• Smaug the Dragon takes up residence at DCPA Education

    by John Moore | Aug 27, 2015
    Smaug The DragonSmaug, a ferocious puppet dragon designed by Kevin Copenhaver, now greets visitors to the DCPA's Education floor. Photo by John Moore.

    "A most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm" has taken up residence in the DCPA's Newman Center for Theatre Education. But there's no need to call an exterminator. The interloper would just fry the poor bug-sprayer anyway.

    Smaug, the fictional dragon and main antagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien's classic 1937 novel The Hobbit, is presently lurking above the third-floor entrance to DCPA Education's class studios. He is a new and welcome reminder of this summer's just-completed middle-school performance program, which culminated with a student staging of The Hobbit both in the DCPA's Conservatory Theatre and at the Denver Zoo.

    It took 11 students to operate Smaug, the puppet dragon, when the DCPA's middle-school performance was staged at the Denver Zoo. Photo by Suzanne Yoe. The performance involved a cast of 18 students. It took 11 to operate the 18-foot dragon - three on the head alone. The puppeted behemoth was designed by DCPA Costume Crafts Director Kevin Copenhaver, who built Smaug as part of a separate intensive DCPA Education  craftsmanship class in which mostly high-school students had a hand in stitching Smaug to life.

    "I think it shows the synergy between our improving technical classes, and our performance classes," said DCPA Teaching Artist and School Coordinator David Saphier, who directed The Hobbit. "Joining forces enhances our storytelling."

    (Photo above right: It took 11 students to operate Smaug, the puppet dragon, when the DCPA's middle-school performance of "The Hobbit" was staged at the Denver Zoo. Photo by Suzanne Yoe.)

    In The Hobbit, Snaug is a fearsome denizen of Lonely Mountain and the guard of all  treasure within. Once the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins discovers an open spot among Smaug’s gem-encrusted belly scales, the Dwarves take back what is rightfully theirs.

    Installing the puppet dragon was the brainchild of Creative Director Rob Silk, who has overseen a complete redesign of the Education floor's hallway, which now welcomes visitors with bright, modern colors and digital images. "The dragon is intended to showcase some of the craft of theatre, while adding a fun, dimensional element to the wall," Silk said.

    Enrollment already has begun for fall classes beginning Oct. 3.  Click here for information on child and teen classes, and click here for adult classes. For more, call 303-446-4892.

    Smaug. Photo by John Moore. Smaug. Photo by John Moore.

  • DCPA to host Colorado Theatre Community Forum on Aug. 31

    by John Moore | Aug 26, 2015

    Erika Kae recently served as lighting designer for Off-Center @ The Jones' immersive performance of 'Perception' at the DCPA's Newman Center. Photo by Sam Adams for the DCPA.Erika Kae recently served as lighting designer for Off-Center @ The Jones' immersive staging of 'Perception' at the DCPA's Newman Center. Photo by Sam Adams for the DCPA.

    A group of young, self-starting local theatre artists are initiating a community-wide conversation on sustainable theatrical careers, resource sharing and artist advocacy.

    STAND - Sustainable Theatre and New Development - is a developing new performing-artist advocacy non-profit that seeks to fill a significant gap in the Colorado theatre ecology. The group of five hopes to form a company that would in essence pool administrative costs and other overhead responsibilities on behalf of dozens of small performing groups in the metro area, freeing precious financial resources that then can be spent on making art.

    "One of the national companies we are modeling ourselves after does your grantwriting, helps you find performance spaces and runs your box office for you," said STAND co-founder Erika Kae. "So instead of having 100 companies paying 100 different administrative costs, it would all be centralized with one company. STAND seeks to become that company."

    Erika KaeSTAND is hosting a community forum from 7-9 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31, that is intended to identify and bolster the community theater support structure; encourage interconnectedness and resource sharing; and explore the possibilities of sustainable support for theatre artists.

    In the interest of resource sharing, this free event is being held at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Conservatory Theatre in the DCPA's Newman Center for Theatre Education. While the forum is free, for security reasons, an advance RSVP is required for front-desk check-in by clicking the word GOING on the group's Facebook event page, or by emailing your name to Erika.a.kae@gmail.com

    Kae will be co-hosting the forum with Alex Polzin. Their panel will include Colorado Shakespeare Festival Assistant Stage Manager Jonathan Allsup; The Catamounts founder Amanda Berg Wilson; DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore; Colorado Theatre Guild General Manager Gloria Shanstrom; and Ripple Effect Theatre Company founder Maggie Stillman. New DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller is expected to be in the audience to lend his support and expertise, if needed, but he is primarily planning to attend to learn more about the Colorado theatre community.

    Kae is calling the evening "a community think-tank with guest speakers, food and good conversation. During this forum we seek to talk about taking risks and widening possibilities while embracing new audiences and supporting the artists within a sustainable theatrical structure."

    Kae is a 33-year-old theatre artist who recently served as lighting designer for Off-Center @ The Jones' immersive staging of Perception at the Newman Center. She is also a scenic artist at The Edge Theatre.  Polzin was most recently a scenic artist with the Creede Repertory Theatre. The other members of STAND are Jo Gerlick, Production Stage Manager for the StageDoor Theatre in Conifer; actor and designer Laura K. Love, who designed the set for Vintage Theatre's The Spitfire Grill and is now a tenured professor and designer at Metro State; and wunderkind Anson Nicholson, who at age 20 already is the in-house Audio Engineer for the DCPA's Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    The goal for Monday's panel, Kae said, is to create conversation in order to initiate action.

    Colorado Theatre Community Forum

  • DCPA leadership welcomes ushers back for 2015-16

    by John Moore | Aug 25, 2015
    DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller greets volunteers at the 2015 'Usher Kick-Off' at The Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore.DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller greets volunteers at the 2015 "Usher Kick-Off" at The Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore.

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts held a welcome-back party on Aug. 19 for the more than 215 volunteer ushers who will service an estimated 140,000 audience members at the the Bonfils Theatre Complex during the Theatre Company's 2015-16 season.

    "It is vital that our ushers be well-trained, empowered and appreciated, because they are the face of the DCPA," said Theatre Services Manager Carol Krueger. "Generally, your  first in-person interaction as a DCPA patron is with the usher who greets you when you walk through the door."

    Krueger's volunteer army specifically services DCPA shows held in the Stage, Space, Jones, Ricketson and Garner-Galleria theatres. Because the City of Denver owns the Buell Theatre and Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the ushers at those venues are paid city-and-county employees. Krueger's 215 Theatre Company ushers will log more than 18,000 volunteer hours this coming season, in exchange for goodwill and complimentary tickets to Theatre Company shows.

    "They really do it because there is an inherent value in volunteering," Krueger said. "You are giving back to the community and, at the same time, you are helping arts and education in your community."

    The Aug. 19 "Usher Kick-Off" was an ice-cream social that featured guest speakers including DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller; Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson; and Theatre Company Director of Marketing Brianna Firestone. Shiller told the ushers the story of how he started his career as a volunteer usher at Boston's Colonial Theatre right out of college. Thompson took the ushers through what excites him most about each upcoming title on the Theatre Company schedule. 

    Those who are interested in ushering opportunities at the DCPA are encouraged to click this link for complete eligibility requirements.

    New ushers go through a two-hour orientation where they learn responsibilities and guidelines, tour the facilities and learn about accessibility services and emergency procedures. Each trainee then "shadows" a trained usher for two performances, "and then they are considered full and active ushers," Krueger said.

    Krueger took time at the Aug. 19 gathering to honor the eight ushers who will marking their 20th years of service when the 2015-16 season begins on Sept. 11 with Lookingglass Alice. They are:

    • Claudia Jones
    • David Rochlin
    • Judith Bruner
    • Karen Zeldin
    • Kim Barton
    • Maggie Headrick
    • Sharon Schwarz
    • Sherry Timm
    "We value all of our ushers, and we appreciate all the time and energy that they give," Krueger said.


    DCPA Theatre Company's Longest-Serving Ushers:

    • Pat Frederiksen, 26 seasons
    • Carol Sellman, 24 seasons
    • Marty Jewell, 24 seasons
    • Ginny Schireson, 23 seasons
    • Barbara Pohlen, 23 seasons
    • June Clayton, 23 seasons
    • Bonnie Semple, 22 seasons
    • Patty Graner, 22 seasons
    • Mary Mauck, 22 seasons
    • Arlene Flannery, 21 seasons

    Photos from the 2015 "Usher Kick-Off" at The Jones Theatre. Photos by John Moore.
  • Shakespeare's largest female role might surprise you

    by John Moore | Aug 21, 2015

    Shakespeare's women

    When you think of the most significant women in the Shakespeare canon, the mind naturally goes toward the evil machinations of Lady Macbeth or perhaps the snake-bitten diva Cleopatra. But the most formidable woman in the canon is one you might not suspect – and she’s coming soon to the Denver Center Theatre Company's Space Theatre.

    The female character who speaks the most lines in any Shakespeare play is Rosalind, the spirited heroine of the romantic comedy As You Like It. According to ShakespearesWords.com, Rosalind comes in first with 685 lines. Ironically, she speaks many of those lines while playing a man – and Rosalind would have been played by a boy during Shakespeare’s time anyway.

    Rosalind, As You Like It. That outcome may come as a surprise to some, but there is no doubting that Rosalind is one amazing role.

    “She is the engine of the play, without a doubt,” said DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. "I like her wit, her pluck and her sense of heart.”

    Rosalind, who will be played in Denver by Carolyn Holding, is the beautiful daughter of the exiled Duke Senior and niece to his paranoid, usurping brother, Duke Frederick. When her father is banished from the kingdom, she takes matters into her own hands and takes herself to the Arden Forest. She figures out a way to manage things there while by dressing like a man.

    “I find As You Like It particularly interesting right now because it has such a strong and complex central female character who is charming and smart,” Thompson said.

    Despite her troubles, Rosalind is as romantic as the next girl, and by play’s end, she has arranged four marriages – including her own.

    “So it's like she's the greatest wedding planner in Shakespeare," Thompson said.

    Shakespeare wrote many seriously problematic female characters, especially from a modern perspective. If you look at the top 10 by line count, suggests As You Like It Assistant Director Geoffrey Kent, “It’s interesting how many of them are victims. Or at least die due to something caused by a male counterpart.”

    But not Rosalind. Around the time of As You Like It, Shakespeare began introducing spirited, outspoken heroines with emotional and psychological depth - including Rosalind, Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) and, much later, Imogen in Cymbeline.

    When Thompson considers the greatest women in the canon – whether by line count or not - the one he thinks comes closest to Rosalind is a 14-year-old girl.

    “Juliet, though a very different character type than Rosalind, is actually the strongest person in Romeo and Juliet," Thompson said. “She's the one who is proactive and goes to the Friar. Romeo is the one who falls down crying. Juliet figures out a way to get it done, and she's willing to go there, even though she may die.”

    But Rosalind, he said, is really the only female Shakespeare character "who manages to direct everything down to that last scene.”

