performed in the national touring production of Spring Awakening and went on to study direction in London – at her mother’s suggestion. Jessica is a registered nurse, and Brady recently graduated from Marymount Manhattan College. Billings’ brother, Tag, remains a highly sought drummer in the local theatre community. He is married to choreographer Alann Worley. Jim and Brenda Billings have one grandchild, Liam, to daughter Jessica and Will Barnette. The 2-year-old called his grandmother “Baba,” but he wasn’t the only one with an endearing nickname for Brenda.

    See our photo coverage of the Brenda Billings life celebration

    Longtime director Paul Dwyer considered Brenda a sister he took to calling “Brenda Sue Joe Bob” – purely out of love and affection, he said.

    “All she cared about was her family,'' Dwyer said. “And she loved the fact that her family loved the theatre, too. Nothing made her happier than seeing her family doing shows.”

    You Cant Take It With You Theatre Listings Miners Alley PlayhouseShows like Miners Alley Playhouse’s currently running classic comedy You Can’t Take it With You, which will continue through May 1 with daughter Jacquie Jo and her fiancé, Cody Schulyer, among the cast. It even has Jim playing a J-Man at select performances. The production was directed by Jamie Billings, who has returned from London, where she was assisting on a touring production of Hamlet, Who’s There? She has decided to stay home and honor her mother by directing the upcoming Little Shop of Horrors in her place.

    “I think that’s the right thing for me to do,” Jamie said. And a gesture that completes a poignant family circle. It was Brenda who stepped up to direct Hair for the Evergreen Players when her father, the legendary PK Worley, passed away in 2011.

    Tony Award-winner Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots) grew up in and around the Billings family. Like hundreds of others, she was still reeling from the suddenness of the loss.

    Billings lost consciousness at her theatre in Golden and was immediately transported to St. Anthony’s Hospital, where doctors determined a burst vessel had instantly cut off all blood flow to her brain. But Billings’ spirit of giving will continue far beyond her death. She was a full organ and tissue donor, and doctors estimate she will live on in as many as 50 recipients of her kidney, liver, skin, ligaments and more. Her corneas will make it possible for two separate recipients to see again.

    Annaleigh Ashford quoteAshford, who appears on Showtime’s Masters of Sex and will be featured in Fox TV’s upcoming Rocky Horror Picture Show, said her mind immediately went to a verse from Proverbs that she believes describes Billings perfectly: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

    “One of her greatest gifts on this Earth was watching over all of us,” Ashford said. “Only an incredible woman like Brenda could be the matriarch of such a magical group of people I consider family. Her guidance, humor, creativity and love, along with her equally incredible husband, created four beautiful humans who all give to this world more than they take. Her passion for storytelling and art is carried on through all of us who were lucky enough to call her friend. I am blessed and happy to be one of them.”

    Billings was born Sept. 27, 1958, and grew up in a Kansas theatre founded by PK Worley, who came to be known in Colorado as a musician and director with the Evergreen Players. Brenda graduated with a degree in Speech and Drama from the University of Kansas and moved to Colorado in 1983 to marry Jim Billings. Her brother  and father soon followed. That began a long family association between the Worleys and the Evergreen Players, Evergreen Chorale, Colorado Childrens Chorale and other local theatres. In 2013, Brenda Billings and Len Matheo became co-artistic and executive directors of Miners Alley Playhouse.

    “She was as special as her father was - and that is saying something,” said actor Bruce Montgomery, Billings’ longtime friend from her days with the Evergreen Players.

    Deborah Persoff, who recently starred in 4000 Miles at Miners Alley Playhouse, says she recently asked Billings’ advice about navigating the theatre's dark entranceways. “She told me: ‘Do like PK always said: Be Brave.’ ”

    Matheo considered Billings his “work wife.” “It had to be fate that I found a partner who knew about the business of theatre but also was a serious and loving artist herself,” he said. “I thought it was a match made in heaven.”

    Matheo says Billings made him a kinder, gentler person - and a better director. “One of her principles was that we would always put people first, and that we would make an effort to help these people grow as artists,” Matheo said. Toward that end, Miners Alley Playhouse instituted a pay scale that guarantees all actors a minimum stipend of $800 per show, compared to similarly sized companies that often don’t pay actors much more than gas money. "And equal pay for women," Jamie added.

    “Believe me, we weren’t making money, but that was not the most important thing to Brenda,” Jim Billings said. “Our mission is for all of our actors to feel loved and accepted and valued."

    They did it, Matheo said, “because it was the right thing to do.”

    ​Billings’ recent directing credits include Pump Boys and Dinettes, Godspell, The Fantasticks and Songs for a New World at Miners Alley Playhouse, as well as the critically acclaimed and award-winning Hairspray for the Evergreen Players.

    Daughter Jacquie Jo has been there for almost all of them. She said an everlasting memory will be a poignant moment in The Fantasticks when, each night, Jacquie Jo's character sits i a tree and kisses the ribbon that covers where El Gallo had given her a bruise.

    Every night I knew exactly the spot where my mother would be standing in the darkened aisleway watching," Jacquie Jo. "Every time I kissed that ribbon, I would look over at her, knowing that she would be there." 

    Brenda Billings
    Brenda Billings at 'Miscast,' a benefit for the Denver Actors Fund, with nephew Tucker Worley, brother Tag Worley and, front, daughter Jacquie Jo Billings. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Shawn Hann, Director of Theatre at Denver School of the Arts and a single mother, said Brenda stood by her as she adopted her daughter, Tihun, from Africa. She cited late-night texts, emergency babysitting and “general mother magic.”

    “She shaped how I mother,” said Hann. “She changed me as a woman, as an artist, a director and a teacher. And I am just one in the bucket of thousands Brenda went the extra mile for. The hole that is left in our Denver theatre community is massive.”

    Brenda and Jim Billings were steadfast supporters of the Denver Actors Fund from its inception in June 2013. The start-up non-profit provides money and neighborly services to members of the local theatre community in situational medical need. Billings not only infused the grassroots volunteers’ efforts with energy, clout and smarts, Brenda and Jim remain its largest individual donors.

