• December: Colorado theatre openings

    by John Moore | Nov 25, 2015

    Cleo Parker Robinson's "Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum" returns for a 24th year.

    NOTE: Each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of all upcoming Colorado theatre openings.

    If it's nearing December, then that means there will be a whole heaping of want, ignorance and Tuna on the collective holiday theatre table. This year features four Annie Dwyer and T.J. Mullin, Candlelight's 'A Christmas Carol.'variations on A Christmas Carol on local stages, perhaps most notably here at the DCPA, where actor Philip Pleasants has decided to play Scrooge for the last time; and at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, which has reunited Heritage Square Music Hall favorites T.J. Mullin and Annie Dwyer (pictured right). The last time Candlelight announced those two would be performing together on its stage 45 miles north of Denver, performances of Miracle on 34th Street had to be added to accommodate demand.

    There also will be three separate stagings of A Tuna Christmas, the holiday spinoff of the ubiquitous small-town stage comedy Greater Tuna. It's 24 hours before Christmas and the more than 20 screwball characters - all played by two actors - are attempting to cope with unusual seasonal traumas. Catch it in Fort Collins (Bas Bleu), Golden (Miners Alley Playhouse) or Colorado Springs (Millibo Art Theatre). (Pictured at right: Jay Benedict Brown and David Austin-Gröen, Bas Bleu Theatre (top), photo by William A. Cotton; and Christian Mast and Seth Maisel, Miners Alley Playhouse (below), photo by JR Cody Schuyler. Not pictured: Sammie Joe Kinnett and Sammy Gleason from Millibo Art Theatre's "Greater Tuna.".)

    Those preferring holiday-themed fare with a subversive twist will be drawn to the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's The SantaLand Diaries, an annual co-production with the DCPA's Off-Center. Now in its seventh staging, this is David Sedaris' caustic monologue about his experiences working as a Macy's department-store elf. This year it will star  Michael Bouchard for the first time.

    People wanting a break from holiday-themed shows altogether will be attracted to Vintage Theatre's big splashy Barbra musical, Funny Girl. Subversives in Colorado Springs will want to check out Funky Little Theatre's Hellcab, a 70-minute collection of comic and occasionally nasty scenes from a day in the life of a Chicago cabbie.

    It will be yet another robust month of live theatre overall, with theatregoers getting to choose from 48 statewide options. The Denver Center will be bustling with six December titles, including the stage adaptation of the frozen-tongued classic, A Christmas Story The Musical.

    Companies are encouraged to submit future listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to jmoore@dcpa.org.


    1 PerspectivesThe Edge Theatre Company's Exit Strategies: While most of the Colorado theatre community is presenting holiday shows, The Edge will be celebrating the winner of its second annual new-play competition with a fully stage production of local playwright Jeffrey Neuman's Exit Strategies. His story has a moderately successful playwright returning home for his father’s funeral, only to be drawn back into the explosive family dynamics he’s been trying to escape. Exit Strategies, featuring bigshots Emma Messenger, Andrew Uhlenhopp, Emily Paton Davies and Missy Moore, plays weekends Dec. 4-27 at 1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    2 Perspectives

    Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret's BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular: For seven years, a small group of local actors and musicians have dedicated their Decembers to staging an irreverent, holiday-themed variety show for the financial benefit a different local nonprofit. Over the years, GerRee Hinshaw, Mare Trevathan and Jim Ruberto, now joined by Emily K. Harrison, have raised $30,000 for worthy charities. This year's designee is The Gathering Place, Denver's only daytime drop-in center for women, their children and transgender individuals experiencing poverty or homelessness. BALLS is a blast, and pretty darned close to good, clean fun. With sock puppets. (Recommended for ages 16 and up.) Guest stars this year will include local musicians John Common, Jess DeNicola and Jen Korte; juggler Brian Landis Folkins; magician Gregg Tobo; comedian Christie Buchele; actor Adrian Egolf; the drunken team of Jack and Coke (aka Meridith C. Grundei and Gary Grundei); DJ Savior Breath; DJ YanceyleBeef and a special appearance by former 9News anchor Kirk Montgomery. BALLS! performs at 7 p.m. Mondays, Dec. 7 and 14 at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, 1601 Arapahoe St., 303-293-0075 or lannies.com.

    3 PerspectivesCleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble's Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum: For the 24th year, dance legend and Colorado cultural icon Cleo Parker Robinson presents her signature holiday show (born at the Denver Center back in the day). Granny blends dance, live music, spoken word and seasonal celebrations and customs from around the world into a local tradition like no other.  Granny, whose memories are her gifts to those she loves, is starting to forget many of her stories, as well as the magical dances she has witnesses or performed in a lifetime spanning the African Harvest, the Native American Winter Solstice, the Celtic Yule Time, Las Posadas in Mexico, Kwanzaa, the ancient Hebrew Festival of Lights, the Chinese New Year and even the Caribbean’s Junkanoo Day. For the first time in more than 20 years, Robinson is bringing her Denver original back to its original home in Five Points. "We felt this was certainly the time to bring Granny right back home to where her story began," Robinson said. "Our theatre is so beautifully renovated now, and we wanted to share our excitement and pride with everyone in the community by inviting them to see the show in the place where it was first created." Plays Dec. 5-20 at 119 Park Avenue West (Corner of 20th Avenue, Park Avenue and Washington Street), 303-295-1759, ext. 13, or cleoparkerdance.org


    Ian Lowe and Joe Kinosian in "Murder for Two." Photo by Joan Marcus

    Though Nov. 29: Disney's The Lion King 
    Though Feb. 21: Denver Center Cabaret's Murder For Two
    Nov. 27-Dec. 27: Off-Center's The SantaLand Diaries
    Dec. 4-27: DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol
    Dec. 12-13: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis
    Dec. 16-27, 2015: A Christmas Story, The Musical, Buell Theatre


    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Nov. 27-Dec. 27: Vintage Theatre’s Jacob Marley’s A Christmas Carol
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Nov. 27-Jan. 17: Vintage Theatre’s Funny Girl
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Dec. 27: Off-Center's The SantaLand Diaries
    (Presented with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company)
    Jones Theatre,14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org   

    Nov. 27-Dec. 31: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol
    4747 Marketplace Drive, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Nov. 27-Jan. 2: Midtown Arts Center's Merry and Bright
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Nov. 27-Dec. 27: Aurora Fox's Little Women, The Musical
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org

    Nov. 27-Dec. 20: Rattlebrain Theatre's Santa's Big Red Sack
    At The Avenue Theater, 417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or www.avenuetheater.com

    Nov. 27-Dec. 27: Thin Air Theatre Company's The Christmas Donkey
    139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    Dec. 3-20: Su Teatro's A Colorado Christmas
    721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or su teatro’s home page

    Dec. 3-24: TheatreWorks' Born Yesterday
    3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Dec. 4-19: Funky Little Theater Company’s HellCab
    2109 Templeton Gap Road, Colorado Springs, www.funkylittletheater.org

    Dec. 4-31: The Edge Theatre's Exit Strategies
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Dec. 4-27: DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol
    Stage Theatre,14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 5-20: Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble's Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum
    119 Park Avenue West (Corner of 20th Avenue, Park Avenue and Washington Street), 303-295-1759, ext. 13 or cleoparkerdance.org

    Dec. 7 and 14: BALLS! VII: A Holiday Spectacular
    Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, D&F Clock Tower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075, lannies’ home page or www.ballsaholidayspectacular.com

    Dec. 10-20: Thunder River's Bakersfield Mist
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Dec. 10-19: Springs Ensemble Theatre's Stocking Stuffers
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Dec. 10-27:  The Millibo Art Theatre’s A Tuna Christmas
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321 or order tickets here

    Dec. 11-Jan 3: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
    30 West Dale St, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Dec. 11-13: Central City Opera's Amahl and the Night Visitors
    At Trinity United Methodist Church, 1820 Broadway, Denver, 303-292-6700 or CentralCityOpera.org

    Dec. 11-19: Equinox Theatre's Musical Shenanigans 2015
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Dec. 11-20: Longmont Theatre Company's Sleeping Beauty
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmont’s home page

    Dec. 11-20: The Stampede Troupe's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
    Hensel Phelps Auditorium, 701 10th Ave., Greeley, 970-356-5000 or ucstars.com

    Dec. 12-13: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis
    Buell Theatre,14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org 

    Dec. 12-13 Stories on Stage's Making Merry
    2 p.m. Dec. 12 at Chautauqua, 301 Morning Glory Drive, Boulder, 303-440-7666 or chautauqua.com
    1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13 the King Center, 855 Lawrence Way, on the Auraria Campus. 303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org

    Dec. 16-27, 2015: A Christmas Story, The Musical
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 18-20: Evergreen Players' A Christmas Carol  (staged reading)
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreen players’ home page

    Dec. 30: Lone Tree Arts Center's One-Man Star Wars
    10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, lone tree’s home page

    Currently continuing productions:

    Through Nov. 28: OpenStage & Company's Superior Donuts
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Through Nov. 29: National touring production of Disney's The Lion King
    Buell Theatre,14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org   

    Through Dec. 5: Upstart Crow's Deirdre of the Sorrows
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or upstart’s home page

    Through Dec. 5: Equinox Theatre's Dog Sees God, Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Through Dec. 6: Local Theatre Company's Faith
    The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or local’s home page

    Through Dec. 6: Theatre Esprit Asia's Coming to America
    At ACAD Galery, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-492-9479, or www.theatre-esprit-asia.org

    Through Dec. 6: Rattlebrain Theatre Company's Voddville!
    At the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org

    Through Dec. 13: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure
    176 Lake Dillon Drive, Dillon, 970-513-9386

    Through Dec. 19: Curious Theatre Company's Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page

    Through Dec. 19: Firehouse Theatre Company's A Ring-a-Ding Christmas: A Crooner Holiday Revue
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page

    Through Dec. 20: Miners Alley Playhouse’s A Tuna Christmas
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through Dec. 23: Arvada Center's Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through Dec. 27: Town Hall Arts Center's Shrek
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Through Dec. 27: Bas Bleu Theatre’s A Tuna Christmas
    401 Pine St, Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through Dec. 30: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's A Christmas Story
    Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge,  970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Through Dec. 31: Casino Murder Mystery's Let's Kill the Whistle Blower
    At the Lumber Baron Inn, 2555 W. 37th Ave., Denver, CO 80211, 303-477-8205 or CasinoMurderMysteries.com

    Through Jan. 2: Midtown Arts Center’s Rock of Ages
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through Feb. 21, 2016: Denver Center Cabaret's Murder For Two
    Garner Galleria Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through Feb. 27: BDT Stage's The Addams Family
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    For a complete list of performances benefiting the Denver Actors Fund, click here


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

    Dec. 15: The Great Debate: Arguing dumb topics.
    Dec. 16: The Narrators: Firsts. True stories centered on a monthly theme
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.org

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

    First Saturday of each month at 11 a.m.: Rodents of Unusual Size
    985 Santa Fe Drive, 720-346-7396 or sparktheater.org

  • Video: Mayor, Tiny Tim launch Mile High Holidays 2015

    by NewsCenter Staff | Nov 25, 2015
    The video above shows excerpts from remarks by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller at the 2015 "Denver Mile High Holidays" kickoff event from the stage of the DCPA Theatre Company's "A Christmas Carol."  

    "Denver Mile High Holidays" is an annual statewide effort to encourage visitors and locals alike to fully celebrate the season in and around the metro area. Denver holiday traditions include parades, performing arts, shopping and the largest holiday lights display in Colorado, among other events and activities.

    The kickoff event was held Monday on the set of the DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol, which performs for a 23rd holiday season in the Stage Theatre through Dec. 27.

    "I am so proud of the incredible work that is done on this stage here every single night, but I am even more proud of the more than 1,000 $10 tickets that we have sold to this beautiful production thanks to the Scientic and Cultural Facilities District," DCPA CEO President Scott Shiller said of the low-cost DCPAccess program.

    Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock rubbed elbows with actor Sam Gregory, who is understudying the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and young castmate Augie Reichert, who plays Tiny Tim.

    Click here to go to the 'Mile High Holidays' website

    Mile High Holidays 300"There is no better place to be than right here in the Mile High City during the holidays," said Hancock (pictured at right), who encouraged visitors and residents to not only to attend performances this holiday season but to shop locally "because those resources stay here and allow us to invest in our city."

    He encouraged shoppers to visit the one-of-a-kind galleries and shops that populate Denver's many neighborhoods before listing off nearly shopping district in the metro area from Denver Pavilions to Tennyson Street.    

