• Sale of building will close LIDA Project's performance space

    by John Moore | Dec 17, 2014

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    Brian Freeland and wife Catherine at the opening of the Laundry on Lawrence spacce in 2011. Photo by John Moore


    A once-thriving artists collective just north of downtown Denver will soon turn into a collective of trial attorneys.

    The warehouse known as the Laundry on Lawrence at 27th and Lawrence streets is in the process of being sold to law firm, and the theatre will be converted into offices, Brian Freeland, founder of the venerable LIDA Project experimental theatre, confirmed today.

    In 2011, Neil Adam and S. Brian Smith opened their fourth artists collective in the RiNo Arts District, and their first anchored by a live performance space. Adam and Smith divided the 20,000 square-foot warehouse that had operated for more than a century as public laundry into 30 individual artist studios, with the LIDA Project as the designated resident theatre company.

    Freeland signed a six-year lease through 2017 to rent and run 90-seat theatre that soon became home to several other small, renegade theatre companies. Ripple Effect, And Toto Too, Maya Productions, Feral Assembly and Maya Productions have all staged productions there in 2014, and all are now scrambling to find new space.

    The theatre closes for good with Sunday’s matinee performance of Maya’s Reason, a new play by Boulder’s Ami Dayan about soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dyan is a DCPA commissioned playwright.

    Because the sale is pending, the purchase price and the name of the law firm that is purchasing the building are being withheld. But more than a dozen tenants already have moved out, and Freeland said LIDA will be gone no later than Jan. 31.

    Maggie Stillman, founder of the Ripple Effect Theatre Company, had hoped to make the theatre her company’s permanent home. She launched Ripple Effect with Waiting for Godot in September, and was well into plans for a March 13 opening of Lee Blessing’s hostage drama Two Rooms. Instead, the play will be staged in a non-theatre environ in The Bakery Arts Warehouse at 2132 Market St.

    “I was completely blindsided,” Stillman said.

    But this is not one of those dramatic “Lawyers-evict-artists” kind of stories, Freeland is sorry to say. “We were not evicted,” he said. “They simply gave us the option to vacate our lease, and we took it."

    And he saw it coming.

    “There weren’t any artists left,” Freeland said. Instead, there were businesses and young professionals moving in.

    Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_Quote_1

    Over time, he said, the tenancy has shifted from hip young artists, and then to creative industries, and then to entrepreneurial businesses – a far cry from the bohemia of the beginning.

    “But quite frankly, we always expected it to go away from the beginning," Freeland said. "It was never a secret that they were going to sell the building at some point. It doesn’t make me happy, but this was probably the right time for us to leave anyway.”

    By 2011, Adam and Smith had quietly built up RiNo as an artists’ mecca, starting with the Wazee Union artist collective, followed by 44 individual artist studios at 35th and Wazee streets; then the Walnut Workshop - 17 more studios two blocks to the east; and then the Laundry on Lawrence. But just three years later, only the Wazee Union is still fully functioning according to its original plan. And the owners divested themselves of that property more than three years ago.

    If that sounds like a spectacular crash, Freeland says, it was more like a slow, three-year attrition. And it was actually the owners’ plan all along: To cash in on a temporary window of economic opportunity.

    “Three years ago, RiNo was an attractive spot for an investor to provide work space for artists,” Freeland said, “and they provided it.” But RiNo is now one of the hottest real-estate neighborhoods in one of the hottest real-estate markets in the country.

    Smith, a Denver native, is Managing Partner at zeroventures of Los Angeles, a company that invests in the early stages of ambitious and innovative start-ups. (He has not yet returned a request for comment on this story, which will be updated when he does.)

    “Their business plan was to take blighted warehouses, subdivide them and turn them into viable spaces for artists to work at,” said Freeland. "But the demand isn’t the same now as it was three years ago.”

    What’s changed? Three years of continuing economic recovery. Skyrocketing property values. And, of all things … legalized marijuana.

    “Thanks to marijuana, warehouse space in RiNo is at a (bleeping) premium,” Freeland said. “There is no space left.” 

    But Freeland isn’t stressed about it. Even though he moved his family to New York City a year ago and has split his time between Denver and New York since, Freeland said the LIDA Project will “march on unfettered” into its 21st year.

    “Space has never been a defining thing for us as a company,” said Freeland, whose troupe has had more than six home bases in its 20 years … including the street. "Frankly, we never saw this as our ‘forever home.’”

    In 2015, LIDA plans to bring Ludlow, its collaboration with Colorado Springs TheatreWorks about the historic mining massacre, to Denver. But that project already had grown too large for the Laundry, Freeland said, so he will rent out a larger theatre such as the Aurora Fox, Boulder’s Dairy Center or Metro State.

    Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_800_2

    When playwright Ami Dayan's "Reason," featuring Josh Robinson and James O'Hagan-Murphy, closes this Sunday, so too will the theatre it is being performed in. Photo by Una Morera.



    Freeland said his company’s recent six-part dialogue on firearms titled Happiness is a Warm Gun will return in February, but those performances very intentionally take place not in the theatre but are hosted in area living rooms to spark neighborly, post-show discussions. He also plans to remount his award-winning production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape in New York – with original star Lorenzo Sariñana playing the menacing Yank who speaks entirely in Spanish and mostly to five female mannequins. And his core ensemble will soon dive into a new creation that will take 6-12 moths to develop. “None of those plans depend on finding a permanent home anytime soon,” Freeland said.

    “We’ve had a very busy year, but when you think about it, we haven’t staged one show in 2014 in our ‘home’ theatre,” said Freeland.

    Stillman believes the larger story here is the continued attrition of affordable performing spaces for theatre companies in the city of Denver. While mainstays like Buntport and Su Teatro are stabilized in the Santa Fe Arts District, there seems to be an ongoing exodus of grassroots theatre from Denver proper over the past five years. 

    Paragon moved to RiNo and folded a month later. The Victorian Playhouse closed. Germinal Stage-Denver moved to Westminster. Vintage Theatre moved to Aurora. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is leaving the Boettcher Auditorium behind. New theatres and arts centers have been built in Lone Tree, Parker, Creede and Grand Lake – everywhere but Denver.

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    Freeland sees this as a real problem for the performing arts within the city of Denver.

    “Denver is incredibly receptive to live music, the visual arts and even the culinary arts,” Freeland said. “But I think the performing arts are struggling for audiences at every level.”

    When Stillman ponders her company’s impending homelessness, she puts it more bluntly.

    “Artists are being driven out of central Denver,” she said, “and I don’t like that at all.”

    Updates:
    Susan Lyles, founder of And Toto Too, reports that her company - the only one in Colorado dedicated exclusively to producing new work by women playwrights - will be announcing its 10th season "in early to mid-January, along with a location for at least the spring show," she said. There will be a SWAN Day performance on March 23 - that's the new international "Support Women Artists Now Day" - to be announced later,  and the company's annual summer Play Crawl along Tennyson Street will continue. "This is an unfortunate bump in the road for us - but we love a challenge," Lyles said.


    More on the story: 
    From 2011: In Colorado, an unexpected building boom
    From 2012: LIDA Project founder moving to New York
    From 2013: Exit interview, LIDA Project founder Brian Freeland: 'Director and designer of mayhem'


    Lida_Project_Theatre_Close_800_3Hart DeRose before the opening of 'The Hairy Ape' at the Laundry on Lawrence in 2012. Photo by John Moore.

  • 'A Christmas Carol': Opening Night photo gallery

    by John Moore | Dec 16, 2014
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    Backstage, actor Philip Pleasants prepares for his eighth opening night as the DCPA Theatre Company's Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo by John Moore. To see our complete gallery of Opening Night photos, click here

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    A_Christmas_Carol_Opening_800_3
    Actor Leonard Barrett (Ghost of Christmas Present) was diagnosed with a retinal tear in his eye on the afternoon of Opening Night, but he went on as scheduled. Three days later, he had surgery, necessitating at least two weeks of recovery time. He's being replaced for the time being by Colin Alexander. Photo by John Moore.

    TO SEE OUR COMPLETE GALLERY OF OPENING NIGHT PHOTOS, CLICK HERE

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

    Our previous coverage of
    this year's A Christmas Carol:
    Actor Scott McLean is now also a published children's author
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    By the numbers: 'A Christmas Carol' over 22 years at the DCPA
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
    Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes
  • 2014 True West Award: Rick Yaconis

    by John Moore | Dec 15, 2014
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    TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

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    Over the years, I have enjoyed a playful repartee with genial tough guy Rick Yaconis, who's from Pittsburgh, though you'd swear he walked straight outta Jersey. Bada bing. Yaconis took over the E-Project Theatre in 2010 and renamed it The Edge with the stated objective of lifting it out from the overcrowded pack of small, similar neighborhood troupes in the Denver area. And I have chided and cajoled, championed and chastised him every encouraging step of his way.

    Growing into the ranks of Denver’s few mid-sized, professional theatre companies will be no small – or fast – task. But it is clear that the smallest company having the most noticeable growth spurt at the moment is The Edge Theatre.

    In 2014, Yaconis and wife Patty delivered solid stagings of challenging titles that were worthy of the company’s bold name, even if the edgiest days of the plays he chose came a decade or more before: Orphans, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Buried Child. Solid work all around. Then there were decidedly non-Edgy titles that muddled the message, such as The Graduate and Gifted. But Yaconis sent out his clearest signal to date that things are changing by expanding his director and actor pool. 2014 brought Augustus Truhn, Michael Bouchard, Emily Paton Davies, Michael Stricker, Adrian Egolf, Jack Wefso, Mark Collins and other respected actors to The Edge for the first time. But there were also examples of the kind of preferential casting you see from small friends-and-family companies that were not always in service to the plays, or the company's overall mission. It's at times, confusing. 

    What was made crystal clear in September is that Season 5 will be a jaw-dropper: The Mother****er with the Hat, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ surprisingly funny comedy about jealousy and addiction by America’s reigning King of Nasty. Mike Bartlett’s Cock, a title we can print here because it’s a relationship comedy some might describe as "the ultimate cockfight." As the winner of The Edge’s annual new-play festival, local playwright Jeffrey Neuman's Exit Strategies earned a full staging. It's about a man who is drawn back into explosive family dynamics when he returns home for his father’s funeral. And Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? will never not be considered edgy. Then there are some less edgy-sounding titles, but at least they will be new to the area: American Girls by Hillary Bettis, about two God-fearing, celebrity-starved Iowa farm girls. And Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind, a British comedy about a cleric’s frustrated wife.

