• 2017 True West Award: 'The Rape of the Sabine Women'

    by John Moore | Dec 11, 2017
    2017 True West Award Rape of the Sabine Women

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 11: The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias

    Local Theater Company, Boulder

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    “The truth is like castor oil. It’s bitter to swallow and people don’t want it.
    Therefore, you make them laugh. And when their mouths are open … you pour it in.”

    Harold Clurman 

    The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias was an uncomfortable play to watch. Not because Local Theater Company’s staging was unpleasant to sit through. It wasn’t. And maybe that’s what made it so uncomfortable to watch.

    The playwright is not named Grace B. Matthias — she is rather the primary character in the story. The actual playwright is Michael Yates Crowley, who adopted an unnervingly casual and outright comic tone for a play about sexual assault, homophobia and bullying at an Ohio high school. But rape as satire? With rim shots and punchlines? Isn’t that an affront to anyone who has ever been assaulted? Is this (male) playwright somehow trying to make rape … palatable?

    Sabine Women Photo by George LangeWell, no. But perhaps palatable enough so we can actually talk about the numbingly pervasive rape culture in America. “Sometimes you have to shock people to get to a truth,” said Director Christy Montour-Larson. “And what better way to shock people about sexual assault than to get them laughing about it?”

    Therein lies the eventual genius of this unsettling play that lingers in the brain for weeks afterward. Then again, a play this topical never has even a remote chance of dissipating when its subject matter reverberates anew with the drumbeats of the latest daily news cycle.

    (Photos on right and below feature Adeline Mann, Erik Fellenstein and Peter Henry Bussian of 'The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias.' Photos by George Lange.)

    Time Magazine just named the Silence Breakers who fueled the #MeToo Movement its 2017 Person of the Year as a means of honoring those women who came forward in droves to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault. The very subject of this play is the most significant news story of the year.

    Theatre rarely gets to matter in such an urgent way because it can take years for a company to bring a chosen play to full life on the stage. Local Theater, a strong, female-led company founded by Boulder’s Pesha Rudnick, caught wise to Crowley’s developing new work two years ago, first choosing to workshop it at its annual new-play festival, and then slotting it for full production in October. Many a play goes stale in the meantime. The reason this one didn’t is as old as time.

    “This play was topical long before the ‘Me Too’ movement,” said Montour-Larson. Sexual assault isn’t new. The whole point in referencing the Sabine Women in the story is that sexual assault has been going on for thousands of years.”

    True West ErikFellensteininTheRapeoftheSabineWomenbyGraceB.Matthias.PhotobyGeorgeLangeThe actual “Rape of the Sabine Women” was an incident from Roman mythology in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of young women from nearby cities. They were taken from families, treated as slaves and made to bear children. If you are looking for a historical bookend, look no further than the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

    Given the falling dominoes from the rise of the #MeToo social-media moment, there is no question Americans are more awake to the issue of sexual assault than they were a year ago. And by staging Sabine Women now, Local Theater gave its audiences a context through which to keep that conversation going.

    In the play, an ordinary 15-year-old student has accused the two stars of the high-school football team of rape. The school's nickname? The Romans, natch. But if you’re expecting some deep and thoughtful exploration of the powerful ramifications of this accusation, well — hold on to your funny bone. Instead, the playwright points his sharp cynicism at every adult authority figure in the story, from a lawyer to a teacher to a journalist to a school official — all intentionally made into ridiculous caricatures.

    Adding to this incendiary pot are two very real personal crushes aimed at Jeff, our all-American rapist: Both the victim and Jeff’s closeted teammate Bobby are in love with him. Decades of pop culture have conditioned us to root for the golden boy and the unremarkable girl to hook up. Bobby, on the other hand, seems to be the playwright’s revenge against every repressed gay man who has ever turned his inner turmoil into an outward, toxic weapon.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This is a very dangerous game Crowley is playing. But thanks to a devastatingly honest performance by Adeline Mann as the confused yet utterly real young Grace (surrounded by an impeccable ensemble of top-notch fellow actors), the audience is never allowed to fully give in to the hilarity because there are real physical and emotional consequences here.

    “The comedy in this play definitely hits different people in different ways based on their own politics and personal experiences," Montour-Larson said. "And that’s not only OK — it’s kind of the point.”

    Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias. Photo by George LangeWhat’s indisputable is the greater good Local Theater did by letting this particular Pandora out of her box. Local presented the play to the Boulder community in a responsible and comprehensive manner, with audience talkbacks and at least five public panels throughout the city. Local boldly demonstrated how theater can be a catalyst for dialogue by addressing urgent issues of the day in real time.

    “I believe theatre is at its best when it tells stories that people can relate to their lives right now,” Montour-Larson said. “Sometimes that story is Hamlet. Sometimes that story is The Crucible. And sometimes that story is The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias. This is why theatre exists.”

    Local's mission is to discover and develop new American plays, and to date, all of them have felt similarly “of the moment.” “Last year, we presented The Firestorm — a play about race and politics and a marriage — right before the election,” said Local Theater Communications Manager Ted Stephens. “This year, we staged Sabine Women just as women were starting to step forward about sexual assault. And this spring, we will produce Wisdom from Everything, a beautiful world premiere about a young Syrian refugee trying to survive in a world with little agency, few rights and no country. And that one feels, unfortunately, incredibly relevant and important once again.

    “I suppose that's the advantage of presenting brand-new works — they can take what we are experiencing right now and invite our audiences to be part of some sort of change.”

    Theatre doesn’t get any better than that.

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

    The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B Matthias cast list:
    • Peter Henry Bussian
    • Erik Fellenstein
    • Cajardo Lindsey
    • Rodney Lizcano
    • Adeline Mann
    • Matt Schneck
    • Mare Trevathan
    • Brynn Tucker

    Video bonus: Cast member Mare Trevathan

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 True West Award: Sammie Joe Kinnett

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2017
    True West Award Sammie Joe Kinnett

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 10: Sammie Joe Kinnett

    Arvada Center
    Colorado Springs TheatreWorks
    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Sammie Joe Kinnett is one of the hundreds who started 2017 adrift in grief over the death of Murray Ross.

    Ross founded TheatreWorks as part of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 1975 and for the next 42 years, he built it into a fertile incubator of young hearts and minds. Some of them were not even his students. Kinnett, for one, was a teenage community-college dropout who, through Ross, found a mentor — and a home — on a campus he didn’t even attend.

    "Ross was a divining rod of talent," said frequent Colorado Springs Director Geoffrey Kent. When Ross met Kinnett, he didn’t see a dropout. He saw his next Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He saw his future co-writer and the co-star of an original piece they developed together called I Am Nikola Tesla.

    sammie joe-15-m242x323“Murray was able to see when there was something special in someone,” said Kinnett, "and he was able to bring it out in them just by sheer belief.” Ross certainly brought it out in Kinnett, who developed into one of the most intelligent and consistently working comic actors in theatres across Colorado Springs.

    And so when Ross died in January, Kinnett confronted his own profound sadness and honored his mentor by going out and making people laugh. First in a revelatory take on the title character in the warhorse comedy The Foreigner at the Arvada Center. Then by putting a more humane spin on The SantaLand Diaries, David Sedaris’ comic monologue about working as a Macy’s elf (playing through Dec. 23). Both plays were directed by Kent, who calls Kinnett “the ‘fire and forget’ missile of comedians.”

    When he says that, he’s invoking the military term for a projectile that never fails to hit its target. “Once launched in any given direction,” Kent elaborated, “Sammie rockets forward with 110 percent commitment.”  

    Audiences saw a whole different side of Kinnett's comic skills when he played Sancho to Stephen Day's Henry Award-winning Cervantes in Man of La Mancha for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Reviewer Bill Wheeler wrote the casting of Kinnett as Sancho was brilliant, and that "he’s the finest comedic actor working in Colorado Springs."

    True West Awards Sammie Joe Kinnett The Foreigner Arvada CenterThe Foreigner
    has been done and doner since playwright Larry Shue (M*A*S*H) debuted it in 1983. But everything about the tired old comedy felt fresh at the Arvada Center — even, sadly, its intentionally racist overtones that felt uncomfortably contemporary in the wake of the Charlottesville riots. Kinnett played a pathologically shy young Brit who pretends not to speak English to avoid interacting with the rubes visiting a fishing lodge in rural Georgia.

    The reason it felt so fresh, said Drew Martorella, Executive Director of UCCS Presents, is because everything seems to when filtered through Kinnett’s playful lens.

    “Sammie Joe has an innocence about him that allows you to see the world through his eyes — and that is a great vehicle to allow comedy to happen,” Martorella said.

    (Pictured at right: Sammie Joe Kinnett, center, with Jessica Robblee, left, Lance Rasmussen (back) and Edith Weiss in the Arvada Center's 'The Foreigner.' M. Gale Photography.)

    'Murray Ross put beauty and goodness out into this world'

    Kinnett is a great physical comedian who uses his body as a readily available tool just as a painter uses a paintbrush or a mechanic uses a tire iron — and that was on confident display in The Foreigner. This was not the first time on a Denver stage for Kinnett, who turned two memorable summer seasons at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. But for many, The Foreigner was an introduction worthy of a classic comedy double-take. Take a gander at what the impressed critics had to say:

    • Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post: “The Foreigner is a particular triumph for Sammie Joe Kinnett, who, through a mix of lithe physical antics, deft dialect work and spot-on timing, brings Charlie to life.”
    • Juliet Wittman, Westword: “Sammie Joe Kinnett sports a goofy, all-stops-out physicality and a gutsy, crazed creativity that lets him try anything and go anywhere for a laugh — the result being gales of laughter from the audience.”

    Ross would have loved seeing Kinnett in this exquisitely executed role, Kent said. Here was this now fully grown-up actor putting on a confident comedy clinic that was fully gained through hard knocks and hard experience. And yet it was infused with a joyful spirit of reminiscent of Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful). Kinnett's humanity even bleeds through his current take on Sedaris’ famously cynical SantaLand elf in Colorado Springs.

    "TheatreWorks made a bold choice," writes the (unnamed) critic for the website Springs on Stage:  "They gave Crumpet a soul.

    "Kinnett brings a wild energy and warmth to the show,” the reviewer goes on to say. “This Crumpet wants to care — he’s just waiting for something that’s worth caring about. It’s a touching blend of deviance and heart.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    And as most any comedian will tell you, successful comedy is often born through life’s rockiest transitions. Over their decade together, Ross watched Kinnett grow up, fall in love, get married, become a father — and then a single father.

    Ross did live to see that his former community-college dropout is now enrolled at UCCS studying for a degree in Performing Arts and Psychology. It seems the more complicated Kinnett’s life has become, the better he’s become as an actor who floats easily from screwball farce to Shakespeare (sometimes at the same time).

    Man-of-La-Mancha_3“We would rehearse for The SantaLand Diaries from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Colorado Springs, and then Sammie would drive to Arvada to perform in The Foreigner that night — all as a full-time student and single dad,” Kent said. “I don’t know how he did it.”

    Kent might not know how Kinnett did it, but he is certain Ross has had everything to do with Kinnett’s now more widely recognized statewide success.

    “Sammie Joe is now equipped with the deep pathos to pair with that classic spit take,” Kent said. “He’s the complete package.”

    (Pictured at right: Sammie Joe Kinnett as Sancho in 'Man of La Mancha' for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Photo by Jeff Kearney.)  

    Martorella believes Kinnett “may be the most generous, most humorous, most accommodating performer we have ever turned out here in Colorado Springs,” he said. “We’re proud that we still have him, and we’re glad he’s still making people laugh.”

    Whatever "that thing" Kinnett has may be indefinable. Martorella knows only one simple thing:

    “Sammie Joe just makes me smile.”