    The "Mile High Holidays" marketing campaign is sponsored by Visit Denver, the City of Denver and more than two dozen partners including the DCPA. The host of the kickoff event was Jayne Buck, Vice President of Tourism for Visit Denver. Additional remarks were made by:

    Mile High Holidays 600 3 Above: Children at the 2015 "Denver Mile High Holidays" kickoff event join  DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller, back left, and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, back right. Front left is Auggie Reichert, who plays Tiny Tim in the DCPA Theatre Company's "A Christmas Carol." Below, actor Sam Gregory (Scrooge) has some humbuggery fun with Jayne Buck of Visit Denver. Photo by John Moore.   

    Mile High Holidays 600
  • Meet the cast: Jake Williamson of 'A Christmas Carol'

    by John Moore | Nov 22, 2015
    Jake Williamson


    Ensemble in A Christmas Carol

    At the DCPA Theatre Company: Debut. New York credits include Deployed (Gene Frankel Theatre), Dysfunctional Love (Producers Club), A Knock at the Door (Abingdon Theatre). Other credits include Ring of Fire (Palace Theatre), Escanaba in Love (Aurora Fox), Lend Me a Tenor (Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre).

    • Jake WilliamsonHometown: Denver
    • High school: Dakota Ridge (Littleton)
    • College: Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre, Metropolitan State University
    • What was the role that changed your life? Rick Bernstein, who founded Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, was doing an outreach program in high schools to discuss and explore the issues facing teens in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre using improv and acting. It was called "Theatre Rap." I was fortunate enough to get involved in that program, and he saw something in me that he cultivated over the years by casting me in shows and getting me involved in classes at a very formative age. That set me on the path to make acting my career and passion. I often credit him with saving my life. 
    • Why are you an actor? Storytelling is in my bones. And I like humans. It's a profound way to express empathy for humans. ... And I crave attention.
    • What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t an actor? I want to think I'd be an astrophysicist, but I probably would have become a cartoonist.
    • Jack LemmonIdeal scene partner: Jack Lemmon. I want to learn how he was able to be so funny and vulnerable and honest and inventive in all his roles. He seemed like a blast to work with, and I think he would have been profoundly enlightening.   
    • Why does A Christmas Carol still matter? Its message seems to become more and more potent as the years go by. It's not hard to draw relevance from this tale as the cultural and economic gap widens in our society.   
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of it? I hope they walk out inspired to embody the spirit and joy Mr. Fezziwig has during the holidays: Kind, open, giving, joyous and prone to dance. 
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..." friends, family, art, wine, and a well-crafted meme to laugh at. 

    See Jake Williamson perform Monday in the DCPA Holiday Cabaret

    Jake Williamson in the Southrn Colorado Repertory Theatres 'Forever Plaid.' Photo by Fites Photography

    Jake Williamson, far right, appeared in the Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre's 2009 production of 'Forever Plaid.' Photo by Fites Photography.

    A Christmas Carol:
    Ticket information

    Nov 27-Dec 27 (Opens Dec. 4) | Stage Theatre
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    TTY: 303-893-9582

    Previous 2015 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Meet Courtney Capek (Belle)
    Meet Shannan Steele (Fred's wife)

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol:
    Philip Pleasants: A Scrooge for the ages, one last time
    First rehearsal: Scrooge, in typical fashion: Let's get to work!
    From Denver Center's Tiny Tim to TV's Fuller House
    Beginnings and endings for stars of A Christmas Carol, The SantaLand Diaries
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes
    Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    By the numbers: A Christmas Carol over 22 years at the DCPA
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos

    Previous years' 'Meet the Cast' videos:
    James Michael Reilly
    Leslie Alexander
    Philip Pleasants
    Sam Gregory
    Mehry Iris Eslaminia
    Allen Dorsey
    Leslie O'Carroll
    Stephanie Cozart
    Charlie Korman
    Kyra Lindsay
    M. Scott McLean
  • Full casting announced for LBJ drama 'All the Way'

    by John Moore | Nov 20, 2015
    When Robert Schenkkan was in Denver last season for the world premiere of his rock musical 'The 12,' we asked his thoughts on his hit Broadway drama, 'All the Way,' which will be performed by the DCPA Theatre Company from Jan. 29-Feb. 28.

    The DCPA Theatre Company this morning announced full casting for its upcoming production of Robert Schenkkan’s Tony-Award winning play All The Way, which will be directed by Anthony Powell (Lord of the Flies) and presented Jan. 29-Feb. 28 in the Stage Theatre.

    The political drama will feature a cast of Theatre Company veterans and actors making their Denver Center debuts. C. David Johnson, who starred for eight years on the dramatic TV series Street Legal in his native Canada, will play President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Terence Archie, who played John in The 12, will play Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

    All The Way cast.The large cast includes 18 actors who have performed with the DCPA Theatre Company over the past three seasons. 

    All the Way vividly portrays one of the most controversial, ambitious and ruthless figures of the 20th century — President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Set in the pivotal year between John F. Kennedy's assassination and Johnson’s re-election, LBJ hurls himself at the Civil Rights Act, determined to rebuild the country into The Great Society by any means necessary.

    “While this incredible period of tragedy and change in American history took place 50 years ago, the subject matter is eerily relevant to our nation today,” said Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, “It’s no coincidence that we’ve chosen to present this
    play heading into the 2016 national election.”

    Written by Schenkkan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of The Kentucky CycleAll the Way garnered the 2014 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play in its Broadway debut.

    When Schenkkan was in Denver last season for the world premiere of his rock musical The 12, co-written by Neil Berg and presented by the DCPA Theatre Company, the DCPA NewsCenter asked him for his thoughts on the relationship between LBJ and MLK. He said it was a complicated one.

    "It began in mutual suspicion and mistrust and grew to be a very successful political collaboration," Schenkkan said. "From 1964 and into 1965, they worked very well together, if not always easily. But then again, LBJ never worked easily with anybody.

    "Both men I think had an unreasonable expectation of what the other man's powers and abilities were in terms of being able to control events on the ground. King, I think, expected LBJ to have more sway in Congress than LBJ did, and LBJ expected King to have more power on the street than King did.

    "That having been said, they succeeded together. I think you have to credit them both with these two extraordinary bills - the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And LBJ's executive efforts on behalf of integration I think are very, very clear."

    Schenkkan has been commissioned to write a future play for the DCPA Theatre Company through the Steinberg Commission in American Playwriting, named for administrator (and DCPA Trustree) Jim Steinberg.

    All the Way: Cast list
    (listed alphabetically)

    • Adeoye (Lookingglass Alice) will understudy various roles.
    • Terence Archie (The 12) as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Jordan Barbour (The 12) as Rev. Ralph Albernathy.
    • Steve Brady (DCPA debut) as J. Edgar Hoover/Sen. Robert Byrd.
    • Todd Cerveris (DCPA debut) as Gov. George Wallace/Walter Reuther.
    • Laurence Curry (Jackie and Me, Just Like Us) as James Harrison/Stokely Carmichael.
    • Paul DeBoy (DCPA debut) as Robert McNamara/Sen. James Eastland.
    • Diana Dresser (The Giver, Jackie and Me) will understudy various roles.
    • Sam Gregory (A Christmas Carol, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) as Stanley Levison/Seymore Trammell/Rep. John McCormack.
    • Mike Hartman (Benediction, Death of a Salesman) as Rep. Howard “Judge” Smith/Sen. Everett Dirkesen.
    • C. David Johnson (DCPA debut) as President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
    • Tracey Conyer Lee (DCPA debut) as Coretta Scott King/Fannie Lou Hamer.
    • Cajardo Lindsey (Just Like Us) as Bob Moses/David Dennis.
    • Geoffrey Kent (As You Like It, Lord of the Flies) as Deke Deloach/Andrew Goodman.
    • Kathleen McCall (Tribes, Benediction) as Lady Bird Johnson/Katherine Graham/Rep. Katherine St. George.
    • James Newcomb (Benediction) as Sen. Hubert Humphry/Sen. Strom Thurmond.
    • Jonathan Earl Peck (The Most Deserving) as Roy Wilkins/Aaron Henry.
    • Philip Pleasants (A Christmas Carol, As You Like It, King Lear) as Senator Richard Russell/Rep. Emanuel Celler.
    • Jeffrey Roark (A Christmas Carol) as Walter Jenkins/Rep. Wiliam Colmer.
    • Jessica Robblee (DCPA Cabaret’s Drag Machine, OFF-Center’s Lord of the Butterflies) as Lureen Wallace/Muriel Humphrey.
    • Josh Robinson (Picnic) will understudy various roles.
    • Erik Sandvold (Death of a Salesman, When We Are Married) will understudy various roles.
    • Erin Willis (A Christmas Carol, The 12) ensemble and will understudy various roles.

    The creative team includes Robert Mark Morgan (Scenic Designer), David Kay Mickelsen (Costume Designer), Charles R. Macleod (Lighting Designer), Curtis Craig (Sound Designer), Charlie I. Miller (Projection Designer), Douglas Langworthy (Dramaturg) and Jack Greenman (Voice and Dialect).

    All the Way: Ticket information

  • Jan. 29-Feb. 28 at the Stage Theatre
  • Tickets: 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.
  • Philip Pleasants: A Scrooge for the ages, one last time

    by John Moore | Nov 19, 2015

    A look at Philip Pleasants' run as Scrooge from 2005-14 for the DCPA Theatre Company. (There was no staging of 'A Christmas Carol' in 2007 or 2012). Photos by Terry Shapiro and Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    CNN may have James Earl Jones, but since 2005, Philip Pleasants has been “the voice” of the DCPA Theatre Company. And anyone who has heard Pleasants revel in the skinflint Scrooge’s dripping, delicious humbuggery knows just what we mean by “the voice” – it’s that deep, distinctive Southern baritone that makes you feel as if you’re in the presence of an American Gielgud.

    “If they would rather die, they had better do it…and decrease the surplus population!”

    Philip Pleasants and Charlie Korman. Photo by Terry Shapiro. You can hear it just by reading it.

    Of course, just a short time later, the same Pleasants is onstage kicking up his heels in the utter joy of the miser’s seasonal redemption:

    “Spirit, I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!”

    It is Pleasants’ unique ability to pull off both extremes of Scrooge – the grinch and the unleashed inner child – that has made the actor himself an indelible part of the Denver holiday season over the past decade. By the time the Theatre Company’s 23rd staging of A Christmas Carol passes this season, more than 235,000 will have seen Pleasants playing his signature role in Denver alone.

    “I have worked with many Scrooges over the years,” said actor Leslie O’Carroll, who plays the festive Mrs. Fezziwig, “and Phil is the only one who can play both sides with equal aplomb.”

    But just as all seasons must change, Pleasants is now a spry 78, and he has decided this will be his last run as Scrooge, a role he has played all over the country for four decades.

    “I want to go back home and just enjoy my life,” he said of his quiet getaway in Alabama.

    But this is far from the solstice of Pleasants’ acting career. To the contrary, Pleasants is enjoying a prolific run actors half his age would envy. He just played three distinct and delicious roles in As You Like It – which included being suspended from a flying chair 22 feet above the stage – and he will follow A Christmas Carol by playing Sen. Richard Russell and Rep. Emanuel Celler in Robert Schenkkan’s LBJ drama, All the Way.

    Philip PLeasants quote

    Pleasants arrived in Denver in 2005 after having worked with Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He was already at an age when many of his contemporaries might typically retire. But for Pleasants, Denver was the start of a fertile new professional chapter. He has produced a steady string of remarkable performances, notably his two “roles of a lifetime” – as one of the crusty old Colorado ranchers in the 2008 world premiere of Eventide, and raging against the madness of King Lear.

    “Coming to Denver has been a godsend. I won’t be shy about saying it,” Pleasants said. “Kent has been wonderful to me.”

    And Pleasants has been wonderful for the Denver Center, its audiences, and his fellow cast and crew. A Christmas Carol Director Bruce K. Sevy called working with Pleasants over the past decade a remarkable partnership and learning experience.

    “This is one of the rare experiences you get in the theatre that makes you think your whole career was worth it,” Sevy said.

    Added Michael Bouchard, who performed in A Christmas Carol with Pleasants last year and stars this December in the far more subversive The SantaLand Diaries: "He might be the greatest Scrooge I have ever heard of, much less seen." 

    Since Pleasants was a boy growing up in Virginia, Shakespeare has been the ongoing joy of his life. “I had the good fortune of having a mother who happened to love Shakespeare,” he said. “When I was very small, she used to read scenes to me. She would explain them in a way that would make sense to an idiot child like me. She helped me to understand these Elizabethan turns of phrases that are hideously difficult for a modern audience to understand.”

    Pleasants recently spotted a bumper sticker he adored. It was an engraving of Shakespeare with the note: “Providing employment for over 400 years.”

    Sam Gregory Philip Pleasants quoteHe’s been providing Pleasants employment for more than 60. One of his favorites was playing an obviously pregnant female witch in a 1997 staging of Macbeth. “Her doom was she could never give birth,” he said.

