• Arvada Center pops a wheelie: Record 29 Henry Award nominations

    by John Moore | Jun 12, 2018
    CSFACCC Fun Home

    From the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's 'Fun Home,' which today received 11 Henry Award nominations. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

    Homegrown productions of groundbreaking Fun Home combine for 19 nominations from Colorado Theatre Guild

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2018 Henry Award nominations reflect the biggest story of the Colorado theatre year: Three Colorado companies became the first to stage the groundbreaking musical Fun Home — and they were rewarded today with a combined 19 nominations.

    The Arvada Center broke the Henry Awards’ all-time record for nominations with 29, followed by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College with 24. The Denver Center was next, with 15. Those three are joined in the Outstanding Season category by the Aurora Fox, Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins, Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden and Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

    The Fine Arts Center’s productions of Fun Home and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tied as the most honored productions of the Colorado theatre year, with 11 nominations each. Among musicals, Miners Alley Playhouse’s staging of Fun Home picked up eight nominations, followed by the Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (7), Inspire Creative’s co-production of Hairspray with Parker Arts (7), and the Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch (6).

     Arvada Center Sense and Sensibility Photo by Matthew Gale The most honored play of the year is the Arvada Center’s modern adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (on wheels!) with 10, followed by The Edge Theatre’s Mud Blue Sky (5) and the Arvada Center’s All My Sons (4), Vintage Theatre’s August: Osage County (4) and Benchmark Theatre’s A Kid Like Jake (4).  (Pictured: 'Sense and Sensibility.' Photo by Matthew Gale.)

    Sense and Sensibility, which launched the Arvada Center’s second year with a year-round company of resident actors, earned four acting nods including, appropriately enough, one for Outstanding Ensemble. The precisely timed staging by Director Lynne Collins was more than an old-fashioned Jane Austen comedy of manners pitting heart versus head. “It’s a very physical, mannered dance, performed with distinction by a gifted cast,” wrote The Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow. All of the set pieces were placed on wheels and twirled in precise choreography, steered by frenetic actors sometimes holding on by their ankles. Ostrow called the effort "a dizzying, delightful spectacle.”

    DRScoundrels 400Fun Home, the first major Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, is an underdog story that was staged in early 2018 by companies  in Colorado Springs, Golden and Fort Collins. It is based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of a woman who dives deep into her past to revisit how she discovered her own sexuality — while at the same time trying to piece together the mystery surrounding her late father. Alison is represented onstage by three actors playing the character at different ages. And, in a fun twist — at least one actor playing Alison at all three ages is nominated for a Henry Award, including young Sophia Dotson, who played “Small Alison” for Miners Alley Playhouse. 

    (Pictured: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,' nominated for 11 Henry Awards.)

    The Henrys nominate seven — and in some cases eight — artists in each category. The Outstanding Lead Actress field not only includes three of Colorado's Fun Home Alisons, it has two women from separate productions of Always … Patsy Cline: Norrell Moore played the iconic singer for BDT Stage, while Jalyn Courtenay Webb played her bossy friend Louise for Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins. (Pictured, photos courtesy Midtown Arts Center and Glenn Ross.)

    Patsy ClinesThe Henry Awards, which consider achievements among Colorado Theatre Guild member companies, have been notoriously topsy-turvy throughout its controversial and unpredictable 13-year existence. This year, for first time in Henrys history, not a single DCPA Theatre Company production is included among the seven nominated outstanding plays or musicals. The Denver Center received only two individual nominations among the Henrys' 58 possible acting slots — Jordan Leigh as a supporting actor in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date, and supporting actress Lulu Fall, who played The Acid Queen in the Theatre Company’s The Who’s Tommy.

    The DCPA Theatre Company, which staged four world premieres this season, placed The Great Leap and Zoey's Perfect Wedding among the seven nominated new works. But not record-setting audience favorite American Mariachi, which already has been performed at the Old Globe in San Diego and has several more stagings lined up throughout the country. It received only one nomination, for costumes.

    How Fun Home found a home in theatres all over Colorado

    The Arvada Center's 29 nominations eclipes the Denver Center's record of 28 set in 2014. It has been two years since the Arvada Center added Collins (a double-nominee for direction) to oversee the production of plays while Rod A. Lansberry continues to supervise the musicals. Lansberry is nominated for his direction of A Chorus Line.  But what put the Arvada Center into record territory was the return of Joseph, once its annual holiday staple, which received seven nominations under the direction of Gavin Mayer.
     