    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.

    Sammie Joe Kinnett: 2017

    • The Hairy Ape, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks (Assistant Director)
    • The Foreigner, Arvada Center
    • The SantaLand Diaries, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks (Actor)

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 True West Award: Brandon Case

    by John Moore | Dec 09, 2017
    True West Award 2017 Brandon Case

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 9: Brandon Case

    Aurora Fox
    Technical Director
    Scenic Designer

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Brandon Case’s current program bio is far more revealing than most. In it, the Aurora Fox’s Technical Director and resident Scenic Designer describes himself as “skinny as a pencil, smart as a whip and possibly the scariest man currently living.”

    And who’s going to argue with that?

    Wait, what’s that, you say? He’s quoting the Wes Anderson movie Fantastic Mr. Fox? Well that works, too. Because if you ask anyone how the Aurora Fox just pulled through the most challenging year in its 33-year history, they will pretty much say it was The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

    Brandon Case Softball True West Awards After longtime Executive Director Charles Packard resigned in May, Case and Production Manager Jen Orf stepped up and led the remaining staff through a transition that is now in its seventh month.

    “Brandon stepped up when they were down with more time, more hours and more leadership,” said director, actor and former Fox employee Robert Michael Sanders. “It would have been really easy for him to roll over and wait to see what the coming changes would bring. But instead he took over. And he refused to let anything take away from the quality of the work that they were doing.”

    Patron Services manager Beau Bisson puts it this way: “If theatre were a dodge-ball game — as it often feels like — Brandon would always be my first pick as a teammate. When he’s around, you get this sense that everything will work out. Because when things hit the fan, you want Brandon Case to be there.”

    A short list of Case’s job duties this year includes overseeing the building facilities and all its sound and light equipment. Because the Fox is owned by the city of Aurora, Case also supervised departmental budgets, schedules and hiring, all while navigating the additional layer of municipal oversight.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Case is the rare Technical Director who also doubles as resident Scenic Designer. And in 2017, he brought five wildly different worlds to vivid life on the Fox’s main stage: Myth, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Stephen Sondheim’s Company, the current Hi-Hat Hattie and Tales of a 4th-Grade Nothing for the Little Foxes children’s troupe.

    And he gets around. This very month, Case has three theatrical designs in theatres across the metro area: The Fox’s Hi-Hat Hattie (through Dec. 23), The Edge Theatre’s Resolutions (through Dec. 31) and he made significant contributions to Lone Tree Arts Center’s Home for the Holidays (through Dec. 17).

    Case is a Littleton native who was home-schooled and just kind of appeared at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center in 2006 offering to help out as a set-builder and sound operator. He was hired full-time by the Aurora Fox in 2011 and has since become known for creating all types of scenery and props using many forms of carpentry, metalwork, mechanics and automation.

    In that aforementioned Aurora Fox program bio, Case also claims to be “married to the prettiest girl in town” — and that’s not a line cribbed from a Wes Anderson movie. That would be Rae Leigh Case, an actor and costume designer currently appearing in the Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (through Dec. 23).

    A Brandon Case Myth True West Awards 400And what she wants you to know is that Case hand-crafts and hand-paints virtually his entire scenic designs, down to the crown molding now framing the Hi-Hat Hattie opera-hall set. The “skull mound” in She Kills Monsters? The cool steam-punk look for Jekyll and Hyde? The wilderness campfire in Myth? “He doesn’t go on eBay or to thrift stores to find that stuff,” she said. “Brandon makes all of that himself, no matter how many hours it takes.”

    (Pictured at right: 'Myth' at the Aurora Fox. Photo by Christine Fisk.)

    This past April, Case took on one of the great scenic challenges of his career: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which is a journey across the Australian outback on an oversized tour bus that, in real life, would never even remotely fit on the Aurora Fox stage. Case went out and found the bus, chopped it down to a manageable size and then added all of the requisite lights, paint and glitter. And he did virtually all of that work by himself (with some help from his brother). Just take a look at the time-lapse video below:

    Time-lapse video of 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' Scenic Designer (and Aurora Fox Technical Director) Brandon Case pulling an all-nighter to assemble the bus. All by himself.

    “Theaters the size of the Aurora Fox often have an entire scenic department," Rae Leigh Case said. “But at the Fox, it’s usually it’s just Brandon and one other dude he hires." 

    Brandon Case Hi Hat Hattie True West AwardsBisson says Case is equal parts artist and craftsman. “It seems cliché to say that he continually surprises me with his work, but truly, he continually surprises me with his work,” he said. “He’s like the John Napier of The Aurora Fox. Or MacGyver. Or both.”

    And aside from being a meticulous artist, Bisson said, Case happens to be not the scariest man currently living. Instead, “he’s funny, a great listener and deeply passionate about The Aurora Fox.” Qualities that came in most handy in 2017. “This year, I would add backstage counselor and peacekeeper," Bisson said.

    He was, for lack of any better way to put it: The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

    “I try to make it as known as possible,” his wife says, “that Brandon’s abilities go so beyond far beyond what people know of so far. I think he is going to change the face of set design in this theatre community."

    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.

    Brandon Case: 2017 Scenic Designs

    • Myth, Aurora Fox
    • Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Aurora Fox
    • Company, Aurora Fox
    • Hi-Hat Hattie, Aurora Fox
    • Tales of a 4th-Grade Nothing, Aurora Fox children’s theatre
    • Resolutions, Edge Theatre
    • Home for the Holidays (contributed), Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Also: Technical Director of the Aurora Fox’s Chinglish

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • Play 'Cast Album Karaoke' with 'Waitress' band on Dec. 28

    by John Moore | Dec 08, 2017
    Bryan Fenkart and Desi Oakley in the National Tour of WAITRESS Credit Joan Marcus
    Bryan Fenkart and Desi Oakley in the national touring production of Waitress, which plans a special audience event on Dec. 28. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Here's a good idea: Sing Bad Idea - or another favorite Waitress song - at a post-show karaoke with the band.

    Following the Thursday, Dec. 28 evening performance of Waitress at The Buell Theatre, audience members will have a chance to sing one minute of any song from the show accompanied by the Waitress band.

    It's a fun audience appreciation event called Cast Album Karaoke that started with the  Broadway cast in New York. It was so popular there, the team is taking it on the road to cities like Denver. 

    The Dec. 28 performance is also a designated Theatre Thursday event. When you order your tickets, Enter the code THURSDAY to receive a discount off the purchase price, as well as a free pre-show drink from the lobby bar.

    Interested audience members with tickets to the Dec. 28 evening performance will be chosen at random for Cast Album Karaoke. Just find one of four volunteers in Waitress shirts and carrying Waitress clipboards to sign up for consideration. The four will be stationed on all levels of The Buell Theatre lobby.

    Signups are available before the show and at intermission. You will be asked to include your name, what song from Waitress you want to sing and a fun fact about yourself. You can sign up to sing solo, in duets or as a group. Up to eight names will be drawn. A book of lyrics will be provided. But, hey, if you want to practice in advance, the cast album is available for listening or download on Spotify, iTunes or Amazon

    With original music and lyrics by six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), Waitress is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie. Inspired by Adrienne Shelly's beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. While her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness, a baking contest in a nearby county and the town's new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, but Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This irresistible new hit features a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam), and direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Finding Neverland, Pippin, Hair).

    Tickets are on sale now for the Dec. 19-31 Denver engagement at denvercenter.org. Information below.

    DCPA Tickets

     

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    waitressWaitress in Denver: Ticket information
    Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna — a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 19-31
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Waitress. Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman. Waitress. Photy by Joan MarcusFrom left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman of the first national touring production of 'Waitress.' Photo by Joan Marcus
  • 2017 True West Award: Emily Van Fleet

    by John Moore | Dec 08, 2017
    Emily Van Fleet True West Award 2017

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 8: Emily Van Fleet

    Arvada Center
    Creede Repertory Theatre
    DCPA's Off-Center

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Denver actor Emily Van Fleet was a shape-shifter in 2017. She played a hillbilly wannabe starlet stranded in a snowstorm. She played a soaking wet corpse in a bathtub. She played a Hungarian lonely heart. She played a coy minister’s daughter. She was an improv comedian. Her stories spanned the globe from 1912 to 1956. Apparently she can play anyone, anywhere, in any time period.

    But once in a great, lucky while, you get to witness an actor killing it so hard in a particular role, you just know they will never be looked at the same way again.

    A Emily Van Fleet The Wild Party Adams Viscom 400 That was watching Van Fleet play a self-destructive showgirl in Off-Center’s very wild The Wild Party, a debauched musical drama based on a 1928 narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March and staged under The Hanger at Stanley Marketplace with a cast of 15, a live band and 200 audience members doubling as in-your-lap party guests.

    (Photo at right of Emily Van Fleet in 'The Wild Party' by Adams Viscom.)

    Van Fleet played the hostess Queenie, and she was regal. It was an absorbing and undeniably seductive performance that demanded Van Fleet’s complete immersion into a role that, on paper, director Amanda Berg Wilson said, frankly didn’t give the actor all that much to work with.

    “That character is actually a trope,” Wilson said, “and yet Emily somehow managed to make a not-terribly developed character fully dimensional, heartbreaking, vulnerable and sexy. And to do that in such an intimate space is a really tricky thing to pull off.”

    Van Fleet is a Boulder native who graduated from Fairview High School and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. She has been a company member with the Creede Repertory Theatre for five summers. Last year, she was chosen to be among the inaugural class of actors in the Arvada Center’s new repertory company. So, she’s actually been killing it for quite some time.

    Last winter, in fact, she killed it as a woman who already had been killed in the Arvada Center’s exquisite staging of The Drowning Girls, which posed an entirely different kind of acting challenge.  

    A Emily Van Fleet She Loves Me Creede. Photo by John Gary BrownThe Drowning Girls tells how three wives of serial killer George Joseph Smith met their watery demise between 1912 and 1914. The stories are told by three actors who must play the wives (and every other relevant character) with great narrative and physical precision, and Van Fleet, Kate Gleason and Jessica Robblee executed the challenge with complete (sorry) fluidity. It’s not easy to act while sopping wet but, as Westword’s Juliet Wittman put it, the three actors committed to it with gusto.

    “The trick for all three of them was to be both choral and incredibly specific and unique in their performances, and I think Emily was brilliant in both regards,” Director Lynne Collins said. “She played a hunchbacked old landlady so precisely, you could almost feel the curvature of her spine and the arthritis in her hands. And two seconds later, she was back to being lovely young Alice. To be that specific and clear in all your characters is incredibly difficult to do.”

    (Photo at right of Emily Van Fleet in Creede Repertory Theatre's 'Arsenic and Old Lace' by John Gary Brown.)

    Just as impressive, one might say, was her performance in Bus Stop as Cherie, the doe-eyed role made famous by Marilyn Monroe in the 1956 film. Van Fleet’s take on the profoundly innocent woman was virtually unrecognizable from Monroe’s take in the famous film.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Van Fleet glides easily from light musicals to romantic comedies to dramas with uncommon ease. But there was something fundamentally “next level” about her star-making turn in The Wild Party. Van Fleet stripped everything from her inhibitions to her clothes while hosting a corker of a party fueled by cocaine, bathtub gin and uninhibited sex.   

    “Queenie is a sexually ambitious, morally dubious, low-rent vaudeville performer who is promiscuous and probably an alcoholic,” Wilson said. “And through the course of the play she falls in love and consummates that love right then and there — with a man who is not her husband. Emily somehow kept that up for two hours in very close proximity to the audience — and that requires a level of being present that not every actor has. That’s what I think made it such an amazing performance.”