    Pleasants’ other constant companion has been Scrooge, a role he first played in 1978 in the wilds of Alaska. He was not yet 40 — far too young for the role back then. But, he says with a wry grin: “Not with this character face. It’s a real antique!"

    Pleasants played Scrooge in dozens of productions since, and each year he finds the story’s meaning to be poignantly colored by the news of the day. His second time as Scrooge coincided with the mass murder-suicides of 900 under the spell of cult leader Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. “I will never forget that because I was so horrified,” he said. “All those people taking poison and dropping dead."

    That horrible incident solidified Pleasants’ great and ongoing belief that the true meaning of A Christmas Carol lies less in any specific religious doctrine but rather in a universal belief in the power of renewal. “You find new truths every time you do it,” Pleasants said. “But there’s always that core reality and prudent beauty of the great Dickens fable.”

    If Pleasants has been a successful and believable Scrooge, he says it’s because he so strongly believes the words that are coming out of the character's mouth.

    “I do believe in the redemption of people,” he said. “And I believe that old curmudgeons can be restored to some degree of civility.”

    Fellow actor Sam Gregory, who has more than 40 Theatre Company credits to his name — including playing Bob Cratchit and six other A Christmas Carol roles — says Pleasants is the quintessential Scrooge in part because he approaches Dickens the same way he approaches Shakespeare.

    “Phil has this ability to replicate elements of a 19th-century acting style, which is a little bit florid and a bit little (ornate),” he said. “And it works so well because when Phil adopts a non-naturalistic style, it has great, natural heart behind it. Nothing he does looks fake. Only Phil can do that successfully because Phil is not replicable.”

    And yet, it is Gregory who will attempt to replicate Pleasants as his understudy in 2015, before trying to make the role his own in 2016 and moving forward.

    “Oh, who am I kidding?” Gregory said. “Phil Pleasants is the Peyton Manning of Scrooges. How does anyone follow him?”

    Philip PleasantsA toast to Philip Pleasants. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Other photos: Top, with Charlie Korman, who played Tiny Tim in 2010 and now plays Young Scrooge. Photo by Terry Shapiro. Photo with Sam Gregory by John Moore.

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol:

    First rehearsal: Scrooge, in typical fashion: Let's get to work!
    From Denver Center's Tiny Tim to TV's Fuller House
    Beginnings and endings for stars of A Christmas Carol, The SantaLand Diaries
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes
    Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    By the numbers: A Christmas Carol over 22 years at the DCPA
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos

    2015 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Meet Courtney Capek (Belle)
    Meet Shannan Steele (Fred's wife)
  • Video: The 'If/Then' interview series from Denver

    by John Moore | Nov 19, 2015

    David Stone, If/Then. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenterPart 7 of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' interview series with the cast and creative team from the Broadway musical "If/Then," which launched its first national tour in Denver in October 2015 and starred Broadway headliners Idina Menzel, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp and James Snyder.

    Next up: Producer David Stone, whose credits include "Wicked" and "Next to Normal," talks about what he feels is his obligation to develop challenging and risky new musicals for the American theatre. Stone said it was encouragement from late DCPA President Randy Weeks that planted the seeds for an If/Then national tour, which he had not been planning. He said his success has made developing new work for the American theatre his obligation. 

    "I think Wicked has given me a gift," he said, "and I have to repay that gift (by working) with living, breathing writers on new work.”

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    If/Then played in Denver from Oct. 13-25.

    (Photo above right: David Stone hosted a conversation in Denver with 'Razzle Dazzle' author Michael Riedel. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter)

    Read our complete interview with David Stone

    The video series to date:
    Part 1: The cast talks about The Tour Reunion
    Part 2: Is The Butterfly Effect a real thing?
    Part 3: Favorite line or lyric
    Part 4: On writing original music for Idina Menzel
    Part 5: Mark, Maureen and Michael (Greif): The Rent reunion
    Part 6: Cast: Final thoughts from Denver
    Part 7: Final thoughts from Producer David Stone
    Bonus: Our Opening Night video from Denver

    Bonus: Our Opening Night Photo Gallery:

    To download any photo for free, in a variety of available sizes, click "View original Flickr image." All photos by Emily Lozow and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

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

  • Meet 'The Lion King' Puppet Masters in Denver

    by John Moore | Nov 16, 2015

    We went backstage to learn how some of the 230 puppets come to life in the national touring production of Disney's The Lion King, which is performing in Denver through Nov. 29 at the Buell Theatre.

    Puppet Master Michael Reilly and Scar from 'The Lion King.' Photo by John Moore. Our guests include Puppet Master Michael Reilly and actor Drew Hirshfield, who explains what makes the persnickety red-billed hornbill Zazu tick. And flap, and talk, and blink those beady eyes.

    The puppets range in size from a mouse to an elephant. Each one is inspected before every show.

    Hirshfield talks about what creator Julie Taymor calls the "double event," which means allowing the audience to see openly both puppet and puppeteer. "You can look back and forth between the puppet and the performer operating the puppet and notice that they are both having the same experience," said Hirshfield, who has been playing Zazu for about a year. "There is a magic in that, because you see the mechanics. You can see that it's actually just a bird made of wood and paper and glue. But it comes alive through a connection with the actors."

    (Photo above right: Puppet Master Michael Reilly with the Scar mask from 'The Lion King.')

    Remaining seats for the Denver run of The Lion King are very limited (information below), but Disney's next brings Broadway to Denver when Newsies visits The Buell Theatre from March 23 through April 9, 2016.

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Video: Go backstage to see how the set pieces work

    Go backstage for a tour of The Lion King costumes in Denver

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo, click "View original Flickr image."

    Disney’s The Lion King: Ticket information

  • Through Nov. 29 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    Gareth Saxe's Lion King homecoming
    For South Africans, Pride Lands are the land of opportunity 
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Technical director David Bencken on hanging 12 tons of equipment
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15 different flutes
    Official show page

    'The Lion King' Puppet Master Michael Reilly and actor Drew Hirschfield (Zazu). Photo by John Moore.
    'The Lion King' Puppet Master Michael Reilly and actor Drew Hirshfield (Zazu). Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Real 'Just Like Us' women: 'Our story is the story of millions'

    by John Moore | Nov 15, 2015
    A JUST LIKE US 600

    The 'Just Like Us' talkback at Westminster High School drew two of the real women in the story. Photo by John Moore.

    Just hours after the Paris terror attacks, Westminster High School students performed the play Just Like Us, an intensely local story of four Mexican-born, straight-A students whose paths from a Denver high school to higher education vastly differ based on their immigration status.

    But the specter of what happened in France hung over the performance nearly 5,000 miles to the west, and that was acknowledged during an emotionally charged discussion following the performance. Two of the four real women whose stories were the basis for the play joined the cast onstage and took questions afterward.

    In the play, adapted for the stage by Karen Zacarías from former Denver First Lady Helen Thorpe's acclaimed book, two major real-world events brought on a severe backlash that made immigration rules much more restrictive. The 9/11 attacks took place just six weeks after the Dream Act was first introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bipartisan proposal to create a legal path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States remains unpassed. Closer to home, undocumented immigrant Raúl Gómez-García shot and killed Denver police Detective Donnie Young in 2005. After an international manhunt, police sweeps were stepped up throughout Denver, and immigrants took to the shadows. Both events made efforts to get two undocumented Denver high-school seniors from Just Like Us into college much more difficult.

    On Saturday morning, government officials confirmed what many at the play had been speculating the night before: At least one of the attackers entered France by posing as one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled Turkey in recent months. Now there are fears of another backlash against reform efforts in this country. A conservative radio host in Denver on Saturday declared Donald Trump "the winner" in France because of his campaign promise to deport all 11 million Mexicans living in America without legal documents.

    DCPA's Kent Thompson visits cast of Just Like Us

    The Friday night performance of Just Like Us, meanwhile, drew a capacity crowd to Westminster High School, a standing ovation from the audience and a spirited conversation afterward. This was the first high-school production of Just Like Us since the play was commissioned by the DCPA Theatre Company and first staged in 2013. Another production is in the works at a Dallas high school.

    Thorpe, who becomes the narrator in Zacarías' stage adaptation, followed the four high-school seniors for five years. All four were born in Mexico and brought to this country as infants. Two have legal documents, and two do not. The two talkback guests who joined the cast onstage Friday were the two who did not have legal status in high school.

    The woman whose character is named Yadira said watching Friday's performance was an emotional roller-coaster; even traumatic at times. The woman whose character is named Marisela said she got the chills "because it's not just our story. It's the stories of millions and millions of people and their families."

    They encouraged the students at Westminster to become politically active at their school, which is made up of 40 percent undocumented students. The woman who is known as Marisela told them to share their stories with the state legislature, and to work both locally for the passage of in-state tuition for immigrants, and nationally for the passage of the Dream Act.

    "No matter what, we have to continue fighting,” she said. “We can't give up."

    The host for the discussion was University of Northern Colorado professor Gillian McNally, who has a personal stake in all of this: Just Like Us Director Andre' Rodriguez, was once her student at UNC in Greeley. Together, they have embarked on a year-long collaboration between their schools. McNally recently hosted 70 Westminster students for a campus tour, and the school has waived its fee for any of those students who apply for admission there. In addition, the UNC theatre department will produce an original bilingual play in the spring, and perform it at Westminster High School. 

    McNally commended the Denver Center and Artistic Director Kent Thompson for commissioning the writing of Just Like Us as a play. "That's walking the walk," McNally said. "I think the Denver Center took a risk by producing this play, and I would argue that you here at Westminster took a risk by presenting it."

    Rodriguez let his guests do the talking during Friday's conversation. But in his program notes, he wrote: "It is ironic that in a country where dreams live free, fear also consumes. This is especially true for the thousands of undocumented young people who dream of the same opportunities as those born to the light, but are limited by the shadows and borders that oppress."

    Given the rare opportunity to address the women who have for the most part protected their anonymity since the beginning of Thorpe's reporting on their lives, the DCPA NewsCenter asked their thoughts on their nemesis, former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo (who also is a character in Just Like Us).

    Tancredo not only ran for the Republican Party nomination for President in 2008, he has twice run for Colorado governor, each time centering his campaigns on the issue of illegal immigration. When the DCPA introduced Just Like Us two years ago, Tancredo - also a frequent conservative talk-show host on Denver's KOA 850 AM - publicly accused Thorpe of making the four women up. Citing his unsuccessful efforts to identify them, he called Just Like Us a work of fiction.

    "Well … here we are," the woman known in the play as Marisela said on Friday to applause and laughter. 

    She continues to work for understanding on the issue of immigration, but she has nothing to say to Tancredo, she said, because he represents “pure hate.”

    "Throughout the course of my life, I have learned not to deal with those people," she said. "They don't budge. When in-state tuition (for immigrants) was being discussed at the state capital, (former state senator) Chris Romer bought a copy of Helen’s book for every house representative and every senator, and left it at their desks. When they voted, in-state tuition died. But a lot of them changed their votes, and they quoted the book as their reason. Those people, I can have a conversation with. I don't think I can have a conversation with Tom Tancredo. It's just pure hate.”

    The women talked further about how messy and surprising the immigration issue can be. They praised Ralph Nagle, the millionaire Republican who provided much of the funding for their scholarships to the University of Denver. Nagle also significantly contributed to  the first staging of Just Like Us at the DCPA.

    “What I want people to understand is that our story is the story of top students who just happen to be undocumented,” said the woman whose character is named Yadira. “We were in AP (advance placement) classes at our high school. We got straight-A’s. We were involved in our school and in our community. So we're not the type of students who can hide in the shadows. But when Marisela says in the graduation scene, 'I started with a freshman class of 712 students and now 200 of us are graduating' - That's true. That really happened. So that's 500 students who went missing. They dropped out, they were pushed out, they gave up. A lot of students give up hope for many reasons.

    “So yes, our story is powerful, but I think it's important we remember that so many other students fall through the cracks. One of the reasons we said yes to Helen when we met her was not just so that she would tell our own personal stories - but tell the story of everyone."

    A JUST LIKE US 6002The 'Just Like Us' talkback at Westminster High School. Photo by John Moore.
  • Video: Exploring gender fluidity in Shakespeare, and in schools

    by John Moore | Nov 14, 2015

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Gender fluidity in Shakespeare's plays was not only a common plot device 400 years ago — it was a practical reality of the live theatregoing experience. Shakespeare wrote his final play in 1612, but the first female actor didn't appear on an English stage until 1629.

    That means every female — and every female pretending to be a male — was originally played by a male actor. Even Cleopatra. Even Juliet.

