• Lin-Manuel Miranda on the power of theatre to eliminate distance

    by John Moore | May 20, 2015
    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 4


    NEW YORK - Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer and star of the big-buzz, Broadway-bound hip-hop musical bio Hamilton, had a message for attendees of the Broadway League conference last week:

    When life tells you it's time to go... it's time to go.

    Keynote speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Broadway League's 2015 Spring Road Conference. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.The Caribbean-born Alexander Hamilton had his epiphany working for a rum- and slave-trading company in New Jersey. Luis Miranda, father of the Tony-winning rapper, lyricist, and actor of In The Heights fame, had his moment watching West Side Story at a cinema in a small Puerto Rican town in 1961.

    Read more: Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'


    Hamilton, of course, went on to become chief aide to George Washington and took up residence on the $10 bill. Luis Miranda left Puerto Rico for New York and rose to prominence as a New York political consultant who has served in three New York City mayoral administrations. And he's a self-professed musical theatre geek.

    In a powerful keynote speech before the nation's leading theatre presenters, producers and theatre owners on May 12 at the Hudson Theatre, Miranda spoke of the two epiphanies that everyone who finds a life in the theatre has: Transcendence and action.

    Photo above: Keynote speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Broadway League's 2015 Spring Road Conference. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

    Photo below: Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton, which opens for Broadway previews on July 13. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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    Here is an excerpt from Lin-Manuel Miranda's keynote address:


    There are two moments that happen to everyone who has a life in this business: The moment where the theatre first transported us. And as Moss Hart says to George Abbott in Act One, we have the moment where we say, 'I mean to have a life in this business.'

    I want to talk about those two moments for me. I want to talk about transcendence and action.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton, which opens for Broadway previews on July 13. Photo by Joan Marcus. My father was born in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, and his moment of transcendence happened in a family way. His uncle, Ernesto Concepcion, was the founder of the Actors Guild of Puerto Rico. His first memories were of his uncle playing John Merrick in The Elephant Man. One minute he is kissing his uncle hello backstage. The next he is seeing his uncle as John Merrick in a room full of crying people. And John Merrick isn't Puerto Rican. He is transformed. The man in front of him is both his uncle and not his uncle. And nothing is ever really the same for him again.

    My father was born in 1954; West Side Story came out in 1957. West Side Story did not send an Equity tour to Puerto Rico. My father had to see it at the movies. And back in 1961, there was just one movie theatre in Vega Alta, which was a town of 30,000 then, and it played just one movie every day at 8 o'clock.

    There is that moment where Maria is standing over Tony, and Schrank and Krupke are going to pick up the body. She screams, "Don't you touch him!" ... and the audience laughs. But my father is in tears. He is 7 years old, and he is balling.

    And why is my father the only one crying while everyone else is making fun of gang members dancing, and making fun of Natalie Wood's accent that sounds suspiciously like Marni Nixon when she sings?

    Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father, Luis. My father didn't see any of that, and it's because he had that early exposure to John Merrick. He had that thing that movies don't really have that can only happen in live theatre. When we're all in the same room together, and we all decide to believe the same moment. We see a man who is not disfigured. But he says he is disfigured, and so we believe him. And so when everyone else who is watching the movie laughs at this outburst of emotion, my father is a wreck. And it's because he grew up watching his uncle's shows in a live theatre. 

    This was my father's moment of action. He looked around at everyone laughing at the grieving Puerto Rican widow Maria and he said, 'I've got the get the (bleep) out of this town.' And he left the Caribbean. He met my mom, he moved to New York and he never went back. And I grew up here with my sister.

    Photo: Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father, Luis. Photo courtesy Luis Miranda.

    My first moment of transcendence and action was seeing The Phantom of the Opera. It was my first Broadway musical. I was 12 years old, and I’ll never forget: There’s Raul banging on the door, and Christine could go over and open the door for him. But instead, she goes into the basement with The Phantom, who is playing really cool music. And I realized - on the cusp of puberty - that I am never going to be the good-looking guy at the door. I am going to be the guy in the basement playing the cool music. I identified so deeply with that guy.

    My moment of action came a few years later when, for my 17th birthday, my girlfriend took me to see Rent on Broadway in its first year. 

    Again, I grew up loving musicals. My dad was a lifelong collector of cast albums. But I didn't think I had a way in. I had parts in the school musicals, but I knew was never really going to get to play the Modern Major General in The Pirates of Penzance - they are going to go for the standard white guy for that part. And then I saw Rent, which took place in my city, downtown. The notion that a musical could take place today was groundbreaking to me. And that these characters were struggling with the urgencies of life and death today, and with the conflict of, "Do I pursue what I love and make a life in this business - or do I make money?" I have friends who make money, and they are really happy. But I am choosing a much harder path.

    I started writing musicals after seeing Rent. There was a moment of transcendence, and there was a moment of action.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 1


    But this goes beyond transcendence and action: It’s empathy. When you create that moment between the audience and the people onstage, you’re asking the audience to live outside of themselves. You’re asking the audience to identify with people they might not normally ordinarily identify with.

    I went on vacation in 2008, and I grabbed a book at random from a bookstore – back when bookstores still existed. It was Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton. I grabbed it because I love reading biographies, and all I knew about Hamilton was that he died in a duel. So I thought, "This will have a good ending at least." 

    So I started to read the book, and I didn’t know that Alexander Hamilton was born in the Caribbean. He was born in Nevis (in the British West Indies) and later moved to St. Croix. By the end of the second chapter, this young man has seen every manner of hardship: His father leaves. His mother dies in bed with him when he is 12 years old. He moves in with a cousin who commits suicide. He works at a trading company - they're trading rum, spices and slaves.

    And Hamilton looks around and he says, “I gotta get the (bleep) out of this town."

    He writes a poem about a hurricane that had destroyed the island of St. Croix, and that poem was used in relief efforts. People took up a collection to send him off the island to get his education. And I thought, “I know this guy.” Ron Chernow's writing had eliminated the distance between me and the dead white guy on the $10 bill.

    And as I read the book, I kept finding moments of immediacy. Parallels between his life and my father's; and the life of any immigrant who comes to this country and creates themselves from whole cloth, and kills themselves to contribute so that their kids can have a better life. It was all of the stories of In the Heights, but even less diluted and even more concentrated into the first immigrant story.

    It's also the story of the founding of our nation. Alexander Hamilton saw one Unites States instead of 13 colonies because he didn’t have a colony to claim. He didn’t have anywhere to claim except for this place that he had adopted. And that’s what Hamilton is about.

    We create our own reality so much these days. You curate your Twitter feed. You unfriend your friend who has the racist or unpopular opinion off your Facebook page. We see the reality that we choose to see, and we have more power to do that than ever before. Theatre is one of the last things that eliminates that. Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton will go see the same show with 299 other people, and they are going to have the same experience. And they are going to have to reckon with that experience.

    My goal, and the goal of our creative team, was to eliminate any distance between the Founding Fathers and the fights we are still having and the struggles that are still happening as Americans. And when you go and sit in The House of Hamilton, it’s an incredibly powerful thing. It has been amazing to see that journey happen. 

    I will close with one more story, and it brings us back to West Side Story, because it all comes back around.

    So I had the good fortune to work with Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim on the last revival of West Side Story. The glorious thing about that was I got to work with the surviving creators of the show on Spanish lyrics for the Sharks. Again: Eliminating distance. And my father, who cried so hard when Maria pushed the police away, saying, "Don’t you touch him!” was the Anita to my Maria while we were writing Spanish lyrics for “A Boy Like That.” He was my thesaurus, because he came to New York at the age of 18 - the same age as the characters who were the Sharks. We got to write that together, and it was a real full-circle moment for him. The success of that tour has been a joy because, again, it creates more identification with even more people who maybe didn’t necessarily see themselves in the show.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 2

    I conclude with this: The first Equity tour to go to Puerto Rico was In the Heights. We went back to my dad’s hometown. Now, Puerto Rico is very economically depressed. We sold one performance at a time to make sure that we could sustain playing a full week there. But it all worked out.

    I will never forget the review that most moved me was in the main newspaper of Puerto Rico ... and I can’t not cry every time I think of it. It said: “The show is a letter from the people who left. And it is telling us that they struggled, but they did all right."

    That full-circle moment for my father and me is one of the greatest moments I have had in the theatre. That Puerto Ricans on the island saw this show about their cousins and their brothers and sisters and their sons and daughters and were able to see themselves in it means the world to me. 

    That’s what you do every time you mount a show. And every time you bring a student group to your show, there might be some kids who laugh at an outburst of emotion. But I promise you there is a kid balling his eyes out. He is not only being transported ... but he’s saying to himself, “I need to make a life in this business.”

    Read more: Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'


    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 3


    Our New York report (to date)
    :

    Broadway: The British aren't coming: They're already here!
    Colorado's Annaleigh Ashford and Beth Malone both nominated for Tony Awards Broadway League dedicates New York conference to DCPA’s Randy Weeks
    Idina Menzel will launch 'If/Then' national tour in Denver

    More in the coming days:
    Our New York report continues with videos featuring Colorado actors on Broadway.

  • The British Aren't Coming. (They're Already Here!)

    by John Moore | May 19, 2015

    he Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" concerns a mystery surrounding the death of a neighbour's dog that is investigated by young Christopher Boone, who has Asperger's-like issues, and his relationships with his parents and school mentor.


    NEW YORK - Dating back to George M. Cohan, America’s unique and singular contribution to the pop-culture landscape has been the Broadway musical. But in this era of all things globalization, there seem to be more stars yet fewer stripes on the Great White Way than ever before.

    A quick survey of current Broadway offerings shows that 23 plays and musicals are set on foreign soil, while just 12 stories take place in America.

    Forget about the British Invasion. Broadway is undergoing a British occupation. The question is, is this a particularly new phenomenon? Or has it always been that way?

    America may have invented the musical as we know it, but the European influence on the American musical theatre is longstanding and irrefutable. (Look no further than The Phantom of the Opera: 11,319 performances and still going strong).