    A Emily Van Fleet I Mackers Creede Repertory Theatre Photo by John Moore 800Off-stage, Van Fleet and her husband, Nathan Jones, wrote an ingenious modern adaptation of Macbeth that was performed by and for teens last summer in Creede, located 250 miles southwest of Denver in Mineral County I, Mac(kers) uses spoken word and cell phones to tell the story of an aspiring but morally compromised high-school thespian who succumbs to the temptation of social media, technology and cyberbullying to fuel his ambition by spreading rumors and manipulating his fellow students.

    (Photo at right: Audiences greet the teen cast of Creede Repertory Theatre’s youth production of 'I, Mac(kers)' after a performance. Photo by John Moore.)

    “Emily Van Fleet is a magical unicorn,” said Creede Rep Artistic Director Jessica Jackson. “Yes, she’s an incredible actor and musician, but Creede audiences also get to experience her as this passionate community member and leader in our company as well. And in some unquantifiable way, that makes what she does on stage even more compelling.”

    And she’s finishing the busiest year of her life by performing in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's Yuletide Celebration.

    There’s a simple reason Van Fleet is enjoying the level of success she attained in 2017, said Collins. She’s earned it.

    “She hit her stride in every area of her work this year," Collins said, “and she works harder than any other actor I know.”

    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.


    A Emily Van Fleet The Drowning Girls M. Gale Photography 800

    From left: Emily Van Fleet, Kate Gleason and Jessica Robblee in the Arvada Center's 'The Drowning Girls.' M. Gale Photography 

    Emily Van Fleet 2017

    • Cherie, Arvada Center’s Bus Stop
    • Alice, Arvada Center’s The Drowning Girls
    • Amalia, Creede Repertory Theatre’s She Loves Me
    • Elaine, Creede Repertory Theatre’s Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Performer, Creede Repertory Theatre’s Boomtown
    • Director and Playwright, Creede Repertory Theatre’s youth production of I, Mac(kers)
    • Queenie, Off-Center’s The Wild Party

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

    Video bonus: Emily Van Fleet talks The Wild Party

  • 'A Christmas Carol' still brings playwright to laughter, tears

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017
    Making of 'A Christmas Carol' 2017

    Photos from the making of 'A Christmas Carol' from Friday's opening night and going back to the first rehearsal. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    'One of the things I love so much about this Denver Center production is its humanity,' the playwright says at opening.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Richard Hellesen's 1987 stage adaptation of Charles DickensA Christmas Carol has become a holiday standard for theatre companies across the country including the Denver Center, which opened its 10th seasonal staging of Hellesen’s script last Friday — with the playwright in the audience.

    Hellesen doesn't track how many productions his sweeping adaptation, with music by David de Berry, has enjoyed over the past 30 years. But the number of performances here at the Stage Theatre since 2006 is now nearing 500, with attendance topping 300,000. Hellesen said he was moved to tears by Melissa Rain Anderson’s take on the story.

    Richard Hellesen quote A Christmas Carol“I know the words, but sometimes the performances and the direction surprise me,” Hellesen said after the performance. “I was laughing tonight, I was crying — and I wrote the damn words. How does that work?”

    Well, it starts with Sam Gregory, who is playing Scrooge for a second straight season. Hellesen was taken by Gregory’s evident youth, which while uncommon for actors playing the role of the grizzled old skinflint, is actually consistent with Dickens’ novel.

    Hellesen said Gregory presents a Scrooge who has an opportunity to make a more lasting impact on his Victorian community after his conversion — and a greater emotional impact on audiences — because he still has a significant amount of time left to improve himself and his community. 

    “My favorite line from the whole play is: ‘Best of all, Scrooge knew he had the time before him to make amends — and he started that very day.'

    “One of the things I love so much about this Denver Center production is its humanity, because it's extremely easy to make Scrooge one-dimensional, or a stereotype. I think the harder challenge for the actor is to humanize him to the point where you are sitting in the audience saying to yourself, 'You know what? I kind of … sort of … actually see where he is coming from. And that moves us a little closer in his direction.

    Lisa Kennedy on why we circle back to A Christmas Carol

    “I know when the emotional parts are coming,” he said, “and yet I am just floored whenever I see an actor who is giving it something new like Sam Gregory.”

    A Christmas Carol 2017 Peyton GoosenAdded Anderson: “What I love about this adaptation and the way Sam plays it is that it works on all levels,” she said. “There's the bitter, there's the sweet, there's the political, there's dark humor and there's frivolous humor. Sam really hits every single scope that a man can hit in one night.”

    Part of the enduring power of the source story, Hellesen said, is its ever-relevant decrying of injustice in all its forms. Audiences may not realize it, he said, but Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843 as a demand for societal change.

    “I think certain lines in the script will suddenly resonate anew with any present-day audience depending on what is going on in the world,” he said. “For me tonight, that was when The Ghost of Christmas Present made his speech about how some men commit acts of envy and pride and bigotry and prejudice in the name of Christmas. That's in Dickens’ book, and I put that in my adaptation for a reason. It's because I want people to hear that today. We are at an interesting time. There is want, and there is ignorance. But there is also hope for redemption.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    (Pictured above and right: Peyton Goossen, who plays Tiny Tim, at the opening party. Photo by John Moore. Below: Goossen with Brian Vaughn and Latoya Cameron. Photo by Adams Viscom.)

    A Christmas Carol 2017. Peyton Goossen Brian Vaughn and Latoya Cameron. Photo by Adams ViscomHellesen said the Denver Center’s various stagings have always ranked among his favorites for their production values and the quality of the acting. This year he was particularly impressed to see a multi-racial Cratchit family on the stage.

    “I absolutely loved that,” he said. “Yes, this is a very specific story written in 1843 London, but it's obviously a much more universal story than that. And so to expand the casting in terms of ethnicity and age just adds to the universality of the piece.”

    Hellesen took a moment after the opening performance to thank the cast and crew directly.

    “When you sit at your computer and you adapt something, you just hope that somehow it has a life,” he told those gathered. “To see all of you people who are so talented giving so much to something that I wrote  — I am incredibly humbled to be in the room with you all, watching you do this.”

    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.


    A Christmas Carol: Video


    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Through Dec. 24
    • Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol 2017:
    Photos, video: Your first look at A Christmas Carol 2017
    Video: Governor, Carol cast send Colorado National Guard thanks and hope
    A Christmas Carol: A timeline to today
    DCPA's 25th A Christmas Carol brims with mistletoe and milestones
  • Video: 'Waitress' cast members shout-out to Denver

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017

    To watch all nine cast testimonials to Denver audiences, press play above.


    Lenne Klingaman is among nine cast members who recorded short video messages from the Waitress road

    DCPA Theatre Company favorite Lenne Klingaman is among nine cast members returning to Denver for the holidays with the national touring production of Waitress playing at the Buell Theatre from Dec. 19-31. And they share their thoughts on that subject in a series of short videos above, which you can see by simply clicking the play button above. 

    Klingaman last appeared here as the title character in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘Hamlet’ and twice performed with the DCPA Theatre Company as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and two roles in the world premiere of Appoggiatura. Ensemble member Grace Stockdale grew up in Steamboat Springs. Others talking Denver include Charity Angél Dawson, Nick Bailey, Ryan G. Diunkin, Jeremy Morse and Bryan Fenkart.

    With original music and lyrics by six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, Waitress is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    waitressWaitress in Denver: Ticket information
    Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna — a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 19-31
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
      Selected NewsCenter coverage of Waitress:
    Waitress. Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman. Waitress. Photy by Joan MarcusFrom left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman of the first national touring production of 'Waitress.' Photo by Joan Marcus
  • 2017 True West Award: Kenny Moten

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017
    2017 True West Award Kenny Moten. Photo by John Moore

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 7: Kenny Moten

    Motones vs. Jerseys
    Miscast 2017
    Aurora Fox Cabaret Series
    Owner, Narrative Creative Consulting

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    If you think being a performer is hard, try being a performer and the owner of your own entertainment and consulting company. Kenny Moten makes the transition from actor to producer to businessman and back again in same manner that often describes his rich singing voice: Smooth as silk.

    Moten is among the very few performers who also knows how to run a business.

    Kenny Moten“It’s rare because owning an entertainment business is brutal in a way that is very different from the way performing is brutal,” said Moten’s frequent creative partner — and employee — Jalyn Courtenay Webb. “When you’re the boss, you are not only responsible for yourself, but for the people you hire and the team you put together. But Kenny has just the right temperament for it. He does everything with integrity. He’s a solid human being.”  

    Moten is the creator and owner of Narrative Creative Consulting, which presents entertainment events and uses various art forms to help clients ranging from National Jewish Hospital to Snooze Eatery to the Denver Center shape their narratives, customer service, employee training and brand strategies.  

    Moten is also the co-creator, director, writer and a featured performer of a clever new musical form called Motones vs. Jerseys. In July, it was up for three Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards, including Outstanding Musical, for its nearly sold-out run at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins.

    In September, Moten lent his support (and that smooth-as-silk singing voice) to the Denver Actors Fund by appearing in Miscast 2017 as one of the three Fionas singing I Know It’s Today from Shrek the Musical. In October, the Aurora Fox turned to Moten to launch its risky new monthly cabaret series with 12 O’clock Tales: An Evening of Songs and Stories. Both shows sold out, which Webb said is further indication of Moten’s popularity as a performer — and his business acumen. Both come from more than 20 years as a professional performer, Webb says.

    Kenny Moten Miscast 2017“Kenny’s name is synonymous with excellence, and people know that in our community and beyond,” she said. “He was not going to do his show in an empty house — and he certainly did not.”

    Moten caps a remarkable 2017 with a return next week to Motones vs. Jerseys as part of a unique new creative partnership with BDT Stage in Boulder. "MvJ," as the kids call it, is a feel-good, nostalgic evening featuring the music of Motown and The Four Seasons — along with their many ancestors and descendants — in a good-natured competition. After two teams of four performers each rock out a playlist spanning Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bruno Mars and many more, the audience chooses a winning team using their cell phones to vote.

    (Pictured right: Kenny Moten with his 'Miscast 2017' co-stars, Margie Lamb, left, and Hope Grandon. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter,)

    It’s a concept Moten first developed with Chris Starkey, now of Imprint Group DMC. After several refinements, Moten unveiled a slick new version of the show last year at the Midtown Arts Center, where it received a standing ovation “every single night,” said Webb, who is both the show’s Music Director and nightly emcee. “And let me tell you, I’ve never seen that happen at any dinner theatre before in my life.”

    Motones vs. Jerseys opens on Dec. 10 and will play on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights through Jan. 23, playing in rep the rest of the week with BDT Stage’s holiday staging of Annie.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Moten, who is originally from Hagerstown, Md., graduated from Highlands Ranch High School and the University of Colorado Denver. He transitioned from Barnstormer to leading man with a remarkable 2005 performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the late Country Dinner Playhouse opposite now Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee. Westword’s Juliet Wittman called Moten not only “a wonderful singer with a voice full of poignancy and power,” but also “a charming and seductive performer who brings impressive precision and a smooth, lean elegance to the stage.”

    Other major credits include Swing at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Altar Boyz at the Clocktower Cabaret, but it wasn’t long before Moten was off to New York. He re-settled in Fort Collins a few years ago and has since been on a roll that has not only furthered his personal and professional interests, but has gainfully employed dozens of local actors and crew members on his many public and corporate projects.

    “The thing I love about Kenny is that he’s so fun, but he’s also completely no-nonsense when it comes to the work,” said Webb. “He expects the highest quality and the highest level of performance possible from his performers, and we respect that. He knows what he wants — and he goes out and gets it."