    And then there is Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth. Nothing any local theatre company has ever scheduled has scared me more than the prospect of The Edge taking on this incredible opus about a drunken, wanted man who faces eviction from his trailer home in the rural woods of Wiltshire. Seeing Mark Rylance perform Jerusalem on Broadway was to humbly acknowledge the unlikelihood that any of us in the audience will ever see a greater live performance in our lifetimes. But hey, good luck with that, Edge.

    How a Nora Ephron title (Lucky Me) made the cut escapes me, but I'll focus instead on the fact that The Edge’s expanding director pool will include big-time Edge newcomers Josh Hartwell, Warren Sherrill and John Ashton.

    The first few years of The Edge seemed to be a lot of “two steps forward, one step back,” but those steps back now seem to be much fewer and further between. And, by taking many more steps forward than back, just look at where The Edge is now: Miles further down the road from where the Yaconises started five years ago.

    One thing we know as 2014 ends is that it will be impossible not to watch The Edge in 2015.
      

      2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
    1: Norrell Moore
    2. Kate Gleason
    3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
    4. Ben Cowhick
    5. Robert Michael Sanders
    6. David Nehls
    7. Adrian Egolf
    8. Emma Messenger
    9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
    10. Tim Howard
    11. Gleason Bauer
    12. Daniel Traylor
    13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
    14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'

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

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

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

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

  • M Scott McLean: Actor, songwriter and, now, published children's author

    by John Moore | Dec 14, 2014
    Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_1

    M Scott McLean co-authored "Fairy Tale Christmas" with his father, Michael. Photo by John Moore.



    Scott_McLean_A_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_Book_1M Scott McLean is one charming guy, he'd be the … last one to admit. Now ... charmed? Yep, he’ll own that.

    The affable actor and songwriter is now the rare first-time author to be published. By a real publisher. And less than a year after he started writing the book.

    “Amazing, isn’t it? Lucky, lucky, lucky … and a complete surprise,” said McLean, who is currently playing Fred and young Ebenezer Scrooge in the DCPA Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol through Dec. 28.

    McLean and his father, Michael, are the co-authors of a new children’s novella called Fairy Tale Christmas, which was published Oct. 1 by Shadow Mountain Publishing. And the McLeans have developed an accompanying live theatre adaptation, complete with a 15-song original score.

    McLean will host the DCPA's “16th Annual Holiday Reading” at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the Colfax Tattered Cover. He’ll read from several holiday classics, as well as his new book. 

    Scott_McLean_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Quote_1The adorable premise: Santa Claus has been kidnapped by some recognizable, archetypal villains. They are a gang of thugs who have been made unemployed by all those “happily ever after” fairy tales. We’re talking Rumpelstiltskin, an evil queen, a wicked stepmother, a sorceress and a certain beanstalk giant. Their diabolical mission? To erase that term -- Happily Ever After -- from our storybooks forever.

     “The villains have conspired to hold Santa for ransom until all of the good fairy-tale characters agree to change their endings,” McLean said. “If they don’t, Christmas will be ruined for all children of the world.”

    Well, hold your sleigh bells. Not with Pinocchio, Cinderella, Jack and Belle on the case. To save the day, the fairy-tale heroes wrestle with a holiday conundrum: Should they sacrifice “happily ever after” to save Christmas? Isn’t that a little like negotiating with terrorists? Think of all this as a bit Into the Woods, a bit How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and a bit 24.

    The book, recommended for readers age 7-14, is available through the Tattered Cover web site or also on Amazon.Com ($15.99).

    After just 10 weeks, McLean already is hearing back from children around the world. One message that particularly struck him was from a 10-year-old named Raymond:

    “I had so much fun reading this book. I laughed so hard one time, I think they heard me from China. It was such a happy story. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel good inside.”

    “That made me cry,” said McLean. “It is fun to be a part of something that is that uplifting.”

    The story is resonating with readers, McLean believes, because it offers a simple and reparative message for children at an evidently troubled time in our world.

    Scott_McLean_A_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_Book_2“In our story, Santa Claus has decided to change his policy that all naughty kids get coal,” McLean said. “This year, every kid is going to get a gift, because there is good in every kid. Maybe the reason kids are naughty is because no one has told them that they are good. Maybe the gift they get this Christmas will turn them around and open their hearts so they can see that they are part of so much good in the world.”

    If that sounds like a holiday miracle, consider what it took to get A Fairy Tale Christmas published ... in a matter of just months.

    That story begins 31 years ago in Heber, Utah, a tiny town of 13,000 near Park City. Michael McLean, Scott’s father, had the idea for the “heroes vs. villains” story 30 years ago, and wrote the first two songs to go with it.

    “The idea at the time was for it to be a little children’s coloring book with crayons and a cassette recording so you could listen to the songs,” said Scott McLean, who moved to Denver in 2006 as a member of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. He has performed in 12 mainstage productions for the Theatre Company, including Death of a Salesman, Animal Crackers and five different annual stagings of A Christmas Carol.

    Last Christmas, when McLean went home to visit his family for the holidays, he and his father decided to write some songs and stories together, as they had done throughout Scott’s youth. “I said, ‘Well, what about Fairy Tale Christmas? That thing from 30 years ago? Let’s flesh that out and make that into a real play,’” Scott said.   

    Michael McLean is a songwriter and storyteller by trade who has released more than two dozen albums and produced several award-winning films. His annual Christmas production, adapted from his book The Forgotten Carols, has been performed throughout the U.S. since 1991.

    Scott_McLean_Christmas_Carol_Fairy_Tale_Quote_2“He’s a very encouraging and supportive dad who has been a sounding board in my own writing throughout my life,” said Scott. “I consider him a mentor and a really good friend.”

    The two went into their writing cave in January and came out a few weeks later with what they thought was a 45-minute stage musical, complete with six news songs. But they had no luck finding a theatrical producer. Shadow Mountain Publishing, based in Salt Lake City, told the McLeans if they adapted the idea into a children’s novella, they would publish it.

    “That was a complete surprise, because we pitched it as a musical,” McLean said.

    In addition to the book, complete with illustrations by Jason Quinn, the McLeans have completed a full-length musical stage adaptation that is available for licensing.

    In the meantime, Scott McLean is  immersed in his fifth staging of A Christmas Carol for the DCPA. He is performing 10 shows a week throughout December. McLean welcomes the fatigue.

    “It sounds corny, but I do genuinely love this gig,” he said. “It’s a grueling schedule, but there is something about this story -- and there’s something about the people who come to see this who really need this story. It surprises me every night how energized I am by it.”

    While he also pursues his acting career in New York, McLean is grateful that the DCPA has given him an artistic home for the past decade.

    “We all accept that Broadway is the greatest stage for American theatre, but outside of New York, I think this is the greatest theatre to work at in the country, without a doubt, in terms of the quality of the work and the quality of the people who work here,” he said.

    “I’m happy when I get a job here, and I’m sad when I have to leave.”

    Fairy Tale Christmas: An excerpt:

    Once upon a Christmastime, just a few bedtime stories before Christmas Eve, and long after every “happily ever after” ending, a clandestine meeting was being held. Of course, you’d expect such a meeting to be undercover, underhanded, sneaky, and dishonorable, but that’s not why it was called a clandestine meeting. Before this meeting, at the annual Long Ago Island Job Fair for disenchanted fairy-tale villains seeking new employment, a bossy stepmother, a hungry Giant, a vengeful six-foot Fairy Queen, a self-absorbed Drama Queen, and a creepy little schemer with a truly bizarre name decided to skip the job fair altogether and call themselves “The Clandestines.” They did this partly because all of them were, in fact, underhanded, sneaky, and dishonorable, but it was mostly because “The Clandestines” made for a much better sounding name than “Evil Fairy Tale Villains.” And “The Temptations” had already been taken.



    DCPA's 16th Annual Holiday Reading:
    • 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15
    • Free
    • Warm drinks, treats provided
    • M Scott McLean reads from several holiday classics, including his new book for young readers, A Fairy Tale Christmas
    • Colfax Tattered Cover Book Store, 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
    • Guests are encouraged to bringing a new or gently used book as a donation to Tattered Cover’s annual Children’s Book Drive, which benefits Reach Out and Read Colorado. More information: Click here


    Order Fairy Tale Christmas online:

    The book, recommended for readers age 7-14, is available through the Tattered Cover web site or also on Amazon.Com ($15.99).

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

    Our previous coverage of
    this year's A Christmas Carol:
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    By the numbers: 'A Christmas Carol' over 22 years at the DCPA
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
    Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes


    Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_4

    M Scott McLean has appeared in five DCPA stagings of "A Christmas Carol." Photo by Terry Shapiro.


    Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_3

    M Scott McLean in last spring's "Animal Crackers." Photo by Jennifer M.. Koskinen.



    Scott_McLean_Fairy_Tale_Christmas_800_5M Scott McLean with Lauren Klein in the 2013 staging of "Death of a Salesman." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Meet the cast video series: M Scott McLean
  • 2014 True West Award: Cast of 'The Whipping Man'

    by John Moore | Dec 14, 2014
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    TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

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    Audiences are never meant to know the obstacles a production tackles on its often rocky road to Opening Night. Any piece must be considered on its ultimate and evident merit. But in the case of The Whipping Man, we knew: A press release was issued less than a week before Curious Theatre’s highly anticipated Civil War drama was to bow announcing that multiple award-winning actor Cajardo Lindsey would be stepping into the central role of Simon, an elderly slave who has spent his entire life in service to a wealthy Jewish Confederate family in Virginia. This could not be good: Lindsey was at least 35 years too young for the part. Plus, it had been previously announced that area veteran Russell Costen would be playing the role. And it wasn't good. Costen was having health issues, and would soon after be diagnosed with lung cancer that would require surgery and a six-week stay in a V.A. Hospital. So, ready or not, Lindsey was the man. The 70-year-old man. On six days’ notice.  