    Here’s a look at Shakespeare’s largest female characters (by line count):
    (With fun character descriptions from Shmoop.com)

    1. Rosalind, As You Like It
    Lines: 685
    Shmoop.Com: Who is this "Rosalind" girl and what makes her so great? Well, she's the daughter of the banished Duke Senior and cousin/BFF to Celia. She's also the saucy, cross-dressing girlfriend of Orlando. In the play, Rosalind gets 86'ed from her uncle's court but, instead of boo-hooing about her lousy circumstances, she puts on a brave face and runs away to the Forest of Arden in search of freedom. Our girl is not only adventurous, but she's also gutsy.

    2. Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra
    Lines: 678
    Shmoop.Com: Cleopatra is the Queen of Egypt, lover to Antony, and former lover of both Julius Caesar and Pompey the Elder — it's safe to say homegirl has a "type." She’s one of Shakespeare’s richest female characters (in terms of both wealth and character development), and can be used as a case study of both a woman in power and a woman in love.

    3. Imogen, Cymbeline

    Lines: 594
    Shmoop.Com: This British princess is just about as perfect as they come: She's wise, beautiful, resourceful, and — most important — she's honest. She stands up for herself to her dad and notices the Queen is a "dissembling courtesy" (read: faker) right away. While she mourns the banishment of her husband and moans about having a "foolish suitor" (Cloten), she doesn't wallow in self-pity.

    4. Portia, The Merchant of Venice
    Lines: 574
    Shmoop.Com: Portia is rich and hot, which makes her the most eligible bachelorette in Belmont. The heiress to her dead father's fortune, Portia's wealth makes her a meal ticket in the eyes of Bassanio, who sees Portia as the answer to all his financial woes — if he can marry her that is. As Bassanio points out, he's not the only guy who'd like to land the heiress. Gee, it sounds like Portia's got a perfect life, right? Not so fast. Not only is every potential suitor out to get his hands on Portia's wealth, but Portia doesn't even get to choose her husband.

    5. Juliet, Romeo and Juliet
    Lines: 542
    Shmoop.Com: Poor Juliet. Not only does she end up dead, she doesn't get nearly the love that Romeo does. But we think she deserves a lot more credit. As the beautiful and only daughter of the Capulets, Juliet is slated to marry Verona's hottest non-Montague bachelor until she takes her fate into her own hands. This is a girl who knows what she wants, and gets it — even if it means death.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Casting announced for Theatre Company's fall shows
    DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16

    As You Like It
    By William Shakespeare
    Sept. 25-Nov. 1
    DCPA Theatre Company
    Space Theatre

    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    carolyn holdingCast list:
    Stanley Ray Baron (Page)
    J. Paul Boehmer (Duke Frederick/Duke Senior)
    Jason Bowen (Oliver)
    Maren Bush (Celia)
    Adrian Egolf (Audrey)
    Ben W. Heil (Page)
    Carolyn Holding (Rosalind, pictured)
    Drew Horwitz (William)
    Maurice Jones (Orlando)
    Geoffrey Kent (Sir Oliver Martext)
    Emily Kron (Phebe)
    Nick LaMedica (Silvius)
    Lars Lundberg (Page)
    Eddie Martinez (Corin)
    M. Scott McLean (Amiens)
    Daniel Pearce (Jacques)
    Philip Pleasants (Adam)
    William Oliver Watkins (Charles/Jaques de Boys)
    Matt Zambrano (Touchstone)

  • Miscast 2015 announces stellar lineup for Sept. 14 at Town Hall

    by John Moore | Aug 20, 2015
    Denver Actors Fund Miscast 2015

    The lineup for "Miscast 2015," a community-wide benefit for the Denver Actors Fund to be held Sept. 14 at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, has just been announced - and the cast list is enough to make any local director envious.

    "Miscast 2015" is an opportunity for members of the local theatre community to sing songs and act out scenes they would never … ever! … get cast to perform on any legitimate stage. Tickets are $10 (plus fees if ordered online) and are available at 303-794-2787 or online at townhallartscenter.org.

    Scheduled performers include Megan Van De Hey, Leslie O’Carroll, Matt LaFontaine, Steven Burge, John Ashton, Jayln Courtenay Webb (the newly announced Managing Director of Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins) and members of the acclaimed handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company.

    The hosts are again Damon Guerrassio and Mark Pergola (better known in the local theatre community as Elvira Barcelona.)

    This year's event will include several special performance twists, such as a series of games a la Jimmy Fallon's lip-sync contest on "The Tonight Show." Eden Lane, host of Colorado Public Television's "In Focus with Eden Lane," is one of the local luminaries who has agreed to play along for one of the games.

    To see our complete gallery of photos from the evening, which raised just more than $2,000 for The Denver Actors Fund, click here.

    The Denver Actors Fund provides financial and practical services to members of the local theatre community who find themselves in medical need. In just two years, the grassroots nonprofit has raised more than $47,000 to help local artists.

    Each applicant submitted a proposed song and a 'Miscast concept' for judges to consider. Now just in its second year as a Denver Actors Fund benefit event, Director Robert Michael Sanders said he received far more submissions than he had performance slots.

    "This year's turnout was completely overwhelming," said Sanders. All applications were  considered by a special "Miscast" selection committee based on variety and cleverness, among other factors.

    "We made the choices we think best suit this year's show,," said Sanders, who called the resulting list "the best cross-section of talent from many different theaters, types and styles of performances."

    While the list of scheduled performers has been announced, their actual Miscast musical numbers will remain a secret until the night of the show on Sept. 15. Last year featured a Girl Scout singing "My Unfortunate Erection" (from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and members of Phamaly doing a Full Monty strip-tease. For starters.

    "It may be all wrong ... but it feels so right," said Sanders.

    Taylor Nicole Young and Cory Wendling
    Carter Edward Smith
    Matt LaFontaine and Reace Daniel
    Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Max Peterson
    Phamaly Theatre Company
    Steven Burge
    Megan Van De Hey and Leslie O’Carroll
    John Ashton
    Kaiser Educational Group "The Mutts"
    Special appearance by TV personality Eden Lane
    (More surprises to come)

    ​Director: Robert Michael Sanders
    Event Coordinator: Ronni Gallup
    Musical Direction: Donna Debreceni
    Lights: Alexis Bond
    Stage Manager: Jonathan Allsup
    Special Thanks: Leslie Rutherford, Denise Kato and Cheryl McNab, Town Hall Arts Center

    MISCAST 2015:
    7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14
    Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St.
    A benefit for the Denver Actors Fund
    Tickets for “Miscast” are $10 (plus fees if ordered online) and are available now at townhallartscenter.org or call 303-794-2787

    To read more about last year's "Miscast," and see photos and video, click here

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA.

  • Milestone: 'If/Then' will reunite major principal cast in Denver

    by John Moore | Aug 14, 2015

     A video look at the Denver-bound Broadway musical, 'If/Then,' opening Oct. 13.

    'If/Then' cast for Denver Original Broadway cast members LaChanze, Anthony Rapp and James Snyder will join Idina Menzel when the national touring production of If/Then launches in Denver on Oct. 13, it was announced today.

    If/Then is believed to be the first musical of the modern Broadway era to be launching a national tour with its major principal cast reassembled. The four powerhouse actors will perform for the first seven stops of the U.S. tour, including Seattle; San Francisco; Los Angeles; San Diego; Tempe, Ariz., and Costa Mesa, Calif.

    Tickets for the Denver run at the Buell Theatre go on sale at 10 a.m. today (Aug. 14).

    “I've never heard of a principal cast all reuniting for a national tour,” said If/Then Producer David Stone. “But I have also never been part of a show where the entire company – onstage and backstage - really loved being together so much. And that started at the top with Idina.”

    If/Then, an original, contemporary musical about the intersection of choice and chance, explores how we choose our lives - and how our lives choose us. It charts the turning points in the life of Elizabeth, an urban planner who returns to New York City after living in Phoenix. The show’s storyline divides into alternative versions of what happens to Elizabeth, based not only on her choices about career and family, but on random, everyday chance. 

    Rapp (Rent) plays Lucas, an idealistic community activist of ambivalent sexuality. LaChanze, Tony Award winner for The Color Purple, plays a lesbian kindergarten teacher named Kate. Snyder (Cry-Baby) plays a handsome Army doctor who has just completed a tour of duty.

    “What's so exciting about this for me is that this is completely brand-new material,” Menzel said. “But the best thing about If/Then are the people who are involved with this project. I'm smart enough to know to work with smart people."

    If/Then reunites Stone, composer Tom Kitt, book writer/lyricist Brian Yorkey and director Michael Greif, the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal.

    Idina Menzel and James Snyder in 'If/Then.' Photo by Joan Marcus“To me, it’s absolutely essential that we have Idina and LaChanze and Anthony and James heading out for the first leg of the tour, because they are paving the way for the people who will follow,” Yorkey said. “And they are showing the world once again that they believe in this kind of quirky, not-entirely-traditional new show of ours. To me, that means everything.”

    (Pictured: Idina Menzel and James Snyder in 'If/Then.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

    If/Then is especially meaningful to Menzel, she said, "because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team, whom I have come to consider family. Yes, it explores a lot of intense themes that are close to my heart, but to have the opportunity to be on the stage with the cast that I have and work through those things every day; it's been a total gift.”

    Stone said the principals would have loved playing more than seven cities. But while “If/Then is partly about how the communities we live and work in become our families,” he said, the actors have their own families as well. Most are parents of children ranging in age from just 1 week (Snyder’s newborn) to LaChanze’s two teenagers.

    “They want to be together again. They love each other, they love the show, and they want it to be seen by as many people as possible,” Stone said. “So if they can help make that happen, they want to do that. I am very excited for the If/Then family to be reunited on tour and to give audiences outside of New York the opportunity to see these exceptional Broadway stars in the roles they created.”

    The rest of the inaugural touring cast debuting in Denver will be announced at a later date. The two-week run plays through Oct. 25.

    Production photos by Joan Marcus.

    features choreography by Larry Keigwin, set design by Tony Award-Nominee Mark Wendland, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Tony Award-Winner Kenneth Posner and sound design by Tony Award-Winner Brian Ronan.

    If/Then played its final Broadway performance on Sunday, March 22, having played 29 previews and 401 performances. The original Broadway Cast Recording is available on iTunes.

    For ticketing information about If/Then, click here. For more information about If/Then, visit the show’s home page at IfThenTheMusical.com.


    About the cast:

    IDINA MENZEL (Elizabeth) made her Broadway debut as Maureen in the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner, Rent, for which she received a Tony Award nomination. She followed that with her Tony Award-winning performance as Elphaba in Wicked, which she subsequently brought to London’s West End. Other New York stage work includes See What I Wanna See (Public), The Wild Party (MTC) and Hair (Encores!). Menzel’s voice can be heard in the Disney animated musical Frozen, singing its Oscar-winning song, “Let It Go.” She reprised her performance as Maureen in Chris Columbus’ film version of Rent and has appeared in movies as diverse as Enchanted and Ask the Dust. On television, Menzel had a recurring role over multiple seasons of “Glee” and has guest starred in numerous other shows. She starred in her own PBS special, “Barefoot at the Symphony,” with an accompanying live album of the same name. Menzel’s highly successful international concert tour recently included a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall. In addition to cast albums, Menzel’s prolific recording career includes the solo albums Barefoot at the Symphony, I Stand Here and Still I Can’t Be Still.

