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

    by John Moore | May 11, 2016

     A legally blonde quote 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read more about the Denver Actors Fund

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

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

    Reserve tickets to Legally Blonde screening and Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

    A legally blonde

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

    Read John Moore's 2007 profile of Heather Hach

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John Moore: What are you working on now?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

  • 'Sweeney Todd': Opening Night photo gallery

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sweeney Todd Opening Night. Photo by Adams Visual Communications

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

    Sweeney Todd
    : Ticket information

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

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

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick
    Meet Daniel Berryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He didn't even have to finish his thought.

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

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

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

    3 Perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sweeney Todd: Ticket information

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

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

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

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

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

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

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

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


    Devotchka Quote

    By John Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This pitiable story reminds King of a favorite movie.

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Devotchka Quote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2016

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    NEA Chairman Jane Chu at a Town Hall meeting at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Photo by John Moore.  NEA Chairman Jane Chu at the Colorado Creative Industries' Town Hall meeting at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Photo by John Moore. 
  • Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    by John Moore | Mar 16, 2016

    Our brief video look back at the DCPA Theatre Company's 2016 Colorado New Play Summit Feb. 12-21 in Denver.

    CNPS16 Regina TaylorIncludes interviews with featured playwrights Lauren Gunderson, Tira Palmquist, José Cruz González and Mat Smart.

    "I think everyone who knows new plays knows the Colorado New Play Summit," said Gunderson, whose play The Book of Will was later chosen for inclusion on the company's 2016-17 season, as was Palmquist's Two Degrees.

    Interviewees also include local and high-school playwrights whose work was featured as part of Summit activities.

    Video by Topher Blair, footage by David Lenk and interviews by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Photo above: Commissioned DCPA playwright Regina Taylor reads at the Playwrights Slam.

    Check out more of our Colorado theatre coverage

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Summit (to date):
    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
    Local Playwright Slam: Video coverage and interviews
    DCPA rolls out the welcome mat: It's Summit weekend
    2016 Summit playwrights introduce their featured works
    Three major Summit events to be streamed live
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
    Audio: Colorado Public Radio on the 2016 New Play Summit

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit Photo Gallery:

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Our complete photo gallery from the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click the forward arrow on the photo above. To download any photo for free, click on it and follow instructions. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    CNPS16 logo
  • Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience

    by John Moore | Mar 09, 2016

    Kent Thompson
    Kent Thompson says one commonality in his new season is stories that in some way 'examine the fallout when we are forced to make ethical, scientific or human choices.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who announced the DCPA Theatre Company 38th season on Tuesday, said selecting any new theatre season is equal parts “fun, terrifying and collaborative.” He takes recommendations from a variety of people, from audiences to community members to staff. "But in the end, my job is about providing the vision,” he said. And in the end, he admits, "the process is as much intuitive and instinctual as it is intellectual.”

    Kent Thompson quoteThompson never schedules according to a chosen overall theme for any given season, but he said the upcoming nine-play slate he just announced does have at least one commonality, and it's that "every story in some way examines the fallout when we are forced to make ethical, scientific or human choices." That’s true from the season-opening The Glass Menagerie to the seasonal standard A Christmas Carol to two world premieres to the enduring musical The Secret Garden and everything in-between.

    “Luckily the DCPA provides us with the space and the resources to guide artists to create theatrical experiences that stimulate, entertain and inspire our audiences and enrich the lives of the audiences, artists and communities we serve,” he said.

    Here are five more thought-provoking observations from Thompson concerning the season just announced:

    F1 Perspectivesor those who were rooting for American Mariachi, Jose Cruz González's music-infused family story about a young Los Angelina who ventures into the male-dominated world of mariachi in the 1970s to help bring her mother back from dementia, Thompson said don’t read too much into it not being included in the upcoming season. “We are going to continue to develop that play this year, and we hope to bring to bring it back in a future season," he said. 

    2 PerspectivesOne highlight of the season will be Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, which premiered at the National Theatre in London in 2011, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor Frankenstein and The Creature. As was the case in London, the not-yet cast Denver actors will alternate roles at each performance, allowing audiences to better see what makes man and monster both diverge and intersect. “It will be fascinating for audiences to see both," Thompson said, "because when they did it in London, they found that each actor brought unique things to each role, and the relationship between the characters changed as the actors changed roles. The fabulous part about this script to me is answering the question: ‘Who is most human by the end of the evening - Victor or The Creature?’ ”

    DCPA announces 2016-17 Theatre Company season

    3 PerspectivesAnticipating concern from that might arise from the topical play The Christians, Thompson assured, “No character is made fun of, and no character is derided for their views.” In Lucas Hnath’s acclaimed – and button-pushing play – the pastor of a large evangelical church gets up one Sunday and has changed one of the core beliefs he's been preaching and teaching to his congregation for years, sending shockwaves and reverberations throughout his membership. “This is really a story about what happens, both to yourself and to your followers, when you are a leader and you change a core belief, be it religious, political or spiritual. The Christians is an intimate look at the moments that define who we are and what we believe.” The Christians features a full choir at every performance.”

    4 PerspectivesScheduling the national touring production of the most recent Tony Award-winning new play as a Theatre Company offering is unprecedented – although in 2009, the Denver Center did bring the touring production of August: Osage County to Denver as a Broadway subscription offering. It is rare today because not many Broadway plays tour anymore. After plays run their course in New York, the rights are typically made available to professional theatre companies around the country for them to self-produce. But because the widely hailed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is touring the country, that means no local theatre company will have the opportunity to self-produce the play for several years. And even then, this technologically groundbreaking winner of five 2015 Tony Awards will prove difficult for any theatre company to stage. The play essentially allows the audience to go inside the mind of a 15-year-old London boy who is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to function in everyday life, and the play helps the audience experience the short-circuitry in his brain first-hand. When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbor’s dog, he sets out on a dangerous journey to identify the true culprit. “If we could only do one play this season, this is the one I would want to do,” Thompson said. But because self-producing the play is not yet an option, the touring production offers the only opportunity for audiences to see the story way it was originally conceived. “This is the kind of play that I think the Theatre Company patrons will love to see,” said Thompson.

