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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA.

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

    by John Moore | Aug 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Production photos by Joan Marcus.

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

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

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


    About the cast:

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

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

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

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


     If/Then ticket information:

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

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


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

    by John Moore | Aug 05, 2015

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

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

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

    Tracy Letts

    By John Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And that was one of extreme poverty and ignorance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Acid tongues and all.

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

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

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

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

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

    by John Moore | Aug 04, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Video: 2015 Henry Award Acceptance Speeches

    by John Moore | Jul 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

    The director of the awards ceremony was Jim Hunt.

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

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

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

    by John Moore | Jul 27, 2015

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

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

    by John Moore | Jul 24, 2015

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


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

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

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

    by John Moore | Jul 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

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

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

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

    by John Moore | Jul 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Youth Ensemble:
    Everett Ediger
    Harper Ediger
    Leslie Wilburn

  • Colorado Theatre Guild honors DCPA with 11 Henry Awards

    by John Moore | Jul 20, 2015
    'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' won seven Henry Awards in Monday night. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' won seven Henry Awards on Monday night. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    The DCPA Theatre Company was rewarded for its commitment to developing new work for the American theatre by judges of the Colorado Theatre Guild's 10th annual Henry Awards on Monday night. The Theatre Company received 11 awards from among its 21 nominations, including Outstanding Season for the fifth time in the past eight years.

    "We count ourselves lucky to work in such a powerful and vibrant community of artists, where new and exciting work happens all across the state," new DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller said in accepting the award. "Thank you for this honor, for your warm welcome into this community, and for everything you do on a daily basis to support theatre in the Rocky Mountain Region."

    All of the DCPA's awards were for new works: The 12, Benediction and its newly refreshed take on Broadway'S quintessential Colorado  musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    Molly Brown
    won seven Henry Awards, making it the most honored production of the Colorado theatre season. The production featured a new book and a significantly revised score. Its awards on Monday included Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actress Beth Malone and Director Kathleen Marshall. 

    Malone, a Colorado native who recently was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in Fun Home the Musical, brought new layers to the woman most people outside Colorado only know as a brassy survivor of the USS Titanic disaster. "Malone plays Molly with tremendous energy, intelligence and verve," Westword theatre critic Juliet Wittman wrote last fall. 

    Kathleen MarshallMarshall (pictured right) is a  three-time Tony Award nominee and, now, a three-time Henry Award winner. She also was singled out for her Molly Brown choreography.

    "Creating this show was a complete joy from beginning to end, and receiving an award on top of it is really an embarrassment of riches," Marshall said through DCPA Associate Artistic Director Bruce Sevy. "It was a challenge and responsibility to bring the story of Margaret and JJ Brown, two legendary and iconic Colorado residents, to life. Our cast and creative team had a blast here in Denver."

    She also credited her cast and creative team, including writer Dick Scanlan, "a man whose vision, passion and dedication brought this entire reimagining of Meredith Willson’s classic American musical into being. He has an indomitable spirit, a generous nature and an infectious energy – just like Molly Brown."

    The Theatre Company's staging of the world premiere rock musical The 12, written by Robert Schenkkan and Neil Berg, was named Outstanding New Play or Musical. The 12 wonders what might have happened when Jesus' disciples went into hiding after his crucifixion.

    "In our 36-year history, we have presented 412 productions, of which 138 were world premieres, 159 were readings of new works in development and 27 were commissions," said Sevy. "When a world premiere wins an award, it makes us beyond proud."

    He read a message from Schenkkan, also the Puliter Prize-winning playwright of next season's All the Way, which read: "From the moment we arrived in Denver, we were knocked out by the professionalism, the passion and the strong sense of community. Plus, you have a pretty good ballteam."

    Billie McBrideBillie McBride (pictured right), who last year was presented with the Colorado Theatre Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award, came back with a monster year that was rewarded with three more Henrys on Monday. McBride, whose Broadway acting and stage-managing credits include Safe Sex and Torch Song Trilogy, made her DCPA Theatre Company debut in February playing straight-talking Willa in the world-premiere staging of Benediction.

    She also won a Henry Award Monday for directing the most honored play of the year: 'Night, Mother, for Vintage Theatre. McBride offered an unsympathetic and uncompromising take on Marsha Norman's tale of a middle-aged woman who calmly announces to her mother that she will commit suicide by night's end. Both of her actors were nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Play, and as the mother, Emma Messenger won.

    It was the second straight win for Messenger in that prestigious category, after having won in 2014 for her portrayal of a cripplingly cruel Irish mum in The Edge Theatre’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

    Among the first-time Henry Award winners were Benjamin Cowhick and Annie Dwyer. Cowhick (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play)  was utterly raw as as a hyperactive meth addict in A&A Productions' Good Television at the Aurora Fox. Dwyer performed for more than 20 years as a comic actor for the Heritage Square Music Hall, which was not a Colorado Theatre Guild member and thus, its actors were never eligible for Henry Awards. Since that famed venue closed last year, a wider audience is witnessing Dwyer's comic gifts. Dwyer's hilarious portrayal of Frau Bleucher earned her first Henry Award nomination and win, as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical.

    In all, 10 local companies earned at least one Henry Award on Monday, with the Arvada Center, BDT Stage and Vintage Theatre winning three each.

    The awards ceremony was again held at the Arvada Center and hosted by GerRee Hinshaw and Steven Burge, and directed by previous Colorado Theatre Guild Lifetime Achievement Award winner Jim Hunt. That award this year went to educator Jo Bunton Keel.

    The Henry Awards are named for legendary producer Henry Lowenstein, who brought more than 400 productions to the old Bonfils Theatre on East Colfax Avenue. This was the first year of the Henry Awards without Henry, and a video tribute was played to open the service featuring Cleo Parker Robinson, Bob Wells and John Ashton. Robinson told the story of how her father was hired as the theatre janitor over the objections of Bonfils patrons, and he went on to perform in dozens of shows, including a starring role in A Raisin in the Sun.

    It was a year of great loss in the theatre community, and a separate tribute video was played marking the passings of Shelly Bordas, Lloyd Norton, Kent Haruf, Bill Fancouer, Ray Viggiano, Michael (McKim) Daevid and DCPA President Randy Weeks. Those videos will be posted in the DCPA's NewsCenter in the coming days.

    The Henry Awards are a notoriously unpredictable affair from year to year. Last July, the DCPA Theatre Company earned a record 28 nominations and won three awards. This year's winners included Mike Hartman, who starred in all three chapters of the Theatre Company's adaptations of the Haruf's Plainsong Trilogy. He was named Outstanding Actor in a Play for his portrayal of a man dying with unfixable regrets in Benediction.

    “Thank you so much for this honor. I am incredibly blessed to have worked with Kent Haruf, (playwright) Eric Schmiedl, and Kent Thompson the cast and crew of all three of these wonderful rich Colorado stories," he said through the DCPA's Brianna Firestone.

    Two students from Durango High School represented The Bobby G Awards' 2014-15 Outstanding Musical by performing a medley from Les Misérables.

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

    Still to come: Video showing acceptance speech highlights


    Denver Center Theatre Company

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    DCPA Theatre Company
    Kathleen Marshall, Director; Michael Rafter, Musical Director

    'Night, Mother
    Vintage Theatre Productions
    Billie McBride, Director

    'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    The 12
    DCPA Theatre Company
    Robert Schenkkan and Neil Berg

    Kathleen Marshall
    The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Michael Rafter
    The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    DCPA Theatre Company


    Billie McBride
    'Night, Mother

    Vintage Theatre Productions

    Wayne Kennedy

    Wayne Kennedy
    Fiddler on the Roof
    BDT Stage

    Beth Malone

    Beth Malone
    The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Mike Hartman

    Mike Hartman
    DCPA Theatre Company


    Emma Messenger

    Emma Messenger
    'Night, Mother
    Vintage Theatre Productions

    Annie Dwyer

    Annie Dwyer
    Young Frankenstein
    Town Hall Arts Center

    Michael Wordly

    Michael Wordly
    Midtown Arts Center, Fort Collins

    Benjamin CowhickOUTSTANDING

    Benjamin Cowhick
    Good TV
    A & A Productions

    Billie McBride

    Billie McBride
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Buntport ensemble.

    Middle Aged People Sitting in Boxes
    Buntport Theater Company

    Kathleen Marshall
    The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Paul Tazewell
    The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Linda Morken
    Mary Poppins
    BDT Stage

    Brian Mallgrave
    She Loves Me
    Arvada Center

    Christopher Waller
    The Edge Theater

    David Thomas
    Arvada Center

    Ren Manley
    The Edge Theater

    Don Holder
    The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    DCPA Theatre Company

    Brett Maughan
    Mary Poppins
    BDT Stage


    Jo Bunton Keel

    Jo Bunton Keel

    Creede Repertory Theatre

    Creede Repertory Theatre

    Lisa Cook

    Lisa Cook

  • Caveman Cody on speedskating, smelting and a baby named Chewbaca

    by John Moore | Jul 13, 2015
    Cody Lyman in 'Defending the Caveman.' Photo by Michael Brosilow
    Cody Lyman in 'Defending the Caveman.' Photo by Michael Brosilow

    Durango native Cody Lyman is happy to be back in his native state performing Defending the Caveman, which will soon enter its fourth month at the Garner-Galleria Theatre. It's writer/comedian Rob Becker's theatrical conversation between a modern-day Caveman (read: your average husband) and his audience about the ways men and women relate.

    The show dates back to prehistoric times - 1991, to be exact. It first opened in San Francisco and went on to become the longest continuously running one-man show in Broadway history, and the longest-running one-man show in Las Vegas. It has been performed in 45 countries and translated into 19 different languages. (Bet you’d never guess the first one after English was Icelandic. Really.)

    Cody Lyman quote"I jumped on board in 2004," said Lyman, a graduate of Colorado State University and the child of two Olympic speedskaters. (He's not even making that up. More on that below.)