    LACHANZE (Kate). Broadway: The Color Purple (2006 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical), Once on This Island (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), Ragtime, Company and Uptown It’s Hot. Off-Broadway: Dessa Rose (Obie Award and Drama Desk Award nomination), The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (Drama Desk nomination) and Inked Baby. Other theatre credits: The Wiz, Baby, From the Mississippi Delta and Spunk. Film credits include The Help (SAG Award), Side Effects, Breaking Upward, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Disney’s Hercules, For Love or Money and Leap of Faith. Television credits include “Handel’s Messiah Rocks” (Emmy Award), “Lucy” (CBS TV movie), “Law & Order: SVU,” “Sex and the City,” “New York Undercover” and “The Cosby Show.” MsLaChanze.com. Follow me on Twitter: @lachanze

    ANTHONY RAPP (Lucas). Broadway: Rent; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Six Degrees of Separation; Precious Sons (Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk nomination). Off-Broadway: Raised in Captivity, Sophistry, The Destiny of Me, Some Americans Abroad, among others. Film: Adventures in Babysitting, School Ties, Dazed and Confused, Six Degrees of Separation, Rent, Man of the Century, Roadtrip, Winter Passing, A Beautiful Mind. TV: “The X-Files,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Psych.”  Author of Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent, which was adapted into the one-man show Without You and performed nationally and internationally. @albinokid on Twitter

    JAMES SNYDER (Josh). Broadway: Cry-Baby (Cry-Baby), Fanny at NYC Encores! Regional: Carousel (Billy, Goodspeed Opera House), Johnny Baseball (Williamstown Festival), Broadway: Three Generations (Kennedy Center), Rock of Ages (L.A., Vegas). Film: She’s the Man, Meth Head, An American in China. TV: “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Blue Bloods,” “CSI,” “Cold Case.” To see more stage, film and TV credits and his album go to iTunes or www.JamesSnyder.com. Twitter: @TheJamesSnyder


     If/Then ticket information:

    • Oct. 13-25 in the Buell Theatre
    • Single tickets will go on-sale to the public at 10 a.m. Friday. Aug. 14. Buy and print online at denvercenter.org; charge by phone at 303-893-4100 (Groups of 10 or more should call 303-446-4829); or purchase in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby.
    • Please be advised that the DCPA's web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for If/Then performances in Denver.

    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of If/Then and Idina Menzel:


  • Idina Menzel lets it glow at Red Rocks

    by John Moore | Aug 12, 2015
    Photos of  the Idina Menzel concert Tuesday at Red Rocks. To download any photo at a variety of sizes, click "View original Flickr image." Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Broadway superstar Idina Menzel made the powerful personal in a playful set at Red Rocks that appealed to everyone from theatre geeks to Frozen fanatics; from Rentheads to Radioheaders.

    Menzel sang her five-octave heart out before a nearly full house on Tuesday at one of the world’s most iconic amphitheaters. It was a wide-ranging and all-embracing crowd filled with Elsas, Elphabas and even Elsies – that infamous Diet Coke-drinking cow from Rent.

    Menzel made a grand recorded entrance during which she reached out and identified with the 15-year-old in everyone in the audience: “As a kid, I was afraid to shine,” she told them.

    Well, look at her shine now.

    Playing with her traveling rock band of five, backed by a mini-orchestra of 10 local orchestral musicians adding strings and horns, Menzel was at once both larger than life and charmingly intimate during a full evening that spanned the color palate: Standing before the red rocks in a black, strapless gown wrapped by a bronze pullaway skirt, Menzel was alternately green (Wicked) and charmingly blue (“Just cover the little ones’ ears every once in a while,” she suggested.)

    Her set was marked by homages to her many female icons, including Barbra Streisand, Joni Mitchell and Ethel Merman. The mix also included meaningful nods to pop stars ranging from Cole Porter to Sting to Radiohead. There were several songs from the Broadway blockbuster Wicked, including a poignant version of “For Good” sung a capella.

    While telling the charming story of falling in love with a college professor at NYU who was gay ("How do college freshman not know this?” she joked), her tone turned doleful when the teacher challenged her to more seriously consider the plight of the prostitute protagonist of Porter’s classic lament “Love for Sale.” Fully plumbing the depths of despair any woman must endure to sell her body for money, Menzel delivered a meaningful mash-up that bled into Sting’s “Roxanne.”

    She then honored indie faves Radiohead by singing “Special” - and she even cleaned-up the band’s grammar by correctly singing “I wish I were special. She repeatedly joked about the fashion consequences of performing on an outdoor stage where her dress took on a life of its own in the blustery August wind.

    Idina Menzel at Red Rocks

    The concert was filled with big moments and Menzel’s signature, off-the-cuff banter. Clearly many concertgoers know what was coming when she started to invite random audience members to join her onstage for the estimable Rent duet “Take Me Or Leave Me.” Signs instantly popped up from all over the amphitheater, like the one that said, “Came from Chicago. Let’s do a duet!”

    The lucky chosen few fully seized their moments to shine, to Menzel’s great delight. One young woman named Cassie confidently grabbed the mic from Menzel and wailed as if she were the evening’s headliner.

    Toying with her image as both a diva and a kid from the streets of Long Island, Menzel eventually threw off her fabulous heels in favor of oversized yellow slippers.

    One of the most poignant moments of the night was her tribute to Rent composer Jonathan Larson, who died the night before the musical’s New York opening. On this tour, she always sings No Day But Today, a song about embracing life, as a tribute to Larson.  “This song reminds me how lucky I am to be sitting here in this legendary place, with all of you amazing people, where I am getting to do the one thing I have wanted to do my whole life, which is to sing,” she said.

    Menzel talked reverently about her recent turn in the new Broadway musical If/Then, which will launch its first national tour in Denver this October - with Menzel returning to her starring role. It’s the story of a woman starting her life over in New York City with infinite possibilities. The musical follows vastly different ways her life might turn out  depending on the choices she makes.

    Idina Menzel fans at Red Rocks. Photo by John Moore. “Shows come into your life when need to learn something about your life that they have to teach you,” Menzel told the crowd. “If/Then put its arms around me and taught me about choices.”

    Menzel equated her If/Then character’s story in part to her own. While honoring the rocket ship her career has been on since the release of the animated film Frozen, she also acknowledged personal challenges she has faced that have included starting over as a single mother. “This show has taught me that every day you have the opportunity and the power to wake up and start your life over again,” she said.

    She then sang If/Then’s anthem to second chances, called “Always Starting Over.” “What the gods have to give I’ll take, and I’ll live, and be bold,” she sang to a standing ovation, all the more remarkable considering it is such a new song.

    The adoring crowd, which included her mother, sister and other family members who live in nearby Louisville, was twice as big as when Menzel last appeared at Red Rocks four years ago - a nod, no doubt in part, to her part in Frozen.

    She let it all go for Let It Go, bringing dozens of tots onstage to sit and sing with her. She playfully acknowledged the very real probability that “your parents are sick of this song, aren’t they?” And yet the moment felt very much as if all of us in attendance were sitting in the zeitgeist of a pop-culture phenomenon. Tossing in a quick, funny sample of Chris Brown’s “Give It Away Girl,” Menzel ended the song in bare feet, dancing up and down like a kid from Glee at a midnight pajama party.

    But for her very last song, Menzel chose a very soulful interpretation of the iconic Broadway standard Tomorrow, turning one of her favorite childhood songs from a gee-whiz piece of cheese into an anthemic call-to-action.

    Lingering in the love from an audience that didn’t want to leave despite the late hour, Menzel stood silently on the stage as a living testament to what is possible for every young person in the audience to see.

    Top Five Idina Menzel Quotes at Red Rocks:

    • “This wind is like a built-in fan for my hair.”
    • On the altitude: Menzel: How does any team ever come here and win a game? Person in crowd: “They don’t!”
    • On the altitude: “Oh, I’m a little panty!”
    • On Rent composer Jonathan Larson: “Thank you for giving me my life.”
    • On Red Rocks: “When you are here, you really feel like you are kind of a big deal."

       If/Then ticket information:

      • Oct. 13-25 in the Buell Theatre
      • Tickets are currently available to purchasers of season subscriptions, which can be had by calling 303-893-4100 or visiting denvercenter.org.
      • Single tickets will go on-sale to the public at 10 a.m. Friday. Aug. 14. Buy and print online at denvercenter.org; charge by phone at 303-893-4100 (Groups of 10 or more should call 303-446-4829); o purchase in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby.
      • Please be advised that the DCPA's web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for If/Then performances in Denver.

      Our previous NewsCenter coverage of Idina Menzel:

      Idina Menzel at Red Rocks

      DCPA staffers were on hand at Red Rocks to greet fans interested in her upcoming appearance of "If/Then" at the Buell Theatre this October. Photo by John Moore

    • Task force will explore changes to Henry Awards

      by John Moore | Aug 11, 2015

      The Colorado Theatre Guild today announced it will form a statewide task force to address ongoing questions and criticisms about the administration of its annual Henry Awards program.

      The 10-year-old Henrys celebrate achievement in Colorado theatre among its member companies. Under the present voting system, a team of about 45 volunteer judges evaluate shows in all creative categories using a 50-point scoring system. The top five in each category become the nominees, and the leading points-getter is the winner.

      If only it were that simple.

      Every awards show from the Oscars to the Tonys to the Westminster Dog Show engenders its share of carping. But as a small advocacy organization trying to administer a statewide awards program on a shoestring budget, the Henry Awards have long been vulnerable to vast communal grumbling. But by the time the awards ceremony takes place each July, the next judging season is already underway. That makes it nearly impossible to address and implement immediate changes.

      But CTG President Pat Payne said the Guild must act now.

      Pat Payne and Bill Wheeler“As an organization, we need to be listening to what is being said by our members,” Payne said. “We need to make sure we are doing whatever we can to present the most open and fair awards program we possibly can.”

      Payne has appointed self-starting local theatre reviewer Bill Wheeler of Colorado Springs to head the task force, which is expected to include 12 to 20 individuals from theatre companies large and small. The standing title on Wheeler’s home page, ironically enough, is “Reviews for Colorado stages … without all the drama.”

      Welcome to the Henry Awards, which is an annual emotional geyser. 

      (Photo: Pat Payne, left, and Bill Wheeler, right.)

      Much of the discontent stems from a basic lack of understanding about the process, more so than the process itself. Longstanding practical concerns have included how judges are chosen, how they are trained, and what are their qualifications and conflicts. Other lingering questions include how Guild staff determine the outcome of the prized “Outstanding Season” category, since judges don’t vote in that category.

      In the four design categories (costume, lighting, sound and scenic design), the Guild separates member companies into large and small tiers based on overall operating budgets. Questions include why budget was chosen as the prevailing criterion, and why $1.2 million was chosen as the dividing line between big and small. That leaves only four companies in the Tier I group, while the Guild has 115 member companies.

      Wheeler and his team will be asked to tackle these questions – and many more. And blowing up the present voting system and starting over is not off the table, Payne said.

      The task force’s recommendations will be expected in January, Payne said. “And the Board of Directors will then implement those they believe will take the Henry Awards to the next level,” said Wheeler, whose blog can be found at theatercolorado.blogspot.com. Payne said those recommendations that are adopted and can be immediately adoptable will be, while others will have to wait for the next awards cycle.