    In all, 29 member companies shared the 178 overall Henry Award nominations: 

    Nominations by Company

    • Arvada Center: 29
    • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College: 24
    • DCPA Theatre Company, Cabaret and Off-Center: 15
    • Miners Alley Playhouse: 13
    • Vintage Theatre (Aurora): 12
    • Midtown Arts Center (Fort Collins): 11
    • Aurora Fox: 9
    • The Edge Theater Company: 7
    • Inspire Creative and Parker Arts: 7
    • Benchmark Theatre: 5
    • Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company: 5
    • Breckenridge Backstage Theatre: 5
    • OpenStage Theatre Company (Fort Collins): 5
    • Local Theater Company (Boulder): 4
    • Thunder River Theatre Company (Carbondale): 4
    • BDT Stage:3
    • Buntport Theater: 3
    • Colorado Shakespeare Festival: 3
    • Lowry's Spotlight Theater (all shared with Vintage Theatre): 3
    • Town Hall Arts Center (Littleton): 3
    • Cherry Creek Theatre: 2
    • Lone Tree Arts Center: 2
    • TheatreWorks (Colorado Springs): 2
    • 5280 Artists Coop: 1
    • Emancipation Theater Company: 1
    • Evergreen Chorale: 1
    • Lake Dillon Theatre Company: 1
    • Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre (Grand Lake): 1

    Noticeably missing from that nominee slate is again Curious Theatre Company, a former Henry Awards darling that pulled out of further consideration in 2016, citing “a profound lack of diversity” among the winners.

    August Adrian Egolf 160Among actors, multiple nominees this year include Adrian Egolf (pictured) as a lead actress in Benchmark Theatre’s A Kid Like Jake, and as a supporting actress in Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s The Revolutionists. She played a mother competing to get her gender-fluid 4-year-old into the best kindergarten in the former; a beguiling Marie Antoinette in the latter. Emma Messenger, who previously won Outstanding Actress two straight years, is twice nominated as a supporting actress this year, for The Edge Theater’s Mud Blue Sky and Vintage’s current Agnes of God, which runs through July 8. In the former, Messenger played a melancholy flight attendant pushed out of her job because of her body size; in the latter, she plays an imperious nun.

    Nick Sugar, the most honored individual in Colorado Theatre Guild history, is nominated both for directing and choreographing the Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, bringing his 13-year total to 21 Henry Award nominations.

    There often are nominee clusters in the four design categories each year because the Guild splits scenic, lighting, sound and costume design nominees into two tiers determined by member companies' annual overall operating budgets. Only six member companies have annual budgets above the $1.2 million threshold and are therefore considered Tier I: The DCPA, Arvada Center, Creede Repertory Theatre, Theatre Aspen, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Colorado Springs TheatreWorks. The rest all compete in Tier II. But both categories still get seven (and sometimes eight) nominees.

    “We are looking to expand the number of Tier I companies for the 2018-19 season,” said CTG board member and past president T. David Rutherford. “We will be discussing the change with producers in the weeks to come.”

    Jason DucatDesigners Jason Ducat (pictured) and Brian Mallgrave pulled off a triple play by each landing three individual nominations this year. Ducat, whose most recent sound design is currently on display in the DCPA’s Human Error, was nominated three times, for the Arvada Center’s All My Sons and Sense and Sensibility; and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Julius Caesar. Mallgrave, a former actor who has now earned 19 Henry Award nominations as a scenic designer, was singled out this year for the Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sense and Sensibility and Sunday in the Park with George.

    Denver Center Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle was nominated twice in Tier I, for the Theatre Company’s American Mariachi and Off-Center’s The Wild Party. Lighting Designer Katie Gruenhagen landed nominations in both tiers: For Off-Center’s This is Modern Art (Tier I) and Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s Birds of North America.

    Other multiple nominees this year include:

    • Nathan Halvorson for both directing Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Fun Home, and for his choreography for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb, as Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Louise in Midtown Arts Center’s Always … Patsy Cline in Fort Collins, and for her co-musical direction of Midtown’s Ragtime.
    • Lynne Collins, for directing the Arvada Center’s All My Sons and Sense and Sensibility.
    • Bernie Cardell, for directing August: Osage County for Vintage Theatre and Sleuth as a co-production between Vintage and Lowry's Spotlight Theatre.
    • Barry J. DeBois, who has made a pretty solid career for himself playing Guy in various productions of Once around the country, is nominated as Outstanding Actor in a Musical as well as for his co-musical direction for the Midtown Arts Center. Kurt Terrio is nominated for his co-musical direction of Midtown’s Ragtime and Once. Both productions also are nominated for Outstanding Musical.
    • Costume Designer Clare Henkel is nominated for the Arvada Center’s Sense and Sensibility and Sunday in the Park with George.
    • Scenic Designer Brandon Case is nominated for the Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Real Women Have Curves
    • Sound Designer Tori Higgins is nominated for Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Fun Home.
    • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck is nominated for choreographing the Arvada Center’s A Chorus Line and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
    • Peter Anthony is nominated for his scenic and sound designs for OpenStage Theatre Company’s The Crucible.

    And while Warren Sherrill is officially nominated only once, for his scenic design of The Edge’s Mud Blue Sky, he also directed two Outstanding Play nominees: The Edge’s Death of a Salesman and Benchmark Theatre’s A Kid Like Jake.

    Highly regarded eligible companies that were shut out of the nominations this year include Boulder’s The Catamounts, which had eight nominations a year ago; Phamaly Theatre Company; Creede Repertory Theatre; the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown; Performance Now in Lakewood; and Theatre Aspen, which earned 25 nominations just two years ago and won Outstanding Season by a company.