    "I’m closing in on 12 years of performing this show all across the country. I’d be hard-pressed to count the number of performances I’ve done. But I’m guessing it would have a few zeros in it. I can say that I’ve filed taxes in 36 different states." 

    It's still lots of fun for Lyman, even though he says it shouldn’t be. "That’s a long time to be doing the same show," he said. But audiences love it wherever it goes.

    "I was drawn to theatre because I think it’s important," he said. I truly believe that art can have an vital impact on humanity. This show does that. It’s simple and funny and profound. It's a show about how we love each other. And that message, of course, is delivered in a hilarious way. It’s a privilege to be a part of that."

    Defending the Caveman tickets are currently on-sale through Aug. 23. Here are more excerpts from Caveman Cody's conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:

    John Moore: Let's start with a current events news-and-views quiz.

    News: A 22-year-old man celebrating the Fourth of July was killed instantly when he tried to launch fireworks from atop his head.

    Views: _______________
    The Caveman: I was a knucklehead when I was 22. That could have been me. That could have been a lot of the knuckleheads I ran around with. Although it happened in Maine. I’ve never performed in Maine ... so there’s that.

    John Moore: Is it true that Cavemen enjoy Twizzlers, discount furniture and most things Dutch? And if so ... so, please elaborate.

    The Caveman: Man, I put that in my bio a hundred years ago for some reason, and I really should get around to editing it! I do like Twizzlers, IKEA and the Dutch. I was raised by speedskaters. My dad (Greg Lyman) was in the Sapporo Olympics in 1972, and my mom (Pat Sheehan) held a world-record in short-track. The Dutch always produce amazing speedskaters. I fell in love with Amsterdam on a visit abroad with my brother and sister. When we were living in Chicago, I would often accompany my (now) wife on trips to IKEA. It was a day-long event with multiple trains. She would go to shop and get ideas. I’d go for the meatballs and to spend time with her.

    John Moore: And how is married life?

    Cody Lyman and his now wife photographed on opening night of the 2013 'Defending the Caveman' run in Denver. Photo by John Moore.The Caveman: I like being married. My wife and I have been together for 18 years, although we have only been married for almost two. Things changed when we tied the knot. Not good or bad just ... different. There are some things in the show that jump out at me more now. Like listening. I’m not that great at listening. I have to stop what I’m doing, re-focus my energy, and plug in. My wife will usually give me the time I need to do that before doling out the important information. We’re expecting our first child in November, which is consuming all of our attention right now. No, we don’t know if will be a boy or a girl. No, we’re not going to find out in advance. Either way, I’m lobbying for the name “Chewbaca."

    (Photo: Cody Lyman and his now wife photographed on opening night of the 2013 'Defending the Caveman' run in Denver. Photo by John Moore.)

    John Moore: Say, you went to the same high school as our new Bobby G Awards winners honoring the best in Colorado high-school theatre. So what is up with Durango High School?
    The Caveman: It’s simple, really. Durango exists, largely, because it was a hub for smelting (the process of extracting metals from rock using heat and various chemicals) in the 1880s. The early smelters eventually fell into dis-use, but smelting was revitalized by the federal government during World War II to process vanadium to make steel. The other product that was being dug from our hills and processed was uranium. Smelter Mountain (where most of this occurred) sits on the south side of downtown, and while the smelters had used up their usefulness by the 1950s, the project wasn’t properly cleaned and capped until the 1990s. So, in short: We’ve been drinking radioactive water and producing SUPERACTORS.

    What relationship advice do you have for troubled celebrity couple Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick?
    The Caveman: I’m rather proud that I had to Google this. However, after Googling this ... I have a headache. I don’t think I’d offer any relationship advice to these two. Who am I to blow against the wind?  I’ll let Kanye handle this one.

    John Moore: So wait a minute: Why does The Caveman even need defending? After all … he’s a Caveman!

    The Caveman: It’s his image that needs defending. In “everyday” context, The Caveman is depicted as a gut-driven, forehead-enhanced lunk: “Me want, me take.” There’s the popular image of The Caveman clunking the woman of his choice over the head with his club and dragging her back to his cave. While it’s true that our ancient ancestors were (by necessity) more instinctual than we are today, archaeologists' findings over the past few decades seem to point to a primitive man who was able to look beyond his next meal and contemplate the universe. What prompted this creature to record his culture’s myths and stories onto cave walls?  

    The Caveman recorded the things that he did not understand, but was in awe of: The Hunt. Sacred animals. The passage of time. And, perhaps most important: The goddess. The Caveman, simply put, was not master of The Cavewoman, but rather, The Caveman worshipped women.

    “Well!" you might say!, all that’s well and good. But what of it?”

    Generally speaking, if a woman does something that a man doesn’t understand ... men are OK with that. We tend to think that women are mysterious. On the other hand, when a man does something that a woman doesn’t understand, they tend to just think that we’re wrong.  We’re not wrong (necessarily) - we’re just different. And, we’ve evolved with these differences since prehistoric times!

    John Moore: Clearly this is still fun for you.

    The Caveman: I’ve had plenty of opportunity through the years to work on other projects, so I rarely feel creatively stifled. But whenever I return to The Cave, it’s like putting on a favorite sweatshirt. It’s comfy - and smelly - in all the right places.

    John Moore: And why Defending the Caveman still fun for the audience?

    Things change and we evolve, but men and women are still fundamentally different.  Couples come to this show seeking laughs at one another’s expense, and end up leaving arm-in-arm. It’s fun for the audience because it’s so relatable. I’ve been all around the nation with this show for more than a decade, and everyone relates. It’s not my story up there on stage. It’s our story. 

    Defending the Caveman
    When: Tickets currently on-sale through Aug. 23
    Where: At the Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets,
    Written by: Rob Becker
    Performed by: Cody Lyman
    Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    To learn more, go to the show's official web page

    More, more Lyman: Here's our 2013 interview with Cody Lyman
  • Podcast: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant of DCPA, Colorado Shakes

    by John Moore | Jul 13, 2015

    Episode 174 of our Running Lines Audio Podcast:

    Actors Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant are well-known to DCPA and Colorado Shakespeare Festival audiences. But the summer of 2015 marks their rites of passage into playing significant (if very disparate) Shakespearean leaders. 

    Kent is playing the villain Iago, Shakespeare's largest role, in Othello, while Bonenfant is playing the rapscallion prince-turned-warrior in Henry V. While the roles span the moral gamut, both characters use honor as a weapon of persuasion. Iago uses talk of honor as a cloak to disguise his ill-intent to exact his revenge on Othello. And in Henry V, the dapper king uses honor as a justification for what has come to be seen in modern times as a perhaps most unjust war.

    The pair talk with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist and Running Lines host John Moore about their particular acting challenges and character justifications, including this one-of-a-kind quote from Kent talking about Iago's motives: "Iago is not interested in getting things 'evensies.' He wants to be 'winsies, no-take-backsies.' "

    In the conversation, Moore points out that while the word "honor" is mentioned 42 times in Othello, the word "heaven" is actually invoked far more often, clocking in at 72. Kent then mentions the preponderance of the word "honesty" in the script as well. "Honor, honesty, heaven: They are all 'H' words," Kent says. "Shakespeare likes alliteration."

    Kent's ties to the DCPA go back to 1999. He is not only the Theatre Company's resident Fight Director, he has performed in Richard III, Hamlet and others. He will be seen next season in Kent Thompson's As You Like It. In Boulder, he is currently tied with Sam Sandoe as the longest continuous member of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival at 13 consecutive seasons.

    Bonenfant's DCPA credits include Benediction, Hamlet, A Christmas Carol and When We Are Married. He will be back next season in A Christmas Carol.

    The pair are just two of the recognizable names from the DCPA performing or working at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival this summer. "Sam Gregory is tearing it up both as a pretty damn racist Brabantio in our Othello, and as our narrator for Henry V," says Kent. Bonenfant adds: "You'll also get to see (DCPA Head of Acting) Larry Hecht (as Fluellen in Henry V). This is going to be his last performance in Colorado before he moves to the West Coast and we have to say goodbye to him."

    Other recent Theatre Company actors performing in Boulder this summer include Peter Simon Hilton, Rodney Lizcano, Benaiah Anderson, Mare Trevathan and Martha Harmon Pardee. Going back in time, the long list of  actors that both companies have in common also includes Annette Helde, Jane Page, Annette Bening, John Hutton, Kim Staunton, and Leslie O’Carroll. 

    Many of the Theatre Company’s core technicians are summering in Boulder as well, including sound designer Jason Ducat, stage manager Matthew Campbell and assistant stage managers Paul Behrhorst and Kristen Littlepage.

    The running time of the podcast is 11 minutes.

    Podcast Outtake:

    As the conversation continued beyond the allotted podcast time, Kent spoke of the special ongoing relationship between the DCPA and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

    "Having been here a long time, it’s kind of profoundly dynamic," Kent said, "and I hope that it gives in both directons. Because while both companies do Shakespeare, and they both put their particular spins on it, we share artists and keep these Colorado artists here and employed."

    2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival: Ticket information 
    • Now playing: Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Wittenberg, Henry V and Henry VI, Part One
    • Dates: Through Aug. 9 in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre and University of Colorado Mainstage Theatre
    • Tickets are available at coloradoshakes.org or by calling 303-492-8008
    • The box office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located in the University Club on the CU-Boulder campus.

    Geoffrey Kent plays Iago and Benjamin Bonenfant plays Heny V in high-profile Colorado Shakespeare Festival productions of Othello' and 'Henry V.' Photo by John Moore.

