• Video: Our interview with Alan Thicke of 'Dancing Pros: Live' in Denver

    by John Moore | Jan 24, 2015
     
    Alan Thicke, host of "Dancing Pros: Live!" talks with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about "Growing Pains," his place in pop-culture history with "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Facts of Life," and who would win a dance-off between Thicke and fellow game-show host Tom Bergeron. That and his reason for stopping in Denver. Look for fun cameos from Karina Smirnoff and Benji Schwimmer.

    In "Dancing Pros: Live," some of the world’s finest dancers battle it out live on stage, and the audience chooses the winner. Two performances remain on Jan. 24 at the Buell Theatre. For information on "Dancing Pros: Live,"  call 303-893-4100, or click here:

    Performances:
    7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23
    2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex





  • The mystery of 'Appoggiatura' unfolds with tonight's opening

    by John Moore | Jan 23, 2015

    Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen

    “Titles are mysterious,” says playwright James Still, author of the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere staging of Appoggiatura. It’s a word few people know ... and even fewer can pronounce.

    But Still hopes the mystery of the word becomes a part of the audience’s experience of the play – starting tonight with its opening performance at the Ricketson Theatre.

    “Sure, I could have called this play Three Americans in Venice,” Still said at “Perspectives,” a public dialogue with DCPA theatregoers that preceded the first preview performance. “But since the play is partly about the poetry of Venice, it would seem strange to me if the title didn’t reflect that in some way.”

    “And besides - we all get to learn a new word, and what it means.”

    That word is Appoggiatura. And it is pronounced “uh-poj-uh-too-ruh.” It refers to the embellishing note that precedes an essential melodic note just before it leans into a resolve. Which is just what happens to Still's characters through the course of his play. 

    “The play is about three people sharing grief in Venice,” said Rob Nagle, who was last seen in Denver playing more than 30 roles in The 39 Steps. In Appoggiatura, he plays just one - a man named Aunt Chuck. 

    Darrie Lawrence and  Lenne Klingaman in 'Appoggoatura.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen“There is an older woman named Helen, who was married to a man for several decades," said Nagle. "He left her for my character, and they were together for almost 25 years before he died. So these are the two people who loved him most in his life, and they are now vacationing together in Venice. There is enough water under the bridge for them to do that. And along with them on this trip is Helen’s granddaughter, Sylvie, who I helped raise. That’s why my character’s name is Aunt Chuck.”

    And that is your launching point: “You have three people trying to get through a challenging trip. And at the same time, they are trying to say goodbye to the man they all really love,” said Nagle.

    Panel moderator Douglas Langworthy asked Still about the genesis of the play, and Still said there are many: Personal experiences; his time spent in Italy; and especially, he said, “the experience of sorrow and grief - and how that can put us in a kind of altered state, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Some wonderful things can happen to you in that state … and that is part of what the play is about.”

    Another of Still’s influences was Shakespeare.

    “We all know Shakespeare wrote a play set in Venice called The Merchant of Venice," he said. “But there are moments in my play that more resemble A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or The Tempest. There were moments in the writing of the play where I would think, ‘If Shakespeare lived now and had access to the technology we have today, what would he do in this moment?' And so you’ll see how we tried to do that.”

    Venice is essentially a city on water, and both Still’s script and David A. Barber’s scenic design reflect that fluidity. The action moves so rapidly throughout Venice that Still joked his story takes place in “30,000 locations.” Barber embraced modern technology by creating a streetscape that changes not physically but through video projection overlays he made in collaboration with the DCPAs Charlie Miller.

    “It's almost like you are taking a tour of Venice,” Barber said. “I like the idea that video projection can layer over actual scenery so you have some very real architecture the actors can embrace and interact with, but you can paint it over with light to keep changing it.”

    Another essential ingredient of the play, directed by Risa Brainin, is live music from three street musicians playing violin, mandolin and guitar. The whimsical story even features an appearance by no less than Vivaldi himself (Julian Remulla).

    “Venice was Vivaldi’s hometown,” Still said. “He was a choir director as well as a composer. I thought the music had to come from someone who grew up there. Music is a kind of muse to one of the characters in the play. Music is part of the storytelling. It is very much woven into the fabric of the play.”




    Still explained to the audience that Appoggiatura is actually the second chapter of a trilogy – but the first to be produced.

    “The first play is called The House That Jack Built, and it takes place in Vermont at Thanksgiving,” he said. “Aunt Chuck and Sylvie (the granddaughter) are only off-stage characters in that play. You learn about them, but you don’t meet them. The second play is Appoggiatura, and it takes place about six months later, all in one day in Venice. You will hear the name 'Jack' in Appoggiatura, and I hope you will listen for it, because it is an important piece of this overall story. And then the third play is called Miranda, and it is some years into the future. That is a very different play about another family member who is in the CIA. That play takes place in Yemen."

    It wasn’t his intention to write a trilogy – Still only set out to write Appoggiatura. “But my feeling is that plays come with their own souls, and my job is to uncover it," he said. "So you listen very deeply to the play, and then let it be the play that it is - even if it has a hard title to pronounce.”

    To anyone who thinks playwriting is a glamorous life, know that while Still will be in Denver for tonight’s opening performance – he will be on a plane bound for Washington D.C. at 6 o'clock Saturday morning.

    Rob Nagle Quote

    Still has the almost unheard-of good playwriting fortune of opening two different world-premiere plays within five days of each other. The Widow Lincoln opens Jan. 28 at Ford’s Theatre, famously known as the place where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Still was commissioned to write a play marking the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death. 

    “It’s about Mary Lincoln, and it is based on a very little explored historical footnote,” Still said. “The morning after Lincoln died, Mary was taken back to the White House. But she refused to go into any rooms where she had any memories of her husband. So she ended up going into a little storage room - and she didn't come out for 40 days and 40 nights.”

    All that is known about Mary Lincoln’s exile comes from a two-paragraph letter she wrote about a year later. “So that's the play: Imagining what happened in that room,” said Still, who has been regularly commuting between Denver and D.C. since Dec. 7.

    Before tomorrow's pre-dawn flight, there is tonight’s opening of Appoggiatura. It’s a wonderfully funny play that will land on audiences like a soft note finding its home in a musical ballad.

    "This is a heartbreaking, deeply moving story about love and loss, the desire to connect - and finding a way to say goodbye,” said Nagle. “It dances beautifully in this realm of extremes. You go from a really lovely, light moment, and then all of a sudden, a turn hits. Some of the scenes, I have to say, they kill me. They hurt inside because they’re so meaningful to me.”

     Coming up:
  • Join 'Appoggiatura' cast members Darrie Lawrence, Mehry Eslaminia and Julian Remulla at noon Tuesday, Jan. 27, for Page to Stage, a lunchtime panel conversation with DCPA Arts Journalist John Moore at the Colfax Tattered Cover. Free.
  • The next "Perspectives" conversation hosted by Douglas Langworthy will be on "Benediction" at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, in The Jones Theatre, 13th and Arapahoe streets. Free.

  • Appoggiatura: Ticket information
    Performances run through Feb. 22
    Ricketson Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our Appoggiatura "Meet the cast" video series (to date):
    Meet Darrie Lawrence
    Meet Nick Mills
    More to come

    Our previous coverage of Appoggiatura:
    Video: Our 'Appoggiatura' montage of scenes
    Interview: Playwright James Still is running to catch up to himself  

    Video: Talking Appoggiatura with James Still and Risa Brainin
    Photos: Our Appoggiatura photos so far
    Appoggiatura Director Risa Brainin named head of National Theatre Conference
    Appoggiatura named to new DCPA Theatre Company season
    Kent Thompson handicaps the season, play by play
    Summit Soliloquy: James Still introduces Appoggiatura
    Appoggiatura: So what's in a name?

    Appoggiatura: Cast and crew
    Helen: Darrie Lawrence
    Sylvie: Lenne Klingaman
    Aunt Chuck: Rob Nagle
    Marco/Young Gordon: Nick Mills
    Kate/Ensemble: Mehry Eslaminia
    Old Man/Trio/Gordon: Paul Bentzen
    Vivaldi: Julian Remulla

    Written by James Still
    Directed by Risa Brainin
    Set Design by David M. Barber
    Costume Design by Meghan Doyle
    Lighting Design by Charles Macleod
    Sound Design by Tyler Nelson
    Composer/Musical Director: Michael Keck
    Dramaturg: Doug Langworthy
    Projection Design by Charlie Miller
    Choreography and Movement by Bob Davidson
    Voice and Dialect: Kathy Maes
  • 'Peter Pan' made Matthew Lopez cry - and fly - like a baby

    by John Moore | Jan 21, 2015

    Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore.

    As a television viewer, DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez said, 'Peter Pan Live!' 'did the thing that it was meant to do.' Photo by John Moore.




    Reaction to NBC’s nationally televised presentation of Peter Pan Live! last month was mixed, but Matthew Lopez’s response was unequivocal.

    “I loved it. I was completely charmed. And I was crying like a baby,” said Lopez, the DCPA Theatre Company’s first Playwriting Fellow for the 2014-15 season. “I thought it was fantastic.”

    That’s pretty impressive from one of the nation’s hottest young playwrights - a guy whose gritty, groundbreaking first play opens with a Confederate soldier having his gangrenous leg cut off in the opening scene of The Whipping Man.

    Or is that just Matthew?

    “Oh, I am a crier,” said Lopez, who also wrote the DCPA’s world premiere charmer The Legend of Georgia McBride. “I am not going to lie: I love to cry.”

    Peter Pan holds a special place in Lopez’s second star to the right, dating back to when he was a 5-year-old kid from the Florida Panhandle. While visiting New York, his family took him to Peter Pan. It was his first play. And it was on Broadway.

