• 'The Christians' video: How do you know Kevin Kilner?

    by John Moore | Feb 12, 2017


    You might know veteran actor Kevin Kilner from dozens of stage and screen credits. In the first part of our two-part video, we asked Kilner to talk about a few of our favorites: House of Cards, Home Alone 3 and the film that still gets him recognized around the globe, Disney's Smart House.

    We also talk about one of his crowning stage achievements: Playing the Gentleman Caller in the 50th anniversary Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie in 1994 opposite Julie Harris, Calista Flockhart and Zeljko Ivanek. Kilner talks about a radical character choice he made for the production that some might find heretic. Wrote the New York Times: “Kilner is the real discovery of this production. Touched by Laura’s timidity, he draws her out of her shell, just as her worshipful manner reawakens the golden boy he was back in senior class.”

    Kilner says when he got to the line each night where he tells Laura he can't call on her again, he wanted it to feel to the audience "as if I was pulling barbed wire out of my stomach."

    Now through Feb. 26, Kilner is playing Pastor Paul in DCPA Theatre Company's The Christians, Lucas Hnath's new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church. In Part 2, Kilner will speak more directly about the play.

    Video by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    The Christians: Ticket information
    270x270-the-christians-art-ttA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Plays through Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Playwright: The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    Behind the scenes video: Making stained glass for The Christians
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Video: What audiences are saying about The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    Meet the cast: Krystel Lucas
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics</copy.>

  • Last Man Out: Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore remembered

    by John Moore | Feb 12, 2017
    Harold G. Moore Quote

    NOTE: In tribute to Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore of Crested Butte, who died late Friday night in Auburn, Ala., we are re-posting John Moore’s 2001 interview for The Denver Post. Hal Moore's book about his experience in Vietnam was made into the movie "We Were Soldiers." He would have turned 95 years old on Monday.

    Hal Moore told his men: “I’m going to be the first man on the ground in any big battle we go into, and I am going to be the last one out.”

    By John Moore
    Originally published March 18, 2001

    For three days in 1965, Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore fought and won the first great battle of the Vietnam War and changed the course of history. Outnumbered 10 to 1, the first battalion of the 7th Air Cavalry not only survived but managed to send the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into a temporary retreat.

    But when a relief battalion arrived, the commander refused to leave. The officer he had put in charge of tracking the 79 dead and 121 wounded as they were being airlifted out had unsettling news. Somewhere out there, amid the knife-like elephant grass where more than 1,000 enemy dead had been left to rot in the 110-degree heat, was Thomas C. Pizzino of Hopedale, Ohio.

    Moore would not leave him there. Three months earlier at Fort Benning, Ga., he had promised his men that none would be left behind on a jungle battlefield. Later, helicopters were so full of dead and wounded men that blood drained out of the cracks in the fuselages.

    "I've always been a strong believer that you bring home your men. If they are dead, you go get them. You bring them back," Moore said in an interview at his home in Crested Butte. "I had told my men that I'm going to be the first man on the ground in any big battle we go into, and I am going to be the last one out. I'm going to bring you all home, and if I go down, I hope you'll bring me home."

    Moore and a company of about 50 men, feeling relief from the imminent possibility of death for the first time in 72 hours, went back out, crawling on hands and knees to the spot where Pizzino had been fighting, and recovered his body.

    "No one thought twice about doing that," said Moore.

    The next day, the battalion that replaced Moore's was ambushed, and 70 percent of the Americans were killed or wounded. The four-day death toll rose to 234 Americans and 3,561 North Vietnamese.

    Harold G. Moore"Hi. I'm Hal Moore."

    That's how the retired three-star general modestly greets strangers at the Queen of All Saints Catholic Church potluck dinner in Crested Butte. Not that there are many in the town of 1,085 who don't already know Moore and his wife of 51 years, Julie, who have blended into the fabric of the community since moving here in 1977 at the urging of former Secretary of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway. The same cannot be said of the bright yellow 1976 International Scout they use to get around town.

    Moore is 79, has had two hip replacements, a broken back and wears two hearing aids. But just try keeping up with him. He skis cross-country three times a week, hikes, fishes and quotes Aeschylus. Everyone here knows him as an avid outdoorsman and devout parishioner. Not everyone knows him as a true American hero.

    News report: American hero Harold G. Moore dies in Alabama

    His home sits halfway up the side of Mount Crested Butte amid condos and ski chalets, but it's easy to spot from the bottom by the gigantic American flag he flies from his back deck each day. Dwarfed by the red, white, and blue are three much smaller flags, tattered and gray. Outside an impeccably maintained home with military memorabilia and more than 1,500 books, the withering little rags are the only things that seem less than perfect.

    Life here could not be more unlike the battlefield he left 14,000 miles behind 36 years ago, but has never left his mind.

    "I don't think a day passes that I don't think about that battle," said Moore.

    On Nov. 14, 1965, Moore's mission in Vietnam was a lot more clear than the overall objective of his nation. "My instructions that day were to find the enemy and kill them," Moore said.

    In July, President Lyndon B. Johnson had ordered the Air Mobile Division to Vietnam, thus introducing to warfare the transport of military troops by helicopter. Johnson would do little else, in Moore's opinion, to ensure the success of the U.S. soldiers, and many of the men who went to their deaths there died understanding only one cause.

    "Troops in battle don't fight for what some president says on TV," Moore said. "They don't fight for mom, the flag or for apple pie. They fight for one another. They fight to stay alive. And they become brothers for life."

    Moore's first job in the  Ia Drang River Valley was to secure a tiny helicopter landing zone so that the enemy could be engaged. The area was called LZ X-Ray. Moore had no idea that when he touched down at the jungle base of the Chu Pong mountain that he was being dropped into the center of hell.

    "I had very little information about how many enemy were in the area," Moore said. They were everywhere. Moore's men captured two unarmed North Vietnamese who told him the dense mountain was filled with soldiers who wanted very much to kill Americans, but couldn't find any.

    X-Ray was so small, helicopters could only drop 80 of Moore's 429 men at a time, once every 35 minutes. The PAVN had 2,000 veteran soldiers on the ground and in the trees, and 6,000 more were just a half-day's march away.

    Within 30 minutes of Moore's arrival, long before all of his men could mass, one of the most savage battles in military annals began. The 29 men who would come to be known as the Lost Platoon were tricked into advancing 200 yards from X-Ray and were cut off by the PAVN. All but seven of the Americans were dead or wounded before they could be rescued the next day. "I ordered my men to eliminate that platoon, but they met with fierce resistance," PAVN Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huu An later said. "I suppose that when they had to choose between life and death, the Americans chose life."

    On Day 2, X-Ray was dangerously close to being overrun. "You could hear the screams of men calling for medics, calling for their mothers, wounded men screaming in three languages," Moore said. "When you are in a situation like that, surrounded by noise, smoke, dust, screams, explosions, machine guns, hand grenades, people dropping all around and bullets whizzing around you like a swarm of bees, you have to remain cool and calm. If you ever think you might lose, you've already lost."

    Moore yelled "Broken Arrow" into his radio, a command ordering every available fighter bomber in South Vietnam to come to his aid, and the sky soon turned into a sea of fire. But two U.S. planes were given the wrong coordinates, and the fiery napalm bombs they dropped burned some of Moore's men alive.

    Joseph Galloway was a 23-year-old UPI reporter who managed to get himself dropped by helicopter into X-Ray holding a camera in one hand and a rifle in the other. He could see three American soldiers in the flames. He voluntarily raised up under fire to help drag in one of the soldiers, but the flesh of the ankle came off in his hands. The other two survived.

    The air power gave the PAVN nowhere to hide, and it turned the battle around. By the next day, the enemy had retreated to the other side of the Chu Pong mountain in Cambodia, knowing U.S. policy would keep them from crossing the border. "When that battle ended, I knew we had accomplished something historic," Moore said. "I knew it would be cause for critical decisions to be made in Saigon and in Washington and in Hanoi."

    The slaughter of the relief battalion the next day was precipitated by a decision not to chopper the soldiers out of X-Ray but to make them walk 3 miles through enemy territory toward another U.S. landing zone called Albany.

    But the U.S. government proclaimed total victory, ignoring the casualties at Albany. The U.S. was convinced its helicopters and other air support were unbeatable, even though 6,000 choppers would be downed in the war. The PAVN learned the strategy for combatting air power was mass and constant movement, and they were prepared to accept any human cost. Ultimately, the battle at X-Ray guaranteed a long, bloody, unwinnable war.

    The next day, Julie Moore was gathered back at Fort Benning with other 7th Cavalry wives watching ABC News. She knew something in the celebratory report was amiss. "I was so stunned at seeing my husband with tears in his eyes that I could hardly speak," she said. "But those sergeants who died were his brothers and the privates his sons. No man can lose that many family members and not weep."


    That's how Moore feels today, 36 years after he won the battle of X-Ray. "When your men die and you don't, you feel guilty," he said. "You are their leader."

    Moore never has stopped caring about the men who lived and died at Ia Drang, and he vowed then they would not be forgotten. "In the end, when we walked across the enemy dead and picked up his weapons," Moore said, "I knew that I had to write the story of these great soldiers who fought against such odds."

    For a decade, Moore and Galloway interviewed soldiers and family members and traveled to Vietnam to talk with leaders of the PAVN.

    The result was the 1992 best seller, "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," which is being made into a film by Randall Wallace ("Braveheart'') starring Mel Gibson.

    "Hal Moore has a combination of toughness and warmth that I haven't experienced in anybody before," Wallace said. "And he has enormous enthusiasm and a tremendous love of life that I found extraordinary in a general. However you cut it, the Army is an institution about developing efficient ways to kill other people. It's ultimately intended to save lives, but it's still a weapon of destruction. To find a man in it who has such reverence for life is extraordinary. I think General Moore has more reverence for life than many ministers I've met."

    Moore's book is required reading at West Point. It celebrates the heroism of his men, but not the war itself. "I like to think that Hal and I have written one of the great anti-war books of our century," said Galloway. Moore believes passionately the Vietnam War was a mistake, as is any military effort where America's vital interests are not at stake. The price in American lives is simply too high.