    Geoffrey Kent plays Iago and Benjamin Bonenfant plays Heny V in high-profile Colorado Shakespeare Festival productions of Othello' and 'Henry V.' Photo by John Moore. 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival:
    2015 Colorado Shakes: Tried and true; black and blue-blooded
    Sandoe siblings have the Bard in their Boulder blood
    Our tragic, universal flaw: We are all Othello

    Recent Running Lines podcasts:
    Listen to our interview with ... Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford
    Listen to our interview with: Emma Messenger and Haley Johnson of 'Night, Mother
    Listen to our interview with ... Margie Lamb of Next to Normal
    Listen to our interview with ... Jane Lynch of Glee
    Listen to our interview with ... Cyndi Lauper of Kinky Boots
    Listen to our interview on dialects with ... The cast of Lord of the Flies
    Listen to our interview with ... Jeremy Palmer, Ed Mills and J Murray d'Armand of Wit's L.A. Diner
    Listen to our interview with ... Laura Norman and Josh Hartwell of Grounded
    Listen to our interview with ... Dramaturg Allison Horsley of Animal Crackers
    Listen to our interview with ... Director Christy Montour-Larson of Shadowlands
  • Sandoes have the Bard in their Boulder blood

    by John Moore | Jul 12, 2015

    A selection of photos of the Sandoes, the First Family of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, whose lineage at the Mary Rippon Amphitheatre in Boulder goes back to 1944. To see caption information, click on any photo.

    Anne Sandoe may be the only actor in the world who has been cast to play age-appropriate Shakespearean roles from the time she was 6 and into her 60s.

    She is the daughter of James Sandoe, who directed the first-ever play on Boulder’s famed Mary Rippon Amphitheatre in 1944. James Sandoe became a legendary figure at both the Colorado and Oregon Shakespeare festivals - and he took his wife and four children along for the whole theatrical ride.

    Sam and Anne Sandoe, both familiar and familial members of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 acting company, now have 41 seasons between them. There are part of Boulder’s first family of theatre - a royal lineage that goes back 71 years.

    For Anne, it all began when her father, who was a regular director in Oregon from 1948-68, cast her to appear in Henry VI, Part Two. She was 6.

    “We used to get carted up to Ashland every summer starting in 1954,” she said. “And if they ever needed children in the shows, they would use us.”

    Anne SandoeThe first roles Anne really remembers playing were in Henry VI, Part Three, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when she was 8. “I got murdered on stage as Rutland (York's son), and then I played Mustard-seed (the littlest fairy) in Midsummer,” she said. “It was very exciting.” Her castmates included older sister Jill, who was 12, and brother John, who played a 14-year-old Puck. Sam was still swaddling.

    James Sandoe was a University of Colorado professor, librarian, bibliographer and Shakespearean scholar who founded the CU International Film Series in 1941. He also had an interesting side passion: He was a renowned reviewer of mystery novels for the Chicago Sun-Times and New York Herald Tribune.

    The Sandoe patriarch was asked to direct a play at CU in the summer of 1944, but because the Navy had taken over the University Theatre for the war effort back in 1939, Sandoe decided to try staging Romeo and Juliet in the newly built Mary Rippon. That began an annual tradition that became formalized when his friend, English professor Jack Crouch, officially founded the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 1958.

    James Sandoe (pictured below left) directed nine seasons for Colorado Shakes between 1961 and 1973. There were seasons when he would direct two shows in the same summer, while acting in others alongside his children.

    James Sandoe. “And while Jim Symons has directed the most Colorado Shakespeare Festival productions,” said Sam Sandoe, “no one has directed more productions of Shakespeare’s plays on the Mary Rippon stage than Dad. After 70 years, nobody has broken that record.”

    The Sandoes clearly have the Bard in their Boulder blood.

    “It's just the way we grew up,” Anne Sandoe said. “Instead of going to camp in the summer, we went to Shakespeare. There are lots of people who are more well-read about Shakespeare than I am. I have just been around it a lot more than most.”

    Those Sandoe veins share pumping space with the University of Colorado. Like their father, Sam and Anne are longtime employees of the school. Anne has headed the Leeds School of Business’ MBA program for the past 13 years. Sam has logged nearly 20 years in the Office of Strategic Media Relations.

    Sam SandoeThis summer, Anne is playing the Duchess of Venice, who dispatches Othello to war in Othello; and the Bishop of Winchester in Henry VI, Part One. Sam is playing Verges in Much Ado About Nothing; Gratiano in Othello; Bardolph in Henry V; and Edmund Mortimer (among others) in Henry VI, Part One

    Anne said everything she knows about theatre, she learned from her father. For example:

    “As an actor: Pick up your cues. Don't take a pause until you earn one,” she said. “As a director: The end of one scene is the beginning of the next scene. One of the things that would appall Dad about any play he might see today would be the amount of time put into scene shifts. That, and playing music that has nothing to do with the show.”

    Uncut on Broadway, Hamlet ran 4½ hours. Uncut in Boulder, James Sandoe’s Hamlet ran three hours flat.

    “It moved like a son of a bitch,” Anne said. 

    While Sam Sandoe has performed with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival fairly regularly since 1970, Anne became a mom and teacher and took a break from 1973 to 2007. Their father died in 1980 at age 68.

    With so much Boulder history intertwined with the Sandoe family tree, we sat down for a chat with Anne and Sam Sandoe. Here are more excerpts from our wide-ranging conversation:

    The Sandoe family appearing in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1955. Says Anne Sandoe: 'I’m the littlest fairly, kneeling on the ground. My sister, Jill, is second from the left. I was 8, she was 12.'

    The Sandoe family appearing in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1955. Says Anne Sandoe: "I’m the littlest fairly, kneeling on the ground. My sister, Jill, is second from the left. I was 8, she was 12." 

    John Moore: Anne, what was your first role for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival?

    Anne: The minute Dad came back here to direct in 1961, I started being in all the shows. They always needed young people. My first speaking role was playing the ghost of Prince Edward in Richard III in 1963. I was 16.

    John Moore: What was the first show you did together?

    Anne: That was Dad's production of All’s Well that Ends Well in 1970. I played Diana, and Sam was one of the soldiers.

    Anne and Sam Sandoe in Boulder. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sam: We were also together in Richard III that year.

    John Moore: So have you two felt tied to Shakespeare your entire lives?

    Sam: Oh, definitely.

    (Photo at right: Anne and Sam Sandoe in Boulder. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    John Moore: The program says this is Sam’s 26th season, and Anne’s 15th.

    Sam: Correct.

    John Moore: Anne, you started all the way back in 1961. But you had a gap between 1973 and 2008.

    Anne: Yep. Only 35 years. I left Boulder in 1973 to become a teacher, and I was gone until 2002. When I moved back, Sam said to me, ‘You know, you really ought to get back into theatre again.' And so in 2008 I auditioned for CSF, and I got cast. And I have been in it almost every year since.

    John Moore: Well, clearly you can always go home again. Sam, what’s your story?

    Sam: I haven't performed every year, but I've been on a roll. Geoff Kent (Iago in Othello) and I are tied currently for most consecutive seasons, with 13. I think we’re both eyeing each other a little bit.

    John Moore: You never took a significant break?

    Sam: No. But some years they just wouldn't hire me.

    John Moore: So you two are on a good long parallel stretch here at the Festival for the first time.

    Anne: Yes, we are.

    John Moore: What's that like for siblings of a certain age being able to spend that kind of extended quality time together?

    Sam: It's lovely.

    Anne: We still haven't been on stage together all that much. We are not often in the same shows, or on the stage at the same time.

    John Moore: Have you ever been cast together in really awkward roles, like, say, as lovers?

    Sam: No. I was one of her sons in Richard III, though.  

    Anne: Yes, he was Edward, and I was the mum.

    John Moore: So what do you get out of it now at this stage of your lives?

    Sam: We like the people.

    Peter Macon and Anne Sandoe in 'Othello,' 2015. Photo by Jennifer M. KoskinenAnne: The people are fantastic.

    Sam: And we like the magic of putting a show together - starting from those words on the page and then watching it grow into the full production. And they grow so fast now. Sometimes we cram these shows together in two weeks.

    Anne: It's just murder. Especially for the people who are doing multiple shows. I am only doing two shows this summer, so it's no big deal for me. But some people are doing four or five.

    John Moore: So why do you keep at it? 

    Anne: For me, it is about being involved with something that is a part of my heritage. Teaching is part of my training, and part of what I love to do. When I taught acting, Shakespeare was my specialty. I now teach a class for CSF Education on acting Shakespeare for Adults.

    John Moore: So I followed in my father's footsteps at The Denver Post, and I was always asked whether my Dad got me the job. Did you guys ever get that?

    Anne: Oh golly, yes. All the time.

    John Moore: What do you say to those people?

    Sam: Well, we used to get it more when he was alive. But in the early years, there were certainly some snide comments … usually jokingly. I remember one newspaper article on the festival. Someone wrote an anonymous comment online saying, "Sam Sandoe has only ever been hired because of his Dad." And I know who it was.

    John Moore: Anonymous is my least favorite writer.

    Anne: It's so cowardly. My answer to that always used to be, “If Dad cast me, it’s because he knows I can do the role. And I have to be twice as good as anybody else who auditions, because I am his kid.”

    John Moore: Was he tough on you?

    Anne: Very tough. Very.

    Sam: And he never gave us leads. The year I volunteered for the first time, I was carrying a banner and playing a peasant. I was offered some lines and I turned them down because I didn't want the responsibility.

    Anne: Dad gave me a couple of really good ingénue roles. But he wouldn't have done it if he thought I would embarrass him.

    John Moore: There has always seemed to be a steady stream of actors here who are either on their way to becoming recognizable names, or already are.

    Anne: Oh, yeah.

    Sam: Jimmy Smits was pretty fresh out of grad school when he got cast to play Othello in 1984.

    John Moore: I interviewed him about that. I remember the program bio innocuously noted that "Jim" can be seen in the upcoming NBC pilot, Miami Vice.

    Sam: Yes. So at that time, so he wasn't "Jimmy Smits" just yet.

    John Moore: And he had just had hernia surgery.

    Sam: I’ll never forget this: Here he was hired to play Othello, and when he got here, he volunteered to play the Sea Captain in Twelfth Night because they needed another actor. He said, "Well, I'm only doing one show. Can I help?"