    “When I saw Sandy Duncan fly over the audience in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, I fell madly in love with theatre,” Lopez said. “From that moment on, I knew theatre was the only thing I could possibly do with my life. I did not want to become a lawyer. I did not want to become an accountant. I did not want to become anything other than someone who works in theatre.”

    His first job in the biz? Playing Michael Darling in a school production of Peter Pan.

    Fast-forward, and you can just imagine how Lopez felt when he heard NBC would be staging a three-hour live presentation of Peter Pan on Dec. 5 starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken … and a whole bunch of kids from Newsies.

    Lopez had to record the broadcast for un-live viewing because of another commitment. He got home late, cued it up, and soon he was laughing, cheering … and bawling.

    “I think a lot of this has to do with my own personal experiences with the show, but it was just so magical," he said. "Just hearing that score again was so exciting for me. And that little kid who played Michael Darling (John Allyn) was so adorable. When he started to fly, I started laughing so loud that I woke up my fiancé. He came out from the bedroom and he was like, ‘What the hell are you watching?’

    "I just pointed at the television and said, ‘Look! It's Peter Pan Live!’ And then I re-wound it, and he was charmed by it, too."

    The waterworks really began during Distant Melody. “I was a basket case just crying on the sofa,” he said. “I was remembering my childhood. And remembering the impact that song had on me. Whenever that songs starts to play, I cannot help it. I think we all have that thing that triggers our most wonderful, Proustian memories. Peter Pan is definitely my Madeline.”

    Lopez thinks watching live theatre on a television is inherently artificial because it’s typically performed in a theatre. “The direction is set up to accommodate camera angles,” he said of the Peter Pan Live! broadcast. “The set is designed to move around the guy who is holding the SteadyCam on his chest.”

    That said ... Who cares?

    “It was just so delightful for me to see really talented people tackle this beautiful chestnut of a show at the holidays," he said. "I have known and loved that show all my life."

    Matthew Lopez Quote

    For someone who knows the show so well, it’s telling that Lopez didn’t take much notice to wholesale changes in the score.

    Peter Pan Live! producers enlisted Amanda Green —  daughter of original lyricist Adolph Green — to expand and adapt the score using only carefully chosen material from the songbooks of original writers Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.  The new songs included Captain Hook’s “Vengeance” (adapted from a song in the musical Do Re Mi); Wendy’s “Only Pretend” (also adapted from the Do Re Mi score); and “A Wonderful World Without Peter,” a duel song between Hook and Peter adapted from “Something’s Always Happening On The River” from Say Darling. And the racially insensitive song “Ugg-a-Wugg” was softened.

    “You know what?" Lopez said. "It didn't even stick out to me that the music had been changed. It just all worked as a piece for me. And I can tell you, I sent the DVD to my nieces and nephews for Christmas. I bought two copies on Amazon.com that same night. And I was listening to the music on my iPhone a couple of days later.”

    We asked Lopez his thoughts on some of the more widely discussed talking points coming out of the broadcast, including:

    John Moore: Should NBC maybe have done this in front of a live television audience?

    Matthew Lopez: I was wondering the same thing. The thing that is missing with television is the direct relationship between the performers and the audience, and I think that would have helped. I saw Peter Pan in Los Angeles just two years ago, and when Cathy Rigby flew in, the entire audience just erupted into cheers. For me, the whole reason the show exists is that moment when the Darling children start to fly. They think lovely thoughts and candy, candy, candy. And then they are told to think lovelier thoughts, and Michael thinks of Christmas and he goes zooming up into the air. For me? It doesn't get any better than that. You can take your chandelier falling any day. Keep it. I want that little kid zooming up into the air when he thinks of Christmas. But you do lose something when it's on television because they are doing it for you. The missing ingredient is the audience.

    John Moore: So what did you think when you got to the moment when Peter asks the audience to Clap to save Tinkerbell’s life -- and they flashed the Twitter hashtag #SaveTinkerbell?

    Matthew Lopez: Did they? I didn't notice. I was too busy clapping. I can't have Tinkerbell's death on my conscience. I was clapping like mad.


    Allison Williams in 'Peter Pan Live' John Moore: I kind of liked that you could see the wires. That's what Julie Taymor is all about: Let them see the magic. Don't hide from it. But others disagreed.

    Matthew Lopez: I agree that you have to see the wires. That was the whole point. 

    John Moore: I mentioned in an earlier story that Broadway set an all-time record last year with a combined annual audience of 12.2 million last year. Peter Pan Live! was seen by 9.4 million people on one night. I can only imagine how many kids are going to grow up and talk about that night in 2014 when they saw Peter Pan Live! on TV.

    Matthew Lopez: Yes, and let's not forget: They were doing live musicals on television long before you or I were born. The only time you were ever going to see Julie Andrews in Camelot was when she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. 

    John Moore: NBC is committed to continuing the tradition. What would you like to see them take on next?

    Matthew Lopez: Somewhere!

    John Moore: There you go. I should tell people here that Somewhere is your play that opened last February at the Hartford Stage. That’s the story of a Puerto Rican family with show-business dreams that are threatened by displacement from their home to make room for the building of the Lincoln Center in 1959 New York. What else?

    Matthew Lopez: The Legend of Georgia McBride. ... The Whipping Man Live! For Christmas!

    John Moore: Awesome.

    Matthew Lopez: That amputation scene would be great!

    John Moore: It’s been reported that NBC is considering The Music Man. Variety says NBC will also mount a live telecast of Aaron Sorkin’s military courtroom drama A Few Good Men. And Fox is about to give Grease the live treatment.

    Matthew Lopez: Spring Awakening would be pretty darn cool. And A Chorus Line would be great, although you probably couldn't get away with that on network television.

    John Moore: So, overall, you seem pretty pleased.

    Matthew Lopez: I think it did the thing that it was meant to do, at least in my house: It moved me. And it transported me. And it made me laugh. And it made me cry. It reminded me of being a kid. And that is a pretty rare thing.



    Check out our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, above.

    MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
    Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
    Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
    Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre?
    Part 4: Peter Pan made Matthew Lopez cry - and fly - like a baby (today)

    AMERICAN THEATRE WRITES ABOUT THE MATTHEW LOPEZ FELLOWSHIP:
    Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

    SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MATTHEW LOPEZ AT THE DCPA:
    Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
    Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
    2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
    'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'
  • Meet the cast video series: Darrie Lawrence

    by John Moore | Jan 20, 2015

    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 79: Meet Darrie Lawrence, a member of the inaugural DCPA Theatre Company in 1979 who is back in Denver for the first time since 1984 to star as Helen in the world premiere staging of Appoggiatura. Lawrence talks about the early days playing opposite Tyne Daly, Delroy Lindo and others. How did she get into all of this in the first place? "I love being the center of attention!" she says with a laugh. Appoggiatura plays through Feb. 22 in the Ricketson Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Run time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds.

    Also in our Appoggiatura "Meet the cast" video series (to date):
    Meet Nick Mills


    Appoggiatura
    : Ticket information
    Performances run through Feb. 22
    Ricketson Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our previous coverage of this year's Appoggiatura:
    Interview: Playwright James Still is running to catch up to himself  
    Video: Talking Appoggiatura with James Still and Risa Brainin
    Photos: Our Appoggiatura photos so far
    Appoggiatura Director Risa Brainin named head of National Theatre Conference
    Appoggiatura named to new DCPA Theatre Company season
    Kent Thompson handicaps the season, play by play
    Summit Soliloquy: James Still introduces Appoggiatura
    Appoggiatura: So what's in a name?


    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

    Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Leslie O'Carroll,A Christmas Carol
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies


      Darrie Lawrence in 'Appoggiatura'Darrie Lawrence, right, in the DCPA's staging of "Appoggiatura." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. 
    • Photos: The Shelly Bordas memorial service

      by John Moore | Jan 14, 2015


      Push play to see a full photo gallery from the Shelly Bordas memorial, and a retrospective of her life told in photos.


      Steven J. Burge with Shelly Bordas' son, Nathan. Photo by John Moore. Friends and family packed the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center on Tuesday to honor actor, teacher and mother Shelly Bordas, who died Jan. 4 of cancer. Here are photos from the service by the DCPA's John Moore.

      Sarah Rex of DCPA Cabaret's Forbidden Broadway sang the Ave Maria, accompanied by Mitch Samu, and Carla Kaiser Kotrc of Miners Alley Playhouse's upcoming The Cripple of Inishmaan sang Safe Within Your Arms, composed by Mark Hayes.

      Speakers included Pam Clifton, Steven J. Burge, Emily MacIntyre, John Moore, and Bordas' sister, Katie, and uncle. The pastor was David Kates.


      Our previous coverage of the Shelly Bordas story:

      Shelly Bordas' final message to theatre community: 'Love rules out'
      Shelly Bordas is Colorado's 2013 Theatre Person of the Year
      Denver Actors Fund assists Shelly Bordas
      Podcast: Shelly talks about appearing in Theatre Group’s Debbie Does Dallas
      Photos: Shelly Bordas benefit performances raise money, lift hearts

      The three-part video series:


    • Colorado couple's clever response to hate crime draws national attention

      by John Moore | Jan 12, 2015



      CNN's coverage of the hate crime in Denver Thanks to the power of social media, a local actor's response to an act of vandalism at his new apartment just days before Christmas has drawn cheers and national media attention. 

      Award-winning local actor, director and choreographer Matthew D. Peters' fiance, Sean White, returned to their Denver apartment on Dec. 21 to find a hateful epithet crudely scratched into their front door. But White decided to fight hate ... with funny. After sanding off the graffiti, he wrote the vandal a colorful note, and what he said in it has since drawn media attention from more than 25 news organizations and bloggers, including CNN and the Huffington Post. But things really took off when Glee star Jane Lynch (who appears at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on Feb. 14) and Star Trek star George Takei got involved.