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

    Motones vs. Jerseys: At a glance

    • Dec. 10-Jan. 23
    • BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
    • Performances Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Dinner seating begins at 6:15, with the show to follow at 7:45
    • Featuring Brian Cronan, Will Hawkins, Brian Jackson and Jacob Villareal as The Jerseys, and Christian Mark Gibbs, Anthony McGlaun, Kenny Moten and Alejandro Roldan as The Motones.
    • Call 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

    Video bonus: Motones vs. Jerseys at the 2017 Henry Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Claudia Carson

    by John Moore | Dec 06, 2017
    True West Awards. Claudia Carson. Photo courtesy Jimmy Awards

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 6: Claudia Carson


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Claudia Carson loves her job to her core. That job is to help high-students love theatre to their cores. And she’s pretty good at her job.

    There’s far more to it than that. Carson is also a stage manager, choreographer, director and teaching artist. But what really fuels her fire is coordinating two profoundly meaningful student programs for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts: The annual Bobby G Awards, which celebrate achievements in high-school musical theatre, and a year-round, statewide teen playwriting competition.

    “Claudia is just so joyful, so inspirational and so hungry to make an impact with students,” said DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous. “She makes those programs possible with her year-round passion and commitment.”

    Claudia Carson True West BGA 2017The Bobby G Awards, which served 42 high schools and nearly 7,000 students last school year, are Carson’s true labor of love. She manages all operational elements of the wide-ranging, 5-year-old  program, including coordinating in-school workshops, professional adjudications of every production and a big, culminating Tony Awards-style party attended by nearly 2,000 each May at the Buell Theatre.

    Participating high schools have the opportunity to be mentored by DCPA Teaching Artists, and last year 24 schools signed on for 70 workshop classes. Once their school musicals go up, they are judged by a field of professional artists and educators who not only score each show for awards consideration, they provide detailed, constructive feedback that teachers can use to make their programs better.

    The awards ceremony itself is a remarkable celebration of the high-school theatre community. Carson not only directs the slick show, she choreographs sophisticated, original medleys that are performed by all of the male and female leading actor nominees. The two students ultimately named Outstanding Actor and Actress move on to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City, also known as The Jimmys. And Carson chaperones them every step of the way.

    “I think the magic of Claudia coordinating the Bobby G Awards program is that she cares so much about theatre in Colorado, and she cares so much about teachers,” Watrous said. “Claudia is a full-on champion of high-school theatre in Colorado.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This past year, the DCPA’s fourth High School Playwriting Competition drew 132 one-act submissions from budding writers in 14 Colorado counties. That after Carson sent DCPA Teaching Artists to 46 high schools, where they conducted 138 workshops for more than 2,800 students. Four of the resulting scripts were chosen to be read by professional actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit in February, and two were ultimately given fully staged productions through DCPA Education’s summer academy.

    Claudia Carson True West BGA 2016If that weren’t “job enough,” Carson also returned to her roots as a Stage Manager this year for the recent return engagement of Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women. And as a summer Teaching Artist for DCPA Education, she and a group of ambitious teens created an entire original musical from scratch — in just two weeks.

    If that sounds like a lot, you should know this about Carson: It's in her DNA. Her mother, Bev Newcomb-Madden, is a pioneer of  children's theatre in Denver and has directed more plays than any other woman in Colorado theatre history. Her sister, Glenna Kelly, is an accomplished actor who for a long time ran Kaiser-Permanente’s acclaimed Educational Theatre Programs for Colorado. And her daughter, Claire Carson, studied at Denver School of the Arts and SMU, and is now an actor in Dallas. That’s three generations of accomplished Newcomb women — and counting. And brother Jamie Newcomb performed in the DCPA Theatre Company's recent productions of Benediction and All the Way

    Pictured above and right: Claudia Carson with 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actors Curtis Salinger and Charlotte Movizzo, and DCPA  Senior Manager of Press and Promotions Heidi Bosk).

    “Claudia is a sensitive, caring and compassionate person, and she really has an innate ability to connect with teenagers,” said DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg. “But at the same time, she is also a quintessential stage manager and mother, which is probably why she is so good at both jobs. Part of being a good mom is being a good stage manager.”

    Carson graduated from Denver East High School and studied journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She came to the Denver Center as a stage manager for all Galleria Theatre shows for a five-year stretch starting in 2003 with the longest-running musical in Colorado theatre history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. She later took charge of the global expansion of the runaway hit Girls Only and then served as Executive Assistant to DCPA President Randy Weeks, who died in 2014. She has also worked as a stage manager at Curious Theatre and the Arvada Center.

    But she seems to have found her sweetest spot working with students.

    “She’s doing what she loves with the people she loves the most,” Ekeberg said. “For someone who has done so many things, that’s a pretty cool culmination of a pretty cool career.”

    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.


    True West Claudia Carson 2017

    The four finalists from the DCPA's fourth statewide High School Playwriting Competition had their plays presented as readings at the 12th annual 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, including 'Dear Boy on the Tree,' above, written by Jasmin Hernandez Lozano of Vista Peak Preparatory Academy in Aurora. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)


    Video bonus 1: The 2017 Bobby G Awards




    Video bonus 2 Student playwriting:

  • How ELF became an instant holiday tradition on stage and screen

    by John Moore | Dec 05, 2017
    Elf The Musical Jeremy Daniel Photography
    The cast of 'ELF The Musical,' which comes to Denver's Buell Theatre from Dec. 13-17. Jeremy Daniel Photography.

    Director: 'ELF The Musical on tour is really its own entity, and we’re very proud of that.'

    Elf, the 2003 Christmas movie, is America’s newest holiday classic. It ranks up there with It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street. When Buddy, a 6-foot-plus man raised by elves, sets out to find his father, his rosy, optimistic and endearing outlook on humankind thaws even the coldest heart — his dad’s. Director Sam Scalamoni discusses how collaborators brought this iconic movie to life for the tour of ELF The Musical, visiting Denver's Buell Theatre from Dec. 13-17.

    Tell us about your experience directing ELF The Musical on tour.

    When they were planning the tour, the original Broadway director was unavailable. So they passed it to me and I brought on my choreographer and design team. We re-imagined the whole show from scratch. It was an amazing experience. We were able to work with the original writers: Matt Sklar [music], Chad Beguelin [lyrics], Bob Martin [book] and Tom Meehan [book]. They were incredible collaborators and they continue to work with us each year to refine it. ELF The Musical on tour is really its own entity, and we’re very proud of that.

    Did the writers resist the changes you wanted?

    Not at all – in fact, they really embraced our ideas. They see the tour or a run-through in the studio every year. So Tom will see it and might say, “This isn’t funny. This joke is working – this isn’t.” They had some strong opinions not only about things they wanted to keep, but some they wanted to change. For example, the second year the show was on Broadway they added a new song called “Happy All the Time.” It’s a very funny opening number Santa sings about how happy the elves are all the time and how he just needs a little break.

    Whose idea was it to put the elves at the North Pole on their knees?

    We came to the idea together. When we came to Gregg Barnes [the original Broadway costume designer who redesigned the show for the tour] with it he said, “Oh great, because I designed these amazing things; they’re called ‘knee shoes’” that wrap around the actors’ knees with a built-in kneepad. The actors are as comfortable as they can be and the shoes lay flat on the floor. It’s really brilliant.

    Why do you think both the movie and now the musical have become such instant classics?

    It’s one of the few contemporary films about the holidays that really connects with audiences. The fact that the story is present day with current content really strikes a
    chord with people. 


    ELF The Musical: Ticket information
    elfAt a glance: Based on the beloved 2003 film, ELF The Musical is a modern day Christmas classic that is sure to make everyone embrace their inner ELF. Variety proclaims, “ELF is happy enough for families, savvy enough for city kids and plenty smart for adults."

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 13-17
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    • ASL Interpreted, Audio-Described and Open Captioned Performance: Dec. 16, 3 p.m.

    ELF The Musical. Jeremy Daniel Photography.
  • 2017 True West Award: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

    by John Moore | Dec 05, 2017
    2017 True West Awards. Haley Johnson. Sydney Parks Smith

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 4: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

    August: Osage County
    Vintage Theatre, Aurora
    OpenStage Theatre, Fort Collins

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    "I'm in charge now!"


    It's one of the most visceral, gut-scraping lines you'll ever hear in a theatre, and it marks a dramatic turning point in Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-winning family fracas August: Osage County. In that one moment, the eldest daughter of perhaps the must acidic matriarch in the American theatrical canon forcibly wrests that crown right out of her mother's clenched fingers. Only the crown, in this case, is a pill bottle. But Barbara is not rescuing her mother. Not by a long shot. She's becoming her.

    True West Haley Johnson Sydney Parks SmithThe mother is Violet Weston, a pained and profane Okie with cancer of the mouth — medically and metaphorically. Violet pops out furious epithets — most aimed at her three daughters — as quickly as she pops in pills. Her spawn all bear varying degrees of the inherited burns they surely will pass down to their own children. Seriously, Violet is a sniper on par with a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. It's a bucket-list role for any seasoned female actor.

    But the part of Barbara, a Boulder mom whose marriage is crumbling, presents a plum challenge all its own. And in 2017, we got to see two highly accomplished area actors tackle it in different but effective ways: Sydney Parks Smith for OpenStage & Company in Fort Collins and Haley Johnson for Vintage Theatre in Aurora. And they had formidable scene partners in Colorado legends Denise Freestone and Deborah Persoff, respectively, as their poisoned Vi's.

    Parks wears Barbara's accumulating disappointments like a suit of armor, and she's just itching to take it into battle. Johnson, who has made her mark for a decade playing wounded birds, grew teeth here that eventually sprouted into fangs. The mother-daughter conflict builds to a battle of ill-wills that left audiences gasping from Fort Collins to Aurora. All culminating in that one haunting line — "I'm in charge now!" — that can be delivered every which way from a declarative whisper to a savage declaration of war. We're witnessing a brutal metamorphosis where Barbara becomes the unshrinking Violet.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The two actors have more than Barbara Fordham in common: Smith is the Associate Artistic Director of OpenStage and Johnson is the Producing Artistic Director of the new Benchmark Theatre, which is finishing up its first season with the world premiere of a freaky-fun new play called Smokefall, playing through Dec. 23 at the Buntport Theater.

    Haley Johnson Sydney Parks SmithSmith won the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Award and the OpenStage OPUS Award for Outstanding Actress for her performance as Barbara. Northern Colorado theatre critic Tom Jones called her performance "dynamite."

    Says OpenStage Director Dulcie Willis:
    "Sydney is a highly passionate, focused and dynamic actor. Her work as Barbara perfectly illustrated her deep commitment to nuanced character development. She understood the play inside and out and never, ever stopped working to find the most effective moment-to-moment choices in each scene. Her natural strength and intense zest for life served her thoughtful approach to Barbara while leading the entire cast through a beautiful and challenging piece of theatre. She really was the family heroine of our production."

    (Photos above: Sydney Parks Smith, left and Haley Johnson. Photos by Joe Hovorka and RDG Photography.)

    Says Vintage Theatre Director Bernie Cardell: "The magic of Haley Johnson is that not only can she tap into the broken heart of her characters, she can also find their humor.  She is not afraid to reveal her own wounds in order to find the deepest expression of truth on stage. Plus, she's kind of cool."

    The origin of the poison: Our interview with Tracy Letts

    Said Denver Theatre Perspectives reviewer Michael Mulhern: "Haley Johnson showed incredible range from fragile and bitter to powerful matriarch, and from defeated daughter to hopeful independence."