    Perhaps the most glaringly omitted individual among all nominees is Emily Van Fleet, who was critically celebrated for headlining two very different challenges in Off-Center’s The Wild Party and the Arvada Center’s Sunday in the Park with George. Van Fleet, a 2017 True West Award winner, has never earned a Henry Award nomination.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Established in 2006, the Henrys are named for longtime local theatre producer Henry Lowenstein and serve as the Colorado Theatre Guild's annual fundraising event. Nominations were determined through a judging process conducted by statewide adjudicators. Five judges must score a show for it to be eligible. According to Rutherford, 162 of 197 shows were fully scored, or 82.2 percent of all member offerings.

    He said that unlike other years, the nominees for Outstanding Season were determined simply by the seven companies with the most nominations.

    The Guild has overhauled the judging pool in recent months, aggressively growing the number of active judges from about 25 a year ago to 100. Rutherford says the judging pool for the new theatre season, which began June 1, has grown to 120. Many other sweeping changes for the coming season include judges being assigned to shows they score, rather than choosing they shows they want to see.

    Tickets for the 2018 Henry Awards ceremony are $35 for CTG members (up from $23 last year); the nonmember price is now $40 (and rises to $45 on the day of the event July 23).

    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.

    Video: A look back at the 2017 Henry Awards

    2018 HENRY AWARD NOMINATIONS

    Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company

    • Arvada Center
    • Aurora Fox
    • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • DCPA Theatre Company
    • Midtown Arts Center
    • Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Vintage Theatre

    Outstanding Production of a Play

    • All My Sons, Arvada Center, Directed by Lynne Collins
    • August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre, Directed by Bernie Cardell
    • Constellations, Thunder River Theatre Company, Directed by Mike Monroney
    • Death of a Salesman, The Edge Theater Company, Directed by Warren Sherrill
    • A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre, Directed by Warren Sherrill
    • The Rape of the Sabine Women, Local Theater Company, Directed by Christy Montour-Larson
    • Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center, Directed by Lynne Collins

    Outstanding Production of a Musical

    • JAKE MENDES HEDWIG AURORA FOXHedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox, Directed by Nick Sugar, Musical Direction by David Nehls
    • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Directed by Scott RC Levy, Musical Direction by Sharon Skidgel
    • Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Directed by Nathan Halvorson, Musical Direction by Stephanie McGuffin
    • Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse, Directed by Len Matheo, Musical Direction by Mitch Samu
    • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center, Directed by Gavin Mayer, Musical Direction by Roberto Sinha
    • Once, Midtown Arts Center, Directed by Kurt Terrio, Musical Direction by Barry DeBois and Kurt Terrio
    • Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center, Directed by Joseph Callahan, Musical Direction by Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Kurt Terrio

    Outstanding Direction of a Play

    • Craig Bond, Red, Vintage Theatre
    • Bernie Cardell, August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre
    • Bernie Cardell, Sleuth, Vintage Theatre and Lowry's Spotlight Theater
    • Lynne Collins, All My Sons, Arvada Center
    • Lynne Collins, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Mike Monroney, Constellations, Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Christy Montour-Larson, The Rape of the Sabine Women, Local Theater Company

    Outstanding Direction of a Musical

    • Sam Buntrock, The Who's Tommy, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Nathan Halvorson, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Rod A. Lansberry, A Chorus Line, Arvada Center
    • Scott RC Levy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Len Matheo, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Gavin Mayer, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • Nick Sugar, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox Arts Center

    Outstanding Musical Direction

    • Barry J. DeBois and Kurt Terrio, Once, Midtown Arts Center
    • Donna Kolpan Debreceni, In the Heights, Town Hall Arts Center
    • Tanner Kelly, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
      Mitch Samu, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Roberto Sinha, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • Sharon Skidgel, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Kurt Terrio, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center

    Outstanding Actor in a Play

    • Antonio Amadeo, A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre
    • Logan Ernstthal, A Picasso, Cherry Creek Theatre
    • Kevin Hart, Death of a Salesman, The Edge Theater Company
    • Chris Kendall, District Merchants, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Esau Pritchett, Fences, Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Lance Rasmussen, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Mark Robbins, Amadeus, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks
    • Mark Rubald, Sleuth, Vintage Theatre and Lowry's Spotlight Theatre

    Outstanding Actress in a Play

    • Adrian Egolf, A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre
    • Lauren Hooper, Intimate Apparel, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Candace Joice, District Merchants, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Lenne Klingaman, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Missy Moore, Ugly Lies the Bone, Lake Dillon Theatre Company
    • Jessica Robblee, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Erin Rollman, The Book Handlers, Buntport Theater

    Outstanding Actor in a Musical

    • Brian Boyd, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center
    • Larry Cahn, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Barry J. DeBois, Once, Midtown Arts Center
    • Tim Howard, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Patrick Oliver Jones, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jake Mendes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox
    • Kyle Dean Steffen, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    Outstanding Actress in a Musical