      "We realized you can’t fight hate with more hate," Peters told the DCPA NewsCenter for this video. "We were both initially upset, but that wasn’t going to solve anything. Humor sometimes takes the power out of the other person."

      Peters is currently performing in Fiddler on the Roof at BDT stage in Boulder. Last month, he earned a True West Award from the DCPA for his direction of Swing! at the Town Hall Arts Center.

      Video reporting by John Moore.

      The offended door, before and after


      Additional coverage:

      BDT Stage to host benefit performance of Fiddler on the Roof for Denver Actors Fund
       

       

    • The 2015 Scenesters, No. 4: Nathan Mast

      by John Moore | Jan 07, 2015
      Today on Denver CenterStage, we continue our exciting daily countdown of the 10  student playwrights have been named semifinalists for our second annual statewide playwriting competition. (Details below.)


      Scenesters_Playwriting_Nathan_Mast_400Scenester No. 4: Nathan Mast

      School: Thomas B. Doherty High School

      Teacher: Mrs. Jennifer Shafer

      Play title: Unspoken

      What is your play about? Since the day he was born, Bradley has only ever cried. Growing up, he communicated only with his camera. This play goes through the events of his life, eventually revealing why it took him 28 years to finally speak.

      Favorite word that appears in your script: "Quack."

      Excerpt: "Granted, he is only in the fourth grade. But fourth-graders can be the most heartless little twerps in the entire world!"

      Who or what was your inspiration for writing your play? I have recently taken up  photography, so I wanted to incorporate my new-found hobby into my already big love for theatre. Also, I wanted to try my hand at writing. I have done a lot of other things involved in theatre, but I had never written a play. So I wanted to see what I could do.

      Killer casting: Josh Hutcherson would be my choice to play Bradley. I think he could portray the character well because he has a variety of skills in the acting world.

      What did you learn from writing this play? I got a better sense of being on the other side of the script. When I decided to enter the competition, I didn't even know where to begin. I feel like I learned how to better put words into action, and to give clear direction, without actually telling someone what I envisioned.

      ________________________________________________________________

      About the Denver Center’s 2014 Regional Youth Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

      What: “Your Story. Our Stage”: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education staff members taught 143 playwriting workshops in 45 Colorado high schools. More than 2,899 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 13 counties, including Chafee, Larimer and Las Animas.

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

      How: A total of 158 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2015.

      Our complete countdown of 2015 semifinalists (to date):

      No. 1: Christina Arias of Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
      No. 2: Joshua Contreras, Gunnison High School
      No. 3: Keely Kritz of Denver School of the Arts
      No. 4: Nathan Mast, Thomas B. Doherty High School
      No. 5: Kiana Trippler, Thunder Ridge High School
      No. 6: Ryan McCormick, Fort Collins High School
      No. 7: Kaytlin Camp, Gunnison High School
      Bonus: Read about 2014 winning teen playwright Laurain Park

      COMING THURSDAY: MEET SCENESTER NO. 5!


      Video from the teen play readings at the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit
    • Matthew Lopez, Part 3: Is sweetness a risky trend in the American theatre?

      by John Moore | Jan 06, 2015

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_800_2

      "There does seem to be something that the DCPA is going for in terms of what it believes are the stories that its audiences want to see right now,” Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez says. And maybe what they want to see right now is families not tearing each other up all of the time. Photos by John Moore.


      The American theatre is in love with hate.

      OK, so that’s hardly a new development - or even a remotely American theatrical trait. From Medea butchering her kids for spite, to mad man MacBeth’s bloody murder spree, to those gloriously soused bickerers from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, to Martin McDonagh’s hilarious Irish cat-implosions … the history of world drama has been fueled for centuries by shocking tales that never run out of new ways to show us how we can hurt those we ostensibly love.

      When it comes to tone in the live theatre, straight plays and traditional American musicals have peaceably co-existed – in opposite galaxies. While composers want to leave you tapping your toes, playwrights tend to go for your jugular.

      The past 40 years in American playwriting has been a particularly cynical and cruel period. Think Sam Shepard and his Buried Child. David Mamet and the blatant gender violence of Oleanna. Protégé Neal LaBute’s father casually looking on as his infant suffocates under a bed sheet. And now, of course, we have the new gold standard for family barbarism: Tracy Letts’ instant American classic, the gleefully vicious August: Osage County.

      The most celebrated playwrights in the contemporary American theatre at the moment are best known for their savagery. Consider Stephen Adly Guirgis, who writes proudly profane stories of inner-city violence (including a notable one about a Catholic nun who drinks herself to death). He just won the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award and a cash prize of $200,000 to go with it.

      But there seems to be a changing emotional tide on the theatre horizon. And one need look no further than Broadway - or the Denver Center for the Performing Arts - for evidence of what seems to be a wholly organic, emerging trend away from domestic stage cruelty. 

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_Quote_2

      Last year’s five Tony-nominated plays included three unapologetically sweet stories: Casa Valentina (Harvey Fierstein’s borscht-belt comedy about heterosexual cross-dressers in 1962); Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons (about the changing definition of the American family); and Outside Mullingar (an unexpected Irish romance from John Patrick Shanley). The fourth – Act One – adapts a backstage memoir by Moss Hart; and All the Way (by Robert Schenkken, author of the DCPA-bound apostolic musical The 12) is a historical look at the LBJ presidency. Nothing you could call remotely barbarous.

      Playwright Matthew Lopez, who is spending part of his year serving as the DCPA Theatre Company’s first-ever Playwriting Fellow, also points to rising playwright Annie Baker, whose Circle Mirror Transformation, The Flick and The Aliens have been described as heart-rending, gentle and extraordinarily beautiful.

      And here in Denver, the DCPA Theatre Company seems to be in a stretch of plays that bucks the mean trend -- the recent children’s classic Lord of the Flies notwithstanding.

      “There does seem to be something that the DCPA Theatre Company is going for in terms of what it believes are the stories that its audiences want to see right now,” Lopez said.

      And maybe what they want to see is families working through things together once in a while.

      Last season’s The Legend of Georgia McBride (written by Lopez) and Shadowlands, along with the upcoming world premieres of Appoggiatura and Benediction, might seem to have little in common – save for the biggest thing of all: Their big, beating, searching, thoughtful hearts. It’s not that these stories are without conflict - that's the lifeblood of all drama. Appoggiatura pairs two mourners who dearly loved the same man. Benediction traces the final days of a father who has done irreconcilable damage to his relationship with his son.

      “There is certainly rancor in those plays. There is disappointment. There is bitterness. There is sublimated mourning,” said Lopez.

      They just aren’t carnal about it. They are warm and vulnerable indications of the changing American family. Which makes them not the kinds of plays that have been in vogue for the past two score with theatre producers from Denver to New York.

      So, does it take a particular kind of courage right now to write sweetness into a new American play?

      “That’s a hard needle to thread,” Lopez said, "because the answer is both yes and no. It depends on who you are as a writer. It depends on what theatre is. It depends on the happy accident of those two things meeting each other.”

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_400But three-time Pulitzer nominee James Still, who wrote Appoggiatura, believes he has gone out on a limb with the play – and the DCPA Theatre Company has joined him on it.

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

      Still was speaking specifically about Appoggiatura – the time-bending tale of a family that travels to the romantic city of Venice to heal their wounds. But he also could have been talking about Georgia McBride, which had its world premiere at the DCPA’s Ricketson Theatre a year ago. That’s a gentle comedy about a young father who enters the world of drag to support his growing family – and comes to find that he loves it. It is a testament to acceptance and theatrical fabulousness.

      But as a world premiere, and because of its subject matter, Georgia McBride was a risk for the host DCPA Theatre Company. No one could have known how audiences would take to Lopez’s world of drag in the Florida panhandle. It turns out, they took to it so well that almost every seat for the entire run was sold.

      “I know that I love a good, sweet story. I love kindness and hope in the theatre,” Lopez said. “But of course that has never ultimately driven the live theatre. We have eye-gougings and murders and incest and all kinds of awful things happening to us. I mean, when you think about the greatest American plays -- they are probably all downers, right?”

      Double-downers. In 2010, The Denver Post surveyed a national swath of theatre insiders and audiences to determine the 10 most important American plays. The Top 5: Death of a Salesman (failure and suicide); Angels in America (the AIDS epidemic), A Streetcar Named Desire (booze, delusion and brutality), A Long Day’s Journey Into Night (drug abuse in a disintegrating family) and Virginia Woolf (wedded un-bliss).

      “I mean … that’s pretty grim,” Lopez said with a laugh.

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_Quote

      Lopez said his experience in bringing Georgia McBride to life in Denver “was entirely positive.” But he then went straight to the Hartford Stage to open his latest new play,  called Somewhere. It’s the undeniably hopeful story of a family of dancers and dreamers who triumph in the face of unrelenting poverty, dislocation and economic powerlessness. Audiences loved it. Reviews were rapturous. The Los Angeles Times called it “ebullient and charming.”

      “It was by any metric a success, whether that metric be commercial, artistic, critical or audience-based,” said Lopez. “… And I just can't get it to New York.” 

      So if Lopez can't get Somewhere to somewhere like New York, how does a nice play ever get produced?

      “I don't know what the recipe is,” Lopez said. “I think it is really a strange alchemy that does not have a formula.”

      At the end of the day, he added, “I think it takes guts to write a play, period. It takes guts to tackle the really big issues, and to attack them with gusto.  

      “And so I think playwright’s obligation is to write the stories that you are meant to write. You tell the stories that must be told, because they are just going to burst out of you if you don't.”