      “Our goal is to make the Henry Awards the best possible process for recognizing excellence in theater at all levels," Wheeler said. "We will be seeking input from all interested theater companies and individuals to help us accomplish that task.”

      Payne said Wheeler was chosen to lead the task force because he is an attorney, and because he is not affiliated with any one member company. "That makes him the wise, unbiased choice," Payne said.  

      At Payne’s direction, Wheeler is inviting targeted members of the theatre community to serve as full task-force members (including this writer). And the more contrarian, the better, Payne said. "We have to be willing to hear what the members of our community are really saying ... or what's the point?" That's why actor Margie Lamb, who spoke out about her concerns about the Henry Awards in a guest column for the DCPA NewsCenter ("Something here doesn't add up"), also has been invited. But Wheeler said any theatre company or individual who would like to contribute to the process will be welcome to do so, and can contact him at bilweeler@gmail.com.

      How is it done now?

      Under the present system, a show must be seen and evaluated by a minimum of six judges. The Guild succeeded in making a record 187 productions eligible for 2015 Henry Awards consideration, but the resulting nominations did nothing to stem longstanding questions about the system’s credibility. The Aurora Fox, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Creede Repertory Theatre were among those companies that did not garner a single nomination. That has some observers questioning how consistent the judges are as a body in their overall scoring. And the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s nearly inevitable annual exclusion from Henry Award nominations has had officials there asking for years whether judges are either biased against classical work, or, more bluntly, aren’t skilled enough in the form to fairly judge it.

      The Henry Awards’ elusive climb to true credibility has been slow, but it hasn’t been from lack of trying. General manager Gloria Shanstrom, who oversees the awards program year-round, has implemented major changes throughout the first decade.

      “It is my hope that with the formation of this (task force), the community will understand the Guild's sincere desire to look for ways to improve the award process,” Shanstrom said. “They will be doing a lot of work over the next several months, and I look forward to hearing the results.”

      When the Henrys began in 2006, the awards were decided by a group of about seven professional critics who voted for their five personal favorites in each category, much like an Oscar voter filling out an Academy Award ballot. But that system overwhelmingly favored those shows the most critics saw, because of the greater potential for points. (You can't vote for a show you didn't see.) That led to annual landslides that, head-scratchingly, continue to this day under a completely different voting system. 

      In 2009, the last year under the old voting system, 72 percent of all nominations went to just six companies. In 2012, under the new judging system, more than 80 percent of all nominations went to the top six. So while the system has changed drastically, the imbalances have not.

      The Guild also responded to member complaints by separating designers into budget categories in 2011. And despite overwhelming logistical challenges, it finally managed to expand eligibility statewide in 2013.

      Change does not always lead to peace and resolution, however. Responding to one repeated suggestion, the Guild implemented a residency rule in 2007 that required all nominees be Colorado residents for at least six months of the year. DCPA Artistic Director Kent Thompson pulled his company out of awards consideration that year in protest, arguing passionately that where actors sleep is inconsequential when they are creating art for Colorado audiences. The Guild rescinded the residency rule in 2008, and the DCPA returned to the fold.

      In the end, the Henry Awards exist primarily as the Guild’s annual fundraiser. But the biggest challenge the Guild has yet to face is the perception that the organization only exists to administer the Henry Awards. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center boss Scott RC Levy chose not to pay his dues last year, he said, “because I refuse to pay to play" - meaning he equates membership solely with Henry Awards eligibility. Earlier today, Levy said he has decided to pay the $80 membership fee for this season, but he remains cynical about the value of membership.

      New programming initiatives were announced at the most recent Henry Awards ceremony but, Levy said, until he sees them in action, "my concerns still remain."

      Payne, also artistic Director of the Cherry Creek Theatre Company, assumed the presidency in January 2014 acknowledging that the Guild had all but disappeared from public perception, with the exception of administering the Henry Awards. He knows the time is now to put up or shut up.

      "We are well aware of the feelings of many in the theatre community, and it is our responsibility to make sure we are serving our membership in the best way possible."


      Here are our photos from the Colorado Theatre Guild's 2015 Henry Awards ceremony held July 20 at the Arvada Center. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo for free, click on "View original Flickr" image and choose from a variety of download sizes.


      Here are our photos of people and faces at the Henry Awards. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo for free, click on "View original Flickr" image and choose from a variety of download sizes.

      Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Henry Awards:
      Colorado Theatre Guild honors DCPA with 11 Henry Awards
      The Henry Awards: The complete list of nominations
      Video: 2015 Henry Award acceptance speeches
      Video: 2015 Henry Award performance highlights
      Videos: Our memorial tributes to departed artists in 2014-15
      Duck and cover: Gloria Shanstrom takes your Henry Awards questions
      Beth Malone, Colin Hanlon will perform at Henry Awards
      Guest essay by Margie Lamb: Something about the Henry Award doesn't add up

      Haly Johnson accepts the 2015 Henry Award for 'Night, Mother.' Photo by Brian Landis Folkins
      Haley Johnson accepts the 2015 Henry Award for 'Night, Mother" as Outstanding Play.  Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.
    • Casting announced for Theatre Company's fall shows

      by NewsCenter Staff | Aug 10, 2015
      A scene from 'Lookingglass Alice.' A scene from "Lookingglass Alice." Because of the physical demands of the show, the role of Alice will be shared by two actors.

      The DCPA Theatre Company has released full casting for the first three productions of its 37th season. As previously announced, single tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14.

      Familiar faces to Theatre Company audiences and local theatre will include, in As You Like It, Jason Bowen (black odyssey), Adrian Egolf (Benediction), Drew Horwitz (Miners Alley Playhouse’s Godspell), Maurice Jones (National Theatre Conservatory Class of 2012), Geoffrey Kent (Hamlet, Theatre Company Fight Director, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Othello), Nick LaMedica (Benediction), M. Scott McLean (A Christmas Carol), Philip Pleasants (A Christmas Carol), William Oliver Watkins (One Night in Miami) and Matt Zambrano, who played Crumpet the past two holiday seasons in The SantaLand Diaries). He will play Touchstone.

      The Tribes cast features Kathleen McCall, most recently of Benediction.

      Lookingglass Theatre Company’s
      Lookingglass Alice
      Adapted and Directed by David Catlin from the works of Lewis Carroll
      Produced in association with The Actors Gymnasium
      Sept. 11-Oct. 11 (Opening night Sept 18)
      Stage Theatre

      The season kicks off with Chicago’s gravity-defying hit inspired by Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories. Because of the physical demands of the play, Lauren Hirte and Lindsey Noel Whiting will alternate the title role of Alice. The production will also feature:

      Adeoye (Cheshire Cat and Others)
      Molly Brennan (Red Queen and Others)
      Kevin Douglas (Mad Hatter and Others)
      Samuel Taylor (White Knight and Others)
      Micah Figueroa, Donterrio Johnson and Samuel Zeisel (understudies)


      As You Like It
      270x270-as-you-like-itBy William Shakespeare
      Sept. 25-Nov. 1 (Opening night Oct. 2)
      Space Theatre
      Shakespeare returns to the Theatre Company with As You Like It, directed by Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. The acting company includes:

      Stanley Ray Baron (Page)
      J. Paul Boehmer (Duke Frederick/Duke Senior)
      Jason Bowen (Oliver)
      Maren Bush (Celia)
      Adrian Egolf (Audrey)
      Ben W. Heil (Page)
      Carolyn Holding (Rosalind)
      Drew Horwitz (William)
      Maurice Jones (Orlando)
      Geoffrey Kent (Sir Oliver Martext)
      Emily Kron (Phebe)
      Nick LaMedica (Silvius)
      Lars Lundberg (Page)
      Eddie Martinez (Corin)
      M. Scott McLean (Amiens)
      Daniel Pearce (Jacques)
      Philip Pleasants (Adam)
      William Oliver Watkins (Charles/Jaques de Boys)
      Matt Zambrano (Touchstone)



      270x270-tribesBy Nina Raine
      Oct. 9-Nov. 15 (Opening night Oct 16)
      Ricketson Theatre
      Tribes, directed by Stephen Weitz, poses a unique challenge in that it focuses on a fiercely intelligent and proudly politically incorrect family who argue a lot but don’t communicate with their grown deaf son.​ The acting company:


      Tad Cooley (Billy)
      Isabel Ellison (Ruth)
      Kate Finch (Silvia)
      Stephen Paul Johnson (Christopher)
      Kathleen McCall (Beth)
      Andrew Pastides (Daniel) 

      Performance Schedule
      Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances at 6:30 p.m.
      Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m.
      Saturday and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m. (No Saturday matinees during preview performances)

      Tickets and Subscriptions
      New and renewing subscribers always have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Tickets are available now to subscribers online at denvercenter.org/subscribe, or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to Broadway and student shows, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14.

      Our previous coverage of the 2015-16 Theatre Company season:
      Read our 2015-16 season announcement report here
      Read our exclusive interview with Nick Urata of Devotchka
      Theatre Company announces 2015-16 directors

      Season sponsors
      The Denver Center Theatre Company 2015/16 season is generously supported by Daniel L. Ritchie, Larimer Square, Steinberg Charitable Trust and Wells Fargo.  Media sponsorship for the DCPA Theatre Company is provided by The Denver Post and CBS4.  The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is supported in part by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. 

      Lookingglass Alice is presented by Cadillac and supported by Producing Partners Isabelle Clark, L. Roger & Meredith Hutson, Martin & Jo Ann Semple, and Supporting Partners Fairfield & Woods, PC. As You Like It is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment of the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The production is supported by Sheri & Lee Archer, Katy Atkinson, Isabelle Clark and Diana & Mike Kinsey.

      Tribes is sponsored by Miracle Ear and supported by Terry & Noel Hefty and Karolynn Lestrud. 

    • Live theatre returns to historic Elitch stage after 24 years

      by NewsCenter Staff | Aug 06, 2015
      Hop-A-Long Cassidy performe on the Elitch Theatre roof, but live theatre returns to the historic Elitch Theatre stage on Aug. 20.
      Hop-A-Long Cassidy may have preferred performing on the Elitch Theatre roof, but the upcoming New Works Festival brings theatre back to the indoor stage stage on Aug. 20.

      Editor's Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers a weekly guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

      By David Nehls 
      For the DCPA NewsCenter

      "Thus it came to pass in the 1890s that the theatre and the company at Elitch's Gardens began a career that has ever since placed this organization above any other as an outstanding example of what a resident dramatic stock company should be. I know of no other similar organization that has held so tenaciously to the highest standards of personal production. With all the changing conditions considered, credit for the maintenance of those standards is directly traceable to the source of their creation. The high purpose, the finely sensitive, spiritually guided, wholesomely honest ambition of Mary Elitch is the inspiration and foundation of that record." - Burns Mantle, March 1932

      These words were written by the famous theatre critic for the foreword to Mary Elitch's book, The Lady Of The Gardens. As a young boy growing up in Denver David Nehls during the time of Mary's ownership and management of "Elitch's Gardens and Theatre," he speaks with such reverence to the woman who began a legacy that stretches into the 21st century. The fact that this building, this temple to the genesis of what has become the entertainment industry we now know, still exists, is nothing short of a miracle.