    5 PerspectivesAs for his overall scheduling philosophy, Thompson said: “The core of our work at the Theatre Company is original productions ranging from the newest stories to the most enduring stories. But I also want to make clear that we are looking to do stories that are also told in a variety of forms and styles, from the absolutely most innovative to the most traditional storytelling. I seek no less than to open the hearts, minds, eyes and sometimes the souls of both audiences and artists in our community when they see a production here at the Theatre Company.”

    And as for those who have asked "Will Shakespeare be back?" Thompson said emphatically, "yes." And in a very real way, Shakespeare will be present on the 2016-17 season in the form of The Book of Will.

    Sept. 9-Oct. 16: The Glass Menagerie, Ricketson Theatre
    Sept. 30-Oct. 30: Frankenstein, Stage Theatre
    Nov. 25-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol, Stage Theatre
    Jan. 13-Feb. 26, 2017: The Book of Will, Ricketson Theatre
    Jan. 27-Feb. 26, 2017: The Christians, Stage Theatre
    Feb. 3-March 12, 2017: Two Degrees, The Jones Theatre
    March 31-May 7, 2017: Disgraced, ​Ricketson Theatre
    Apr 21-May 28, 2017: The Secret Garden, Stage Theatre
    May 30-June 18, 2017: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Ellie

    Tickets and Subscriptions
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Tickets are available to subscribers online at denvercenter.org by calling 303-893-6030 or 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to Broadway and student shows, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed.

    A single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time.

  • 2016 Colorado New Play Summit video: Local Playwrights Slam

    by John Moore | Mar 02, 2016

    The 2016 Colorado New Play Summit's Local Playwrights Slam was co-hosted by DCPA Theatre Company Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez and the Athena Project, which is dedicated to supporting and expanding women’s voices.

    Local Playwrights Slam. Colorado New Play SummitSix local playwrights were invited to sample excerpts from upcoming works before an enthusiastic crowd of Summit attendees at The Jones Theatre on Feb. 13, 2016.

    In the video above, we talk to Athena Project Executive Producer Angela Astle and featured playwrights Rebecca Gorman O’Neill and Felice Locker about the Slam, and the need to champion women in the theatre. 

    "The perception is that women are actually equally represented onstage, and the reality is that they are not," said Astle. "Rather than gripe about what we are not getting as female playwrights and female artists, we are doing something about it.

    "Only 20 percent of plays produced are written by women, and that needs to change."

    Gorman O'Neill found her entire Local Slam experience to be a gift.

    "We’re all one big theatre community here in Denver," she said, "and the more we interact and intersect, the stronger the arts in Denver become." 

    The other featured playwrights were Lisa Wagner Erickson, Leslie C. Lewis, Catherine Wiley and Jennifer Faletto. Video by Kevin Strasser and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Photo coverage:
    2016 Local Playwrights Slam

    Photos from the 2016 Local Playwrights Slam. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. To download any photo for free, click on the image and follow the options. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Summit (to date):

    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
    DCPA rolls out the welcome mat: It's Summit weekend
    2016 Summit playwrights introduce their featured works
    Three major Summit events to be streamed live
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
    Audio: Colorado Public Radio on the 2016 New Play Summit

  • 2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices

    by John Moore | Feb 22, 2016
    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Photos from the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, just click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are downloadable for free by clicking on a photo. You will be taken to the DCPA Flickr account for downloading.

    Many numbers were bandied about at the 11th and largest Colorado New Play Summit, among the most telling: Only 20 percent of all plays produced in this country last year were written by women, and half of all developing new works featured at the DCPA Theatre Company’s signature annual event have returned as fully staged productions.

    But perhaps the most remarkable stat is one that went almost unnoticed. And if it had not occurred to playwright José Cruz González, author of the 2016 Summit offering American Mariachi, it might have gone completely overlooked.

    “I realized that two of the four directors here at the Summit are Latino – and they are both directing non-Latino plays,” González said. “When I reflected on that, I thought, ‘Wow. That’s huge.’ And nothing is being said about it.”

    And the fact that it’s not a big deal “is why it’s a big deal,” said González, whose magical realism piece September Shoes was fully staged by Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson in his first season back in 2005, followed by the comedy Sunsets and Margaritas in 2008.

    “I have to take my hat off to Kent for his commitment to new work and to the different voices that need to be reflected in this country,” González said. “We don’t see that in a whole lot of places yet. I think what he’s doing here is important, and I hope our colleagues around the country will pick up the ball and do what needs to be done. We need variety, and we need to hear those hidden voices. I think that’s what Kent is doing.”

    This 11th Colorado New Play Summit was just the second since expanding to two weeks. Now, four creative teams gather in Denver for a full week of development before a first weekend of public readings. In the past, the playwrights then returned to their elsewhere lives, and that was that. Now, each team takes a breather while the playwrights turn lessons learned into actual new script pages. After a second week of intensive rewriting and rehearsal time, there is another round of weekend readings, with many of the industry’s most prominent national figures in attendance. And that plants seeds for a possible future life for these developing new works.

    Four short videos spotlighting each of the featured plays at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Videos by John Moore and David Lenk.