    In just the 10 months Billings has served as President, the Denver Actors Fund has generated more than $41,000. She was instrumental in securing the Denver Actors Fund’s eligibility to participate in Colorado Gives Day, which raised about $11,000 for the nonprofit in a single day. “This unique and vital organization is making such an important difference in the lives of the Denver theatre community,” she said when she was appointed.

    Daughter Jessica said the pairing "was the most perfect thing because, of course, the Denver Actors Fund encompassed her passion for theatre - but it also encompasses her other passion of wanting to take care of people."

    Billings has served on the Board of Directors for many nonprofits in the Denver area. Her longest tenure was with the Colorado Children’s Chorale. She spearheaded their fundraising efforts for more than 10 years and was instrumental in their overall financial success. She also has been active in fundraising for the Denver School of the Arts and The Evergreen Players.

    While Billings' place in local theatre history is evident, Jacci Geiger will remember her best friend as a proudly, ferociously free spirit. The two were “a pair of perpetual 17-year-olds," Geiger said.

    When Brenda discovered that Jamie and her high-school friends had never toiled-papered a house, "she was appalled," Jamie said. "She told us, 'We're going T.P.-ing right now!' ”

    One of Jamie’s friends was Jenna Moll Reyes, who recently performed in 4000 Miles at Miners Alley Playhouse. Reyes said Brenda immediately rallied the group into the nearest grocery store, where her practical side kicked in: "She told the kids: 'Don't get two-ply. It's expensive,' " Geiger said with a laugh.

    "So we bought a ton of toilet paper and we ended up T.P.-ing the houses of some of our closest friends," Reyes said. Brenda loved that the teens got to experience that first thrill of running away as house lights turned on, and jumping into moving cars to keep from being caught.

    "We were in tears from laughing so hard," Reyes said. "Memories like that truly speak to her heart. She was playful, she was ambitious, passionate, courageous, genuine, generous beyond words, and timeless."

    Said Geiger: "I don't know if I will have anybody else who will do these really inappropriate things with me anymore."

    Brenda Billings
    Jim and Brenda Billings, left, with "A Tuna Christmas" actor Seth Maisel, Elizabeth Scott-McKean and Jonathan Scott-McKean at a Miners Alley Playhouse fundraiser for The Denver Actors Fund.

    Billings was clearly not a typical mother. She was a bleeding-heart liberal, son Brady says, and she was passionate about justice and fairness in the world.

    She was also passionate about the Denver Broncos - and dinner time. Even if dinner came at 10 o'clock at night, Brenda insisted the family gather around the table and eat together – most often fried rice and French fries. "She would have us go around the table every night and say our highs and our lows for the day," Jessica said.

    She was open-minded and curious about all kinds of art. So much so that she regularly watched Game of Thrones with her youngest child. "My friends are like, 'You watch Game of Thrones with your mom? The show where they have sex and decapitate people?' " Brady said. "And I'm like, 'Yeah. She loves it.' "

    He remembers watching Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds with his mother. He left thinking how brutal and violent the film was. "And mom was like, 'That was so awesome!' " he said with a laugh. "She loved it all."

    Brenda Billings quoteBillings did not ascribe to any organized religion. "Her religion was unconditional love," Jamie said. "That was her No. 1 thing."

    She demonstrated that belief hundreds of times, but perhaps never more poignantly than when she came across a young gay actor in the production she was directing of Hair. He was being ostracized by his strict Mormon family. Brenda took him to Geiger. “She told me, 'Jacci, you have got to meet this kid. He is amazing and he needs love.’ So we took him to the Pride parade. Over time, I think I got him out of some dark spots. And eventually I even got his mother to a PFLAG meeting. None of that would have happened without Brenda.”

    Billings was also known for unending conversations. Ashford said whenever she made plans to see Billings, “I always made sure I added an extra hour in the calendar." Ashford will always remember their last (elongated) meeting fondly. It was in New York, where Ashford recently starred in Broadway’s Sylvia.

    “We had brunch before Brenda and Jim saw a Sunday matinee of Hamilton, and they shared with me all the happenings of the Billings clan as well as the art they were creating in their beautiful theatre in Golden. We talked for so long that I had to run to my half hour just to make it in time as they hugged me and walked to their theatre. 

    “I shared with them a special secret of mine, and we left knowing we would see each other soon, just the way that friends that feel like family do. I believe I will still see my dear friend.  She is with us and all around us sharing her beautiful light and love and continuing to give us her blessings as an artist, a wife, and most of all a momma.” 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Perhaps the greatest irony of her too-short life? "She was always – always – the last to leave a party," said Geiger. "She was known for saying goodbye at least eight times." 

    And now she leaves an extended family in deep shock and grappling to understand why, of all parties, Billings had to leave this one early.

    She is also survived by mother Ruthie Barker and stepfather Bob Barker of Kansas; nephews Tucker Worley of New York and Dylan Worley of Florida; and future son-in-law Cody Schuyler.

    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. He is also founder and Executive Director of the Denver Actors Fund.

    Brenda Billings life celebration
    A celebration of Brenda Billings’ life was held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at Denver School of the Arts.

    An evening of songs honoring Brenda Billings, as performed by returning actors from musicals she directed, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at the downtown Hard Rock Cafe. BUY TICKETS

    Memorial contributions
    In lieu of flowers, the family is recommending donation to Miners Alley Playhouse or The Denver Actors Fund, either online or by mail at :

    Miners Alley Playhouse
    1224 Washington Ave.
    Golden, CO80401

    Denver Actors Fund
    4594 Osceola St.
    Denver, CO 80212

  • Sweet & Lucky: Casting announced; tickets onsale

    by NewsCenter Staff | Apr 13, 2016

    By Hope Grandon

    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The DCPA's Off-Center has announced full casting for its upcoming off-site immersive experience Sweet & Lucky, a commission by Brooklyn-based Third Rail Projects. The show is scheduled to begin previews May 17.