    When it comes to plays, the parade of British winners often makes the Tony Awards telecast sound as though it’s being simulcast from London, not New York. This year will be no exception as seven of the 10 nominated leading actors and actresses are Brits. (Make no mistake: These are very grateful Brits who always manage to sound far more eloquent than the Americans in their acceptance speeches).

    You can’t wander through Times Square right now without bumping into big-buzz British balderdash: A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, Finding Neverland, Kinky Boots, Matilda The Musical, Skylight, Something Rotten!, The Audience, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Wolf Hall … Parts 1 and 2!

    A Broadway quoteWhile the British presence seems pronounced, DCPA Broadway Executive Director (and Tony Awards voter) John Ekeberg isn’t so sure this is a new trend. After all, musical theatre exists to transport audiences to a new world. And most American musical theatre audiences want to get as far away from their own backyards as they can get.

    "A great play will show you a slice of life, and often that slice reflects a very real human experience that helps them better understand the world they live in," Ekeberg said. "Traditionally, we think of that as the job of American play. But more often, people look to musicals to help them escape from their own lives for a few hours and take them someplace that's new to them."

    The groundbreaking musical Fun Home is the rare musical that manages to accomplish the goals of a great play and musical at once, Ekeberg said. Fun Home poignantly recalls cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s home life in Pennsylvania, where she discovered she was a lesbian at about the same time she learned her father had been living a closeted gay life since before his parents were even married.

     “For me, that is a world I am not at all familiar with, Ekeberg said. “So in its way, it accomplished for me what people most want from a musical.”

    And yet for other audiences, Fun Home also accomplishes the primary purpose of a play as well. For audiences who grew up in families like the Bechdels' and faced the same issues, Fun Home can be a place of understanding, healing and catharsis - like any great play. 

    Ekeberg cites the Denver-bound If/Then as a similar example. It features a Sliding Doors-like plot that shows the two different futures our protagonist (played by Idina Menzel) might live out based on the consequences of one choice.

    "In that way, If/Then takes the audience to two completely different worlds in the same musical,” Ekeberg said.

    The 2015 Tony Awards should be a travelphile’s dream as it celebrates stories that take audiences all over the world. The four works nominated for best play are written by a Brooklyn bartender (Robert Askins, Hand to God); a Dame (literally) in Dame Hilary Mary Mantel (Wolf Hall); a young historian from Manchester (Simon Stephens, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time); and a Pakistani American (Ayad Ahktar, Disgraced).

    Of the four nominated best new musicals, only Fun Home is set in the U.S. The others are An American in Paris, Something Rotten! (South London in 1595) and  The Visit (a small European town).

    Broadway in America
    Airline Highway: The Hummingbird Motel in New Orleans
    An Act of God: Set in Heaven (but written by an American)
    Beautiful, The Carole King Musical: New York and California
    Chicago: CHICAGO!
    Fish in the Dark: Written by Larry David; starring Jason Alexander (Seinfeld)
    Fun Home: Cartoonist Alison Bechdel's hometown of Lock Haven, Pa.
    Jersey Boys: JERSEY!!
    Hand to God: Somewhere in Texas
    It Shoulda Been You: An American wedding
    It's Only a Play: An American townhouse
    On the Town: World War II New York City
    On the Twentieth Century: Chicago and New York in the early 1930s

    Broadway around the world
    A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder: A musical that’s bathing in British (blood)
    Aladdin: Middle-Eastern city of Agrabah
    An American in Paris: An American in Paris
    The Audience: Queen Elizabeth II
    The Book of Mormon: Uganda!
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Set in Wiltshire and London
    Doctor Zhivago: Set in Russia (closed)
    Finding Neverland: British, set in Neverland
    Gigi: Set in Paris (mostly) at the turn of the century
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Out Protagonist was born in East Berlin
    The King and I: The Royal Palace in Bangkok, 1860s
    Kinky Boots: Shoe factory in Northern England
    Les Misérables: French Revolution
    The Lion King: The lion kingdom of Africa
    Mamma Mia!: Big Swedish pop songs on a tiny Greek island
    Matilda The Musical: A wormy little village in England
    The Phantom of the Opera: Paris Opéra House. 1881-1911
    Skylight: A flat in Northwest London
    Something Rotten!: South London, 1595
    The Visit: Small European town based on novel’s fictional German town of Güllen
    Wicked: You know … Oz. (And not the HBO prison!)
    Wolf Hall Part One: The court of Henry VIII, 1527
    Wolf Hall Part Two: More, ore, more!  

    Tony Awards telecast
    Sunday, June 7
    CBS-4
    7-10 p.m. MDT

    Our New York report (to date):
    Colorado's Annaleigh Ashford and Beth Malone both nominated for Tony Awards Broadway League dedicates New York conference to DCPA’s Randy Weeks
    Idina Menzel will launch 'If/Then' national tour in Denver

    More in the coming days:
    Our New York report continues with articles on Lin-Manuel Miranda (author and star of Hamilton), and videos featuring Colorado actors on Broadway

  • 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot' brings Bard to life at Weld Central High

    by John Moore | May 18, 2015

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


    The teaching artists from the Denver Center’s Education Department had some tough questions for the Weld Central High School students. Tough, ethically ambiguous questions that revolved around teenagers, their parents and issues of privacy and personal responsibility.

    At first, the students might not have known the whole point was to help them better understand the issues at the heart of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

    “It is true that your parent or caregiver has the right to know your whereabouts at all times?” asked DCPA teaching artist Erin Willis. The students were told to register their opinions by getting up and walking to one side of the classroom or the other. About half gathered together on the yes side, the other on the no side.

    “Sometimes it’s better for the parents not to know,” one student said bluntly - and honestly. 

    The questions then got grayer, and the conversations got deeper. Minds were made up, changed and then changed back again as they debated questions such as:

    • “Love at first sight is a myth.”
    • “Going behind someone’s back can be necessary.”
    • “Holding a grudge is a sign of strength.”
    • “The only appropriate punishment for murder is death.”
    • “Parents should be held responsible for their child’s actions.”

    And then this: “Does your parent have the right to install a tracker on your cell phone?” Nearly every student banded together on the side that said “no.”

    A Shakespeare In The Parking Lot 300 1But what if your parent came to you asking for help with your troubled sibling? He’s been distant, angry and and even violent. You’ve discovered he’s been spending lots of time on disturbing web sites that show photos of mutilated pets. You’re afraid he might hurt himself, or others. And much of the time, you have no idea where he is.

    Now would you help your parent install a tracker on your brother’s phone? Some of the "no's" now said "yes."

    This was no ordinary school day in sleepy Weld County, located 40 miles northeast and a world away from Denver. It’s a rural town in Keenesberg where, sophomore Julissa Garcia said, a fun Friday night for the cool kids means “bonfires, beer and a field.” The nearest movie theatre is a half-hour away in Brighton. 

    And this was no quick, in-an-out visit from the big-city theatre teachers from Denver. This was a team of actors, teachers and staff spending two full days fully interacting with dozens of mighty Rebels from Weld Central High.


    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All our photos are downloadable for free in a variety of sizes from our Flickr account here. All rights reserved.


    The first, sweaty day was a real endurance test. The cast of six young professional  actors performed an abridged, hour-long performance of Romeo and Juliet for about three dozens students in the school parking lot. Then, after only a five-minute break, they did the whole play again for a new batch of Rebels. They performed it four times  in all that day on hot asphalt made hotter by an 80-degree May day.

    This was the launch of a new DCPA Education pilot program called “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.” The production was spare, performed by just six actors entirely on and around a white pickup truck that actor John Hauser likened to “a theatrical jungle gym.” But the play – directed by DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous and performed by Hauser, Jessica Austgen, Jacques Morrow, Jenna Moll Reyes, Justin Walvoord and Erin Willis, made its impact. Junior Jessica McClure managed to sneak out for three of the four performances, which included live, original musical accompaniment by Denver School of the Arts grad Noah Wilson.

    A Shakespeare In The Parking Lot quote 1"The actors are stellar on the stage and stellar in the classroom - and that is a hard, beautiful combination to find," Watrous said. 

    Watrous picked Romeo and Juliet in part because the play is included in the State Board of Education’s Common Core State Standards. “So we can venture to guess that the majority of the students in Colorado have read it by the ninth grade,” Watrous said.

    Reading the play is one thing, “but we know that Shakespeare really comes alive when it is spoken,” Watrous added. “It is meant to be performed.” Or, as Weld Central High School English teacher Iris Mesbergen put it: “Yes, our ninth-graders read it. But without being able to see it live ... how can they see how the story breathes?”

    Senior Bella Schroeder really can’t see how Romeo and Juliet could have fallen THAT much in love in just three days. But of one thing she is sure. “I understand the play a lot better now that I have seen it,” she said. “It just made a lot more sense.” 

    And when you understand the play – any play – then you can dig deeper into it.

    The next day, the DCPA team was back leading probing (indoor!) classroom activities that began with the students exploring universal frustrations with their own parents. 

    “Once the play comes off the page and they really get to see it in front of them, it’s so much more relatable to their real lives,” said Hauser, who played Romeo.

    As the classroom conversations continued, it became evident that similarly ineffectual communication in the houses of Capulet and Montague directly led to the bloody deaths of all sorts of people in Shakespeare’s most romantic tragedy. 

    “By the end of the story, we are left with a whole pile of dead bodies because these two teenagers weren’t really parented correctly,” said actor and DCPA teaching artist Jessica Austgen. “The Montagues let Romeo run all over town doing whatever he wanted, and the Capulets kept Juliet under lock and key. These are the two extremes of the spectrum. How could that have been prevented?”

    Senior Bella Schroeder had a suggestion that tied both days together nicely. 

    “If we could have put a tracker on Romeo back in the day, then we could have saved a lot of people from dying,” she said.  

    It was a source of great pride among the Weld Central students that their school was chosen to be the first to host “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.”

    “This is a poor little school no one knows about,” Schroeder said. “Today it feels just a little bigger. It’s like people care about us.”

    Teacher Iris Mesbergen said even though Denver’s many cultural attractions are less than an hour away, “many of the students just don’t have the economic means to go there.” That’s why, added actor Jenna Moll Reyes, “it’s so important that we come into these schools and show them that we want everyone to be exposed to art.”