    “Time really is the key thing for new-play development, and so the luxury of having that second week is huge,” González said. On a very practical level, the extra time helped him to focus on two unsolved issues.

    “One of my major questions coming in was, ‘Is American Mariachi a play with music, or should it just be a full-on musical?’” González said. “Now I’m leaning more and more toward the idea that this is a play with music. Another question I had was about two characters who really don’t ever speak through the course of the play. Having these great actors play those roles has really fleshed out those characters. “

    We asked all four featured playwrights to comment on the Summit’s expanded two-week time frame. Here’s what else they told us:

    • Lauren Gunderson (The Book of Will): “Having two weekends of readings is incredibly valuable. You never know a play until there’s an audience. And we learned so much from our first reading. To then be able to really sink in and do the hard thinking and the collaborative work a new play requires …  that’s really what this process allows for, and I am incredibly grateful for that.”
    • Tira Palmquist (Two Degrees): “The reading after the first week feels in a way like ‘proof of concept.’ Like: ‘OK, we did this first week, and we got it on its feet, and we got it in front of an audience.’ And then you get to hear how an audience responds - what lands and what doesn’t. One of the things that’s lovely about the second week is that now you have the opportunity to go through and fine-tune anything that you didn’t really get to polish. And you can answer questions you didn’t really get to answer during the first week.” 
    • Mat Smart (Midwinter): “The second week has made all the difference for me. I took a good first step with the play during the first week, but I would say that I really discovered what the play is and who the characters are and what the big moments are just in the past couple of days. So I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have another week to take a crack at it.

    And what of Denver’s growing reputation an incubator of new works for the American theatre?

    • Lauren Gunderson: “Everyone who knows new plays knows about the Colorado New Play Summit now. It’s a place to gather to see new plays. It’s a place for community. It’s a place to just do the work – the real work. Everyone knows about the commitment to new plays here. And I’m excited that the community of people who know it gets bigger every year.”
    • Tira Palmquist: “People are noticing that Denver is really interested not just in having a festival, but actually developing new plays. Not all festivals do both. I’ve been in a lot of festivals where it feels like the plays are sort of thrown up in front of an audience. But if you’re really interested in play development, then really taking the time to do it right and attend to the playwright’s needs, then this is the way it should be done.”
    • Mat Smart: “The Denver Center’s national reputation is that it has a great passion for new plays, and an audience for them, and the resources to back them up and support them the way they need to be supported.”

    A Summit 600 2
    The cast of 'American Mariachi' at the closing party for the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Summarizing his Summit experience, González said: “I have to tell you, it is a rare thing in this country when you can feel like this is an artistic home, and you can take chances and create art.”

    Summit QuoteGunderson’s The Book of Will, which explores how Shakespeare’s friends rallied to have his complete works published for the first time following his death, is a commissioned piece through the Denver Center’s Women’s Voices Fund. That is a $1 million fund dedicated to making plays written and directed by women. “Just give women the agency, the encouragement, the support both financial and personal to write more plays,” she said. “Sometimes when you have a problem, you just have to fix it – like they have done here in Denver.”

    More than ever, the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit spotlighted playwrights who are currently working in the Theatre Company’s commissioning pipeline. Commissioned playwrights are those who have been contracted by the company to write a new play, and Thompson then gets first consideration whether to further develop those plays.

    Robert Schenkkan (All the Way, The 12), Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), Regina Taylor (Crowns, Drowning Crow), Rogelio Martinez (When Tang Met Laika), Anne Garcia-Romero (Earthquake ChicaLauren Yee (Ching Chong Chinaman), Eric Schmiedl (Benediction) and Andrew Hinderacker (Colossal) were among those who came to Denver for the full two weeks. In addition to giving the playwrights time to focus on their own developing works, most also participated in panel conversations and other activities.

    Read our Week 1 Summit re-cap

    One event, “Dialogue on Dialogue,” was a panel conversation that explored what makes for a great first scene. But rather than have the playwrights simply read from their own works, host (and Theatre Company Playwright in Residence) Matthew Lopez assigned them roles from both contemporary and classic plays such as The Glass Menagerie. Those in attendance who saw Regina Taylor and Robert Schenkkan read as George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf won’t soon forget it (photo below).

    summit Regina Taytlor Robert Schenkkan

    Kemp Powers, who was attending his first Colorado New Play Summit, said he “was completely humbled” by the experience. He was particularly impressed by the span of industry leaders visiting from theatrical nerve centers such New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and here in Denver.

    “Being a playwright is such a solitary endeavor that it's easy to forget how valuable it is to connect with your peers within the national community,” he said. “Getting some much-needed time to work on my commission was wonderful. Seeing the works of other playwrights at this early stage of development was nothing short of inspirational.”

    Summit Teen playwritingThe Saturday program culminated with a lively presentation of readings by three teenage Colorado writers. The one-acts were chosen from among 212 statewide submissions to DCPA Education’s third annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition. At the Summit, professional and student actors joined forces to read plays by Kendra Knapp of Valor Christian High School, Jessica Wood of Denver Christian High School and Gabrielle Moore of D’Evelyn High School (pictured above).

    The three finalists received mentorship from Rogelio Martinez, Anne Garcia-Gomez and Lauren Yee. Education staff will choose one of their three plays to be fully produced as part of its 2016 summer program.

    "This opportunity was a great help," said Wood. "Maybe we are not all going to be playwrights when we grow up. Maybe we are not even going to write. But this has certainly helped us improve our skills. We understand more about the theatre. We understand more about the massive process that goes into creating a play. And I think we understand a lot more about the power of words.”