    Imagine, then, watching Twelfth Night when it was new in 1599. When Viola is found shipwrecked, she dresses like a man to get a job — and both a duke and a countess fall in love with her. In As You Like It, just staged by the DCPA Theatre Company, mighty Rosalind escapes her murderous uncle by bravely exiling herself to the forest, where  she not only manages as well as any man — by dressing like a man — she wins the man of her dreams. Now consider male actors playing those roles, and what that must have looked like to an audience.

    Rosalind and Viola are perfect characters for these gender-fluid contemporary times, when headlines have been dominated for much of the year by news of an Olympic decathlon champion undergoing a gender reassignment. Young people across the country are pushing back against gender categories, or the idea that anyone is 100 percent male or 100 percent female. 

    As a result, gender norms in schools are necessarily evolving. Education about transgendered people and gender identity is starting up  —  and earlier — in many schools. And while some have proclaimed these changes to be an assault on traditional family values, others say it is long overdue, given that 50 percent of all transgender youth commit or attempt suicide by the the time they are 20, according to national statistics.

    Mackenzie Sherburne leads a talkback after a performance of 'As You Like It.' Photo by John Moore.
    Mackenzie Sherburne leads a talkback after a performance of 'As You Like It' attended by many students who had already participated in her classroom workshop on gender fluidity in Shakespeare's plays. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    With the lone goal of starting a conversation, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Education Division has developed an interactive classroom workshop that uses Shakespeare's gender-bending as an entry into dialogue.

    "My job is not to bring an agenda in. It is just to start the conversation about gender roles," DCPA Teaching Artist Mackenzie Sherburne said. "We are talking about the difference between biological sex and gender — and that those definitions are literally expanding right now."

    Sherburne recently visited two high schools to perform I Am the Man – a 15-minute, one-woman adaptation of Twelfth Night written by DCPA commissioned playwright Steven Cole Hughes.

    Using three specially created puppets designed by DCPA Teaching Artist Rachel Kae Taylor to help tell the story, Sherburne performed I Am the Man at Aurora Central and Westminster high schools. Those students were then invited to see the DCPA Theatre Company's full staging of As You Like It.

    Video: 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot' brings Bard to schools

    The classroom performances, said DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous, allows the students "to dive into the workshop component that discusses, unpacks, and challenges gender roles and assumptions.
    The workshop was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts' Shakespeare in American Communities project, in partnership with Arts Midwest. "This has been an incredible collaboration for the NEA Shakespeare in Communities grant," Watrous said.

    'As You Like It' talkback.
    A student comments during a talkback after a recent DCPA Theatre Company performance of 'As You Like It' led by DCPA Teaching Artist Mackenzie Sherburne.  Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.
  • Gareth Saxe's 'Lion King' homecoming

    by John Moore | Nov 13, 2015

    Gareth Saxe, who has long played Scar in Disney's The Lion King on Broadway, has temporarily joined the national touring production so that he can play the deliciously evil role in his hometown of Denver, where this touring production began in 2001.

    Saxe, a graduate of Denver East High School and Colorado College, has performed with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the DCPA Theatre Company. He grew up watching plays at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, and said doing so while idolizing actors such as Kathleen M. Brady, John Hutton and Jacqueline Antaramian was “close to 95 percent” of the reason he became a professional actor.

    Saxe fulfilled a lifelong goal in 2001 when he was cast to play Valvert in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Cyrano de Bergerac. His co-stars included Bill Christ, Ryan Shively, Randy Moore, Tony Church, Christopher Leo, Gabriella Cavalerro, Louis Schaefer, January LaVoy, Tracy Shaffer, Erik Tieze, Jason Henning and Chad Henry. (Photo: Gareth Saxe as Scar in Disney's 'The Lion King.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

    Saxe remembers performing in Boulder in 1998 with Colorado Shakes as a seminal summer. “To be able to work on that language in that space in Boulder in the summer is magic,” said Saxe, who was cast to understudy Richard II while also playing Costard in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

    “The guy who was playing Richard was also playing Don Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost, which we opened the night before we opened Richard II,” he said. "I was onstage with this actor as he was doing a little jig, and I heard his knee go … snap!

    “I realized at that moment I was not going to sleep for the next 48 hours because that meant that I would be going on as Richard the next night. It was the single most terrifying moment of my young adult life - and also the most thrilling. That’s like one of those nightmares you wake up from in chills. But then it happens and you don’t die and you think, ‘Well, maybe I can do this.’ ”

    Saxe went on to perform in The Homecoming, Heartbreak House and The Lion King on Broadway. He credits in part two of his Colorado College professors for his success. “Tom Lindblade and Jim Malcolm were instrumental in the kind of program that CC has,” said Saxe of teachers who also helped launch the acclaimed Buntport Theater ensemble and Thaddeus Phillips, who has debuted several of his inventive, experimental works at theatres in Denver and Colorado Springs under his company name, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental.

    "It was an extraordinary experience, and I can’t thank them enough,” Saxe said of his time in Colorado Springs. 

    The Lion King is playing in Denver through Nov. 29. Call 303-893-4100.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More of Gareth Saxe's performance credits:

    Broadway: The Homecoming, Heartbreak House. Off-Broadway: Richard III, The Winter’s Tale (Public); Echoes of the War (Mint Theater). Regional: A Moon to Dance By (George Street Playhouse); Hamlet, Dangerous Liaisons (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ); Sexual Perversity in Chicago (American Conservatory Theater); iWitness (Mark Taper Forum). Film and TV: Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, “Law & Order,” “SVU.” MFA: NYU.

    Disney’s The Lion King: Ticket information

  • Nov 4-29 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    For South Africans, Pride Lands are the land of opportunity 
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Technical director David Bencken on hanging 12 tons of equipment
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15 different flutes
    Official show page

    Gareth Saxe poses in the lobby of the Buell Theatre last week in Denver. Photo by John Moore. Gareth Saxe poses in the lobby of the Buell Theatre last week in Denver. Photo by John Moore.

    Gareth Cyrano 600
    Gareth Saxe as the Spanish officer Valvert in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Cyrano de Bergerac.'

    Gareth Saxe's program bio from 2001 when he made his DCPA Theatre Company debut in 'Cyrano de Bergerac,' directed by Nagle Jackson and starring Bill Christ.
  • For South Africans, Pride Lands are land of opportunity

    by John Moore | Nov 12, 2015

    LION KING 6002'The Lion King.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Sihle Ngema is the first to admit he is living a life that is “completely far-fetched.”

    Raised in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in southeastern South Africa, Ngema has been a professional performer for 21 years. Which means he started at age 9. For the past nine years, he has been a member of the national touring production of The Lion King that is now visiting Denver through Nov. 29.

    “I am blessed,” said Ngema. “The Lion King has changed my life completely. It's done a whole 360 on my life.”

    The Lion King QuoteLike Simba the cub, Ngema comes from South African royalty – but of the pop-culture variety. His family is known for its artistic achievements throughout South Africa. His uncle Mbongeni Ngema not only helped arrange the vocals for Disney’s animated The Lion King film alongside Quincy Jones in 1994, he wrote the Tony-nominated Serafina and its 1992 screenplay. Another uncle, Nhlanhla Ngema, was an original member of The Lion King’s Broadway ensemble in 1997.

    But that does not mean it was easy for Sihle - pronounced “Seek-Lay” - growing up near the Indian Ocean shoreline.

    “It was a rough neighborhood,” Ngema said. “Either you join the bad boys, or you are a good boy that goes to church. And if you are a good boy, then the bad boys are going to mess with you all the time.”

    Ngema graduated from school and left for Cape Town to work as a singer. And at that, he’s very good, says The Lion King Puppet Supervisor Michael Reilly. “He really is the South African version of Steve Perry,” Reilly said, comparing Ngema to the original lead singer of the rock band Journey.

    When word came to South Africa that Disney would be opening a Broadway musical telling the Hamlet-like story of a kingdom of African lions, and that its score would blend pop-music influences with South African chants, everyone back home was talking about it - but no one understood what it was. "Everybody thought The Lion King was just a cartoon," said Ngema.

    Then his uncle was cast in The Lion King on Broadway. Then Sihle was cast for productions in Australia, Shanghai and finally the North American national tour.

    “To tell you the honest truth, I had chills all over my body the first time I saw the show,” Ngema said. “I am a sensitive guy. I cry all the time. Watching this amazing thing onstage, there was disbelief that I am going to be a part of this epic thing that everybody is watching.”

    What makes performing in The Lion King all the more meaningful to Ngema is the authenticity of the South African music, and what that brings to the live theatrical experience.

    “There are so many people who really don't know about other countries,” Ngema said. “I wouldn't, if I had never left home. But this show is such a good way of taking people to Africa. The way I think of it is this: Sitting in that theatre; that is home.”

    Today, home for Ngema is Arizona, where he is based with his wife – a former Lion King performer herself - and their children, ages 4 and 1.

    “Life is not bad,” Ngema said. “I am grateful that God gave me a chance to be here in another country and gave my children a different way of life.”

    The Lion King has now played before more than 80 million audience members in 22 productions around the world. One of the most tangible rewards for its success has been the employment opportunities it has created for performers of color – a direct consequence of Director Julie Taymor’s insistence on the musical’s African genuineness.

    When The Lion King hit the road starting in Denver in 2001, a study determined that just 5.2 percent of all lead roles on Broadway and 15.8 percent of chorus roles were being filled by non-white actors. In 2013, it was estimated that 23 percent of all Broadway roles were being played by non-white actors.

    The Lion King has had more to do with turning those numbers in the right direction than any show in Broadway history. And its impact is being felt throughout the world. The touring production features a cast of 49, of whom 42 are actors of color representing a range of ethnicities. To date, The Lion King has employed more than 100 South Africans in its productions worldwide, including Ngema.

    “I am grateful every day for the opportunity Disney has provided not just for me, but for my fellow South Africans,” Ngema said. "There are so many families back home whose lives have been changed by this. Many of the South African cast members have created their own charity companies back home, and it is all because of The Lion King.”

    Despite a last name that carries great celebrity and artistic opportunity for him throughout South Africa, Ngema has chosen to spend almost the past decade on the North American road with The Lion King.

    “There are families that first came with their kids, and now their kids are bringing their kids,” said Ngema. "Every night, for one kid in the audience - or for two, or 14 - it will change their lives. It will make them decide they want to be a dancer, a singer, an actor. And on top of that, it is just a good way of understanding life. The circle of life.

    “Now that I have kids, I know it can be hard to touch sore subjects with them. This show is an easy way of easing into that with kids. And to remind us all that life is life. It happens, and it is nothing to worry about. It will keep going if we are here or not.”

    Disney’s The Lion King: Ticket information

  • Nov 4-29 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Technical director David Bencken on hanging 12 tons of equipment
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15 different flutes
    Official show page
  • Seawell celebration: He lived the life he imagined

    by John Moore | Nov 10, 2015
    Photos from the Donald Seawell Life Celebration held Nov. 9 at the Seawell Ballroom. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To download any photo for free, click on "View original Flickr image."

    Monday’s farewell to DCPA founder Donald R. Seawell was not so much the end of an era as a homecoming.

    The estimated 400 who gathered in the grand ballroom that bears Seawell’s name included politicians, entertainers and theatregoers, as well as dozens of artists and staff representing four decades of Denver Center history. Attendees included Donovan Marley, the Theatre Company’s former Artistic Director for 23 seasons, and actor John Hutton, who performed on DCPA stages for more than 20 years. 

    “Next to my father, Donald Seawell is maybe the most influential man in my life,” said Marley. Added Hutton, who traveled to Denver from Vermont to attend the ceremony: “Donald  and Donovan  were relentless champions of our company for decades."

    Pictured above right: DCPA Theatre Company actors Shannan Steele, M. Scott McLean, Christine Rowan, Jeffrey Roark, Lauren Shealy and Michael Fitzpatrick. Photo by John Moore.) 

    Seawell died on Sept. 30 at age 103, which actually came as something of a surprise to those closest to him, given his oft-stated intention of living to 120. Hearing the breadth of Seawell’s life distilled to brief anecdotes throughout the 90-minute ceremony only made it seem all the more improbable: Debater of Winston Churchill. Adversary-turned-ally of Joseph Kennedy. Counterintelligence officer charged with fooling the Germans about the location of the D-Day invasion. Helping to write the charter that established the State of Israel. Assistant ambassador to France. Broadway producer. First to bring the Royal Shakespeare Company to America. Savior of The Denver Post from a hostile takeover.

    And, above all: Visionary who in 1972 famously sketched the Denver Performing Arts Complex on the back of an envelope in a ghostly, ghastly part of downtown Denver, and at a time when no one other than Seawell imagined the remotest need for it. Today, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is the largest non-profit theatre organization in America, last year attracting more than 800,000 visitors.