    • Elena Juliano, Once, Midtown Arts Center
    • Jessica Kahkoska, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Susannah McLeod, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Allison Mickelson, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Norrell Moore, Always ... Patsy Cline, BDT Stage
    • Marissa Rudd, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Always ... Patsy Cline, Midtown Arts Center

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play

    • Geoffrey Kent Matthew GaleZachary Andrews, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Sam Gregory, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Geoffrey Kent, All My Sons, Arvada Center
    • Bob Moore, The Price, Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Matt Schneck, The Rape of the Sabine Women, Local Theater Company
    • Marc Stith, August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre
    • Erik Thurston, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

    • Jessica Austgen, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Emily Davies, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company
    • Hannah Duggan, Edger Allan Poe is Dead and So is My Cat, Buntport Theater
    • Adrian Egolf, The Revolutionists, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Kristina Fountaine, District Merchants, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Emma Messenger, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company
    • Emma Messenger, Agnes of God, Vintage Theatre
    • Martha Harmon Pardee, A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre

    Jordan LeighOutstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

    • Brandon Bill, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Randy Chalmers, Ain't Misbehavin', Town Hall Arts Center
    • Stephen Day, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • TJ Hogle, Bullets Over Broadway, Vintage Theatre
    • Jordan Leigh, First Date, DCPA Cabaret (pictured)
    • Josh Rigo, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Christopher Willard, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Fun Home. Miners Alley Playhouse. Sophia Dotson. Photo by John Moore.

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

    • Mackenzie Beyer, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Judeth Shay Comstock, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Sophia Dotson (pictured above), Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Colby Dunn, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Lulu Fall, The Who's Tommy, DCPA Theatre Company
      Julia Tobey, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Megan Van De Hey, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    Outstanding Ensemble Performance

    • A Chorus Line, Arvada Center
    • A Kid Like Jake, Benchmark Theatre
    • Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • A Picasso, Cherry Creek Theatre
    • Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Sleuth, Vintage Theatre and Lowry's Spotlight Theatre

    Outstanding Choreography

    • Liane Adamo, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Clark Ausloos and Jeff Duke, West Side Story, Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
    • Joseph Callahan, Ragtime, Midtown Arts Center
    • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, A Chorus Line, Arvada Center
    • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
    • Nathan Halvorson, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Nick Sugar, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox

    Outstanding New Play or Musical

    • The Book Handlers, By Buntport Theater; Directed by Buntport Theater, Produced by Buntport Theater
    • A Christmas Carol, Adapted for the stage by Josh Hartwell; Directed by Len Matheo, Produced by Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Colorism: Breaking the Chains of Complexion, By Kenya Fashaw; Directed by Kenya Fashaw and Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Produced by 5280 Artists Coop
    • The Great Leap, By Lauren Yee; Directed by Eric Ting, Produced by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Honorable Disorder, By Jeff Campbell; Directed by Jeff Campbell, Produced by Emancipation Theater Company
    • The Three Musketeers, Adapted for the stage by Richard Strahle; Directed by Denise Burson Freestone, Produced by OpenStage Theatre Company
    • Zoey's Perfect Wedding, By Matthew Lopez; Directed by Mike Donahue, Produced by DCPA Theatre Company

    Outstanding Costume Design, larger budget

    • Stephanie Bradley, Amadeus, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks 
    • Meghan Anderson Doyle, American Mariachi, DCPA Theatre Company
      Meghan Anderson Doyle, The Wild Party, DCPA Off-Center
    • Sydney Gallas, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Clare Henkel, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Clare Henkel, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center
    • Drew Mathisen, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center

    Outstanding Costume Design, smaller budget

    • Terri Fong, Ain't Misbehavin', Town Hall Arts Center
    • Brenda King, The Revolutionists, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Laurie Klapperich, Real Women Have Curves, Aurora Fox Arts Center
    • Cole Mitchell, The Producers, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Linda Morken, Always...Patsy Cline, BDT Stage
    • Davis Sibley, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Evergreen Chorale
    • Rebecca Spafford, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company

    Outstanding Lighting Design, larger budget

    • Katie Gruenhagen, This is Modern Art, DCPA Off-Center
    • Alex Jainchill, Macbeth, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Charles R. MacLeod, Native Gardens, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Shannon McKinney, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center
    • Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Smart People, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Holly Rawls, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jonathan Spencer, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    Outstanding Lighting Design, smaller budget

    • Seth Alison, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Katie Gruenhagen, Birds of North America, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Sean Jeffries, Constellations, Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Brett Maughan, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox Arts Center
    • Vance McKenzie, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Andrew Metzroth, Going to a Place Where You Already Are, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Brian Miller, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company

    Outstanding Scenic Design larger budget

    • Lex Liang, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Brian Mallgrave, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center
      Brian Mallgrave, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Brian Mallgrave, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center
    • Lisa M. Orzolek, Native Gardens, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Christopher L. Sheley, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Jason Sherwood, The Who's Tommy, DCPA Theatre Company