    John Moore: Yeah, Jimmy, but that one role is … Othello.

    Sam: Exactly. He was a very nice guy. I was playing Gratiano, the same role I am playing this summer. He is one of the few actors who broke my heart every night in that final scene. I have only had a few actors do that with me onstage. He was the first.

    John Moore: Were you around for Val Kilmer’s Hamlet?
    Sam: Yeah, I was in that.

    John Moore: If the legend is to be believed, girls were climbing over the walls to get into the Mary Rippon.

    Sam: That's all true. We had to have special security. He rented a place that was kept very secret.

    John: Had Top Gun just come out?

    Sam: Actually that was already out. What came out that summer was Willow.

    Anne: So he was a very hot property.

    Sam: He was at the top of his career, I would say.
    John Moore: Was he a good Hamlet?

    Sam: He was a very good Hamlet. It was very punk rock-n-rolly. He drove the administrators and the PR people and the costumers crazy, but he was good with the acting company. He was very distant, but he didn't play much of a diva card.

    Anne: I remember Bill Sadler was here in the 1973 Hamlet. He's quite a name now (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Shawshank Redemption, Die Hard 2). But he was just out of the same grad school that Jimmy Smits (Cornell University) would graduate from 10 years later. Bill had never done a role as big as Hamlet before, and he was delightful. Such a nice guy.

    John Moore: What about a buddy of mine from Regis High School: John Carroll Lynch (American Horror Story, Fargo, Zodiac)?

    Sam: I did two seasons with John at CSF. Did you see his Frankenstein when it toured the country?

    John Moore: Yes. It played up here at Macky Auditorium.

    Sam: It did. Wonderful.

    Anne: I remember a young Michael Moriarty (Law & Order) from back in the 1960s. He was a little temperamental. Dad told the story that Michael was very upset when he wouldn't let him read for Othello.

    John Moore: I heard about this: He was said to have wept when he learned he would not be playing Othello here.

    Anne: Yeah, they still cast white guys to play Othello back then. But he was, what, 23? He was very upset. I also worked with Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure). He was very a very nice guy. Quiet. Very shy. He was just out of grad school, too. He only played small roles here. But I remember him well because I was 16 and … very impressionable.

    John Moore: Aha!

    My last show with Dad was Pericles in 1973. I played Marina, with Patricia Ryan as Thaisa. That was Dad’s last directing job at CSF. (pictured at right.) Anne: My last show with Dad was Pericles in 1973. I played Marina, with Patricia Ryan as Thaisa. That was Dad’s last directing job at CSF (pictured at right.)

    Sam: In 1979, public television did a really nice little documentary called Borrowed Faces, where they followed four actors from arrival through casting, and one of them was (Denver Center Theatre Company veteran) Annette Helde. She played Titania, Goneril and Mistress Quickly. She was just out of grad school at the University of Washington.

    John Moore: What about Annette Bening? I believe the year was 1980. She came back to Colorado five years later and joined the Denver Center Theatre Company.

    Anne: I wasn't here the year she was here.

    Sam: Nor was I.

    John Moore: Well, we won’t talk about her then. I'd like both of you pick out a favorite role from your time here at CSF.

    Anne: Well for me, it's very recent: Playing the Duchess of York in Richard III that Tina Packer directed in 2013. It was phenomenal for me. It was the right role at the right time, and it resonated with me very deeply. And because of the other women in it like Mare Trevathan and Bella Merlin. We had such a good time. And then last summer, getting to do I Hate Hamlet with that particular group of people. They were all-stars. I never get to do the contemporary pieces, so that was really fun for me.

    Sam: I would say in 2001 when we did Queen Margaret, which is a conflation of all three Henry VIs into one play. The playwright created a role of a chorus - very much like the one-man chorus in Henry V. It was a fabulous role, and it forged a real connection between the audience and the action on stage. And to my knowledge, I am the only person in the world who has ever gotten to do it.

    Anne: That's cool.

    Sam: The other show for me was Two Gentlemen of Verona. I had no lines. I played a clown with some others. We were little angels, and we actually had wings and wore diapers. So the balance of this wonderfully talky role and this absolutely silent role was a perfect combination for me.

    Anne: How fun.

    John Moore: I want to bring it back to your Dad. How does the Festival look today compared to when he left in 1974 in terms of size and scope?

    Sam: Well, there’s no grass, for one thing.

    Anne: Yes, there is no grass on the stage.

    John Moore: Are we talking about marijuana?

    A look at the grassy Mary Rippon satge in the 1960s. Anne: No! It really used to be a grass stage.

    Sam: There was no rake. It was an absolutely flat, grassy playing area with a grassy semicircle in front of it.

    Anne: Back then you tended to use the whole expanse instead of just the center. There was no set to speak of.

    Sam: No, the space was filled up with a lot of banners and things you could move around. You’d have thrones when you had to have them. But there were no background pieces. You know those two little stone alcoves on either side of the stage?

    John Moore: Yes.

    Sam: They would build platforms behind those alcoves, and that created additional acting spaces both above and below - in the alcove itself.

    Anne: In Romeo and Juliet, the balcony was above one of those alcoves.

    Sam: They began experimenting with building unit sets in the 1970s. I think they first created the raked disc that we perform on now in 1979. And the sets have just grown from there.

    Anne: It's obviously a more professional company now in terms of Equity (union) contracts. There were none back then. The first Equity contract was in 1983.

    Sam: The guy who played Richard III was the first.

    John Moore: What about performance spaces?

    Anne: We didn't used to use the indoor stage. Now they do both indoor and outdoor shows, which is a really nice thing - especially for audience members who don't like to sit outdoors anymore.

    Sam: And vice-versa. There are some people who absolutely scorn coming to the indoor shows.

    John Moore: How much time did a company have to rehearse under your Dad?

    Sam: At least four weeks.

    John Moore: As compared to … ?

    Sam: About 2 1/2 weeks now.

    Anne: But it was such a different season back then. You would be rehearsing more than one play at a time. And I don't think any of them opened until late June.

    Sam: Back then we had auditions to get into the company in February. Then the selected company members would arrive in early June, and then it was a pretty frantic two or three days because no one was pre-cast. Your entire summer was on the line in those first couple of days, and you were either delighted or reasonably pleased or devastated when the casting came out.

    John Moore: So when you came to those auditions in June, at least you knew you were in the company?

    Sam: Well, not always. Someone from the outside could show up and blow you away. In fact one of the most successful actors in CSF history was a guy named Barry Kraft. He just happened to hear about the auditions when he was up at Jones Drug on The Hill. He came in and auditioned and wound up playing Falstaff in Henry IV, Part Two, and the Bastard in King John. The next year, he played Hamlet.

    Anne: It is so much better now to know what you are playing in advance, especially because the rehearsal period is so short.

    John Moore: So if your Dad were to magically reappear in 2015, what do you think he would think of Colorado Shakespeare Festival, as an audience member?

    Anne: I think he would like certain elements of it very much. Although he would scorn the use of microphones.

    John Moore: I am guessing he would grouse that actors aren't adequately trained to reach the back of the house with their natural voices anymore.  

    Anne: He was used to working in 1,000-seat theatres. That’s what you deal with.

    Sam: My high voice has been my theatrical bane, but in some years it has gotten me hired at CSF because it carries - and I know how to handle the Rippon. There are other actors who have impressive sounding voices, but they can't get them past the fourth row.

    Anne: And I think Dad would scorn the fact that they are not using the whole stage anymore.

    Sam: Despite the fact that they have so much more lighting power now. Dad had about four big searchlights across the top of the stage.

    John Moore: But given the economy over the past decade, I imagine he would be tickled that the festival is still around.

    Sam: He had a great belief in the power of Shakespeare.

    John Moore: What's your take on the state of Shakespeare festival as an entertainment industry? The Institute of Outdoor Drama says attendance at Shakespeare festivals across the country has fallen more than 60 percent in the past 20 years.

    Anne: I believe that.

    John Moore: But the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has re-tooled itself after some tough years and, from outward appearances, appears to be bouncing back.

    Sam: It is, but as the culture changes, and as our iPhone consciousness takes over more and more, I don't know. The festival used to be one of the things you always did in the summer in Boulder. But now there are so many other things to do here. It can get lost in the entertainment shuffle.

    Anne: I went to see the Utah Shakespeare Festival a couple of years ago, and I could see why they do so very well: There is really nothing else to do at night in Cedar City, Utah. But if you come to Boulder, there are a gazillion other things to do. And so you can't quite sell it through the hotels and motels the way you can in Cedar City. You can't rely as much on tourism, so you have to build a culture that draws from your own state. I think we are doing a much better job of drawing from Denver than we used to, and I think a lot of that has to do with hiring more Denver-based actors instead of bringing in so many people from out of state. Now, I think it’s good to bring in people from out of state because that means fresh faces. But I think having a good base of Denver actors is also very important to building a broader audience base.

    John Moore: As we start to wrap up, I want you to channel your father one more time. This is about the nobility of the pursuit: Why is it important that we keep Shakespeare alive moving forward into the next generation?

    Anne: I think the peril we are in is that our audiences are aging out - those people who love and appreciate the live theatre experience. I am not sure the younger generation is being brought up that way. They are so focused on their devices.

    Sam: It parallels the problem that symphony orchestras are having. Audiences for classical music are aging out. How do you capture the young?    

    Anne: I think it takes careful training. I think we have to get schools involved in any way we can. The live anti-bullying tours that CSF does are a great way to get kids interested in what live theatre can be. You have to begin to develop that new generation of theatregoers.

    John Moore: Is part of the solution perhaps opening up the season a bit? Shakespeare is certainly the greatest playwright in the English language. But he's 400 years old.

    Anne: I understand that. But it's called the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, so I think you have to do at least a couple Shakespeares every year.

    John Moore: But the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is offering 10 titles this season – and Shakespeare only wrote three.