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Summit (to date):
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
    DCPA rolls out the welcome mat: It's Summit weekend
    2016 Summit playwrights introduce their featured works
    Three major Summit events to be streamed live
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
    Audio: Colorado Public Radio on the 2016 New Play Summit

    DCPA commissioned playwrights. DCPA commissioned playwrights and staff. Clockwise from left: DCPA CEO Scott Shiller, Andrew Hinderacker, Lauren Yee, Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, Kemp Powers, Robert Schenkkan, Mat Smart, Regina Taylor, Anne Garcia-Romero, DCPA Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez and Rogelio Martinez.
  • Photos: Opening Night of 'FADE'

    by John Moore | Feb 13, 2016
    FADE in Denver

    Photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere performance of FADE, on Feb. 12. To see more photos, click the forward button on the image above. All photos may be downloaded for free directly from the Flickr album above.

    Fade Opening Night. Photo by John Moore. Our gallery includes photos backstage before the show, and from the celebration after the performance. One portion of the album includes photos from Club Denver, which serves at the lobby of the Ricketson Theatre. It was transformed to look like an actual TV writers' room on a Hollywood lot to give audience members a feel for the world of the play before they went inside the theatre.

    In Tanya Saracho's new play FADE, the Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character in a cutthroat Hollywood TV studio. She soon discovers that the Latino studio custodian, Abel, has a windfall of plot ideas. As their friendship grows, his stories start to blur with hers, with unexpected consequences. 'FADE' is directed by Jerry Ruiz and features Mariana Fernández as Lucia and Eddie Martinez as Abel.

    FADE plays through March 13 in the Ricketson Theatre. More information below.

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. (Pictured above, from left: Director Jerry Ruiz, Eddie Martinez, Tanya Saracho and Mariana Fernández. Below: Eddie Martinez has his Marines tattoo applied backstage before the show with the help of the DCPA's Lisa Parsons.)

    FADE. Eddie Martinez. Photo by John Moore.  

    Video: Your first look at FADE:

    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    FADE: Ticket information

  • By Tanya Saracho
  • Through March 13
  • Ricketson Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of FADE:
    FADE production photos:

    FADEPhotos by Adams Visual Communications.
  • 'FADE' Perspectives: Why ARE writers' rooms so drab?

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2016
    FADE Jerry Ruiz and Timothy R. Mackabee. Photo by John Moore. 'FADE' Perspectives conversation on Feb. 5 at The Jones Theatre, from left:

    Director Jerry Ruiz, Scenic Designer Timothy R. Mackabee and DCPA Literary Manager Doug Langworthy. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Perspectives is a series of free panel conversations moderated by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. They take place from 6 p.m. to 6:45 on the evening of each production's first preview performance. The next Perspectives will be held April 8 (discussing Sweeney Todd) in the Jones Theatre. No reservations necessary.


    In Tanya Saracho's world-premiere play FADE, opening Friday (Feb. 12) in the Ricketson Theatre, Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character in a cutthroat Hollywood TV studio. She soon discovers that the Latino studio custodian, Abel, has a windfall of plot ideas. As their friendship grows, his stories start to blur with hers, with unexpected consequences.

    Here’s some of what we learned from Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy’s conversation with FADE Director Jerry Ruiz and Scenic Designer Timothy R. Mackabee. The production's two actors, you soon will learn, were off learning brand new lines for Saracho's play. They are Mariana Fernández as Lucia and Eddie Martinez as Abel.

    1 Perspectives Why are TV writers' rooms so drab? FADE is set in a TV writer's office in Los Angeles. And TV writers’ rooms are not just drab. “They are crappy,” says Mackabee, who has the opportunity to work on several TV shows. “The funny thing about these rooms is that they are made for creative people do wonderful things, and they are the most awful rooms you could ever want to be in in your life.” Considering the budgets these shows have, who go so cheap on the aesthetics? "Usually a show rents a space to work and then you go out and rent a bunch of horrible Ikea furniture because the show might last only one season - and that's it. So there is never money or effort spent on these spaces because they are so temporary in nature.”

    Macakabee’s scenic design for FADE intentionally makes the Lucia's work space very cramped. “We are only using about a third of the Ricketson Theatre stage because we want it to be claustrophobic," he said. "These two cannot get away from each other.”

    For this production, Club Denver (located just outside of the Ricketson Theatre lobby), will be curated to look like a TV writing room, complete lousy furniture and bad lighting, to give the audience a sense of the play's environment even before walking into the theatre. 

    2 Perspectives What is the meaning of the title? “Originally, I think Tanya chose FADE because ‘fade to black’ is a common TV term,” Ruiz said. “But I also think it refers to our protagonist. Lucia comes into this job with a very clear sense of purpose. She has a mission she wants to accomplish on this TV show. But along the way, she gets so caught up in trying to survive in this shark-tank environment that she begins to lose sight of that. So her clarity of vision starts to fade away."

    John Moore's 2015 video interview with 'FADE' playwright Tanya Saracho.

    3 Perspectives

    Hispanic vs. Latino: What’s in a name? There is a moment in FADE when those two terms are bandied about. And both generate controversy. “Hispanic is an official term. It’s the one that is used on the U.S. census,” said Ruiz. “But a lot of people don't like that term politically because the root of the word is 'Hispania,' and that goes back to colonial Hispanic roots. A lot of us who are here in the Americas are from a Mestizo lineage – that is a combination of indigenous people who were already here and the colonists who came from Spain. So it is very complicated for us to say, 'Oh, we are Hispanic,' like we are some offshoot of Spain. Many people really don't like to think of themselves that way.”

    When ‘Latino’ came along as a term, many preferred it to Hispanic because it reflects a cultural identity and a pride in being from the Americas, whether that mean South America or Mexico or Central America. “But Latino is such a huge umbrella term,” Ruiz said. “There are different nationalities, different customs and very different cultures within that term - so it's not like all Latinos are the same.”