      As an audience member, Lopez has a simple metric, and it is not whether the story is happy or sad; sweet or crude. “I just want to be told a good story,” he said. “At the end of the play, I want to know that something has happened. I want to have had a unique theatrical experience. I want to leave having felt something that I previously had not encountered.”

      So Lopez ultimately believes that it is insufficient to just assume that audiences are necessarily craving sweet stories at the moment.

      “I think audiences crave good stories,” he said.


      Matthew_Lopez_Part_3_800_1



      Check out our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, above.

      MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
      Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
      Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
      Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre? (today)
      Part 4: Lopez's role in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit

      AMERICAN THEATRE WRITES ABOUT THE MATTHEW LOPEZ FELLOWSHIP:
      Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

      SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MATTHEW LOPEZ AT THE DCPA:
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
      'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'
    • Shelly Bordas' final message to theatre community: 'Love rules out'

      by John Moore | Jan 04, 2015
      Watch John Moore'e entire video documentary series following Shelly Bordas' story by clicking here.

      TO SEE OUR COMPREHENSIVE SHELLY BORDAS PHOTO GALLERY, CLICK HERE


      Actor and educator Shelly Bordas, whose long and defiant battle against cancer galvanized the Colorado theatre community and beyond, has died, more than five years after her initial diagnosis. She was 43.

      Shelly _Bordas_Death_circleBordas believed strongly in a God almighty who called her home … and she had no problem making him wait.

      Bordas learned she had cancer in 2009 while she was pregnant with her son, Nathan, who is now 5. In a cruel twist of biological fate, it was a hormone that is produced when women are pregnant that fed the cancer cells that are present in everyone. Her cancer was diagnosed as Stage 4 upon discovery. There is no Stage 5. She was only 38 at the time.

      Bordas had been blessed with one of the greatest gifts life can bestow - and it came with a death sentence. But Bordas, in typical good humor, made a joke of it. "I called it 'tit for tot,' she said.

      It was a good line. But it was a lie.

      "I try to find a little funny in everything – but there is NOTHING funny about cancer," she said. "Nada, zilch, zero. It sucks to the utmost.”

      “Cancer is terrible for anyone of any age," Bordas' close friend, actor Steven J. Burge, said at the time. "But Shelly was young, and had a new baby, on top of everything else.”

      And yet Bordas remained upbeat and defiant, and she fought vigorously. "The odds of anyone surviving this type of cancer are real small," she said. "And I am so glad that I didn't know that. So I kept a really positive attitude."

      Of the cancer's paradox, she said: "I think Nathan was brought to me as an angel to help me through all of this."

      Bordas died early Sunday evening (Jan. 4). The story of the disease’s advance against her body is a long and complex one. But as it went on, Bordas was determined to take on all the chemotherapy and radiation her body could take - and for one reason:

      NATE400“I’ve got my boy to think about,” she said of Nathan, who turns 6 on April 29. “I'm all he's got. I can't leave him. I’m not ready."

      Earlier today, ESPN anchor Stuart Scott died after a 7-year battle with cancer. When he was honored recently for his perseverance in fighting the disease, he said: "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."

      Many people would say the same of Bordas, who, for her resilience, her fight and her sheer will to live, was named the True West 2013 Theatre Person of the Year.

      “She is such a fighter, my little girl,” said her mother, Barbara Bordas.

      Longtime friend Carla Kaiser Kotrc added: “She has done every single thing that she said she was going to do. She has held on far longer than anyone thought she ever could.”

      Shelly _Bordas_Death_800_2

      Bordas’ remarkable story seemed to take an unexpected, positive turn in December 2012, when doctors discovered that, after 3 1/2 years, the tumors in her breasts, arms, stomach and even teeth were no longer growing. Bordas was still considered terminal, but the news seemed to bring a new, if temporary, lease on life. 

      She celebrated with the modest goal of making her first stage appearance in more than three years – as the drunk secretary in the Town Hall Arts Center’s 9 to 5, the Musical. But soon after she was cast in January 2013, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to her brain and eyes. She was told to get her affairs in order. That her remaining time was short.

      Bordas left the show before it opened with one stated goal: To live long enough to take Nathan on a Disney Cruise for his 4th birthday. Grassroots efforts to help sprung up like lightning strikes that quickly grew into an inferno of warmth and good will. 

      An online fundraising campaign was launched. Benefits were held at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, the Columbine United Church in Littleton and Clementine’s hair salon in northwest Denver. In all, nearly $30,000 was raised, and that allowed Bordas, her family, friends and a medical team to take the trip of a lifetime.

      “Oh my gosh, it was wonderful,” Bordas said after returning from the cruise. “We were so spoiled. We had a cabana on a private island, Nathan got to meet all of the Disney characters, and we had a private meeting with the captain on his bridge.”

      That completed, Bordas was, again, expected to die. But a funny thing happened on the way to her final exit, stage right.

      She simply didn’t make it.

      “When the cruise was over, it was like, ‘Now what? … Should I die now?’ ” Bordas said.

      Shelly _Bordas_Death_Quote

      In true Bordas fashion, she went back to work. Bordas, who had created and run her own children’s theatre school called ACTING UP! in 2002, was also a longtime children’s theater educator at Town Hall Arts Center. She was determined to finish several productions she was in the process of directing for children there, including Finding Nemo.

      In 2013, despite unimaginable medical hardships that included gradually losing her eyesight and use of her legs, Bordas managed to direct 10 children’s shows. All told, she directed 177 young theater students at the Town Hall Arts Center for the year.


      Overall, she underwent 26 chemotherapy treatments, 45 rounds of radiation and had 15 surgeries, including a double mastectomy.

      Bordas' teaching career began in 1992 at Gunnison High School and included Denver Public Schools, Cherry Creek Schools, Stage 11, Mizel Arts and Culture Center, Town Hall Arts Center, Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy and the Arvada Center.  Many of her students have gone on to work in movies, television and on Broadway.

      "Shelly took the a 7-year-old who loved watching theatre and turned her into a loud kid who didn't want to do anything off the stage," said Jessica Swanson, one of the former students Bordas affectionately referred to as her "turtles." "She inspired so many, and I know she will continue to do so. She will live forever though the people she has touched."

      Her mantra to all her turtles: “Listen. Be heard. Find your light. Because you are the star of this show.”

      As an actor, Bordas performed in 37 amateur and 48 professional shows for theatre companies across Denver, including the Arvada Center, Avenue Theatre, Town Hall Arts Center, Playwright Theatre, Westminster Dinner Theatre, Promethean Stage, Imagination Makers, and Breckenridge Backstage Theatre.

      But she found her true theatrical home as a 15-year company member with Steven Tangedal’s Theatre Group, which was known for producing deeply meaningful, sexually provocative and, at times, outright camp classics for the live stage. Bordas served as house manager, box-office manager and office manager.

      LISTEN TO OUR 2006 PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH SHELLY BORDAS ABOUT 'DEBBIE DOES DALLAS, THE MUSICAL'


      Bordas' first role as an actor for Theatre Group was as sexpot Bettina Barnes in Psycho Beach Party. She played Lisa in Debbie Does Dallas, The Musical and scorched the stage in that late-night classic Cell Block Sirens of 1953. In short: Bordas was a bit of a babe. And she railed against the disease, and the steroids it required her to take, for what it did to her girlish figure.

      But Bordas stopped taking steroids last year  — and as a result, she lost 64 pounds. When she was interviewed for being named Theatre Person of the Year, she told me, “It’s absolutely imperative that you include this: I am skinny … and I look good.”

      When she won the award, Bordas was taken aback. “There are no words,” she said. “I’m flattered. I just want to cry, I’m so happy.” 

      And yet, the damage the disease did to Bordas’ body was staggering. Her liver failed. The tumors spread from her brain to her nervous system and down her spine. The doctors told her to stop taking chemotherapy. But she kept taking it, even if it would extend her life only by a few weeks.

      “They told me if I stop doing chemo, I will die, so I will be doing that forever,” Bordas said at the time. “I am going to live in a lot of pain … but I am going to live.”

      But by September, Bordas’ insurance had long run out. She needed 24-hour accompaniment. Her companion service was costing her family $240 a day. Medicaid wanted Bordas moved to a hospice facility, but she wanted to remain at home. Her primary caregiving team of her family and closest friends Christopher Whyde, Steve Tangedal and Steve J. Burge, were making it happen. But they needed help.

      The Denver Actors Fund provided funds to extend the companion service, and 18 additional volunteers stepped forward to take overnight shifts sitting with her, defraying the costs further. They went in thinking they were doing Bordas a service. But it soon became clear that Bordas’ struggle was a gift to her caregivers. Bordas gave members of her theatre community the opportunity to show the better part of themselves.

      "I am glad for the nights I spent with her,” said director Brenda Cook Ritenouer, Bordas’ high-school classmate. 

      To Christopher Willard of Breckenridge Backstage, and Bordas' 9 to 5 director at Town Hall, Bordas "was light and love, naughty and nice," he posted on his Facebook page. "We laughed, we drank, we snorkeled, we had a ball - always. So many lives she touched. So much good she did. So much joy she gave."

      Bordas was born Aug. 28, 1971, and attended Littleton High School, where she was an actor and cheerleader. Her mother said Shelly was destined to perform from an early age.

      “She used to stand at the bottom of the stairs on a makeshift stage and repeat commercials she had seen on TV word-for-word,” Barbara Bordas said.

      She and her siblings recruited neighborhood children to write scripts, build costumes and paint backdrops for special "garage theatre" performance for her parents. The invention of automatic garage-door openers gave new meaning to the term 'Curtain Rising,' which became the name of her first theatre company.

      Bordas majored in theatre at Western State College in Gunnison alongside a number of classmates who would become prominent members of the local theatre community over the next 20 years, including Kotrc and Trina Magness. 