    Anne: Do they have to all be Shakespeare? Absolutely not. I think it is important to do other shows, and we are branching out here. But not all contemporary plays will play very well in the Mary Rippon Theatre. That's a thousand outdoor seats. That theatre is particularly well-adapted to Shakespeare.

    Sam: When you look at the non-Shakespeare plays that have done very well in the Mary Rippon, you are looking at Treasure Island ...

    Anne: The Three Musketeers ...

    John Moore: To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Anne: Mockingbird was great outside. But not all plays are going to adapt very well for outdoors.

    John Moore: Like, say, Our Town.

    Anne: No. So I think you have to pick your shows very carefully.

    John Moore: So as long as the Shakespeare Festival keeps going, do you both intend to keep doing it?

    Anne: Well, when they quit casting me … I'll quit.

    John Moore: What, it's not entirely up to you?

    Anne: Well, no, unfortunately. As long as I can remember lines and there is something they want me to do, I will do it.


    • James Sandoe (1912-1980): Directed at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, ending with Pericles in 1973.

    • Julia Sandoe (1918-1992) Taught art in the Boulder Public Schools, retiring in 1978.

    • John Sandoe (1941-2014) joined the Navy and served as a medic with the Marines in Vietnam, where he was awarded a purple heart.

    • Jill Sandoe (1943-) gave up acting to teach taught arts, crafts and home economics in middle schools for almost 20 years. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.

    • Anne Sandoe (1947-) Earned her MFA from Florida State University. Began acting at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 1961. She has taught for more than 30 years and for the past 13 has been the director of MBA program at the University of Colorado’s Business School. She returned to acting at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 2008 and is currently performing in her 15th season.

    • Sam Sandoe (1954-) was in the first class of BFAs to graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder and received his MFA from UC-San Diego. He is now performing in his 26th season with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

    2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Now playing: Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Wittenberg, Henry V and Henry VI, Part One

    Dates: Through Aug. 9 in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre and University of Colorado Mainstage Theatre

    Tickets are available at coloradoshakes.org or by calling 303-492-8008.

    The box office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located in the University Club on the CU-Boulder campus.

    Previous coverage of the 2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival:
    2015 Colorado Shakes: Tried and true; black and blue-blooded
    Our tragic, universal flaw: We are all Othello

    Anne Sandoe's contribution to The Denver Sonnets Project:

    For more on the Denver Sonnets Project, click here
  • 'Miscast 2015' is coming to the Town Hall Arts Center

    by John Moore | Jul 10, 2015

    Last year an annual, silly tradition called Miscast returned as a benefit for the new Denver Actors Fund, and Littleton Town Hall Arts has announced it will host "Miscast 2015."

    “Miscast" is an opportunity for some of the local theatre community’s top performers to sing songs and act out scenes they would never … ever! … get cast to perform on a legitimate stage. This popular tradition returns for one night only on Monday, Sept. 14, again as a benefit for the Denver Actors Fund. The director will again be Robert Michael Sanders, with an assist from Ronni Gallup.

    Performers are now invited to apply for the 12 available slots. An invited panel of local luminaries will choose the dozen most creative, intriguing or outrageous performance proposals. The deadline to apply is Aug. 14. The final line-up will be announced shortly thereafter. 

    Think gender-bending, race-bending and age-bending. Last year featured a Girl Scout singing "My Unfortunate Erection," and members of the handicapped theatre company PHAMALY doing a "Full Monty" strip-tease. For starters.

    It may be all wrong ... but it feels so right.

    Your returning co-hosts are Mark Pergola and Damon Guerrasio. The director is Robert Michael Sanders.

    PERFORMERS: To apply to perform at MISCAST please click here and fill out this simple online form

    Your performance should be no longer than 5 minutes of utter or horrifying brilliance.

    Please note before applying: “Miscast” is a fundraiser, so performers will be asked to purchase their admission tickets. You will also be buying our undying love and affection.

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

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

    Melinda Smart lives out many female actors' dream: She's playing the sadistic dentist from 'Little Shop of Horrors.' Photo by John Moore. Melinda Smart lives out many female actors' dream: She's playing the sadistic dentist from 'Little Shop of Horrors.' Photo by John Moore.
  • Local actor and director Bernie Cardell reaches century milestone

    by John Moore | Jul 08, 2015
    Bernie Cardell quote. Soular Radiant Photography.

    Since the turn of the century, actor and director Bernie Cardell has been in all likelihood the single busiest person in Colorado theatre. His starring role in Spotlight Theatre’s The Foreigner marks his 100th production since 2002. That means Cardell has averaged more than seven productions every year since. He once booked 11 shows in a single calendar year.

    “There was one weekend that year where I had three shows running in the same weekend,” Cardell said. “Now that was insane.”

    Not a lot of creative people ever make it to 100 shows - and certainly not at Cardell’s breakneck pace. He attributes that to getting a late start.

    Luke Terry and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography. “When I discovered theatre later in life - I was 28,” he said, “I felt I had found something I should have been doing my entire life. I feel like I have a lot of lost time to make up for. That certainly keeps me going, as well as the people of this theatre community who are so loving, welcoming and very, very funny.”

    (Photo: Luke Terry and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography.)

    Cardell was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his family to Las Vegas when he was 7. He studied English at the University of New Mexico, moved on to Santa Fe and then to Denver in 2001. He quickly established himself as a comic actor with the E-Project in Lakewood, the precursor to today’s Edge Theatre.

    Since then, he has worked with a whopping 29 local theatre companies, most regularly with Spotlight (in the John Hand Theatre at Colorado Free University) and Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

    The Foreigner
    , which has been extended through Aug. 1, is Larry Shue’s lighthearted comedy about a socially awkward Englishman who pretends to speak no English so he doesn’t have to talk with other guests at a remote fishing lodge in Georgia. But the comedy takes on significant social undertones when Cardell's Charlie learns of an impending, unwelcome visit by the Ku Klux Klan.

    “The biggest challenge with this role is not speaking for so long in Act I,” Cardell said. “Finding ways to connect with the material and the other actors when you are not supposed to understand what they are saying has been the greatest - and most fun - challenge of this show."

    With five more upcoming jobs already booked, it’s unlikely Cardell will be slowing down anytime soon. Cardell took a moment this week to look back – and forward – at his whirlwind 14 years in the Colorado theatre:

    Mari Geasair and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography.

    Mari Geasair and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography.

    John Moore: In your first 100 shows, which two would you say show the greatest range on your resume?

    Bernie Cardell: I would say Angels in America (which I directed) and Run for Your Wife (my first breakout acting role). Does it get any more deeply dramatic than Tony Kushner's masterwork, or any sillier than Ray Cooney's classic farce?

    John Moore: At this stage of your career, do you prefer directing or acting, and why?

    Bernie Cardell: I definitely prefer directing. I have always liked acting and would never want to give it up completely. But with directing, there is a wider scope and vision you can impart to your audience. I adore working with actors and designers to achieve a singular vision for each show I direct, and I love witnessing many divergent paths leading to opening night.

    John Moore: Give us one great all-time favorite anecdote from those first 100 shows.

    Bernie Cardell: I discovered an innate talent for pratfalls by accident. On opening night of Play On! one of the lighting instruments went out, so I had moved upstage. Then, when the maid came out and slipped - as she was supposed to - she crashed into me, and I went down as well. The director loved the moment and decided to keep it in the show. This led to 10 years of tripping, falling over couches and getting smacked in the face with doors.

    John Moore: What’s your Bucket List directing job?

    Bernie Cardell: Stephen Sondheim's Follies.

    John Moore: What’s your Bucket List acting role?

    Bernie Cardell: Mel Edison, the Jack Lemmon role in Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue

    John Moore: So with all of your stage work, it should be pointed out that you still have an outside career to pay the bills. What's your day job?

    Bernie Cardell: I work in the accounts payable department for an engineering company.  December will mark my 10th year with the company.

    John Moore: Do you think the day will ever come when you and other local actors and directors will be fairly compensated for your time and talent? What would it take?

    Bernie Cardell: This brings up the question of what's fair, and what I think is fair is what we are willing to accept. People should never accept a job for less than what they think is fair. They will only resent the project. This is really an issue of supply and demand. As long as actors are willing to work for what a theater is willing to pay, then the compensation won't go up. It's the same with directors.

    John Moore: From your perspective, how would you describe the health of the Colorado theater ecology, and how would that answer compare to when you first started out?

    Bernie Cardell: From the number of shows that are happening, the Colorado theater ecology is healthier than ever. Of the 29 companies I have worked for, 12 are no longer with us. But I would hazard a guess that 16 to 20 new companies have opened to take their place. More companies are featuring new works, which I think is very important. We're holding auditions this weekend where over 150 people will show up. I don't know if there are more actors than 14 years ago, but the level of talent remains strong. It's a great community to work in.

    John Moore: And what shows do you have coming up?

    Bernie Cardell: I am directing several shows:


    The Foreigner: Ticket information

    • Presented by Spotlight Theatre Company
    • Performs through Aug. 1
    • At the John Hand Theater, 7653 E. 1st Place, Denver, CO 80230
    • Showtimes 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets $19-$21
    • Information: 720-880-8727 or www.thisisspotlight.com
  • Video: 'The Tale of the Almighty Sword' performs

    by John Moore | Jul 07, 2015

    The DCPA's second annual year-long Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition culminated June 26 with two fully staged performances of The Tale of the Almighty Sword by Jack Hansen of Arapahoe High School. 

    "Words can't summarize what I have experienced," Hansen said. "It has shown me that what I want to do with my life is endless."

    The program was designed to nurture Colorado high-school student writers, develop new plays and inspire creativity through playwriting. Members of the DCPA Education staff conducted classroom workshops for nearly 3,000 students last fall, which led to 158  one-act play submissions. Of those, 10 were chosen as semifinalists and three were then selected to have their plays workshopped and read by professional actors at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit.