    And Weld Central students weren’t the only ones who benefited from the DCPA’s visit. Kim Shaffer is a math teacher at the school, and she was never exposed to arts education as a child. “And we never studied Shakespeare in high school, so I’ve never really understood it,” she said. “But seeing these performers tell the story today, I feel like I understand what was happening for the first time.”

    Mesbergen’s classroom is a shrine to Shakespeare. She makes sure to take her students to Denver at least three times a year to soak up as much live theatre as they  can. When the second day of the DCPA's visit was over, she was so elated, she could have been easily mistaken for a fairy from A Midsummer Nights Dream.

    “I feel like I have been dancing all week, Mesbergen said, “but my feet have not touched the ground.”

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    About “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot”

    The “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” pilot program was funded by the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, which has significant oil and gas interests in northeast Colorado, and thus a vested interest in the young citizenry of Weld County. DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous hopes more companies will join in with their support so that the program can travel to more schools next school year.  The eventual goal is to have a DCPA-branded “Theatre Truck” that takes programs like “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” and other theatrical endeavors to schools all around the state.

    More recent coverage of DCPA in the schools
    :
    2015 Shakespeare Festival is a celebration of Will Power
    DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner
    Grant immerses Denver third-graders in the many worlds of Cinderella
    Video: Lynn Andrews comes home and sings like an (East) Angel
    Matthew Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
    Denver Center brings Korean teen's take on The Little Mermaid to life
    DaVita Creative Classroom Collaborative: ‘Now I know I am an artist’

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    GO TO OUR FULL 'SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARKING LOT' PHOTO GALLERY HERE
  • 'Wicked' bonds mothers and daughters over a decade in Denver

    by John Moore | May 04, 2015

    Erin Ostrin and her daughter, Abby, are shown in 2005 and 2015. They have seen 'Wicked' together every time it has played Denver. Erin Begeman and her daughter, Abby, are shown in 2005 and 2015. They have seen 'Wicked' together every time it has played Denver.


    When Erin Begeman and Carolyn Toth Bartels took their young daughters to see the hit Broadway musical Wicked during its first visit to Denver back in 2005, little did they know the national touring production would become like a theatrical growth chart of their mother-daughter relationships over the next decade.

    Begeman and Bartels are among a handful of moms who will be taking their daughters to Wicked for a fifth time when the musical returns to Denver from June 3 through July 5. Denver will become the first city in the country to host the beloved Stephen Schwartz prequel to The Wizard of Oz five times.

    And these moms, and their daughters, have seen them all.

    Abby Begeman was a second-grader in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2005. Now she is a 17-year-old senior at Cheyenne East High School. She is on the debate team and is the clarinet section leader for her school’s marching band. Hannah Bartels was a self-described insecure fifth-grader in 2005. She’s now a 20-year-old psychology major at Metropolitan State University of Denver. And she is still determined to one day play Elphaba on stage.

    Both young women found personal strength – and maternal bonding – watching the story of how the ostracized young girl of color (green) became the Wicked Witch of the West the world so universally loathes in The Wizard of Oz. The cackling dog-snatcher with the flying monkeys makes for an easy common enemy. But Wicked asks us to consider that she may be an enemy of our own making. Young Elphaba is labeled evil so often, she finally succumbs and simply becomes exactly what people expect her to be. Wicked audiences see the injustices done to her, and come to root for her.

    Both moms say they knew Wicked would become a lifelong mother-daughter ritual after seeing it for the first time in 2005.

    “I think it’s because the themes of Wicked grow along with you,” said Carolyn Bartels, of Wheat Ridge. “I know that Wicked is one of the reasons Hannah is studying psychology at Metro State. She has always been fascinated by this idea that wickedness is not something that you are born with - that it can be thrust upon you.”

    Both moms say Wicked has enhanced their relationships with their daughters over the past decade.

    “Each time we go, we make a night of it,” Erin Begeman said. “It’s time just for her and I to spend together. And this year will be extra special since I know Abby is heading to college after we see Wicked."

    Carolyn Bartels says she and daughter Hannah have always been very close. “But Wicked is one of the brightest spots in our relationship,” she said. ”It is the perfect mother-daughter outing.”

    But she admits, over the passage of coming time, Carolyn expects one essential part of the ritual to change.

    “If it ever comes to Denver, we will go, absolutely. But at some point, Hannah is going to start paying for the tickets,” she said with a laugh.

    We asked our two moms and daughters, who have not met, to talk about their common experiences watching Wicked in Denver in 2005, ’07, ’09 and ’12.

    Carolyn Toth Bartels and her daughter, Hannah, received a framed photo from Victoria Matlock after writing the 'Wicked' actor in 2007.

    Carolyn Toth Bartels and her daughter, Hannah, received a framed photo from Victoria Matlock after writing the 'Wicked' actor in 2007.


    SETTING THE STAGE: WICKED in 2005:

    The first time Wicked played Denver in September 2005, it sold 69,000 tickets, grossing $3.5 million in a three-week run that could have easily sold out for a run twice as long. In a precedent-setting move, tickets for a 2007 run were then immediately put on sale - 20 months in advance - and most of the 90,000 available seats went fast.

    Neither Erin nor Abby Begeman had seen a Broadway musical before Wicked in 2005. Not so for Carolyn Bartels, a former concierge at the Hotel Teatro. She grew up in a musical theatre environment, and she took Hannah to the Buell Theatre for the first time to see Beauty and the Beast – when she was just 2.

    Wicked QuoteErin Begeman had a friend in Wyoming who had seen Wicked in Chicago. She told Erin she loved it so much, she she would drive the seven hours to Denver just to see it again. Erin was convinced.

    “I grew up loving The Wizard of Oz – with the exception of those freaky flying monkeys,” she said.

    And what did they think of the show?

    “From beginning to end, Abby and I were mesmerized by the storyline, music, actors and costumes. We just loved it all,” Erin Begeman said. “While walking out after the show, Abby and I agreed we needed the soundtrack so we could learn every song to sing along the next time we saw it.”

    Carolyn Bartels, now the development director for the Aurora Cultural Arts District, was blown away. “I knew right then Wicked was going to become our mother-daughter ritual,” she said. “It was one of the most phenomenal theatrical concepts I had ever seen. And seeing it that first time led to my daughter reading the (Gregory Maguire) source books in middle school.”

    A young Hannah Bartels found her first viewing of Wicked production to be amazing. “I was in middle school, and despite the insecurities that come with that difficult time, Elphaba was my inspiration to be myself,” Hannah said. “There was great comfort with that, and I carried it with me from the theater into my life every time we saw it.”

    After that first Wicked, Erin and Abby Begeman immediately agreed they would see it again, whenever that was. “And in the meantime, we started enjoying other shows that came to Denver like The Little Mermaid and My Fair Lady,” said Erin, a political consultant. “I recognized that these were special times, and that they were precious. Memories were being made that we could both relive and always reminisce about.”

    ON SEEING WICKED TOGETHER IN 2007:

    The second time around, Denver audiences saw University of Northern Colorado graduate Victoria Matlock play Elphaba. A few days after the performance, Carolyn Bartels wrote Matlock a letter telling her of Hannah’s passion for the musical. Matlock sent back a framed photo of Elphaba on her broomstick with the message: “Hannah. Keep dancing through life! Love, Victoria.” 

    “When mom surprised me that framed photo, I was in shock,” Hannah said. “It is still on our wall.” 

    ON THE CONTINUING RELEVANCE OF THE RITUAL:

    Hannah Bartels said the passing of years has brought different revelations with each new Wicked viewing, both for her mother and herself. “It’s always relatable to what one or both of us are maybe going through or dealing with,” she said. “And we always laugh - a lot.”

    As she has grown older and is now off living on her own at college, she finds it a meaningful tradition to keep up with her mother. 

    “And the story continues to give me faith in humanity and the belief that no one is truly born wicked,” she said.

    Abby Begeman now thinks of Wicked as something “that’s just for my mother and me,” she said. “It’s our girls’ night out. That little extra time together is a special thing I look forward to.  We get dressed up and go out for dinner at a fun restaurant in Denver.”

    Over the years, Erin says Wicked has helped her to communicate with Abby during hard times.

    “When I hear Abby play a song like 'Defying Gravity' or 'For Good,' I know it’s her way of telling me, ‘I’ve got something on my mind. Please ask me about it,’ " Erin said. “Parents can always find a way – even if it seems small or trivial – to connect with their kids. Wicked - and a love for theater – were two of ours.”

    Wicked
    June 3 through July 5
    Buell Theatre
    Accessibility performance: 2 p.m., June 27
    Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    800-641-1222 | Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

     

  • 'Annie' brings a horrible Hannigan happily home

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2015

    Denver native Lynn Andrews is having the time of her life playing Miss Hannigan (here singing “Little Girls”) in 'Annie.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
    Denver native Lynn Andrews is having the time of her life playing Miss Hannigan (here singing “Little Girls”) in "Annie." Photo by Joan Marcus.


    For Denver native Lynn Andrews, playing the nefarious and boozy child endangerer Miss Hannigan is pretty much her dream role. And why not?

    “She’s drunk all the time, and she yells at little kids,” said Andrews, who graduated from Denver East High School in 2004. “And they pretty much let me do whatever I please - as long as I don't hurt anybody.” 

    Andrews is playfully playing the iconic villain in the 30th anniversary national touring production of Annie, which opens in Denver tonight (Wednesday, April 29) and plays at the Buell Theatre through May 10.

    You know the story of the red-headed foster child whose sunny optimism singlehandedly lifts America out of the Great Depression. It’s based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip that began in 1924. It was made into a Broadway musical in 1977 that ran for six years. The songs Tomorrow and It's the Hard Knock Life are among the most popular numbers in musical-theatre history.

    Lynn Andrews quoteAnd at a time when pop culture is scrambling to modernize and contemporize, you will recognize the story that is coming to Denver.

    The latest touring production arrives just four months after the latest cinematic spin on the Annie franchise was released in movie theatres. That film traded in the 1930s red-headed moppet for a contemporary young black girl who is taken in by a politician (Jamie Foxx) intent on using her for political gain.

    But the Annie you have known is the Annie you are going to get in Denver, Andrews said. This production is helmed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin.