    Outstanding Scenic Design, smaller budget

    • Peter Anthony, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company
    • Tina Anderson, Going to a Place Where You Already Are, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Brandon Case, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox
    • Brandon Case, Real Women Have Curves, Aurora Fox
    • Susan Crabtree, Wisdom from Everything, Local Theater Company
    • Michael R. Duran, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Ed Haynes, Fences, Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Warren Sherrill, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company

    Outstanding Sound Design, larger budget

    • Jason Ducat, All My Sons, Arvada Center
    • Jason Ducat, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center
    • Jason Ducat, Julius Caesar, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Tori Higgins, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Tori Higgins, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
    • Elisheba Ittoop, This is Modern Art, DCPA Off-Center
    • David Thomas, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center

    Outstanding Sound Design, smaller budget

    • Peter Anthony, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre Company
    • Justin Babcock, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Joe Brindley, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Ashley Campbell, Mud Blue Sky, The Edge Theater Company
    • Carlos D. Flores, Red, Vintage Theatre
    • Wayne Kennedy, Always...Patsy Cline, BDT Stage
    • Luke Rahmsdorff-Terry, August: Osage County, Vintage Theatre

    2018 Henry Awards: Ticket information

    • Monday, July 23
    • 6 p.m. drinks; 7 p.m. awards
    • At the Lone Tree Arts Center, 10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue,
    • Tickets: $35 for CTG members, $40 non-members.
    • Call 720-509-1000 or go to lonetreeartscenter.org
  • Corbin Payne of 'The Who's Tommy' on the future state of your eardrums

    by John Moore | May 23, 2018
    corbin_payne The Who's Tommy


    'Theatre is a place to stand up for what’s right, and change what’s wrong,' says Colorado native making DCPA debut.

    Corbin Payne Dogfight Ignite TheatreMEET CORBIN PAYNE
    Colorado Springs native Corbin Payne is making his DCPA Theatre Company debut as a male swing in The Who’s Tommy. In musical theatre, a swing is a member of the company who understudies several roles. Regional credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Arvada Center, Baby in Little Theatre of the Rockies in Greeley, Fun Home for the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins, and Dogfight for Denver's former Ignite Theatre (pictured at right)

    • Hometown: Colorado Springs
    • Home now: Greeley
    • Training: I have a B.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley (Go, Bears!)
    • What's your handle? @pint_0_corbin on Instagram
    • Corbin Payne. DCPA The Who's Tommy Photo by Bamboo BoothTwitter-sized bio: Singer, actor, Colorado native. Lover of craft beer, '80s guitar riffs and "Star Wars." Currently living in Greeley, and yes, it does smell like cows 90 percent of the time. Second passion is writing music. Lost without guitar and piano. Vegetarian and avid couch potato. Addicted to french fries. Loves hiking. (I grew up a few miles from Garden of the Gods how could I not?
    • Website: corbinpayne.com
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be a choir teacher. I grew up singing, became addicted to choir, and spent the majority of my high-school days in rehearsal for concerts. I was really quite torn between teaching and performing while I was auditioning for colleges across the country. I love teaching, enjoy kids for the most part, and celebrate the idea of spreading music to all corners of the globe. (Photo above: Opening night of The Who's Tommy by Bamboo Booth.)
    • Bucket-list role: Roger in Rent
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Logic. He is an incredible lyricist and has such an incredible message to share with the world. He can rhyme, his flow is insane and he just sounds like a cool dude.
    • DEH-Mike-Faist-Ben-Platt-0104-Photo-Credit-Matthew-MurphyOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Watching Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway (pictured right). It was the most phenomenal performance I have ever seen. Every second I watched was a lesson to be learned and it was truly beautiful.
    • One thing most people don't know about you: I hate throwing things away. Secretly I’m a hoarder. I keep every note, card and gift I am given. I love holding onto memories. But I’m neat about it. Everything has its place, and everything has a purpose. Reflecting on the past is one of my past times.
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? The next generation of theatregoers needs constant examples of inclusivity and diversity. No one should ever be left out, feel alone or be alienated because of race, gender or disability. Theatre is a place to stand up for what’s right, and change what’s wrong. The more we spread that message, the more success the next generation will have.
    • What is The Who's Tommy about? It's a musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff based on The Who's classic 1969 rock opera. Tommy retreats from the world after a traumatic incident, but a newfound talent for pinball introduces him to fame and fortune.
    • Why does The Who's Tommy matter? Because it is a story of reflection. It’s dissecting the past by journeying into it, and seeing how such small events can define or change who you are. All too often, we as humans forget about where we came from and focus on tomorrow, instead of living in the now by remembering where we came from, and using that to see the miracles of today.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing The Who's Tommy? I hope audiences just get to rock out. No one should leave with both eardrums intact. If this cast doesn’t send you out the door ready to re-live the days of rock 'n roll, you need to check your heartbeat.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Stop eating meat. Invest in public transportation, clean energy and education. Preserve this planet for generations to come instead of being selfish!

    Corbin Payne in Spring Awakening for the University of Northern ColoradoCorbin Payne in 'Spring Awakening' for the University of Northern Colorado.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy:
    Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
    The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.