    "In my view, the two great tragedies of the 20th century are the decline of morality and the Vietnam War," Moore said, pondering the imponderable. "Think about it: Ten years. 58,000 names on that wall. All those hearts broken, families shattered ..."

    Galloway said the ultimate lesson is that "war is unimaginably horrible. Be careful where you send your sons and daughters, because there are people out there ready to kill your children."

    Moore has been back to Vietnam seven times, and in 1991 he met with An, his enemy counterpart commander at Ia Drang. It was the start of an unusual friendship that would last until An's death in 1995.

    "General An and I just hit it off," Moore said. "He was very straightforward. Soldiers don't create the wars, politicians do. Soldiers are the ones who have to fight the wars."

    When Moore returned again in 1993, this time bringing with him a dozen of his men for a tour of the battlefield, he slipped off his wristwatch and gave it to An, calling it a gift "from one soldier to another."

    An was speechless, and 45 minutes later gave Moore his Army helmet.

    "We corresponded after that, and when I found out he died in March of 1995, I faxed his widow a letter of sympathy," Moore said. "And then in October of 1999, Joe Galloway and I received permission to make a courtesy call to his widow. We went to her home, and she's a little old Oriental lady, 5-feet-1, dressed in a long, black dress. She had two strapping sons who greeted us in suits and neckties. Their daughter, a doctor in the Army with the rank of major, was there in uniform. We had brought flowers and incense, because I knew being a Buddhist home that they would have made a shrine.

    "They had a huge display of all his medals and uniforms, the watch I gave him, the fax I sent her ... and over here in the middle of this wall was a huge framed picture of him, with flowers, fruits and bottled water, which the Buddhists believe that the spirits consume. And I lit the incense.

    Harold G. Moore"He was a soldier, just like me. Thirty-six years ago, we were trying to kill each other, but that was over when I met him."

    Moore will return to Vietnam once more, this time bringing with him An's helmet. "I'm going to return it to the widow," Moore said. "Now that he's gone, it would mean more to her.''

    (Photo at right from Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore's Wikipedia page.)

    When the sun sets in Crested Butte, Moore walks onto his deck to bring down his American flag. As darkness descends on the town perched at an altitude of 9,000 feet, the stars are so close you'd swear you were sitting inside a planetarium. The three small, gray tattered flags continue to flap in the wind. You want to know why he keeps them.

    "They are Tibetan prayer flags," said Moore, who hung his four years ago, when they were green, blue and white. "The Buddhists keep their flags out until they disintegrate. They believe that as every little shred falls off, the wind carries their prayers with them."

    As each piece of Moore's flags wither away, they take with them to heaven not only his love and prayers for every man who has served under him, but for his old enemy as well.

    Note: Harold G. Moore is survived by three sons, two daughters, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist and former Denver Post staff writer John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He is no relation to Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.

  • 'The Book of Will': Our video tour of the set

    by John Moore | Jan 24, 2017

    Video tour:
    Check out our two-part video tour of The Book of Will set with Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark. In the newest installment, Goldmark talks about many subtle, intentional anachronisms tucked throughout her playful set in the Ricketson Theatre.

    Why is there a red model car on that shelf, when the story is set in 1623? Why is there a sign that explains how to call the local poison-center help line? Why is there a photo of longtime former DCPA Theatre Company member John Hutton on the wall? Why does the printer, named Crane (played by Rodney Lizcano), have a ticket to the Ice Capades tacked to his bulletin board? Why does he have an electric light, a pencil shaver ... and a New York Mets bobble-head doll?


    "We are trying to create a very rich world that has a link from today all the way back to Shakespeare's time," said Goldmark. "None of it is real. It's all fake. It's all a story - and that's the fun. We are creating our own version of 'real,' and our version of real has bobble-head dolls." To read more on this fun subject, click here.

    In the first part of our series, Goldmark explains why she consistently brings her personal interest in climate change and sustainability into her her work across the country. So her sets are almost entirely made up of reclaimed and recycled materials, or in the case of the DCPA, pulled from storage. “I hope that adds a richness and history and integrity to the objects and the materials that are on stage,” Goldmark said.

    Watch the videos to learn how the Ricketson Theatre floor, for example, is now made up of old wooden bleacher boards that came from an old school gymnasium. The beams and railings that denote the Globe Theatre come from trees that were cut down to make room for the expansion of a local ski resort.

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

    More reading: Wait, why is there a bobble-head on that set?

    'The Book of Will' in Denver

    Photo gallery
    : The photos above are from the opening performance of the DCPA Theatre Company's The Book of Will include backstage preparations, opening-night gifts, the opening afterparty and a personal tour of the set. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable from our Flickr site above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The Book of Will: Ticket information
    The Book of WillWithout William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without two of his friends, we would have lost Shakespeare’s plays forever. A comic and heartfelt story of the characters behind the stories we know so well.

    Through Feb. 26
    Ricketson Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described Matinee 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Production photo gallery:

    The Book of Will- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season Production photos by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    Video: Your first look at The Book of Will
    Perspectives: Why is there a bobble-head on that set?
    Guest columnist Lauren Gunderson: How one word can change a play
    Five things we learned at 'The Book of Will' opening rehearsal
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Meet the cast: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Meet the cast: Wesley Mann
    Meet the cast: Rodney Lizcano
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    Video: Our look back at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Summit Spotlight: Playwright Lauren Gunderson
    Lauren Gunderson wins Lanford Wilson Award from Dramatists Guild of America
    Just who were all the king's men, anyway?
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    Video: Your first look at
    The Book of Will:

    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Ghost Light Project: Theatres gather Jan. 19 'to be a light'

    by John Moore | Jan 13, 2017

    Ghost Light Project

    On Thursday, Jan. 19, theatres around the nation are leaving a light on for anyone who is feeling disenfranchised on the eve of the presidential inauguration. And while organizers say The Ghost Light Project is not a direct response to the recent election, it is specifically timed to coincide with the final night of the Obama administration.

    Theaters from Broadway to community theatres to high schools are scheduling short, symbolic and simultaneous gatherings across the country to 'create light' and support vulnerable communities through what organizers are calling “the challenging times ahead." As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of Ghost Light events have been scheduled in 43 states.

    Inspired by the tradition of leaving a “ghost light” on in a darkened theatre, artists and communities will make or renew a pledge "to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation."

    Ghost Light Project“January 19th is a moment of gathering within a larger resistance to intolerance at all levels,” national organizers said in a statement. “We aim to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. We aim to activate a network of people across the country working to support vulnerable communities. This is not a substitution for protests or direct action, but rather a pledge for continued vigilance and increased advocacy.”

    Organizers define a safe space as "a place where diverse opinions, dissent and arguments are not only tolerated, but invited."

    Most (but not all) events will take place at 5:30 p.m. regardless of time zone. Attendees are encouraged to bring flashlights.

    The primary Denver community gathering will take place at the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park. Organizer Meghan Anderson Doyle hopes Denver’s theatre community will always strive to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. "Bring a light, be a light," she said.

    Curious Theatre Company is encouraging supporters to gather at 5:15 p.m. outside its theatre at 1080 Acoma St. for a short ceremony. “Curious Theatre has long been committed to diversity, inclusion and conversation about important issues,” said organizer Jeannene Bragg.  “We're proud to be part of The Ghost Light Project to celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to equity and spaces for brave art-making.” Neighbors, artists and audiences alike are welcome.

    Those who have work or family commitments at that time are asked to light a light wherever they are at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19.

    A Ghost Light 800 3The Edge Theatre had previously scheduled a one-night-only reading of John Moore’s recent New York International Fringe Festival play Waiting for Obama for Jan. 19 as a fundraiser for the Denver Actors Fund. The play (pictured right) attempts to offer a humanistic and evenly represented look at the issue of gun safety and its ongoing impact on American families.

    But after the recent election, the creative team decided to gather one last time to read the play specifically on Jan. 19 because, they said in announcing the event, “in all likelihood, all meaningful dialogue on the issue of guns led by anyone in a position of real power ends on Jan. 20, at least for the next four years. But the mass shootings, in equal likelihood, will not.”

    Organizers are now aligning the event with the larger Ghost Light Project initiative by incorporating the basic message into pre-show activities. Social hour is at 6, and the reading starts at 7 at 1560 Teller St. Free. No advance ticketing. Just show up.

    Here is a roundup of other events being organized in Colorado:

    • Community College of Aurora, 16000 E. Centretech Parkway. Organizer: Stacey Ryfun D'Angelo
    • The Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia, Fort Collins, 5 p.m. Organizer: Kate Austin-Groen

    Any other local schools and theatre companies that still want to organize a Ghost Light event are asked to email state coordinator Gavin Lodge, a Broadway veteran and graduate of Green Mountain High School and CU Boulder, at gavin.k.lodge@gmail.com.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Saheem Ali, one of the national organizers, says he has been asked about the need for (and value of) such an inherently symbolic evening. “To that I say it is not merely necessary, but essential,” he wrote today in an essay for HowlRound. “The act of expressing something out loud has significance. Protests and public proclamations are important because they demonstrate solidarity and a firmness of belief. … On Jan. 19, the theatre community will reiterate and reaffirm, to ourselves and the world, our humanistic stance in the face of hateful and divisive rhetoric: All are welcome.”

    Moving forward, Ali said The Ghost Light Project will become a resource for theatres, arts communities and individuals to identify and create meaningful action steps, or to continue social justice work that is already underway.  Examples of future initiatives might include creating a volunteer team to do monthly community service projects, developing experts on key issues that affect vulnerable communities and becoming a resource hub for that issue, and more.

  • NewsCenter: Our 10 most popular articles of 2016

    by John Moore | Jan 08, 2017

    Hamilton in Denver. Broadway Nothing got readers more excited last year than the news that the hit Broadway musical 'Hamilton' will be coming to Denver as part of the 2017-18 Broadway season.