    Read our full tribute to Donald R. Seawell

    With respect the fictional Dos Equis advertising character, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said, “Donald Seawell is The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

    Monday’s guest speakers dropped names like so many of Seawell’s ubiquitous French cufflinks: John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. For starters.

    John Hickenlooper quote“He knew everybody,” Hickenlooper said. “Presidents, titans of industry, diplomats and movie stars. He could more than hold his own with the most immense egos in the world - and he was in every way just as captivating as the crowds he ran with.”

    Judi Wolf, the memorial’s host and a fellow DCPA trustee, said Seawell loved life … and life loved him back. “He was an artist,” she said, “and life was his canvas.”

    He died among the rarest of men: Having fully lived the life he imagined.

    He was known as Dapper Don for his impeccable style and social elegance. “I don't think Donald owned a shirt that didn't have French cuffs,” Hickenlooper said. “Probably even his T-shirts have French cuffs.”

    Seawell was a big dreamer and fierce overachiever; a leader who followed his own heart and simply ignored – or overcame – anyone who dared to say otherwise.

    “No one stood in his way,” said DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson. “In fact, woe to anyone who even tried to stand in his way.” DCPA CEO Scott Shiller said Seawell “blazed new trails, pushed full steam ahead, offered no apologies and had no regrets.”

    Wolf concurred. “He was kind and loving and patient ... with himself,” she said with a laugh.

    But on his dying day, Wolf said more seriously, Seawell took her hand and said, “Remember, Judy we are about show business.” She took her cue, and put together a tribute for Monday that was equal parts solemn reflection and pure show biz.

    Six DCPA Theatre Company performers, most in the upcoming production of A Christmas Carol, performed some of Seawell’s favorite songs, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “They Can’t Take That Away” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Actor Jeffrey Roark borrowed the chairman’s role from Seawell and Sinatra in singing a robust “My Way,” and Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee, who got her professional start as an 18-year-old high-school student singing in a 1960s musical at what is now the Garner-Galleria Theatre, closed out the show with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” At Seawell’s final birthday party in August, Lee sang to him Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

    “He powerfully led by example with courage, a strong heart, an incredible creative vision and, for his family, with tenderness and true love,” said Seawell’s granddaughter Brett Wilbur. 

    Retired Denver Center Theatre Company Artistic Director Donovan Marley and his successor, Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore. 

    Seawell’s Denver legacy began when he struck up a business relationship with heiress, actor, philanthropist and Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils. Seawell served as her New York attorney and co-producer on Broadway. In 1966, Bonfils asked Seawell to move to Colorado to fight a hostile takeover attempt of The Post by the Newhouse newspaper chain. Seawell won the day, but the 12-year battle did not end until just after Bonfils’ death in 1972. Seawell became publisher and chairman of The Post until selling the paper to Times-Mirror of Los Angeles. He used the $95 million from the sale to create the Bonfils Foundation that would secure the financial future of the DCPA.

    Seawell was hailed Monday for having founded the resident Denver Center Theatre Company, now known in its 37th year as the DCPA Theatre Company, which over the years has embraced up-and-coming stars such as Tyne Daly, Annette Bening and Mercedes Ruehl. Seawell threw a grand opening party for the four-theatre Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex on New Year’s Eve 1979, an event that drew Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. among the luminaries. Seawell declared the night no less than the start of “The Denver Decade in the American Theatre.” His company won the Tony Award as the outstanding regional theatre in 1998.

    (Photo below and right: Denver Post Chairman William Dean Singleton and DCPA Trustee Judi Wolf. Photo by John Moore.)

    The company leader from 1983-2005 was Donovan Marley, who came to Denver from California in 1983 to guest-direct The Hostage. Seawell asked Marley to stay and help establish his beloved National Theatre Conservatory, which grew to become one of the top acting masters-degree programs in the nation. By the end of that year, Marley agreed to become the Theatre Company’s third artistic director in its first five years. Marley brought badly needed stability and artistic stewardship over the next two decades.

    “People in Donald’s position and clout and background often have all kinds of helpful suggestions for the Artistic Director,” Marley said, making it plain that the word really meant to say was the exact opposite of the word “helpful.”

    “But not Don. He was always there to say, ‘What do you need?’ He was unbelievably supportive.”

    Several speakers noted Seawell’s having brought the 10-play epic Trojan War cycle Tantalus to Denver in 2000 at a cost of $8 million. “That was one of the most impressive artistic feats that has ever come out of Denver,” said Hickenlooper, “and it would never have happened without Donald Seawell.”

    Hickenlooper sat through all 12 hours of Tantalus twice, both in Denver and London. “That’s a lot of theatre,” Hickenlooper said with a laugh, although noting: “There was full frontal nudity - so they figured out a way to make sure no one lost their attention.”

    Still, Denver Post Chairman and DCPA Trustee William Dean Singleton said he believes Seawell’s greatest theatrical achievement was hiring his own replacement as Chairman and CEO. At age 94, Seawell simply wore down well-connected University of Denver Chancellor Daniel Ritchie until he said yes in 2006.

    "There were a number of times when we didn't agree, and there were even some times when we quite strongly didn't agree,” said Ritchie. But their struggles most often ended, he said, with a friendly bottle of Merlot.

    Hickenlooper made it plain that he shared a real affection for the gentleman from North Carolina. He closed his remarks with a moment of uncommon sentiment, saying simply, “I am going to miss him more than I can imagine.” 

    Donald Seawell's granddaughter Brett Wilbur with two of her children.

    Three great stories or quotes from the Seawell Celebration:

    1 PerspectivesDCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson: “Donald had a deep love of the performing arts. Even more for the people who worked in the theatre in whatever role, from actor to writer to usher to ticket-seller to stage manager. And, of course, for the audiences who shared our work over the years and made Don's vision a success. Theatre was in Don's DNA, lodged somewhere deep inside. He dined out on live theatre. He especially treasured the moments when the audience and the performers breathed as one."

    2 PerspectivesColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper: “Donald was the publisher of The Denver Post in 1974 when Gary Hart was running for the U.S. Senate. Donald was sitting in his office at the newspaper when the head of the editorial board came in to discuss the paper’s endorsement. He said to Don, ‘Mr. Seawell? We took a vote on the editorial board. We voted 7-1 to endorse Gary Hart. … But we came to you for the deciding vote.”

    3 PerspectivesDenver Post Chairman William Dean Singleton: Some people think Don’s greatest contribution was to the theatre, but I think it was to the newspaper business. When Newhouse Newspapers began to buy up shares in The Denver Post, Miss Helen called Don in New York and said, ‘Come and help me save our family’s beloved newspaper. It's almost gone.’ Newhouse actually acquired a majority of Denver Post stock. This would be the first time the paper was ever owned outside of the Bonfils family. But Don took it all the way to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He helped draft the brief that won the day. Here’s a quote from ruling: “A corporation publishing a newspaper such as The Denver Post certainly has other obligations besides the making of a profit. It has an obligation to the public. That is to the thousands of people who buy the paper, read it and rely upon its contents. Such a newspaper is endowed with an important public interest. It must adhere to the ethics of the great profession of journalism. Because of these relationships with the public, a corporation publishing a great newspaper such as The Denver Post is, in effect, a quasi-public institution." And with that, Don prevailed. It is a decision that has since been used over and over to save newspapers from outside ownership. In fact – it’s been used against me a few times.”


    DCPA actors past and present. Clockwise from top left: Sam Gregory (A Christmas Carol), Stephen Paul Johnson (Tribes), John Hutton, Leslie Alexander (A Christmas Carol) and Kathleen M. Brady. Photo by John Moore.
  • DCPA casts will cabaret for a cause Nov. 23

    by John Moore | Nov 10, 2015

    DCPA Holiday Cabaret at the Hard Rock Cafe

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is partnering with the downtown Hard Rock Cafe for a night of holiday hits, rock 'n roll and showtunes featuring cast members from all of the productions currently on stage at the DCPA: Disney’s The Lion King, A Christmas CarolMurder for Two and The Santaland Diaries.

    This special event on Monday, Nov. 23, will mark the first time in history that all DCPA shows performing at the same time will share a stage for a benefit concert.

    Hard Rock-Denver Actors FundOne-hundred percent of ticket sales will equally benefit The Denver Actors Fund and DCPA Education's "send a child to a Theatre Company student matinee" program. Tickets are $25 and are available for purchase now.

    The Denver Actors Fund is a source of immediate relief when members of the Denver metro theater community (on or off stage) find themselves in situational medical need. Most recently, the DAF raised $3,600 to help actor Daniel Langhoff offset
    expenses after having been diagnosed with colon cancer. Langhoff, who starts a 24-week round of chemotherapy next week, is returning for his second straight appearance in the DCTC Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol

    To date, The 2-year-old Denver Actors Fund has distributed about $25,000 to help actors, directors, stage managers and more with medical bills, co-payments, supplies and other services. Volunteer action teams have logged more than 200 hours of service, delivered nearly 50 meals and about 15 bags of groceries. They also run errands, provide rides, child or pet care, personal company and more.

    In 2014, DCPA Education served 611 schools in 59 counties with 638 events that reached more than 58,000 students.

    Hard Rock Cafe Denver General Manager John Lindsay is donating the use of his venue as well as equipment to make the concert happen. The director of the cabaret performance is Denver Actors Fund event coordinator Ronni Gallup, who recently starred as Anita in Town Hall Arts Center's West Side Story and has worked extensively in event management.

    Tentative lineup of performers:

    Napoleon M. Douglas: A Christmas Carol
    Blaine Krauss: Disney's The Lion King
    Daniel Langhoff: A Christmas Carol
    Ian Lowe: Murder for Two
    Emma C. Martin: A Christmas Carol
    Tonoccus McClain: Disney's The Lion King
    Tiffany Hobbs: Disney's The Lion King
    Tricia Hofacker: Disney's The Lion King
    Gerald Ramsey: Disney's 'The Lion King'
    James Michael Reilly: A Christmas Carol
    Luke Sorge: 'The SantaLand Diaries'
    Scott Swallen: Disney's The Lion King
    John Wascavage: Murder for Two
    Jake Williamson: A Christmas Carol
    And … The Lion King Cubs (Young Simba and Young Nala)!

    The full band of live musicians will include Neal Dunfee, Tag Worley, Jason Tyler Vaughn and Eli Acosta. The director of the DCPA Holiday Cabaret is Ronni Gallup. Special thanks to Denver native Aaron Quintana, company manager of Disney's The Lion King national tour.

    The night also includes exclusive auction opportunities such as two tickets to opening night of the DCPA Theatre Company's Sweeney Todd featuring DeVotchKa with access to the opening-night party; two orchestra tickets with a backstage tour to Disney’s The Lion King and more.

    DCPA Holiday Cabaret: Ticket information

    • Where: Hard Rock Cafe, 16th Street Mall at Glenarm Place
    • 5:30 p.m.: Happy Hour and Dinner
    • 7-8:30  p.m.: Showtime
    • Tickets: $25; click here to order online

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Denver Actors Fund

    Miscast 2015 benefit helps Denver Actors Fund reach milestone
    Once, The Musical cast members perform at Denver Actors Fund benefit
    How Denver Actors Fund is helping the local theatre community
    Denver School of the Arts students make remarkable donation to Denver Actors Fund
    Denver Actors Fund success stories
    To apply for Denver Actors Fund aid, click here

    Editor's note: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore is the founder and Executive Director of The Denver Actors Fund.
  • 'SantaLand' Podcast: Michael Bouchard is the new elf in town

    by John Moore | Nov 09, 2015

    To listen to our podcast, press play.

    Episode 175 of our Running Lines Audio Podcast:

    There's a new elf in town. Yes, there will be a fresh, caustic candy-striper playing Crumpet in the Denver Center’s annual presentation of The SantaLand Diaries, David Sedaris’ comic monologue recounting his real-life experience working as a Macy’s Department store elf. His name is Michael Bouchard, a Denver Post Ovation Award-winning actor best-known to Colorado audiences from his time at the Arvada Center, the Creede Repertory Theatre, and as a newly appointed company member with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which is presenting The SantaLand Diaries at the Jones Theatrein collaboration with the DCPA’s Off-Center.

    Why is he perfect for the role of David Sedaris? Bouchard isn't bragging when he says with a twinkle, "I’m a cynical bastard through and through." He says the people who most annoy him are "classical liberal intellectuals," whom he defines as "those who love humanity … but they hate people." He only associates with them, he says, "when I look in the mirror."

    Bouchard may be cynical about the commercialization of Christmas, but he thinks audiences should consider attending both The SantaLand Diaries' and the far less cynical A Christmas Carol, because it will be fellow actor Philip Pleasants' last time playing Scrooge. "And he might be the greatest scrooge I have ever heard of, much less seen," he said. 

    A Christmas Carol is good for the human spirit," he added. The joy of SantaLand, he added, is that it pokes fun at the industry of Christmas. "You can shed some of that cynicism off while getting a really hard laugh."