  • Sheryl McCallum on the search for something more real than real

    by John Moore | Apr 17, 2018
    Sheryl McCallum. Passing Strange

    Sheryl McCallum passes from The Lion King to The Wild Party to the unusual odyssey of Passing Strange

    MEET SHERYL McCALLUM
    Sheryl McCallum, who played Delores last year in Off-Center's The Wild Party, appeared on Broadway in Disney's The Lion King. Denver credits include Marcus: Or the Secret Of Sweet for Curious Theatre; and Jesus Christ Superstar and I'll Be Home for Christmas at the Arvada Center. She was a featured singer in the first European tour of Blackbirds of Broadway. TV credits include "Law & Order" and "Golden Boy."

    • Sheryl McCallum. Photo by Christine Fisk. Hometown: Denver
    • Home now: Denver (although I lived in New York for 20 years)
    • Training: B.S. in Telecommunications from Texas Southern University
    • Website: None — shame on me!
    • Twitter-sized bio: Denver native, best Auntie, wanna find my beach, ZPhiB💙. Creator and host of The Source Theatre's monthly Monday!Monday!Monday! cabaret at Su Teatro. ❤Spain, 13.1 coming soon.
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would pursue sports reporting or TV travel hosting. I have always enjoyed sports of all kinds. My take would be more commenting than reporting. You should hear me in my living room! For travel, my focus would be on best lounge chairs and beach or pool bar service.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Sister Hubert in a particular production of Nunsense 2. Who knew?
    • Bucket-list role: At one time, I wanted to be an opera singer. So I guess my bucket list-role would be to sing "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" at the Metropolitan Opera.
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Kid Astronaut and Bruno Mars. I also recommend Air Dubai. They are a local band and they don’t perform live as often as they used to.
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I direct my church choir.
    • viola-davis-fencesOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I had a chance to witness Viola Davis (pictured right) perform on Broadway in Fences and King Hedley II. Enough said!
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? One simple thing would be to expose them to theatre early. Not just expose them to acting or singing, but expose them to set and lighting design, to playwriting, to music composition, to stage management and to front-of-house operations. The elementary-school play or musical goes a long way toward fostering future theatregoers.
    • What is Passing Strange all about? It opens as a concert with a rousing funk band led by a showman named Stew who takes us back to the tumultuous 1970s where we retrace young Stew’s epic journey from the suburban comforts of Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin in search of “something more real than real." It’s a tough and meaningful odyssey about cultural identity and family that culminates as young Stew comes face-to-face with present-day Stew — and to terms with the cost his youthful narcissism has exacted on those he left behind.
    • What does the title mean? The phrase "Passing Strange" was coined by William Shakespeare in Othello when he says, "My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs. She swore in faith 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;     'Twas pitiful." Stew once said in an interview that the quote reminds him of a rock musician who tries to attract a girl with his on-the-road stories. "Passing" also refers to the history of African-Americans passing as white, as well as to the passage of time.
    • Why does Passing Strange matter? It offers another perspective of a black man's journey to find himself. Before I saw this show, I never would have thought of a black man writing a rock musical about moving to Amsterdam and Berlin to find himself. It’s an amazing story that everyone can see a little of themselves in.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Passing Strange? I hope they  feel challenged to find what is real in your life. I love this line in the show: ”The only truth of youth is grown-up consequences.” Also, to look at those places where you may be “passing."
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Denver, please find your civility again. When I lived in New York, I would brag about how nice the people in Denver were. When I moved back about four years ago, I was shocked at the rudeness. Of course, the natives blame all the other people who moved here. It doesn’t matter. We all live here now. Please be nice.

    John Moore's 2008 review of Broadway's Passing Strange

    Sheryl McCallum. The Wild Party. Photo by Adams ViscomSheryl McCallum in Off-Center's 'The Wild Party' last year at the Stanley Marketplace. Photo by Adams Viscom.


    Passing Strange: Ticket information

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    • Meet Brynn Tucker of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Gustavo Márquez of Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • Arvada Center season: 'Mamma Mia,' Harlem and empowered women

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2018
    Sense and Sensibility Arvada Center Jessica Austgen Matt Gale Photography
    Jessica Austgen, seated right, is currently featured in the Arvada Center's 'Sense and Sensibility' through May 4. Now she has been commissioned as a playwright to adapt a 1664 restoration comedy for the Arvada Center next season. Matt Gale Photography.

    At this time next year, three plays will be running in repertory that are all written by female playwrights

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Arvada Center’s newly announced 2018-19 season includes three musicals and four plays, a world premiere, two regional premieres and the Broadway hit Mamma Mia. The holiday musical will be the stage adaptation of ELF, and the spring musical is Trav'lin: The New 1930s Harlem Musical, which evokes the Harlem Renaissance and pays tribute to composer J.C. Johnson.

    Cherry Torres, left, Miche Braden and Yewande Odetoyinbo in “Trav'lin at Seven Angels Theatre in Connecticut. Photo by Gary Rosengrant.“Our three musicals take a look at love and life and the many forms it takes,” said Rod A. Lansberry, Producing Artistic Director of Musical Theatre. “This season’s musicals offer us with three different views of love: Love of family; love of life and tradition; and romantic love, even when there are complications.”