    You may already know the end of the story: The Whipping Man turned out to be one of Curious’ “Curious-of-old” productions. You’ve heard the company’s ubiquitous catchphrase: “No Guts, No Story.” The Whipping Man had guts. Almost literally: I mean, we watched a leg get sawed off in the first scene.

    Lindsey wasn’t just good. He became the core of a powerful staging that went on to win eight Colorado Theatre Guild Awards. To fully appreciate that feat, consider this: A drama with no female actors is only eligible for consideration in nine categories.

    This was a production that soared on every level, including scenic design and costumes (both Markas Henry), lighting (Shannon McKinney), sound (Brian Freeland) and direction (Kate Folkins and Chip Walton). The best you might fairly expect out of an ensemble of three actors on six days of rehearsal might be that they all say the right words, and that they not run into each other on the stage. Instead, you would have no idea this show very nearly fell like Richmond. And for that, salutations go out to actors Lindsey, Laurence Curry and Sean Scrutchins.

    The Whipping Man is ending its second straight year on the list of the 10 most-produced plays in America, but Curious was the first to snag it for Denver. Astonishingly, it was written by Matthew Lopez, who also penned the heartfelt comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride, which was enjoying its world premiere at the DCPA at the same time The Whipping Man was being presented at Curious.

    It opens in the tattered remains of a Virginia estate immediately after the south's surrender. Scrutchins played a badly wounded Jewish soldier named Caleb who returns home to discover his family has fled to safety. All who remain to help him in his desperate medical condition are two of his former slaves: Simon (Lindsey) and John (Curry). Because Caleb’s family was Jewish, their slaves were inculcated into the religion as well, which both now consider a great gift.

    The play takes its most compelling turn when the men realize they have missed the beginning of Passover in the prevailing chaos of the war's end. So they hold a makeshift Seder that makes plain the unresolved hypocrisies of their shared American histories. Jews, after all, hold the Seder to celebrate their exodus from slavery in Ancient Egypt. Now here in Virginia, southern descendants of those same slaves have grown rich from owning slaves themselves. And now, a new kind of exodus is happening all around poor, gangrened Caleb. It's payback time. Or is it?

    This an unexpectedly human play doesn’t work without three actors at the top of their craft. Lindsey (who recently appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company's Just Like Us) not only overcame the physical contradiction between actor and character, he fully transformed into Simon and had us feeling the weight of his burdens down to our bones. Scrutchins, who can hop between comedic and gut-scraping roles with disarming ease, made us feel both empathetic and necessarily put off by Caleb's stubborn adherence to his innate, pillaged privilege. And Curry is, simply, an actor who never lets you see him act. He's just that natural on the stage. As John, Curry was a fully disciplined firecracker who was always in control – and never let you know it. He was a joker, a roach, a smoldering ember and the raging conscience of a most remarkable production. 

    The Whipping Man reunited Curry and Lindsey from their equally astonishing turns in 2013’s The Brothers Size. And because Curious has now committed to staging Tarell Alvin McCraney’s complete Brother/Sister Trilogy, we can look forward to seeing them together again in the regional premiere of In The Red And Brown Water, opening March 7. And again for a reprise of The Brothers Size from July 11-Aug. 15.

      2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
    1: Norrell Moore
    2. Kate Gleason
    3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
    4. Ben Cowhick
    5. Robert Michael Sanders
    6. David Nehls
    7. Adrian Egolf
    8. Emma Messenger
    9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
    10. Tim Howard
    11. Gleason Bauer
    12. Daniel Traylor
    13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan

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

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

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

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

  • Video: Fun highlights from the DCPA's Holiday Box Office

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2014

    Here are performance highlights from the first weeks of the DCPA’s new Holiday Box Office, an innovative, interactive storefront in Cherry Creek North that offers holiday shoppers musical numbers; actor interviews; a behind-the scenes look at one of the leading arts centers in the nation; and plenty of activities for kids, including origami, storytelling, a stage to play on, props to play with and costumes to try on.

    It's all a fun respite from the hubbub of shopping. And there are no fees on any tickets or gift certificates purchased at the store through Dec. 23.

    Featured guests in this video include cast members from Forbidden Broadway (Katie Drinkard, Jordan Leigh, Sarah Rex and Lauren Shealy); Jersey Boys (Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Nicolas Dromard); How The Grinch Stole Christmas (The Grinch); A Christmas Carol (Elias Harger); and Off-Center @The Jones' Perception (Tom Hagerman). Also: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, DCPA Director of Marketing and Media Jeff Hovorka; and Visit Denver's Richard Scharf. Video by John Moore and David Lenk.

    For ticket information, call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.

    Holiday_Box_Office_Store_800_3_map


    DCPA Holiday Box Office: At a glance

    Our previous coverage from the Holiday Box Office:
    Here's our news story announcing the store opening
    Mayor, Grinch, help DCPA launch new storefront
    Video: Watch Jordan Leigh's fresh take on Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song in full
    Video: Interview with Shaun Taylor-Corbett of Jersey Boys

    Holiday_Box_Office_800_JerseyThe cast of Jersey Boys greets a fan at the DCPA's Holiday Box Office. 


    Holiday_Box_Office_800_Hagerman
    Let's play!

  • 2014 True West Award: Daniel Traylor

    by John Moore | Dec 12, 2014
    True_West_Award_DANIEL_TRAYLOR_800


    TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

    True_West_Award_300

    I think of myself as a “phriend of the Phamaly.” I have a plaque on my wall from Denver’s professional handicapped theatre company saying as much. But I don’t think I got there as a theatre critic by being patronizing or easy. I’ve watched Daniel Traylor, son of Phamaly co-founder Kathleen Traylor, grow up over 16 productions with this singular company that casts only actors with disabilities. Even in his early teens, it was obvious young Daniel didn’t just want the opportunity to be an actor. He wanted to "be an actor.” So he worked. He attended Denver School of the Arts, and then the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles. Along the way, he has had no shortage of roles with Phamaly both weighty and fanciful: Merrick in The Elephant Man. Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. Buddy in The Diviners. Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. And why not? Traylor, who is hard of hearing and has both arthritis and hip dysplasia, is a triple-threat who can sing, act and dance. But as he kept garnering plum roles and critical raves, I was the bad guy who couldn’t help feeling that it was too much, too soon - and not yet fully deserved. He was blustering his way through his roles like a tornado with a passion and angst not every situation called for. Many times I would sit in a theatre and silently root for him to “bring it down, bring it down.” Actors will tell you that subtlety is a virtue - and emoting is a tool that should be carefully chosen. But one of the many privileges of covering local theatre over time is getting to see artists grow. Too many local actors work on their craft only by performing on the stage. Traylor has continued to work on his craft both on the stage and in the classroom ... and it showed in 2014. Now in his mid-20s, Traylor has matured into a layered actor. He started the year playing the narrator Tom in The Glass Menagerie, which got my attention when Denver Theatre Examiner Deb Flomberg said Traylor “brought wisdom far beyond his years.” He then won a spot in Denver Center Theatre Academy Head of Acting Larry Hecht’s difficult Master Class Project, a musical revue inspired by the songs of Stephen Sondheim and the art of Edward Hopper. And then came word that he had won the title role in Phamaly’s encore staging of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the DCPA. Now, Phamaly’s Joseph is no ordinary Joseph. The 2005 production, set in a mental institution, was one of the seminal productions in Phamaly history, showing audiences how much more powerful a lighthearted musical can be when performed by actors who are disabled or otherwise considered different. And not only was Traylor following in the footsteps of award-winning 2005 star Jeremy Palmer, his predecessor would be dancing, oh, about seven brothers over his shoulder. But Traylor did something remarkable with the role. He turned Joseph from a trifle into a masterpiece. And he did it by playing Joseph as no less than Cervantes in The Man of La Mancha. His Joseph was also a prisoner who helped his fellow inmates to wile away their soul-crushing days by escaping into the world of storytelling. Traylor provided moments of pure exhilaration as Joseph, but there was also a world of thoughtful, meaningful sadness behind his eyes. This time, Traylor went large by going small. He’s a new man. And next year, audiences will get to see him as far away as Japan. Traylor will be playing Matt in The Fantasticks for Phamaly at the Aurora Fox (Jan. 29-Feb. 15) and the Arvada Center (Feb. 27-March 1) before traveling to Osaka for performances and workshops there.

      2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
    1: Norrell Moore
    2. Kate Gleason
    3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
    4. Ben Cowhick
    5. Robert Michael Sanders
    6. David Nehls
    7. Adrian Egolf
    8. Emma Messenger
    9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
    10. Tim Howard
    11. Gleason Bauer
    12. Daniel Traylor

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

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

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

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

  • Appoggiatura's James Still is running to catch up to himself

    by John Moore | Dec 11, 2014

    Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_James_Still_800Photo by John Moore


    James Still was asked at Tuesday’s first rehearsal to explain his upcoming world-premiere play Appoggiatura.  All of it: The title. What it’s about. Where it came from.

    The pained look on his face was not terribly revealing because Still pretty much always has a pained look on his face. He is a three-time Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright, after all.

    The title, he’s got covered. An appoggiatura is a musical note. It refers to that point in a musical piece where tension builds up just before leaning into a satisfying release. Think of it as being pulled back from the cliff. To Still, the word isn’t nearly as scary as it might sound at first.

    “When I send text messages on my iPhone, auto-correct does not recognize Los Angeles,” he said, “… but it does recognize appoggiatura.

    The storyline is pretty straightforward, too. Appoggiatura is the whimsical story of three Americans, each grieving the loss of the same man in very different ways. They travel together to the romantic city of Venice seeking escape, understanding, solace ... and, yes, appoggiatura. Like those chaotic musical notes, these three are caught up in a moment of profound dissonance - just before the resolve.

    It’s identifying the origin of the play that presents a problem for Still. Because does anyone really know, exactly, where any play comes from? What Still did offer cast, crew and staff at their first gathering for the play opening Jan. 16 at the Ricketson Theatre were fragments from his life that help explain how the play came into being.

    Still took us to Central Park in New York City, where he has often jogged throughout his life. “A few years ago, as I was running, I saw this guy run past me,” Still said, "and I was convinced that it was me 20 years ago, when I was a young guy who had just gotten to New York.