    The DCPA NewsCenter was launched in October 2014 as an unprecedented new media outlet covering theatre at the Denver Center and throughout the state and nation telling stories with words, videos, podcasts and photos. It is a service made possible by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts as a shared resource for the Colorado theatre community as a whole. Here are the 10 most-clicked stories on the NewsCenter in 2016 from among the nearly 430 posted. Thanks to our readers for making it a record-breaking year:

    NUMBER 1HamiltonBroadway’s Hamilton is heading to Denver: The national tour of the Broadway musical Hamilton will play the Buell Theatre as part of the Denver Center's 2017-18 Broadway subscription series. Information regarding engagement dates and how to purchase single tickets will be announced at a later time. READ IT

    NUMBER 2Brenda Billings 1Brenda Billings: 'A warrior of acceptance':  Brenda Billings died while doing what she loves most – conducting auditions for an upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors. She was the co-Artistic Director of Miners Alley Playhouse and  President of the Denver Actors Fund, and she was only 57. “Her passion for storytelling and art is carried on through all of us who were lucky enough to call her friend,” said Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford. READ IT

    NUMBER 3Fun Home. Joan Marcus2016-17 Broadway season: Frozen, Fun Home, Finding Neverland and more: The DCPA announced a landmark 2016-17 season lineup that includes both of the most recent Tony Award-winners as well as the pre-Broadway debut of the highly anticipated stage adaptation of Disney’s record-breaking hit Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film in history. It was later announced that the Denver dates for Frozen will be Aug. 17 through Oct. 1, 2017. READ IT 

    NUMBER 4Terry DoddTerry Dodd: a playwright, director who bled empathy: Terry Dodd will be remembered as one of the most prolific local directors in the Colorado theatre community, as well as an accomplished playwright and screenwriter who was known for exploring deeply personal family issues. Dodd died of a heart attack at age 64. READ IT 

    NUMBER 5osg-christiana-clark2In Ashland, converting rage into action: In many ways Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, seems to be an insular, harmonious bubble immune to outside social realities. But on June 24, the bubble burst when an African-American company member had an ugly encounter with a white supremacist. Now the local and national theatre communities are asking difficult questions about race. READ IT

    NUMBER 6Finalists for the 2015-16 Bobby G Awards announced: The annual Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre in Colorado. The year-long program culminates in a Tony Awards-style ceremony at the Buell Theatre. Here’s who was nominated from among the 40 participating schools. READ IT

    NUMBER 7Tom SutherlandFormer hostage Thomas Sutherland is freed a second time: Former Colorado State University professor Thomas Sutherland was held hostage in Beirut for more than six years - or 2,353 agonizing days. The genial Scotsman made his first foray into acting at age 72, and later donated $500,000 to Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s new performance space. He drew it from the $35 million he was awarded in frozen Iranian assets. Sutherland died July 23 at age 85. READ IT http://dcpa.today/EX6aBY

    NUMBER 8David Bowie Elephant ManDavid Bowie's acting career began in Denver: David Bowie’s death had the world mourning the loss of one of rock’s most chameleonic performers. But he was also a versatile stage and screen actor whose legit theatre career began in Denver starring as the ultimate “Broken Man,” John Merrick, in a 1980 touring production of The Elephant Man. "Judging from his sensitive projection of this part, Bowie has the chance to achieve legit stardom,” one critic wrote. READ IT 

    NUMBER 9Buell TheatrePhantom return will mark Buell Theatre’s 25th anniversary: The Buell Theatre was built, in large part, to host the national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera in 1991. It was, Denver Post critic Jeff Bradley wrote at the time, “the most successful theatrical event in Denver history.” We take a look back at the Buell’s first 25 years. READ IT 

    NUMBER 10Theresa Rebeck quoteRebeck's The Nest flies in face of national gender trends: Theresa Rebeck, author of the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere play The Nest, says the need to level the gender playing field in the American theatre is urgent. “Women's voices have been marginalized in the theatre, and in film and television,” said Rebeck. But the Denver Center, she said, is bucking the trend. “Kent Thompson and everyone at the Denver Center have always been way ahead of the curve on this issue.” READ IT

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist.
  • Photos: Opening night of 'A Christmas Carol' 2016

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2016
    Our click-through photo gallery:

    A Christmas Carol 2016 Photos from opening night of the DCPA Theatre Company's 24th staging of the holiday classic A Christmas Carol, starting backstage before the show and through the party afterward. You'll see the crew preparing the stage and actors in their dressing rooms, including the new Scrooge (Sam Gregory) having his wig applied. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    A Christmas Carol: Ticket information
    A Christmas CarolAt a glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations.

    Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    By Charles Dickens
    Adapted for the stage by Richard Hellesen
    Music by David de Berry
    Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    Through Dec. 24
    Stage Theatre
    ASL Interpreted and Audio-Described Performance: 1:30 p.m. Dec 11
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol
    Photos, video: Your first look at A Christmas Carol 2016
    Behind the Scenes video series: Making the costumes
    Costume Corner: What's new with A Christmas Carol?
    A Christmas Carol
    undergoes its own rebirth with new director, star
    Cast lists: A Christmas Carol, The SantaLand Diaries begin anew
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas Carol in five minutes
    Photos, video: Philip Pleasants takes final bow as Scrooge

    A Christmas Carol Opening night 2016. Photo by John Moore.The younger cast members had plenty of energy after the opening performance of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'A Christmas Carol' for the after-party. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video series: Inside look at the making of 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 06, 2016

    For every Theatre Company production, the DCPA NewsCenter takes you backstage for an inside look at the making of the show. For Frankenstein, we have broken up our tour into four short videos:

    Part 1: Interviews with Director Sam Buntock and lead actors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek

    Part 2: Bringing the scenic design to life with Technical Director Eric Rouse and House Foreman Doug Taylor

    Part 3: Touring the backstage scene shop

    Part 4: Costumes with Kevin Copenhaver

    Play the video above, and all four videos will play in succession. Or click on each individual link above.

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

    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Through Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Five things we learned about Frankenstein at Perspectives
    Photos, video: Your first look at the making of Frankenstein
    : On the making of a two-headed monster
    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center

  • Video: Chris Mann speaks, 'Phantom' photos and fun facts

    by John Moore | Aug 31, 2016

    Video: Exclusive Chris Mann Interview

    Chris Mann, star of the national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera, talks with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about the appeal and longevity of the show; his time on TV's The Voice, and his castmate (and wife) Laura Mann's One Degree of Separation from Justin Timberlake and former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. (Watch that here.)  Filmed on Aug. 26, 2016. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Photo gallery: The Phantom of the Opera in Denver

    The Phantom of the Opera in Denver

    Opening night also included an up-close look at some of Maria Björnson’s award-winning costumes; a peek at crews installing the famous chandelier in the Buell Theatre; and a visit by cast member Kathryn McCreary (The Wild Woman) with members of the DCPA’s Best of Broadway Society. Also making an appearance was Popsicle the SCFD Bear, who is “popping” up all over town in support of Referendum 4B, which if passed in November will extend the metro area’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District for another 12 years. The penny-per-$10 sales tax generates about $53 million a year that is shared between 300 arts and science organizations. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    To see more of our photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    The Phantom of the Opera
    : Fun facts

    • Worldwide, more than 65,000 performances have been seen by 140 million people in 30 countries and 151 cities in 14 languages.
    • This production travels in 20 trucks with a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest touring productions of a Broadway musical.


    • The design incorporates not only original Maria Björnson designs from the original but also designs by Maria that were never used for The Phantom of the Opera  before.
    • There are a few pieces from the original production that are more than 25 years old used in this production.
    • More than 1,200 costume pieces used during the show.
    • Each ballet girl goes through a pair of ballet shoes every 2-3 weeks
    • Madame Giry has only one costume


    • More than 120 wigs travel with The Phantom of the Opera
    • About 50 wigs are used in the show every night
    • All wigs are made from human hair except for five
    • About 50 mustaches are kept in stock


    • The Phantom of the Opera uses more than 200 speakers 
    • Approximately 50 are used just for the surround sound package


    • More than 85 moving lights in the design that utilizes four different kinds of haze/smoke effects.


    • More than 6,000 beads are on the chandelier
    • Each strand has 632 beads
    • The chandelier weighs 1 ton
    • This new chandelier was designed by Howard Eaton (who designed the Olympic rings for the London ceremonies)


    • The main scenic wall weighs 10 tons and rotates around the stage
    • The 2 opera boxes scenic elements together take up a full truck to travel from city to city


    • 17 orchestra members plus a conductor perform Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score every performance

    The Phantom of the Opera: Ticket information

    Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.  He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.
    • Through Sept. 11
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. Sept. 11
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Phantom of the Opera
    Phantom return marks Buell Theatre’s 25th anniversary
    Download our Phantom of the Opera Crossword Puzzle
    Video montage: The show at a glance 

    Kathryn McCreary and Popsicle the SCFD Bear on opening night of 'The Phantom of the Opera' in Denver. Photo by John Moore.
  • First rehearsal: This will be no wimpy 'Menagerie'

    by John Moore | Aug 13, 2016
    'The Glass Menagerie' in Denver
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Glass Menagerie, playing Sept. 9-Oct. 16 at the Ricketson Theatre:

    1 PerspectivesFirst-time DCPA Director Ina Marlowe moved to Conifer in 2010, partly to be nearer to her grandchildren, and partly to serve as the first Associate Director in the (then) 37-year history of local legend Ed Baierlein’s Germinal Stage-Denver. Marlowe is a graduate of the Goodman School of Drama and founder of Chicago’s like-minded Touchstone Theatre. Marlowe had acted in Germinal’s production of Ionesco’s Macbett back in 1978, and in 2010 directed The Little Foxes there. In announcing Marlowe’s appointment, Baierlein said lovingly of her then, “She’s a real live wire.”

    Said Marlowe: "What we tried to do when we approached this play was to re-envision it, and try to get closer to the heart of what Tennessee Williams was trying to create. In this play, he asks us to explore the nature of memory and escape. This is a family tangled together with love and unable to communicate."

    "We come to each other, gradually but with love. It is the short reach of my arms that hinders, not the length and multiplicity of theirs. With love and with honesty, the embrace is inevitable." - Tennessee Williams.