    (Pictured: Cherry Torres, left, Miche Braden and Yewande Odetoyinbo in “Trav'lin' 'ast year at the Seven Angels Theatre in Connecticut. Photo by Gary Rosengrant.)

    Next season also will mark the third year of the Arvada Center's Black Box Repertory Theatre, a company of local actors who will perform three of the company's four non-musical plays in repertory. And when all three are up and running next spring, they will all be stories written by women — including a world premiere commission penned by former DCPA Teaching Artist and longtime Cult Following performer Jessica Austgen.

    “The Black Box is launching many firsts this season,” said Lynne Collins, Artistic Director of Plays. “And we will continue to hire the area’s finest actors to tell stories that will move, delight and surprise our audiences.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Austgen’s Sin Street Social Club is an adaptation of Aphra Behn’s The Rover, which is based on Thomas Killigrew's 1664 comedy of manners Thomaso, or The Wanderer.  The source story, which depicts the sexual adventures of a group of badly behaving Englishmen in Naples at Carnival time, is nothing if not problematic in the “Me Too” era, so Austgen is re-casting the story from a female perspective.

    “In this update, we give the female protagonists more agency, so the story becomes more about them taking control of their lives rather than being pawns of these men,” Austgen told the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Austgen made her professional playwriting debut with last year's Drag On for the DCPA’s Off-Center. That lark brought together the worlds of sci-fi, fantasy, Comic Con and the fabulous world of drag for a wholly original hour-long stage adventure. Austgen is also a member of the Avenue Theater's Comedy Sportz improv-comedy team, and is currently appearing as an actor in the Arvada Center’s Sense and Sensibility and All My Sons through May 5.

    "I’ve been trying to transition more to playwriting, and so this opportunity is a huge career boost,” said Austgen, whose Arvada Center roots run deep. “The Arvada Center gave me my Equity (union) card as an actor in 2003 for The Women, they gave me the opportunity to perform in a rep company, and now they are giving me my first full-length play commission as a writer. It means so much that they believe and trust in me.”

    Subscriptions can be purchased by phone at 720-898-7200, in person at the Arvada Center Box Office at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., or online at arvadacenter.org

    The Arvada Center 2018-2019 season: At a glance

    • Sept. 7-30, 2018: Mamma Mia!
    • Oct. 5-Nov. 11, 2018: Educating Rita (Black Box)
    • Nov. 20-Dec. 23, 2018: ELF – The Musical
    • Feb. 1-May 17, 2019: The Diary of Anne Frank (Black Box)
    • Feb. 22-May 18, 2019: The Moors (Black Box)
    • March 15-May 19, 2019: Sin Street Social Club (Black Box)
    • April 9- 28, 2019: Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical


    The Arvada Center 2018-2019 season: Title-by-title


    MAINSTAGE:

    Mamma Mia!

    • Sept. 7-30
    • Music and Lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson with some songs with Stig Anderson. Book by Catherine Johnson. Originally conceived by Judy Cramer
    • Directed by Rod A. Lansberry

    At a glance: This hit musical that combines ABBA’s greatest hits, including Dancing Queen, S.O.S., Super Trouper, Take A Chance on Me and The Winner Takes It All, with a romantic tale of love, laughter and friendship.

    Audition alert: Mamma Mia! auditions will be held April 23 and 24 in Arvada (Chorus dance call is April 20), and in New York City, on May 9. To receive alerts for upcoming productions, send an email including your name and phone number to ac_auditions_email@arvadacenter.org.

     

    ELF: The Musical

    • Nov. 20-Dec. 23
    • Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin. Music by Matthew Sklar. Lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Based on the New Line Cinema film written by David Berenbaum
    • Directed by Gavin Mayer

    At a glance: Elf: The Musical tells the story of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

    Trav’lin: The 1930s Harlem Musical

    • April 9- 28, 2019
    • Book by Gary Holmes and Allan Shapiro. Score by J.C. Johnson and others
    • Directed by Rod A. Lansberry

    At a glance: Trav’lin’ takes the audience back to Harlem in the decade when the music was swinging, bands were big and the Harlem Renaissance was in high gear. The show follows the romantic stories of three couples of three different generations. There are the young lovers who are still innocent, the seen-it-all couple who may bicker but still love each other, and the mature couple who wonder if it is too late to fall in love one more time.

                               

    BLACK BOX:

    Educating Rita
    • Rita Broderick and Wade Wood in a 2009 production of 'Educating Rita' at the Victorian PlayhouseOct. 5-Nov. 11
    • By Willy Russell
    • Directed by Lynne Collins

    At a glance: Educating Rita is a witty yet poignant look at a working-class woman’s attempts to change her social circumstances through pursuit of an Open University qualification. Rita is a married, 26-year-old hairdresser living around the corner from her family. She has enrolled on an Open University course in an attempt to discover herself and better her circumstances. Her tutor is Frank, a frustrated poet, academic and alcoholic who is fascinated by her take on life and realizes that she has academic potential. Under his cynical guidance, Rita grows in confidence and understanding.