    'The Tale of the Almighty Sword' by Jack Hansen. Pictured: Michelle Piccone. Photo by John Moore.At that point, Hansen's play was chosen to be fully performed by DCPA Education summer students in the Conservatory Theatre.

    The Tale of the Almighty Sword is a comedy inspired by Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The action follows a sword crafted by the gods that gets passed on from person to person - emphasis on "passed on." Anyone who touches the sword must carry it until death, and - let's just say Hansen's play comes with a high body count.

    In the video above, DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore show you excerpts from the performances, along with comments from Hansen, Director Steven Cole Hughes and actors Michelle Piccone and Sean Coughlin - both of whom, like Hansen, incidentally also attended Arapahoe High School. (Piccone is pictured above right. Photo by John Moore.)

    "This program allows students to try. It opens their minds to a whole new world of possibilities," said Coughlin.

    Added Hughes: "The film director John Hughes said the teenage voice is the most important voice to be heard. That's why we are doing this."

    Play submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and educational professionals. The three finalists each received a cash scholarship of $250. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists received a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms.

    For more information on the program and how to schedule a workshop in your school in the fall of 2015, click here.

    Our Almighty Sword photo gallery:

    All of our photos are downloadable for free, in a variety of sizes. Simply click "View original Flickr image." All photos by John Moore.

    Video: Student playwriting program featured at 2015 Colorado New Play Summit:

    Almighty Sword cast list

    Written by Jack Hansen
    Avery Dell: The Old Knight
    Nik Velimirovic: Sir Nicholas
    Zoe Fonck: Rubert
    Michelle Piccone: Kaj/Merchant's Wife
    Nicholas Chavez: Christopher/Jaquis
    Matthew Cooper Parone: Merchant
    Maddie Beatty: Thief
    Rachel Sanderson: Narrator
    Sean Coughlin: The Almighty Voice
    Steven Cole Hughes: Director

    Some previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2014-15 Playwriting Competition:
    Video: Highlights of readings from the Colorado New Play Summit
    Three student plays chosen for Colorado New Play Summit readings
    Denver Center launches statewide high-school playwriting initiative
    Official information page on the DCPA's teen playwriting program

    Meet our 10 talented semifinalists:
  • Divide by Kiana Trippler, ThunderRidge High School
  • Election by Catherine Novotny, Grandview High School
  • Lark’s Mechanics by Kaytlin Camp, Gunnison High School
  • Life According to Mauve by Keely Kritz, Denver School of the Arts
  • Open Mic by Joshua Contreras, Gunnison High School
  • Paper Clips by Christina Arias, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
  • The Suburbs by Kendra Knapp, Valor Christian High School
  • The Tale of the Almighty Sword by Jack Hansen, Arapahoe High School
  • The Window on the Fourth Wall by Ryan McCormick, Fort Collins High School
  • Unspoken by Nathan Mast, Thomas B. Doherty High School

The DCPA's Regional High School Playwriting Competition is sponsored by the Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from FirstBank, MarkWest Energy Partners, The Ross Foundation, Stonebridge Companies and June Travis.

'The Tale of the Almighty Sword' playwright Jack Hansen. Photo by John Moore.'The Tale of the Almighty Sword' playwright Jack Hansen. Photo by John Moore.
  • Video, photos: Randy Weeks Memorial Golf Tournament raises $45,000

    by John Moore | Jul 02, 2015

    The DCPA's 12th annual fundraising golf tournament, held June 29 at the Lakewood Country Club, was renamed this year in honor of the late DCPA President Randy Weeks.

    The 2015 Randy Weeks Memorial Golf Tournament raised $45,000 for the Bobby G Awards, an annual celebration of achievement in Colorado high-school theatre founded by Weeks in 2013.

    Over 12 years, the annual tournament, previously called the Swing Time Tournament, has raised $1 million for DCPA programming.

    Students from Westminster High School sing from 'Rent' before the Randy Weeks Memorial Golf Tournament. Photo by John Moore. The year-long Bobby G Awards program includes personal workshops at all 30 participating schools hosted by DCPA Education Teaching Artists. A field of several dozen professional adjudicators then fan out across the state and attend those schools'  musicals, then provide constructive feedback.

    Their scores serve as the basis for a Tony Awards-style celebration at the end of each schoolyear held at the Buell Theatre. The two students named Outstanding Actor and Actress advance to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City.

    In the video above, DCPA Broadway executive Director John Ekeberg welcomes the field of 68 participating golfers and explains the value of the Bobby G Awards.

    Just before the shotgun start, students from Westminster High School's Rent (pictured above) serenaded the golfers with that show's signature song, "Seasons of Love." Rent was one of five nominated outstanding musicals at the most recent Bobby G Awards ceremony held May 28 at the Buell Theatre. They are introduced by Andre' Rodriguez, who won the Bobby G Award for Outstanding Direction.

    "Regardless of whether or not they pursue theatre as a career," Rodriguez said, "they are getting skills that are truly preparing them for the 21st century."

    Finally, new DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller thanked the golfers for supporting both Weeks' dream, and the DCPA's mission.

    "Randy really wanted to celebrate the craft of theatre for high-school students, and to celebrate the arts and culture in schools in the same way that sports are celebrated," Shiller said.

    Weeks was a lifelong fan of golf and theatre. Twelve years ago, he and former Development Director Dorothy Denny started the DCA's annual golf tournament at Lakewood Country Club, where Weeks was a member.

    The golfers were afforded several fun opportunities to win show-related prizes. One hole dedicated to the Theatre Company's upcoming production of As You Like It had golfers aim their tee shots at a life-sized fairway cutout of William Shakespeare. A closest-to-the-pin par-3 hole was designated the Sweeney Todd "Closest Shave" hole.

    At another tee stop, golfers posed for photographs as their favorite Wizard of Oz characters. And in honor of DCPA Broadway's upcoming launch of the If/Then national tour, golfers on one hole had to designate one player to pull a random fortune card from a dealer. It either contained good news (such as, "Subtract one shot from your score") or bad news (such as, "Proceed to the nearest bunker.")

    Most golfers played in a best-ball team competition, while the elite players in the field played a straight, stroke-play format.
    Photos and video by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    For more information on the Bobby G Awards, click here.

    A panorama showing golfers participating in the pre-golf putting contest.  Randy Weeks Memorial Golf Tournament. Photo by John Moore.
    A panorama showing golfers participating in the pre-golf putting contest at the Randy Weeks Memorial Golf Tournament. Photo by John Moore.

    Our photo gallery from the 2015 Randy Weeks Memorial Golf Tournament:

    All photos by John Moore. Click on "Go to original image" and download any image for free.

    2015 Tournament Sponsors:
    Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management
    Comcast Spotlight
    Fineline Graphics
    Sprint Press
    Wilks Broadcasting
    MKK Consulting Engineers, Inc.
    Centerre Construction
    Shawn and Elisa Fowler
    Max and Kea Bull

    Golfers pose as their favorite 'Wizard of Oz' characters. The beloved musical returns to Denver next year. Photo by Chelley Canales.
    Golfers pose as their favorite "Wizard of Oz" characters. The beloved musical returns to Denver next year. Photo by Chelley Canales.

    Our 2014-15 Bobby G Awards coverage to date:
    Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High School
    Break a Leg video: Cheering on Bobby G Awards winners in New York
    Bobby G Awards winners' daily video blogs
    Video: Outstanding Musical nominees perform
    Video: Outstanding Actor Nominee Performances
    Video: Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Video: A look at Durango's Outstanding Musical, Les Misérables
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Video: The 2015 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Andre' Rodriguez's stirring Bobby G Awards speech
    Video: See how we introduced all 30 participating schools
    Video: Page to Stage highlights with Bobby G Awards winners
    Meet your Bobby G Awards nominees, in their own words Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards: Complete list of nominations 
    2015 Bobby G Awards announces list of participating schools
    Annaleigh Ashford raises $735 for new Bobby G Awards memorial fund
    Denver Center establishes Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for The Bobby G Awards

    2015 Tournament field:






























































    Von Wold




















    St. Martin











































    Mary Ann










  • Break a Leg video: Cheering on Bobby G Awards winners tonight

    by John Moore | Jun 29, 2015

    Evatt Salinger and Emma Buchanan of Durango High School, who last month were named Outstanding Actor and Actress at the 2015 Bobby G Awards at the Buell Dinger and Brady O'Neill of the Colorado Rockies. åTheatre, have represented Colorado this past weekend at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, which culminate tonight (June 29) with the announcement of national winners - and a performance by all participants on a Broadway stage in New York City.

    The DCPA NewsCenter collected video well-wishes from friends and family in Durango, as well as previous Bobby G Awards representatives, staff from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and even Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger.

    Watch as Salinger and Buchanan (we call them E&E for short) receive encouragement from grandparents, teachers and even DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. 

    Please check back at the DCPA NewsCenter tonight for competition results, which are colloquially known as The Jimmy Awards..

    Peter Salinger wishes his sin well at tonight's Jimmy Awards in New York City. To watch, play the video at the top of this page.

    Peter Salinger wishes his son well at tonight's Jimmy Awards in New York City. To watch, play the video at the top of this page.

    Our 2014-15 Bobby G Awards coverage to date:
    Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High School
    Bobby G Awards winners' daily video blog
    Video: Outstanding Actor Nominee Performances
    Video: Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Video: A look at Durango's Outstanding Musical, Les Misérables
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Video: The 2015 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Andre' Rodriguez's stirring Bobby G Awards speech
    Video: See how we introduced all 30 participating schools
    Video: Page to Stage highlights with Bobby G Awards winners
    Meet your Bobby G Awards nominees, in their own words Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards: Complete list of nominations 
    2015 Bobby G Awards announces list of participating schools
    Annaleigh Ashford raises $735 for new Bobby G Awards memorial fund
    Denver Center establishes Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for The Bobby G Awards

    For more information on the Bobby G Awards, which honor excellence in Colorado high-school theatre, click here.
  • Video: 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Performances

    by John Moore | Jun 23, 2015

    The fourth in our series of five videos covering the 2015 Bobby G Awards on May 28 at the Buell Theatre is a brief montage showing highlights from the live medley performed by all Outstanding Actor and Actress nominees.