    2 PerspectivesThe set will float. Or, to be more specific, the playing area that represents the Wingfield living room will float. The Glass Menagerie is Tennessee Williams' famous "memory play," and we're told in the opening remarks that memory is murky and unreliable. So here the playing area designed by Joe Tilford really does float, just a bit out of the audience’s tactile reach. How? By removing the Ricketson Theatre stage floor, which is built about 3 feet above the theatre's true foundational floor. The playing area representing the Wingfield living room will be essentially a square floor that lights up from below and appears to be attached to nothing, floating in space. “So what that has done is created black void,” said DCPA Director of Design Lisa Orzolek.

    3 PerspectivesNo “wimpy” menagerie: Laura’s haunting glass figurines, says Scenic Designer Joe Tilford, are a metaphor not only for Laura hiding from reality but Amanda and even Tom as well. “The menagerie represents that place in our minds where we go to escape our circumstances.” Often when you see The Glass Menagerie staged, Laura produces her figurines on a little tabletop that can be hidden away on a shelf. “But that’s knick-knacks,” said Tilford. “Seems a bit too wimpy for a central image and metaphor." His solution: “First, making the menagerie of figurines something that Laura can escape into. Can she have an inner life inside a cloud of glass figurines? And when she is not within the menagerie, can it float in mid-air as in a memory, disconnected from the grounding reality of a table or a shelf?”

    4 PerspectivesDCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson decided to stage Williams’ first play now, he said, because it is one of the few American classics the DCPA Theatre Company has not taken on in its nearly 40-year history.

    “It's a play about a family and the way we sometimes break apart and come together,” he said. “But I also think it's about expectations and the American Dream. You have four characters in this play who all have different expectations about where their lives should be going, and the way the world should have treated them, and what they should be doing with their lives. And they can't seem to move to a place they can all agree upon. It's set in the late 1930s - a time of great poverty. A lot of people were struggling with what they perceived to be the American Dream. Life shouldn’t be this hard. I think it's perfect to have an American classic like The Glass Menagerie on one stage, alongside the classic Frankenstein on the other.

    The Glass Menagerie's 'Hamlet reunion, from left: Amelia Pedlow, Aubrey Deeker and Kathleen McCall. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    5 PerspectivesIt's a Hamlet reunion: Three of the four Glass Menagerie cast members were prominently featured in the DCPA Theatre Company's 2014 Shakespeare production of Hamlet. Aubrey Deeker, who played the titular role opposite Amelia Pedlow as the drowning Ophelia, is back to play the narrator, Tom. Deeker and Pedlow have gone from playing lovers then to siblings now. Pedlow plays Laura Wingfield, the "is-she-or-has-she-ever-been?" disfigured sister. And Kathleen McCall, who played Queen Gertrude in Hamlet, is now the delusional Wingfield matriarch Amanda. The newcomer to the group is John Skelley, who is making his DCPA debut as the kindly but tantalizingly unavailable Gentleman Caller.

    The Glass Menagerie
    : Ticket information

    • Sept. 9-Oct. 16
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829


    Glass Menagerie. Photo by John Moore
  • The guns come out in Moore's 'Waiting for Obama'

    by John Moore | Jul 29, 2016

    Waiting for Obama. Photo by John Moore
    From 'Waiting for Obama.' Photo by John Moore

    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, former longtime theatre critic at The Denver Post, has written a play called Waiting for Obama that is an official selection for the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival. After two weeks of “open rehearsal run-throughs” at Buntport Theatre in Denver through Aug. 7 (and one-night only at the Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins on Aug. 1), Waiting for Obama will be presented five times at the Fringe Festival between Aug. 12-15 at New York’s 14th Street Y Theatre.

    The following is a Q&A with the playwright conducted by New York theatre journalist David Kennerley:

    David Kennerley: The Fringe has a tradition of tackling prickly, topical subjects well ahead of mainstream theater. In the past, plays have addressed terrorism, marriage equality, transgender issues, and this year it’s blacks and whites and cops and guns. What is it about the Fringe that makes this possible?

    John Moore: I often wrote about this very subject while I was the theatre critic at The Denver Post. In the mainstream theatre, it typically takes even a sure-fire new play at least two years to get read, liked, scheduled, developed and finally staged. As a result, live theatre can often seem, well ... two years behind the times. The Fringe encourages a different kind of creative process where artists can explore what is happening in the moment, go with it, and have it seen much more quickly. With the Fringe, there are only six months between submission and staging. And in that short time, repulsively, the issue of gun violence in America has grown only more numbingly timely and topical. I keep hoping I’m done keeping my script up-to-date, but the daily headlines keep sending me back to the keyboard. 

    Waitig for Obama David Kennerley: Can you briefly summarize Waiting for Obama?

    John Moore: Waiting for Obama is the story of one Colorado family that is convinced the President is coming for their guns. And in the world of this play, they just might be right. But while the story is propelled by one of the most divisive issues of our time, it focuses on a recognizable family that, like so many others, is deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs.

    David Kennerley: What inspired you to write the piece?

    John Moore: Brian Freeland, the leading maker of avant-garde theatre in Denver for the past 20 years, initially challenged me to write a piece exploring the gun culture in America. I come from a large Catholic family of eight kids, and I wanted to better understand one of my five brothers' deeply held beliefs. He is a Christian conservative and steadfast proponent of the Second Amendment - a viewpoint not often taken seriously in the theatre. He's also my longest, closest friend. We just don't agree on much of anything anymore. As a journalist by trade, I was not interested in writing a one-sided screed. I wanted a fair fight. So I made him my protagonist. He’s the one who is “Waiting for Obama.” The title came to me pretty easily. It is inspired both by Waiting for Godot, naturally, as well as the NRA’s battlecry since the day he first took office that “Obama is coming for your guns.” I hear that over and over. And so I just thought, “Well then … what if he did?”

    David Kennerley: What are the central themes of the piece?

    Waiting for Obama quoteJohn Moore: The easy answer to that question is: “What are the themes of Thornton Wilder?” We have a simple framing device that acknowledges that everyone who enters the 14th Street Y Theatre to see this show, or perform in it, is part of a community of humans who recognize that gun violence is a seriously troubling issue in this country, and we have to start somewhere. And so for 90 minutes, we are all of us just people getting together in a room trying to come to a better understanding about it all.  Because that’s just not happening anywhere else right now. Not on the radio. Not in bars. Not in our living rooms. 

    We have never been more evenly ideologically divided over such an extended period of time as we have over these past 30 years. Just look at the closeness of every presidential election since 1988. Neither party has earned a mandate, and so no losing party has fallen far enough to even consider capitulation or compromise. And we are seeing the consequences of obstinance play out in millions of fractured families every day. We aren’t talking to each other about the important issues that divide us anymore. We’re either shouting at each other - or, worse, not talking to each other at all. Not about abortion. Not about the death penalty. Not about guns. We are turning away from our blood families and cocooning ourselves instead around our “chosen families” – those who adhere to our same moral, social and political beliefs. That's consequential. And that makes for some seriously tense holiday dinners.

    David Kennerley: The tragic loss of lives at the hands of gunmen has been covered extensively in the media. What does your piece add to the conversation?

    John Moore: None of these ongoing gun sprees appears to be changing minds on the gun issue. Not a one. Instead, it is making both sides dig in. And if Sandy Hook didn’t change people’s minds on little issues like background checks, then why even bother to talk about the big stuff, like limiting semi-automatic gun sales? You have your beliefs, and I have mine. You have your facts, and I have mine. I believe if we can’t talk about these polarizing issues in our own living rooms for fear of a fight breaking out, then we have to be able to talk about them in a theatre. That’s why theatre exists. There’s this very meta moment in the play when the sweet grandma says: “It’s easier to make an audience think about a political issue when you let them develop a human connection with the characters.” I am a lifelong journalist, and I love stats. But one thing is for sure: No one gives a damn about statistics in a theatre.

    David Kennerley: What message do you hope others will take away after seeing the piece?

    John Moore: My hopes are very modest – otherwise I would be a hypocrite. None of us expects to change a single mind about gun ownership through the course of our little play. Instead, I’ll settle for starting a dialogue. If audiences go for a pint afterward and just talk about the play for 10 minutes – even if only to say they hated it, and that it was a waste of time, I’ll be totally OK with that.

    David Kennerley is a New York-based journalist specializing in theater for more than a decade. His work has been seen in outlets such as Metro New York, BravoTV.com, AfterElton.com, Genre Magazine and Gay City News.

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

    Waiting for Obama Cast

    From left: Brett Aune, Amelia Corrada, Laurence Curry, Chris Kendall, Jessical Robblee, Leslie O'Carroll and Luke Sorge.

    Waiting for Obama: "Open Rehearsal" runthroughs

    Presented by Wild Blindness Productions in partnership with the Bas Bleu Theatre

    • July 29-30 (Friday through Saturday), 7:30 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver
    • July 31 (Sunday), 2 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver
    • Aug. 1 (Monday), 7:30 p.m. start, Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., Fort Collins
    • Aug. 4-6 (Thursday through Saturday), 7:30 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver
    • Aug. 7 (Sunday), 2 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver

    Free. No reservation necessary ... but seating is limited.

    What are "Open Rehearsals"?

    Waiting for Obama is being developed in Denver for its opening at the New York Fringe on Aug. 12. In the meantime, the work is ongoing. But Denver audiences are welcome to drop in for free, scheduled runthroughs of the play. You should not expect polished, completed performances. Depending on which night you attend, actors may call for lines. Lights, sound and other technical elements may not yet be added. If necessary, the director may call for a stop to fix a problematic moment. Think of this as being let in on a window to the creative process.

    Waiting for Obama: New York Fringe Festival performances 

    • Friday, Aug. 12, 5 p.m.
    • Saturday, Aug. 13, 2 p.m.
    • Saturday, Aug. 13, 9:15 p.m.
    • Sunday, Aug. 14, 8:30 p.m.
    • Monday, Aug. 15, 6:45 p.m.

    All New York performances at the 14th Street Y Theatre.  TICKETS

  • All our photos from the 2016 Henry Awards

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016
    2016 Henry Awards
    Photos from the Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2016 Henry Awards ceremony held July 18 at the PACE Center in Parker. To see more photos, click the arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded and shared for free, with proper credit. Click on any photo to download.