    Sweet & Lucky’s ensemble will include the following Denver-based performers:

    • Diana Dresser
    • Colby Foss
    • Ondine Geary
    • Meridith C. Grundei
    • Leigh Miller
    • Patrick Mueller
    • Tara Rynders
    • Mackenzie Sherburne
    • Justin Walvoord
    • Edith Weiss
    • Ryan Wuestewald
    • Amanda Berg Wilson

    They will be joined by Lia Bonfilio of Third Rail Projects.

    Sweet & Lucky continues Off-Center’s tradition of creating inventive and engaging programming that upends tradition,” said Scott Shiller, DCPA President and CEO "We are honored to be collaborating with Third Rail Projects and Williams & Graham, both innovators in their fields, to bring the world premiere of this truly unique experience to Denver.”

    Read our interview with co-creator and Denver native Zach Morris

    This two-hour performance takes place in a sprawling 16,000-square-foot warehouse owned by Westfield Company on Brighton Boulevard. Audiences will step into a mysterious antique store where nothing is for sale, follow performers through intricately designed environments, into intimate engagements, and witness a series of seductive and haunting flashbacks. It's a 360-degree experience that uses all five senses to evoke the power and fragility of memories. Dive deeper into the story by exploring the props and scenery firsthand, and enjoy specialty cocktails before and after the show crafted by award-winning mixologist Sean Kenyon at a pop up version of Kenyon’s Williams & Graham.

    Tickets are now available. BUY ONLINE 

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

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweet & Lucky:

    Zach Morris is home to seize the cultural moment
    DCPA to create new immersive theatre piece with Third Rail Projects
    Kickstarter campaign allows audience to dive deeper
    Kickstarter home page
  • Workshop: Agent Patty Kingsbaker on teaching actors about business

    by John Moore | Apr 13, 2016

    Patty Kingsbaker
    Patty Kingsbaker with her actor son, Michael Kingsbaker, at the Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards. Michael Kingsbaker just starred in "Sex With Strangers" at Curious Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    As a longtime casting director, producer and talent agent, it is Patty Kingsbaker’s job to find work for Colorado actors. If they don’t get paid, she is fond of saying, “then I don’t get paid."

    Kingsbaker, co-owner of Radical Artists Agency, has seen an astonishing array of talent in the Colorado acting community over the past 30 years. That’s why she is continually surprised to see how ill-prepared actors both young and veteran can be for the scarier, business side of the industry.

    “As a whole, most actors never think about the business of acting, or what they are doing to sabotage themselves,” said Kingsbaker, who, appropriately enough for her career path, grew up around the boxing rings of Miami.

    Eliminating common mistakes is one theme of a three-hour seminar Kingsbaker will be conducting April 27 through DCPA Education called “The Business of Acting: How to Build Your Opportunities and Career.” Topics will include resumés, networking, agent, and where you can improve your chances at being seen for a role.

    We talked to Kingsbaker about her career, and her upcoming workshop at the Denver Center.

    Register for Patty Kingsbaker's April 27 workshop at the DCPA

    John Moore: Tell us about the origin of Radical Artists Agency

    Patty Kingsbaker: I returned to Denver in 1995 after three years in L.A. and a yearlong sabbatical in Crested Butte. The plan was to head back to L.A. and join forces with a friend who had just opened his own agency. Someone from the DCPA heard I was in town and asked if I would sit on a panel for them. Kathey True, who was with another agency at the time, was also on the panel. After the panel a group of us went out, and that is when Kathey asked me if I would ever come back to Denver as an agent and I said no; not unless it was my own agency. Three months later, we opened Radical Artists Agency.

    John Moore: Give us an overview of what your company does.

    Patty Kingsbaker: We represent actors and voice talent for work in film, television, commercials and industrials.

    Patty Kingsbaker 1

    Clockwise from top left: Patty Kingsbaker clients Billie McBride, Melissa Benoist, Leslie O'Carroll and John Ashton.

    John Moore: Tell us a few success stories.

    Patty Kingsbaker: We’ve had actors on all the major shows out of New Mexico. Kathleen M. Brady, Leslie O’Carroll, John Ashton, Jefferson Arca and Kurt Soderstrum were all on Breaking Bad at a time when actors out of L.A. couldn’t even get an audition. But I’m probably most proud of Billie McBride being cast in three separate film and television projects when they originally wanted a male for the roles, and I fought to get her seen. (Honestly: Why does a judge or school principal have to be male?) I also helped Melissa Benoist (CBS’ Supergirl) get her first film role in the Lee Daniels’ film Tennessee. And I facilitated a meeting with her first agent in New York.

    John Moore: So explain how this works: A client company that is filming, say, a TV commercial calls you up and gives you a character breakdown, and says you can send three of your actors to the audition. Pick up the story from there: How do you choose your three clients? And what do you say to your clients who don’t get chosen? And do you get paid if your actor doesn’t get picked?

    Patty Kingsbaker: I can spend days setting up an audition between e-mails, phone calls, distributing scripts, answering questions, rearranging call times and more. I’m usually working on multiple jobs at the same time. I have to make some tough calls about who gets the audition, but I’m going to send in the actors I believe have the best shot at that project, and I feel completely justified making that call. It’s a business decision, and that is what this seminar is all about: The business of acting.

    John Moore: You find screen work for actors, many of whom you discover performing in local live theatre productions. What do you look for in an actor you want to sign?

    Patty Kingsbaker: I look for different things. Talent goes without saying, but sometimes it’s just a great commercial vibe. This is a commercial market, so some of my best actors don’t work a lot because they don’t fit into a commercial or corporate world.

    Patty Kingsbaker quoteJohn Moore: What is the biggest mistake actors make when trying to land an agent?

    Patty Kingsbaker: Not being prepared with the right tools for their trade. I’m going to cover this in the seminar.

    John Moore: What is the biggest mistake actors make when trying to keep an agent?

    Patty Kingsbaker: When we sign an actor, we commit to the relationship for the long haul. I have dropped actors because they did something unprofessional, or they haven’t provided me with the tools I need to market them. The other issue I have is that they don’t get back to me in a timely manner. I don’t have time to chase after actors and I made a decision when we opened Radical that I wouldn’t work harder for an actor than they are willing to work for themselves.

    John Moore: What makes an actor better-suited for the stage as opposed to the screen? And do you try to steer them into a specialty?