    The running time of the podcast is 6 minutes.

    Podcast Outtake:

    Bouchard is proud to have recently been named a full company member with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. The company, known colloquially as "Betsy " after its BETC acronym, was co-founded by Bouchard's SantaLand Director, Steven Weitz, who also just directed Tribes for the DCPA Theatre Company. 

    "There are a lot of great theatre local companies out there doing a lot of different theatre," Bouchard said. "But BETC is a theatre that is doing just really good work. They are doing the best shows they can find with the best people they can get their hands on, and there's not necessarily a gimmick to it. For me, that's the sweet spot."

    Matt Zambrano, left, with Michael Bouchard. Photo by John Moore.

    There was a recent informal passing of the hat when Matt Zambrano, who played Crumpet in the 2013 and '14 DCPA stagings of "The SantaLand Diaries," symbolically turned the role over to Michael Bouchard. Zambrano recently appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company's "As You Like It." Last year, Bouchard appeared in "A Christmas Carol."  Photo by John Moore. 

    The SantaLand Diaries: Ticket information

  • Nov. 27-Dec. 27 at the Jones Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Accessibility performances: 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 20
  • 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 SantaLand Diaries.'

    More SantaLand coverage
    Beginnings and endings A Christmas Carol, The SantaLand Diaries'

    Recent Running Lines podcasts:
    Our interview with ... Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Our interview with ... Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford
    Our interview with: Emma Messenger and Haley Johnson of 'Night, Mother
    Our interview with ... Margie Lamb of Next to Normal
    Our interview with ... Jane Lynch of Glee
    Our interview with ... Cyndi Lauper of Kinky Boots
    Our interview on dialects with ... The cast of Lord of the Flies
    Our interview with ... Jeremy Palmer, Ed Mills and J Murray d'Armand of Wit's L.A. Diner
    Our interview with ... Laura Norman and Josh Hartwell of Grounded
    Our interview with ... Dramaturg Allison Horsley of Animal Crackers
    Our interview with ... Director Christy Montour-Larson of Shadowlands

  • First rehearsal: Scrooge, in typical fashion: Let's get to work!

    by John Moore | Nov 07, 2015
    Photos from the opening meet-and-greet rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 2015 staging of 'A Christmas Carol.' Photos by 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.

    Director Bruce K. Sevy took a moment during the first rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming 23rd staging of A Christmas Carol to honor venerable actor Philip Pleasants, who will be playing Scrooge at the Denver Center for the 11th and final time.

    Sevy called working with Pleasants over the past decade a remarkable partnership and learning experience. “This is one of the rare experiences you get in the theatre that makes you think your whole career was worth it,” Sevy said.

    Sam Gregory and Philip Pleasants. Photo by John Moore. DCPA veteran Sam Gregory, who will understudy Pleasants this year and eventually assume the role of Scrooge as his own, called Pleasants the greatest actor to ever play the role.

    “I have watched Phil progress and grow in this role since I first played Bob Cratchit to Phil's Scrooge at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 1998,” Gregory said. “He has been so magnificent. There is no one in this room more intimidated than I am right now.”

    Pleasants had to sit there and take the accolades like Cratchit working on Christmas Eve. He then summoned his inner Scrooge and declared simply, "It is a great honor and privilege. I am thrilled to be here. Now ... let's get to work!"

    (Photo above: Sam Gregory, left, and Philip Pleasants. Photo by John Moore.) 

    Sevy welcomed faces old and new for the official meet-and-greet that launches the beginning of the rehearsal period before every Theatre Company production. This year, the noontime party included guests from another DCPA holiday offering, David Sedaris’ caustic monologue, The SantaLand Diaries.

    Stephen Weitz, who also directed the Theatre Company's Tribes (running through Nov. 15), is helming SantaLand for a seventh straight holiday season. This is the third year the show is being presented as a collaboration between Weitz's Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and the DCPA's Off-Center.

    This year, Michael Bouchard, who appeared in last season’s A Christmas Carol, will assume the candy-striped tights of Crumpet the Elf from Matt Zambrano in The SantaLand Diaries, which plays Nov. 27-Dec. 27 in the Jones Theatre.

    Another first: For the first time in eight years, Weitz announced, that will be a new Crumpet costume Bouchard is sporting. Weitz jokingly cited an EPA violation from eight years of cumulative sweat from his previous Crumpets, Zambrano and Geoffrey Kent.

    Michael Bouchard and Bruce K. Sevy. Photo by John Moore.
    A joking 'A Christmas Carol' Director Bruce K. Sevy, right, doesn't look too happy with actor Michael Bouchard's life choices. After performing for Sevy in 'A Christmas Carol' last year, Bouchard will move over to the Jones Theatre to star in David Sedaris' 'The SantaLand Diaries' this holiday season. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    David Sedaris wrote The SantaLand Diaries in 1992 detailing his real-life experience working as an elf at the Macy's department store in New York,” Weitz said. “Since then, it has really become a staple of holiday theatre all across the country. We've always thought of it as an alternative holiday outing to more traditional offerings like A Christmas Carol. It attracts a somewhat different audience, and it traffics in Sedaris’ unique brand of snark and cynicism. In many ways, Seadris' view of the holidays in 1992 was prophetic in that he was just starting to comment on the commercialization of Christmas, and how it was becoming about all the wrong things. I don't think any of us knew how far that trend was going to continue, but when you look at where we are today, it's still incredibly timely.

    “And yet what makes the play wonderful is that underneath all the biting commentary, it really does have a heart about what Christmas is, and should be, and can be.”

    Daniel Langhoff, Laura Mathew Siebert and Nate Siebert. Photo by John Moore. Before offering his thoughts on A Christmas Carol, Sevy invited returning cast member Daniel Langhoff to address the gathering. Langhoff, a new father, was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in August, and two weeks ago had the mass removed. Next week, he starts a 24-week course of chemotherapy.

    “I don’t know how this is going to hit me,” Langhoff said, but he thanked his director, cast and crew for inviting him to come back to the show regardless. “This couldn't be coming at a better time for me,” he said of A Christmas Carol. "I just want to say thank you all for that. “

    Langhoff gave a shoutout to the Denver community for supporting him through the start of his ordeal, including the Denver Actors Fund, which has raised about $3,600 to help off-set his medical expenses. Also present was local photographer Laura Mathews Siebert, who hosted a recent portrait fundraiser that raised an additional $1,500 for Langhoff’s family.

    In a remarkable small-world twist, Siebert is also the mother of 10-year-old Nate Patrick Siebert, who is newly cast in the Denver Center's A Christmas Carol for the first time. Twice before, young Nate has donated $100 from his acting stipends (Arvada Center’s Camelot and Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s Mary Poppins) to the Denver Actors Fund.

    “If you ever are worried about the transient nature of relationships in theatre, it's a lie,” Langhoff said. “Theatre relationships go on. We are all here for each other, whether or not we even know it.”

    (Photo above right: Daniel Langhoff, Laura Mathews Siebert and her son Nate, along with a montage of portraits Laura photographed to raise money for Langhoff's cancer treatments. Photo by John Moore.)

    The children of 'A Christmas Carol.' Photo by John Moore

    The children of the DCPA's 'A Christmas Carol.' Photo by John Moore.

    Four things Director Bruce K. Sevy loves about A Christmas Carol:

    1 PerspectivesThe music by David de Berry, with fresh orchestrations by Gregg Coffin. “This is a very musical play, with its use of traditional carols, singing, underscoring and sound,” Sevy said. Added Coffin: “The music is beautifully ornamental. None of the music defines character or forwards the plot. Instead it hangs like little ornaments on a tree. And all of these little musical moments help to paint a fuller picture of the Dickensian world.” Over his six years with the DCPA, Coffin has completely reimagined the scoring by adding more indigenous instruments such as hammer dulcimers, fiddles and guitars that help bring out the feel of Victorian England.

    2 PerspectivesTheatricality. "We did Hamlet a couple of years ago, and I realized while I was watching it how much Marley's scene with Scrooge is actually borrowing the same sensibility from Hamlet with his father, who is also a ghost,” Sevy said. He added with a laugh: “So Scrooge is actually Hamlet, and Marley is his father. That is really what is going on here.”

    3 PerspectivesSocial conscience. "This story is remarkably progressive; moral without being stuffy," Sevy said. "It gets into some fundamental questions about our relationship to one another, and what the point of life is after all. We know at the core of this play is a man who has cut himself off from the world, and from other human beings. His journey is one of reconnecting. I think when most people come to A Christmas Carol, they leave thinking mostly of the happy stuff. But by the time we get to the part where Scrooge comes to ask if he can come to dinner at his nephew's place, and then surprises Cratchit with a pay raise - it's moving. That's the power of this piece. It speaks to a shared value that we all have."

    4 PerspectivesTimeliness: “What's similar between 1840 and now is that we have a comparable imbalance between those who have money and those who don't,” Sevy said. “Almost every scene in this play has some reference to either money, finances or the lack of it. The reason Belle breaks up with Scrooge is because he has a new golden idol - and it is money. Just as it is today, Scrooge's world is out of balance when we start the play. That's a big part of what this play is about.”                  

    A Christmas Carol: Cast list:

    Based on the novel by Charles Dickens
    Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    Music by David de Berry

    Directed by Bruce K. Sevy
    Music Direction by Gregg Coffin
    Orchestrations by Gregg Coffin
    Choreography by Christine Rowan
    Set Design by Vicki Smith
    Costume Design by Kevin Copenhaver
    Lighting Design by Don Darnutzer
    Sound Design by Craig Breitenbach       

    Colin Alexander (Ghost of Christmas Present)
    Leslie Alexander (Mrs. Cratchit)
    Benjamin Bonenfant (Undertaker’s Man)
    Courtney Capek (Belle)
    Stephanie Cozart (Ghost of Christmas Past)
    Allen Dorsey (Ghost of Christmas Future)
    Napoleon M. Douglas (Ensemble)
    Mehry Eslaminia (Ensemble)
    Michael Fitzpatrick (Mr. Fezziwig)
    Ella Galaty (Fan)
    Sam Gregory (Scrooge Understudy)
    Edwin Harris (Ensemble)
    Ben W. Heil (Peter Cratchit)
    Charlie Korman (Boy Scrooge)
    Robert Andrew Koutras (Ensemble)
    Daniel Langhoff (Ensemble)
    Avi Levin (Ensemble)
    Kyra Lindsay (Martha Cratchit)
    Brody Lineaweaver (Ensemble)
    Rodney Lizcano (Old Joe)
    Emma C. Martin (Ensemble)
    M. Scott McLean (Young Scrooge)
    Leslie O’Carroll (Mrs. Fezziwig)
    Philip Pleasants (Ebenezer Scrooge)
    Max Raabe (Edward Cratchit)
    Augie Reichert (Tiny Tim)
    Helen Reichert (Belinda Cratchit)
    James Michael Reilly (Bob Cratchit)
    Jeffrey Roark (Jacob Marley)
    Christine Rowan (Ensemble)
    Nate Patrick Siebert (Ensemble)
    Shannan Steele (Ensemble)
    Olivia Sullivent (Want)
    Jake Williamson (Ensemble)
    Erin Willis (Ensemble)
    Owen Zitek (Ensemble) 

    A Christmas Carol: Ticket information

  • Nov. 27-Dec. 27 (Opens Dec. 4) at the Stage Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Accessibility performance: 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19

  • The SantaLand Diaries: Ticket information
  • Nov. 27-Dec. 27 at the Jones Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Accessibility performance: 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 20
    For both shows:
  • 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 'A Christmas Carol' and 'The SantaLand Diaries.'

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of  A Christmas Carol:
    Beginnings and endings for stars of A Christmas Carol, The SantaLand Diaries
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes
    Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    By the numbers: A Christmas Carol over 22 years at the DCPA
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
    Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
    Meet the cast video: Leslie Alexander
  • Westminster High School tackles immigration with 'Just Like Us'

    by John Moore | Nov 06, 2015

    The cast of Westminster High School's 'Just Like Us' is joined by DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous and Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson (standing back), and Director Andre' Rodriguez (back right). The play runs Nov. 10-14. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The student actors at Westminster High School who are about to become the first in the nation to stage Karen Zacarias’ immigration drama Just Like Us will do far more than tell the story of four real Denver high-school seniors - all straight-A students born in Mexico to parents who entered this country illegally.

    Many will be telling their own stories. And their families’ stories.

    A Kent quote 7Last week, Director Andre’ Rodriguez and his students were visited by DCPA Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who commissioned the stage adaptation of journalist Helen Thorpe's best-selling book for its 2013 world-premiere, and DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous, who performed as an actor in that staging.