    Haley Johnson: 2017 at a glance

    Johnson is a graduate of Florida State University and the University of Colorado Denver. She has worked all around the metro area, including the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Edge Theatre, Miners Alley Playhouse and Spotlight Theatre Company. Notable roles include Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Harper Pitt in Angels in America, Becca in Rabbit Hole and Jessie in 'Night, Mother. She is also the producing artistic director of the new Benchmark Theatre.
    • The Nether, Morris, Benchmark Theatre
    • August: Osage County, Barbara Fordham, Vintage Theatre
    Sydney Parks Smith: 2017 at a glance

    Smith has performed and directed with OpenStage Theatre in Fort Collins for the past 20 years and serves as the company's  Associate Artistic Director. Notable roles include Claire in Proof, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, Belinda in Noises Off and Hermia in Dead Man’s Cell Phone. As a director, her credits include Stage Kiss, True West, The Book of Liz and Dirty Blonde. She received the Founder’s Award for her outstanding contributions to OpenStage & Company.

    • The Flick, Director, OpenStage
    • Don’t Dress for Dinner, Production Manager, OpenStage
    • Bright Ideas, Production Manager, OpenStage
    • August: Osage County, Barbara Fordham, Production Manager, OpenStage

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 True West Award: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

    by John Moore | Dec 04, 2017
    True West Award BDT Stage. Photo by Glenn Ross

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 4: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

    Rock of Ages
    BDT Stage

    Anyone who has attended a show at Boulder's BDT Stage in the past two decades would have gotten a kick out of the clever casting twist this year in Rock of Ages.

    First, there was fresh-faced Olyvia Sydelle as Sherrie (thank you, Journey) in this unapologetically silly musical homage to big-hair 1980s rock bands. In the story, fresh-off-the-farm Sherrie quickly falls on hard times after arriving in L.A. to pursue her dreams. Broke, doe-eyed and desperate, Sherrie ends up at a strip club where she encounters a modern-day Mother Courage. (Go with me on this.) Justice Charlier, owner of the Venus Club, takes Sherrie undOlyvia Sydelle Rock of Ages. Photo by Glenn Rosser her wing and puts her to work as a stripper. It's all a tough-love, mildly exploitative excuse to hear the two power balladeers riff out a medley of Quarterflash's Harden My Heart and Pat Benatar's Shadows of the Night

    OK, so it's not exactly Brecht. But here's the punchline: Cast as Justice was the adored and adorable BDT Stage veteran Joanie Brosseau, who happens to be Sydelle's real-life mother. Blonde-to-the-bone Brosseau will never be mistaken for Mary J. Blige, who played the role in the 2012 film — but it worked for Boulder.

    You gotta admit: It's funny: Watching a mother encouraging her daughter to toughen up and take her clothes off for leering men? (Oh my goodness, I just realized — Rock of Ages is a total rip-off of Gypsy!) No wonder there was such obvious chemistry between the two.

    Furthering the bloodlines: The man responsible for this clever casting twist was Director Scott Beyette, who happens to be Sydelle's father — and Brosseau's ex-husband.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    OutFront theatre critic Addison Herron-Wheeler said the BDT production lived up to the Broadway hype, and that Sydelle "definitely stole the show. She is gorgeous, and has an intense belt that meshed incredibly well with all the songs she sung." Beki Pineda of GetBoulder.com concurred that "Sydelle knocks it out of the ballpark as the naive girl who becomes disillusioned by the world she enters but never loses her sweetness."

    Olyvia Sydelle: At a glance

    As the daughter of two longtime Boulder actors, Olyvia Sydelle has grown up in front of BDT audiences, first playing child roles such as Liesl in The Sound of Music, and now as a grown-up in shows like Rock of Ages. She graduated from Standley Lake High School in Westminster and studied psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

    Joanie Brosseau: At a glance
    Joanie has appeared in dozens of productions on the BDT stage over the past 21 years. She attended Heritage High School. Favorite roles include Evita (Eva Peron), Peter Pan (Peter), Chicago (Roxie Hart), Sweet Charity (Charity Hope Valentine), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Mrs. Meers). She has also performed at The Arvada Center, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Lone Tree Arts Center, PACE Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and Heritage Square Opera House.

    Read more: At 40 BDT Stage celebrates its just desserts

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 True West Award: Cory Sapienza

    by John Moore | Dec 03, 2017
    True West 2017 Cory Sapienza Miners Alley Hir

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 3: Cory Sapienza

    Hir
    Miners Alley Playhouse

    This time last year, we here at the True West Awards were acknowledging Buntport Theater for adapting transitioning novelist Miriam Suzanne’s Riding SideSaddle for the stage. Because for all its presumed inclusiveness, the theatre at large has made very little room in the storytelling canon for those whose chromosomes straddle that crumbling boundary between strictly male and female. There have been virtually no stories about people whose gender identities either vary over time, or have come to include a combination of identities.

    And so, despite the 2016 award, Buntport ensemble member Erin Rollman was quick to point out that telling one trans person’s story was just a step, no more. “And the next step includes getting more trans actors on-stage and fully participating in the storytelling,” she said.

    So it was a big deal when Miners Alley Playhouse took one decisive step in that direction in February by casting high-school sophomore Cory Sapienza to play Maxine, a character who is transitioning into Max, in Taylor Mac’s absurd and disturbed comedy Hir. It’s the grossly exaggerated story of a dysfunctional family scarred by war, patriarchy, sexual abuse, racism, PTSD, sadism, and drug abuse. ... And then there's Max, whose unprecedented storyline is just one piece of the larger family dynamic at play.

    Oldest son Isaac is a troubled Marine whose job in Afghanistan was collecting body parts to send back home. He returns to a Durang-worthy family that has turned into a twisted clown show – literally. Sapienza, who identifies as a transguy, plays Isaac’s trans-masculine younger brother who, thanks to pills he buys off the internet, is starting to sprout some impressive facial hair.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Safe to say: This is not the kind of play Miners Alley Playhouse audiences are used to seeing. Meaning: It ain’t Neil Simon. And maybe that’s the point.

    Cory Sapienza Spotlife. Photo by Sarah RoshanDirector Josh Hartwell wasn’t all that interested in staging this play if he could not find a gender-appropriate actor with the depth the pull off the tricky role of Max. To Hartwell, it wasn’t just a matter of creating an opportunity for an invisible class of local actors. It was about creating a play with artistic credibility. And he had guidance from the playwright, who strongly urges anyone staging Hir to find a transgender actor to play Max.

    Enter Sapienza, who identifies himself in his Facebook profile as: "Actor. Artist. Transgender. Hufflepuff!” He was coming off an ensemble appearance in Performance Now’s Bye Bye Birdie. But Hartwell saw much stranger things in his immediate future.

    (Pictured above and right: Cory Sapienza and Royce Roeswood in the Miners Alley Playhouse's 'Hir.' Photo by Sarah Roshan.)

    “It’s a challenging script because it’s so dark and frankly hard to live in,” Hartwell said. “But Cory was prepared every day. He showed up every day with a great attitude, was willing to take direction and go to the places I asked him to go to. And it helped that he really understood the role.”

    Westword’s Juliet Wittman said Sapienza, who benefited greatly from a stellar supporting cast of Royce Roeswood, Martha Harmon Pardee and Marc Stith, made for “a convincing and sometimes touching Max.”

    In the Spotlife: Our full interview with Cory Sapienza

    Sapienza said Max has had a very different trans experience from his own, because he comes from what he calls a loving, stable and supportive home. What he loved most about this play, he said, “is that it focuses on issues that are so common, and yet so often overlooked. I loved playing a character who helped bring visibility to the transgender community.”

    It was a small step forward — but a daring one.

    "That playwrights are starting to write parts for trans actors is progress," Hartwell said. That smaller theatres like Miners Alley Playhouse are choosing a play like Hir out of the thousands of scripts they could stage is progress. That audiences in Golden were open to seeing it is probably the greatest progress of all.

    “But it’s not enough yet.” 

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 True West Award: Silverthorne Performing Arts Center

    by John Moore | Dec 02, 2017
    True West Award 2017 Silverthorne

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 2: Silverthorne Performing Arts Center

    Lake Dillon Theatre Company Artistic Director Christopher Alleman
    Lake Dillon Theatre Company Executive Director Joshua Blanchard
    Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland

    The Lake Dillon Theatre Company struck gold in Silverthorne this summer when it opened the new $9 million Silverthorne Performing Arts Center in partnership with the town best known for its sprawl of irresistible outlet shops about 70 miles west of Denver.

    The new 16,000 square-foot jewel made up of three performing spaces has brought cultural and economic heft to a beloved, risk-taking theatre company that spent its first 23 years performing in "shoeboxes and storefronts," Artistic Director Christopher Alleman said. "It’s just so lovely to be producing theatre in a building that was actually designed to produce theatre."

    2017 True West Award Silverthorne Chris Alleman The deal called for Silverthorne to kick in $6.3 million and the theatre company $2.7 million. “This was the smartest thing we could have ever done,” Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland said. “It is supporting arts and culture, which is such an incredibly enriching tool for our community, particularly our youth. But it is also absolutely an investment in economic development."

    (Pictured from left: Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland, Lake Dillon Theatre Company Artistic Director Christopher Alleman and Executive Director Joshua Blanchard.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    It’s not some wild idea to say that if you bring culture to a downtown, you can generate economic activity. It’s been proven (again) in Silverthorne. “Before the first shovel went into the ground, we secured a 32-unit condo development that I can attribute directly to this partnership,” Hyland said. After the theatre opened in the Town Center, the town finally moved forward on the long-discussed "Fourth Street Crossing," a 3.8-acre redevelopment across the street from the theatre that will include a brewery, restaurants, high-end condos and a hotel. "And this performing-arts center is the catalyst," Hyland said.

    The Silverthorne Performing Arts Center is anchored by a still-intimate 165-seat mainstage theatre called The Flex, a 60-seat studio theatre and a small classroom performing space. The theatre company already has presented nine shows in the five months since opening, compared to six for the entire year preceding. The company has drawn 11,875 audiences to the new facility, outpacing the full year before by 1,720. Season passes have doubled.

    Read our full report on the Silverthorne opening

    Alleman has announced a robust and unafraid nine-play slate for 2018 that is filled with challenging dramas including the politically charged Building the Wall, Ugly Lies the Bone and the Pulitzer-winning Topdog/Underdog. Notably, the schedule only calls for one musical (Rock of Ages), but only, Alleman says, because the company is gearing up for its big 25th anniversary season in 2019. 

    Alleman and Executive Director Joshua Blanchard have turned Lake Dillon Theatre Company into a destination facility both for audiences and actors. And their spectacular success is easily one of the biggest stories of the year in Colorado theatre. 

    SILVERTHORNE Even more substantially, the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center is evolving into a town hall with education programs and meeting spaces available to the public. The theatre company finds itself hosting topical community forums on issues such as immigration, which has allowed it to broaden its community reach far beyond the performing arts. And even the business community has taken notice.

    "We are proof of how art can invigorate commerce and growth," Alleman said, "and you see it everywhere."

    Lake Dillon Theatre Company 2017
    (since opening the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center on June 23):

    • Sister Act
    • Buyer and Cellar
    • Ghost
    • Noises Off
    • Grounded
    • Pretty Fire
    • Through Dec. 17: Murder for Two
    Lake Dillon Theatre Company 2018:
    • Jan. 19-Feb. 11, 2018: Building the Wall
    • March 2-18, 2018: Ugly Lies the Bone
    • June 18-June 17, 2018: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
    • June 15-July 15, 2018: Rock of Ages
    • July 13-29, 2018: Topdog/Underdog
    • Aug. 3-Sept 2, 2018: The Underpants
    • Aug. 17-Sept. 2, 2018: Mr. Joy
    • Sept. 7- 23, 2018: I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 16, 2018: Constellations
    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

    SILVERTHORNEThis was the opening-night curtain call for 'Sister Act,' which christened the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center on June 23, 2017. Photo by John Moore for teh DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'A Christmas Carol' 2017

    by John Moore | Dec 01, 2017
    A Christmas Carol: Video


    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

     

    Your first look in video and photos at the seasonal staging that has come for a 25th time 'to save us everyone.'