    Patty Kingsbaker: I personally don’t believe actors are better suited for stage or screen. Years ago, when I was building my business with theatre actors, producers would tell me they didn’t want to see theatre actors because they were too “big” in their acting. I explained that they had been seeing bad actors, not theatre actors. A good actor can adjust to the medium, an inexperienced actor cannot - and I stand behind that to this day.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: Everyone wants to be a star. What do you find actors are least likely to do in order to make that happen?

    Patty Kingsbaker: If they tell me they want to be a star, I tell them to find another career. If an actor can’t imagine anything else in this life that would make them happy; if they need to perform and they’re always working on their craft - which is a lifelong pursuit for an actor - they might have a shot at making a living. Then, if they get a break and get to make big money, it’s about doing what they love - not being a star.

    John Moore: For some actors, the goal is to get to New York or L.A. As an agent based in Denver, is your job to help them to get there? Or to convince them to stay? 

    Patty Kingsbaker: The big opportunities are in New York and Los Angeles. Some are ready for that leap and some are not. I’ve pushed some actors out of this market and I’ve told others they aren’t ready - and they usually go anyway. I’m always trying to prepare younger actors for bigger markets. But they need to be grounded in who they are, what they want and understand that this is a business.

    John Moore: For other actors, the goal is to stay in Denver, raise a family and do as much fulfilling professional work as an actor as they can along the way. But is there enough film, TV and commercial work for an actor to make a living in Denver? 

    Patty Kingsbaker: I have actors who make a living here - some who make an extremely good living. Most of them do multiple things like theatre, teach, voiceover work and on-camera work. But they’re committed to this business and have arranged their lives so that they don’t miss opportunities when they come up. Others have full-time jobs and aren’t always available, but they understand that is the choice they’ve made. Our top-grossing guy was in radio, but he decided to make the leap into full-time voice work. He started Skyping with Los Angeles and then New York coaches. It put him into a whole other category, and he is now doing national work on a daily basis. The biggest problem with Denver actors is they stop studying their craft.

    John Moore: Give us a brief overview of what you will be covering during your three-hour seminar at the Denver Center on April 27?

    Patty Kingsbaker: I’ll be speaking about training, headshots and resumes. These are an actor’s biggest marketing tools, and most fail at getting them right. I will also discuss casting websites - what to avoid and why. I’ll touch on what you need before to go to a larger market, and of course how to get and keep an agent here in Colorado. I will also discuss industry etiquette, which should be common sense, but unfortunately from my experience, is not. And I’ll probably throw in a few war stories along the way.

    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.


    Patty Kingsbaker: Career at a glance

    • Began as a casting director in Denver
    • In the late ‘80s, became a producer for Grad Films in Phoenix
    • Returned to Denver in 1991 and began career as a Talent Agent, building one of the strongest talent divisions in Colorado over the next 10 years
    • In 2001, became Talent Producer for Wild Jams Productions at FOX Television in Los Angeles
    • Returned to Denver in 2005 and opened Radical Artists Agency, where she currently represents the top echelon of Denver actors and voice talent for work in film, television, voice-over, corporate industrials and commercials

    The Business of Acting: How to Build your Opportunities and Career

    One session • $60 • Three-hour class time
    Wednesday, April 27 • 6:30-9:30 p.m. • Conducted by Patty Kingsbaker

    Information: 303-893-4100 or REGISTER

    Course description
    : Becoming a successful actor takes a serious review of your approach to the business side of your career. You’ll take a look at your resumé, networking, agent, and how immersed you are in the market to determine where you can improve your chances at being seen for a role and landing your next job. Patty Kingsbaker, Partner and Agent at Radical Artists Agency, will share her knowledge and insights stemming from a 30-year career as a casting director, producer and talent agent. Topics will include getting prepared for the business side of acting, finding an agent, how to choose casting sites, and how to build your career as a working actor. If you plan to stay in this market or move to a larger one, this evening is a must.

  • DCPA expands partnership with DPS Shakespeare Festival

    by John Moore | Apr 12, 2016

    The 2015 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival drew more than 5,000 students from 70 schools in grades kindergarten through high school who performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Check out these video highlights from DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    By Suzanne Yoe
    For the DCPA Newscenter

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is expanding its involvement in the 2016 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival. Held Friday, April 29, at the downtown Denver Performing Arts Complex, the 32-year-old festival now will be a co-production of the DCPA, Denver Public Schools and the Denver Public Schools Foundation.

    To complement the day, the DCPA invites students, parents, educators, residents and the downtown Denver business community to its all-new “Shakespeare After-Fest.” The community is invited to sample a variety of Shakespearean acts, scenes and vignettes accompanied by live music and on-site painting — all for free.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival Under the leadership of President & CEO Scott Shiller, the DCPA’s expanded role will serve teachers and students in all 80 participating schools through in-school workshops, professional development, audition adjudication, and financial support — both in-kind and through fundraising — to produce the event. Under the leadership of Acting Superintendent Susana Cordova, DPS’ Arts and Physical Education Department will align all activities with the Colorado State Standards, provide professional development opportunities to participating educators, solicit school participation and manage logistical coordination of both the audition process and the Festival itself.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival“The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is delighted to be a co-producer of the nation’s largest youth Shakespeare Festival,” said Shiller. “We know that children who are exposed to a live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree, so we are more than tripling our in-school workshops in order to ignite a passion for theatre in as many students as possible.”

    “The DPS Shakespeare Festival is an opportunity for 5,000 K-12 students to perform scenes from the works of William Shakespeare,” said Karen Radman, Interim President and CEO of the DPS Foundation. “These students will fill every inch of the Arts Complex with dance, singing and music of Shakespeare’s time. We’re delighted to welcome the community to this free celebration.”

    “The DPS Shakespeare Festival has been a centerpiece of our commitment to arts integration throughout the District,” said Susana Cordova, Acting Superintendent of Denver Public Schools. “The event is open to children of all backgrounds and uses literacy and the creative arts to boost student achievement and develop critical thinking. Plus, it’s just fun!”