    They gathered in a circle for a spirited and wide-ranging conversation about issues raised in the play, how the script evolved through a whopping 17 revisions, and how it was ultimately received in its high-profile DCPA debut. Eventually, these beginning actors started to open up about why this play is so personal to them.

    One talked almost matter-of-factly about how her grandfather was deported back to Mexico in September. How he was dropped off in the middle of a field eight hours from where he came from, she said, with no money, I.D., food or water. Another student held back tears telling how his grandfather came to the U.S. illegally with the dream of a college education. Instead, he had to drop out in the sixth grade to work in the fields, and is still doing so to this day, into his late 60s.

    “He goes out every day and he's working his butt off trying to produce to help my grandmother because they are going bankrupt,” the boy said. “I am like, 'Grandpa, you are getting old. You can't be doing this. You need to rest.’ He looks worse and worse every day. But he tells me every single day, ‘You have the chance to go to college. You have the chance to do what you want to do. Don't waste it.’ ”

    Taylor Lewis, who is preparing to play Thorpe in Just Like Us, called out the contradiction in the Statue of Liberty’s invitation to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.”

    “We tell people to come here, and that we will take care of you,” she said. “But every time there is an influx of one specific race or religion that needs to flee their country, we are so against it. That's not American, I think, because being American means accepting all for who they are.”

    Thompson pointed out to the students that the modest goal in the Constitution’s preamble is “to make a more perfect union.” That specific wording is important, he said, because it acknowledges that we will never achieve a perfect union. “But we have to always try to make it better,” he said. “That is our obligation.”

    One girl remained silent throughout the afternoon talk. Afterward, Rodriguez revealed just how closely this girl’s life mirrors one of the characters in Just Like Us. In the play, the character Yadira doesn’t see her mother for years after she is deported for using another woman’s social security number to find work.

    “Yadira’s story is literally her story,” Rodriguez said of his silent student. When asked after why he thought she chose not to share that with the open group herself, he said, “You can understand why the kids who are the most close to this issue would also be the most quiet.”

    A path to ... high-school enrollment

    Westminster 600 3The sign at Westminster High School’s front entrance greets prospective students in both English and Spanish with a message that’s plain in any language: If you don’t have your documents, don’t even bother.

    And yet, about 40 percent of the students at Westminster High, located at 68th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, are undocumented. Four of them, Rodriguez said, are in the cast or crew of Just Like Us.

    When the play was first staged at the Denver Center in 2013, it sparked controversy and diatribes, outrage and appreciation, healing and thoughtful dialogue. Talk-show host Tom Tancredo, the son of Italian immigrants who nevertheless worked tirelessly against immigration reform as a U.S. congressman, took to the airwaves assailing the Denver Center’s production, even going so far as to accuse Thorpe of making up the four women upon whom her book is based.

    Just Like Us follows how their opportunities for secondary education become divided by their immigration status. The narrative took an unexpected turn in 2005 when undocumented Mexican Raul Gomez-Garcia shot and killed off-duty Denver police Detective Donald Young. The story blew up further when it was learned that Gomez-Garcia had worked in one of then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s restaurants, the Cherry Cricket.

    “That opened a window for people who were virulently anti-immigration at the time,” Thompson said. “The murder of this policeman caused a great turnaround in policy.” 

    A Kent quote 8And Thorpe, of course, was married to the Mayor. Suddenly her place in the story became far more involved than the journalist had ever expected or wanted.

    “The whole thing was very exciting because these are characters who come from this community,” Thompson said. “The response from the Latino community was overwhelmingly positive because they were seeing themselves on stage. And frankly you don't see truthful, authentic Latino people on stage that much.”

    But Rodriguez met with some initial resistance from the Adams County School District about staging Just Like Us because the red-hot issue of immigration provokes such a strong response both ways. That he chose to go forward anyway, says Westminster High School teacher and parent Fran Groff-Gonzales, “is why he’s a rock star.”

    The high school also houses the offices of the Adams County School District. Rodriguez describes the climate there as “hypersensitive” when it comes to issues such as bilingual education because the rapidly shifting district has for decades served an ideologically conservative base.

    As a result, Westminster High School's graduation rate has dropped to only 60 percent. Rodriguez says he won the school district’s blessing to perform Just Like Us because of the story’s ultimate message that academic achievement will be rewarded.

    "We've hit the students pretty hard with the message, 'You have got to graduate and go to college. There are options. Do not lose hope,' " said Rodriguez.

    During the rehearsal process, two of the four real women from Thorpe’s book visited with the cast and offered advice and encouragement. Rodriguez took the cast and crew on a field trip to Greeley to visit the University of Northern Colorado, where they attended classes and workshops, and visited the César Chávez Cultural Center.

    Zacarias, who was herself born in Mexico, could not be happier to see Just Like Us be performed in Westminster. Another student production is in the works at a Dallas high school, she said.

    “I am just so proud that Kent and the DCPA took Helen Thorpe’s amazing book and created a vehicle that allows these lives to become palpable and real for these students,” she said.

    A Kent quote 10

    ‘Immigration is messy’

    A Kent quote 9Performing in Just Like Us has turned Rodriguez’s cast and crew into questioners. They are questioning their parents, their school, their government and their history.

    “This experience has made me start to pay attention to literally everything around me. I have I started asking questions,” said Gabriella Bailey, who is playing Marisela in the play. In May, she won a special achievement for leadership from the Bobby G Awards.

    "Before, I would never ask someone if he had his papers. Even my boyfriend is undocumented, so I finally just straight-up asked him, ‘How do you work without papers? I don't understand.’ ”

    Taylor Lewis, the actor playing Thorpe, can trace her roots back to Austria in the 1850s. “What this play has shown me is that immigration is just so messy,” she said. "The only reason I am here today is because my grandfather married my grandmother and got his green card. Despite the color of our skin, we are all human. We all have the same anatomy. We all have the same heart, so we should all have the same rights. Just because I was born on a piece of land that was claimed by an abstract kind of government is kind of stupid. Why does a piece of land change anything?”

    One of the most powerful things theatre can do is allow you to look at the world through another person's eyes, Thompson told the students. And start conversations.

    “Theatre can build empathy and tolerance,” he said. “If you are doing a play and you feel their hearts beating and you can feel their heads working, I think it changes the world."

    ‘Moving people to care, to understand, to action’

    Rodriguez has been nominated as Best Director for all three years of the Bobby G Awards, which celebrate achievements in high-school musical theatre. In May, he won the award for his staging of Rent, a controversial musical that addresses issues like AIDS, social injustice and homophobia. He said it is important for him as a teacher to offer his students the opportunity to perform theatre that is both socially relevant and socially responsible.

    "We don't make progress as a program if we are doing The Music Man here, because that's just not where my kids are at academically, socially or economically,” he said.

    Zacarias believes Just Like Us does exactly what theater should be doing: “It encourages the community to examine difficult issues and create a dialogue between the play and the audience,” she said. “There is no greater success for a play than moving people to care, to understand, to action.”

    Watrous, who oversees classes for more than 65,000 students of all ages every year through Denver Center Education, said it is “incredibly important for young actors to have the opportunity to approach material that is sophisticated and challenging and emotional. This play centers on high-school students getting ready to go into college. That is them, and so for them, there is nothing more truthful than that.”

    Just Like Us will be the first play almost all of Rodriguez’s students will have performed in. So he is not all that concerned whether it comes off as great theatre.There is a greater goal.

    “We are doing this play to communicate the idea to all students that despite all of the obstacles within our society, we can pursue our idea of the American Dream. We can go to school and further our educations," he said. "Even though our government is saying, 'You don't exist within our system,' this play is telling them, There are options out there, and there is a path for you.' ”

    The cast of Westminster High School's 'Just Like Us.' Photo by John Moore.

    Just Like Us: Ticket information:

    • Book by Helen Thorpe, adapted for the stage by Karen Zacarias
    • Presented by CenterStage Theatre Company at Westminster High School
    • 7 p.m. Nov. 10-14
    • 6933 Raleigh St., Westminster, 80030
    • Tickets $6-$10
    • 720-542-5415 or reserve tickets here
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Just Like Us:

    Playwright Karen Zacarias talks about why "Just Like Us" matters

    Video: Helen Thorpe and Karen Zacarías talk about Just Like Us
    Denver business community says now is the time for immigration reform
    Denver's Mary Bacon: Proud of a city "that confronts itself every night"
    Just Like Us: Theatre that makes the political personal ... and entertaining
    Meet the cast video series
    Flobots, DeVotchKa members release song for immigration reform
  • Deborah Lowenstein: 'The luckiest life' comes to a close

    by John Moore | Nov 05, 2015
    Henry Lowenstein and wife, Deb.

    Henry Lowenstein with his wife of 22 years, Deborah Goodman Lowenstein.

    As the story goes, David Lowenstein approached his father after a Passover Seder in 1992 and told him he was thinking of asking one of the guests out on a date.

    Legendary Denver theatre producer Henry Lowenstein fumbled for an appropriate response to this unexpectedly awkward father-son moment.

    “Well, son, I hate to tell you this,” the elder Lowenstein said, “ … but I think she’s interested in me.”

    The woman was Deborah Goodman, a free-spirited California astrologer and masseuse who was, indeed, interested in the older man who had come to be known as “the father of Denver theatre” over four decades as a producer at the Bonfils and Civic theatres. They were married for 22 years until Henry’s death last year at age 89. Deborah Lowenstein said she was "the luckiest woman" for having met and married Henry Lowenstein. 

    This morning, Deborah Lowenstein died at age 64.

    She was diagnosed with uterine cancer several years ago but after surgeries and radiation, it looked as if she was out of the woods. Then, just days after Henry’s life celebration last year, Deborah was told the tumors in her abdomen had returned, and that neither chemotherapy nor surgery would be able to completely defeat them.

    Deborah Lowenstein

    “She modeled for me how to be a strong, sassy, feminine woman,” added Deb's friend Catherine Freeland, Associate Vice Dean at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

    Lowenstein's granddaughter, Nyssa, authored a recent Facebook post thanking Deb for encouraging her artistic creativity. “She has taught me a lot about words and passion, the stars and independence,” Nyssa wrote on Deb's 64th birthday. “But she was always the one to remind me to stop and smell the roses. To experience life and not fall into the wormhole that is drive. But rather to poke my head out and enjoy the sunshine. I couldn't appreciate her more.”

    Deb Lowenstein, 26 years her husband’s younger, was a graduate of the Boulder School of Massage Therapy and a proud member of the Denver Women's Press Club.  She adored Scrabble, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, butternut squash soup and poppy-seed muffins.

    Read our full tribute to Henry Lowenstein

    “She is inspirational, full of life, and has had countless interesting life experiences," wrote Nyssa Lowenstein. "She is a woman I could talk to for days about literally anything. I'm eternally grateful for this strong woman in my life."

    A celebration of Deborah Lowenstein's life will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, at the Denver Women's Press Club, 1325 Logan St., 80203. In lieu of flowers, charitable donations may be made to the Denver Women’s Press Club at the same address.

    In addition, Lowenstein's friend Lois Harvey intends to honor both a previous promise to Lowenstein and her love of Lewis Carroll by hosting an all-comers “half-birthday tea party” from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 26 at Harvey’s West Side Books, 3434 W. 32nd St. in northwest Denver. (All are welcome at both events.) 

    Deborah Goodman was born May 26, 1951, to artist parents Eli Goodman, a composer and musician, and Helen Hockett Goodman, a singer and actress. In her early 20s, Deb and her best friend, Mahlah Holden, spent many hours at a Hollywood coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard smoking cigarettes and talking about whether Deborah should go to nursing school or become an astrologer. “We decided astrologer would be best,” Holden said.

    David Lowenstein QuoteDeb moved to Denver in 1975 together with her brother, Dana. She was starting over after a relationship gone bad. “They had plans on buying land, starting a farm and living like hippies,” said Freeland. After Dana and Deb's parents divorced, their mother moved to Denver to be closer to her children. 

    Deb met David Lowenstein at the same Unitarian Church they attended in Denver, and they were both guests at that fateful Passover Seder hosted by mutual friend Howard Ainbinder. David brought his father as his guest, and that’s how Deb met her future husband. Henry Lowenstein’s first wife, Dorrie, the mother of their three children, had died two years earlier, in 1990. Henry and Deborah married in 1993.

    "When my mother passed away, my father was a shell of himself until he met Deb, who not only loved and supported him, and he her, she also got him to mellow out and relax," David Lowenstein said at his father's life celebration. 

    Henry Lowenstein was a friend to hundreds in the local theatre community, but he developed a special fondness for Brian Freeland, founder of Denver’s only true, sustained experimental theatre company of the past two decades, The LIDA Project. Though separated by nearly 50 years, the two shared a rebellious artistic kinship - and their wives developed a similar bond. The Freelands even purchased the Lowensteins’ house on Grant Street, where they would eventually raise their two children before moving to New York in 2013.