    “This Annie is a time capsule,” Andrews said. “It’s set in the 1930s. You're going to see the little girl in the red dress and wig. You’re going to see the costumes you expect to see. You going to get the original choreography. There is a dog. You are basically getting the original staging."

    But at the same time, she added, the performances are different because the actors are different. 

    “I am not Dorothy Loudon or Carol Burnett - not by a long shot,” Andrews said of famous actors who have preceded her as Miss Hannigan on stage and in film. “We all have different voices and different physicalities. Our Rooster is different. Our Grace is different ... and nuts ... and so much fun.”

    And audiences young and old have never seen a scenic design like the visual world  created by Beowulf Boritt (who just designed On the Town for Broadway).

    "It is gorgeous,” she said. “It should be incredibly interesting to any kid who has never seen what the 1930s looks like.”

    Lynn Andrews dadAndrews grew up in the City Park West neighborhood the daughter of legendary civil-rights attorney lawyer Irving Piper Andrews, whom U.S. District Judge John Kane called “unquestionably the finest African-American lawyer this state ever saw.” He died when Lynn was just 12.

    (In the photo above right, Irving Andrews is just to the left of Martin Luther King.)

    "He had the first integrated law firm in Colorado,” she said. "He worked selflessly his entire life for social justice, and he made sure we knew what that was about. What fairness and unfairness was about. He impacted a lot of people's lives for the better, while sacrificing a lot of things in his own."

    Irving Andrews also had a lovely baritone voice, Lynn said. “Under different circumstances, we probably could have gone down that road together.”

    Instead, she took classes at Rocky Mountain Vocal Jazz Camp and the DCPA Academy during her high-school years. She even celebrated her senior prom at the DCPA.

    Andrews is also one-third of a self-described girl group called the Shirtwaist Sisters, which she describes as, "What would happen if Hank Williams, The Andrews Sisters and Beyonce had a sleepover." She will spend part of her short return trip home visiting East High School, where she had two seminal teachers – Choir leader William Taylor and retiring theatre legend Melody Duggan. She's the mother of founding Buntport Theater ensemble member Hannah Duggan.

    “How do you begin to talk about Melody Duggan?” she said. “She’s the kindest director you will ever have. The lessons we learned from her also apply to professional theatre, and they also apply to life. She went deeper with everything than you'd think would be necessary in a high-school play. She really cared.”

    She also gave students of minority ethnicities the chance to play roles they might not be considered for at other schools. Andrews' favorite role at East was playing the German innkeeper Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. She was cast opposite a black student as Herr Schultz.

    He might not look like any other actor you have seen play Herr Schultz, “but he was perfect for the part because of his personality and because of his singing voice,” Andrews said. “I think high school is one of the last opportunities you have to play whatever role you can based on your abilities and not on your look, too. In the professional world, they look at you first - and then hear what you sound like later.”

    Andrews was named all-state in choir, and she credits Taylor for his exacting standards.

    “One of the greatest things about East is that you never felt good enough because there is always such a wealth of talent there,” she said. "And that's a god thing. There were amazing dancers, singers and musicians and so you were always constantly competing with someone who was a slightly better jazz improviser than you, or someone who has a slightly better classical voice than you. So you were constantly on your toes.”

    She’s more staggering – intentionally – than en pointe as the deliciously drunk Miss Hannigan. She loves the show and its sweetly naïve and yet ever-relevant message about keeping a positive attitude during times of personal and national strife – like now. Although with the lingering stagnation and polarization in Congress these past many years, it’s hard to imagine positivity ever emerging from the shallowed halls of Congress.

    “No, I don’t think a little orphan girl in a red dress is going to walk into Congress and stand on the podium and say, ‘Guys, come on. Let’s work together!’ ” she said. “But the larger point is this: You have a choice between accepting misery or being optimistic. You, as an individual, can choose to be optimistic. You can fix your own circumstances.”

    Annie may be a blindly optimistic musical, but when you look at the news today, it’s hard not to hope for someone to stand up and suggest maybe we should give cooperation a try. Even a 10-year-old orphan girl.

    “Has anyone tried that yet?” Andrews said with a laugh. “It’s hard because being cynical is not only cool to people today, cynicism is a way of life for a lot of people. But we don’t have to be fighting each other all the time.

    "You know what? Maybe we should send that kid in to talk to Congress. The point is optimism. Love is everywhere. Open your heart. That's all you have to do."

    That sounds cheesy, Andrews readily admits. But sometimes cheese is not so bad.

    “Are you kidding? I live for cheese,” she said. “In every sense of that word.”

    Annie
    April 29 through May 10
    Buell Theatre
    ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open Captioned performance: May 10, 2pm
    Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    800-641-1222 | Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

    Photos from the national touring production of 'Annie', coming to the Buell Theatre from April 29 through May 10. Photos by Joan Marcus.
  • Video: Talking turkey with the cast of 'The 12'

    by John Moore | Apr 25, 2015


    Cast members from the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere musical The 12 field several questions about what their new show is, and who it is for. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore's guests include Christina Sajous, Tony Vincent, Colin Hanlon and Gregory Treco. The 12 imagines what happened when the disciples went into hiding for the three days following Jesus' crucifixion. It plays through April 26, 2015, in The Stage Theatre. Run time: 3 minutes, 20 seconds.

    The 12:
    Ticket information

    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Watch the cast of the 12 rock Elitch Gardens' roller coasters

    Photos: Opening night of The 12
    Robert Schenkkan's Opening Night reflections
    Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of The 12
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12

    Meet the cast videos: 
    Colin Hanlon as Peter
    Tony Vincent as Tom

    Christina Sajous as Mary Magdalene
    Gregory Treco as Simon

    The cast of 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. The cast of 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
  • Video: Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo on coming home to Denver

    by John Moore | Apr 24, 2015

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk.


    Ace Young and Diana Degarmo, who star in the national touring production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Photo by John Moore. Married stars Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo talk about ending their 15-month national touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Denver, not far from Young's hometown of Boulder. "This is a dream come true,” Young says. "The first musical I ever saw was here. For me, it feels like I am going into a state championship baseball game. Fortunately, I have done that seven times. I have never done this. So I feel like a kid in the candy store." Joseph plays only through Sunday (April 26). Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org.

    Photo: Ace Young, Diana DeGarmo and their little Denver Broncos fan-dog, Rosie. Photo by John Moore.

    More coverage of Joseph on the DCPA NewsCenter:

    Interview: 'Joseph' brings Boulder native Ace Young home
    Go to the show page


    Video: Ace Young proposes to Diana DeGarmo live on "American Idol'':

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat:
    Ticket information

    April 22-26
    Buell Theatre
    Call 303-893-4100 or buy online
    Note: ASL interpreted, Audio described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. April 25

    Ace Young as Joseph and his wife, Diana Degarmo, as the narrator in the national touring production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Photo by Daniel A. Swalec

    Ace Young as Joseph and his wife, Diana Degarmo, as the narrator in the national touring production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Photo by Daniel A. Swalec

  • 2015 Shakespeare Festival is a celebration of Will Power

    by John Moore | Apr 24, 2015
    VIDEO: Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    PHOTOS:
    Photos from the 2015 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are available for free downloading at a variety of file sizes. Just click here


    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    Jessica Quiñónez locked hands in a circle with her 15 students from Newlon Elementary School and told them not to be nervous when their time came to perform at today’s 31st annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    But … her line of little Shakespeareans did look a teensy-bit nervous, from her dapper young Petruchio with the swashbuckling musketeer hat down to her lovely little Bianca.

    “But there is no reason to be scared, because you have practiced for this for so long,” she reassured them.

    Oh, and one more thing, she told them: “Be loud!”

    They listened.

    Newlon Elementary teacher Jessica Quiñónez. Photo by John Moore. For Quiñónez’s students, six months of hard work culminated with only about 5 glorious minutes of performance time under a tent on the grounds of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. 

    And it was worth every millisecond of it, said Quiñónez (pictured at right).

    “They got so amped up to do this, and they learned so much,” said Quiñónez, whose third- through fifth-graders performed two short scenes and a dance from The Taming of the Shrew

    “They learned how to act and how to become their characters. But more important, they learned how to be on a team together, and they learned how to embrace each other’s different cultures,” she said. “Everybody is different but we all came together for one goal, and that was to perform at the festival and, of all things, on the Olde Globe stage.”

    The 31st DPS Shakespeare Festival drew more than 5,000 students from 70 schools in grades kindergarten through high school who performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets. They all had to audition to get in, and those deemed most promising by the judges were invited to perform today on the Olde Globe Stage. This was the first time students from Newlon, located in Denver’s Barnum West neighborhood, have been invited to perform alongside the best of the best.

    “That was a huge accomplishment for our school,” said Quiñónez.

    Newlon Elementary teacher Jessica Quiñónez with her students and Devin Seligsohn. Photo by John Moore.

    Newlon Elementary teacher Jessica Quiñónez (above and right) with her students and director, Devin Seligsohn. Photo by John Moore.


    School office manager Devin Seligsohn directed the project, starting in November. The costumes mostly came from the DPS’ district warehouse, but like many teachers, Quiñónez and Seligsohn threw in about $250 of their own money to cover other expenses.

    And like about half of the DPS enrollment, many of Quiñónez’s students are learning English as a second language. She said learning Shakespeare “absolutely” has helped her students improve their English. One of her little thespians speaks fluent Spanish, but practicing to play Biondello for the festival gave her the confidence not only to say her words in the Bard’s English – she threw in a little accent as well. Her character assists Lucentio in his scheme to win the love of Bianca.

    “She really embraced this whole experience, and it has helped her with her English,” said Quiñónez. “I think it’s the fun of it that makes learning more interesting. It really makes her want to learn the words.

    “It’s just amazing for them to be able to do all of this this at a DPS school.”

    While the DPS Shakespeare festival has long played out in and around the DCPA’s grounds, this was the DCPA’s first year as a full partner of the event. DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous said it’s a partnership that makes perfect sense. 

    “We are the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, in the center of downtown - and this is our school district,” she said. “The DPS is one of our greatest partnerships already, so if we can be a champion for them, that’s what we want to do. Especially for those schools that do not have arts programming due to budget cuts or time constraints, it’s great that we can support this program.”