    Photos by John Moore and Brian Landis Folkins for the DCPA NewsCenter. To read our full report from the Henry Awards, click here.

    Watch our 2016 Memoriam video

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards:
    2016 Henry Awards a triumph for Theatre Aspen, Rabbit Hole
    Our video coverage of the Henry Awards (more to come)
    Preview: Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers

    A Henry Awards co-host Steven J. Burge. Phto by Brian Landis Folkins, BLF Photography.
    Henry Awards co-host Steven J. Burge. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins, BLF Photography.
  • Video Playlist: Our 2016 Henry Awards coverage

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016

    The fifth in our series of videos from the 2016 Henry Awards brings you the names of every winner being called out, and highlights from their acceptance speeches.

    The Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards were held on July 18, 2016, at the PACE Center in Parker. More videos will be added to this special YouTube playlist.

    Videos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Watch our montage of performance highlights

    Watch Deborah Persoff accept the Lifetime Achievement Award

    Watch Melody Duggan accept the Theatre Educator Award

    Watch our 2016 Memoriam video

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards:

    2016 Henry Awards a triumph for Theatre Aspen, Rabbit Hole
    Preview: Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers
    DCPA leads way with 11 2015 Henry Awards

    Our complete photo gallery from the Henry Awards:

    2016 Henry Awards

    Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the forward arrow above.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zaXig4EKD8I?list=PLexX4Wflzocm3436-lTxQoy5ppYZSH9Px" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>Kevin Copenhaver accepts his Henry Award for Outstanding Ciostume Design for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.
  • Photos: The 2016 Bobby G Awards

    by John Moore | May 29, 2016
    2016 Bobby G Awards
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. To download any photo for free, in a variety of sizes, click on the photo. You will be taken to our Denver Center Flickr account, where you will click on the download arrow at the bottom right of the image. Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Bobby G AwardsHere is a gallery of our best photos from the fourth annual Bobby G Awards held Thursday, May 26 at the Buell Theatre. The Bobby G Awards, named after late Denver theatre producer Robert Garner, honor outstanding achievement in Colorado high-school theatre.The gallery includes photos from the day-long rehearsal at the Buell on Wednesday, May 25.

    Read our complete report on the 2016 Bobby G Awards

    Bobby G Awards DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg with New York-bound Outstanding Actor and Acrtress Curtis Salinger and Charlotte Movizzo. Photo by Emily Lozow.DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg with New York-bound Outstanding Actress and Actor Charlotte Movizzo and Curtis Salinger. Photo by Emily Lozow.

    Here is a fun time-lapse video covering the day-long Bobby G Awards rehearsal the day before the ceremony, including performances by Fairview, Arvada West, Denver School of the Arts, Mountain View and Cherry Creek. Video shot by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk on May 25 in the Buell Theatre.

    The traditional post-Bobby G Awards celebration photo on the Buell Stage by John Moore for the DCPA.
    Everyone who was part of a winning production was invited onto the Buell Theatre stage for the traditional  post-Bobby G Awards celebration photo by John Moore for the DCPA.

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    Mountain View scales Bobby G Awards' 2016 peak
    Meet your 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Finalists
    Meet your 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Finalists
    2015-16 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High
    Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'

    Bobby G Awards Mountain View High School. Anything Goes. Mountain View High School celebrates the announcement that its 'Anything Goes' had won the 2016 Bobby G Award for Outstanding Musical. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • 'Legally Blonde' director on 'The Hair That Ate Hollywood'

    by John Moore | May 11, 2016

     A legally blonde quote 2

    Legally Blonde is not the kind of script you would expect an edgy and award-winning student director to want for his first major studio film. Robert Luketic certainly did not. 

    “I actually had to be talked into it,” said Luketic, who sat on the contract offer from MGM Studios for more than a year before pulling the pink trigger on the feel-good film of 2001. “I was  little gun-shy. You're thinking, 'OK, someone has given me my shot, right? But is this the one I want to be known for? Is this how I want to start my career?’ ”

    A legally blonde credtsBut Luketic is not your typical dark and rebellious art-house film director. He’s an uncommonly self-aware Aussie whose big break was a whimsical 10-minute musical he shot in Cinemascope about an Italian girl called Titsiana Booberini. “She has a hairy upper lip and she works in a supermarket where she battles the prettier girls for the affections of the handsome assistant manager,” he said.

    “I made it to rebel against all the darker stuff that was being made at the time. Because as film students, we tend to like black and white, and heroin addiction and incest. And so I said, ‘I am going to make a Technicolor musical set in a supermarket.’ People thought I was crazy, but I think the risk paid off.”

    Well, it led directly to Legally Blonde, a film that cost $18 million to make, and grossed $142 million worldwide. So you could say the risk paid off.

    Legally Blonde has been called a “bait and switch” movie that fooled even MGM when it turned out to be an uncommonly progressive and, dare it be said – empowering piece of fluffy pink feminism. “Initially, they thought it was going to be much more wet T-shirts and boobs than it actually turned out to be,” said Luketic.

    Turns out the script, written by the 10 Things I Hate About You team of Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Karen McCullah - was ahead of its time. So was Reese Witherspoon, who would win an Oscar four years later for Walk the Line. Over the years, Legally Blonde has grown in esteem from simple summer escapism in the halcyon days leading up to the 9/11 attacks, to a film the internet’s “Rogue Feminist” recently called “incredibly woman-positive and an important staple in feminist pop culture.”

    Read more about the Denver Actors Fund

    Luketic, Smith and McCullah will be in Littleton on Monday, May 23, for a special benefit screening of Legally Blonde. It’s the latest offering in the Alamo Drafthouse’s “Denver Actors Fund Presents …” a monthly film series that features films that either inspired - or were inspired by - stage musicals that are currently being performed by a Colorado theatre company. Cast members from the Town Hall Arts Center’s upcoming staging of Legally Blonde, the Musical will entertain the audience at 6:30, with the film screening, and a Q&A with the creative team, to follow.

    Protagonist Elle Woods, of course, is the severely underestimated sorority girl who manages to get into Harvard Law School to impress a former boyfriend - only to realize she’s far too good for him.

    Reserve tickets to Legally Blonde screening and Q&A

    Luketic was just 25 when he got the offer to direct Legally Blonde. But he quickly discovered the team of Smith and McCullah would be his perfect entrée into the worlds of Hollywood moviemaking – and college sororities.

    “He’s from Australia, so he didn’t know much about the Greek system,” Smith said. “I remember going with him to all these sorority houses at UCLA so he could get a sense of that world. His joie de vivre is something really special, and you can feel it in the film.”   

    Luketic put it more simply: “We just get each other. We love to hang out. We get drunk together. It just works for us.”

    Luketic knows who he is. More important, he knows what is expected of him. "Listen, I am not making fine art," he said. "I make a commercial product that sells tickets. I understand that."

    Here are six essential things we learned from Luketic and Smith about the making of Legally Blonde. Burning issues such as, "What is the origin of the bend-and-snap?" and, "Whatever happened to that dog?" Read on ...

    A legally blonde

    1 PerspectivesThe hair has a name. “Oh my God, it became known as ‘The Hair That Ate Hollywood,’ ” Luketic said. “It became all about the hair. I have this obsession with flyaways. It would annoy Reese a little bit because I would always have hairdressers in her face. But really the most time and research and testing on the set went into getting the color right, because ‘blonde’ is subject to interpretation, I found.”

    2 PerspectivesDespite her impeccable credentials, Reese Witherspoon was not MGM Studios’ first choice for Elle. Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, Katherine Heigl, Christina Applegate, Milla Jovovich and Jennifer Love Hewitt were all considered for the role. “But there was only one name that I was obsessed with, and it was Reese,” Luketic said. While Legally Blonde was his first feature, Witherspoon already had 15 major credits to her name, including American Psycho, Cruel Intentions and Pleasantville. “I had just seen Election, and I was all into this woman,” Luketic said. “She was perfect for the voice. Admittedly, she wasn't the first name that the studio wanted, but I wanted someone with gravitas and brains. There had to be more behind the face, and Reese just fit the bill.”

    3 PerspectivesThe now iconic “bend and snap” was the result of inspired desperation. “We had been instructed to add a (plot twist) into the second act by producer Marc Platt, and we were kind of wits end,” said Smith.  We’d come up with all these crazy ideas: “The nail salon gets robbed!” “Paulette gets deported and Elle has to use her knowledge of immigration law to get her out of it!” Nothing was clicking. Finally, we were in a bar one night in Beverly Hills and I said to Karen something like, ‘What if Paulette has a crush on a UPS guy who always comes in, and Elle teaches her one of her patented moves to get the guy? Like, "You should try the bend and snap." ' I demonstrated the move for Karen in the middle of the bar. She laughed - so we put it in,” Smith said. “Sometimes you can wrack your brain to find a solution. Then you have to take a break and be silly, and the right idea can come to you.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    4 PerspectivesLuketic owes his big break to two film festivals in Colorado, and today he even lives here. Sort of.  “I keep a residence at the Ritz-Carlton in Vail,” he says. Luketic started making movies in Australia at age 16. He entered his short film Titsiana Booberini for the Telluride Film Festival and it went on to win "Best Film" at the Aspen Shortsfest, landing Luketic his MGM contract. “When I entered my film into Telluride as a short, I had very little expectations,” he said. "It was through a program called Filmmakers of Tomorrow, and I heard there were going to be all kinds of fancy students and films. I was surprised that I got in, and I was even more surprised at the reaction I got after the screening. It was a life-changing moment. You get an agent and a manager and a deal with a major studio. This all happened within 40 minutes of my film screening.”

    5 PerspectivesA legally blonde heather hachLegally Blonde was made into a Broadway musical in 2007, and the script was written by Loveland native and University of Colorado grad Heather Hach (pictured right), who was nominated for a Tony Award. Smith, who met Hach briefly years ago, says she very much enjoyed the stage musical. “MGM flew us out to the opening night on Broadway, and it was so amazing to walk into the theater and see that they’d outfitted the whole place in pink — pink carpet, pink curtains. It was nuts,” said Smith. “It’s one thing to walk onto a movie set and see your screenplay coming to life with a film crew and actors. But it was a whole different thing to see your scenes and your dialogue turn into a full-blown rollercoaster of a musical with a stage full of Broadway singers and dancers.” Luketic has never met Hach, “but she did a great job," he said. Luketic loves the musical. He has seen it live in London, Australia and New York.