      In a society where history is disposable and those who came before are easily forgotten, the historic Elitch Theatre, located in northwest Denver off 38th Avenue and Tennyson street, stands as a testament to weathering time and adversity to become relevant yet again.

      Sure, it is not in the best of shape, despite several construction projects that have brought the structure up to code. But with community support and love of theatergoers who stretch to both coasts of the U.S., things are looking up. Bathrooms, a new fly roof and an upgraded power supply are the only remaining issues that are keeping the theatre from becoming a full-time, operational venue again. With the proper fundraising and grant options, the doors may be open full-time within the next few years.

      In the meantime, the theatre has been operational this summer for the first time since 1991. Our programming has been limited, but we are utilizing the theatre in the best and safest way possible to give the public access to this historic gem and entertain at the same time. With the ongoing Outdoor Film Series, our upcoming New Works Festival opening Aug. 20, and a Classic Film Series launching Aug. 28, this has been the busiest summer for the Elitch Theatre in 24 years. 

      And why is this place so special? It starts with 100 years of history that might have ended with its closure in 1991. But when the Elitch Gardens amusement park moved to its present downtown location in 1995, the original property in northwest Denver was sold to Perry Affordable Housing with the condition that the theater never be demolished. Here are more fun facts:

      • Did you know the Elitch Theatre opened on May 1, 1890, as a "Theaterorium"? Weird name, for sure, but it was an open-air structure that was enclosed in 1891 to present light opera and Shakespeare, incorporating the Elitch Theatre Stock Company.
      • Did you know the first films shown west of Chicago were displayed in the Elitch Theatre in 1896? Thomas Edison contacted Mary Elitch himself to see if she was interested in exhibiting his Vitaphone.Grace Kelly
      • Did you know Sarah Bernhardt was re-routed during her 1906 tour to Elitch's because of the San Francisco earthquake? She would only play theaters that were not affiliated with the theatrical syndicate in New York and their devious ways. Mary shared the same ideals and hence Madame Bernhardt played the Elitch Theatre in two plays, supported by a stock company that included a young Douglas Fairbanks.
      • Did you know Florenz Ziegfeld's first great success played the Elitch Theatre? In 1896, the Great Sandow performed on Mary's stage with his manager, Ziegfeld, in tow. This was 20 years before his famous Follies debuted in 1916.
      • Did you know former Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils, who founded the Bonfils Theatre and whose estate built the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, appeared on the Elitch stage as an actor from 1934-59, and for a decade helped run the theatre with her husband, George Somnes?
      • Did you know entertainment luminaries such as Harold Lloyd, Antoinette Perry, Edward G. Robinson, Frederic March, Robert Redford, Sylvia Sydney, Grace Kelly, Bernadette Peters, Douglas Fairbanks (Senior and Junior) and Cecil B. DeMille all got their starts at the Elitch Theatre?

      (Photo above: The house in North Denver where Grace Kelly lived in 1951. Yes, the future Princess of Monaco lived at 4020 Raleigh St. Read more about it at This Used to Be Denver.)

      I am just scratching the surface with the theatre's vast history, but it brings me to this summer's programming, and the importance of bringing new works and classic films to the Elitch Theatre. Mary Elitch was extremely nurturing of young and untried talent. When Cecil B. DeMille and his brother, William, were stock players at the theatre, Mary produced William's new plays as part of her season. This started him on a career as a successful Broadway playwright. Her students in the acting and dance school went on to become among the top performers in New York and Hollywood.  

      The New Works Festival will be held from Aug. 20-22, and it will mark the long-awaited return of live theatre to the actual Elitch Theatre stage. The goal of the festival is to discover strong stories and foster them from the beginning stages to an eventual mainstage production. The top two productions as chosen by audiences and an invited selection committee will continue to be workshopped. In the third year of the festival, one work will be presented as a fully produced world premiere as part of the Elitch Theatre's 2017 season programming.  

      We would like to think we are carrying on Mary's legacy of nurturing new ideas and creating a safe environment for these new ideas. Writers from across the United States and Europe submitted to our inaugural festival.

      With the indoor Classic Film Series, we have a rare opportunity to bring Elitch Theatre alumni back to the building where they worked in their heyday.  Each classic film will feature a star who worked at the Elitch Theatre. This a new tradition that could continue for years without ever having to repeat a single film, considering so many Hollywood actors worked here. The four inaugural films will include Spaceballs, featuring Elitch Theatre alumnus Dick Van Patten, and The Miracle Worker (Patty Duke). See the complete schedule below.

      The point of all this is the Elitch Theatre is coming back to life, and will bring audiences back through its doors to be moved by all forms of art once more. Yes, we need help with finances. (What theatre doesn't?) Anyone can easily go to the website to donate, or volunteer.  But the best way to support the Elitch Theatre is to go there, attend our upcoming events, and experience what Cecil B. DeMille called "The Cradle of American Theatre."

      About our Guest columnist:

      David Nehls is the award-winning resident Musical Director at the Arvada Center and the Vice President of the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation. He is also a prolific writer of original music and lyrics  including The Great American Trailer Park Musical (2007 National Tour and regional productions), Broadway Bares 19 and 20, The Watercoolers (2002 Off-Broadway production), Breach (Evolution Theatre Company), Panto Sleeping Beauty (Stages Rep, Houston), It’s A Wonderful Life (1993 National Tour), Killer Wigs From Outer Space  (Animation Project, 2013 GenCon Selection) and many more.

      Remaining outdoor summer films at Elitch Theatre:
      • Aug. 7: Into the Woods, with music by Janine Gastineau
      • Aug. 14: Grease

      (All outdoor films show at dusk; gates open at 7 p.m.)

      The 2015 indoor New Works Festival:

      • Aug. 20: The Consul, The Tramp and America’s Sweetheart by John Morogiello; directed by former National Theatre Conservatory co-Head of Acting Jennifer McCray Rincon
      • Aug. 20: The Mess of Us by Moss Kaplan and Greg Ungar; directed by DCPA Teaching Artist Kate Marie Folkins
      • Aug. 21: A Good Indian by Denver Cenbter Teaching Artist Steven Cole Hughes; directed by Colorado Theatre Guild President Pat Payne
      • Aug. 21: In the Closet by Siegmund Fuchs; directed by Robert Brown
      • Aug. 22: Fifteen Men in a Smoke Filled Room by Colin Speer Crowley; directed by Bev Newcomb-Madden
      • Aug. 22: Lady by Tim Nevits; directed by Robert Michael Sanders

      To purchase tickets, click here

      The 2015 indoor Classic Film Series:

      • Aug. 28: Spaceballs, starring Elitch Theatre alumnus Dick Van Patten. (Note: There will  be a live radio broadcast with Radio Voodoo before the film and a talkback with Jim J. Bullock (Prince Valium) afterward.
      • Sept. 4: The Miracle Worker, starring Elitch Theatre alumna Patty Duke.
      • Sept. 11: Some Like It Hot, starring Elitch Theatre alumnus Joe E. Brown.
      • Sept. 18: The Best Years Of Our Lives, starring Elitch Theatre alumni Frederic March, Myrna Loy, and Theresa Wright
      For more information, click here

      Elitch Theatre Roll call of stars 1891-91

      (as compiled by John Moore)
      Steve Allen, 1974
      Morey Amsterdam, 1968
      John Astin, 1973-74
      Sarah Bernhardt, 1906
      Helen Bonfils, 1934-47
      Raymond Burr, 1944
      Sid Caesar, 1971, '74
      Kitty Carlisle, 1965, '70
      Cecil B. DeMille, 1905
      Patty Duke, 1973-74
      Douglas Fairbanks, 1905
      Douglas Fairbanks Jr., 1971-73
      Jose Ferrer, 1973
      Arlene Francis, 1964-65, '69
      Barbara Bel Geddes, 1964
      George Gobel, 1971
      Julie Harris, 1978
      Kim Hunter, 1975
      Gabe Kaplan, 1982-83
      Grace Kelly, 1951
      Cloris Leachman, 1982-83
      Harold Lloyd, 1914
      Myrna Loy, 1969
      Fredric March, 1926-28
      Jayne Meadows, 1974
      Patricia Neal, 1947
      Maureen O'Sullivan, 1972, '82-83
      Walter Pidgeon, 1964
      Antoinette Perry, 1904-05
      Vincent Price, 1979
      John Raitt, 1977, '79 (father of Bonnie Raitt)
      Lynn Redgrave, 1975
      Robert Redford, 1955
      Edward G. Robinson, 1922
      Ginger Rogers, 1975
      Cesar Romero, 1964
      Mickey Rooney, 1972-74
      William Shatner, 1975
      Gloria Swanson, 1967
      Lana Turner, 1977
      Joan Van Ark, 1960
      Dick Van Patten, 1968
      Nancy Walker, 1987
      Shelley Winters, 1973, '83
      Jane Wyatt, 1939

      Selected coverage of the Elitch Theatre, and previous attempts to revive it:

      2006: Famous, soon-to-be-famous crossed Elitch stage
      2007: Theater returns to old Elitch grounds with The Pavilion
      2007: Causey resigns as Elitch Theatre chief
      2010: Elitch Theatre may yet rise again
      2011: Friend of Mary Elitch helping with theater's restoration effort
      2011: Haila Stoddard: A force from Broadway to the Elitch Theatre
      2014: David Nehls wins True West Award for Elitch Theatre campaign

      Previous Guest Columns:

      Gillian McNally: Colorado's oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
      Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn't add up
      Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
      Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
      Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver

      Be Our Guest (Columnist)
      The DCPA NewsCenter offers a weekly guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and proposed topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

    • Tracy Letts on the origin of the poison in 'August: Osage County'

      by John Moore | Aug 05, 2015

      Note: The following interview between "August: Osage County" playwright Tracy Letts and journalist John Moore was first published in The Denver Post on July 26, 2009. The Creede Repertory Theatre, recent winner of the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Award as Colorado's Outstanding Regional Theatre, is staging the celebrated play as part of its 50th anniversary season.

      The production, opening Aug. 21, features many Denver Center for the Performing Arts veterans, starting with director Christy Montour-Larson, who directed "Shadowlands," "Well" and "The Giver" for the DCPA Theatre Company. Her cast is led by Anne F. Butler, a graduate of the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory, in the leading role of Violet. Also: Diana Dresser ("Jackie & Me," "The Giver," "Girls Only," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and a DCPA Teaching Artist); Mehry Iris Eslaminia ("Appoggiatura"); and married couple John DiAntonio and Caitlin Wise, both NTC graduates. DiAntonio appeared in "Othello" and "A Christmas Carol" for the Theatre Company; Wise starred in "Tom Sawyer," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and others. Jim Hunt understudied three roles in "The Voysey Inheritance."

      Find "August: Osage County" ticket information at the bottom of this story.

      Tracy Letts

      By John Moore

      The Westons of Oklahoma are one of the most messed-up families to ever bicker and barb their way onto a stage. Their history is riddled with abuse, addiction and more secrets than the CIA. Like their guns, they keep their acidic tongues locked and loaded at all times.

      So what does it tell playwright Tracy Letts about the state of the American family that the most common response to his Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County is some variation of, "That's my family!"?

      "It tells me that it's (bleeped) up," Letts said with a laugh.