    Here is your first look in video (above) and photos (below) at the DCPA Theatre Company's 2017 staging of A Christmas Carol, directed for the second time by Melissa Rain Anderson and starring Sam Gregory as Scrooge.


    Now in its 25th seasonal staging at the Denver Center, A Christmas Carol is a joyous and opulent musical adaptation that traces the money-hoarding skinflint Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 24 in the Stage Theatre. Ticket information below.

    A Christmas Carol: Production photos

    A Christmas Carol 2017

    Our full gallery of photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'A Christmas Carol. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Through Dec. 24
    • Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol 2017:
    Video: Governor, Carol cast send Colorado National Guard thanks and hope
    A Christmas Carol: A timeline to today
    DCPA's 25th A Christmas Carol brims with mistletoe and milestones
  • December theatre listings: Broadway abounds in Denver

    by John Moore | Dec 01, 2017
    Mannheim Steamroller. Matt Christine Photography

    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of upcoming theatre openings, spotlighting work being presented on stages statewide. Companies are encouraged to submit listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.


    December is ... well, Christmastime for Broadway fans, who have five touring titles to choose from this month.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    A serious Broadway fan will not have to go to New York to bathe in Broadway this month. Denver audiences have the unusual opportunity to see five national touring productions at the Buell Theatre over the next 32 days. Seriously. There's Chicago (through Sunday), Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, ELF The Musical, Waitress and, opening Jan. 2: Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King & I. Just pop a tent under the arches.

    Arvada Center Joseph Sarah Rex M Gale PhotographyElsewhere, there is as always a plethora of holiday-themed fare to choose from, ranging from annual offerings such as the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble's Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum and the DCPA Theatre Company's 25th staging of A Christmas Carol, to more subversive titles such as The Avenue Theatre's Santa's Big Red Sack and The SantaLand Diaries, an annual partnership between Off-Center and the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. This year also marks the return of the Arvada Center's once seasonal tradition, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

    There's also a surprising number of, you know ... plays on area stages. Here are five intriguing titles, followed by a complete list of all your Colorado theatregoing options for December:

    Five intriguing titles for December:

    NUMBER 1Colorado Gives Day is the most important day of the year for hundreds of Colorado non-profits, especially those in the arts. And the clever kids as Buntport Theater are turning "giving day" into a "show day" on Tuedsay (Dec. 5) by staging a reading of one of its early favorites: Donner: A Documentary. That's a 2001 "live documentary" about the reindeer (not the, ahem ... party). Freshly baked cookies will be available as well as, no doubt, electronic gizmos for easy internet giving. Tickets $25 at buntport.com. It's an early start time of 7 p.m. because there is a pizza party after at the Pizzeria Locale on Broadway and Sixth Avenue. The pizzeria will donate 50 percent of your purchase to anyone who mentions Buntport that day. 

    NUMBER 2 Jason Spina Phil Luna Red RDG PHOTOGRAPHYMotones vs. Jerseys. BDT Stage no doubt will be packing them in this month with the timeless family friendly musical Annie. But you know what? That adorable little red-headed munchkin is not, in fact, for everyone. So BDT is smartly also offering the "now for something completely different" audience participation 1960s pop music battle Motones vs. Jerseys on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights starting Dec. 10. It's an evening of song and dance from the Motown and Four Seasons songbooks, along with Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Beach Boys, Rick James and even Bruno Mars. At the end of each  night, the audience will vote on a winner. 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    NUMBER 3Smokefall. Last month we told you The Edge Theatre is going on hiatus after  Josh Hartwell's world premiere comedy Resolutions (Dec. 1-31) in Lakewood. The new Benchmark Theatre, which will takes over The Edge's performance space next year, finishes its first season at Buntport with the world premiere of Noah Haidle’s Smokefall. It's an unusual family drama that combines everything from vaudeville to magical realism. So get ready for fetuses swapping philosophy, a daughter who eats dirt and an apple tree that grows through the walls of the house. Dec. 1-23 at 717 Lipan St., benchmarktheatre.com.

    NUMBER 4Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum. Cleo Parker Robinson Dance's nomadic, 47-year holiday tradition returns to its original home in Denver’s Historic Five Points for this year's spectacle of dance, live music, spoken word and ornate celebrations of seasonal customs from around the world. The story centers around a Granny whose memories are her gifts to those she loves. Dec. 2-17 at 119 Park Avenue West, 303-295-1759 x13 or go to cleoparkerdance.org.

    NUMBER 5The Gnome in the Room. This is not your traditional Christmas fare in Colorado Springs, where the Springs Ensemble Theatre wraps up its eighth season with a campy horror story involving decoration, death, divorce, relatives, mythological beings who can't keep their noses out of other people's business — and a Nintendo Entertainment System, Written by locals Jenny Maloney and Jessica Weaver, The Gnome in the Room follows a 10-year-old whose family has decided they will not celebrate Christmas this year, leaving the boy stuck in a cabin with no hope of getting what he wants. Enter the Weirdo and the Gnome. Dec. 7-17 at 1903 E. Cache La Poudre St. 7:30 p.m.  Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Call 719-357-3080, or go to  springsensembletheatre.org.

    A Christmas Carol 2017. Michael Fitzpatrick and Leslie O'Carroll. Photo by Adams Viscom


    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Dec. 1-31: Edge Theatre Company's Resolutions
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Dec. 1-23: Benchmark Theatre's Smokefall
    At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., benchmarktheatre.com

    Dec. 1-16: Funky Little Theatre Company's The Couple Next Door
    2109 Templeton Gap Road, Colorado Springs, 719-425-9509 or funkylittletheater.org

    DecemberSantasBigRedSack Dec. 1-24: The Avenue Theater's Santa’s Big Red Sack
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

    Dec. 1-9: StageDoor Theatre's Cinderella
    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819 or stagedoortheatre.org

    Dec. 1-30: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Scrooge, Bah Humbug!
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Dec. 1-23: OpenStage's Christmas Chaos: Ralphie Gets Scrooged
    At ArtLab, 239 Linden St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or www.openstagetheatre.org

    Dec. 2-17: Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre’s Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum
    119 Park Avenue West, cleoparkerdance.org or 303-295-1759 x13

    Dec. 7-24: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Every Christmas Story Ever Told

    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or boulderensembletheatre.org

    A Su Teatro Juan Diego PerfilDec. 7-23: Su Teatro's The Miracle at Tepeyac
    At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    Dec. 7, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's Annie

    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Dec. 7-17: Lone Tree Arts Center's Home for the Holidays
    10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, lone tree’s home page

    Dec. 7-17: Thunder River Theatre Company's Constellations
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Dec. 7-17: Upstart Crow's Dear Brutus
    At the Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or upstart’s home page

    Dec. 7-23: Millibo Arts Theatre's Fa-La-La

    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, www.themat.org

    EmoryJohnCollinsonBobMorschandCyndiParrinGNOMEINTHEROOMDec. 7-17: Springs Ensemble Theatre’s The Gnome in the Room
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 80909, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Dec. 8-17: Longmont Theatre Company's Harry Connick Jr’s The Happy Elf

    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Dec. 9-10: National touring production of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 13-17: National touring production of Elf The Musical
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 19-31: National touring production of Waitress
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 10, 2017-Jan. 23, 2018: BDT Stage's Motones vs. Jerseys
    (Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays only)
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Dec. 14-29: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s A Rocky Mountain Christmas

    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Dec. 14-23: Denver's Dangerous Theatre's The Perfect Gift
    2620 W. 2nd Ave, No. 1, Denver, 720-989-1764 or dangeroustheatre.co

    Dec. 17- 23: Evergreen Players’ A Christmas Carol (costumed staged readings)
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

    Jan. 2: National touring production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King & I
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through Dec. 2: Equinox Theatre Company's Disaster!
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Through Dec. 3: National touring production of Chicago
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through Dec. 9: Curious Theatre's Body of an American
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org  READ MORE

    BEAU JESTThrough Dec. 10: Cherry Creek Theatre's Beau Jest
    At the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver, 303-800-6578 or cherry creek theatre’s home page

    Through Dec.17: Bas Bleu Theatre's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through Dec. 17: Vintage Theatre Productions' Honeymoon In Vegas

    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Dec. 17: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Murder for Two
    Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Pkwy, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    Through Dec. 17: Anansi: The Itsy BiTSY Spider Stories
    1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com

    Through Dec. 23: Arvada Center's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org





    Through Dec. 23: Aurora Fox's Hi-Hat Hattie (see video above)
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org READ MORE

    Through Dec. 23: TheatreWorks' The SantaLand Diaries
    At the Bon Vivant Theatre, 3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through Dec. 23: Miners Alley Playhouse's A Christmas Carol
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through Dec. 23: Miners Alley Playhouse's The Story of the Nutcracker (children’s)
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through Dec. 23: Firehouse Theater Company’s The Miracle Worker
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com 

    Through Dec. 24: DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol
    Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Santaland Diaries Michael BouchardThrough Dec. 24: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and DCPA Off-Center's The SantaLand Diaries
    Jones Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through Dec. 29: Arvada Center's A Year With Frog and Toad (children’s) 
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through Dec. 30: Town Hall Arts Center's Seussical
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.com

    Through Dec. 30: Thin Air Theatre Company's Angel of the Christmas Mine
    Butte Theatre, 139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    Dec. 30-31: Vintage Theatre's I’ll Eat You Last: A Conversation with Sue Mengers
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Dec. 31: Midtown Arts Center's A Christmas Story
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through Dec. 31: Avenue Theater's Comedy Sportz (late nights in December)
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com READ MORE

    A Josh Hartwell Jason Maxwell. Photo by Sarah Roshan 400Through Jan. 14, 2018: Vintage Theatre Productions' Red
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Feb. 14, 2018: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Beauty and the Beast
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through Feb. 24, 2018: BDT Stage's Annie
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Through April 22, 2018: DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    Garner Galleria Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through May 2018: Buntport Theater's Siren Song (ongoing children's series, second Saturdays of every month)
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE

    AURORA FOX ARTS CENTER

    • Dec. 31: Central City Opera’s Winter Song, a mix of favorite tunes from jazz standards to light opera, performed by crossover classical theatre artists Jennifer DeDominici, Chad Reagan, Amanda Raddatz and Deborah Schmit-Lobis. Includes a champagne and dessert reception.

    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurora fox.org

    BUNTPORT THEATRE


    DENVER ACTORS FUND
    • A RyanChrysRoughCuts 400Monday, Dec. 11: Screening of the film Elf, starring Will Ferrell, with live pre-screening entertainment from The Longmont Theatre Company's Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7.
    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloans Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Tuesday, Dec. 19: The Nightly Met Christmas Special at the D.L. Parsons Theatre in Northglenn, hosted by  Avery Anderson and Annie Dwyer, featuring Anna High, and Ryan Chrys and Rough Cuts. Tickets $8-$10. All proceeds to the Denver Actors Fund.  BUY TICKETS
    EQUINOX THEATRE COMPANY
    Sunday, Dec. 10: Equinox: The Season is Slaying (A drag benefit show)
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page
       
    THE SOURCE THEATRE COMPANY
    • Every third Monday: Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org 

    STORIES ON STAGE
    • Saturday, Dec. 16: Making Merry (at Dairy Arts Center, Boulder)

    • Sunday, Dec. 17: Making Merry (at the King Center, 855 Lawrence Way, Auraria campus)

    303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org

    Stories on Stage has renowned actors bring stories to life by combining literature with theater. This month, Jamie Horton reads from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, GerRee Hinshaw reads Crimble Wocky by Graham Potter (a Lewis Carroll-inspired variation on The Night Before Christmas), Anthony Adu reads from "The Goldfish” by Simon Van Booy. Music provided by award-winning composer/pianist Gary Grundei.