    2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos from the 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival. To see more, click the arrow on the photo above to page through the full gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    In an effort to encourage connections between downtown businesses and residents with the Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is launching an all-new Shakespeare After-Fest.

    Held from 4-7pm throughout the open-air Galleria at the Arts Complex, this free event will include a string quartet featuring Tom Hagerman (DeVotchKa, DCPA Theatre Company’s Sweeney Todd); live, on-site canvas painting of Shakespearean-inspired art; scenes from Romeo and Juliet by the DCPA’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, and performances by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Cult Following, The Catamounts, Stories on Stage, Black Actors’ Guild and Phamaly Theatre Company, among other arts groups. Shakespeare After-Fest is supported by the Downtown Theatre District.


    10 a.m.: Opening Ceremonies in Skyline Park at 15th & Arapahoe streets

    10:15 a.m.: Elizabethan Parade down 16th Street and Curtis streets

    10:45 a.m.: Student Performances begin on more than 18 stages at the Arts Complex

    Noon: Challenge Bowl school competition begins and student performances continue

    4-7 p.m.: Shakespeare After-Fest, open-air Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex

    • 4 p.m.: Quartet performance (Tom Hagerman of DeVotchka) outside The Ellie
    • 4:15 p.m.: Shakespearean-inspired painting begins throughout the Galleria
    • 5 p.m.: Scenes from Shakespeare are performed outside the Bonfils Theatre Complex
    • 7 p.m.: Festival concludes

    For information on the DPS Shakespeare Festival, visit shakespeare.dpsk12.org
    For information about the Shakespeare After-Fest, visit denvercenter.org/after-fest

    NewsCenter coverage of the DPS Shakespeare Festival:

    DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner
    Photos: 2014 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival


  • Perspectives: 5 things we learned about 'Sweeney Todd' (like use a dull blade)

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2016
    Sweeney Todd Perspectives'Sweeney Todd' Perspectives conversation on April 8 in the Conservatory Theatre, from left: Choreographer Joel Ferrell, musical director Gregg Coffin, Director Kent Thompson, Actor Kevin McGuire (Judge Turpin) and Actor Samantha Bruce (Johanna). Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Perspectives is a series of free conversations with cast and creatives that take place on the evening of each production's first preview performance. The DCPA Theatre Company already has garnered enormous advance attention for its upcoming production of Sweeney Todd opening Friday (April 15), in part because of its collaboration with the band DeVotchKa on a new arrangement of Stephen Sondheim's classic score about the vengeful barber who teams up with a macabre baker to turn their customers into meat pies. Director Kent Thompson talked about how the DeVotchKa dots got connected. But the wide-ranging conversation unearthed a few other gems as well. Here’s some of what we learned. (This Perspectives panel was hosted by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.)

    1 Perspectives Sweeney Todd Persepctives QuoteWhat in the world just happened in New Zealand, and how is that not possible to happen here? Students at a private high school in Auckland, New Zealand, were determined to make their production of Sweeney Todd as realistic as possible. So real that two 16-year-old students’ necks were cut with a prop knife during last week's opening performance. Both were hospitalized, one with serious injuries.

    How does something like that happen? "I'll tell you how," said Thompson: You're really stupid. I will say this is a challenging show, because you've got to make it credible - but I can't imagine why you would use a real razor in a high-school production. The razors you will see in our show are real, but they have been significantly dulled. One thing you have to be careful about is the strap that Sweeney uses, because you can actually be sharpening the blade on it. But we check that every night. Also our Fight Director, Geoff Kent, is constantly making sure that we're not making actual contact with the skin.

    "I just think someone in New Zealand had a very unwise thought. It's like somebody saying, 'Oh, I'll bring my pistol in and we can shoot blanks.' You'll see a gun in our show, but it's a gun that can never fire a real bullet. It would actually fall apart if you even tried."

    Thompson has his own question when he heard about the New Zealand accident: "After the first child got cut ... " 

    He didn't even have to finish his thought.

    2 Perspectives Samantha Bruce Sweeney ToddThose actors playing Anthony and Johanna have fantastic chemistry. And so they should. Samantha Bruce and Daniel Berryman played the young lovers together in The Fantasticks off-Broadway for a year. "We didn't know that when we cast them," Thompson insists, to which Bruce joked: "Which is astounding to me. We didn't even know were were both auditioning for this show until my final callback. Daniel walked out of the room and it was like, 'Oh. Hi!' "

    Thompson quipped: "I couldn't understand how they had such great chemistry from the very first day of rehearsal. I just thought it was brilliant casting - and it is."

    "Just not that brilliant," he added with a laugh. 

    3 Perspectives

    DeVotchKa with 'Sweeney Todd' Conductor Erik Daniells. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. DeVotchKa: So whose idea was that, anyway? "Emily Tarquin, who is our coordinator for the Colorado New Play Summit and one of the two people who run Off-Center at the Jones, came up with the idea of DeVotchKa," Thompson said. "She said, 'Wouldn't that be cool?' And so I thought about it for a day - because I didn't want to give away what a brilliant idea I thought it was right away. I went back and listened to their music again. I had seen Shawn King here several times because he loves to come to the theatre, and Tom Hagerman had done some collaborating with Off-Center. So we approached them and asked if they were interested, and they said yes. The loved the idea. They love Sweeney Todd. They love the Denver Center. But they had no idea what they were getting into. This is Steven Sondheim, and it's one of the most complex scores in all of musical theatre. But I think they are having a great time." 

    Getting Sondheim's permission was not as difficult as one might think. "Most musical theatre composers, living or dead, are resistant to anyone doing anything with their original arrangements and orchestrations," Thompson said. "But Mr. Sondheim is very different. He loves experimentation. You still have to honor the melodic structure, but there is a progressive-grunge version that was just done in Texas, and of course in 2005 there was the 10-character Broadway version with Patti Lupone where she was playing the tuba onstage."