      "But if it's common to us all, then there is also hope, in a sense," he said. "It's hopeful in the way that we can identify it and maybe even laugh about it."

      At the center of this modern Dust Bowl is the poisonous pill-popping matriarch, Violet. She has cancer of the mouth — medically and metaphorically. Violet has no switch to prevent her from blurting the most vicious things that come to her mind. She pops out furious epithets — most aimed at her own adult daughters — as quickly as she pops in pills. Her spawn all bear varying degrees of inherited burns they will surely pass on to their own children.

      How evil is Violet? Why, she even blasts Colorado.

      "It's not hard to do!" the character says in the play.

      When the patriarch disappears, you fully understand why he might have committed suicide.

      The Westons are a lot of things, but they certainly aren't portrayed here as redneck hicks who've never read a book. The missing patriarch is a college professor and writer based partly on Letts' own father.

      The Westons have been compared to the Lomans of Death of a Salesman and the Tyrones of Long Day's Journey Into Night — though the Westons are far funnier.

      Violet already must rank among the greatest female characters written for the stage. Letts, who also wrote Bug and The Man from Nebraska, would love to take full credit for inventing her. But the truth is, he didn't have to look far for inspiration.

      "Well, she's my grandmother," said Letts, who wrote the play in large part to work out his childhood memories of her. He took from her Violet's inclination and attitude, he said, if not in word. "My grandmother perhaps wasn't capable of the language that Violet is," he said.

      He was nervous when he gave his mother an early draft of the play, but her reaction astonished him. She told him, "I think you've been very kind to my mother."

      "I don't condone or approve of any of her behavior, but I grew a kind of sympathy for my grandmother, and for Violet, over the process of this play," Letts said. "Because despite all of those monstrous things she does and says, I don't know she had a lot of choice. I don't know that people necessarily choose to be bad. I think she was a product of her environment."

      And that was one of extreme poverty and ignorance.

      Oklahoma is best known in literature from Steinbeck's Dust Bowl epic, The Grapes of Wrath. And in many ways, August: Osage County tells the story of the Okies who stayed behind. Okies like the Westons — and the Lettses.

      "I'm not far removed from the people who stayed, so this is very close to the bone for me," said Letts. "My grandfather was born in Indian territory before Oklahoma was even a state. So these are people who actually did live through the Dust Bowl. All those people from that generation went through incredible hardship. The Dust Bowl did a number on a lot of people. It inflicted a lot of damage."

      Before Letts began writing the play, his mother gave him his grandmother's diary from when she was 12. What was remarkable about it was how unremarkable it was.

      "It's just what any young girl might think about, write about, dream about," Letts said.

      "But then when you consider all the damage that happened to any person of her generation growing up the way she did. … My grandmother went to bed hungry. She was married at 15 and she was a mother at 16. And her own mother was a real monster. Obviously, that behavior is learned, and it does get passed down, and it takes a real leap to try to break that cycle."

      But an incendiary play like Osage naturally makes people wonder whether Letts loves or hates his birthplace.

      "Oh I absolutely love and hate Oklahoma at the same time," he said. One thing he's learned in a writing career that has taken him around the world: "People are just as mean wherever you go."

      It's still "science fiction" to Letts how his play stormed New York, leading to both the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize. But he's sadly serious when he says, "the day I won the Pulitzer was certainly one of the worst days of my life."

      That's because his father, Dennis Letts, wasn't there to share it with him. Dennis was not only the inspiration for the play's missing patriarch, Beverly — he originated the role, and played it until his death in February 2008.

      "Dad got sick as we were going to Broadway, and he chose to go on," Letts said. "It was such a blessing that Dad and I got a chance to do this together. But I have to tell you, when he died, I just wanted to punch anyone in the nose who told me how lucky I was. I just lost my dad."

      That blood connection is just one reason it's even more important to Letts how his play is received in cities like Denver than in New York.

      "I tried to really charge this cast with a kind of missionary zeal about taking this play out to the rest of the country," he said. "It's one thing to have success in Chicago or New York or L.A., but this play isn't about people who live there. It's about the rest of us.

      "I love so many of the people I know who have come from Oklahoma. People who are not only good, smart, thoughtful people but who have a unique character because it's been born out of that place. It's cinderblock building against a Big Sky."

      "It was important to me that people there get a chance to see themselves portrayed in a more realistic light."

      Acid tongues and all.

      Cast list: August: Osage County
      Christy Montour-Larson (Instructor)Director: Christy Montour-Larson (right)
      Beverly Weston: Jim Hunt
      Violet Weston: Anne Butler
      Barbara Fordham: Diana Dresser
      Ivy Weston: Caitlin Wise
      Karen Weston: Emily Van Fleet
      Bill Fordham: Jon DiAntonio
      Jean Fordham: Wren Green
      Steve Heidebrecht: Sean Thompson
      Mattie Fae Aiken: Christy Brandt
      Charlie Aiken: John S. Green
      "Little" Charles Aiken: Brian Kusic
      Johnna Monevata: Mehry Iris Eslaminia
      Sheriff Deon Gilbeau: Logan Ernstthal
      Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

      Selected NewsCenter coverage of Creede Rep and August: Osage County:
      Creede Rep at 50: An economic engine and a crucible for new plays
      Creede Rep to celebrate 50th birthday with a nod to past, future
      Wild man Paul Stone puts a familiar face on ALS
      John Wells comes home to talk Meryl Streep and August: Osage County

      Creede Rep's 50th Anniversary Season at a glance:
      (Click here for more detailed descriptions)
      Guys and Dolls
      : Through Aug. 13
      Ghost Light: Through Aug. 14
      Pants on Fire (a totally made up musical for kids): Through Aug. 14
      Our Town
      : Through Aug. 30
      Good on Paper: Through Sept. 18
      August: Osage County
      : Aug. 21-Sept. 19
      Boomtown (late-night improv comedy): Through Sept. 18

      Ticket and lodging Information:
      Call 719-658-2540 or go to Creede Repertory Theatre's web site

    • DCPA says farewell to retiring Head of Acting, Larry Hecht

      by John Moore | Aug 04, 2015

      Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are downloadable for free. Click "View original photo on Flickr."

      The Denver Center for the Performing Arts said farewell to retiring Head of Acting Larry Hecht on Monday night with a celebration that drew past and current acting students from their 20s into their 70s. Hecht taught hundreds of students over 18 years at the DCPA, ranging from beginners to master’s degree candidates.

      “I consider your passion and utterly endless commitment to what you do, day in and day out, to be a rare and incredible gift,” said Hecht’s successor, Timothy McCracken. "Not only to students, but to all of us around you.”

      (Photo: Larry Hecht accepts the congratulations of his successor as DCPA Head of Acting, Timothy McCracken. Photo by John Moore.)Hecht’s retirement coincides with the end of the DCPA's summer education session. He is also wrapping up his farewell performances as a Colorado-based actor with several roles for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He is playing Doctor Faustus in Wittenberg; Captain Fluellen in Henry V; and Earl of Warwick in Henry VI, Part 1. The season wraps in Boulder on Aug. 9 (303-492-8008).

      (Photo: Larry Hecht accepts the congratulations of his successor as DCPA Head of Acting, Timothy McCracken. Photo by John Moore.)

      Hecht had a major role on the faculty of the DCPA's now-closed National Theatre Conservatory (NTC) masters degree program. His many on-stage credits for the DCPA Theatre Company have included A Skull in Connemara, The Pillowman, Glengarry Glen Ross, A Midsummer Night's Dream and more. He also played Mark Rothko in Curious Theatre's multiple award-winning Red.

      Hecht and wife Ashlee Temple (a DCPA Teaching Artist and local director) are moving to California.


      Monday’s celebration did not start until 9:30 p.m. because that’s when Hecht’s final evening class was scheduled to end. His final group of students serenaded him with a take-off on Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls (You Make the Rockin’ World Go Round.)”

      DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous and longtime Teaching Artist Steven Cole Hughes (who is himself leaving the DCPA for a year-long teaching assignment at Western State College in Gunnison) compiled enough tributes from Hecht’s students throughout the world to fill a book. The hosts read several randomly chosen excerpts, many of which thanked Hecht for making them better artists.

      “Thanks for teaching me to speak from the heart, helping me to find the courage to do it in front of people, and giving a little less of a (bleep) what anybody thinks about it,” wrote Ailish Riggs Dermody, a member of the NTC Class of 2008.

      Larry Hecht is playing Doctor Faustus in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'Wittenberg' through Aug. 9. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. January LaVoy, from the NTC Class of 2002, talked about something she calls "That Larry Hecht Thing":

      “Truth. Authenticity. Spontaneity. Simplification. Humanity,” LaVoy wrote. “Most of all: Stop pretending, and just be.”

      (Photo: Larry Hecht is playing Doctor Faustus in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's "Wittenberg" through Aug. 9. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

      McCracken said he considers himself not as Hecht’s successor but, like most everyone else in the room, among his students.

      “I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to learn and grow simply by being around you,” McCracken said, “having you rub off on me and picking up any and every little piece of information, thought, opinion you have offered on theatre, teaching and the arts. I consider you to be one of the finest acting teachers in the country.”

      That’s a sentiment Watrous echoed in an anecdote she shared involving the late and loved DCPA actor and instructor Archie Smith.

      “Archie once said to home, ‘You know, Larry Hecht is the No. 1 acting teacher in the country,’ ” Watrous said. “And I know Archie to be one of the wisest men I have ever met in my life.”

      Encouraged to make a speech, the reluctant Hecht reminded his students that "acting is important, is not frivolous, is serious and does matter to the world.”

      He also left them with some rather profound advice: “If you ever direct, don't write director’s notes,” he said. “It's stupid, and nobody cares.”

      Still, Hecht wrote plenty of director’s notes in his career, and they often quoted Hecht’s favorite band, the Rolling Stones. He did it again at Monday’s party: "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need,” Hecht said.

      “Well, you all gave me what I need … so thank you."   

    • Single tickets to DCPA shows go on sale Aug. 14

      by John Moore | Jul 31, 2015
      Idina Menzel will star in the national tour launch of 'If/Then' in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus.
      Idina Menzel will star in the national tour launch of 'If/Then' in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus.

      Single tickets to 27 upcoming DCPA theatre offerings will go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 14, including the national tour launch of If/Then starring Idina Menzel.

      The lineup includes shows produced or presented by the DCPA Broadway, Theatre Company, Cabaret and OFF-Center's Cult Following.

      How to buy:
      • Buy and print online at denvercenter.org
      • To charge by phone, call Denver Center Ticketing Services at 303-893-4100
      • Groups of 10 or more should call 303-446-4829
      • Purchase in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby.

      Lineup of upcoming shows:

      (Click on any show title for additional information):

      Learn more about the 2015-16 offerings:
      Read all about the 2015-16 Broadway season in Denver here
      Read all about the DCPA Theatre Company's season announcement here
      Breaking: Idina Menzel will launch 'If/Then' national tour in Denver
      Read our exclusive interview with Nick Urata of DeVotchKa about Sweeney Todd

      DCPA's If/Then show page
      DCPA Theatre Company announces 2015-16 directors​
      John Moore's 2011 interview with Idina Menzel in The Denver Post 
    • A 'Gruesome' introduction to self-producing live theatre

      by John Moore | Jul 29, 2015
      DCPA Teaching Artists Mackenzie Sherburne and Kevin Lowry in Passage Theatre Company's 'Gruesome Playground Injuries.'
      Self-producers and stars Mackenzie Sherburne and Kevin Lowry in 'Gruesome Playground Injuries.' Production photos by Eli Carpenter.