  • 2017 True West Award: The Tramps

    by John Moore | Nov 29, 2017
    TW-Award-1-Bouchard-Scrutchins-Gregory-McCracken

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 1: The Tramps

    Michael Bouchard and Sean Scrutchins
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
    Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Sam Gregory and Timothy McCracken
    Waiting for Godot
    Arvada Center

    Scholars have long connected the lineage of the tramps from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead back to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, though all winding, endless roads begin with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And all four were brought to brilliantly funny and heartbreaking life this year by four of Denver’s leading actors.

    WaitingForGodot400In both plays, two bewildered men bide their pointless time in a theatrical void while the real action unfolds somewhere … off-stage. Each play presents two insignificant tramps pondering the philosophies of a universe full of fear and uncertainty. These are plays that unravel in worlds where we are told “nothing ever happens," and yet — quite a lot happened in these kindred stagings, thanks to the work of this powerhouse foursome. 

    Theatre of the absurd, once so shocking for its subversion of theatre's traditional values, often leaves modern audiences baffled and scratching their heads. These four brought clarity to the incoherence with precise physical and tongue-twisting comedy.

    And to further muddy the absurdist bloodlines: Gregory also appeared in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (as The Player) and Scrutchins likewise appeared in Waiting for Godot (as The Boy). Not to menton: Bouchard, Scrutchins and Gregory all appeared in Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Hamlet (as Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and The Ghost) — because apparently all of this wasn't meta enough.

    What they are saying:

    • Timothy Orr, director, 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead': “Any good comedy team, from Laurel and Hardy to the Blues Brothers, needs to have this psychic connection between them, and Sean and Michael had it. They were connected. They were breathing the same air. And as actors, they were both playing the funny and the straight man at the same time, which is extremely difficult to do.”
    • RosencrantzGuildenstern-CSF17-JMK-1842Geoffrey Kent, Director, 'Waiting for Godot': "Nothing helps a pairing like friendship, and Sam and Tim are old friends. They met on the Denver Center's 1994 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I watched from the audience. Didi and Gogo are introduced to the audience in the middle of a 50-year old conversation, and that personal history helps. In addition, Sam and Tim are the best listeners I know, intuitively and honestly reacting to each other from line to line. A truly fearless pair of actors."
    • Gary Zeidner, Boulder Weekly: "Whether they’re flipping quarters, forgetting which is Rosencrantz and which is Guildenstern, or delivering Stoppard’s sterling dialogue (like, “Who is the English King? Depends on when we get there”), Bouchard and Scrutchins are two of the most interesting and talented younger actors working the Front Range today. Like a modern-day Abbott and Costello, they are more than a pleasure to watch.”
    • Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post: "The power of Beckett’s words beams through, thanks to fine, bittersweet performances by Sam Gregory and Timothy McCracken knocking about as perfect vaudevillians. The actors’ chemistry is first-rate, finding desperation beneath the comedy that doesn’t dilute the profound despair at the heart of the play. The production packs a wallop.”

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    Michael BouchardMichael Bouchard 2017:

    • Ensemble, Jesus Christ Superstar, Arvada Center
    • Rosencrantz, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Rosencrantz, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Northumberland, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • David, The SantaLand Diaries, BETC and DCPA Off-Center, through Dec. 24


    Sam Gregory 160Sam Gregory 2017:
    • Dr. Lyman, Bus Stop, Arvada Center
    • Vladimir, Waiting for Godot, Arvada Center
    • Ghost/The Player, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • The Player, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, DCPA Theatre Company, through Dec. 24



    Timothy McCrackenTimothy McCracken 2017:

    • Estragon, Waiting for Godot, Arvada Center
    • Brian, Smart People, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Scrooge understudy, A Christmas Carol, DCPA Theatre Company, through Dec. 24
    • Head of Acting, DCPA Education


    A Sean Scrutchins 160Sean Scrutchins 2017:

    • Bo, Bus Stop, Arvada Center
    • Boy, Waiting for Godot, Arvada Center
    • Guildenstern, Rosencrantz and Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Guildenstern, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Frank, Appropriate, Curious Theatre
    • Dan (mostly), Body of an American, Curious Theatre, through Dec. 9

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

     

  • Lenne Klingaman's reader-to-riches 'Waitress' story

    by John Moore | Nov 29, 2017
    Lenne Klingaman. Waitress. Photo by Joan MarcusFrom left: DCPA Theatre Company favorite Lenne Klingaman, Desi Oakley and Charity Angel Dawson in the Denver-bound national touring production of 'Waitress,' opening at the Buell Theatre on Dec. 19. Photo by Joan Marcus.


    Denver Center favorite pivots from playing female Hamlet in Boulder to quirky waitress in Denver-bound Broadway hit

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Actor Lenne Klingaman has one of those incredible stories that will make you say, “Yeah, right.”  

    But in this case: Right!

    Klingaman's story starts in an audition room in New York City at the start of 2017. What you need to know is that when an actor auditions for a specific role, the casting director often provides what’s called “The Reader” for the hopefuls to exchange dialogue with. "The Reader" may not be the appropriate gender, age or type, but it doesn’t matter. The reader isn’t the one auditioning. "The Reader" never gets the part.

    Lenne Klingaman QuoteScratch that. In this case, Klingaman was "The Reader." And she got The Part.

    Klingaman returns to her adopted city of Denver on Dec. 19 to play Dawn in the first national touring production of the hit Broadway musical Waitress. This follows her triumphant summer turn as a female Hamlet for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. In between, there was a storybook wedding.

    But we digress.

    Despite a long list of national credits that includes playing Juliet in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Romeo and Juliet and two roles in the world-premiere play Appoggiatura, Klingaman somehow ended up in the audition room for Waitress as “The Reader” alongside Director Diane Paulus, who was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People On This or Any Other Planet; Curb Your Enthusiasm writer Jessie Nelson; and six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles. None of them knew who Klingaman was at the time. But as she went about her job reading lines for the actual job-seeking actors to play off, she made an impression.

    “After the final day, Diane followed me out of the room and asked if I sang at all,” said Klingaman, who told the influential director that, in fact, she had just released her debut pop album, The Heart is The Hunter. Paulus liked it, Bareillis liked it and, fast forward, Klingaman is now playing quirky Dawn in the first national touring production of Waitress. “I could not believe it was happening,” she says. “It's been quite a whirlwind experience.”

    Video: Lenne Klingaman sings from her solo album:


    Klingaman's roles in Hamlet and Waitress could not be more different, and yet both projects are emphatic expressions of female artistic empowerment. Colorado Shakespeare Festival Director Carolyn Howarth, for one, did not have Klingaman play Hamlet as a brooding man. In this A Midwinter Night’s Dream variation on the theme, the actor was allowed to explore Hamlet’s feminine side, and the result was an unorthodox but universal revelation in part because, The Boulder Daily Camera's A.H. Goldstein said, "Madness knows no boundaries of gender."

    When the play closed, Klingaman immediately got married. Then she joined the first touring cast of Waitress, which took its pace in theatre history when it became the first Broadway musical to have women as the director, writer, composer, choreographer (Lorin Latarro) and orchestrator (Nadia DiGiallonardo).

    "It has been an amazing joy to go from playing someone as intense and complex and dramatic as Hamlet to playing a ray of light like Dawn who looks at the world in a very positive, loving way,” she said.

    Here are excerpted highlights of Klingaman's wide-ranging conversation with the DCPA NewsCenter:

    John Moore: What did it mean to you to be given the chance to explore one of the great roles of the canon without having to subvert your own femininity?

    Lenne KlingamanLenne Klingaman: It was extremely empowering to work with Carolyn Howarth on a female Hamlet because it opened up this whole range of possibility of what acting can be, and of what women can do on the stage. There was something so freeing about playing a role written for a man. It demanded such a range that I don't think most women ever get the opportunity to play. Going forward, I am sure I will be wanting to push beyond where the feminine concept seems to end in roles I'll be playing in the coming years.

    (Photo above and right: Lenne Klingaman and Gary Wright in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'Hamlet.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    John Moore: Did the unprecedented female gender dynamic in the Waitress rehearsal room make a real difference in the creative process?

    Lenne Klingaman: To go straight from Hamlet — which was directed by a strong and wonderful woman, by the way — into an experience where, across the board, they were all women, was pretty incredible. It has been thrilling to be part of that collaborative female vibe. This is an amazing group of women who are creative and decisive and effective problem-solvers. But they also allowed for flexibility and fluidity, and they allowed us to put our own individual stamps on the show.

    Our interview with Lenne Klingaman on Hamlet

    John Moore: It seems ridiculous to think that it took 100 years for there to be an all-female creative team on Broadway. Do you feel like you're part of a moment for women in Broadway that is many decades late in coming?

    Lenne Klingaman: I hope this trend continues. I hope that people see that stories told by women, that are about women, and that are for women can be successful. Can be universal. And can be really huge hits. They used to call stories about women “chick flicks” in the movies. But stories like Waitress are worthy and valuable for everyone. And it's valuable to have women at the helm telling them from a different vantage point. It’s not that men can’t tell a woman's story — but there are angles that might only get bitten into from a female point of view. In Waitress, you'll see it in everything from the choreography to Sara Bareillis' lyrics to the way Diane makes the whole story move. So, yeah. I really do feel it.

    John Moore: Has Waitress changed to way you look at real-life waitresses?

    Lenne Klingaman in 'Appoggiatura,' left, and 'Romeo and Juliet.' Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Lenne Klingaman: I think about how these women have to keep a smile on their faces and keep so much of their personalities submerged during  their interactions with the strangers they serve, and what that can do to a person once they get home. My character, Dawn, definitely suppresses part of herself at work because she's kind of a turtle when it comes to her personal life. I think it’s important for people to keep in mind that the people who serve them are human beings who have a lot of stuff going on in their lives. In our story, there is a bond and a sisterhood that these three waitresses share.

    (Photos above and right: Lenne Klingaman in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Appoggiatura,' left, and 'Romeo and Juliet.' Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    John Moore: What else can we know about Dawn?

    Lenne Klingaman: The amazing part about Dawn is what a rich inner life she has, which you get to see in the second half of the show. She's a little bit of a nerd and she's a little bit O.C.D., but there is this beautiful kind of spark in the origin of her quirkiness that comes from a really serious place in her. That's been a joy to find as an actor, because all of her humor is really full of wonder and positivity.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: So how is this story a universal story — meaning for men, too?

    Lenne Klingaman: I think it's universal for the same reason a woman playing Hamlet is universal. What's happening for these three women is that they're all at the precipice of taking huge risks so that they can be who they truly are in their hearts. And when it comes to taking a leap into the unknown, and to really risk being your authentic self, your gender is immaterial. That moment of truth crosses any gender line. This is about letting your freak flag fly. It doesn't matter to an audience whether you are a man or a woman. It's pretty fun and sexy and daring for each of these women to take the risk, and I think that will be extremely enjoyable for everyone to watch.

    John Moore: What place does Colorado have in your life now after having spent so much time here?

    Lenne Klingaman: I feel like Denver has become a home away from home, and I am so excited to come back. And I'm really excited to be coming back with this show because of the light and life and joy that it brings. When we sing Everything Changes and we take our final bows, it is a communal and beautiful and joyful moment — after an entire evening of laughing your butt off. I'm really excited for Denver and Colorado to get to feel that in this moment and at this time we're existing in. This show will remind you of the true beauty of humanity.