    “I keep coming back to our first invitation to dinner at Henry and Deb's house on Grant Street in ‘97 or ‘98,” Catherine Freeland said. “We were the youngest of all the invited couples. While Henry was the initial draw, I became enamored with Deb. She was in her element - hosting interesting people, serving food I had never tasted before and keeping the conversation moving from Henry's memories to current events to literature. Her energy kept the evening moving.”

    Catherine and Deb had the commonality of being married to visionary local artists. The newly married Catherine Freeland had stopped doing theater and found herself “unclear how to behave in that (wife) role,” as she put it. “Deb showed me how to be a supportive partner, but not a shrinking violet."

    On the night of that introductory dinner party, Freeland remembers leaving the house holding hands with her husband, and skipping. Really. “Deb remembers watching us skip away,” she said, “and I remember vividly doing the skipping. 

    “That night would spark a decades-long friendship.”

    Deborah Goodman Lowenstein and Donna Smith at Henry Lowenstein's life celebration last year. Photo by John Moore.

    Catherine Freeland called Lowenstein an astute astrologer who helped her through many years with the aid of her astrological charts. When Freeland became pregnant with her second child, she said, “I was terrified to have a Pisces. And I am convinced my fear prevented me from having our daughter, Lillian, until two weeks after my due date - in an attempt to have an Aries. I was scheduled to be induced but, after talking with Deb for two hours about the virtues of Pisces, I went into labor. Six hours later, our little Pisces was born."

    Lowenstein’s father died in March 2002, her brother at the end of 2002 and her mother in December 2003. She is survived by Lowenstein's three sons, Daniel, David and Joshua.

    When the DCPA NewsCenter posted a tribute to Henry Lowenstein after his death last year, Deborah wrote in, saying:

    "Today I was thinking that I was the luckiest woman to have found and married Henry. But then I needed to amend that to I AM the luckiest woman. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect and affection for him. I AM the luckiest woman, but I sure don't know how I got to be so lucky."

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

    Our video tribute to Henry Lowenstein, above Related coverage:

    Read our essay on the life of Henry Lowenstein
    Lowenstein's accomplishments read into Congressional Record
    Click here to see our full gallery of photos from the Henry Lowenstein celebration

    Deborah Lowenstein
  • DCPA CEO Scott Shiller: How to respond to declining arts coverage?

    by John Moore | Nov 04, 2015
    DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller, right with his wife, Kerry. Photo by John Moore.
    DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller, right, attended a recent performance of 'Oliver' at Denver School of the Arts with his wife, Kerry. Photo by John Moore.

    The definition of “news” is changing. That’s no secret, right? It used to be the time-honored Fourth Estate, printing and broadcasting the narrative of our collective experience. Now it can be an anonymous tweet, a viral video, a sound bite or a leaked document, all of which have steadily drawn our eyes away from traditional news sources and toward our personal circles of influence. A new study, conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, finds that 42 percent of the U.S. population now say Facebook and Twitter serve as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.

    John MooreOne of the biggest changes in news, especially for theatre, is the decline of dedicated arts coverage from the major print and broadcast sources. As established news organizations have struggled to balance modern profitability with journalistic tradition, they’ve had to make tough choices. I understand that’s not easy, and never will be. But I also don’t like it. We in the arts invest so much in telling stories that reflect the social issues facing our community that it hurts to know that fewer people are hearing about these plays and musicals from mainstream sources. Once we could rely on a minimum of coverage. Now we have to hope for it.

    I’m certainly not blaming the news organizations themselves or the wonderful people who work with us every day to keep us in the news. We have amazing fans in our news partners and appreciate everything they do for us. Truly. This isn’t about blame at all; it’s about behavior. People get their news differently now. So we have to do things differently, too, if we want the same level of attention.

    That’s why, in addition to our ongoing use of Twitter and Facebook, we’ve built our own online NewsCenter at MyDenverCenter.Org with former Denver Post theatre critic John Moore at the helm. (Pictured above right). Every day, we’re publishing theatre news from across the entire state with no agenda other than the news itself. Obviously, we hope it helps promote our work and Colorado’s theatre community as a whole. Eventually, though, we want it to be a resource for anyone interested in arts reporting, in our talented community and in Denver’s unique place in the national arts scene.

    Until then, where do you get your arts and entertainment news? Which matters more to you — a review by an established theatre critic, or a recommendation from a friend or family member?

    Scott Shiller quote

    Talk to us: What are your thoughts on the changing world of arts journalism?
    Let's keep the conversation going. Your feedback is important. Please leave your comments at the end of this story. Follow Scott Shiller on Twitter @ScottShiller and the DCPA @denvercenter

    About our Guest Columnist:
    Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).

    Our previous conversation: Social media in the theatre 

    Previously, Scott Shiller posed this question for NewsCenter readers: How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

  • Video: Michael Riedel on how Broadway saved New York

    by John Moore | Nov 03, 2015

    "New York has one thing that no other city in the world has, and that’s Broadway," author Michael Riedel told a recent Denver Center audience as he introduced his new book, Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway. But with New York City within hours of filing for bankruptcy in the late 1960s, Broadway was in danger of drying up and blowing away.

    the gleefully controversial New York Post theater columnist, turns thoughtful journalist in his compelling telling of Broadway's recent history from the vantage of the industry's power brokers. In the video excerpt above, Riedel talks about the legendary showmen who stepped up to save the day with productions like Equus, 42nd Street, Cats and, especially, A Chorus Line.


    Riedel was in Denver on Oct. 15 for a visit coinciding with the launch of the If/Then national touring production. Moderating the conversation at the Denver Center's Conservatory Theatre was David Stone, producer of Broadway shows including Wicked, The Vagina Monologues and If/Then.

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Here is the official description of Michel Riedel's Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway, from publisher  Simon & Schuster:

    Michael Riedel Quote. Photo by John MooreBroadway’s most respected (and feared) commentator pulls back the curtain on its stars, its producers, and its mega-hits to reveal all the shocking drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened off stage.

    Razzle Dazzle is a provocative, no-holds-barred narrative account of the people and the money and the power that re-invented an iconic quarter of New York City, turning its gritty back alleys and sex-shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way—and bringing a crippled New York from the brink of bankruptcy to its glittering glory.

    In the mid-1970s Times Square was the seedy symbol of New York’s economic decline. Its once shining star, the renowned Shubert Organization, was losing theaters to make way for parking lots. Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, two ambitious board members, saw the crumbling company was ripe for takeover and staged a coup amidst corporate intrigue, personal betrayals, and criminal investigations. Once Jacobs and Schoenfeld solidified their power, they turned a collapsed theater-owning holding company into one of the most successful entertainment empires in the world, ultimately backing many of Broadway’s biggest hits, including A Chorus Line, Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Mamma Mia! They also sparked the revitalization of Broadway and the renewal of Times Square.

    Now Michael Riedel tells the stories of the Shubert Organization and the shows that re-built a city in grand style, revealing the backstage drama that often rivaled what transpired onstage, exposing bitter rivalries, unlikely alliances, and—of course—scintillating gossip. This is a great story, told with wit and passion.

    'Wicked' and 'If/Then' producer David Stone leads the conversation with Michael Riedel Photo by John Moore'Wicked' and 'If/Then' producer David Stone leads the conversation at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts with author Michael Riedel. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter
  • CSU grad David Benken is the pride of Pride Rock

    by John Moore | Nov 02, 2015

    Technical Director David Benken has been fitting 'The Lion King' into theatres all over North America for 20 years. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    David Benken takes understandable pride in Pride Rock.

    Benken, who graduated from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, will celebrate his 20th year as Technical Director for The Lion King in 2016. In a career spanning more than 50 Broadway and international productions, he counts among his greatest accomplishments solving how to take that iconic moment when Pride Rock rises up from the Broadway stage – and recreate it out on the road, where no two theatres are alike.

    The Lion King left home in 2002, launching its first national touring production in Denver. Benken faced a litany of technical challenges making the then-record $15 million Broadway spectacle road-ready. Not because Denver’s massive Buell Theatre – larger on and off stage than most Broadway theatres – presented any of its own spatial challenges. Because other theaters would be much smaller. When you go on the road, you actually have to plan your entire tour to accommodate your smallest theatre.

    Most theaters, for example, would not have room under the stage for Pride Rock to rise up from underneath, as it does on Broadway. Basements don't exist that are deep enough to accommodate it, Benken said.

    And compromise was not an option.

    “The idea was that if you are going to do a tour, you are going give people on the road the same show that you gave them on Broadway,” Benken said. “And that was fairly radical for its time. Back then, there were some seriously reduced versions of shows going out on the road.”

    Not The Lion King.

    Lion King Quote David Benken

    “We were not going to give people some pared-down version of The Lion King," Benken said. "We were going to give them the whole thing. And we did. I think the national tour that started in Denver set a very high bar for all shows after it.”

    Benken began adapting the Broadway version of The Lion King for the road more than two years before it opened in Denver. His revised technical plans were due 16 months before the show opened here in April 2002.

    After several months and several attempts, the design team hit on the solution: Pride Rock, itself an 18-foot set piece, would not ascend from below. Rather it would slither onto the stage and slowly rise as Simba and his father climb to its top.

    “From a technical standpoint, the effect is actually much more complicated on the road than it is in New York,” Benken said. “For Broadway, we just built a staircase on top of an elevator. Except for building the elevator, that was pretty easy.”

    And by creating new circular movements, this solution, Benken said, further enhances Director Julie Taymor’s original vision that everything should come back to central theme of a "Circle of Life."

    “I think the solution we came up with in Denver worked out quite well, and it is used all over the world now,” he said.

    The unseen part of this story is what happens when Pride Rock has to slither back off the stage.

    “This 18-foot set piece has to be able to collapse down to about 7 feet because in most theatres, there is just no room to store something that big in the wings,” Benken said. “That’s technically the most complicated and impressive part of the whole Pride Rock technical design -- and no one ever sees it." 

    That is just for starters. The Lion King is a show with 500 lighting cues, 100 sound speakers, dozens of puppets and set pieces, and 60 automated effects. It requires a lot of heavy equipment to make them run like they should. A lot. And because space is always  the primary obstacle, Benken simply hangs most of that equipment in the air.

    “We have literally 10 or 12 tons of equipment up there,” he said. "The funny thing is the theatre in Denver (The Buell) had plenty of space on the sides to accommodate it, but the problem is we knoew we would soon be moving on to much smaller spaces. So on both sides of the stage, we hung a 28-foot by 4-foot truss that contained all of the automation control panels, all the dimmers for the lighting, and the consoles for all the sound amplifiers."

    “All told, including scenery, The Lion King actually hangs more than 100 tons of equipment from the ceiling.

    "So whenever we go to a new theatre," Benken said, "one of the biggest questions always has to do with the grids: 'How much weight they can handle?' Because we definitely push it.

    But he promises he has never taken a ceiling down.

    “No, and I don’t intend to start now,” he said with a laugh.

    Lion King Quote David Benken

    From theater to computers and back

    Benken learned about theatrical lighting in high school back in Cincinnati, but he went to college in Fort Collins to learn computers instead. But given how computerized technical theatre has become, "one very much informed the other," he said, and after graduation, he was hired as the Technical Director at the Lexington Opera House in Kentucky. He was lured back to Colorado to work for Hewlett Packard and US West as a computer programmer.

    He found his true calling in the theater in 1996 when he was hired to work on The Lion King, which would open on Broadway the next year. Benken’s credits have since included the Denver-born The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, The History Boys, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Boy from Oz. Cirque du Soleil, and the upcoming Misery, opening Nov. 15 on Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and Bruce Willis in starring roles.

    The bulk of Benken’s work as a Technical Director is getting a show up and running, or, in the case of a tour, out the door. From there, he continues to supervise all personnel and technical matters from a distance, usually while working on other projects. That means he doesn’t visit the show every tour stop, even though it takes five full days to load the show into any new city it visits. With The Lion King's fourth Denver stop opening Nov. 4, there is no pressing need for him to be here. But he was certainly here in 2002 when The Lion King national tour launched, and he will never forget it.

    “It was so exciting for everybody. You could feel it with the stagehands. There is that opening night lift you get when the audience sees your show for the first time. It’s why theatre is so wonderful from my point of view. You have just spent six or seven weeks in the theatre working 8 a.m. to till midnight most days, and it all pays off when you hear the response from that first live audience.

    “And the response from Denver audiences was just phenomenal. People really loved it. Standing ovations, the applause, everything. It was pretty amazing.  After the show opened, everyone was looking for tickets.

    “You could definitely feel that this was something special for Denver. It was definitely special for us.”

    Disney’s The Lion King

  • Nov 4-29 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15

    Official show page
    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.

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