    4 PerspectivesSweeney Todd Perspectives There not only will be blood - there will be lots and lots of blood. So how are those gorgeous Victorian costumes created by Kevin Copenhaver supposed to survive being splattered eight times a week? "You have to have the best blood mixture in the world," Thompson said. "There are lots of ways of doing blood. There are commercial bloods you can buy for theatrical performance, for example. But we have found over time that if you want the right viscosity and the right look, you have to create your own. Then you can change the thickness of it, and the color if you need to. And as for protecting the costumes, it's about planning ahead about what will costumes get blood on them. Over the past few days, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to control the splatter so if someone gets their throat slit, the blood doesn't jump out 20 feet and fall through the floor below."

    5 Perspectives About that iconic barber chair. It's not giving anything away to say that a significant set piece is Sweeney's barber's chair. He is the Demon Barber, after all. The chair used here was built from scratch by the DCPA Props Department to to support the unique needs of  this production. 

    "Sweeney Todd moves really fast from scene to scene, and it has a lot of technical elements," Thompson said. "One of them being the barber chair where some unfortunate things happen and people ... disappear quickly.

    "It's quite a bit of technology, and it takes a lot of practice. I mean think about this:  Robert Petkoff (the actor who plays Sweeney) is singing this very complicated music while putting this barber sheet on, while moving this chair around, while unlocking the mechanisms that keep the actors safe, and - in coordination with the stage manager - opening the chute and delivering his victims at the same time. Then re-setting the chair. And then he does it again ... and again ... and again. All while still singing. It's really like watching a complex dance between this incredible piece of technology and this actor. It was our challenge to figure how to do that safely and yet theatrically. It really is special when you watch his victims ... depart the stage. It takes a lot of people you never see.  We have a backstage crew of nine to run the show, which is a lot of people. We have people on automation. We have people checking trap doors. We have people watching as these large units move on and off the stage. And we have a lot of special effects and costume changes going on. It's almost as complicated as Sondheim's music. Not quite ... but that makes it even more thrilling."    

    Extras (because Sweeney Todd is all about being insatiable):

    6 PerspectivesMusic Director Gregg Coffin says the orchestra each night is made up of nine members - Conductor Erk Daniells, DeVotchka members Shawn King, Jeanie Schroder and Tom Hagerman, and five backing musicians. They play nearly 40 instruments. We asked Coffin to name one we probably never have heard of. He mentioned the bandoneon. "It's a concertina squeeze box that looks like an accordion," Coffin said. "If you have seen Pinocchio, its what Geppetto plays." 

    7 PerspectivesAnd finally: Thoughts on doing the 37-year-old musical today, with so much violence both real and rhetorical happening in the world. The panel was asked how the tone of the piece differs now than when it debuted in 1979. 

    Kent Thompson: "In the initial production, which I saw, there were people who were just horrified by the slitting of the throats and the people going down the chute. Over time, that's become more of an "applause" moment, which is an indication of how our world has changed. I think it is scarier in some ways now. Some people are corrupt but powerful in this world, and some people have had their lives shattered by the corruption of the system. That's Sweeney."

    Actor Kevin McGuire: "Revenge is always the motivation when we do something horrible to someone else: This person has done something horrible to you, or to someone you love. So we take our revenge. But this global revenge that we seem to have going on today is what makes it more scary to me."

    Choreographer Joel Farrell: "For the last three years in this country, we have been having this ongoing conversation about "why is there so much violence?" It seems to happen in poverty-stricken, demoralized, disenfranchised neighborhoods more than it happens elsewhere. And I don't think that's arbitrary."  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sweeney Todd: Ticket information

  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • Through May 15 (opens April 15)
  • StageTheatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that's 'loud and proud'
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    ​Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick
  • Master class culminates with 'An Ideal Husband' performances

    by Olivia Jansen | Apr 11, 2016
    DCPA Education's 'An Ideal Husband'

    Backstage photos from the opening performance of DCPA Education's 'An Ideal Husband.' To see more, just flick the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Olivia Jansen for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The curtain rose to reveal a teacher, a headhunter, an engineer and a freelance writer. But these weren’t characters in the story about to be told. They are among the occupations the student performers work by day.

    Tonight, they each assumed the role of actor. This was the culmination of five weeks enrolled in a DCPA Education master class, learning and rehearsing for their opening night of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband.

    An Ideal Husband Kate Gleason quote While some of the students have been taking acting classes for years and harbor dreams of getting cast in larger shows around town, others enrolled simply for the fun of it.

    “I’ve always loved acting, and have wanted to do it since I was little,” said Bev Berry, who has been taking classes with the DCPA for a year. “Now that I’m an empty-nester and my kids are grown and gone, I decided to go back and do it for fun.”

    Master classes are the highest level offered by DCPA Education, which serves about 80,000 students of all ages every year, offering a widely varying curriculum. But students must demonstrate prior acting experience (or have been enrolled in two previous Education classes or workshops) before they can audition for the master class.

    Students chosen to participate in masters classes automatically receive full scholarships from the Lewis Myers Scholarship Fund through The Denver Foundation, so they do not have to pay to play.

    This semester's cast included a melting pot of actors ranging from a college student to a grandmother, with varying skill levels and experience.

    Teacher and director Kate Gleason is a True West Award-winning actor who performed on Broadway in The Pillowman and Noises Off, and was a faculty member at the New York Film Academy. This was the first master class she has taught for the Denver Center. She chose An Ideal Husband because she wanted her students to have the opportunity to explore a period piece.

    An Ideal Husband is an 1895 comedy that centers on blackmail and political corruption. When Sir Robert Chiltern’s fraudulent past is revealed, Lady Chiltern refuses to forgive him because her marriage is hinged on having a model spouse she can worship. The play follows the twists and turns of the next 24 hours as more secrets and schemes are revealed.

    An Ideal Husband. “The class is really about polishing their craft and going a little further than some of the scene study work they’ve done,” Gleason said. “A lot of these students have never been in a full production, so we try to take scene work and class work, and move it into a production experience for them.”

    And an intensive one at that. Each student committed an estimated 90 hours to the project. And that’s time added on to their normal workday schedules. The students went from being handed scripts on the first day to performing entire scenes without a hitch five weeks later. And because An Ideal Husband is set in England, the students also had to pay attention to their accents. They got some help with that from dialect coach Jennifer Thomas. The secret to a flawless English accent? Dropping your jaw more than you’re accustomed to, which drags out certain vowels, she said.