    That’s part of what FADE is exploring, Ruiz added: "How these two people who identify as Latina or Latina come from completely different backgrounds and experiences."

    4 Perspectives Get me rewrite! FADE may become the textbook example of the DCPA’s new-play development program at work. The process starts more than a year before a developing work is introduced as a reading at the annual Colorado New Play Summit. And the work continues, in some cases, until Opening Night. “When Tanya arrived in Denver last year for the New Play Summit, she really had about the first 50 pages of the play done, so she had a whole ending section to figure out,” Ruiz said. “She did quite a bit of work while she was here, and then the Denver Center conducted a workshop in Los Angeles last summer. All during this time, Tanya was doing more work on it, and she continued to flesh it out. By the time we got here to Denver for rehearsals about a month ago, she had a very solid draft of the script. And now we are starting to make one last pass at rewrites.”

    Ruiz was speaking on Feb. 5, just before the first preview performance of FADE, and one week before the official opening on Friday (Feb. 12). About six new pages of dialogue were added that day, and the actors were off learning their new lines. What’s fascinating to learn is how rewrites can greatly impact other parts of the creative process. Even those thought done.

    “These new rewrites happen in the first few scenes of the play, and they really impact how we get to know the main character,” Ruiz said. “So when I was reading these new pages, the first thing I said was, ‘Well, we are going to have to get her some new clothes.' I went to the costume designer (Meghan Anderson Doyle) last night and I said, ‘Hey, guess what? We've got these new pages. And there is a whole different tone now. These costumes are not going to work.’ And bam, she went out shopping this morning, and now there are completely different costumes in the first half of the show. All of that happened today.”  

    That anecdote, Ruiz says, demonstrates how a new play “is very much a living organism that is evolving and changing and growing.”

    5 Perspectives Is FADE autobiographical? In part. Saracho is a writer on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, primarily to help transform the Mexican-born protagonist played by Karla Souza into a complicated and fully fleshed character. But her first job was writing for HBO’s Devious Maids. “Tanya is a very funny writer, but she has a serious sense of politics about Latino and Latina identity,” Ruiz said. “So I think her experience on Devious Maids was somewhat troubling. She was suddenly in a show that was probably perpetuating a lot of the stereotypes that she had spent her whole theatre career trying to combat or challenge. I think FADE very much came out of that space of feeling unsure of how to navigate the world of network television while feeling conflicted between what she had to do as a writer on the staff and her own personal artistic values."

    FADE in Denver

    Photos from the making of 'FADE' in Denver. To see the full gallery, click the forward button on the photo above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    FADE: Ticket information

  • By Tanya Saracho
  • Through March 13
  • Ricketson Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of FADE:

    FADE 600A question is posed at the latest Perspectives.
  • Summit playwrights introduce 2016 featured works

    by John Moore | Feb 09, 2016
    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Photos from the welcoming reception for the 11th annual Colorado New Play Summit. Above, the cast of 'American Mariachi.' To see our full photo gallery, click the 'forward' button on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    The Denver Center's 11th annual Colorado New Play Summit began in earnest today when the four featured playwrights and their creative teams arrived for two weeks of development, rehearsals and public readings.

    Colorado New Play Summit.The four featured playwrights will work through the week in preparation for the first weekend of public readings on Feb. 13-14. They will then take what they learn into another week of intensive development, culminating with a second weekend of readings that will be attended by industry leaders from throughout the country.

    (Pictured right: Actors Mehry Eslaminia, 'Midwinter,' and Mackenzie Sherburne, Third Rail Project. Photo by John Moore.)

    Typically, two or three of the featured readings at each Colorado New Play Summit go on to full productions by the DCPA Theatre Company. The Summit has grown into one of the nation’s premier showcases of new plays. In its first decade, 44 new plays were introduced at the Summit, and more than half have returned as fully staged Theatre Company productions. This year’s The Nest and FADE were featured readings at the 2015 Summit.

    At Tuesday’s welcoming breakfast, each of the four 2016 featured playwrights briefly introduced their developing works. Here is what they said, in their own words:

    José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Colorado New Play Summit. José Cruz González"American Mariachi is a piece inspired by women who started forming their own mariachi groups in the 1970s. Of course, they had many challenges trying to play such a male-dominated musical form. We interviewed a number of amazing women who were able to help us enter into that world, and we found an amazing group of artists who will play and sing in the piece." 

     Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Colorado New Play Summit. Lauren Gunderson“The Book of Will
    is a play that tackles the history right after Shakespeare died. His friends and fellow actors were the ones who found and collated and valiantly published - through kind of an amazing odds, actually - the first folio of his works. So our task is to really take this thing that's so epic and so universal, but make it into a story about friendships and communities and this personal stuff that was really the cause of this world-changing, beautiful poetry that has access to every language." 

    Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Colorado New Play Summit. Tira Palmquist."Two Degrees is a cheery story about climate change. Actually, it so happens I love science, and I'm really, really inspired by climate change - so my main character is a woman of about 45 years old who is a climate scientist. It's really a play about grief: Grief for the planet, grief at large, grief on a more personal scale."

    Mat Smart, Midwinter
    Colorado New Play Summit. Mat Smart. "I spent three months working in Antarctica as a janitor at the McMurdo Station research center, and I wrote a play about that called The Royal Society. This is sort of a companion piece. One thing that's interesting about the station is that the people there fall in and out of love and have these epic relationships for, like, two weeks - and it's very genuine. It's kind of like a petri dish. And in the wintertime, the big event is the Midwinter Dinner. That got me thinking about A Midsummer Night's Dream. So it's a little bit of a riff on that." 