    “It was like I was running to try to catch up to myself.”  

    Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Darrie_Lawrence_800
    Darrie Larence, who plays Helen, is returning to the DCPA Theatre Company, where she was an original member for the first several years of its existence, along with Tyne Daly. Her past Denver credits included 'Night of the Iguana.' She is shown here with castmate Rob Nagle (Aunt Chuck). To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here


    To fully understand where Still was going with all of this, you should know that Appoggiatura takes on a magical, time-bending quality in Venice. Is it still modern day? Or has it somehow become 1951? Is it possible to run into a living being from another time in our lives – like Still being passed on a jog by his 20-year-old self?

    Back in Central Park, Still noticed other men jogging who were also in their 40s. And with that came a monumental epiphany. “When I was in my 20s, I never saw any men in their 40s running with us in Central Park,” he said, “because they were all dead. They had all died of AIDS in a time when it felt like everyone was dying.”

    Still then realized that he had now aged into “that thing” that didn't exist when he was in his 20s – a generation before him wiped out. “And so now here I was both myself in my 40s, and myself in my 20s – running in Central Park together.”

    The revelation overwhelmed Still with feelings of sorrow and yearning and love.

    “I remember hoping that someday I would be able to capture that sensation,” he said. “And that was the beginning of Appoggiatura.” And while the play is not directly about AIDS, he said, it taps into the abyss of our collective grief.

    Appoggiatura_James_Still_Lucca_400Flash forward to about five years ago. Still had moved to a small town in Italy called Lucca -- Puccini’s hometown. It’s a carless city best known for a 5-kilometer wall that lines the town, where modern-day people run and walk and ride their bikes. Still would get up every morning and run there. And every morning, he would see an old man walking toward him. Someone he knew. 

    “I was sure it was my great-grandfather,” said Still, who grew up in a small town in Kansas. And whose great-grandfather died when Still was 22.

    “But it was him,” Still said matter-of-factly. “Every day, I would go running because I couldn't wait to see my great-grandfather. I would make up something to say, like, 'Multe grande, pappa!He would look at me and think I was strange and say, ‘buongiorno,’ and keep walking. But I am telling you: This happened every morning for months.”

    Still had a photo taken of himself with the man, and when he returned to his native Kansas to visit his mother, he showed her the picture. I said to her, 'Who is this?' And she said straight out, 'Well … that's grandpa.’”

    That pretty much made writing Appoggiatura an inevitability.

    “This kind of thing happens to all of us, I am sure,” Still said. “But one of the great privileges of being a writer is that these moments are a doorway into a world that makes my life more beautiful and more hopeful. It allows me to return to a place that I want to go to. It allows me to visit people that I miss.”

    Appoggiatura
    focuses on Helen, a childlike woman in her 70s who knows this might be her last trip to Italy; her wayward granddaughter, Sylvie, who has just graduated from college; and a middle-aged man they both lovingly call Aunt Chuck, who has no idea how to mend his broken heart. They are all lost -- and looking to be found in Venice.

    And what better place? "You go to Venice to get lost,” said Risa Brainin, who will direct the DCPA Theatre Company’s premiere production. “Beautifully lost. Heartbreakingly lost.

    “And James has captured the feeling of Venice perfectly. His plays are passionate and full of what makes real people tick. His plays are authentic and genuine - just like James."


    Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Group_800
    The first reading at the first rehearsal of 'Appoggiatura' at the DCPA on Nov. 9. Photo by John Moore. To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here

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

    Written by James Still
    Directed by Risa Brainin
    Set Design by David M. Barber
    Costume Design by Meghan Doyle
    Lighting Design by Charles Macleod
    Sound Design by Tyler Nelson
    Composer/Musical Director: Michael Keck
    Dramaturg: Doug Langworthy
    Projection Design by Charlie Miller
    Choreography and Movement by Bob Davidson
    Voice and Dialect: Kathy Maes

    Appoggiatura: Ticket information
    Jan. 16-Feb. 22
    Ricketson Theatre
    Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our previous coverage of Appoggiatura:




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


    Meet the cast video series:
    Nick Mills

    Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Mehry_Lenne_800
    Castmates Mehry Eslaminia, left, and Lenne Klingaman are excited to hear the "Appoggiatura" designers explain their set, lighting, costume and video concepts. Video by John Moore. To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here


    Appoggiatura_First_Rehearsal_Darrie_Lawrence_2_800Darrie Lawrence (Helen) at work during the cast's first read-through of the script. Photo by John Moore. To see our full gallery of first-day rehearsal photos, click here

  • Video: Interview with Shaun Taylor-Corbett of 'Jersey Boys'

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2014


    In this brief video, actor Shaun Taylor-Corbett is interviewed by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about the return of Jersey Boys to Denver from Dec. 10-14, 2014.

    Taylor-Corbett, who plays Frankie Valli, is the son of famed choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett, a Colorado native who graduated from Littleton High School in suburban Denver. The interview took place at the DCPA's new temporary Holiday Box Office in Cherry Creek North, where patrons are treated to songs, stories, crafts and more.

    Jersey Boys, the 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical about The Four Seasons (Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi), is the story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop-music history. Songs include “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

    Jersey Boys Ticket Information

    Dec. 10-14, 2014
    Buell Theatre
    Seven performances only
    Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org

    Our previous Jersey Boys coverage:

    Video: Jersey Boy sings national anthem at Denver Broncos game
    Story, video: Jersey Boy walks with Denver Mayor at launch of DCPA holiday store
    Download our Jersey Boys Study Guide
    Try our Jersey Boys crossword puzzle!

    Jersey_Boys_Shaun_Taylor-Corbett_Holiday_Store_800

    Shaun Taylor-Corbett of 'Jersey Boys' sings to patrons of the temporary DCPA Holiday Box Office storefront in Cherry Creek North. Photo by John Moore.
  • Part 2: Matthew Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2014

    Matthew_Lopez_800_lead_Quote

    To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here


    When Matthew Lopez visited Denver School of the Arts students last month, he didn’t waste any time. He worked them.

    Lopez, the accomplished young playwright of both The Legend of Georgia McBride and The Whipping Man, is serving as the DCPA Theatre Company’s first-ever Playwriting Fellow. Lopez is making monthly visits to Denver throughout the season, and he wants connecting with area students to be a regular priority. 

    “One of the reasons it is important for me to work with students is because one day someone said to me, ‘You are good at what you do,’ ” Lopez said. “And I trusted them. Those encouragements are something you cling to when things are really hard.”

    Denver School of the Arts is a Denver Public Schools magnet school where students declare specific majors such as theatre, creative writing or visual arts, just as if they were in college. 

    Lopez’s visit caused a bit of a stir. His first stop was before a full class of acting students. And just as he was starting, he was asked if a nearby class could join in. Soon every chair and nearly every floor tile was covered in teenaged sponges.

    For those who didn’t already know Lopez, they soon learned why they should listen to him. Georgia McBride had its world premiere at the DCPA earlier this year, and The Whipping Man was one of the most produced plays in America (including Curious Theatre). He has two new plays debuting in 2015; he wrote for one season of HBO’s The Newsroom; and he is readying his first screenplay, for the company that produced the Oscar-winning Twelve Years a Slave

    Then the work began. Lopez invited a few brave acting students to read speeches from his upcoming plays, meaning the material would not only be cold to them – it would be tundra. They couldn’t know what they were signing up to read.

    Video showing Matthew Lopez at work with Denver School of the Arts students.


    One student played a dreamer imagining his Oscar acceptance speech for his work as an extra on the 1959 filming of West Side Story. Another had a woman trying to articulate her feelings to a potential new boyfriend. And with Lopez’s gentle assistance – no doubt shaped by having two teachers for parents and an aunt who has won a Tony Award – he elucidated how to inspect a playwright’s text for clues they can latch onto and help them figure out the writer’s intention.

    “What we are going to be paying attention to is the language,” Lopez said. "Our goal will be to look at the text and make it come alive.”

    When another student sped through a passage too quickly, Lopez encouraged her to try again. “Say that sentence again … and really understand it,” he said. 

    The student playing the imaginary Oscar winner embraced the sweet naiveté of a young man who thinks an extra might actually be considered for an Academy Award. Oh, and another thing – in his fantasy, he is married to Marilyn Monroe, and the father of her four children. The student took on the challenge of communicating all of that in a brief speech with comic gusto:

    “I didn’t really expect to win this. I mean, when you are up against Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, David Niven and Laurence Olivier, well … wow.”

    Lopez stopped him. “OK, here’s a tip: Never waste a ‘wow,’ If a playwright gives you the word ‘wow,’ he really wants you to say the word, WOW!”

    He tried again. He hit the “WOW.” His fellow students cheered for the difference.

    Lopez told them the scene was partially inspired by being the nephew of Priscilla Lopez, who created the role of Diana in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, and won the Tony Award in 1980 for her performance in A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine.

    “When I would visit her as a kid, I would take her Tony Award off the mantle and go into the bathroom and make imaginary acceptance speeches,” he said to knowing laughs.

    Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_2
    Matthew Lopez addresses an overflow room of Denver School of the Arts students. Photo by John Moore. To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here


    Lopez advised the young actors to jump in should they ever get the opportunity to work with a playwright on a developing play. It is a much different creative experience than being handed a published script that will not change. A developing play is different, he said, because you are a part of shaping the developing script.

    “Working with new plays is a whole different kind of electrical charge,” Lopez told them. “For me, that’s why I love working in theatre. Because you don't know what is going to happen next. A play like Fences, you already know. You can either get it right, or you can get it wrong. But it’s done. It’s not changing. But when you work on a new play, there are so many moving parts and variables, and every day the writer is constantly changing your words. It’s a different kind of acting challenge, and you should always take it.”

    The afternoon had Lopez visiting with a very different group of creative-writing majors. He told them to appreciate the blessing the Denver School of the Arts is in their lives.

    “My life is pretty great right now,” said Lopez, who grew up in the Florida panhandle. “But I may have saved a lot of money in therapy if I had a school like this growing up."


    Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_3

    Photo by John Moore. To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here

    MATTHEW LOPEZ’S TIPS FOR YOUNG ACTORS

    • "Hang glide on the language. Just let the language carry you through."
    • "Skip the pronouns. Pronouns are not your friends. They are the words you should gleefully skip to get to the good words."
    • "There are such things as small roles, actually."
    • On taking criticism: “You have to learn how to do it. And, equally important: You have to know who to accept it from. I need people to say to me, ‘This is not your best work - and here’s why.’ You have to accept the possibility that what you have written is not perfect, because that’s the only way it is going to get any better."
    • "What did Ernest Hemingway say? 'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter … and bleed.' ”

    MATTHEW LOPEZ’S TIPS FOR YOUNG WRITERS

    • "Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions. The only way to have opinions is to know things. Know who the Premier of Japan is. We don’t need writers to tell us how to feel. We need writers to look beyond and help us see new things. Knowing the world is going to help you figure out what you think about the world. And figuring out what you think about the world will help you figure out what you want to write about the world."
    • "There is no such thing as writer’s block. Writer’s block is just fear manifested. Writer’s block is an excuse to be lazy. Writer’s block is an excuse to be afraid. Writer’s block is an excuse to watch television. Being a writer means being willing to fight through all of that."
    • "Read at least five articles from The New York Times every day.
    • Read at least one novel a month.

    MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
    Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
    Part 2: Matthew Lopez visits Denver School of the Arts (above)
    Part 3: Lopez' thoughts on the state of American playwriting (next)
    Part 4: Lopez's role in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit

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

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

    Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_4
    Matthew Lopez, left, with Denver School of the Arts teacher Brandon Becker. Photo by John Moore.


    Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_5Matthew Lopez is approached by a student who says her life was changed by his play, "The Legend of Georgia McBride."

    To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here


  • Video: Jordan Leigh's fresh take on Adam Sandler's 'Hanukkah Song'

    by John Moore | Dec 09, 2014

    Actor Jordan Leigh, now appearing in DCPA Cabaret's Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking! at the Garner Galleria Theatre through March 1, debuted his new take on Adam Sandler's cult-comedy fave Hanukkah Song when the cast appeared at the DCPA's Holiday Box Office storefront to sing seasonal songs for patrons and passersby.

    Calling his version of the song Jew.0, Leigh updates Sandler's list of more recently famous Jewish pop-culture stars. That includes Seth Rogen, Daniel Day-Lewis and Jonah Hill. But Peyton Manning, Jewish Broncos fans? Um ... Sorry, that's a no, Leigh sings.

    The DCPA Holiday Store is open in Cherry Creek North Fridays through Sundays (plus Dec. 22-23) through Dec. 23 at 2771 E. 1st. Ave. It's a place where shoppers can be entertained by singers and storytellers, do activities, get an inside look at costumes and sets, and purchase tickets or gift certificates (with all fees waived). 

    Forbidden Broadway is a comic roast of Broadway shows including "Pippin," "Kinky Boots" and "The Book of Mormon." The show features outrageous costumes, rewrites of popular showtunes. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.DenverCenter.Org.


    Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!: Ticket information
    Created by Gerard Alessandrini
    Playing through March 1
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission
    Tickets: Start at $25
    Age recommendation: Appropriate for children 8+
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or DenverCenter.Org

    Our previous coverage of Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!
    Meet the homegrown cast of Forbidden Broadway
    Photos: Denver opening of 'Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking'
    Our Flickr gallery of downloadable Opening Night photos

    Jordan_Leigh_Forbidden_Broadway_Hanukkah_Song_800
    Jordan Leigh in "Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking." Photo by Terry Shapiro.


    Jordan_Leigh_Forbidden_Broadway_Hanukkah_Song_800_2Jordan Leigh performs his own "Hanukkuah Song" at the DCPA Holiday Box Office storefront in Cherry Creek North. Video above. Photo by Emily Lozow.

  • 2014 True West Award: Buntport Theater's 'Naughty Bits'

    by John Moore | Dec 09, 2014
    TRUE_WEST_AWARDS_NAUGHTY BITS_800

    TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

    True_West_Award_300

    Making sense of what the local media had to say about new-play development this year was a bit of a head-scratcher. One day, the abundance of new-play festivals (such as the Edge, Athena, Local Lab and Colorado New Play Summit) was being celebrated. The next, someone was making it sound as if area playwrights can’t get a word in on a local stage without waving their naughty bits from the top of Pikes Peak. (For the record, nearly 40 new plays were staged here in 2014, furthering the state’s actual reputation as a friendly, fertile home for new works.) But the really curious part about all that new-play talk was that none of it even mentioned the LIDA Project or Buntport Theater – two impossibly forgotten companies with 36 years between them producing pretty much nothing but new works. Seriously, how can you not include Buntport’s 30-plus wholly original collaborations in any legit conversation about local new-play development? For a while, I half-expected the Buntport Five to send up a flare. ("Remember us?") The irony, of course, is that over the years, the local media (including me) have gleefully engaged in verbal death matches trying to outpraise each other when it comes to Buntport. And why not? Kafka – on ice? Tommy Lee Jones – on strings? Hamlet – with goldfish and sock puppets? A human klepto bunny magician? When it comes to being smart, accessible and authentic, Buntport simply has no peer. 2014 brought the true tale of a cross-dressing bank robber (Peggy Jo and the Desolate Nothing) and Naughty Bits -- by far the most interesting new script of 2014.* It followed three time-twining stories with one common character: A marble statue of Hercules, and his famously missing member. You know the one: It was unearthed in the late 1700s and restored ... all except for that one absent appendage. We meet a blithe, 1920s Jazz Age couple who acquire the statue when they move into an English manor. We attend a lecture by an adorably enthusiastic 1950s art historian. We listen in on a cynical present-day romance novelist who has been (bleep)-blocked by writer’s block. (Try hard -- it rhymes). And we hear a lot of phallus entendres. (A LOT!). Brian Colonna, Erik Edborg, Hannah Duggan, Erin Rollman and SamAnTha Schmitz write, direct, build and shower communally. (That joke just never gets old.) And because they keep their doors open the rest of the week with movie nights, comically absurd pop-culture debates, children’s theatre, rentals and serial silliness (like a current three-part live mini-series called The Unauthorized Story of a Fictional Television Show), the Buntporters are all fully self-employed artists – an absolute anomaly in our local theatre community. One to be emulated, celebrated and - most definitely - talked about. 

      2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
    1: Norrell Moore
    2. Kate Gleason
    3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
    4. Ben Cowhick
    5. Robert Michael Sanders
    6. David Nehls
    7. Adrian Egolf
    8. Emma Messenger
    9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
    10. Tim Howard
    11. Gleason Bauer
    12. Daniel Traylor

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

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

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

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

  • Meet the cast video: James Michael Reilly

    by John Moore | Dec 08, 2014


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 74: Meet James Michael Reilly, who is back to play Bob Cratchit in the DCPA Theatre Company's holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Reilly, who debuted with the DCPA in 2005 in All My Sons, talks about, among other things, the "green-roof house" he and his wife are building in New Jersey. A Christmas Carol plays through Dec. 28  in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds.


    Meet_The_Cast_Michael_James_Reilly_800

    James Michael Reilly and Elias Harger as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.



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

    Our previous coverage of this year's A Christmas Carol:
    Video: The Christmas Carol Coast to Coast Challenge. No. 1: Denver
    By the numbers: 'A Christmas Carol' over 22 years at the DCPA
    First day of 2014 rehearsal: Interviews, cast list and photos
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas O'Carroll ... in 5 minutes

    A Christmas Carol:
    Montage of scenes:



    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

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

    Click here for meet the cast episodes from the 2013-14 A Christmas Carol
    • 2014 True West Award: Emma Messenger

      by John Moore | Dec 08, 2014
      True_West_Awards_EMMA MESSENGER_800
      Photo credit: Rachel D Graham
      .

      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      True_West_Award_300

      Emma Messenger specializes in not just playing but conquering larger-than-life characters she really has no business playing. The actress has an ageless quality, to be sure, but she’s nowhere near old enough to age-appropriately play, say, Big Mama in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Mag in The Beauty Queen of Lennane or Halie in Buried Child, all of whom are written for women in their 60s or 70s. And yet, here she is, finishing a remarkable two-year run of 10 plays during which her reputation has only grown with each successive knockout performance. 2014 brought Messenger the opportunity to take on two more delightfully perverse old nags at the Edge Theatre: The selfish and manipulative Irish ma who will stop at nothing to destroy her daughter’s only chance at happiness in Martin McDonagh’s black and brutal Lennane; and the sunnily sinister wife who – aww -- gave birth to her grandson in Sam Shepard’s American Horror Story, Buried Child. Younger – or less accomplished -- actors tend to turn massive, iconic matrons like these into pantomime villains, but Messenger manages to convey the size, scope and cruelty of her roles with intensity and restraint, rather than volume and over-gesticulation. That’s especially important at the Edge, where the edge of the stage also happens to be in the audience’s lap. Messenger, who also won a True West Award last year for her comic performance in Illumination Theatre’s Sordid Lives, can be funny, too. She is currently appearing as a pedophile-hunting vigilante (and others) in a dark holiday farce called The Lying Kind at Colorado Springs TheatreWorks (through Dec. 21). Messenger also got to originate a role this year. She played a mother in her 60s (surprise!) who is described as “an emotional maelstrom” in local playwright Jeffrey Neuman’s Exit Strategies. That won the top prize at the Edge’s new-play festival, meaning it will get a full production next December. Honestly, I don’t know where exactly Messenger came to us from back in 2012, but it was seemingly from out of the blue. (OK, her bio says she came to Denver from her native Birmingham, U.K., via Texas A&M). I just know things haven’t been the same on local stages since she got here and started shaking things up. The woman is just plain interesting in any part she plays. I just can’t wait to see her when she’s actually old enough for the parts she’s playing.

        2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE:
      1: Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor

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

      The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist. For ethical reasons, the DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are the DCPA's celebration of the rest of the local theatre community. Moore's coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org 

    • 2014 True West Award: Adrian Egolf, screenPLAY

      by John Moore | Dec 07, 2014
      True_West_AWARDS_ADRIAN EGOLF_7_800

      From left:  Diana Dresser, Billie McBride, Chloe Thorsbakken, Mackenzie Paulsen, Kelly Uhlenhopp, Allison Watrous, Rachel Bouchard and Ilasiea Gray of screenPLAY's "Reservoir Dogs." Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.