    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous was the Grand Marshall of this year's parade. Photo by John Moore.
    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous was the Grand Marshall of this year's parade. Photo by John Moore. 


    Watrous served as the Grand Marshall for the short parade that preceded the astonishing array of performances that played out every few minutes on 14 stages spreading from Sculpture Park to - no kidding - the upper decks of the nearby city parking lot.

    She said the Newlon students’ experience is a perfect example of the festival’s goal to emphasize process over performance. 

    “As actors and theatre artists, we know that process is the most important part,” she said. “It’s the preparation that gives us the chance to figure out what these words mean, how to say them and how to best put them out into the world.

    “We know that theatre gives students portable skills. Will they end up in theatre? Maybe not, but the skills they learn here are skills they can use in their careers.” 

    In her introductory remarks to the crowd that gathered this morning at Skyline Park, Watrous called this festival a treasured community event that continues to enrich the lives of students.

    “Shakespeare and the theatre shows us the power of language and gives us the ability to see the world in metaphor, and to paint with images. These rich gifts lead up to empathy and critical thinking," she said.

    “The DCPA is dedicated to arts in education, and believes that every student deserves opportunities like this.” 

    CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR FULL GALLERY OF FESTIVAL PHOTOS

    Every year, exceptional students are chosen to portray Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth at the opening ceremonies. This year’s honorees were seniors from Denver School of the Arts: Noah Anderson, who has been active with DCPA Education programs for several years and last year was an understudy in the Theatre Company’s production of black odyssey; and fellow senior Stacey Tilton. And, as always, Denver City Auditor Dennis J. Gallagher serenaded the crowd with an always letter-perfect, memorized sonnet.

    Injured Denver police officer released from hospital

    Many at the front of the crowd for the morning parade saw a disturbing sight when the horse that was to lead the festival dignitaries in a carriage suddenly bucked and kicked a Denver police officer square in the face. The officer suffered a facial laceration and was bleeding profusely. A Denver police spokesman said the officer never lost consciousness and was treated and released after being transported to Denver Health.

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

    More NewsCenter coverage of the DPS Shakespeare Festival:

    DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner
    Photos: 2014 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival


    A Shakespeare 800 3
    Queen Elizabeth, as played by Stacey Tilton, is second from left. Noah Anderson, as Shakespeare, is far right. Photo by John Moore.

    Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore.
  • Video: Denver First Lady hosts students, 'Motown' cast members

    by John Moore | Apr 24, 2015

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk.




    Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee with 'Motown' actors Reed L. Shannon and Leon Outlaw Jr. at Cableland. Photo by Emily Lozow. Motown at CablelandDenver First Lady Mary Louise Lee hosted students from Denver's Hamilton and Florida Pitt Waller middle schools for an afternoon of pizza, performances and inspiring conversations from Motown the Musical national touring production cast members.  And when the students were asked to return the favor, they sang a few songs for the pros as well.

    The participating Motown cast members included   Clifton Oliver, Leon Outlaw Jr., Reed L. Shannon, Patrice Covington, Ashley Tamar Davis and Martina Sykes.

    "I want everyone to know that this could be you too," said Lee, also the founder of  a nonprofit called the Bringing Back The Arts Foundation. "You can be anything you set your mind to. You can be an astronaut.  You can can be an architect. You an be the mayor of Denver. It doesn't matter what color you are, or where you come from."



    Pictured above: Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee with Motown actors Reed L. Shannon and Leon Outlaw Jr. at Cableland. Photo by Emily Lozow.

    Our photo gallery from the day at Cableland:


    Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Largest metro arts organizations offer major concession for good of SCFD

    by John Moore | Apr 23, 2015

    Daniel Ritchie presents proposed changes reducing the percentage of Tier I revenues. Photo by John Moore.
    Daniel L. Ritchie presents proposed changes to the way SCFD funding would be allocated at a meeting on Thursday. Photo by John Moore. 


    A wide-ranging task force has recommended major changes to the way metro-area arts organizations are funded through the 27-year-old Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which goes before voters for reauthorization in 2016. 

    The SCFD is a penny-per-$10 sales tax that is expected to generate $56 million for 278 metro arts organizations this year alone. The unique, voter-approved taxing district is structured into three tiers, with the metro area’s five largest institutions constituting Tier I: The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum, Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Denver Zoo. There are 27 arts groups in in Tier II, and 246 in Tier III.

    If the task force’s recommendations are approved by the full board, the region’s largest cultural institutions would voluntarily give up about 5.78 percent of their share of the annual pie. That would make an additional estimated $2.2 million a year available to be shared by the area’s smaller metro arts organizations.

    The new funding formula would most benefit those organizations after the first $38 million in revenues is collected. At that threshold, Tier I's share would drop from 64 percent to 57, Tier II‘s would grow from 22 to 26 and Tier III’s would grow from 14 to 17.

    SCFD Chart 1

    Task force member Jim Harrington, citing unity and community, said all five of the Tier I organizations have agreed to the proposed changes. “I think it’s fair and I think it’s responsible - and I think it allows the district to be accountable and transparent to the taxpayers,” said Harrington who added that the process leading up to these recommendations has been four years in the making. 

    “It’s the right thing to do,” added DCPA Chairman Daniel L. Ritchie, who recently resigned his title as the DCPA’s chief executive officer to dedicate himself full-time to a successful SCFD reauthorization. He said anything less than a favorable vote in November 2016 would be “a catastrophe for Colorado.”

    It is estimated that the SCFD has been responsible for $1.85 billion in economic activity. And the NEA recently reported Colorado has the highest rate of citizen participation among all states in cultural activities. 

    “Our organizations are grateful for the region’s citizens for these dollars as they enable us to serve the public with world-class programming and provide access to our institutions and collections,” Ritchie said. 

    By law, the SCFD taxing district that began in 1988 expires if it is not brought before the voters for reauthorization every 12 years. Voters have twice renewed the tax by wide margins, but the metro arts landscape changes greatly in a dozen years. That requires a reconsideration of the complicated formula that dictates how funds are distributed. SCFD member organizations have grown from 171 to 278 since 1990. Tier II has grown by 271 percent by number of organizations, and Tier III’s are up 83 percent. Ritchie said it is only fair, then, that more funds be made available to those groups, citing the “greater good.” 

    “Honestly we all could use more money, but this is the right plan for SCFD’s future,” Ritchie added. "I am proud of the plan we put forth to the board.”

    The SCFD board will issue a ruling on Thursday’s recommendations in May or June, Harrington said. If adopted, the DCPA would accept an 8.43 percent drop in its potential SCFD revenues, or about $570,000 in the first year. But because growth projections predict that the SCFD should be generating $57.8 million a year by 2017, the loss to Tier I organizations would come from future growth – not actual current dollars.

    In fact, the SCFD task force forecasts that, if implemented, the Tier I’s would still see an increase of about $618,000 a year in 2017, while Tier II’s would see a $1.5 million increase and the Tier III pie would grow by $1 million. 

    “So everybody wins,” Harrington said.

    The task force’s recommendations were presented at a public gathering at Hudson Gardens in Littleton. It was attended by representative from dozens of metro arts groups. Most took the opportunity to publicly praise the thoroughness of the task force’s work.

    “The SCFD is a miracle of our state that no one else has,” said Brian Vogt of the Denver Botanic Gardens. He called the task force’s approach “reasonable, rational and fair.”

    Deborah Malden, Chair of the Boulder County Cultural Council, thanked the task force for acknowledging that the statute needed refreshing, and thanked the Tier I’s for their concessions.

    There was some dissent. Jane Potts, Program Administrator for SCFD’s Tier III’s, advocated for an even greater redistribution for the smallest arts organizations. Tier III’s represent 83 percent of SCFD membership and Potts said they account for 30 percent of all attendance. “The SCFD is the best thing that has ever happened to Denver,” she said, “but if they have a third of the audience, I think they deserve more than 17 percent of the pie.” 

    Tony Garcia, founder of the Denver’s 43-year-old Su Teatro, was a member of the task force and has long been the loudest critic of the current funding formula. But he did not attend Thursday’s meeting.

    Erin Rollman and Brian Colonna, members of Denver’s Tier III Buntport Theater, were pleasantly surprised by the scope of the recommendations.

    “Would we like to see Tier III’s get a bigger piece of the pie? Sure,” said Rollman. “But could we reasonably have expected any more concessions from the Tier I’s than this? Probably not.”

    She also acknowledged that it is largely the reputation and resources of the Tier I organizations that account for the tax’s existence and continued life. “They do all the heavy lifting on reauthorization,” she said. “Do people go into the ballot box and vote to give money to Buntport Theater? Of course not. They vote yes because they like free days at the museum or the Denver Zoo. And we all benefit from that.”

    Deborah Jordy, Executive Director the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts pointed out that the SCFD’s $56 million in revenues are the equivalent to about a third of the NEA’s entire budget. “And that goes to just 278 organizations right here in Colorado,” she said.

    More than 330 individuals participated over the course of the task force’s four years, accounting for more than 3,200 volunteered hours of study. All tiers and all counties were represented.

    Daniel Ritchie presents proposed changes reducing the percentage of Tier I revenues. Photo by John Moore.

    Some of the other proposed changes:

    The task force also recommended that the Tier I organizations change how their pie is distributed among themselves. If approved, the big winner would be the Denver Botanic Gardens, which would see its share rise from 11.75 percent to 13.25 percent. The DCPA’s share would drop from 18.18 percent to 17.68.

    *The SCFD would add some flexibility to considering literary arts – specifically spoken word - for funding eligibility.

    *New Tier III organizations would have to show an annual operating income of at least $25,000 or have been in existence for 10 years for eligibility.

    *Organizations would be allowed to add free attendance for consideration in their applications (in addition to current paid attendance and revenue). 

    MORE INFO: GO TO THE SCFD'S REAUTHORIZATION WEB SITE

    SCFD Chart 1


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

    by John Moore | Apr 21, 2015


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way.