    (Note: The McMurdo Station is a research center on the south tip of Ross Island, which is in the New Zealand-claimed Ross Dependency on the shore of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. It is operated by a branch of the United States' National Science Foundation. The station is the largest community in Antarctica, capable of supporting up to 1,258 residents. All personnel and cargo going to or coming from Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station first pass through McMurdo.)

    Colorado New Play Summit. Kemp Powers and Jason Delane.  The Colorado New Play Summit made for a 'One Night in Miami' reunion: Kemp Powers, now a commissioned DCPA Theatre playwright, and actor Jason Delane (Two Degrees'). Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit: Ticket information

    First weekend (Launch Weekend): Saturday, Feb. 13, and Sunday, Feb. 14
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Second weekend (Festival Weekend): Friday, Feb. 19, through Sunday, Feb. 21

    Including an additional workshop presentation with Third Rail Projects
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Colorado New Play Summit (to date):
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
  • Photos: Denver Broncos Super Bowl Celebration

    by John Moore | Feb 09, 2016
    Denver Broncos Super Bowl Celebration

    To see more parade photos, just click the forward button on the photo above. To download any photo for free, click on it, and you will be taken to the Flickr gallery, where will be given a variety of file size options.

    The Denver Center joined with the entire Rocky Mountain region today (Tuesday, Feb. 9) in celebrating the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers with a parade and rally that drew an estimated 1 million people downtown. The population of Denver is only about 650,000 and the metro area holds 3.3 million.

    Photos by John Moore and Kyle Malone for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    ​More of our NewsCenter coverage of the Super Bowl:
    Super Bet: DCPA is backing the right horse in the Super Bowl
    Five plays about football: Is truth stranger than theatre?
    Video: Andy Kelso of Kinky Boots: Broadway backs the Broncos
    Video: Fun Home on Broadway boards the Broncos bandwagon
    Video: The Denver Center is United in Orange!

    Denver Broncos Super Bowl Celebration Kyle MaloneDenver Broncos Super Bowl Celebration. Photo by Kyle Malone (above) and John Moore (below).

    Denver Broncos Super Bowl Celebration. John Moore
  • Video: 2015 Local Playwrights Slam

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2016

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    As the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit approaches, we take a look back in the video above at the inaugural Local Playwrights Slam hosted and curated by a group of Colorado writers known as the Rough Draught Playwrights.

    The event was held during the opening weekend of the DCPA Theatre Company's 2015 Colorado New Play Summit last February, and featured William Missouri Downs, Megan Fevurly, Ellen K. Graham, Josh Hartwell, Cajardo Rameer Lindsey and Buntport Theater's Erin Rollman and Hannah Duggan. The evening's hosts were Nina Miller, Leslie C. Lewis and Jeff Neuman.

    Playwrights Slam. Josh Hartwell. Buntport went on to produce its work in progress, Middle Aged People Sitting in Boxes, which was nominated for seven Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards. Graham's The Wave That Set the Fire was a finalist at The O'Neill's 2014 National Playwrights Conference. Downs' Mr. Perfect has been published by Playscripts. Fevurly's The Funambulist, renamed Tightrope, was staged at the University of Idaho. Hartwell's one-act The Extraordinarily Mundane Adventures of Earth Boy was previously staged in 2012 at the Changing Scene Northwest. (Hartwell is pictured above.)

    The 2016 Slam will be hosted by the Athena Project, which exists to support and provide opportunities for women writers. It will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at The Jones Theatre.

    This year's featured writers will be Lisa Wagner Erickson, Jennifer Faletto, Rebecca Gorman O’Neill, Leslie Lewis, Felice Locker and Catherine Wiley. Tickets are $10. For information, go to athenaprojectfestival.org.

    Photos from the 2015 Local Playwrights Slam:

    2015 Local Playwrights Slam Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video, story: Building 'The Nest': Bringing a bar to life

    by John Moore | Feb 04, 2016

    Take a backstage look at how DCPA artisans crafted the 13-foot bar that creates the world of 'The Nest.' Our guests in the video above include Properties Director Robin Lu Payne, Carpenter David Hoth and Props Artisan Katie Webster. They explain how they achieved rounded corners and the impression of intricately carved rosewood and ivory marble inlays. When asked why it was important for the DCPA artists to build the bar from scratch, Hoth said, “It’s what we do. It’s what we have done for years.” Video by David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Staging the world premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest in The Space Theatre has created more than the usual challenges for Director of Scenic Design Lisa Orzolek to solve. The play is set in a bar. The Space is a five-sided theatre in the round. How do you make that work?

    “Bar plays are traditionally very stationary, and whenever you do a play in the round, you don’t ever want to be stationary,” Orzolek said. “So the challenge from the get-go is, ‘How do you shape the bar so it is the most open to the most people in the audience?’”

    The Nest
    is a provocative new comedy that introduces a group of disparate bar regulars whose social foundations are shaken when a stranger walks in with a lucrative proposition. It plays though Feb. 21 in the Space Theatre.

    The Nest BarThe setting is a Midwestern bar that is now fading more than 100 years after it was exquisitely crafted, anchored by a huge, ornate, beveled - and imagined, from the audience's perspective - German mirror. DCPA carpenters began building the bar the week of Thanksgiving.

    Orzolek is in her 26th season with the DCPA Theatre Company, and she considers it her privilege to design the final play in The Space Theatre before it closes for a year of renovations. She took some time to talk about the design process.

    (Pictured above right: Properties Director Robin Lu Payne, Carpenter David Hoth and Props Artisan Katie Webster. Photo by John Moore.)