      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      True_West_Award_300

      So a few months ago, I’m sitting in a bar with local actors Adrian Egolf and Haley Johnson, talkin' about whether we ever killed anyone. A few cops, Adrian says. No real people? No -- just cops. Adrian, it turns out, has this novel idea for a new theatre company: Quarterly staged readings of popular screenplays, using your favorite local actors in ways you have never seen them before. Every performance would benefit a local art-based nonprofit. If only she could think of a name. Hmmm … “Fun with live screenplays.” ... I thought about the verbal throwdown for about the time it took to slam a PBR. I then slid Adrian a napkin scrawled with the word screenPLAY. Now, I did not think something that obvious would set any new standards for originality, but it did reflect both the cinematic and playful aspects of the ladies’ proposed venture. Anyway, Adrian and Haley liked it well enough to use it, and, huzzah -- they bought me another PBR for my verbal trouble. ScreenPLAY, with Egolf as Artistic Director and Johnson as Associate Producer, debuted in June with an adorable reading of “The Princess Bride” at Buntport Theater. It featured Regina Fernandez Steffen in the title role and a game Benjamin Bonenfant logging the sweatiest performance in staged-reading history as a valiant Prince Cary Elwes. That was followed by a smoking, all-female take on Reservoir Dogs. Egolf is also busy acting on local stages, having appeared this year as Elaine in The Edge Theatre's The Graduate, Alma in Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ambition Facing West and as the princess (natch) in Rumpelstiltskin for Denver Children's Theatre. In just the first two installments of screenPLAY, Egolf and Johnson have raised hundreds of dollars for the Denver Actors Fund and Girls Rock Denver, an organization that trains young women how to be leaders in their communities. And they already have snared the volunteer services of actors Diana Dresser, Billie McBride, Rachel Fowler, Allison Watrous, Mare Trevathan, Jim Hunt, Josh Hartwell, Stephen Weitz, Laurence Curry, Jude Moran, Brian Landis Folkins, Hannah Duggan, Brian Colonna, Leslie O’Carroll, Kate Gleason, Kelly Uhlenhopp, Missy Moore, Chris Kendall and many more. Imagine who might turn up when screenPLAY next presents The Breakfast Club as a live offering on March 9, also at Buntport. Everyone, repeat after me: “Each one of us is a brain...”  


        2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE
      1: Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor

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

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

    • How Denver Actors Fund is helping the local theatre community

      by John Moore | Dec 06, 2014

      The Sock-Puppet Interviews:
      In this video, Emily K. Harrison (as sock-puppet Veronica) meets award-winning local actor Chad Afanador. Just as Chad was becoming a first-time father, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease. Local actor and chef John Arp, using funds from the Denver Actors Fund, provided meals for the Afanador family for eight months. For more on Chad's story,
      click here


      The Denver Actors Fund is a source of immediate, situational relief when members of the metro theater community find themselves in medical need. It was founded by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore (who also created the media outlet you are reading right now) and local actor/lawyer Christopher J. Boeckx in 2013. Here is a little bit of background on the how and why they did it.  

      In its first 16 months of existence, the Denver Actors Fund has raised more than $26,000 and assembled an army of more than 60 Action Team volunteers who provide services ranging from meal delivery to transportation to and from medical appointments. Here's a little bit about how it works and how to apply for help.

      a russell 800Here are brief stories of actors, directors, stage managers and even properties specialists who have been helped so far.
      Perhaps you know some of their names. They include Shelly Bordas, Tom Borrillo, Russell Costen (pictured at right), Sheila Ivy Traister, Maggie Stillman, Brock Benson, Traci J. Kern, Laura Adducci, Chad Afanador, Twanna LaTrice Hill, Marq Del Monte, Meghan Ralph and Becky Toma.

      If someone wanted to put on a play, that would make for one heck of a creative team.

      Here's an unsolicited testimonial from GerRee Hinshaw, a young mother who benefited from a random act of kindness from the Meal Delivery Team following a death in the family.

      The Denver Actors Fund raises its money in a variety of ways, including regular fundraising events hosted by individuals or local theatre companies on the Fund's behalf. Here's one example of how young people under age 18 have raised more than $3,000 for the Denver Actors Fund.

      Now in its sixth year, "BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular" is an annual variety show with guest stars, audience sock puppet singalongs, spontaneous haikus and a white elephant. And every year, a local nonprofit is designated to receive all proceeds. This year, that nonprofit is the Denver Actors Fund. Please come to a performance on one of the next two Monday nights, and help the Denver Actors Fund to keep helping local artists.

      "BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular": Ticket information
      7 p.m. Mondays Dec. 8 and 15
      Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street
      $18 in advance; $22 day of show
      Call 303-293-0075, or order online here

      Hosted by GerRee Hinshaw, Emily K. Harrison, Jim Ruberto and Mare Trevathan, with prominent local guest stars including musicians John Common, Jess DeNicola, Janet Feder and Jen Korte; storyteller Adam Goldstein; drag queen Zoe O; and comedians Mara Wiles and Eric Mather.

      Note: As of this morning (Dec. 6), only about 20 tickets remain for the Dec. 8 performance.


      For more info on the Denver Actors Fund, click here

      The Denver Actors Fund will soon be accepting new volunteers for 2015 Action Teams. To express your interest, send your name, phone and email to denveractorsfund@gmail.com.

      The Sock-Puppet Interviews: Lulu meets Sheila Ivy Traister:




      The Sock-Puppet Interviews: Ooprah meets Tom Borrillo:



      The Sock-Puppet Interviews: Louis meets GerRee Hinshaw:
    • 2014 True West Award: David Nehls

      by John Moore | Dec 06, 2014
      True_West_Awards_DAVID NEHLS_800

      David Nehls, left, got wiggy when he conducted "Curtains" at the Arvada Center in 2013. Now he's a board member for the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation. Photos by John Moore.


      TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

      True_West_Award_300

      Enough people have boasted that they were going to rescue and re-open the historic Elitch Theatre over the past 23 years, it’s hard to take anyone seriously on the subject. But it appears that the least likely of all the boasters is the guy who might actually make good on the promise. He’s David Nehls, the four-time Henry Award-winning musical director of more than 40 Arvada Center productions, including, of late, Tarzan, Memphis and the current She Loves Me (through Dec. 21). He’s also written his own musicals, including The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which made it to off-Broadway, and Breach. Nehls isn’t a Colorado kid with sentimental stories of working at the original Elitch Gardens in northwest Denver as a teenager (like me). He’s just a guy who moved to Denver in 2005 and, in time, decided to help save the rickety, 123-year-old wooden theatre that once regularly hosted Hollywood stars such as Grace Kelly, Vincent Price, Douglas Fairbanks and Tony Awards namesake Antoinette Perry. Today the theatre, modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe, and the carousel bandshell next to it are all that remain of the original Elitch Gardens amusement park that moved downtown from 38th and Tennyson in 1994. The only thing that saved the tinderbox from the wrecking ball was its landmark designation in 1995. In 2011, Nehls joined the board of the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation that is headed by Kirk Scheitler. Since then, Nehls has become the most recognizable public face and primary spokesman of the group's ongoing rescue efforts, including heading a popular annual outdoor summer film series. “When I got to Denver and saw this theater, I said, ‘This is why I’m here,’” Nehls told the North Denver Tribune. “I have seen theaters all over the world, and there is nothing like this.” The current goal is to re-open the Elitch Theatre for full-fledged stage performances in 2016, its 125th anniversary. The broader hope is that the theatre will provide arts education and performance opportunities for children in dance, music, theater and film. While more than $5 million already has been spent restoring the exterior since 2006, there is much work yet to be done. The theatre was never built as a year-round facility, meaning it has never had heating or air conditioning systems. But 2014 has been the most promising year for the theatre since it closed in 1991. Musical performances were held inside for the first time in 23 years. Films were shown inside the theatre for the first time in more than 100 years. Keep in mind the significance of that: In 1896, the Elitch Theatre became the first theatre to screen films anywhere in the western United States. The goal for 2015 is to construct new bathrooms and sewer lines to secure an occupancy permit that would allow ongoing events to be held inside. But the to-do list also includes restoring the balcony, lobby and dressing rooms, and those jobs will require hundreds of thousands of dollars. "It's close to becoming an open venue again," Nehls told The Denver Post. “Once we get bathrooms, there is no stopping us."

      To schedule a donation to the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation on Colorado Gives Day, click here.



        2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE
      1: Norrell Moore
      2. Kate Gleason
      3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
      4. Ben Cowhick
      5. Robert Michael Sanders
      6. David Nehls
      7. Adrian Egolf
      8. Emma Messenger
      9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
      10. Tim Howard
      11. Gleason Bauer
      12. Daniel Traylor

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

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

    • Colorado Gives Day: Why choose the DCPA?

      by John Moore | Dec 03, 2014

      This video shows how the DCPA, Colorado Symphony and Youth of Record collaborated with the Public Education and Business Coalition to develop a classroom initiative that would afford at-risk students the opportunity to hone their writing skills and transform their own words into a fully realized public performance piece. The Creative Classroom Collaborative was backed by a grant from DaVita and culminated with a raw and emotionally charged performance of slam poetry, dance, song and theatre. Video by David Lenk and John Moore.

      PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE YOUR DONATION TO THE DCPA RIGHT NOW



      By John Moore

      Colorado_Gives_Day_BoxColorado Gives Day presents charitable donors with both a privilege – and a predicament. On Dec. 9, altruistic givers will have the opportunity to support a wide variety of worthy local non-profits with online gifts that will be boosted by a $1 million incentive fund made possible by FirstBank.

      So what’s the predicament?

      Givers have nearly 1,500 non-profits to choose from.

      With so many deserving organizations out there, one might naturally ask, “Why should I choose the Denver Center for the Performing Arts?” You already know the DCPA is the flagship theatre of the Rocky Mountain region. That it creates and presents exceptional theatre by embracing the classics while also striving to create new plays and musicals that advance the American theatre. That the DCPA aspires to be the most engaging theatre company in the nation.