    Colin Hanlon as Peter in 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Episode 96: Meet Colin Hanlon, a theatre veteran who has a recurring role as Steven on ABC's "Modern Family" and is making his DCPA debut playing the denying Peter in the Theatre Company's world premiere production of the new rock musical The 12.

    Hanlon has performed in many major New York productions, including Rent. He's also producing and starring in his own YouTube web series called Submissions Only, a comic look at the casting side of the entertainment industry. Hanlon has been impressed with Denver theatre audiences - and Denver happy hours. He believes the world would be a much better place if people could just laugh at themselves and not take themselves so seriously.

    The 12 imagines what happened when the disciples went into hiding for the three days following Jesus' crucifixion. It plays through April 26, 2015, in The Stage Theatre.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

    Picture above right: Colin Hanlon as Peter in The 12. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Video An introduction to Submissions Only:




    The 12:
    Ticket information

    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    More The 12 Meet the cast videos (to date): 

    Tony Vincent as Tom
    Christina Sajous as Mary Magdalene
    Gregory Treco as Simon

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Video: Colin Hanlon and Gregory Treco talk The 12 at the Tattered Cover
    Photos: Opening night of The 12
    Robert Schenkkan's Opening Night reflections
    Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of The 12
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12


    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Joyce Cohen, Benediction
    Amelia Marie Corrada, Benediction
    Jason Delane, One Night in Miami
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Meet Adrian Egolf, Benediction
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    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
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Colby Lewis, One Night in Miami
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    James Newcomb, Benediction
    Leslie O'Carroll, A Christmas Carol, Benediction
    Morocco Omari, One Night in Miami
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies
    Nik Walker, One Night in Miami
    York Walker, One Night in Miami
    Nance Williamson, Benediction

  • DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2015
    John Moore's photos of the 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival returns for a 31st year this Friday (April 24) under a new partnership with the DPS Foundation that now includes the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    This is the oldest and largest student Shakespeare Festival in the country. About 5,000 DPS students from kindergarten through high school will perform on 14 stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Students from 70 schools will tackle 630 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets. That’s a 15 percent increase in participation over last year.

    "There is nothing else even remotely on this scale anywhere else," said Michael LoMonico of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

    DPS QuoteThe daylong party opens with welcoming ceremonies at Skyline Park and continues with an Elizabethan parade down Curtis Street. A sea of kings, soldiers, maidens, jesters and ghosts donning everything from Elizabethan to African tribal garb will then spread throughout the grounds for their performances.

    The city-owned arts complex has long hosted this annual Shakesplosion, but this is the DCPA’s first year as a full partner. DCPA Chairman Daniel L. Ritchie says his non-profit champions the student fest for two simple reasons: It’s important … and it’s fun.

    “We have a common history over 30-plus years in the community,” said Ritchie. “Our focus on great theatre classics provides a shared vision. And our commitment to engage youth through theatre education motivates us with a unified purpose. Together, we will combine history’s greatest plays with passionate teachers and inspired young actors to expose thousands of students and spectators to the joy of live theatre.”

    Kristin Heath Colon, President and CEO of the Denver Public Schools Foundation, calls the new partnership with the DCPA “a prime example of what it takes to help every child in the Denver Public Schools succeed. We can’t do this alone.”

    Since 2006, the DPS Foundation has awarded 946 classroom grants totaling $1.26 million that subsidize enrichment programs and activities that go beyond individual schools’ limited budgets. Among these “A to Z” grants are stipends that help the poorest schools make costumes or help pay for other festival costs.


    Students from Lowry Elementary School perform Sonnet 74 for the Denver Sonnets Project as part of last year's DPS Shakespeare Festival.

    The free festival, started in 1985 by teacher Joe Craft, has now given about 100,000 students the chance to jump on a stage and screw their courage to the sticking post. One of them was Marty Schettler, a 1999 graduate of Manual High School. He’s now a 34-year-old mathematician, software developer and father of two boys.

    “I was in the festival a couple times; most memorably in 10th grade,” said Schettler. “We did a scene with the two sets of lovers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I just remember it being so much easier to connect with the text after rehearsing and performing it. It was a really great way to get a taste of performing without having to commit to a whole play - especially a Shakespeare play.” 

    That’s because Shakespeare can be nothing if not intimidating at first. But, four centuries later, the Bard continues to be regarded as the most important playwright in the English language. And the DPS Shakespeare Festival allows students to get used to his language early in life. That gives them a competitive academic advantage because studies have shown that when students don’t encounter Shakespeare for the first time until they are in a high-school class, they have more difficulty understanding Shakespeare and engaging with the words.

    Dana Bergren Dana Bergren, a senior at George Washington High School (pictured right) has been performing in the Shakespeare Festival almost every year since the fourth grade. She says that annual exercise helped her overcome the intimidation factor long ago. 

    “Since I've done it for so long, I have a better understanding of it,” said Bergren, who will be portraying the brooding prince Hamlet in a gender-swapped scene on Friday. “I also feel like it helps take the stigma and intimidation of it away. When you realize that it's just words like any other play, that makes more fun and less scary.”

    Colon said the DPS Shakespeare Festival not only gives students the chance to perform and develop their public speaking and critical thinking skills, it gives them an important opportunity to express themselves and interact with peers.

    That is particularly important in the Denver Public Schools district, which in 2011 reported that 70 percent of its students live below the poverty level, 12 percent have identified education disabilities and 46 percent speak languages other than English in their homes.

    “In my classroom, 100 percent of my students speak English as a second language,” said Rachael Nyberg-Hampton, a teacher at Munroe Elementary. “So one of the things we struggle with is expression when speaking.” Shakespeare, she adds, provides students with new strategies for improving their reading levels.

    Colon says that’s all part of the school district’s commitment to the development of the whole child. “And the Shakespeare Festival is a critical component of that,” she said.


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

    The 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival parade. Photo by John Moore.

    The 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival parade. Photo by John Moore. 


    2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival Schedule: 

    10 a.m.: Opening Ceremonies in Skyline Park (15th and Arapahoe)
    10:15 a.m.: Elizabethan Parade from Skyline Park to the Denver Performing Arts Complex
    10:45 a.m.-4:15 p.m.: Student performances on 14  stages throughout the DPAC
    Noon-2:45 p.m.: The Shakespeare Challenge Bowl at The Joe Craft Theatre (inside the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex).

    Schools and stages:
    (Name of stage, followed by participating schools. Note: Schools that are in The Challenge Bowl might be on two stages.)

    The theme of the 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival is 'The Tempest.' BLACKFRIARS STAGE: Gateway, Southmoor, Kennedy, Montclair, Colfax, Greenwood, Traylor, Carson and Edison.

    BOAR’S HEAD:  DSST at Green Valley Ranch, Hill, Brown, Newlon and Bill Roberts.

    CURTAIN:  Grant Ranch, Dennison, Doull, Skinner, Goldrick and DaVinci Academy.

    FORTUNE:  Denver School of the Arts

    HOPE: McAuliffe, Lowry, Marrama, Thomas Jefferson, Columbian, Lincoln, Golden and Palmer.

    INNS OF COURT:  University Park, Park Hill, MSLA, Ashley, Cheltenham, Corey, Aurora Academy, Sandoval, Henry, Kaiser and Hamilton.

    JOE CRAFT:  Munroe, Holm, DCIS at Fairmont and Archuleta.  This is also The Challenge Bowl Stage.

    RED LION:  Steele, Morey and Grant Beacon.

    ROSE:  Polaris at Ebert, GALS, Denver Green School, George Washington and Bromwell.

    SWAN:  Highline Academy, Merrill, George Washington, Force, Thomas Jefferson, Slavens and DSST at Cole.

    THEATRE:  Swigert, Highline Academy and Steele.

    WHITEFRIARS:  Steck, Gust, McKinley Thatcher, Sabin, Kunsmiller, Denver Montessori, DSST at Stapleton and Lowry.

    WHITEHALL :  Bradley, Kennedy, Teller, Hamilton and Smith

    OLDE GLOBE:  Hill, Montclair, Newlon, Polaris at Ebert, GALS, Morey, University Park, Sabin, Merrill, Smith, Skinner, Barrett, DSST at Stapleton, Palmer, North, Slavens and Bromwell

    For stage locations and other information, click here

  • Meet the cast video series: Gregory Treco

    by John Moore | Apr 19, 2015


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 95: Meet Gregory Treco, a graduate of Eaglecrest High School in Aurora who is making his DCPA debut playing the revolutionary disciple Simon in the Theatre Company's world premiere production of the new rock musical The 12.

    Treco is part of the long line of accomplished performers who sang at Elitch Gardens as teenagers, a list that includes Nick Sugar, Andy Kelso, Jim Miller and many more.

    Now one of Treco's overriding social concerns is bettering our understanding of mental illness among young black men. "I am a light-skinned African-American man, so I have an interesting perspective on race relations," he says. "That crazy black man over there isn't necessarily crazy; he's just somebody who needs help."

    The 12 imagines what happened when the disciples went into hiding for the three days following Jesus' crucifixion. It plays through April 26, 2015, in The Stage Theatre.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

    The 12: Ticket information
    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    More The 12 Meet the cast videos (to date): 

    Tony Vincent as Tom
    Christina Sajous as Mary Magdalene

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Video: Colin Hanlon and Gregory Treco talk The 12 at the Tattered Cover
    Photos: Opening night of The 12
    Robert Schenkkan's Opening Night reflections
    Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of The 12
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12

    Eaglecrest High School graduate Gregory Treco performs as Simon in 'The 12' for the DCPA Theatre Company. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
    Eaglecrest High School graduate Gregory Treco performs as Simon in 'The 12' for the DCPA Theatre Company. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.



    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Joyce Cohen, Benediction
    Amelia Marie Corrada, Benediction
    Jason Delane, One Night in Miami
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Meet Adrian Egolf, Benediction
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    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
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Colby Lewis, One Night in Miami
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    James Newcomb, Benediction
    Leslie O'Carroll, A Christmas Carol, Benediction
    Morocco Omari, One Night in Miami
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies
    Nik Walker, One Night in Miami
    York Walker, One Night in Miami
    Nance Williamson, Benediction

  • Meet the cast video series: Christina Sajous

    by John Moore | Apr 18, 2015
    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 94: Meet Christina Sajous, who is making her DCPA debut playing Mary Magdalene in the Theatre Company's world premiere production of the new rock musical The 12.