    Opening the number are 2014 winners Abby Noble and Conner Kingsley. The nominees are:

    • Emma Buchanan, Eponine in Durango High School's Les Misérables
    • Raegan DeBord, Amneris in Mountain View High School's Aida
    • Ty Eatherton, Puck in Chaparral High School's Puck's Potion
    • Sam Hulsizer, Nathan Detroit in Rock Canyon High School's Guys and Dolls
    • Charlie Kolbrener, Moonface Martin in Fairview High School's Anything Goes
    • Taylor Lang, Aida in Mountain View High School's Aida
    • Dylan Ruder, Beast in Valor Christian High School's Beauty and the Beast
    • Alei Russo, Reno Sweeney in Fairview High School's Anything Goes
    • Evatt Salinger, Jean Valjean in Durango High School's Les Misérables
    • Lea Schoengarth, Mimi Marquez in Westminster High School's Rent

    Medley produced by Claudia Carson and Ryan Durfee for the the DCPA.

    The video culminates with the announcement of the winners.

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore.

    2015 Bobby G Awards: Outstanding Actor and Actress nominees. Photo by John Moore

    2015 Bobby G Awards: Outstanding Actor and Actress nominees. Photo by John Moore

    Our 2014-15 Bobby G Awards coverage to date:

    Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High School
    Video: Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Video: A look at Durango's Outstanding Musical, Les Misérables
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Video: The 2015 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Andre' Rodriguez's stirring Bobby G Awards speech
    Video: See how we introduced all 30 participating schools
    Video: Page to Stage highlights with Bobby G Awards winners
    Meet your Bobby G Awards nominees, in their own words Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards: Complete list of nominations 
    2015 Bobby G Awards announces list of participating schools
    Annaleigh Ashford raises $735 for new Bobby G Awards memorial fund
    Denver Center establishes Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for The Bobby G Awards
  • Thompson: Theatre Company turned questions into exclamation points

    by John Moore | Jun 13, 2015

    Selected images from the 2014-15 DCPA Theatre Company season. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen

    An expanded New Play Summit, robust attendance and a slate of challenging new work all helped Kent Thompson overcome big challenges entering his 10th season.

    Kent Thompson went into his 10th season as Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company with some feelings of uncertainty. He came out of it feeling like things could not have gone much better – on stage or off.

    “The beginning of the season was a time of both strategy and sacrifice at the same time,” Thompson said.

    Kent Thompson2014-15 would be the first season in the company’s 36-year history without a company of resident actors audiences could expect to appear throughout the year. That choice was made in part because the company also made the strategic decision to offer eight shows in 2014-15, down from 10 the year before. The goal, Thompson said, was to focus more attention, time and resources on each individual offering. That would make for higher quality on both sides of the footlights - but it would also mean fewer jobs to go around for both actors and crew.

    There was also much at creative stake with a high-risk season that started and ended with two big musicals (The Unsinkable Molly Brown and The 12), both of which brought big-name creative teams into the Denver Center’s artistic womb to work alongside the company’s pool of in-house designers and crew. The slate would include four world-premiere productions - fully half of the season - and seven titles that had never before been staged anywhere in Colorado.

    “There was a lot there that could go wrong,” Thompson said. 

    And almost nothing did.

    Molly Brown and The 12 were both positively received. Molly Brown was the culmination of a nearly decade-long quest to reimagine and refresh the classic 1960 Broadway musical about one of Colorado’s most beloved citizens. Directed by three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall and shepherded in every other way by book writer and lyricist Dick Scanlan, the Denver Center introduced a more fully fleshed Molly Brown and a far more complex love story with husband Leadville Johnny Brown. Castle Rock native Beth Malone was widely praised for her performance as Molly Brown, then went to Broadway, where she was nominated as Best Actress in a Musical for her work in the most celebrated new musical of the year, Fun Home.

    The 12 brought composer Neil Berg and Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle) to Denver to explore what might have happened in the three days after the disciples went into hiding following Jesus’ crucifixion. The result was a simultaneously thoughtful and rocking new musical that asked serious questions about faith and personal responsibility in the wake of their leader’s death. The staging earned a four-star rating from Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post, who called it “visceral and vivid.”

    “What might have happened” was also the question playwright Kemp Powers took on when he wrote One Night in Miami, another clear triumph of the 2014-15 season. Performed against the backdrop of Ferguson and roiling racial tensions across America, One Night in Miami imagined what might have happened in a Miami hotel room between Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X and Jim Brown immediately after Clay shocked Sonny Liston to win boxing’s heavyweight championship in 1964.

    The season also included a terrifying staging of Lord of the Flies in the slot Thompson reserves to appeal to middle-school students; the 22nd Denver Center staging of the holiday tradition A Christmas Carol; and a winning production of the most popular play in America this year: Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

    Benediction. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. The other two world premieres were Kent Haruf’s Benediction, which completed the first trilogy in DCPA Theatre Company history, and James Still’s Appoggiatura – the story of three people sharing their grief for the same man while traveling in Venice.

    (Photo at right from "Benediction," by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    Perhaps most significantly, Thompson successfully expanded his signature Colorado New Play Summit to two weeks.

    “To me, that’s been 10 years coming, but it was the perfect time to expand the Summit,” Thompson said. “There was a demand for it, and it seems to be drawing newer audiences to us both locally and nationally.”

    Kent Thompson QuoteThe Theatre Company hit its projected attendance goals for all eight shows, which is believed to be a first in company history. The overall season attendance of 125,544 represents an 11 percent drop from 2013-14, but considering the number of shows was reduced by 20 percent, 2014-15 actually marked a significant spike in per-show attendance. That was reflected in the size of nightly audiences in the Theatre Company’s three theatres. On average, each performance was filled to 75 percent of capacity – up from 65 the year before.

    “People tend to have a better time when there are more people in the room because theatre is by its very nature communal,” Thompson said. “Think about those moments when it is packed, and there is such a buzz in the house. That's a better experience not only for audiences, but also for the actors.”

    There was some concern that the 2014-15 season would not include a Shakespeare title. Thompson promised the Bard’s sabbatical would be short, and indeed, the Theatre Company’s first-ever staging of As You Like It will help launch the 2015-16 season when it opens Sept. 25.

    Here are excerpts from our annual end-of-the season talk with Kent Thompson:

    John Moore: The season began at a time of great change. How did you approach things?

    Kent Thompson: Producing eight shows instead of 10 or 11 was an opportunity for us to focus on how to improve everything we do, from how we produce each play to how we sell them to how we inform people about them. It was very risky, and some of it was heartbreaking. But if it worked, it would be very exciting. We would drive up the total number of people seeing the shows. We would have a healthier balance of ticket sales and contributions. But for me, the chance to focus more time and resources on eight shows instead of 11 was really the secret to success. It was hard because I had to make a lot of really difficult choices that affected both staff and resources. But we did it. And at the same time, we decided to expand the Colorado New Play Summit to two weeks. And we did two musicals in a single season - not in any way that I planned that. So it was mixed.

    John Moore: As you said, fewer shows meant fewer hours for your people in the shops and on your stages. But the shows were well-received across the board, and your attendance was up.

    Kent Thompson: Yes. And that's the thinking of the entire team here at the Denver Center, whether it is production or marketing or development or elsewhere. Part of the idea was this: How do we deliver something that is unforgettable and intimately shared - and how do we up our game at the same time? It was based on a real commitment by everyone to create ways that we can serve more people and take our mission further.

    John Moore: Let’s review some of the major points of the season, starting with The Unsinkable Molly Brown. You opened with a musical, led by a national creative team, and in collaboration with an outside producer (NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt). That's a pretty good indication of how things are changing around here. That is a high-stakes undertaking. How do you think you came out?

    Kent Thompson: I think it was a great experience. There were some major changes that really worked - such as really activating the Molly Brown character, and not allowing her to disappear in the second act like she does in the original just because you don't want to talk about her activism. I thought the idea of a strong woman who has strong convictions and she acts on them - to her own success or pain - was really great. That was the biggest change. I thought there were some incredible moments. I think the toughest challenge for the creative team was this: How do you even do a musical on The Stage Theatre? It's a thrust stage (meaning the playing area reaches out into the auditorium so that the actors are by audience on three sides). That was the challenge for Sense & Sensibility, too. Most theatres in New York are proscenium stages (where the actors perform entirely behind the stage arch). Whether Molly Brown will go big, I don't know. But it was a huge event for us. And by us, I mean Denver and Colorado. I always wanted to do it because would I knew it have a first-class creative team and first-class producer enhancing the production. And it was about something that is really important in Colorado history. I thought there was some great talent in it, too.

    John Moore: You have always measured the success of your new plays by their continued life. So do you feel like this has one?

    Kent Thompson: I feel like it has a continued life, but I don't know what it is, or when it will happen. And that’s not from a lack of interest. That's from the fact that you've got a first-class creative team and a first-class producer who also happens to run NBC Entertainment. Their schedules book up way in advance. But, yes, I think it's on the way to something. 

    John Moore: Since you mentioned it: What about Sense & Sensibility?

    Kent Thompson: The issue there is a little more complex because they are considering going in many possible directions – like maybe trying the Asian market first, which is huge for English-spoken musical theatre. I mean, it's becoming ginormous over there. They are also considering going to England. One of the barriers for them is probably that Jane Austen is adapted a lot. I've seen workshops since our show here in Denver, and they have advanced how the story is structured. I think it has become more interesting. I think they've got some incredible music and storytelling. I think they have something really valuable. And I think it will have a future.

    John Moore: A personal favorite of mine was Lord of the Flies, and I understand that every available seat to every student matinee performance was filled – and with some wildly enthusiastic audiences.