      Kotrc knew she had found a kindred spirit when she met Bordas at age 19 - and she always offered Kotrc her own special blend of not-entirely-legal (at the time) tea.

      “I’m heartbroken at the loss of this bubbly, rare, exceptional soul,” said Kotrc. “As I search for consolation from this devastating loss, I am comforted by her own words to me.”

      Kotrc was mourning the loss of another friend in 2010 when Bordas, well into her own cancer battle, reached out to Kotrc and said: "When it comes to someone passing, it is not them we cry for; it is the empty space in our lives that causes our tears.”

      Shelly _Bordas_Death_800_3
      Shelly Bordas in Theatre Group's "Cabaret."

      Bordas was as provocative onstage as the company she worked for. Off-stage, she was drawn to outsiders and outcasts.

      In her final months, Bordas said, she would have a nightly dream of a ship that kept wanting Bordas to board. “But it will just have to stay at bay,” she said. “My friends and my son and my friends and all of the people who are supporting me are going to keep me right here.”

      Bordas spent much of her final months preparing videos and messages for her son to open or view at different milestones of his life. She videotaped herself reading Nathan’s favorite stories. She would often have to start and stop because it was getting so difficult for her to read the words. 

      And yet she just … fought on. Eventually, even Bordas couldn’t believe that she was still here.

      “I am so grateful to God for this extra time with my son,” she said. "I am so thankful – so thankful – to have made it this far. I’ve been in a lot of pain this year. I can see how people give up.

      "But loves rules out.”

      Service information:
      A memorial service will be held for Shelly Bordas at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St., Littleton.

      Survivors:
      Bordas is survived by her son, Nathan; mother, Barbara Bordas; father, Michael Bordas; sister, Mary Kathryn Brewer; brother, Michael John Bordas; grandmother; Anna Beezley; four nieces, one nephew and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

      Contributions:

      Contributions in the name of Nathan Bordas may be sent to 8611 Gold Peak Drive, Unit E, Highlands Ranch, CO, 80130. They will be put toward a college fund for Shelly's son.


      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.


      Watch John Moore's complete video documentary series on Shelly Bordas:

      (Part 1 can be found at the top of this page)

      Video: The Shelly Bordas Story, Part 2: "My Son Wins"

      Video: The Shelly Bordas Story, Part 3: A Community Responds:



      More of our previous coverage of the Shelly Bordas story:

      2013 True West Theater Person of the Year Shelly Bordas
      Shelly Bordas: A story that’s just beginning
      Photos: Shelly Bordas benefit performances raise money, lift hearts
      Shelly Bordas fundraising efforts hit $20,000 after first week
      Shelly Bordas supporters raise $10,000 in 24 hours
      From 2009: Community rallies for Shelly Bordas



    • 2014 True West Theatre Person of the Year: Steve Wilson

      by John Moore | Dec 31, 2014
      True_West_Award_STEVE_WILSON_800



      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      steve quote

      True_West_Award_300It is the Steve Wilson stage moment that no one will ever forget. And when Wilson first proposed it, actor Regan Linton responded with an, “Oh, hell no!’ ”

      Wilson suggested that Linton, who was paralyzed in a 2002 car accident, crawl across the floor of the DCPA’s Space Theatre right after the rape scene in the Phamaly Theatre Company’s unnerving 2009 staging of Man of La Mancha. Beaten and separated from her wheelchair, Linton was forced to writhe across the stage with her elbows - leaving agonized audiences wanting to jump out of their seats to assist her as she sang the bitter lament of the whore Aldonza.

      Wilson is always happy to yank his actors and audiences out of their comfort zones. And, apparently, even their wheelchairs.

      “Steve never hesitated to push me as an artist,” said Linton, now a professional resident actor with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “Other directors would see my wheelchair and hesitate; Steve dove in like a giddy 5-year-old to explore the creative possibilities.”

      Phamaly is a professional theatre company that for 25 years has cast only actors with mental and physical disabilities. Since Wilson arrived in 2000, he has layered what I call "little gems of authenticity" on top of his productions, both to infuse deeper layers of meaning and even comedy into otherwise familiar stories, while giving audiences unique insight into the challenges of living with a disability.

      Wilson set Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in a mental hospital, making the Biblical storytelling a temporary escape for a group of disabled outcasts. He made a political poke when he cast exclusively blind actors to play the greedy town leaders in Urinetown. (The blind leading the backed-up.)

      When Wilson directed his first show for Phamaly 14 years ago, the company was staging just one big summer musical per year. When he officially became the Artistic Director in 2004, he adopted two central missions: To expand performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. And to raise the level of professionalism in the company.

      Done and Doner.

      True_West_Award_STEVE_WILSON_400In 2000, about 25 handicapped actors performed for Phamaly each year. In 2014, with programming expanded to six annual offerings, that number is now over 200. Under Wilson, annual attendance has more than tripled, from 3,000 to about 11,000, and the operating budget has more than doubled, to $800,000.

      And as for artistic achievement, consider that Phamaly has won 14 True West/Denver Post Ovation Awards as a company, and Wilson has been named outstanding director by the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards four times.

      ​"We always hoped we would be a place where the disabled could grow, both as actors and human beings," said Wilson, who has directed or co-directed 18 Phamaly plays and musicals, most recently last summer’s 25th anniversary reprisal of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

      All of which made Wilson's resignation in October such a surprise. He did it, he said, in part to concentrate on the ever-growing demands of his full-time job as Executive Artistic Director of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, a multidisciplinary arts center on the campus of the Jewish Community Center. With an annual budget of $3 million and programming spanning the performing, visual and literary arts, it's a growing job that demands his full-time attention. His resignation from Phamaly is effective today (Dec. 31).

      Wilson leaves behind a thriving organization with a committed executive director (Chris Silberman), a bona-fide development director (Tamara Arredondo), a powerhouse board, and a personal protégé in Bryce Alexander who seems poised to succeed him. (No announcement has been made.) In addition to the annual Broadway musical at the DCPA, Phamaly now also presents original sketch comedies and touring children’s productions such as the current Rapunzel. The upcoming winter production of The Fantasticks will be performed at both the Aurora Fox (Jan. 29-Feb. 15) and the Arvada Center (Feb. 27-March 1) before touring to Japan. So, in a way, Wilson is the victim of his own success, because Phamaly is a company that now demands the attention of a full-time Artistic Director, too.

      Over the past decade, Wilson also managed to fit in two terms as president of the Colorado Theatre Guild, and he continues to serve as co-chair of the Scientific and Cultural Collaborative, a group dedicated to the 2016 re-authorization of the penny-per-$10 sales tax that next year will generate more than $50 million for metro cultural organizations. He also married longtime Denver actor Leslie O’Carroll, and they have a daughter, Olivia, who is now a student at Denver School of the Arts.

      In short: Only a handful of individuals in Colorado theatre history have overseen the growth of a single company the way Wilson has shepherded Phamaly from where it was in 2000 to where it is today.

      And for that reason, Wilson has today been named the True West 2014 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year, joining the company of Curious Theatre's Chip Walton, Su Teatro's Tony Garcia and many others.

      His reaction? “I’m speechless.”

      He wasn’t … but that's what he said.

      While Wilson’s administrative achievements are significant, his most important contribution has been creating live theatregoing experiences that have allowed for profound emotional connections between audiences and his actors on a nightly basis. And he did that by always abiding to a core tenet: Wilson would never ignore his actors' disabilities; rather, he would incorporate them into their characters. That means his Belle in Beauty and the Beast (Jenna Bainbridge) danced the show’s signature waltz with a sizable gait. "And I loved it," Wilson said, "because it was beautiful.

      "I'm not going to cover up what they are,” he added, "because I love who they are."

      Wilson’s first show with Phamaly was Grand Hotel. His sentimental favorites were Urinetown and Man of La Mancha. “I just felt like those two plays connected with my love of plot, and my desire to focus on a narrative story,” he said.

      Another of Wilson’s significant legacies was growing his company from a group of actors who primarily performed just for Phamaly -- because only Phamaly would have them -- to one whose members are regularly cast by other companies across the state and country. For example, Bainbridge has performed in leading roles the past two summers with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. And Linton became the first student in a wheelchair to be accepted into the University of California-San Diego's masters program.

      “That was a big risk for them to take Regan,” Wilson said. “Not because she isn’t talented, but because we don’t know what her future as a professional actor looks like. There are a lot of directors out there who are afraid. But the fact that Regan is now performing with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival proves that we are breaking down the barriers.”

      Wilson grew up in Irvine, Calif., and moved to Denver when he was accepted into the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory graduate program. He was the right fit for Phamaly all those years ago, Wlson believes, because he is inherently a teacher, and directing handicapped actors essentially means teaching them.

      “And the experience of teaching these actors makes me feel at my core like I have accomplished something,” Wilson said.

      Linton, for one, was happy to be schooled by Wilson.

      “When I nearly had to drop out of Man of La Mancha due to a health issue, he refused to replace me,” Linton said. “He squashed my self-doubt, took my suggestions and gave me a safe space to be fearless, always amid the reminder that 'theatre is hard.' He showed me that with confidence, creativity and just the right amount of crazy, I could be as good as anyone.”

      Wilson hopes to return to Phamaly as a guest director someday, but he definitely will not direct Cabaret, ending his streak at 14 straight summer musicals. Instead, he will be directing a teen production of Hamlet for the Wolf Theatre Academy at the Jewish Community Center. He hopes to eventually direct on a freelance basis for area theatres such as the Aurora Fox or Town Hall Arts Center.

      Wilson said when the history of Phamaly is written, "I would like to be remembered for helping to lay the foundation for a company that has made an impact throughout the world. And my hope is that it continues to grow over the next 25 years.”