    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.

    waitressWaitress in Denver: Ticket information
    Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna — a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 19-31
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

      Selected NewsCenter coverage of Waitress:

  • 2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced

    by John Moore | Nov 29, 2017
    A video look back at the 2017 Colorado New Play Festival in February. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    DCPA's signature celebration has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which have returned as full productions.

    The DCPA Theatre Company's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit will feature readings of new works by Sigrid Gilmer, David Jacobi, Kemp Powers, and Barbara Seyda alongside world-premiere productions by José Cruz González, Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee, it was announced this morning. 

    A Summit 800 5The Colorado New Play Summit, which return Feb. 17-25, 2018, is the DCPA’s signature festival dedicated to supporting playwrights and developing new work. Participating playwrights, including many commissioned by the Theatre Company, are given two weeks with professional directors, actors and dramaturgs to workshop new plays. Industry professionals and the public are invited to experience them as non-staged readings.

    (Pictured above and right: 2017 Colorado New Play Summit reading of Donnetta Lavinia Grays' 'Last Night and the Night Before.')

    Since its founding, the Summit has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit world premieres include Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    2018 FEATURED NEW-PLAY READINGS:

    Mama Metallica
    By Sigrid Gilmer
    Sigrid GilmerBudding playwright Sterling Milburn has always been overshadowed by her fabulous mother Louise. Even when she’s holed up in a care facility with Parkinson’s, Louise finds a way to steal the spotlight. But with the overly critical eyes of Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams to fuel her rebellion and the frenetic energy of Metallica to help find her voice, Sterling sets out to write a story that is finally her own. As unfortunate histories mesh with hilarious interludes, Sterling must face the truth: her pain, her joys and her life will forever be shaped by and linked to the woman who raised her. Sigrid Gilmer’s “wonderfully impudent sense of humor” (USA Today) shines in this joyfully irreverent black comedy that entwines issues of identity with pop culture icons for a truly unique (and head-banging) experience.

    About Sigrid Gilmer: makes black comedies that are historically bent, totally perverse, joyfully irreverent and concerned with issues of identity, pop culture and contemporary American society. Sigrid burst onto the national theatre scene with her play Harry and the Thief, an action film/historical/time travel play about a thief who is blackmailed into traveling back in time to deliver a cache of arms to Harriet Tubman. It has since been produced across the country, including runs at the Pavement Group (Chicago), the Know Theatre (Cincinnati), and the Skylight Theatre (LA). Additional select works include Slavey (Clubbed Thumb), Seed: A Weird Act of Faith, It’s All Bueno (Cornerstone Theater Company), Frilly, and White 3: Manifestdestinyland. Sigrid is also on the writing team of the acclaimed Black Women: State of the Union. Sigrid is a winner of the Map Fund Creative Exploration Grant, the James Irving Foundation Fellowship and is a USA Ford Fellow in Theatre. Sigrid has an MFA in Writing for Performance from Cal Arts, where she was mentored by Suzan-Lori Parks. She resides in Los Angeles.

     


    The Couches
    By David Jacobi

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    David JacobiEthan Couch has lived in a bubble of pampered privilege for his entire life, so when he’s convicted of killing four people while driving drunk, he and his mother Tonya flee to a resort in Mexico rather than face the consequences. In this self-imposed state of limbo, Ethan pays hotel clerk Daniel $1000 to be his friend and help maintain the facade of his prior life. But as the unlikely pair drink, sing, and stumble through the night, delusions of how the world works melt away as quickly as their cash flow. David Jacobi draws from the infamous 2013 “affluenza” court case to weave a surreal story of recklessness and reflection.

    About David Jacobi
    : His plays have been performed throughout the U.S. and in China, including the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, FringeNYC and Penghao Theatre. His work has been developed at Ojai Playwrights Conference, Portland Center Stage’s JAW Festival, RISK IS THIS, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Kennedy Center MFA Playwright’s Workshop, SLC Playwrights Lab and PlayPenn. He is a winner of the Holland New Voices Award, Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences Award, a Relentless Award semifinalist, and has been nominated for the Weissburger. David was the 2015 Shank Fellow at Pig Iron Theatre Company, and is currently under commission from the Denver Center and South Coast Rep. He received a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Purchase College and an MFA from UC San Diego.



    Christa McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue
    By Kemp Powers DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    Kemp PowersEven though they share the same DNA, twins Steven and Bernard have lived drastically different lives. The big reason? One is plagued by racism because of his dark skin while the other passes as white. Steven spent his childhood fitting in with fellow classmates and is now a successful attorney. Though he was an extraordinarily bright student who had his eyes on outer space, Bernard’s future is as dismal as the Challenger Space Shuttle that once inspired him. As he prepares for trial and potential jail time, Bernard must face his childhood bully behind the judge’s bench and confront his brother’s advantages. Following his DCPA audience favorite One Night in Miami…, Kemp Powers’ piercing meditation on race and privilege targets the circumstances that can change a child’s destiny.

    About Kemp Powers:
    His plays include One Night in Miami… (Donmar Warehouse, Denver Center, Baltimore Center Stage, Rogue Machine; 2017 Olivier nominee for Best New Play, three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards, four NAACP Theatre awards, LA Weekly Theater award), Little Black Shadows (South Coast Repertory) and The Two Reds (The Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory). His work has been developed at Denver Center Theatre Company, South Coast Repertory, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. In television and film, he was most recently a writer for “Star Trek: Discovery”(CBS All Access) and is currently adapting his play One Night in Miami… into a feature film. He has toured nationally as a storyteller for the Peabody Award-winning series, "The Moth," and was one of the 50 storytellers selected for publication in their New York Times-bestselling book, The Moth: 50 True Stories (Hyperion Press). Powers is a founding member of The Temblors, a producing playwrights collective based in Los Angeles, where he resides.



    Celia, A Slave
    By Barbara Seyda

    Barbara SeydaIn 1855, 19-year-old African-American slave Celia was convicted of killing her master and hanged. Her story became known as a notorious failure of justice in American history, but to truly understand its significance, look to the people of Calloway County who experienced it all. Using oral histories and official records as her guide, playwright Barbara Seyda investigates the event with a tapestry of interviews with the dead. This stunningly evocative play illuminates the brutal realities of female slave life in the pre-Civil War South as it resurrects a panorama of real people on stage. The piece won the Yale Drama Series playwriting competition in its current form.

    About Barbara Seyda: She is a playwright, editor, designer and theatre artist. She has a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA from Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University. She has been a freelance editor for the Southwest Center, Rio Nuevo Press and the University of Arizona Press with a focus on native art, culture, history, ethnography and oral traditions of the American Southwest. She taught at Pratt Institute, The New School for Social Research, Rutgers University and University of Arizona's Continuing Education Program. Her publications include Nomads of a Desert City (University of Arizona Press) and Women in Love (Bulfinch, imprint of Little, Brown & Company). Her debut play Celia, A Slave was selected by Nicholas Wright, former Associate Director of London's Royal Court and won the Yale Drama Prize in 2015. The first public staged reading was at Lincoln Center under the direction of Niegel Smith and the script was published by Yale University Press in 2016. Celia opened The Rogue Theatre's 2017 season to rave reviews by PBS and NPR. She will reexamine the structure of Celia at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. Her new plays include An Unnatural History and Life in a Jar.


    2018 WORLD PREMIERE PLAYS:

    American Mariachi
    By José Cruz González

    Directed by James Vásquez
    Produced in association with The Old Globe

    A Jose Cruz Gonzalez 160DCPA Theatre Company Commission developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Lucha and Boli are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band, but they’ll have to fight a male-dominated music genre and pressure from their families to get it done. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music.

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding
    By Matthew Lopez
    Directed by Mike Donahue

    Matthew LopezDisaster after disaster follow one unfortunate bride down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    The Great Leap
    By Lauren Yee
    Directed by Eric Ting
    Produced in association with Seattle Repertory Theatre

    Yee, LaurenDCPA Theatre Company Commission developed at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium.

    The 13th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 17-18
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 23-25
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

    All-inclusive Festival Weekend packages including all four readings, three world premieres, plus meals and special events are on sale now. Launch weekend events will go on sale in January 2018. 

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit

    Full photo gallery from the 2017 Colorado New Play Festival in February. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Bonus video coverage: Meet the 2017 featured playwrights:
    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
  • Video: Governor, 'Carol' cast send Colorado National Guard thanks and hope

    by John Moore | Nov 28, 2017

    Video: Watch Governor John Hickenlooper's holiday message to members of the Colorado National Guard and their families with cast members from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'A Christmas Carol,' from left: Sam Gregory, Latoya Cameron and Peyton Goosen atop the shoulder of Brian Vaughn. Video courtesy Colorado National Guard. 

     

    Raising The Guard: Hickenlooper joins Denver Center actors to bolster local military spirits at holidays

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Cast members from the DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol joined Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at the State Capitol on Nov. 21 to film a message of gratitude and hope for members of the Colorado National Guard.

    The video is a direct address to Guard members and their families after an extraordinary year when service members were called upon to combat disasters in Colorado and neighboring states including wildfires and catastrophic weather events.

    "On behalf of everyone in Colorado, we want to thank you for your service to our state and nation," Hickenlooper said. 

    Participating cast members from the Denver Center were Sam Gregory (Scrooge), Latoya Cameron (Mrs. Cratchit), Brian Vaughn (Bob Cratchit) and Peyton Goosen (Tiny Tim).

    A Christmas Carol. Peyton Goosen "After massive hurricanes pounded Houston, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, you helped save lives and reduce human suffering," Gregory says in the video.

    Adds Cameron: "Whether you defend the homeland or support the war fight, when you wear the uniform, you embody service and sacrifice."

    The message also served as an acknowledgement that the holidays can be a time of loneliness and isolation, especially for members of the armed forces.

    "Your willingness to defend our nation is what makes you so amazing," says Hickenlooper. "But sometimes it's the little things that seem enormous. Watch out for each other and take care of yourself."

    (Photos: Peyton Goosen, who plays Tiny Tim, on the steps of the State Capitol, above, and with Colorado National Guard Major Darin Overstreet, below right.)

    The actors wove messages from Charles Dickens' classic story into their address to National Guard members who may feel vulnerable at this time of year. 

    "At times the future may look bleak by way of past misfortunes but that doesn't need to be the way it is with you," says Gregory. "The future can differ from what you see now. Resources are bountiful."

    Colorado National Guard A Christmas Carol The suicide rate in the military used to be lower than the population at large. But in the years following the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, service members began taking their own lives in increasing numbers.

    "The Colorado National Guard considers suicide prevention a top priority, and all members of our organization are encouraged to get help for themselves and their fellow warriors," said Chris Neuenfeldt, who manages the Colorado National Guard's Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention program, which is available to troops of all ranks and statuses, anywhere across the state, 24/7.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A service member who needs help has a number of resources available via The Colorado National Guard's R3SP webpage. For additional help, a soldier or airman should start by contacting Neuenfeldt via email or the CONG's R3SP Facebook page. Service members are encouraged to contact either of the Directors of Psychological Health, Doug Bryan at 720-250-1562, or Victoria Howatt at 720-847-9438.

    The video message above, directed by Major Darin Overstreet, also will be shared overseas to deployed Colorado National Guard Soldiers and Airmen.

    A Christmas Carol opens on Friday and runs through Dec. 24 at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre.

    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.


    Photo gallery: Creating the Colorado National Guard video:

    Making of 'A Christmas Carol' 2017

    Photos from the making of the Colorado National Guard video. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    • Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol 2017:
    A Christmas Carol: A timeline to today
    DCPA's 25th A Christmas Carol brims with mistletoe and milestones
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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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