    Read John Moore's 2007 profile of Heather Hach

    6 PerspectivesOK, so most film critics did not love Legally Blonde. But AO Scott of the New York Times did concede that the film “made me and some of my dyspeptic colleagues laugh giddily and helplessly.” Something neither Smith nor Luketic were aware of (until now!). “Wow. I’d never read that,” Smith said. “AO Scott is a titan of film criticism, so that’s a huge compliment.” Luketic is a little more blunt. “I got burnt when the first reviews for Legally Blonde came out," he said. “I mean, I was excoriated. Most of my life I have gotten bad reviews, actually, and I am OK with that because I don't read them. I just know there’s a lot of bad stuff out there because a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I am so sorry.’ You know, in that way like maybe someone has just died. But it makes me want to be better, I guess.”

    7 PerspectivesJust a few weeks ago, Bruiser died. Actually, the little Chihuahua was named Moonie, and he was 18. “Reese would joke that I thought Moonie was a better actor than she was,” Luketic said. “So for a wrap gift, she gave me this lovely little Tiffany’s silver frame with a picture of me and Moonie. In fact, I am sitting here at my desk looking at it right now as you brought that up.” It’s a sad passing, but is 18 a good, long run for a dog. “Are you kidding? That's a blockbuster of a life for a dog,” Luketic said.

    Bonus coverage: More from our interview with Luketic and Smith: 

    John Moore: So why did this underdog-of-a-movie work?

    Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith: Lots of reasons - the main one being Reese. She was so perfect in the role. MGM's marketing and PR for the movie was also incredible. They did so much creative stuff.  They created a National Blonde Day - in the pre-hashtag era.  They got Regis Philbin to dye his hair blonde.  They had a float at the Gay Pride Parade that Jennifer Coolidge rode on surrounded by a bunch of shirtless guys throwing out T-shirts. It was a perfect tumbleweed of good fortune that rarely happens in Hollywood: We gave our brilliant producer a script that attracted a great young director and an incredible actress who got the movie green-lit by a studio that left us alone to make the movie and then knew when and how to release it. 

    Robert Luketic: I think Elle was a young onscreen heroine women could feel positive about. For the first time, the woman in a movie wasn't just an accessory to a man. This was a film about being yourself in a world where we are meant to be cookie-cutter skinny things. The best version of ourselves is when we can be ourselves.

    John Moore: What are you working on now?

    Robert Luketic: I have an interesting project I am doing with Jaden Smith that's kind of edgy and different. More in the world of 21. And then I will be reuniting with the two girls, Kiwi and Karen, to make a killer, all female-driven action film called The Bells. It's sort of an inspired spin-off of The Expendables franchise - except this is all women. It's very exciting. And very empowering - so it takes me back to some familiar territory. I really think females drive the decision to go and watch a movie on a weekend. This is a segment of audience that my business has ignored for so many years, but I think now is a golden time when we are seeing films made for women. The only thing that is lacking is that not enough women are making films for women. But I think that will change.

    John Moore: It’s 15 years past Legally Blonde. What kind of groundbreaking story do you think young women need to hear now? 

    Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith: Let’s take a poll! I’d love to hear from young women what kinds of stories they’re burning to hear.  We’ll be at the Alamo Drafthouse on May 23 if they want to chat about it in person!

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

    Denver Actors Fund Presents ... Legally Blonde
    A benefit screening for the Denver Actors Fund
    Monday, May 23
    At the Alamo Drafthouse, 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, 303-730-2470

    • 6pm Doors
    • 6:30p.m. Live entertainment from Town Hall Arts Center
    • 7pm film
    • 9pm Q&A with Director Robert Luketic and screenwriters Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith and Karen McCullah


    Note: The Town Hall Arts Center will present Legally Blonde, the Musical onstage from May 20-June 19 at 2450 Main St., Littleton. The director is Nick Sugar. Call  303-794-2787, or go to townhallartscenter.org

  • 'Sweeney Todd': Opening Night photo gallery

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sweeney Todd Opening Night. Photo by Adams Visual Communications

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

    Sweeney Todd
    : Ticket information

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

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

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick
    Meet Daniel Berryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He didn't even have to finish his thought.

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

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

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

    3 Perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sweeney Todd: Ticket information

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

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

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick
  • How DeVotchKa crawled out from the underground

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2016
    DeVotchKa UMS Denver Post 2002

    This photo of DeVotchKa was shot in 2002 to celebrate The Denver Post survey naming the group Denver's best underground band. From left: Jeanie Schroder, Shawn King, Nick Urata and Tom Hagerman.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Next week, the DCPA Theatre Company opens its reimagined look at Sweeney Todd featuring revered local band DeVotchKa's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s orchestration. Internationally acclaimed, Grammy-nominated and yet still unknown to many, Denver's beloved gypsy-punk misfits recently began their 21st year bringing theatrical, sousaphone-infused baroque pop classics to musical life. Three band members - Jeanie Schroder, Shawn King and Tom Hagerman - will perform as part of the orchestra April 8-May 15 in the Stage Theatre.

    In 2002, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore was an entertainment reporter at The Denver Post and had recently founded the now 16-year old Underground Music Showcase (The UMS), which began as a modest attempt to spotlight bands most deserving of mainstream recognition. He polled a panel of local musical experts who placed DeVotchKa at the top of the list. The band's reward: Headlining the 2002 showcase, which has since grown to 400 performances at 20 stages over four days along South Broadway, as well as the following profile story, which was published in The Denver Post on July 21, 2002. 


    Devotchka Quote

    By John Moore

    IT WAS THE KIND of statement usually followed by the phrase, "And that's why I did it, your honor."

    "When I was in seventh grade, my best friend was one of the first kids on the block to get a Betamax. But the only two movies his dad owned were A Clockwork Orange and Apocalypse Now," Nick Urata said. "We became hooked on A Clockwork Orange. There was one summer where we must have watched it every day for six weeks. We were both very much latchkey kids."

    Urata was not explaining some random sociopathic crime spree, the kind so prevalent in Stanley Kubrick's dark and violent 1971 satire. He was explaining why the band, which a panel of 47 experts assembled by The Denver Post has decreed the best underground outfit in Colorado, is called DeVotchKa.

    The name is borrowed from the Anthony Burgess book by the same name, when protopunk droog Alex blurts out his desire for "a little of the old in-out on a weepy young devotchka."

    That Urata set off on not even one crime binge may be partly attributable to his Denver-based musical outlet, the now 7-year-old group that was chosen from among 166 bands in Colorado as the one most deserving of more mainstream recognition. DeVotchKa inherits the mantle from 2001 winner 16 Horsepower.

    "This surprises me, because I have always thought we were on the fringes of the Denver scene," said Urata, whose band is nevertheless an important part of a collective that has helped Colorado gain an international reputation for cultivating its own regional genre, one that may best be described as Old West gothic rock.

    "I think there is more interest in this ‘Denver thing' around the world than there is in Denver," said Robert Ferbrache, who recorded part of DeVotchKa's acclaimed 2000 album Supermelodrama at his Absinthe Studios in Westminster. "There's a lot of interest in DeVotchKa outside of Colorado. There are pockets of people from Toledo, Ohio, to the Netherlands that are obsessed with the Denver music scene. It's sort of on the coattails of 16 Horsepower and Slim Cessna's Auto Club, but now, DeVotchKa and Munly are the forerunner of that."

    Bands such as the Denver Gentlemen and the Kalamath Brothers also helped create this signature sound, but DeVotchKa's flavor is unique, a Latin and Slavic ethnic amalgam that has been called everything from "mariachi polka punk" to "Slavic shlockabilly."

    "Maybe this says that people are ready for something that's different, something that's not super-predictable," said Jeanie Schroder, one of the few rockers who can claim expertise in bass and tuba. Tom Hagerman plays accordion and violin; Shawn King adds drums and trumpet.

    But DeVotchKa begins with Urata. His haunting wails sound as though he has just emerged from a nightmare in a cold sweat, blurting his most intimate confessions from the other end of the world.

    "One thing I could say about DeVotchKa is they're unique," said Ferbrache. "This band is all Nick's dream, and he's kept it going through thick and thin. He has a vision of something. ... I'm not totally sure of what, but he has one."

    It's hard for Urata to put his vision into words, too, but it begins with ruffled shirts and accordions. Or maybe it begins with his Sicilian childhood in Croton, N.Y. His first exposure to live music was at summer family gatherings on the Lower East Side.

    Devotchka Quote "All these Italians would gather at my granddad's place, and the entertainment was provided by these amazing accordion players," Urata said. "My memory of these instruments are these gigantic breathing lungs. The sound was huge. It was 95 degrees, and these people would be wearing three-piece suits and dancing. They made a lasting impression on me."

    He wasn't kidding it made an impression. Urata was speaking last Sunday with his bandmates on a 95-degree day on the patio of the Terrace Maya restaurant in north Boulder. He was sporting a colored shirt, cocktail jacket, pressed pants, cool shades and slick-backed jet-black hair. "But don't let the clothes fool you; this is my work uniform," said Urata, who doubles as a part-time limo driver.

    "When you are in high school and college, you don't want to be different, and I wanted to get as far away from that world as possible," he said. "But I paid a price. I was never really sure where I was coming from or going with music."

    Urata attended Western State in Gunnison and had moved to Chicago with his pal "Sweet Jonny V" Ellison to start a band.

    "One great day, I came home to my apartment in Chicago and I found Jonny sitting on the stoop playing his new accordion, and it all came back to me," Urata said. "That world of my granddad's is totally gone now. But I am so glad I got to glimpse it. Maybe we can keep a little bit of it alive."