      True West Theatre Person of the Year:

      2014: Steve Wilson, Executive Artistic Director, Phamaly Theatre Company and Mizel Center for Arts and Culture
      2013: Actor, teacher and cancer survivor Shelly Bordas
      2012: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company co-founder Stephen Weitz
      2011: Maurice LaMee, Creede Repertory Theatre artistic director
      2010: Anthony Garcia, Su Teatro artistic director
      2009: Kathleen M. Brady, Denver Center Theatre Company actor
      2008: Bas Bleu Theatre co-founder Wendy Ishii
      2007: Germinal Stage-Denver founder Ed Baierlein
      2006: Curious Theatre Company associate artistic director Bonnie Metzgar
      2005: Curious Theatre Company artistic director Chip Walton
      2004: Actor/set designer/director/playwright Michael R. Duran
      2003: Denver Center Theatre Company director/playwright Nagle Jackson
      2002: Actor/director Chris Tabb

                                  
                                         THE 2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS
      :

      1. Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor
      13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
      14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
      15. Rick Yaconis
      16. Michael R. Duran
      17. Laura Norman
      18. Jacquie Jo Billings
      19. Megan Van De Hey
      20. Jeremy Palmer
      21. Henry Lowenstein   
      22. Sam Gregory
      23. Wendy Ishii
      24. J. Michael Finley
      25. Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
      26. Matthew D. Peters
      27. Shannan Steele
      28. Ludlow, 1914
      29. Spring Awakening and Annapurna
      30 Theatre Person of the Year Steve Wilson

      ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
      The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

      The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

      *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

      Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    • Photos: Bittersweet opening for 'Benediction' rehearsals

      by John Moore | Dec 29, 2014
      Our full gallery of first-day photos, above


      Benediction_Rehearsals_Kent_Thompson_400 The start of rehearsals for the upcoming world premiere of Benediction was a bittersweet gathering for DCPA Theatre Company cast and crew, coming so soon after the Nov. 29 death of novelist Kent Haruf.

      The DCPA Theatre Company will complete its commitment to adapting and staging Haruf’s Plainsong Trilogy with the opening of Benediction on Jan. 30.

      “There are a lot of personal, professional and artistic reasons to do this play right now,” Director Kent Thompson told his cast of 16, along with crew, staff and company ambassadors.

      “We've been working closely with Kent for eight years -- first on Plainsong, then on Eventide and now, with Benediction. And all of them have been profound experiences for the theatre community, and for the audiences we serve in Colorado.

      “Kent was an extraordinary person in many ways. He was incredibly authentic as a writer, and incredibly unsentimental. Kent always wrote with such authenticity, compassion, honesty and lyricism about life in small-town America — in his case, set on the Eastern Plains of Colorado.” 

      Thompson shared how he first encountered Haruf’s writing. The year was 2000, and Thompson was then the artistic director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. His mother-in-law, who lives in Colorado, gave him a copy of Plainsong and told him to read it.

      “I was so taken with it,” Thompson said. “I realized that it was an Our Town for today."

      Benediction_Rehearsals_Quote

      Shortly after Thompson was hired as the DCPA’s Producing Artistic Director, he had the good fortune of meeting Haruf and his wife, Cathy. Haruf told Thompson he loathed a Hallmark TV adaptation of Plainsong, and so Thompson then commissioned playwright Eric Schmieldl to adapt the novel for the stage. Thompson called it “an arranged marriage” between Schmiedl and Haruf.

      “It seemed like Eric was completely captured by Kent's words and spirit,” Thompson said. “He just channeled Kent as he wrote these plays, which are so very important for Colorado and the West. But I think if you are from any town in the U.S. that's small and rural, you will get these characters.”

      Benediction_Rehearsals_Mike_Hartman_3_400 Despite Haruf’s specificity to Colorado, there is a huge fan base for his books all over the world. Earlier this year, Benediction was short-listed for Britain’s first Folio Prize, a literary award given to a book of fiction by an author from any country. (The winner of the 40,000-pound first prize was Colorado School of Mines graduate George Saunders for Tenth of December.) 

      Haruf was diagnosed with lung disease in 2007. In February of this year, he was told his condition was terminal. Thompson and his wife, Benediction actor Kathleen McCall, attended Haruf’s memorial in Salida “with very mixed feelings,” he said. “It was a very beautiful moment because it recognized that life is this journey, and part of the journey is death. Part of the journey is loss. Part of the journey is separation. Marriages fail. Children are orphaned. Preachers lose their calling.”

      Benediction is made up of three interwoven family stories. Dad Lewis (Mike Hartman, pictured above right) is a man who is unmistakably dying, and with regrets. Berta May has taken in her recently orphaned granddaughter, Alice. The Reverend Robert Lyle has been ostracized – from his family and congregation -- for speaking his mind.

      “It’s a really authentic story,” Thompson said. “To me, it’s a story about people who are stuck, who are lost, and who have come to a very difficult transition -- be it death, be it marriage, be it a crisis faith. Somehow, they all are in need of a blessing. Kent told me, ‘We all need blessings so we can move forward.’ I think that's the journey of the play, and the book.”

      Thompson spoke to Haruf about what he hoped theatregoers would get out of seeing Benediction on the stage. “He felt that if this production of Benediction would make it easier for people to talk about these incredibly difficult things that we like to not talk about in our society,” Thompson said, “then everything -- the book, the play, his legacy -- will be complete.”

      Benediction_Rehearsals_4_800
      The first full reading of the script. Photo by John Moore. To see our complete gallery of photos, click here.

      Benediction
      : Cast list

      Dad Lewis: Mike Hartman
      Mary Lewis: Joyce Cohen
      Reverend Robert Lyle: Ed Martin
      Beverly Lyle: Nancy Lemenager
      John Wesley Lyle: Nick Lamedica
      Alene Johnson: Nance Williamson
      Willa Johnson: Billie McBride
      Lorraine Lewis: Kathleen McCall
      Berta May: Leslie O'Carroll
      Alice: Zoe Delaney Stahlhut
      Genevieve Larson/Waitress/Young Woman: Amelia Marie Corrada
      Rudy/Ensemble: James Newcomb
      Bob/Policeman/Ed: Lawrence Hecht
      Laurie Wheeler/Marlene/Young Woman: Adrian Egolf
      Ronald Dean Walker: Benjamin Bonenfant
      Richard/Frank/Ensemble: Jonathan Crombie
      Luann/Marlene/Janine: Tracy Shaffer
       
      Benediction: Ticket information
      Performances run Jan. 30 through March 1
      Space Theatre
      Performances daily except Mondays
      Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org


      Our previous coverage of Benediction:

      Kent Haruf, author of 'Plainsong' Trilogy, dies at age 71
      Kent Haruf: The complete final interview
      Kent Thompson on the 2014-15 season, play by play
      2014 Colorado New Play Summit will complete 'Plainsong' trilogy



    • 2014 True West Award: Ludlow, 1914

      by John Moore | Dec 28, 2014
      True_West_Award_Ludlow_1914_800 Photo by Jeff Kearney.


      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      True_West_Award_300

      There was a healthy abundance of new or new-to-Denver theatre throughout Colorado in 2014. But when it comes to “devised theatre” – original work created by a permanent ensemble through collaboration, Denver has for more than two decades looked primarily to Buntport Theatre and the far more confrontational LIDA Project experimental theatre.

      One of the more significant undertakings of this or any other year was Ludlow, 1914, developed by Brian Freeland and his band of LIDA Project misfits in tandem with Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ Murray Ross and students from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

      There was a passing mention of the 1914 Ludlow massacre that took place about 100 miles south of Colorado Springs in the DCPA Theatre Company’s newly reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown. When 11,000 miners went on strike and refused to surrender two petty criminals, the National Guard fired into the crowd. It doused tents in oil and burned them to the ground. It is believed that 26 died, including two women and a dozen children. It was the deadliest strike in U.S. history — and it was quickly forgotten.

      At the same time the high-profile Molly Brown musical was bowing in Denver, The LIDA Project and TheatreWorks were exploring this horrific historical incident head-on in Colorado Springs. Not only to mark the centennial of the massacre, but also to explore the ongoing relevance of the issues it raised — wealth inequality, exploitation of natural resources, worker's rights, media bias, fossil-fuel dependence and labor divisions in America. “And, of course,” Ross said, “It’s one hell of a story.”

      Ross describes the outcome of this unique, long-form collaborative process as “a whirlwind of theatrical invention in which history, tragedy, vaudeville, and modern technology all converge in the theatre.” That means Ludlow, 1914 was an immersive, American freak show. Reviewing the play for BroadwayWorld.Com, Christi Esterle opined:

      Ludlow, 1914 is not a history lesson. Audiences expecting to hear particulars of the strike beyond what is presented in the program notes will likely be disappointed. The massacre itself is presented as a chaotic, abstract pantomime. Rather, the play is a free-form exploration of the themes evoked by the event. Children relate an allegorical tale of a clan of people living in the body of a giant monster. Wealthy owners recite Shakespeare while standing above the stage like indifferent gods. Actors step out of their roles to discuss the implications of the text. It's a lot to take in as the play bounces from William Blake to the Bible to Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song. Don't worry if something goes by too fast or doesn't seem to make sense. So much happens in the play that it's a bit of a shock when it's over. But that's OK. With McDonald's workers staging walkouts in search of a livable wage, and corporations exercising the same public-relations tactics that were first implemented a century ago, it's clear this story is not over yet.”