    John Moore: A bar is inherently fixed, but you don’t want the story to play out at anyone’s back for any length of time. What can you tell us about the solutions you came up with, without giving anything away?

    Lisa Orzolek: Not very much, sorry. I can say that there are challenges in the script that we have solved with the magic of theatre.

    John Moore: Artfully dodged! How did you even approach the project in the first place?

    Lisa Orzolek: I met with Adrienne Campbell-Holt, the director, over the summer to talk it through. We started by sitting down together in The Space Theatre for quite some time just trying to envision how a bar could fit into our little, five-sided theatre. We asked each other all kinds of questions, like, “Should we remove some seats and turn the play into more like a traditional proscenium style?”

    John Moore: I take it you thought better of that?

    Lisa Orzolek: Oh, yeah. The solution we finally discovered is much more theatrically interesting than that. I thought it was important that we embrace the challenge of the in-the-roundness of The Space Theatre and not take a proscenium approach.

    John Moore: So when you left that meeting, did you feel like you had all of the challenges solved?

    Lisa Orzolek: Not 100 percent. But I feel we have solved the problem of putting a bar play in the round very well. I think audiences are going to be surprised by how well it works, actually. I think they will feel like they are part of the bar itself. But it took some artistic and financial creativity. The solution we came up with would not have been possible without our reallocating some funds from one part of the show budget to another.

    John Moore: Any other peculiar design challenges?

    Lisa Orzolek: Yes. These characters eat an awful lot of steak. So a great deal of steak will need to be cooked and consumed throughout the run.

    John Moore: Will that be real steak they are eating?

    Lisa Orzolek: That is yet to be determined.

    John Moore: What if an actor doesn’t eat meat?

    Lisa Orzolek: We are already considering what could be a possible substitute for steak. And our Director of Props, Robin Payne, has some really good alternatives in the works.

    John Moore: And there is a lot of booze.

    Lisa Orzolek: There is an awful lot of booze. The play is set in a bar, after all. But alcohol is actually much more easy to solve in a play than food that has to be consumed.

    John Moore: Theresa Rebeck is a big advocate for gender parity in the theatre, and she told me one way to achieve parity if you are a woman in power is to hire other women. Half of the design staff for The Nest are women. Is that a nice change for you?

    Lisa Orzolek: I think it is exciting and empowering whenever there are more women in any given production, but I don’t perceive a real disproportion between the number of male and female designers here at the DCPA. That said, there is a different energy with this play. It’s a lot of fun to work with many talented women at once. And you may not know this, but the stage management staff for this play is all female, too.

    John Moore:  Are you sentimental about this being the last play in The Space Theatre as we know it before it gets renovated in 2016?

    Lisa Orzolek: I am sentimental. It’s the end of an era, but it is not the end of The Space Theatre. I am privy to what it’s going to look like on the other side, and it is not changing in configuration all that dramatically. So I am glad we are going to keep it in the round.

    John Moore: It had to be fun putting in all that critical research this play must have demanded.

    Lisa Orzolek: It has been really fun to design a working bar for this play — and yes, there was a lot of research conducted in bars. We spent a lot of time just sitting and looking at how different things look that you never pay attention to in a bar. For example, we spent a lot of time just measuring things out, and looking closely at what it really looks like from behind the bar. You know, the feng shui of the place. So yes, there was a lot of research — but it was important research!

    John Moore: Did you look to any particular local watering hole for inspiration?

    Lisa Orzolek: Yes, My Brother’ Bar at 15th and Platte streets. That place is just the perfect bar. It usually has a lot more customers than the bar in The Nest does, but it’s got that same, comfortable, everyman’s place kind of feel to it.

    Photos of the process:

    Building 'The Nest'Photos by John Moore, Carolyn Michaels and Adams Visual Communications for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more photos, hover over the photo above and click the forward arrow.

    The Nest: Ticket information
  • By Theresa Rebeck
  • Through Feb. 21
  • Space Theatre
  • When you have a seat at the bar called The Nest, no conversation is off-limits, whether you’re speaking or eavesdropping. That is, until a stranger walks in with a lucrative proposition. Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck’s plays “may make you laugh or shudder (or both)” according to American Theatre, and with its feisty humor and scorching dialogue, this explosive new comedy holds a cracked mirror up to friendships, romantic relationships and families.
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Nest:

    The Nest flies in face of national gender trends
    Opening night photo coverage
    5 Things We Learned from The Nest ... Like ‘Mansplaining'​
    Theresa Rebeck: Bar plays should be 'humanly reckless'
    Five things we now know about that bar
    Cast list announced
    Theresa Rebeck is not getting angry: She's getting even
    ​American Theatre magazine: The Colorado New Play Summit Is a Developing Story

    Meet the Cast profiles (to date):

    Meet Kevin Berntson
    Meet Brian D. Coats
    Meet Brian Dykstra
    Meet Victoria Mack
    Meet David Mason
    Meet Carly Street
  • Photo gallery: Opening Night of 'The Nest'

    by John Moore | Feb 01, 2016
    The Nest

    From left: Lighting Designer Grant W. S. Yeager, Kevin Berntson, Andrea Syglowski, Brian D. Coats, Carly Street, Playwright Theresa Rebeck, Brian Dykstra, Victoria Mack, Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Laura Latreille and David Mason.

    Photos from Opening Night of the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere play The Nest, written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt. To see more photos, press the "forward" arrow on the photo above.

    The Nest David Mason The cast includes Kevin Berntson, Andrea Syglowski, Brian D. Coats, Carly Street, Brian Dykstra, Victoria Mack, Laura Latreille and David Mason. Guests at the celebration afterward included cast members from upcoming productions of All the Way and FADE.