    Ellison helped Urata start DeVotchKa but left for a degree in audiology and is now helping deaf kids with speech impediments in Omaha. Urata returned to Colorado, developing DeVotchKa while playing part time in Munly's band, De Dar He. By the time DeVotchKa finished "Supermelodrama," Urata said, "basically my entire band had left me high and dry. When I started the thing I made it clear that it's for fun, and they took that seriously, I guess, because they all left."

    This pitiable story reminds King of a favorite movie.

    "You remember the scene in Airplane! where the guy is telling his life story and the person next to him kills himself?" he said. "It's like that."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Urata has gone through 13 members of DeVotchKa - "7,000 of them drummers." Hagerman returned to the fold last year, and Schroder was won over with just one listen to Supermelodrama.

    "I swear I listened to that CD every single day for five months straight," she said. "I felt like I had finally found the music I really wanted to play. I really like Middle Eastern and tango and gypsy music. To hear it taken out of folkdom and put it into the pop realm made me really excited."

    Urata calls his current lineup "as close to what I had visualized for the band as I have ever got." But it's hard to imagine that King is exactly what Urata visualized. Urata met him at a benefit for Ralph Nader and the Green Party. Before DeVotchKa took the stage, Urata checked out the set being played by the Pindowns, an all-female punk band. Subbing for the drummer that day was King, who didn't settle for just playing.

    "Shawn was dressed as a woman," Urata said, goatee and all.  "I saw him in his purple wig, and I knew he was the guy for me."

    They kid, but Urata's band members are all highly trained musicians. Hagerman graduated from the CU School of Music and has played with Chuck Mangione. Schroder graduated from CU Denver with a degree in tuba performance, and King doubles in a jazz combo that plays under the supervision of the legendary Ron Miles.

    "I have been on the verge of extinction so many times with this band, I'm not used to having it this good," Urata said.

    And things are exceptionally good. The band forged a fortuitous bond with the Tucson-based band Calexico, whose keyboard player is second in command at Wavelab Studios, which records Giant Sand and Neko Case. DeVotchKa was invited to record there, and half of their next album is in the can.

    Devotchka Quote

    Thanks to the power of the Internet, the band also has been picked up by a Russian label called Bad Taste, which last month released Supermelodrama in Moscow.

    And now this - recognition from 47 industry insiders that they are Colorado's best underground band. They top a list that includes like-minded bands Tarantella and Munly, pop stars Dressy Bessy, surf rockers Maraca 5-0, hard rockers Planes Mistaken for Stars and the inexplicable video-game stylings of Mr. Pacman.

    "That's what's great about this, because there are a lot of great bands in Colorado," Urata said.

    DeVotchKa finished sixth last year, and they admit that their standing this year was helped out a bit by the fact that last year's top four were wiped out by attrition or ineligibility.

    "It's definitely one way to move up - murder the competition," Hagerman said.

    "Look at the turmoil in one year," Ferbrache said of Slim Cessna's Auto ClubApples in Stereo and the Down-N-Outs. "But you have to hand it to Nick, because DeVotchKa is a survivor."

    But how long can it survive while staying true to a tuba-and-accordion vision that though literate, seductive and danceable will never be considered mainstream? Do they have any chance of finding any sort of mass pop-culture acceptance?

    "Yeah, when hell freezes over," said Ferbrache, who theorized the best the band can do is "to grow old and bitter like the rest of us."

    "I'm basing that on the fact that there's no possibility for anyone in music to ever have success in the future whatsoever, unless it's something that's designed by a corporation to be force-fed."

    Urata said the day he is forced to compromise his vision to appease any record company is the day he stops playing. But he has faith.

    "Maybe with all this CD-burning and Napsterism and what-not, maybe the kids will start finding their own bands that aren't fed to them by some corporate monster," he said. "Maybe they won't even care about these new 19-year-old tarts or bad heavy-metal bands that are shoved down their throats. Maybe the kids won't care about those bands, and the record companies won't be able to sell their records and they'll decide to get into defense contracting or something. I don't know. That's my fantasy."

    In the meantime, DeVotchKa will have to settle for being above ground in Colorado. Like 16 Horsepower, they're no longer eligible for future underground consideration.

    "Thank you for our stay in the underground," King said. "But we are ready to come out now. It's go-time for DeVotchKa ... whatever that means."

    (Pictured above right: Tom Hagerman, Shawn King, Jeanie Schroder and 'Sweeney Todd' conductor Erik Daniells in preparation for the upcoming staging of Sweeney Todd.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

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

    Sweeney Todd: Ticket information
  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • April 8-May 15 (opens April 15)
  • StageTheatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that's 'loud and proud'
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    ​Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa
    How DeVotchKa and a man named Coffin made murderous music mischief
    Meet the cast: Danny Rothman
  • Kusama, Lynch: Grief and terror collide on screen

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2016
    'The Invitation' at Alamo Drafthouse

    Photos from Friday's screening of 'The Invitation' at the Alamo Drafthouse. To see more,  press the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Noted actor and Denver native John Carroll Lynch, who is in town for an appearance at this weekend’s Walker Stalker Con at the National Western Complex, surprised the director of his newest film on Friday night by popping in for a special screening of The Invitation at the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton.

    Alamo Creative Manager Steve Bessette told the audience a special fan would be introducing Karyn Kusama. It was Lynch, who later joined the two for a Q&A after the sold-out screening of The Invitation and before a separate showing of Kusama’s breakout film, Girlfight. She is also known for Æon Flux and Jennifer's Body.

    Lynch describes The Invitation as “a great, tense thriller” that takes place all in one night in the Hollywood Hills. A group of old friends are reuniting for the first time since a tragedy sent them drifting apart several years before. Their glue had been Will and Eden, who are now divorced and remarried. Suddenly, everyone now has been invited to a dinner party at the house the couple once shared but is now occupied by Eden and her new husband. “And so everyone goes into it with a lot of trepidation,” Lynch said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The invitation is especially weird for Will (Logan Marshall-Green of Prometheus), who soon becomes convinced his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions. This taut film thus becomes a simultaneous study in grief and paranoia that may or may not be connected.

    “When I first read the script, I felt really attuned to the catastrophic influence that grief and sorrow have in our lives, and how close that issue is to me,” Kusama said. "This movie poses an interesting question: What if you decide you don't have to deal with all of that? Where does that take you? My instinct tells me that it takes you to a place that is even more catastrophic than your original feelings of sorrow. I really wanted to explore what denial looks like on the screen, and this is what it looks like to me.”

    And into this Big Chill-like dynamic walks Lynch, who plays an anachronistic stranger named Pruitt who would seem to have no place at this particular table.

    John Carroll Lynch in 'The Invitation.' Photo courtesy GameChanger Films.

    John Carroll Lynch in 'The Invitation.' In the quote above, he is referring to the character played by protagonist Logan Marshall-Green. Photo courtesy GameChanger Films.

    “The story is inspired by 1970s thriller horror like Rosemary's Baby, Don’t Look Now and those more psychological, slow-burn kind of thrillers,” Lynch said in a previous interview with the DCPA NewsCenter. “It's a story about faith and grief and the dangers of not properly grieving one's losses. It was an amazing script, and it’s filled with a cast of wonderful actors.”

    The Invitation is written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay (Clash of the Titans). The large ensemble piece also features Tammy Blanchard (Into the Woods), Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michelle Krusiec, Toby Huss, Mike Doyle, Karl Yune, Lindsay Burdge, Marieh Delfino and Jordi Vilasuso.

    "Karyn put together a cast of people who represent every style of acting, training and experience, from stand-up comedy to soaps to classical theatre to musicals," Lynch said. "It was a great experience to work with everybody because it always felt like we were exploring in collaboration."

    Lynch, who now has appeared in more than 100 films from Fargo to Zodiac, made a significant impression on a recent episode of The Walking Dead with a full-hour guest appearance as Eastman, a survivor who lives alone in a cabin in the woods and crosses paths with Morgan Jones (Lennie James).

    "John was the very first person we knew we wanted in the film," Kusama said. "I remember so vividly the day we shot his monologue (about the death of Pruitt's wife) and looking over at the co-writers. We just shared this silent look. It was just so humbling to be in the presence of greatness."

    Kusama was asked by an audience member about directing her first movie that essentially features a male protagonist (Marshall-Green).

    "I never set out to make movies with a female protagonist. I only set out to make movies that have interesting characters," she said. "I am interested in women's lives - as I hope all of humanity will soon catch up with me on - but I was really interested in this story.  And in terms of Will being the protagonist, I feel very close to him psychologically. I definitely understood his paranoia and his sense of having to grit his teeth and suffer through this party. For that reason, I wanted to explore my brand of vulnerability and terror in a male character. And for me, that's my expression of a kind of feminism." 

    This weekend’s Walker Stalker Con is a two-day convention focused around The Walking Dead and other zombie shows, movies and art. It grew out of The Walker Stalkers Podcast. Walker Stalker Con, which goes through Sunday, is described as is a fan meet-up featuring events, panels, and virtual zombie experiences.

    ​Lynch will appear in several more films in 2016 (The Founder, Furst Born, The White Orchid and Miracles from Heaven) and in June embarks on his first directing job, Lucky, starring Harry Dean Stanton.

    The Invitation is being released through Drafthouse Films, and will begin its official run at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver on April 8.

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

    Karyn Kusama Invitation John Carroll LynchDirector Karyn Kusama and actor John Carroll Lynch of 'The Invitation.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Here are excerpts from Lynch’s previous conversation with DCPA Arts Journalist (and former Regis Jesuit High School classmate) John Moore about "The Invitation":

    John Moore: This is not your first film with Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay.

    John Carroll Lynch: No. I was in a film of theirs that they directed called Bug. That was a beautiful little film that has no connection to the stage play by Tracy Letts. They are longtime cinefiles and wonderful writers. The Invitation is directed by Karyn Kusama, who is married to Phil. Her first directorial feature was Girlfight, which is a spectacularly good movie.

    John Moore: What did you like about The Invitation when you first read the script?

    John Carroll Lynch: It’s very offbeat in terms of its rhythm and the way in which the story unfolds. It reads more like a play in terms of its structure, and Karyn did a beautiful job turning it into a movie. There is a patience and a tension asked for in the script that was going to be tough for any director to get, and Karyn nailed it. It's amazing.