    Through the whole experience, Gleason was like a human remote control, pausing and rewinding scenes, and having her students work through them again. The communication with her actors was constant, and many of them jotted down her advice in their scripts.

    “Kate is so much fun, and you learn a lot from her,” said student Jon Fortmiller, who played Sir Chiltern. “She’s really positive and supportive. She helps you focus on how to improve your craft, and the show.”

    An Ideal Husband After all of their hard work, the students were eager to perform before an audience on March 23. But Mother Nature had other plans. The opening performance was postponed as Denver was being buried in 19 inches of snow.

    The performance the next night at the Conservatory Theatre went smoothly and earned many laughs from the audience. The crowd rewarded the actors with a standing ovation, which Fortmiller joked might have had something to do with the audience being packed with many friends and family.

    “I thought it was great,” Gleason said. “They’re a great group of students and it’s such a supportive environment with so many wonderful resources."

    Summer class enrollment starts Thursday, April 14

    In addition to learning specific skills such as how to "block" a show on a stage and how to properly tie those dreaded corsets, there are some takeaways for the students that can’t be taught. Berry, who is a professional headhunter, said acting isn’t just fun for her. It is mentally engaging.

    “It’s an artistic outlet outside of my job,” added Fortmiller, who is an art teacher at Kent Denver School. “It gives me a social group as well. I’ve been coming to classes here for many years and I’ve made a lot of really close friends who are near and dear to me now.

    "I’m so glad I found this, because it lets me keep acting as part of my life. I love it so much, and I wouldn’t be able to have this kind of fun without it.”

    Enrollment for summer classes begins on Thursday, April 14. The next Master Class Project will be a performance of Leap, by John Yearley, directed by DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken. Auditions will take place May 30 and June 1. The class runs June 6 through July 20 with performances July 21-23. This "shocking comedy" focuses on a handful of people before, during and after the 9/11 attacks. Call 303-446-4892 or email education@dcpa.org to request an audition time. Two previous Education classes or similar experience are required to audition.

    DCPA Education is staffed by a wide variety of Teaching Artists, many of whom are accomplished members of the local acting community. Among those who will be teaching summer classes are Erin Rollman of Buntport Theatre (currently starring in The Rembrandt Room); Anthony Powell (director of DCPA Theatre Company's recent All the Way); Gabriella Cavallero (currently featured in Curious Theatre's Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue); Jeff Roark (currently in DCPA Theatre Company's Sweeney Todd); Cajardo Lindsey (actor in All the Way); Piper Arpan (star of Lone Tree Arts Center's recent pop-music revue Reunion 85); Brian Shea (recently of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ideation) and many more.

    In the meantime, DCPA Education is offering several workshops in April, including an intensive on auditioning for the musical theatre (Diana Dresser, Kate Gleason, Steph Grogan, April 16-17); an intensive weekend on the Meisner acting technique (Christy Montour-Larson, April 16-17); and a seminar on the business of acting hosted by Radical Artists Agency talent agent Patty Kingsbaker (April 27), among mothers. Click here for information, or call 303-446-4892. 

    Click here to see the full summer brochure after it is posted on April 14.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Curtain call for 'An Ideal Husband.' Photo by Olivia Jansen for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    Curtain call for 'An Ideal Husband.' Photo by Olivia Jansen for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    About the Author:

    Olivia JansenDCPA NewsCenter intern Olivia Jansen, right, is a junior at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where she is studying multimedia journalism. She is from Johnsburg, Ill. Among her previous contributions are profiles of actor Karen Slack, actor  Paige Price and DCPA Stage Manager Rachel Ducat. She has also addressed disability with the Phamaly Theatre Company and reported on the DCPA Director of Education's teaching trip to China, among others. She recently launched her first podcast, about live theatregoing trends in Colorado.

    An Ideal Husband: Cast list

    Directed by Kate Gleason
    Mrs. Marchmont: Katie Cross
    Lady Basildon: Bev Berry
    Sir Robert Chiltern: Jon Fortmiller
    Lady Gertrude Chiltern: Julia Owen
    Lady Mabel Chiltern: Alex Wanebo
    Lord Goring: Andrew Dus
    Mrs. Chevely: Jaqueline Garcia
    Lord Caversham: Kevin McGuire
    Lady Markby: Gaynelle Winograd
    Vicomte De Nanjac: Colin Stanley
    Phipps: James Bloom
    Mason: Bryce Doty
    Ensemble: Kelly O'Laughlin
    Ensemble: Genevieve Clough
    Costume Assistant: Tracy Chinchilla
    Assistant Director: Daniel Sharkey
    Technical Director: Stuart Barr
  • 'Sweet & Lucky': Morris is home to seize the cultural moment

    by John Moore | Apr 07, 2016
    Zach Morris is a graduate of Denver's George Washington High School. He recently attended the DCPA Theatre Company's Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore.
    Third Rail Projects co-Artistic Director Zach Morris is a graduate of Denver's George Washington High School. He recently attended the DCPA Theatre Company's Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    “Immersive theatre” sounds like such a New York thing. Perhaps you heard about Sleep No More, a Big Apple sensation that told a dreamlike variation of the Macbeth story in a meatpacking warehouse that had been converted into 90 evocative, seductive and creepy spaces ranging from a speakeasy to a cemetery.

    Immersive theater breaks down the barriers between actors and spectators, letting theatregoers follow new storytelling paths in highly unconventional spaces. As Saturday Night Live’s Stefon might say: Sleep No More was New York’s hottest nightclub, attracting hardcore theatre fans, partying millennials and glitterati from the fashion world who would pull up in limousines for midnight performances. All so very New York.

    A Zach Morris QuoteBut one of the nation’s leading practitioners of this emerging performance art form is a New Yorker who grew up right here in Denver. And Zach Morris thinks audiences in his hometown are no different from those in New York.

    ”There is something about where we are at in this cultural moment because people are really craving this type of experience,” he said.