    Sajous grew up in New York City but is familiar with the Denver area because she has a brother who lives in Windsor. She has been especially impressed with the Denver Performing Arts Complex. "It feels like New York City to me, especially this area where the Denver Center is," she says. "It's kind of like a mini-Lincoln Center, which I love. There is a lot of activity. A lot of appreciation for the theatre. It is so exciting."

    The 12 imagines what happened when the disciples went into hiding for the three days following Jesus' crucifixion. It plays through April 26, 2015, in The Stage Theatre.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 50 seconds.

    The 12: Ticket information
    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    More The 12 Meet the cast videos (to date): 

    Tony Vincent as Tom

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Video: Colin Hanlon and Gregory Treco talk The 12 at the Tattered Cover
    Photos: Opening night of The 12
    Robert Schenkkan's Opening Night reflections
    Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of The 12
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12



    Christina Sajous performs as Mary Magdalene in 'The 12' for the DCPA Theatre Company. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
    Christina Sajous performs as Mary Magdalene in 'The 12' for the DCPA Theatre Company. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.



    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Joyce Cohen, Benediction
    Amelia Marie Corrada, Benediction
    Jason Delane, One Night in Miami
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Meet Adrian Egolf, Benediction
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    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
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Colby Lewis, One Night in Miami
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    James Newcomb, Benediction
    Leslie O'Carroll, A Christmas Carol, Benediction
    Morocco Omari, One Night in Miami
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies
    Nik Walker, One Night in Miami
    York Walker, One Night in Miami
    Nance Williamson, Benediction

  • Meet the cast video series: Tony Vincent

    by John Moore | Apr 17, 2015


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 93: Meet Tony Vincent, who is making his DCPA debut playing the doubting Tom in the Theatre Company's world premiere production of the new rock musical The 12.

    Vincent grew up in nearby Albuquerque and signed a major record deal while just a sophomore in college. His theatre resume includes American Idiot, Rent, We Will Rock You and Jesus Christ Superstar, but the world (or 17 million of them anyway) saw Vincent compete every week on the second season of TV's The Voice in 2012.

    The 12 imagines what happened when the disciples went into hiding for the three days following Jesus' crucifixion. It plays through April 26, 2015, in The Stage Theatre.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 2 minutes, 50 seconds.

    The 12: Ticket information
    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Video: Colin Hanlon and Gregory Treco talk The 12 at the Tattered Cover
    Photos: Opening night of The 12
    Robert Schenkkan's Opening Night reflections
    Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of The 12
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12


    Tony Vincent as Tom in 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Tony Vincent as the doubting Tom in 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Joyce Cohen, Benediction
    Amelia Marie Corrada, Benediction
    Jason Delane, One Night in Miami
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Meet Adrian Egolf, Benediction
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    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
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Colby Lewis, One Night in Miami
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    James Newcomb, Benediction
    Leslie O'Carroll, A Christmas Carol, Benediction
    Morocco Omari, One Night in Miami
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies
    Nik Walker, One Night in Miami
    York Walker, One Night in Miami
    Nance Williamson, Benediction

  • Page to Stage: Colin Hanlon and Gregory Treco of 'The 12'

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2015


    Colin Hanlon and Gregory Treco Brief video highlights from this month’s Page to Stage noontime conversation at the Tattered Cover Book Store with The 12 cast members Colin Hanlon (Peter) and Gregory Treco (Simon).

    The pair fielded a variety of questions from host John Moore, including potential audience preconceptions and the show's ultimate message. "I think the creators' hope is that you will walk out having an experience that everyone can relate to of losing somebody really important," says Hanlon. "I think people walk out hopefully saying, 'What a  beautiful message that is, love.' "

    The 12 plays through April 26 at The Stage Theatre. Video by John Moore and David Lenk.


    The 12 production photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen:



    The 12: Ticket information
    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Photos: Opening night of The 12
    Robert Schenkkan's Opening Night reflections
    Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of The 12
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12
  • Art and artist: Kevin Copenhaver tips his hats to Broadway's 'Doctor Zhivago'

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2015

    Kevin Copenhaver. Photo by John Moore.
    Kevin Copenhaver. Photo by John Moore.


    There is not a more easily identifiable employee of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts than Kevin Copenhaver with his full silvery beard, layered mustache, tattoos and barbell-pierced ears.

    Copenhaver has a style all his own. On his face. On his skin. And in his work as both Costume Crafts Director and a resident Costume Designer for the DCPA Theatre Company.

    Ironically enough, Copenhaver owes much to the bullies back home in Ohio for both his personal style, and the man he has become.

    “Growing up, I was a really fat kid,” said Copenhaver, who was relentlessly teased in school. “My senior year, I just decided: ‘If you are going to make comments about the way I look … I'll give you something to look at.’ ”

    Copenhaver worked hard and lost weight. He colored his hair. Got his first ink. Pierced his ears.

    “I wanted to have some control over what was happening,” he said. “So that was my way of saying, ‘You can make fun of my purple hair, because I made the choice to color my hair. But don't make fun of me for being fat, because I didn’t make the choice to be a fat kid.' ”

    The skinny exhibitionist who has emerged is now completing his 24th season with the DCPA Theatre Company, and it is culminating with a major career milestone: Copenhaver was hired to build 16 hats for the Broadway production of Doctor Zhivago. It’s an adaptation of the epic 1957 novel by Boris Pasternak that follows a turn-of-the-century Russian poet who falls in love with a political activist's wife and experiences severe wartime hardships.

    Sophia Gennusa, left, wears a hat by Kevin Copenhaver in Broadway's 'Doctor Zhivago.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.Sophia Gennusa, left, wears a hat by Kevin Copenhaver in Broadway's "Doctor Zhivago." Photo by Matthew Murphy.


    Copenhaver has worked on many national tours including the Denver-born Book of Mormon and The Lion King. But when Doctor Zhivago officially opens on Tuesday, it will be the first time Copenhaver’s work will have been seen on Broadway.

    And he has the DCPA’s launching of the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown last fall to thank for it. Paul Tazewell, the show’s New York-based Costume Designer, called on Copenhaver to help pull off that high-stakes world premiere here in Denver. And Tazewell called on him again, out of the blue, in February, to help him out with Zhivago.

    “We were running into a great challenge in Manhattan because the shops were so overbooked with upcoming Broadway openings and national tours, and no one could take on as much work as we needed,” said Tazewell, who has five Tony Award nominations. So he called Copenhaver.

    Paul Tazewell Quote.“Kevin is a wonderful artist, and I trusted that he could work long distance with me because that’s exactly what he did for me on Molly Brown," Tazewell said.

    The task: Build 16 hats from two different Russian periods: 1903 and the 1930s. The style, Tazewell said, is similar in period to Molly Brown.

    “When you see hats from 1903, you often just see lots of flowers. But 1903 hats were more than that,” Tazewell said. “There were flowers and ribbons and all kinds of bows. Kevin’s work is beautiful and beautifully finished. He gave me exactly what I was looking for and more.”

    Copenhaver said it was a creatively liberating project because Tazewell doesn’t design down to the tiniest little detail and then ask you to simply mimic what he has drawn. He sent Copenhaver research photos of the period and sketches of what he had in mind, and then gave Copenhaver freedom to create.

    “And then one day, boxes started arriving with fabric and feathers and trims with a note that said, ‘Here’s what you need for this actor - make me a hat,’ ” Copenhaver said.  

    He then built a “mock-up” of each hat. (Think of it as rough draft.)  He sent those back to New York, where they were fitted for each actor. Tazewell then asked for small revisions, such as, “Can we make this a half an inch higher?” or, “Can we switch this brim?" From that direction, Copenhaver built the actual hats.

    “Kevin was really a life-saver,” Tazewell said. “I am grateful for his work, and I am honored that I can help showcase his work in this show.”

    Copenhaver describes the unexpected assignment as “sort of surprising,” but it didn’t occur to him that making his Broadway debut is sort of a big deal until he started telling friends about it. “The people I told that I got this gig seemed more excited than I was at first because, you know, it's really just building some hats,” he said. “But the more I think about it ... yeah, it's pretty cool.”

    He now thinks of the assignment as not only an affirmation of his body of work, but of the DCPA itself. And he hopes this is just the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Tazewell.

    “I absolutely plan to stay here at he DCPA - this is my home,” he said. “But if Paul wants to throw some stuff my way every now and then, that would be great.”

    Copenhaver’s work will be seen locally next at the Town Hall Arts Center, where he is designing costumes for Young Frankenstein, directed by Nick Sugar and featuring Annie Dwyer. It opens May 15 (303-794-2787 or click here).

    Kevin Copenhaver's hats for 'Doctor Zhivago' in process. Photos courtesy Kevin Copenhaver.

    Kevin Copenhaver's hats for "Doctor Zhivago" in process. Photos courtesy Kevin Copenhaver. 



    We took the opportunity to reflect further on Copenhaver’s 24 years at the DCPA. Here are excerpts of our conversation:

    John Moore: When did you move to Colorado?

    Kevin Copenhaver: I moved here in September of 1990 for the job here at the DCPA. I was hired by Jan MacLeod to run the costume crafts shop for the 1990-91 season.

    John Moore: What’s the difference between a Costume Designer and a Costume Crafts Designer?

    Kevin Copenhaver: The crafts shop builds “things,” like hats, mask, armor and that kind of stuff. Not the dresses. Jan is the Costume Shop Director.

    John Moore: But you design costumes here as well.

    Kevin Copenhaver: Yes, I think I’ve designed 29 shows here, including A Christmas Carol five times. Once I designed five shows in one season.

    John Moore: So how does a crafts artist end up designing costumes?

    Kevin Copenhaver: The first show I designed here was A Servant of Two Masters. (Then Artistic Director) Donovan Marley put that in the season specifically because I had gone to Italy and studied the commedia dell'arte. Initially the thought was, “Kevin will do the masks for this show." And then they decided, "No, you should just design the show.” So that was the start of that. A year or two later, (Resident Costume Designer) Andrew Yelusich and I co-designed Pierre. Then the former Production Manager started slotting me in to design shows as a regular costume designer.