      2014 was one of the most uncertain and unstable years in The LIDA Project’s two decades of freakouts. And yet Freeland and his theatrical outcasts still managed to make one of the largest impacts on the year in Colorado theatre. 2014 began with Freeland moving to New York but promising to carry on. It ended with the sale of the “Laundry on Lawrence” theatre space that has been the company’s home for three years. But in between, The LIDA Project again demonstrated why it is essential to the local theatre ecology. It also developed and staged an original six-part dialogue on guns in America. It was called Happiness is a Warm Gun, and it was presented as salon theatre in private living rooms all over town as a way of sparking meaningful, post-show discussions between neighbors.

      Freeland plans to bring Ludlow, 1914 to Denver in 2015 at a large, rented venue such as the Aurora Fox, Boulder’s Dairy Center or Auraria. Happiness is a Warm Gun also returns to metro living rooms in February. Those two projects again made it plain that when it comes to experimental live performance, LIDA Project is the only active, ongoing theatre company in Colorado with a vigorous, strong and proud commitment to preserving the avant garde in the American Theatre.

      LUDLOW, 1914: CAST & DESIGN TEAM
      Brian Freeland: Director
      Murray Ross: Dramaturg
      Jeannene Bragg: Collaborator
      Elise Jenkins: Production Stage Manager
      Steve Deidel: Production Scenographer
      Alex Polzin: Co-Scenic Design
      Betty Ross: Costume Design
      Stevie Caldarola: Co-Lighting Design
      Ryan Gaddis: Co-Projection Design/Content Creator
      Heidi Larson: Scenic Charge
      Roy Ballard: Props Manager
      Alex Ruhlin: Master Electrician
      Alex Polzin: Co-Scenic Designer
      G. Austin Allen: Show Control Programmer
      Aileen Semira Jocson: Pixel Twister/Cinematographer
      Sarah Hyland Johnston: Illustrator
      Kevin Zegan: Incandescence Artisian
      Beaner Sheridan: Anti-Gravity Consultant
      Shaun Sites: Ghost Light Metalsmith
      Kenrick Fischer: Production Electrician
      Max Peterson: QLAB Support

      CAST:

      MEN: Erik Brevik, Mark Cannon, Bruce Carter, Travis Duncan, David Hastings, Tom Paradise, Jeremiah Walter, Terry Burnsed.

      WOMEN : Rachel Baker, Beth Clements, Jane Fromme, Margaret Kasahara.

      CHILDREN: Jack English, Sanaa Ford, Evan Slavens, Katelyn Sturt, Galen Westmoreland, Micah Wilborn.

       

                                       2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:

      1. Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor
      13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
      14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
      15. Rick Yaconis
      16. Michael R. Duran
      17. Laura Norman
      18. Jacquie Jo Billings
      19. Megan Van De Hey
      20. Jeremy Palmer
      21. Henry Lowenstein   
      22. Sam Gregory
      23. Wendy Ishii
      24. J. Michael Finley
      25. Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
      26. Matthew D. Peters
      27. Shannan Steele
      28. Ludlow, 1914
      29. Spring Awakening and Annapurna
      30 Theatre Person of the Year Steve Wilson

      ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
      The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

      The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

      *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

      Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    • Paul and Jenna: Our Christmas Eve Proposal

      by John Moore | Dec 27, 2014
      Watch the proposal on video!


      TO SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE PROPOSAL, CLICK HERE

      DCPA Theatre Company Assistant Stage Manager Paul Behrhorst surprised his longtime girlfriend, actor Jenna Bainbridge, with a marriage proposal following the Christmas Eve performance of A Christmas Carol.

      He chose to do it in The Space Theatre, which is where the Phamaly Theatre Company presents its annual summer musical using only actors with disabilities. The two met working together on a Phamaly production in that theatre.

      Paul's recent DCPA Theatre Company credits include Lord of the Flies, Black Odyssey, Jackie & Me, Reckless and The Catch. He has also worked with Phamaly, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Arvada Center, The Avenue Theater, TheatreWorks, Curious Theatre and the Aurora Fox. He was presented with a Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for special achievement in stage management. He has a BFA in Applied Theatre Technology and Design from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

      Jenna  has been performing with Phamaly since she was 12 years old. She starred as Belle in Beauty and the Beast at The Space Theatre in 2010. This past June, Jenna graduated Magna Cum Laude from DU's Lamont School of Music with a BM in Vocal Performance. After graduating, Jenna started her own voice studio where she teaches people of all ages and abilities. She was nominated for a True West Award for best actress in a comic role for her performance as Hermia in Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  She recently appeared in DCPA Academy's master class performances of Our Time, An Evening of Sondheim.

      PAUL_BEHRHORST_JENNA_BAINBRIDGE_PROPOSAL_800Photo by John Moore.
    • 2014 True West Award: Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers

      by John Moore | Dec 26, 2014
      True_West_Award_KRISTEN_SAMU_800


      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      True_West_Award_300

      On her Facebook profile, actor Kristen Samu quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp and executed by hanging just two weeks before Allied forces liberated his camp. Bonhoeffer said: "In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."

      The extraordinary Samu has been giving throughout her rich, ordinary life.

      Kristen and her husband, Mitch, did not know Shelly Bordas when the call went out to the local theatre community in 2013 to help the young mother with stage-4 brain cancer to take her son, then 3, on a Disney cruise. The Samus hosted a benefit concert at their church in Littleton that drew all-star names including Megan Van De Hey, Thaddeus Valdez, Sarah Rex, Joanie Brosseau-Beyette and many more.

      When the call for went out last year for volunteers to join The Denver Actors Fund's new "Action Teams," Samu was one of nearly 60 members of the local theatre community to sign up, making for what has since come to be affectionately called "an army of angels," headed by Shannon McAndrews. These volunteers might be called on to run errands, give rides, provide child or pet care, or build things like ramps or handrails. Samu volunteered to chair what has turned out to be the busiest team: Meal preparation and delivery.

      Here's how it works: Word gets to Denver Actors Fund that a member of the community is going through something that might make meal prep more of a burden. Perhaps they have been released from a hospital and are recovering alone; or maybe they have had a baby, or lost a loved one. The call goes to Kristen. She pinpoints the most convenient nearby volunteer, and coordinates delivery of the meal.
       
      The Meal Team was born on April 12, when word came that actor and playwright Tracy Shaffer Witherspoon's husband had died. Samu delivered a meal to Shaffer and her two sons by 4 o'clock that afternoon. It included homemade tamales and potato salad from Nathan Bock, and fruit salad and cherry pie (not homemade) from Rick Madden. Two days later, Shaffer posted this message on her Facebook page:


      "I weep every day when someone from The Denver Actors Fund comes by with some love and homemade food. All of this at a time I can't even think of cooking. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the bottomless pit called a teenage boy's stomach."

      Soon after, young mother GerRee Hinshaw would be returning home from an unexpected out-of-town funeral with a 2-year-old and no fresh food in the fridge. She later wrote:

      "Grief is a messy process. It is distracting and confusing. It is painful and revealing. And because of The Denver Actors Fund, we did not go through it alone."

      Local theatre critic Craig Williamson's wife needed cancer surgery, and he had three teenagers to feed. When actor Steven J. Burge took in Shelly Bordas' young son for a guys' weekend, it hit him - he had never prepared a meal for a child in his life. Samu's response was swift -- and delicious. None of those recipients even had to ask for help. Samu just gave it.

      The initial plan was for the Meal Team to deliver one-off acts of kindness. Samu saw that as a fleeting gesture. So she has instead approached each request as necessitating a comprehensive meal plan. To date, eight recipients have received at least seven meals each, spread out over a week to maximize the benefit. She takes into consideration specific nutritional needs, allergies and special requests, tailoring each meal to each recipient. When stage manager Meghan Ralph had emergency surgery to remove her gallbladder, Kristen's team delivered several homemade gluten- and dairy-free meals to her home.

      The Action Teams are now about 9 months old, and to date, the Meal Team has prepared and delivered more than 50 meals and given out about 15 bags of groceries. That does not include the meals actor/chef John Arp delivered weekly to Boulder actor Chad Afanador, who was diagnosed with stage-4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma the same week that his wife gave birth.

      Samu, a South Dakota native whose resume includes performing at the former Country Dinner Playhouse (My Way a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra), is a working mother who managed to run her business, EarthSky Productions, and work in an appearance in Miners Alley Playhouse's recent musical, Songs for a New World. Westword's Juliet Wittman called her soulful and "brilliantly funny."

      Samu's True West Award is representative of all Denver Actors Fund volunteers and specifically members of her team. They include John Arp, Lauren Bahlman, Nathan Bock, Steven Burge, Rachel Fowler, Tammy Franklin, Kevin Hart, Twanna Latrice Hill, Heather Lacy, Paige Larson, Billie McBride, Boni McIntyre, Rick Madden, Amber Marsh, Debbie Minter, Heather Nicolson, Jeremy and Lyndsay Palmer, Beki Pineda, Onna Poeter, Laura Siebert, Karen Slack, Mare Trevathan, Winnie Winglewick and Patty Yaconis. 

      For those interested in volunteering opportunities, the call will go out next month on the Denver Actors Fund's Facebook page for people to sign up (or re-up) for the 2015 Action Teams.   


                                       2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:

      1. Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor
      13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
      14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
      15. Rick Yaconis
      16. Michael R. Duran
      17. Laura Norman
      18. Jacquie Jo Billings
      19. Megan Van De Hey
      20. Jeremy Palmer
      21. Henry Lowenstein   
      22. Sam Gregory
      23. Wendy Ishii
      24. J. Michael Finley
      25. Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
      26. Matthew D. Peters
      27. Shannan Steele
      28. Ludlow, 1914
      29. Spring Awakening and Annapurna
      30 Theatre Person of the Year Steve Wilson

      ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
      The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

      The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

      *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

      Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    • 2014 True West Award: Wendy Ishii

      by John Moore | Dec 23, 2014
      True_West_Award_WENDY_ISHII_800


      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      True_West_Award_300

      “Life changes in an instant. The ordinary instant.”