    The Nest is new play written specifically for the DCPA Theatre Company as part of its new-play development program.

    “This play is about the dream of wanting your life to turn out a certain way, and it hasn't," said Campbell-Holt. “It's about combative people trying to create their own tribe. It's Chekhov meets Cheers meets Long Day's Journey Into Night.”

    Pictured above right: Actor David Mason reviews his notes on the set about an hour before the opening performance. ​

    Video: First look at The Nest:

    The Nest:
    Ticket information
  • theresa-rebeckBy Theresa Rebeck (pictured right)
  • Through Feb. 21
  • Space Theatre
  • When you have a seat at the bar called The Nest, no conversation is off-limits, whether you’re speaking or eavesdropping. That is, until a stranger walks in with a lucrative proposition. Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck’s plays “may make you laugh or shudder (or both)” according to American Theatre, and with its feisty humor and scorching dialogue, this explosive new comedy holds a cracked mirror up to friendships, romantic relationships and families.
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Nest:

    The Nest flies in face of national gender trends
    5 Things We Learned from The Nest ... Like ‘Mansplaining'​
    Theresa Rebeck: Bar plays should be 'humanly reckless'
    Five things we now know about that bar
    Cast list announced
    Theresa Rebeck is not getting angry: She's getting even
    ​American Theatre magazine: The Colorado New Play Summit Is a Developing Story

    Meet the Cast profiles (to date):

    Meet Kevin Berntson
    Meet Brian D. Coats
    Meet Brian Dykstra
    Meet Victoria Mack
    Meet Carly Street

    Photos: The Nest production photos:
    The Nest Photos by Adams Visual Communications. To see more, click the "forward" arrow.
  • Video: Shaping Sound: Travis Wall and Mallauri Esquibel in Denver

    by John Moore | Jan 22, 2016

    If you missed this week's sold-out performance of Shaping Sound at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House - and even if you didn't - here's our exclusive interview with choreographer Travis Wall and dancer Mallauri Esquibel, a graduate of Highlands Ranch High School and emergency cast replacement.

    Wall won the 2015 Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography. He was the runnerup for “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 2 and is currently a resident choreographer for the national dance competition show on Fox.

    Under Wall’s Artistic Direction, and co-created with Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson, Shaping Sound is an electrifying mash-up of dance styles and musical genres brought to life by a dynamic company of contemporary dancers.

    Interview by John Moore, video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    Shaping Sound: Travis Wall and Mallauri Esquibel in DenverShaping Sound: Travis Wall and Mallauri Esquibel in Denver at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 2015 True West Award: Keith Ewer

    by John Moore | Dec 14, 2015

    Photo courtesy the Arvada Center.


    ​Today’s recipient:
    Keith Ewer,
    Arvada Center House Percussionist

    Today’s presenter: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

    Keith Ewer has been the House Percussionist for every musical staged at the Arvada Center since 1987.

    That’s worth a beat.

    That means Ewer has played more than 100 Arvada Center productions over almost 30 years - an astonishing record of excellence and longevity that’s likely been matched by … well, no one in a comparable position. And that doesn’t even count the 27 Arvada Center children’s theatre productions Ewer has helmed as Musical Director.

    Keith Ewer quote“I swear the Arvada Center would be a pile of rubble without Keith,” said Arvada Center Resident Musical Director and orchestra conductor David Nehls. “He is truly the most supportive person I have ever met in my career.”

    Ewer was named Assistant to the Musical Director in 1995. The job entails coordinating all logistical details with orchestra members. Ewer sets up the rehearsal schedule, logistics, contracts and much more – including creating individual charts for each musician. “Keith just keeps things humming along in the background,” said Public Relations Manager Melanie Mayner.

    This past year, Ewer was the percussionist for the Irish drama A Man of No Importance, Saturday Night Fever, Charlotte’s Web and the current Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which plays through Dec. 23.

    A Man of No Importance posed a particular challenge for Ewer and Nehls. Artistic Director Rod Lansberry recruited the Irish band Colcannon to perform on-stage for the musical. It was the first time the Arvada Center utilized a guest musical group in that way. Nehls still would need to conduct them, and Ewer still would be needed for percussion - but the pair couldn’t be positioned onstage with the Irish band. So the two went unseen by the audience behind the stage, where Nehls conducted Colcannon through a video monitor. Somehow the players all kept time despite the physical separation, and Ewer took the challenge on with typical good humor. It’s that kind of flexibility that impresses Nehls about Ewer.

    “With Keith, it’s really about his extraordinary commitment to everything he does, and how he swoops in to save the day on so many issues,” Nehls said. “I swear, he is superhuman at times.”

    Ewer, who graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, just celebrated his 25th anniversary running the Front Range Youth Symphony, and he has been on the faculty of the Colorado Honor Band Association since 1982. In what is left of his spare time, he works as a freelance musician, teacher, composer and arranger throughout the metro area.

    A scene from the Arvada Center's 'A Man of No Importance.' Keith Ewer played percussion backstage while the Irish band Colcannon was featured onstage. Photo by P. Switzer.


    The True West Awards began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. This year, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from around the state over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
    Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
    Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Day 4: Laurence Curry
    Day 5: Bernie Cardell
    Day 6: Susan Lyles
    Day 7: John Jurcheck​
    Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
    Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
    Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
    Day 11: Shauna Johnson
    Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
    Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
    Day 14: Keith Ewer
    Day 15: Allison Watrous
    Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
    Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
    Day 18: Emma Messenger
    Day 19: Shannon McKinney
    Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
    Day 22: Scott Beyette
    Day 23: Augustus Truhn
    Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
    Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
    Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
    Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
    Day 29: Mark Collins
    Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
    Bonus: Donald R. Seawell
    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.