    Kent Thompson: Yes, they were.

    John Moore: Was it received with the same fervor by adult audiences in the evening performances?

    Kent Thompson: It did pretty decently. I did foresee that men and boys would find it much more fascinating than women and girls, because it's about a male rite of passage. What I didn't foresee - which I should have - is that young adults and children do not walk into a show like this with the same dread that parents and older audiences do. One funny story I have is that a woman told me she was so happy we didn't include the cannibalism scene. ... There is no cannibalism scene in the book. But that lets you know the kind of state that people were walking into our show with. What was fascinating to me is that some people loved it. And some people absolutely hated it. And a lot of people were just kind of speechless after it. What I really noticed was that people were endlessly talking about it, even a few days after seeing it.

    John Moore: And when people say they hated it, it's likely that means they hated where the play took them.

    Kent Thompson: Exactly. They hated where the play took them because it took them to a dark place. And we have a lot of dark places around the world today that are tough to deal with, so I think it created a visceral reaction. That's where that experience takes you.

    John Moore: Well you certainly offered a counter in your first Christopher Durang play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

    Kent Thompson: I think that is his most approachable play.

    John Moore: Tell me about choosing to stage the final chapter of the Kent Haruf trilogy in the smaller Space Theatre after offering the previous two in the Stage Theatre.

    Kent Thompson: That decision really strongly came down to this: Which two theatres do I think Appoggiatura and Benediction belong in most? I thought the nature of the storytelling in Benediction was not about the expansive community that the first two stories were about. So I thought it would benefit from the intimacy of the smaller theatre.

    John Moore: And of course you expanded the Colorado New Play Summit to two weeks.

    Kent Thompson: I think attendance at the Summit proved there is a lot of pent-up demand for new work, particularly locally and regionally, and expanding allowed us to accommodate more visitors both from here and from out of town. The other thing it did, to varying degrees of success, was embolden the playwrights much more to actually revise while they were here.

    John Moore: Did you see significant changes in the plays from the first week to the second?

    Kent Thompson: Depending on the play, yes. I saw improvement in some plays, and, in others, not so much. But it was interesting because it gave the playwrights the opportunity to have a couple of looks at it. I think our challenge is to figure out how the playwrights and our staff can best use those two weeks.

    John Moore: You had more industry people here than ever before. What kind of feedback did you get?

    Kent Thompson: They liked that we gave them many additional opportunities to engage - whether it was the workshops with Matthew Lopez or Paula Vogel, or the Local Playwrights Slam, or our high-school playwriting competition. What we got back from the field is that this feels like a genuine home for new plays, and that we are putting our money where our mouth is. They also feel like it's well-run. There's a kind of high they perceive both from the staff at the Denver Center and all the people who come to it. They feel like it's not stuck in the same place. And I think a lot of festivals where you do a few readings and a couple of world-premieres can get stuck in place. But I get a lot of expressions about how well we run the Colorado New Play Summit. Around the country, what playwrights are hearing is, “Well, we want a new play - but we need one that’s either going to be a Broadway musical, or we need one that is no more than four characters and has only one set." That's not what we are looking for here. It's more diverse. What we are doing here is really trying to create a better process to make a new play.

    John Moore: And that leads us to One Night in Miami. That play created a different kind of buzz than I've ever felt at the Denver Center before. In One Night in Miami, I saw changes within the actors themselves over the time they spent here in Denver. In some cases, I think it changed the direction their lives are going to take moving forward. And it changed how they look at themselves as black men in America today.

    Kent Thompson: For me, that was a magical moment in the theatre where everybody we cast, and everybody we had working on the show, both internally and externally, were singing in harmony from the beginning. Everything came together in a kind of perfect moment, and that says a lot about (Director) Carl Cofield's leadership. I think it is an incredibly well-written play. Even though it's short, it goes into depth with all six characters. I'm sad that Ferguson happened. But I think because of some of those incidents, the play became more resonant in terms of how you define yourself as an African-American man, or as just a man a friend, a leader - any of those things. There was something about it that was kind of magical, and it’s what you hope for when you pick it. And also, we had so many people who helped us, whether it was Tina Walls (sister of one of the Little Rock Nine), whether it was bringing the Denver African-American Philanthropists to us, or some of the other outreach. But this was a play that drew everyone in. It didn't matter your color.  So many people were talking about it. I would say that people are still talking about that play. There was this desire to make this play blossom – and you could feel that as soon as you walked into the theatre.

    John Moore: And you don't get many plays that are set 50 years ago that tell you more about what's going on with race relations in America today.

    Kent Thompson: It really came down to the fact that these were six people who were really trying to figure out what it meant to be African-American in the 1960s. Just like we've got so many people trying to figure out what it means to be African-American in the United States today.

    John Moore: And we finish with The 12, which really spoke to people of faith. When you are continually trying to tell the stories of underserved communities in Denver, does it occur to you that people of faith might be one of those communities?

    Kent Thompson: I was drawn to the story and the music and the writing first. But I knew it would attract a different audience in terms of the faith-based. I also knew there might be another part of the audience that I would offend. So I thought, "Let's just put it out there. Let's find out." Look, I'm the son of a Southern Baptist preacher, so I knew everything about this story that there is to know, both written in Christian history and theology, and in the Bible - and I thought the idea was incredible. I thought the combination with rock ‘n roll was really fascinating. I had no doubt that it would draw from a Christian community, but I was hoping that it would draw from a lot of different faiths. A lot of people who don’t have a faith but have gone through the loss of a seminal figure related to it. Because whether you are talking about Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy, we all face those moments when we lose somebody we think of as our leader. Now what do we do? So for me, it was a really interesting experience to watch a group of people trapped in a room work their way back to the core of what they felt they learned.

    John Moore: Robert Schenkkan and I talked about how people of faith don’t always expect their faith to be taken seriously or respected in the theatre.

    Kent Thompson: That’s true. I think the plays in the American theatre tend to be more on the liberal spectrum. We’re artists. We tend to be the guys who are outside the church performing on the steps, and then get arrested.

    John Moore: But one of the questions I got from people of faith is that the Bible tells us Jesus did show up in that room. So why not give him a place in his own story?

    Kent Thompson: Actually, if you go by the Bible, he didn't show up in the room. If you go by Christian history, he did. But also, Mary Magdalene is not a prostitute in the Bible. Church leaders made her into a prostitute 200 to 300 years later. For me, the real issue is how do they struggle with their faith and re-center and go on in the face of most likely being killed? We know how their lives ended. That's all in Christian history. I see both sides. I had one patron come up to me and say, "I was upset that Christ was not in it. And that’s the only thing I didn’t like about it.” And the very next day, a patron came up to me and said, "I am so glad that Christ was not in it, because that made the story so much more dramatic.”

    John Moore: So how would you summarize the overall reaction from your audience? Judging by social media, it was clear some people were coming five and six times. That happens with Broadway touring shows like Wicked, but you don’t see that very often with Theatre Company shows.

    Kent Thompson: No, and it also rarely happens for something that’s new. But I think it was an extraordinary response. What do we take from that? That there's a thirst for genuine explorations of faith. But is it simply Christian faith? I mean, we've done two now recently, including Shadowlands. I have produced it and directed it before, and both places were very different climates. But they both drew huge audiences - and not because of Narnia. Because there is a grappling at the core of it. “Is my way the right way?”

    John Moore: When you look at The 12, Shadowlands, A Christmas Carol and even to an extent the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown, do you think you have stumbled onto an underserved audience in the faith-based?

    Kent Thompson: I think we have stumbled upon an audience that normally doesn't come to the theatre. You can say they are underserved in the sense that we haven't normally done plays like those. However, as an artistic director right now, I am thinking about looking at expressions of other faiths, because I don't want to just simply do Christian-based things.

    John Moore: What’s next for The 12?

    Kent Thompson: I don’t think Robert Schenkkan necessarily anticipates that it will ever go to New York. But he does think it will have a life all over America - and I agree.

    John Moore: So how do you summarize the season as a whole?

    Kent Thompson: If I had to say what the theme of the season was, I’d say it was a series of comic, romantic, tragic and dramatic stories of people figuring out a way to move forward in spite of being stuck … or grieving … or in trouble. It was really about how we deal with that and re-create our lives. I think you can see that radiating throughout the season. You can see that in Molly Brown and in what she wants to do with her life. You can see that in The 12. You can see that in One Night in Miami. You can see it in Benediction. And even in Lord of the Flies: Those kids are changed forever by that experience - and a lot of them not for the better. But at the end of the play, this is a story that says the Piggys of the world are important.

    A look ahead to 2015-16 season:
    Sept. 11-Oct 11: Lookingglass Theatre Company’s Lookingglass Alice, Stage Theatre
    Sept. 25-Nov 1: As You Like It, Space Theatre
    Oct. 9-Nov. 15: Tribes, Ricketson Theatre
    Nov. 27-Dec 27: A Christmas Carol, Stage Theatre
    Jan. 22-Feb. 21, 2016: The Nest, Space Theatre
    Jan. 29-Feb 28, 2016: All The Way, Stage Theatre
    Feb. 5-March 13, 206: FADE, Ricketson Theatre
    April 8-May 15, 2016: Sweeney Todd, with DeVotchKa orchestrations, Stage Theatre
    To read more about the season, click here
    Theatre Company introduces bold new artwork for 2015-16 season
    For subscription information, click here


    Some of our favorite stories this season from the DCPA NewsCenter:
    Visiting Leadville with DCPA's new Molly Brown, Beth Malone
    Cold coffee, hot popcorn make for a good Vanya stew
    Kent Haruf: The complete final interview
    Video: A behind-the-scenes look at Lord of the Flies
    The #CarolCallout is spreading across the country
    'Benediction' opens as a celebration of ‘The Precious Ordinary’
    Appoggiatura's James Still is running to catch up to himself
    For two inaugural DCPA actors, you can come home again
    Fourth-graders have tough questions for One Night in Miami cast
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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