    Morris, who graduated from George Washington High School and was a student intern in the Denver Center’s costume shop, is one of three core artistic directors for Brooklyn’s Third Rail Projects, one of the foremost companies in creating site-specific, immersive and experiential dance-theater in the United States. “We make work in unexpected spaces and in unexpected contexts,” said Morris.

    Third Rail's Then She Fell, named one of the Top 10 Shows of 2012 by The New York Times, explored the writings of Lewis Carroll in a cramped hospital ward that could accommodate only 15 audience members at a time.

    “For us, experiential theatre is an opportunity for us to blow the doors off the ways that folks traditionally engage with theatre,” Morris said.

    That’s the innovative spirit he’s taking into his newest collaboration with Off-Center, the DCPA’s more adventurous programming wing. Sweet & Lucky, opening May 20, will be the largest physical undertaking in the Denver Center’s nearly 40-year history, taking place in a 16,000-square-foot converted warehouse on Brighton Boulevard. The 360-degree audience experience is being kept as something of an intentional mystery – but a ticket includes a cocktail from nationally recognized Williams & Graham mixologist Sean Kenyon.

    Morris can say Sweet & Lucky is a treatise on memory set in a speakeasy antique shop that opens up into a labyrinth of dreamlike worlds and fragments of time.

    “I think one of the reasons that Denver felt like such a fantastic match for us is the incredibly vibrant art scene here,” Morris said. “There is a real thirst for these types of experiences. Coloradans are inherently adventure-seekers, and there is something about this type of performance that feels very adventurous.”

    We spoke to Morris about his Denver past, his Brooklyn present and what he has in store for Denver audience: 

    John Moore: How did this partnership with the Denver Center happen?

    Zach Morris: After high school, I went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Then I moved to New York and I eventually became really interested in making site-specific, public, experiential work. A couple of Denver Center staff members came to see our work Then She Fell in Brooklyn and were really excited about it. They knew Denver was primed for this type of work. They knew there are experience-seekers and adventure-seekers who are primed for this type of work. And the Denver Center has the capacity to take it to the next level. It turned out that what we are interested in as a company is a really good fit with the Denver Center’s mission.

    Sweet & Lucky tickets on-sale April 13

    John Moore: How is Third Rail’s mission different from other companies?

    Zach Morris: We’ve always been interested in large-scale installations, and in recent years we’ve become really interested in experiential theatre. Our work often involves animating an unexpected space. So that can be a disused opera house in Hudson, N.Y. Then She Fell started in the former outpatient wing of an old hospital and then moved to a three-story institutional space. We’re interested in crafting an experience that is unique for each audience member. The audience finds themselves in a 360-degree world where they can’t really see the edges. Where movement might be the primary language. They find themselves having unique and intimate encounters with performers.

    John Moore: What makes the right kind of location?

    Zach Morris: The location has to have the physical capacity to help us tell the story, but also the space itself has to have some character. I’m excited to say the space where we will be performing in Denver is really inspiring.

    John Moore: You mentioned ‘experiential’ theatre. What is the difference between ‘experiential’ and ‘environmental’ theatre?

    Zach Morris: There is so much buzz about all of these different forms right now, whether it’s ‘experiential’ or ‘immersive’ or ‘site-specific’ or ‘environmental’ theatre. I think they all mean slightly different things. An ‘environmental’ piece might be set in a diner, so it is actually happening in a diner. A ‘site-specific' piece is a work that can only exist in the site it was created for. For us, that entails doing a lot of research on the site itself, the history, the folks who inhabit it – the whole cultural, social, historical matrix that makes up that site. We then pull inspiration out of those stories, and from the history and from the architecture itself. So when we say we are creating a work that is specifically for that space, we mean it.

    John Moore: You had only 15 audience members at a time for Then She Fell. You will have 72 for each performance of Sweet & Lucky.  How do you make that work economically?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Zach Morris: Well, in New York, space is at such a premium that operating in traditional theatre venues is often prohibitive. As a company, we have found that our interest in working in these non-traditional spaces has mirrored the public’s growing interest in gaining access to unexpected or prohibited spaces. With only 15 people in the audience, Then She Fell was an incredibly intimate experience. So we had a fairly high-ticket price, but there is really an appetite for this.

    John Moore: What’s propelling the evolution of this type of theatre?

    Zach Morris: In many ways - and in maybe every way – it has to do with where we are at with technology and the internet right now. The way we are getting media, getting news, getting content of all kinds, is radically different than it was a few years ago. We are now able to navigate our personal content in ways we’ve never been able to before. There is an appetite for stories that can be navigated; there is an appetite for stories that are not linear. There is an appetite for stories that afford agency to the audience so they can explore these various kinds of threads that might be happening simultaneously. I also think that because of all of the amazing advances in our technology, we’re craving human-to-human interaction. We long for an authentic experience, whatever that means. We deeply want to be in the same room with the musician and feel the vibrations coming off the guitar and hitting our skin. It’s great that I can get my music on iTunes, but there is nothing that matches that embodied experience. I think that’s what we’re looking for right now.

    Zach Morris Quote

    John Moore: How do you describe what people are in for in Denver?

    Zach Morris: We’re excited about bringing Third Rail’s brand of experiential theatre to Denver, where audience members are able to sit millimeters away from a performer and have that human-to-human interaction within the context of unfolding and unraveling both narrative and aesthetic art that is linear and nonlinear and fragmented and simultaneous and has myriad layers of meaning.

    John Moore: Most of your audience in Denver will probably be experiencing this kind of live experience for the first time.

    Zach Morris: Yeah, and that’s what’s really exciting about what the Denver Center is doing. The Denver Center is in the vanguard of those institutions that are redefining the ways they can support artists who are making this type of work. They are literally thinking outside the box of their theatre. They are asking: ‘What are the stories we need to tell right now?’ And perhaps most important right now, ‘How do we need to tell those stories?’ That’s what’s really exciting to me as an artist who’s coming home to partner with the Denver Center.

    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.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweet & Lucky:
    DCPA to create new immersive theatre piece with Third Rail Projects
    Kickstarter campaign allows audience to dive deeper
    Kickstarter home page

    Sweet & Lucky tickets on-sale April 13

    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.