      Creating live theatre is hard enough. Creating and self-producing live theatre can be gruesome.

      Local theatre lore is filled with horror stories of, say, those married parents who refinanced their home to produce a play – and lost it.

      Kevin Lowry (Instructor) Mackenzie Paulsen (Instructor) The Denver metro theatre community has about 35 companies that stage full annual seasons of theatre programming. Twice that many are nomadic troupes that pop up whenever they scrape together the resources to put on another play.

      Then there are those naïve and noble creative souls who decide to form a company to stage a specific play from scratch. They have no money, no theatre space, no equipment and, most dauntingly - no audience.

      They pool their meager financial resources. They beg, borrow and steal from their artistic brethren. And they put on a show. It’s a romantic and often financially suicidal creative pursuit. They almost always lose their shirts. Along with next month's rent.

      And they almost never regret it.

      That is just what DCPA Teaching Artists Mackenzie Sherburne and Kevin Lowry are undertaking right now by self-producing Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer-nominated play Gruesome Playground Injuries through Aug. 9 in a developing multimedia arts warehouse in LoDo. The play is a series of vignettes that trace the accident-prone relationship between two friends from age 8 through 30.

      This whole self-producing thing is going to leave some scars. And they know it.

      “We know we are going to lose money,” Sherburne said. “We just hope we don’t lose too much money.”

      So why do they do it? Not just Sherburne and Lowry ... but generations of foolhardy artists who have come before them?

      “When I found the play, and I showed it to Kevin, we couldn’t not do it,” Sherburne said. “When you get to be a part of something that you wholly believe in with every fiber of your being because it is raw and real and challenging as an actor - you just have to do it.”

      Social media sites such as Kickstarter have long emboldened generations of broke artists like Sherburne and Lowry. By starting an online giving campaign, you give your friends and families a chance to buy into your dream.

      Sherburne and Lowry initially drew up a budget of $7,000 for Gruesome Playground Injuries. They would share the risk equally. For two actors whose sustenance is teaching summer classes to DCPA student campers, $3,500 may as well have been $1 million. So by the time they took to the Internet, they had cut their expenses to a bare-bones $2,500. When the deadline came, the new Passage Theatre Company had raised exactly $2,520 from 71 backers. And thanks to them … the show has gone on.

      It's just that at one performance last weekend, it went on for five people.

      The playwright Rajiv Joseph is one of America’s most celebrated – and varied – writers of the moment. He penned the sweeping Iraq war play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (which starred Lowry in a recent production at the Edge Theatre) as well as the football film Draft Day. He also wrote for the TV show Nurse Jackie.

      Sherburne has appeared in several productions for the DCPA Theatre Company, including one Hamlet and two A Christmas Carols. She has understudied for several more, and performed for off-center @ The Jones productions of Perception and DATE. Their Gruesome director, Josh Hartwell, is also a longtime DCPA teaching artist who recently mentored high-school students participating in DCPA Education's statewide teen playwriting workshops.

      Mackenzie Sherburne quote

      Here are more excerpts from our conversation with Sherburne about "Gruesome Playground Injuries":

      John Moore: Have you essentially created Passage Theatre Company just to put on this play?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: Yes, we created the theatre company because we love this play and wanted to work on it.

      John Moore: Why the name “Passage”?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: We liked the versatility of that word. It not only refers to passages of writing that inspire us, but also to the power that comes with going through transitions in your life. Gruesome Playground Injuries is all about big transitions and how they shape who we are.

      John Moore: So what all is involved with creating your own theatre company, as opposed to simply renting space from an existing company like, say, the Aurora Fox?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: When you go out on your own, the first thing you have to do is go through the licensing company and obtain the rights to perform the play. Because we were starting from scratch, our next step was creating our Kickstarter campaign. Once you get funded, then you go out and hire a creative team who can work on a shoestring budget. That includes directors, designers and production personnel. Then you have to find a place to rehearse, and an affordable space to perform the play – which is almost never the same place. Then you take press photos for the media coverage you hope you are going to get. Then you partner with local theatres for props, costumes, chairs, set pieces, marketing, press releases, setting up a way to sell tickets and more. Not to mention rehearsing, memorizing lines and getting the show on its feet.

      John Moore: At so at this point, what is your financial risk to self-produce this play?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: Worst-case scenario: We will have to pay for anything over the ($2,520) we raised in our Kickstarter campaign. In that case, we will likely not put on another show as the Passage Theatre Company. Best-case scenario: We will be able to break even and pay our designers and those people who have generously donated their time to this project.

      John Moore: But realistically, no one is expecting to get paid?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: The stage manager is being paid. And we paid to have our set built. But everyone else involved, including our director, Josh Hartwell, is donating their time.

      John Moore: You crazy artists.

      Mackenzie Sherburne: Right? When does a doctor ever say, “Yeah, I’ll do it for you because it will look good on my resume"? That never happens. This is a labor of love for everyone involved.  

      John Moore: So tell us about this non-traditional space where you are staging this play.

      Mackenzie Sherburne: The Bakery is an intimate performance space near Coors Field. Please let people know there are no more Colorado Rockies home games on any of our remaining performance nights. There isn't a bad seat in the house and, thanks to The LIDA Project, we have transformed it into a beautiful little black-box theatre.

      John Moore: The LIDA Project is the late, lamented experimental theatre company that closed at the end of last year. How did they help?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: Brian Freeland donated risers and chairs so the audience could have a place to sit.

      John Moore: So what is it about this particular play that makes it worth all your trouble?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: I love how it captures the way love and pain co-exist and thrive off one another.  It is not a typical love story by any means, and I love that about it.  

      John Moore: And what’s so Gruesome about Gruesome Playground Injuries?

      DCPA Teaching Artists Mackenzie Sherburne and Kevin Lowry in Passage Theatre Company's 'Gruesome Playground Injuries.'  Mackenzie Sherburne: You watch two 8-year-olds find an odd commonality - a fascination with pain – that unites them throughout their lives, despite the world spinning out of control around them. And you watch them grow and fall in and out of love for 30 years. Ultimately, you are left wondering at the end of the play what happens to them. It is a real love story, with all of the scars and bruises to prove it.

      John Moore: Tell us more about that title.

      Mackenzie Sherburne: Each scene begins with some sort of injury. Some are physical, some are psychological - and they get progressively more harmful as the play goes on.

      John Moore: What do you think it ultimately has to say about why we hurt ourselves?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: That pain can rip us apart - and bring us back together.

      John Moore: You and your team have some pretty deep ties to the DCPA. Who else is helping you out?

      Mackenzie Sherburne: We were given a great amount of advice and guidance from Director of Education Allison Watrous and Technical Director Stuart Barr. We also got help with our marketing from Brianna Firestone and Hope Grandon. And we have had tremendous help getting the word out from the entire summer-camp faculty.

      John Moore: So what have you learned from all of this? 

      Mackenzie Sherburne: I was surprised by how many people it took to get it this thing on its feet. So many theatre companies and individual people have stepped up and donated their time, their counsel, their skill or their labor. Most of all, this whole thing has made me appreciate any theatre that has any butts in its seats … ever.

      Gruesome Playground Injuries: Ticket information
      Presented by Passage Theatre Company
      Written by Rajiv Joseph
      Plays through Aug. 9
      Where: At The Bakery, 2132 Market St. Denver, 80202
      Times: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 9
      Cost: Tickets are $20
      Purchase online at www.passagetheatre.com or 720-979-8486

    • Video: 2015 Henry Award Acceptance Speeches

      by John Moore | Jul 28, 2015

      Here are short excerpts from acceptance speeches by recipients of the Colorado Theatre Guild's 2015 Henry Awards. The ceremony was held July 20 at the Arvada Center.

      It was a huge night for the DCPA's Billie McBride, who won three Henry Awards and presented another. She was honored for directing Vintage Theatre's 'Night Mother, which also won Outstanding Production of a Play. And she was named Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play for her work in the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere play, Benediction. "Kent Thompson is a gentle and loving director," she says, "and it's just a beautiful play."

      In accepting the DCPA Theatre Company's Outstanding Season by a Company Award, DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller told those attending the ceremony: "The work that you are creating day in and day out is the envy of the nation. The fact that the NEA has just said that 52 percent of everybody who lives in the state of Colorado comes to attend live theatrical events, compared to 36 or 38 percent everywhere else in the country, is remarkable. And it doesn't happen by accident. It happens because of the incredible storytellers who are here in this room. The DCPA is so honored to be a part of this theatrical community."

      You'll also see Beth Malone accept the Outstanding Actress in a Musical Award for her work in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Colin Hanlon accept The 12's award as Outstanding New Play or Musical. 

      To see performance highlights from the Henry Awards, click here.

      The director of the awards ceremony was Jim Hunt.

      Video by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

      DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller accepts the Theatre Company's Henry Award for Outstanding Season. Photo by John Moore.  DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller accepts the Theatre Company's Henry Award for Outstanding Season by a Company. Photo by John Moore. 

      Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Henry Awards:
      Colorado Theatre Guild honors DCPA with 11 Henry Awards
      The Henry Awards: The complete list of nominations
      Video: 2015 Henry Award performance highlights
      Videos: Our memorial tributes to departed artists in 2014-15
      Duck and cover: Gloria Shanstrom takes your Henry Awards questions
      Beth Malone, Colin Hanlon will perform at Henry Awards
      Guest essay by Margie Lamb: Something about the Henry Award doesn't add up
    • Photos from Underground Music Showcase: The UMS

      by John Moore | Jul 27, 2015

      Our photos from The Denver Post's 2015 The Underground Music Showcase, otherwise known as "The UMS." Now in its 15th year, The UMS is Denver’s premier indie music festival, featuring 400 performances over four days at more than 20 venues along South Broadway. All photos by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, who founded The UMS in 2001.

      Slim Cessna's Auto Club on the UMS mainstage. Photo by John Moore. Slim Cessna's Auto Club on the UMS mainstage. Photo by John Moore.
    • Photos: Colorado Theatre Guild's 2015 Henry Awards

      by John Moore | Jul 24, 2015

      Here are our photos from the Colorado Theatre Guild's 2015 Henry Awards ceremony held July 20 at the Arvada Center. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo for free, click on "View original Flickr" image and choose from a variety of download sizes.


      Here are our photos of people and faces at the Henry Awards. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo for free, click on "View original Flickr" image and choose from a variety of download sizes.

      Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Henry Awards:
      Colorado Theatre Guild honors DCPA with 11 Henry Awards
      The Henry Awards: The complete list of nominations
      Video: Performances from the 2015 Henry Awards ceremony
      Videos: Our memorial tributes to departed artists in 2014-15
      Duck and cover: Gloria Shanstrom takes your Henry Awards questions
      Beth Malone, Colin Hanlon will perform at Henry Awards
      Guest essay by Margie Lamb: Something about the Henry Award doesn't add up

      They're actors! Haley Johnson and castmate Emma Messenger pretend to fight over the Henry Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama. Photo by John Moore.
      They're actors! Haley Johnson and castmate Emma Messenger pretend to fight over the Henry Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama. They were both nominated for ' 'Night, Mother.' Messenger won. The staging was named Outstanding Play of 2014-15. Photo by John Moore. 
    • Video: 2015 Henry Awards performance highlights

      by John Moore | Jul 23, 2015

      Here are our performance highlights from Monday's Henry Awards, including Outstanding Actress winner Beth Malone, who came home from her night off in Broadway's Fun Home the Musical to sing from the DCPA's The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which later was named Outstanding Musical. She sang from the songs "I Ain't Down Yet" and "Wait for Me."

      Beth Malone performs from 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' at the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards at the Arvada Center. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins for the DCPA's NewsCenter.  Also featured are Colin Hanlon of The DCPA's The 12, The Henrys' Outstanding New Play or Musical. He sang the song "Three Times (I Denied)."

      The Town Hall Arts Center​ showcased both its Outstanding Musical nominee Anything Goes ("Blow, Gabriel Blow, featuring Norrell Moore and trumpeter Michael Skillern) as well as Outstanding Actor in a Musical Nominee Tim Howard, who performed "I Believe in You" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

      (Photo: Beth Malone performs from 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' at the Henry Awards at the Arvada Center. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins for the DCPA's NewsCenter.) 

      Also featured were high-school students Curtis Salinger and Ana Koshevoy of Durango High School, who performed a medley from their production of Les Misérables, which in May won the Bobby G Awards' highest honor as Outstanding Musical by a Colorado high school in 2014-15.

      The director of the awards ceremony was Jim Hunt. The musical director was Donna Kolpan Debreceni. Her orchestra included Bob Rebholz, Scott Alan Smith, Larry Ziehl and Michael Skillern.

      Video by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

      Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Henry Awards:
      Colorado Theatre Guild honors DCPA with 11 Henry Awards
      The Henry Awards: The complete list of nominations
      Videos: Our memorial tributes to departed artists in 2014-15
      Duck and cover: Gloria Shanstrom takes your Henry Awards questions
      Beth Malone, Colin Hanlon will perform at Henry Awards
      Guest essay by Margie Lamb: Something about the Henry Award doesn't add up

      Colin Hanlon performs from 'The 12' at the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards at the Arvada Center. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.
      Colin Hanlon performs from 'The 12' at the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards at the Arvada Center. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. 

    • Announcing 'The Book of Mormon' daily ticket lottery

      by NewsCenter Staff | Jul 23, 2015

      A limited number of tickets to every performance of 'The Book of Mormon' will be available for every performance in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus (c)
      A limited number of tickets to every performance of 'The Book of Mormon' will be available for every performance in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus (c 2015)

      By Heidi Bosk
      For the DCPA NewsCenter

      The Book of Mormon,
       winner of nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, has announced a lottery ticket policy for the National Tour, which plays The Ellie Caulkins Opera House from Aug. 11 through Sept. 13. In Denver, the production will conduct a pre-show lottery at The Ellie, making a limited number of tickets available for every performance at $25 apiece.

      The wildly popular lottery for the Broadway production has attracted as many as 800 entries at some performances. The producers of The Book of Mormon are pleased to offer low-priced lottery seats for every city on the National Tour.  

      The Book of Mormon broke house records during the last Denver engagement in 2013 and currently holds the all-time record at The Buell Theatre for the highest weekly gross (for an eight-show performance week) for the week ending Nov. 17, 2013, during which the show grossed $1,993,690.00. The Book of Mormon also broke house records week after week during the three-week national tour launch engagement in fall 2012 and currently holds the all-time record at The Ellie for the highest weekly gross (for an eight-show performance week) for the week ending Sept. 2, 2012, during which the show grossed $1,443,977. In addition, The Book of Mormon currently holds the all-time single-ticket on-sale record for The Denver Center for the Performing Arts with more than 38,000 tickets sold on June 10, 2013. The record was previously held by the 2012 on-sale for the national tour launch.

      Lottery details

      Entries will be accepted at The Ellie box office beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance; each person will print their name and the number of tickets (one or two) they wish to purchase on a card that is provided. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random for a limited number of tickets priced at $25 each, cash only. Only one entry is allowed per person. Cards are checked for duplication prior to drawing. Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid ID to purchase tickets. Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner. Tickets are subject to availability.

      The Book of Mormon
       features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are the four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the landmark animated series, “South Park.” Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy, Avenue Q.  The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone) and is directed by Nicholaw and Parker.

      The Book of Mormon: Ticket information
      Aug. 11-Sept. 13
      7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
      At The Ellie, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      Tickets start at $35
      Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      TTY: 303-893-9582
      Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
      Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at Denvercenter.org.

      Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of The Book of Mormon.

       About The Book of Mormon

      The Book of Mormon features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are the four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the landmark animated series, South Park. Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy, Avenue Q.  The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone) and is directed by Nicholaw and Parker. 

      The Book of Mormon is the winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Book (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman, Stephen Oremus); the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; five Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album; four Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best Musical, and the Drama League Award for Best Musical.

      The Book of Mormon features set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt and sound design by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations are by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus.  Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Stephen Oremus.  

      The Original Broadway cast recording for The Book of Mormon, winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, is available on Ghostlight Records.

      For more information, visit www.BookofMormonTheMusical.com

      Follow The Book of Mormon  on Twitter and on Facebook


    • Photos: Backstage for Phamaly's remarkable opening-night ritual, 'Zap!'

      by John Moore | Jul 22, 2015

      Photos from before and after Phamaly Theatre Company's July 16 opening of "Cabaret" at the DCPA's Space Theatre. To download any photo above, click on "View original Flickr image." Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. 

      In the minutes before the opening performance of Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret, actor and founding company member Mark Dissette gathers the cast of 30 actors, each with widely varying disabilities, along with crew and volunteers, for one of the most electrifying pre-show rituals in the local theatre community.

      They form a circle. Those who can stand, stand. Those who cannot roll up in their wheelchairs. Those who can clasp hands, claps hands. Those with missing or disfigured hands make contact with their neighbors as best they can. They all close their eyes in reverence as Dissette calls out from memory the agonizingly long list of company members who have passed away during the 26 years that this unique company has been creating performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

      Dabiel Traylor, who plays one of the 'Cabaret' Emcees, just before the opening performance. Photo by John Moore. Dissette then begins the ritual they call "Zap." As if there weren't enough energy in the air already, the group begins to buzz. Literally. "This is our dream - get a little louder," Dissette orders. And they do. "Bzzz." "This is our vision - get a little louder." And they do. "BZZZ." After more exhortation, the vibration builds to a deafening climax.

      "1-2-3 ..." Dissette shouts, and all voices scream in unison, "ZAP!"

      Now there is nothing but sudden, solemn silence. The next spoken word is not to be uttered until the actors hit the stage. For a company whose actors are blind and deaf, with disabilities ranging from stroke to spina bifida to multiple sclerosis to AIDS, it is both the beginning and the culmination of an extraordinary journey.

      (Photo: Daniel Traylor, who plays one of the 'Cabaret' Emcees, just before the opening performance. Photo by John Moore.)

      Cabaret, directed by newly named Artistic Director Bryce Alexander, is inherently different from any Cabaret you may have seen before. (Although there are multiple versions of the Cabaret script out there, Phamaly is performing the version starring Alan Cumming on Broadway in 1998, which is the most sexually explicit.) 

      Consistent with the Phamaly philosophy, the actors’ handicaps are not hidden but rather adapted into the roles they play. So Sally Bowles (Lyndsay Palmer) happens to be hard of hearing. Fraulein Schneider (Lucy Roucis) has advanced Parkinson’s disease.

      Perhaps Alexander’s most daring creative departure is casting two actors to play the iconic Emcee at once. Longtime company member Daniel Traylor, who has Sensoral Neural Hearing Loss (among other issues), shares the role with newcomer Garrett Zuercher, who appeared as Huck Finn in Deaf West’s Broadway production of Big River.

      Rather than trade performances, the two share the same stage as “M” and “C,” respectively, a couple who run the show at a Kit Kat Klub - which in this world primarily services a disabled clientele in pre-World War II Germany. Traylor speaks the Emcee’s lines because he can, while Zuercher communicates with the audience, and his fellow actors, in multiple non-verbal ways.

      The creative intent of all this is to make plain to the audience that Holocaust victims also included artists, homosexuals, the disabled and many others.

      Before the opening performance, Phamaly hosted its annual fundraising gala, at which the company's 2015-16 season was announced. The lineup includes the presentation of Nagle Jackson's Taking Leave at the Jones Theatre. Because the DCPA's Space Theatre will be undergoing a renovation next summer, Phamaly's presentation of Evita will move to the University of Denver's Newman Center.

      Phamaly now operates year-round, so this is the first season announcement that will allow audiences the opportunity to purchase a season ticket. (Call 303-365-0005, ext. 3). The lineup:

      Baby with the Bathwater
      By Christopher Durang
      Directed by Warren Sherrill
      Oct. 9-25 at the Avenue Theater

      Fuddy Meers
      By David Lyndsay-Abaire
      Directed by the DCPA's Emily Tarquin
      Jan. 28-Feb. 14, 2016, at the Aurora Fox
      Feb. 26-28, 2016, at the Arvada Center

      Taking Leave
      By Nagle Jackson
      Directed by Bryce Alexander
      April 1-17, 2016
      At the Jones Theatre at the DCPA

      By Time Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
      Directed by Bryce Alexander
      July 14-Aug. 7, 2016
      At the University of Denver's Byron Theatre in the Newman Center

      Phamaly Theatre Company's pre-show 'Zap' ritual before the opening performance of 'Cabaret.' Photo by John Moore.

      Phamaly Theatre Company's pre-show 'Zap' ritual before the opening performance of 'Cabaret.' Photo by John Moore. 

      Cabaret: Ticket information
      Performances through Aug. 9
      Space Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex
      Contains mature themes and is not recommended for children.
      Tickets $32-42
      Groups of 10 or more $26 per person
      Call 303-893-4100 or go to Phamaly's web site

      Cast List:
      Directed by Bryce Alexander
      Musical Direction by Mary Dailey
      Choreography by Debbie Stark and Ronni Gallup
      Master of Ceremonies (Emcee): Garrett Zuercher and Daniel Traylor
      Clifford Bradshaw: Jeremy Palmer
      Fraulein Schneider: Lucy Roucis
      Herr Shultz: Mark Dissette
      Fraulein Kost: Ashley Kelashian
      Sally Bowles: Lyndsay Palmer
      Ernst Ludwig: Trenton Schindele

      Female Ensemble:
      Khea Craig
      Harper Liles
      Megan McGuire
      Amber Marsh
      Lauren Cora Marsh
      Laurice Quinn
      Micayla Smith
      Kristi Siedow-Thompson
      Vicki Thiem
      Rachel VanScoy
      Shannon Wilson
      Linda Wirth

      Male Ensemble:
      Kevin Ahl
      Brian Be
      Stewart Caswell
      Donny Gabenski
      Adam Johnson
      Phillip Lomeo
      James Sherman
      Andrew Tubbs

      Youth Ensemble:
      Everett Ediger
      Harper Ediger
      Leslie Wilburn

    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.