    John Moore: So tell us more about your place in the story.

    John Carroll Lynch: I play a character who knows Eden and her new husband, who is played by Michiel. What I love is that from the beginning of the movie, the audience is not sure whether or not you are seeing things as Logan's character is seeing them, or whether you are seeing things as they are really happening. That's what our director keeps going so beautifully throughout the film. We keep coming in and out of this man’s head, and so you are not quite sure if what you are seeing is really happening.   

  • Podcast: Running Lines with ... Nick Sugar and Michael J. Duran

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2016

    Welcome to episode No. 176 of Running Lines... our regular series of conversations with personalities from the Colorado and national theatre communities hosted by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore. Today's guests are Director Nick Sugar and BDT Stage Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Duran, who are bringing Peter and the Starcatcher to Boulder through May 4, 2016. Sugar describes the prequel to Peter Pan as a voyage of the imagination. "You are free to fly, just like Peter Pan," he said. If you listen you will learn what Sugar means when he says his actors are "naked up on the stage" - and no, it's probably not what that might make you think.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The story: 13-year-old Molly Aster, a Starcatcher Apprentice, finds herself in the company of pirates, a giant crocodile, and angry Mollusks as she and three orphan boys attempt to return a trunk of precious starstuff to her father. Adventures abound as they’re pursued by a mustached pirate captain named Black 'Stache and his sidekick, Smee. Along the way Molly learns what it means to grow up and is reunited with her father. The nameless orphan and his friends take up residence on this island where dreams are born and time is never planned – the island where that nameless orphan is christened Peter Pan.

    Peter and the Starcatcher: Ticket information:
    • BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder
    • Playing through May 4
    • Call 303-449-6000 or go to bdtstage.com
    Production photos by Glenn Ross Photography

    Note: A separate staging of Peter and the Starcatcher will soon be offered by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. It plays March 31-April 24 at 30 W. Dale St. Call 719-634-5581 or go to csfineartscenter.org

    Peter and the Starcatcher BDT Stage Glenn Ross Photography
    Sarah Grover (Molly) is the only female cast member in BDT Stage's 'Peter and the Starcatcher' at BDT Stage. Glenn Ross Photography

    Most Recent 'Running Lines' podcasts:
    Michael Bouchard of The SantaLand Diaries
    Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford
    Emma Messenger and Haley Johnson of 'Night, Mother
    Margie Lamb of Next to Normal
    Jane Lynch of Glee
    Cyndi Lauper of Kinky Boots
    The cast of Lord of the Flies
    Jeremy Palmer, Ed Mills and J Murray d'Armand of Wit's L.A. Diner
    Laura Norman and Josh Hartwell of Grounded
    Dramaturg Allison Horsley of Animal Crackers
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  • NEA Chair champions Colorado, and arts therapies for veterans

    by John Moore | Mar 16, 2016
     NEA Chairman Jane Chu. Photo by John Moore.
    NEA Chairman Jane Chu at the Colorado Creative Industries' Town Hall meeting at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Photo by John Moore. 

    National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu came to Denver last week with a rallying cry worthy of a campaign stop: “Colorado, when it comes to participating in the arts … you are hitting it out of the park!” she told local arts and business leaders at a Town Hall meeting at the Studio Loft in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    Her message, she said, was to celebrate “the ability of art to not only change but repair lives.” And increasingly, those broken lives now include thousands of returning military service members.

    Chu’s presentation included statistics that made plain the arts continue to play a significant role in the vitality of Colorado. Among the data she cited: 
    • While 37.4 percent of all Americans said they attended a live performing arts event in 2012, that percentage was a whopping 51.9 in Colorado.
    • 16.1 percent of all Americans attended a musical or opera, compared to 20.9 percent in Colorado.
    • And Coloradans attended non-musical plays at nearly twice the national rate - 15.3 percent to 8.3.

    NEA study on Colorado arts participation.
    A 2012 NEA study on arts participation shows Colorado is above average in every category. Source: NEA. 

    “Colorado is one of the states that is consistently above the national average when it comes to participating in the arts,” Chu said. And her findings regarding Colorado were consistently above average when also measuring participation in dance, live music, outdoor performing arts, reading, photography, pottery, textiles, metalwork, and even historic preservation and design.

    “The arts are thriving in Colorado in so many ways," Chu said, "and it’s great to see such a wide variety of arts. There’s something for everyone.”

    Chu was brought to Denver at the invitation of the state's arts council, called Colorado Creative Industries, and she used the opportunity to reinforce the notion that arts are not a subsidy: They are an economic engine.

    “We see through hard evidence that the nonprofit arts sector alone – that’s the sector that both the National Endowment for the Arts and Colorado Creative Industries support – contributed $12.1 billion to the nation’s economy in one single year,” she said.

    The following day, Chu participated in a song-sharing workshop with  Northfield High School students led by members of the popular local advocacy band Flobots. She then toured the Loveland Arts Campus, and visited Denver’s singular Phamaly Theatre Company, which has made performance opportunities available to artists with disabilities for more than 25 years. She quietly watched about 30 minutes of rehearsal for the company’s upcoming production of the Alzheimer’s drama Taking Leave, to be presented at the Jones Theatre, then took questions from about 18 actors and staff.

    Phamaly actor Harper Liles was impressed that Chu chose Phamaly to visit first-hand from among the hundreds of Colorado arts organizations.

    “I am sure that what she saw here is such a break from what she ordinarily sees,” Liles said. “It seems that adaptability in the arts is having a big moment right now.”

    The National Endowment for the Arts, which celebrated its 50th year last Sept. 29, has awarded 147,000 grants and awarded $5 billion in its history. Chu cited Phamaly, Youth on Record, Su Teatro, the Denver Indigenous Film & Arts Festival and Museum Day Live! as local NEA grant recipients.

    “At Su Teatro, productions that speak to the Chicano experience have become a cultural attraction for Denver’s Hispanic community, which makes up nearly a fifth of the entire Denver metro area population,” Chu said. 

    NEA Chairman Jane Chu stopped by a Phamaly Theatre Company rehearsal during her visit to Denver. Photo provided by Phamaly Theatre Company.  NEA Chairman Jane Chu stopped by a Phamaly Theatre Company rehearsal during her visit to Denver. Photo provided by Phamaly Theatre Company. 

    The NEA operates on a $146 million annual budget, which represents about 0.012 percent of federal discretionary spending. At this polarizing and partisan political time, Chu made a point to thank President Barack Obama and both houses of Congress for the NEA’s recent budget increase of nearly $2 million, specifically targeted at creative arts therapies programs for returning military veterans.

    “This is the first funding increase approved by Congress since cuts were made to the NEA budget four years ago,” Chu said. The budget increase will begin to allow the NEA to expand the program to more military sites in states like Colorado, where there are more than 37,000 active duty service members and 413,000 living veterans alone.

    “Having creative arts therapies programs in Colorado, closer to where these service members and veterans reside, and where they can participate, is a valuable vision to have,” she said.

    “At first thought, the arts and the military might seem to operate in totally different orbits. But when we bring them together, the results can be powerful. That’s why, in 2011, we launched a creative arts therapies program for our military service members, many of whom have been affected by the invisible wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan, traumatic brain injury and associated psychological health conditions.

    Phamaly NEA Quote "Our military service members who have been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury say that because they get to create through this arts program, they can now manage their stress, their memory is more enhanced, they can communicate more clearly, and they can manage their physical pain better. We believe that the arts have allowed them to tap into the meaning and value of their own lives, which were always there, but may have been buried during times of combat.”

    Despite calling out many specific Colorado achievements in the arts, several in attendance for Chu's address later expressed surprise that she did not mention the metro area’s signature taxing district, which is considered a national model. The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) is a penny-per-$10 sales tax that raises about $55 million annually for Colorado arts organizations. That is the equivalent of nearly one-third of the NEA’s entire budget for the nation. It goes before voters in November for a crucial reauthorization vote.

    But she praised Denver in many other ways. Before she was appointed by Obama to lead the NEA, Chu was with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. ”Right after we broke ground, a board member and I flew over to meet with the Bonfils Stanton Foundation, and we took a tour of the Denver Performing Arts Complex so that we could learn from you,” she said.

    Chu said the NEA is making strides in making the arts more accessible to women and people of color, and those who speak English as a second language.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “We’re really making progress as a nation in moving away from the old stereotype that the arts are removed from the rest of society, or that they’re only for some people but not for others, when we know that isn’t true," she said. 

    “We’re moving in the right direction. There is still progress to be made, and at the same time, we applaud those organizations throughout Colorado and across the nation that are working to foster an environment where all people will be made to feel that yes, the arts have a place for them."

    After her prepared remarks, Chu took questions and comments from a variety of local arts leaders in attendance, including Lucy Walker, the 90-year-old founder of EDEN Theatrical Workshop, Cleo Parker Robinson (Cleo Parker Robinson Dance) and Jami Duffy (Youth on Record).

    Jane Chu NEA Lucy Walker Eden Thetrical WorkshopWalker specifically questioned Chu on the NEA’s commitment to minority arts organizations.

    “The Expansion Arts Program was established to level the field,” Walker said, “and it did for a very short time. And then it was put out of existence. That meant that most of us throughout this nation who were minorities were out arts funding sources. Eden Theatrical Workshop has been in existence for 51 years and yet we are not allowed to participate in the arts. We are not funded.”

    (Photo above right: Eden Theatrical Workshop founder Lucy Walker addresses NEA Chairman Jane Chu. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Chu, who was born in Shawnee, Okla., the daughter of Chinese immigrants, responded by noting rapidly shifting demographics across America. "By the year 2020, the population ages 18 and under will be minority majority," she said. "By 2040, the population of 35 and under will be minority majority, and by 2060, there will be no minorities. And with shifts in demographics come different perspectives, and so this is an opportunity to honor that through the arts.”   

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

    NEA Chairman Jane Chu at a Town Hall meeting at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Photo by John Moore.  NEA Chairman Jane Chu at the Colorado Creative Industries' Town Hall meeting at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Photo by John Moore. 
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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