      But as one of the largest regional theatre organizations in the world, with a $50 million annual budget, you might naturally wonder how much your modest individual donation on Colorado Gives Day would really mean in the overall scheme of things.

      It would mean everything, actually, says DCPA Associate Director of Development Tiffany Grady. Really.

      The DCPA Theatre Company has been producing world-class, homegrown theatre for 35 years. But “revenue from ticket sales is never enough to cover the costs of producing that theatre,” Grady said. “The remainder comes from generous donors. 

      “And what many people do not know is that the majority of our donations do not come from corporations or foundations. They come from individuals like you and me who value theatre and know that the DCPA adds to the quality of life in our community.”

      Colorado Gives Day_800_4Many people don’t even realize that the DCPA is, in fact, a community-supported non-profit organization. One whose mission goes far beyond producing and presenting theatre. It includes community outreach, school programs and an entire teaching academy that last year served more than 68,000 students from tots to at-risk teens to seniors. Last year, the DCPA welcomed more than 763,000 overall visitors (more than the entire population of Denver) who took advantage of an astonishing breadth of services that depend on more than $9 million in contributed support from 7,000 donors each year.

      “Those donations not only support the work on our stages; they also help us provide matinee performances for students,” Grady said. “We recently had nearly 7,000 students attend our production of Lord of the Flies. Many of them were attending a live performance for the first time.” 

      Colorado Gives Day_800_3Grady saw students jumping out of their seats at the end of the show. “It was the most moving standing ovation I have ever seen,” she said. “And we literally couldn’t offer opportunities like this without the support of our donors.” 

      There was a time when the Bonfils Foundation, which built the DCPA, could support the Theatre Company with as much as $6 million toward its operating budget each year. But in recent years, many economic factors have conspired to reduce the Foundation’s annual contribution to just $1 million. The DCPA Theatre Company has made new-play production a cornerstone of its mission, presenting 135 world premieres to date. But in order to continue to produce debuts like the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown and the upcoming world premieres of Benediction and Appoggiatura, the rest of the budget must be made up from other sources.

      “And here’s another thing: The major funding that arts organizations have counted on in years past has tended to be reduced,” said Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. “National foundations are turning their eyes toward other issues like access, diversity, education, health and social services -- which is totally legitimate given what is going on in the country.”

      Last year, the DCPA raised $18,000 from 160 donors on Colorado Gives Day. This year, the DaVita health-care company will match all gifts made to the DCPA up to $23,000. The DCPA’s combined goal for Dec. 9 is to raise $41,000. You can schedule your gift to the DCPA in advance of Colorado Gives Day by clicking on this link now.

      “There are so many deserving nonprofits in need of your support on Colorado Gives Day,” said Grady. “But we hope you will remember the Denver Center as well.”

       Colorado Gives Day_800_2

      More than 68,000 students are serviced each year through DCPA programming. Pictured above (indented into the text): Korean-born sophomore Laurain Park (top) had her play selected for full production in Denver Center Education's first statewide teen playwriting competition. Click here for more on the story, or see the video at the bottom of the page. Also indented: A student applauds 'Lord of the Flies' after a recent matinee. Photos by John Moore.



      The DCPA/By the numbers

      913: Performances in the 2013-14 fiscal year

      58: Percent of revenue generated by ticket sales

      18: Percent of revenue generated by donors

      7,000: DCPA donors

      68,000: Students (of all ages) served

      281: Schools directly served by DCPA teaching artists

      17,000: Students who attend Theatre Company matinees each year

      PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE YOUR DONATION TO THE DCPA RIGHT NOW


      Colorado Gives Day_800_1Lyndsay Palmer performs in a DCPA Education master-class performance consisting of songs by Stephen Sondheim. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.


      Colorado_Gives_Day_800_5

      Local students head into the theatre for a recent DCPA Theatre Company matinee performance. Photo by John Moore





      This video tracks the development of Denver Center Education's first statewide teen playwriting competition and performance.
    • Introducing: DCPA Crossword Puzzle No. 3

      by John Moore | Dec 02, 2014
      Crossword_3_800Introducing our third unique crossword puzzle related to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and its programming.

      This quiz covers The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Jersey Boys and A Christmas Carol.

      We invite you to print out the puzzle and give it a try. The answers are below.

      Look for a new puzzle in each edition of our Applause Magazine, which also serves as your program at our shows. The answer key will always be posted here in the Denver Center's online News Center. We call it Denver CenterStage.

      ANSWER KEY No. 3:

      CROSSWORD_3_ANSWER



      CROSSWORD No. 2:


      This quiz covers Kinky Boots, The Blue Man Group and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.


      Crossword_Puzzle_Clues_2





      ANSWER KEY:


      Crossword_Puzzle_Answers_2



      CROSSWORD NO. 1:


      Here's our puzzle related to Pippin, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Lord of the Flies: DCPA_Crossword_Puzzle_1









      DCPA_Crossword_Puzzle_914_2

    • Kent Haruf: The complete final interview

      by John Moore | Dec 01, 2014
      Kent_Haruf_Dies_Quote_9


      READ OUR TRIBUTE TO KENT HARUF BY CLICKING HERE

      Here is the complete transcript of DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore's interview with author Kent Haruf conducted on Nov. 24, 2014:

      John Moore: Word is you have a new book in the works.

      Kent Haruf: I do. At the beginning of May, I started to go out to my writer's shed outside the house, and by the middle of June, I had written the first draft of a new novel. Since then I have been reworking it. (My wife) Cathy has typed it into the computer about five times now, and my editor at Knopf has edited it. I'll get it back from the copy editor next week, and the book will be published on June 2.

      John Moore: Do you have a title?

      Kent Haruf: Our Souls at Night. You make whatever you want to of that.

      John Moore: I'll have to contemplate that for a bit. Is this novel a departure for you?

      Kent Haruf: It is and it isn't. It's set in Holt; my usual place. It's the story of an old man and an old woman - something I know something about. I'm an old man myself now.

      John Moore: So does this mean we are going to have a fourth chapter in the Plainsong Trilogy?

      Kent Haruf: Well, we'd have to come up with a new word for it: A quad-something. But really, no. I think this is completely separate. It has no connection with the previous books. These are entirely different characters. It goes off on a different tangent. It is set in absolutely contemporary times. And to me it has a different tone and suggestiveness to it.

      John Moore: Can you say anything more about the story?

      Kent Haruf: Well, I don't like to give it away but it's all set in 2014. And I will tell you there is a reference to the play Benediction in this new book. It's something these two old people have a little comment about.  

      John Moore: That's part of the fun of reading of your stories. Even in Benediction, which features all new characters, there are those small references that reward those people who have been with you from the beginning.

      Kent Haruf: It does. And it was a chance for me to have a little fun. Exactly as you say, people who know these other stories will immediately recognize what I am talking about.

      John Moore: But it’s still in Holt?

      Kent Haruf: It is. But I will tell you, too, that I hear from people in Yuma, and it's always a little annoying to me that people think these are Yuma stories. They're not. I chose the look of that country as a specific place that I knew very well, and that I could use as the background setting for the stories I wanted to tell. But if you think about it, these stories could happen essentially anywhere. I mean, old men are dying everywhere. And people gather around and them take care of them. There are lonely old men everywhere who might very improbably take in somebody to enlarge their lives and do a good turn.

      John Moore: I'm fascinated that you managed to make this happen while you have been undergoing this medical battle for the past year. After you got your diagnosis, why was it so important for you to get this story written?

      Kent Haruf: That's a good question. You know, I was doing worse in February and March, just after we got the news that this lung disease I've got is incurable and non-reversible. I felt sick and very downhearted spiritually and mentally. And then in April, I began to feel a little better, and I thought, 'Well, I don't want to just sit around waiting.’ So I thought I would write some short stories … but they didn't go anywhere. And then the idea for this novel came to me.

      John Moore: How did you set about to writing it?

      Kent Haruf: The idea for the book has been floating around in my mind for quite a while. Now that I know I have, you know -- a limited time -- it was important to me to try to make good use of that time. So I went out there every day. Typically, I have always had a story pretty well plotted out before I start writing. This time I knew generally where the story was going, but I didn't know very many of the details. So as it happened, I went out every day trusting myself to be able to add to the story each day. So I essentially wrote a new short chapter of the book every day. I've never had that experience before. I don't want to get too fancy about it, but it was like something else was working to help me get this done. Call it a muse or spiritual guidance, I don't know. All I know is that the trust I had in being able to write every day was helpful. I'll tell you, one of my new heroes is Ulysses S. Grant. You may know that besides being the Northern general who finally pushed the war to its conclusion, he was also a very bad president. There was a lot of corruption in his administration. He also smoked eight or 10 cigars every day. And as he was dying of throat cancer, he wanted to leave some money for his wife and children. So he began to write his memoirs. There are pictures of him all wrapped up in blankets sitting there writing out on the veranda. And he got them finished, despite his cancer. I think he died two or three days afterward. Mark Twain had a publishing house then, and he published Grant's memoirs. It became a national best-seller. So his efforts to help provide for his wife despite his condition seems to me to be maybe the bravest thing he ever did. Maybe even more so than anything he did on the battlefield. So that idea of trying to leave something was part of what was in my mind.

      John Moore: When you get that kind of diagnosis, I imagine you have one of two choices. You can just sit down and say, 'OK, it's over for me.' Or you can do what you did, which is to say, 'I am going to get up every day, and I am going to write.’ I know you don't want to get metaphysical about, but deciding to get up out of bed and march out to your shed and write -- that had to have come from somewhere.

      Kent Haruf: It was metaphysical, and I don't feel apologetic about that. It's the way it was. At this point in my life, I have been trying to write fiction for 40 years. So part of what you draw upon is your experience, and the skill you have accumulated. And again, it's set in Holt, so I didn’t have to invent a new place. It was all there for me. In some ways it felt as if that was what was keeping me alive. It was something significant for me to get up for every day. And then as it turns out, it was a great pleasure for Cathy and me.

      Kent_Haruf_Dies_Quote_5

      John Moore: Help me to picture this writing shed of yours.