      Author Joan Didion called the first year after the sudden, separate deaths of her husband and daughter "The Year of Magical Thinking." For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, it is a year of hard, sweet wisdom. A yearlong crash-course in learning how to stop believing in magic.

      I have called Wendy Ishii “The Tornado” for years. Not to imply that she is a destructive weather system who leaves carnage in her wake. … Necessarily. No, because she is a benevolent force of nature. Then again, I have often seen audience members left with exposed entrails after seeing her perform as, say, Mother Courage, or as stroke victim Emily Stilson in Wings. Ishii has been invited to perform at festivals and conferences in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Israel and South Africa. Her work in Samuel Beckett's plays has been noted in books, articles, journals and academic papers, and is included in the Beckett Archives. Ooh-lah-lah.

      Want more? Ishii was named Colorado’s Theatre Person of the Year by the 2008 Denver Post Ovation Awards. Three years later, she was nominated for a Bonfils Stanton Livingston Fellowship. She received the CSU David Lord Award for "Distinguished Contribution to the Performing Arts" and was honored as a "Woman of Vision" by Colorado Women of Influence. This year she hosted Lest We Forget: A weekend of Holocaust remembrances through film, stage and panel conversations.

      On-stage, Ishii is like the roles she stoops to conquer: She’s a shape-shifter who glides easily from contemporary to classical to avant-garde freak. Off-stage, "The Tornado" gets what she wants. Twenty-three years ago, she wanted an intimate boutique theatre in downtown Fort Collins, and she got it. Ten years ago, she wanted to move into a larger performing arts center in the desolate north of Fort Collins, and she got it. She brags about her lack of business acumen, but she is credited for leading the charge of new business “across the tracks” a decade ago, and Bas Bleu is now surrounded by five dozen apartments, a distillery, a brewpub, a high-tech innovation hub and restaurants. She made that happen. Or, at the very least, she blew the first domino down.

      Say no to her at your own peril.

      Yet life said no to Ishii this past year, in unnervingly Didion-like ways. And her losses only began with the death of her daughter-in-law, a young mother of three, from cancer. Her accumulation of bereavements seemed to be the theatre gods’ way of saying, “You’re going to live this play? Then you are going to live this play.”

      Ishii has spent a year now living this play, called, yes, The Year of Magical Thinking,  performing it from Boulder to Fort Collins. And she is not the same for it. On or off stage.

      Didion’s 2007 memoir was brought to Broadway by no less than Vanessa Redgrave. But as evidently suited as Redgrave was for the role, it calls on different and more dangerous emotional reservoirs than we have seen from Ishii before. Didion is hardened. Brittle. Acerbic. Pithy in a Dorothy Parker way. Ishii is kind of a human globule of goodness. This tricky, nonlinear script called on Ishii to zig and zag through the minefields of untenable grief while taking turns as razor-sharp and shivery as a mountain drive on ice. This is the rare kind of acting challenge where anything less than a virtuoso performance could be considered an abject failure. 

      But from the moment The Tornado started to blow, we could see that Ishii (as directed by Oz Scott) was going to be OK. Because underneath all that body armor of a woman the New York Times called “a Cassandra-like creature, a prophetess at a temple of doom,” was the face of Ishii. The wry and wounded, human and relatable face of a woman whose life, of late, has been much-too-closely imitating her art. A woman, like Didion, who is slogging on with gusto. Not so much a severe weather pattern but a warm, seductive breeze coming from a woman who is saying a necessary and heartfelt goodbye to her life as she once knew it:

      “I love you even more than one more day.”


      2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:

      1: Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor
      13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
      14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
      15. Rick Yaconis
      16. Michael R. Duran
      17. Laura Norman
      18. Jacquie Jo Billings
      19. Megan Van De Hey
      20. Jeremy Palmer
      21. Henry Lowenstein   
      22. Sam Gregory
      23. Wendy Ishii
      24. J. Michael Finley
      25. Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
      26. Matthew D. Peters
      27. Shannan Steele
      28. Ludlow, 1914
      29. Spring Awakening and Annapurna
      30 Theatre Person of the Year Steve Wilson

      ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
      The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

      The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

      *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

      Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    • Meet the cast video series: Allen Dorsey

      by John Moore | Dec 22, 2014


      In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 77: Meet Allen Dorsey, who has appeared in back-to-back DCPA Theatre Company productions of Lord of the Flies (Bill) and A Christmas Carol (Ghost of Christmas Future). Dorsey grew up in Sykesville, Md., before moving to Fort Collins as a resident actor with the Midtown Arts Center. He talks about "Gypsy," Rob Lowe ... and how hard it is to get dried blood out of your toes. A Christmas Carol plays through Dec. 28  in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds.


      A Christmas Carol
      : Ticket information
      Performances run through Dec. 28
      Stage Theatre
      Performances daily except Mondays
      Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Our previous coverage of this year's A Christmas Carol:
      The #CarolCallout is spreading across the country
      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

      Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

      Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
      Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

      Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
      Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
      Leslie O'Carroll,A Christmas Carol
      Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
      James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
      Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
      Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies

      Click here for "meet the cast" episodes from the 2013-14 A Christmas Carol
        Meet_The_Cast_Allen_Dorsey_800Allen Dorsey, left, in the DCPA's 2014 staging of "A Christmas Carol." Photo by Gabe Koskinen for Merritt Design Photo.
      • 2014 True West Award: Henry Lowenstein

        by John Moore | Dec 21, 2014

        True_West_Awards_HENRY LOWENSTEIN_800Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post


        TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

        True_West_Award_300

        At the close of 2014, giants of Colorado theatre and beyond began falling like mighty oaks in a forest: Randy Weeks. Henry Lowenstein. Kent Haruf, back-to-back-to-heartbreaking-back. Ironically, None of them ever acted or directed for a local stage. Still, irreplaceable losses all.

        What Lowenstein accomplished as a producer and scenic artist could fill a book, and no doubt will one day. He escaped Germany with the Kindertransport at age 13. He was accepted into Yale's masters program as a scenic designer -- without ever having earned an undergraduate degree. He ran the Bonfils Theatre, Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils' crown jewel on East Colfax and Josephine Street, from 1956 until it closed 1986, by then rechristened in his name. In "retirement," he founded the Denver Civic Theatre that is now the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center.

        He created opportunities for hundreds of artists, and made theatre available to hundreds of thousands of audiences. But of all his accomplishments, Henry once told me, the greatest to him was this:

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

        How big of a deal was Henry Lowenstein? When he died on Oct. 7 at age 89,  his achievements in theatre and his lifelong commitment to equal opportunity were read into the official Congressional Record by Rep. Diana DeGette from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. That is an incredibly rare honor.

        Helen Bonfils hired Lowenstein to run her theatre on the very same day in 1956 that she hired Donald R. Seawell to be her attorney. Seawell would succeed Bonfils as publisher of The Denver Post and target funds from Bonfils' estate to create the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which engaged more than 750,000 people last year through its theater and education programs. But the DCPA's decision to close the Lowenstein Theater in 1986 would remain a source of contention between the two theatre titans.

        So you know it means something when Seawell said of Lowenstein, "If anybody looks back on the last 50 years in Denver, Henry would have to be considered one of the 10 most important people in shaping this city."

        Read our complete tribute to Henry Lowenstein by clicking here


        2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS:
        1: Norrell Moore
        2. Kate Gleason
        3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
        4. Ben Cowhick
        5. Robert Michael Sanders
        6. David Nehls
        7. Adrian Egolf
        8. Emma Messenger
        9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
        10. Tim Howard
        11. Gleason Bauer
        12. Daniel Traylor
        13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
        14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
        15. Rick Yaconis
        16. Michael R. Duran
        17. Laura Norman
        18. Jacquie Jo Billings
        19. Megan Van De Hey
        20. Jeremy Palmer
        21. Henry Lowenstein   
        22. Sam Gregory
        23. Wendy Ishii
        24. J. Michael Finley
        25. Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
        26. Matthew D. Peters
        27. Shannan Steele
        28. Ludlow, 1914
        29. Spring Awakening and Annapurna
        30 Theatre Person of the Year Steve Wilson

        ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
        The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

        The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

        *The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA's celebration of the local theatre community.

        Moore's daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

      • Meet the cast video series: Leslie O'Carroll

        by John Moore | Dec 20, 2014



        Meet_The_Cast_Leslie_O'Carroll_300In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 76: Meet company veteran Leslie O'Carroll, who is back to play Mrs. Fezziwig in the DCPA Theatre Company's holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. O'Carroll, who will also appear next month in Benediction, is one of only three actors to play the role of Mrs. Fezziwig at the DCPA over the past 22 years. O'Carroll talks about appearing on Breaking Bad, how Angela Lansbury changed her life, and being married to Steve Wilson, retiring artistic director of the local Phamaly handicapped theatre company. A Christmas Carol plays through Dec. 28  in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds.


        A Christmas Carol
        : Ticket information
        Performances run through Dec. 28
        Stage Theatre
        Performances daily except Mondays
        Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

        Our previous coverage of this year's A Christmas Carol:
        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

        Bonus video: Watch Leslie O'Carroll perform A Christmas Carol solo ... and in 5 minutes



        Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

        Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
        Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

        Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
        Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
        Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
        Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
        Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
        Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
        Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
        Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
        Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
        Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
        James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
        Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
        Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
        Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies

        Click here for "meet the cast" episodes from the 2013-14 A Christmas Carol
          Meet_The_Cast_Leslie_O'Carroll_800Leslie O'Carroll, as Mrs. Fezziwig, with Allen Dorsey, left, and Michael Fitzpatrick, in the DCPA's 2014 staging of "A Christmas Carol." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
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          ABOUT THE EDITOR
          John Moore
          John Moore
          Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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