    John Moore: Can you name a show that has been a personal favorite?

    Kevin Copenhaver: Oedipus Rex. I really love Greek tragedy, so it was exciting to get the chance to work on an authentic production with all the masks. Also, Andrew was clinging to life at that time, and we became really good friends. It was just a very emotional time for me to be doing this huge Greek production while I was losing the person I most considered to be my mentor. I was very proud of how that show turned out.

    John Moore: What will your 25th season at the DCPA mean to you?

    Kevin Copenhaver: It’s kind of astonishing to me that it has been that long already. When I initially got the job, I was in the gypsy mode, as a lot of us are when you first start out. So it just didn’t occur to me that this would become home. It’s kind of unheard of in this industry. So I am an anomaly.

    John Moore: When did you know this place was home?

    Kevin Copenhaver: Probably after my third or fourth season. We were doing some really interesting stuff. This was a very supportive place. And I wanted to keep working with Andrew.

    John Moore: So what's your next tattoo?

    Kevin Copenhaver: My mom died two summers ago. I would like to tattoo something that is symbolic of her - but I also want to weave something of myself into it as well.

    John Moore: Is your father still alive?

    Kevin Copenhaver: Yes. He is a retired preacher, and he certainly did not approve of a lot of things I did in terms of my appearance. He used to harass me because I had really long hair. But when I was visiting him one day in Ohio after my mom passed away, we were just hanging out and he told me that he was jealous of my beard.

    John Moore: Really?

    Kevin Copenhaver: Oh, yeah. He said, "I always wanted whiskers … but I could never grow any." I thought that was sweet.

    John Moore: I don’t think I have ever seen you clean-shaven.

    Kevin Copenhaver: I have had some form of facial hair since college.

    John Moore: How come?

    Kevin Copenhaver: I just feel like I look better with facial hair. 

    Kevin Copenhaver quote, John Moore: And how do you describe your personal style?

    Kevin Copenhaver: I was a freshman in high school when I discovered alternative music. I was at a party and somebody put on the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster,” and it changed my life. I am not kidding you. At the time, that was considered alternative. That is when I started visually exploring. I grew my hair long. I was wearing mascara and guyliner to school, and I pierced my nose. When I was in college, I worked really hard at not looking like everybody else. I used to spend a lot of time putting my outfits together. Now I just need to be comfortable. But honestly, if I knew I wouldn't look ridiculous - I would probably still have purple hair.

    John Moore: You have had pretty much all colors, haven’t you?

    Kevin Copenhaver: Yes. When we were doing Tantalus, the work on that show was crazy. Someone would be in the shop by 6 in the morning, and we would all be here until 1 or 2 in the morning. There were a couple nights where we would just get slap-happy. I had bleach-blonde hair then, and I started adding color in. I wound up with red and orange hair, and I used to joke that my head was on fire from trying to get through Tantalus.

    John Moore: How many ear piercings do you have?

    Kevin Copenhaver: Right now I have four on one side and two on the other. I used to have them going all the way up. I had seven or eight at one time in one ear. 

    John Moore: So if you were to run into your bullied, pudgy, 16-year-old self now, what would you tell him to encourage him through those tough times?

    Kevin Copenhaver: Probably, "Don't be afraid." I used to really care about what people thought of me. I used to think, “Well, if they are saying it, that must be the truth.” I don't feel like that now.

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


    Previous DCPA 'Art and Artist' profiles:
    Stage manager Jennifer Schmitz
    Costume Designer Megan Anderson Doyle
    Graphic Designer Kyle Malone
    Stage Manager Kurt Van Raden
    Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen
    Head of Acting Lawrence Hecht
    Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod
    Director of I.T. Bruce Montgomery
    Stage Manager Lyle Raper

    Video: Kevin Copenhaver and the art of Costume Quackery
    :


    Check out our video from 2014 following Kevin Copenhaver and the creation of three separate costumes for "Animal Crackers."


    Kevin Copenhaver. Photo by John Moore.
  • Page to Stage: Jason Delane and Colby Lewis of 'One Night in Miami'

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2015


    Brief video highlights from this month’s Page to Stage noontime conversation at the Tattered Cover Book Store with One Night in Miami cast members Jason Delane (Malcolm X) and Colby Lewis (Cassius Clay).

    Jason Delane and Colby Lewis at Page to Stage. Photo by Joohn Moore. The pair fielded a variety of questions from host John Moore, including the value of a predominantly white audience base seeing this play right here and right now.

    "If I do my job well," Lewis responded, "all of you can have a conversation about what's going on in the play that translates into the news that you watch the next morning."

    One Night in Miami
    plays only through April 19 at The Space Theatre.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen and John Moore.


    One Night in Miami production photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen:



    One Night in Miami: Ticket information
    Performances through April 19
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Our previous coverage of One Night in Miami:
    To Miami creator, 'It feels a lot like 1964 right now'
    How Miami playwright accidentally discovered The Black Justice League
    Video: Bringing four icons to the stage in Miami
    Watch a video montage of scenes from the play
    Fourth-graders have tough questions for One Night in Miami cast
    Photos: One Night in Miami is getting ready to rumble
    Video: An inside look at the making of One Night in Miami
    Video: DCPA cast gives shout-out to Baltimore Center Stage
    Full casting announced
    Video: Interview with One Night in Miami Director Carl Cofield
    New Denver Center season includes One Night in Miami
    Go to the official show page

    One Night in Miami 'meet the cast' videos:
    Meet Colby Lewis
    Meet Morocco Omari
    Meet Nik Walker
    Meet Jason Delane
    Meet York Walker
    Meet William Oliver Watkins
  • 'Motown' moments: Smooth moves earn retired Colonel trip to Boston

    by John Moore | Apr 13, 2015



    Shel and Karen Oli with 'Motown' star Allison Semmes. Photo by John Moore. Retired Air Force Colonel Shel Omi of Wheat Ridge won CBS-4's Motown superfan contest by submitting video of his father-daughter wedding dance to the Motown "My Girl," with his daughter, Paige.

    Omi won a trip to see 'Motown the Musical' in Boston, where he met cast members and took a private a backstage tour. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and Video Producer David Lenk talked with Col. Omi at Opening Night of the national touring production's current stop in Denver, which runs through April 19.

    Footage from Boston courtesy CBS-4 Critic-at-Large Greg Moody. Pictured above: Shel and Karen Omi with Motown the Musical star Allison Semmes. Photo by John Moore.

    Watch the video of the full father-daughter dance by clicking here

    Motown the Musical: Ticket information
    Through April 19
    The Buell Theatre
    ASL, Open Caption and Audio Described performance: April 18, 2 p.m.
    Tickets: 303-893.4100 | buy online
    800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups (10+): 303-446-4829
    Click here to go to the show's official web site

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Motown, The Musical:
    9News' TaRhonda Thomas is a Supreme for a Day
    Video: A 'Motown' national anthem at Denver Nuggets game
    Mayor declares 'Motown the Musical Day' in Denver
    Video: Our Little Michael Jacksons in Denver
    Video: Allison Semmes on channeling Diana Ross
    Video: Scott Shiller's first day as DCPA CEO is Motown's opening night
    How Berry Gordy turned a slogan into The Supremes
    Photos: Motown in Denver
    Official show page
    Video: Montage of scenes

    Shel Omi with his family at the opening of 'Motown the Musical' in Denver. Photo by John Moore. Shel Omi with his family at the opening of 'Motown the Musical' in Denver. Photo by John Moore.
  • Photos: Annaleigh Ashford's smashing return to Denver

    by John Moore | Apr 12, 2015

    Our photo gallery covering Annaleigh Ashford's return to Denver. All photos are available for free downloading, in a variety of sizes.
    Just click here.


    Tony Award-nominated Broadway star Annaleigh Ashford returned home Saturday for the first of two special cabaret performances at the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    Annaleigh Ashford and Molly Nash. Ashford once perfdormed a benefit concert to defray Nash's medical expenses. Photo by John Moore. Lost in the Stars was an evening of songs and stories that she will perform again at 5 p.m. tonight (Sunday, April 12). Ashford revisited the disco of Donna Summer, Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall, and even emceed an Alanis Morissette singalong. She also performed a medley from her Broadway and off-Broadway shows. It was all woven together by Ashford's heartfelt stories, many of which covered the Wheat Ridge High School alum's days growing up in Denver.

    Saturday's performance brought dozens of friends and influences from Ashford's days growing up in Denver. There was a meet-and-greet after the show, and we were there for pictures. (There is not a similar reception after tonight's show because Ashford has a plane to catch.) Photos by John Moore.

    Pictured above right: Annaleigh Ashford and Molly Nash. Ashford once performed a benefit concert to help defray Nash's medical expenses.


    READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ANNALEIGH ASHFORD HERE


    Steven Tangedal played Annaleigh Ashford's grandmother in 'Ruthless the Musical' when Ashford was 10 years old. Photo by John Moore.

    Steven Tangedal played Annaleigh Ashford's grandmother in "Ruthless the Musical" when Ashford was 10 years old. Photo by John Moore.


    Annaleigh Ashford's family after the Saturday night performance. Photo by John Moore.
    Annaleigh Ashford's family after the Saturday night performance. Photo by John Moore.


    Annaleigh Ashford
    – Lost in the Stars: Ticket information

    • 5 p.m. Sunday, April 12
    • Single tickets start at $50
    • To charge by phone, call 303-893-4100
    • buy online
    Please be advised that The Denver Center for the Performing Arts – including  DenverCenter.Org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of “Annaleigh Ashford – Lost in the Stars”




    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of Annaleigh Ashford:


    Video: Follow Annaleigh Ashford's day in Denver promoting "Lost in the Stars," including co-hosting "Colorado's Everyday Show" with Kathie J, and a stop at the DCPA's Page to Stage monthly conversation at the Tattered Cover Book Store. Video by John Moore and David Lenk.

    Our exclusive interview with Annaleigh Ashford

    Our backstage interview backstage at Kinky Boots including Andy Kelso
    Video: Watch Annaleigh perform at last week's Miscast in New York


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

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