      Kent Haruf: When we left our cabin up in the mountains, I had a guy bring it down and park it in the back of our house in the town of Salida, out there next to the alley. It's just like a tool shed, but Cathy and I have converted it into a writing shed, so it has insulation inside and a big desk. You know, I write on a manual typewriter, so it's a perfect space for me. Very private. Very quiet.

      John Moore: Does it get cold?

      Kent Haruf: Well, I have a heater out here that's plugged into the house with an extension cord.

      John Moore: Tell me about writing on a manual typewriter. My mom and dad were both writers, too, and my dad decided to retire from The Denver Post rather than give up his old Royal typewriter for a new portable computer.

      Kent Haruf: It’s always worked for me. And then Cathy types them into the computer.

      John Moore: I have a theory that authors who wrote on typewriters had to know pretty much what they were going to write from the time they sat down to type, because they had no delete key. Contemporary playwrights, specifically, often seem to be working it out as they go along on the computer, and I think it shows in the storytelling.

      Kent Haruf: Well, that's true to a extent. I always know the first sentence or two before I sit down. Once I have typed that, it's a springboard to the rest of it. But the first sentence has to be one that sets the right tone for the story. There is a kind of momentum that first sentence or two generate, and that carries me through. And I don’t know if you know this, but I type all of this with my eyes shut. And I never allow myself to get up from the typewriter until I have written that whole scene. And it's all single-spaced on one sheet of paper. It works well for me. I have just accepted that as my own discipline, and my own rule. So I am not going to answer the phone or do anything else but work. It doesn't take that long to type up one sheet of paper, but it's all intense concentration, so I am unaware of anything else except for that effort.

      John Moore: Well you have proven over your entire career, and specifically over the past year, just how disciplined you must be about your writing routine. The playwright Matthew Lopez, who wrote The Legend of Georgia McBride and is spending the year in residence at the DCPA, says the difference between a writer and a hobbyist is the difference between one who writes and one who just talks about writing. He said you have to treat it like a daily job. What is your advice to aspiring writers?

      Kent Haruf: The obvious thing is to read, read, read, read, read. Then write, write, write. There is no way around it. You have to do both of those things. But in terms of reading, I think you have to learn to read like a writer reads. That is, you are not reading for entertainment anymore. And you are not really even reading to see how a story plays out. What you are doing is reading to discover how somebody else has successfully done something on the page. So you are paying very close attention to what works, and what doesn't work. And once you get to be a skillful reader, there is a different kind of pleasure in reading someone great. So no, I really don't read much of anything except I go back over and over to Faulkner and Hemingway and, particularly, Chekhov. I never get tired of reading them. Every morning before I write, I read something from one of those writers, just to remind myself of what a sentence can be. I read every day. If I don't, I feel it's been an unsatisfactory day. I just don’t have time to read something that is not of the highest quality.

      John Moore: So are you reading anything other than those three authors?

      Kent Haruf: Oh yes. But what I am mostly reading right now is spiritual stuff, because I am trying to understand what is going on with me.

      John Moore: You had just gotten your diagnosis when Benediction was being read at the Colorado New Play Summit last February. Do you mind my telling people what that exact diagnosis was?

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      Kent Haruf: I have interstitial lung disease, and the pulmonologist tells me there is no cure for that. What they prescribe for that is prednisone. That's a steroid, and it makes you feel somewhat better, but it doesn't fix anything. There is no reversal, obviously. So I have tried to concentrate instead upon thinking positively; upon thinking about things that I am grateful for. I feel enormously grateful for what I have had in my life. I feel very grateful to have this time to sort out my thoughts about religion and God and afterlife. Cathy and I have given ourselves a seminar course in spiritual thought about death and dying. We've read dozens of books about it, and I never would have done that had I not been forced to by these circumstances.

      John Moore: If I might, have they told you how much time you should expect to have?

      Kent Haruf: They didn't give me any special number of days or anything. But one of the pulmonologists said, 'You may just smolder on for a while … until you stop smoldering.' At the time it seemed such a crazy figure of speech, but maybe it's more accurate than I know. I've gone up and down. Right now, I don't feel like death is right around the corner, but if it is, it's a bigger corner than I thought it was. 

      John Moore: You said you never really thought much about death and dying before your diagnosis. But Benediction seems to be about exactly that. The journey Dad Lewis is on seems a precursor to what you are going through now. When you were writing Benediction, you had not yet been diagnosed. But you were thinking about yourself in any way?
       
      Kent Haruf: Not really. Well, my own experience had to have some influence in forming that story. But I have been a hospice volunteer. My wife is still involved in hospice, and has been for 10 years or more now. So I have been around death, and I have had thoughts about dying. Writing about a man who was dying was an idea I was interested in, but I didn't want to do what's always been done so many times before. There is no question from the opening page of Benediction that he is dying. So that is not a surprise. It's not a matter of suspense. What I hope that book is about is how he lives in his last months and days. The fact that he has these powerful, profound regrets that he would like to rectify but cannot -- that's the intent of those scenes at the end, when he is having these visions of people visiting him and talking to him. He has a vision of Frank coming back to see him. But even as badly as he wants that to happen, even in his hallucinatory vision, he cannot realistically see how he would ever be forgiven by his son for the terrible mistakes he has made earlier. And so that idea of people dying with regrets, without things becoming smoothed over; that's a very interesting and powerful theme for me. The other thing I would say, of course, is that death draws in people around him -- neighbors and friends, and of course in a small town it would be common for a preacher to visit somebody in the church who was dying. So it seemed natural for me to have those people gather around Dad Lewis as the center, and the reason for all of them to know each other.

      John Moore: Is there anything you have learned over the past year that might have changed the way you wrote Dad Lewis in Benediction?

      Kent Haruf: I think if I were to write that book now, I would write some things about his physical condition differently. I am finding this to be pretty physically challenging. I don't know that I conveyed too much of that in his story. But I didn't want to belabor that, either, because that gets pretty old to read about.

      John Moore: So we know that you created Dad Lewis in your head, and you made him come to life on those pages, before you got your own terminal diagnosis. So has Dad Lewis in any way helped you in this part of your journey?

      Kent Haruf: It's a good question, but I am not sure that I would say he has. As much as I like Dad Lewis -- he's a character I love, really -- but I don't really identify with him in that way. My death, in its approach, seems to me to be very individual. At this point in my life, death seems like the main event, and that's what I'm concentrated on. So my life has become very narrowly circumscribed. I don't see very many people. I haven't left the house in the past two months, so I am probably less social than Dad Lewis was.

      John Moore: But unlike Dad Lewis, you have a large and loving family, a huge support system, and none of the same regrets.

      Kent Haruf: That's exactly right. My children and my stepchildren have been wonderful, and I have to tell you: I have received well-wishes from people all over the world. I used to deflect that, because I didn't want to be egotistical about it. Now I believe those kinds of things really do have some actual, literal benefit to people.

      John Moore: Oh, absolutely. I think if you have touched someone with your deeds or words, then giving people the opportunity to tell you that is a gift you are giving them.

      Kent Haruf: I know exactly what you are saying, and it has taken me awhile to come to that view, John. I have been slow in understanding that. If somebody gives you something, and you don't receive it, the gift is not completed in some way. It's like sending a letter that never gets delivered. I have tried to learn in these last months how to be receptive. That's not my nature. My nature is to be self-effacing. But it's not selfishness to accept a gift from somebody. It's taken me a while to learn that.


      John Moore: Can you tell me what it means to you, especially at this time of your life, that the DCPA Theatre Company has followed through on its commitment to create and complete this Plainsong Trilogy for live theatre audiences?

      Kent Haruf: Oh, I think it is absolutely wonderful. It is a great honor to me. It feels as if it ties me into people in Denver and throughout the state, and I feel a great gratitude about that. I am always aware of how skillful Kent Thompson and Eric Schmiedl are, and Mike Hartman. I couldn't be happier that Mike has been cast as Dad Lewis. They sent us the video of the public reading that was done at the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit this last February, and Mike was just superb in that.    

      John Moore: You've talked very openly about what is next for you and how you don't know the timing -- but you do know that the time is going to come. And so I think it's a rare privilege and honor to ask someone in your situation: How do you want to be remembered?

      Kent Haruf: Well, that's a good question. You know, John, I don't know that I have thought all that much about that. One thing that springs to mind in the October issue of the Granta literary magazine, I wrote a piece called The Making of a Writer. You might be interested in reading that before you write up this piece. Because in that essay, I tell how I think I became a writer. And I think it suggests some things that might live on past my own physical being.  I do want to be remembered as someone who was loving and compassionate toward other people. And the older I have gotten, and the closer to death I have gotten, people have grown more and more dear to me. So that now I want to be completely present when I am with anybody. I can't say that has always been true. It hasn't been. And as a writer, I want to be thought of as somebody who had a very small talent but worked as best he could at using that talent. I want to think that I have written as close to the bone as I could. By that I mean that I was trying to get down to the fundamental, irreducible structure of life, and of our lives with one another.  

      John Moore: When Benediction opens in January, and people leave not only this story but this trilogy of stories behind, what do you hope they most will have gotten out of the lessons learned from the time they have spent in Holt?

      Kent Haruf: What I hope is that they will see that this is a portrayal of life as it is. That in one house, an old man is dying without solving all of his problems, or being able to end his regrets. But in the very next house, there is this 8-year-old girl who is the representative of hope and promise and youth and joy. And so what I am wanting people to feel is that the beginning and the ending in all of our lives are set side-by-side. They are not distinct from one another. They are joined as neighbors.    

      John Moore: With the opening of Benediction coming up on Jan. 30, a lot of people want to know if you are going to be well enough to see it.

      Kent Haruf: Well, I am going to make every effort, assuming I am still alive. We've bought a lot of tickets for family, and my agent and editor will come out from New York. I am going to go to Denver on the 5th of February. I am going to need a wheelchair, and we'll stay at the Curtis Hotel. That will be handy. Someone will have to push me over there. I don't know if I'll still be around then or not, but if I am, I am sure going to work hard to be there.

      John Moore: I am going to go with yes, you are going to be there.


      Kent Haruf: Thanks, John. I'll count on that.


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

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