    The Diary of Anne Frank

    • DCPA Theatre Company's 2007-08 'The Diary of Anne Franl.' Feb. 1-May 17, 2019
    • Adapted from Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett by Wendy Kesselman
    • Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

    At a glance: In this powerful new adaptation for a new generation, Anne Frank emerges from history as an intensely gifted young girl who confronts the increasing horror of her time with honesty, wit, and determination. The story captures the claustrophobic realities of their daily existence hiding from the Nazis with seven others in a concealed storage attic. As she famously wrote: “I want to go on living even after my death!"

    The Moors

    • Feb. 22-May 18, 2019
    • By Jen Silverman
    • Directed by Anthony Powell

    At a glance: Two sisters and a dog live out their lives on the bleak English moors, and dream of love and power. The arrival of a hapless governess and a moor-hen set all three on a strange and dangerous path. The Moors is a dark comedy about love, desperation, and visibility.

    Sin Street Social Club

    • March 15-May 19, 2019
    • Adapted by Jessica Austgen from Aphra Behn’s The Rover
    • Directed by Lynne Collins

    At a glance: The Rovers was a revision of Thomas Killigrew's 1664 restoration comedy Thomaso, or The Wanderer, and depicts the amorous adventures of a group of Englishmen in Naples at Carnival time. The play stood for three centuries as Aphra Behn's most popular play.

    Audition alert: Auditions for the 2018-19 Repertory Season will be held April 30 and May 1. Online sign-up for auditions will begin April 2. Email ac_auditions_email@arvadacenter.org to receive full details. 

    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.

  • In the Spotlife: Jake Mendes of 'This is Modern Art'

    by John Moore | Mar 30, 2018

    Jake Mendes. THIS IS MODERN ARTLakewood native Jake Mendes makes his Denver Center debut in This is Modern Art.'

    Jake Mendes glides from Hedwig glam to graffiti bomber in Off-Center's provocative new play This is Modern Art

    MEET JAKE MENDES
    2016 True West Award winner Jake Mendes, who plays Dose in Off-Center's This is Modern Art, is making his Denver Center debut. The University of Northern Colorado grad just blew the roof off the Aurora Fox starring in Hedwig and The Angry Inch. At the Arvada Center, he recently played Rueben in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Paul in A Chorus Line and he originated the role of Simon in the world premiere musical I'll Be Home For Christmas. Off Broadway, he performed in Bunnicula and Pinkalicious: The Musical. Other New York credits include Xanadu, A Man of No Importance, The Little Dog Laughed, The Normal Heart and The Drowsy Chaperone.

    • Hometown: Lakewood
    • Home now: Denver
    • What's your handle? @_jake_mendes_ on Instagram
    • What have you done for us lately? I played Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Aurora Fox
    • Twitter-sized bio: Portuguese. Virgo. Lactose Intolerant.
    • JAKE MENDES HEDWIG AURORA FOXWhat would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be directing and choreographing. I thrive on the creation of art and collaboration with artistic minds. I feel like I can best contribute to the world around me through theatre and performing arts.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: While it was very fun … I did a spot in a web series where I had to be a hipster bro, introducing my girlfriend to my sex-obsessed, over-sharing parents for the first time.
    • Bucket-list role? I was lucky enough to cross this off of my list earlier this year when I played Hedwig with the incomparable Norrell Moore. So now I’m waiting for someone to cast me as Effie White in Dreamgirls.
    • One seminal experience where you saw greatness play out in front of you: When I saw Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart on Broadway, I had a moment where I truly understood how theatre could immediately affect people in a guttural and primitive way. At the end of the play, people were crying and hugging each other, silent. I realized then that it is truly our responsibility and privilege as performers to send our stories to people’s hearts and souls. We won’t be able to determine how they’ll  be received, but we could be the ones to provide an opportunity for an audience member to be transformed in some way.
    • Betty WhoWhat are you listening to on Spotify right now? I’m always listening to Betty Who, but I’m also really into the playlist compiled from the Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It” right now.
    • What is This is Modern Art all about? It's based on the true story of a Chicago graffiti crew that is are willing to risk everything for their art. But when they pulled off the biggest graffiti bomb the city had ever seen, the consequences got real, and it sparked a public debate that asked where art does — and does not — belong?
    • Why does This is Modern Art Matter? This play highlights the fact that art should never be boxed into something specific. Artistic expression means different things to different people. You may like to experience different forms of art, but one will never be better than the other.
    • Jake Mendes THIS IS MODERN ARTWhat do you hope audiences get out of seeing This is Modern Art? At the very least, I hope their eyes will be more open to the beautiful and illustrious street art culture that is exploding in Denver.
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? We need to encourage people to listen, and to be open and honest. Whether you’re listening to a performance, listening to your castmates on stage with you, listening to what your director is saying … listening to your own heart and soul. Listening, honesty and openness all help to foster a sense of trust, which cultivates one’s ability to take risks and create dynamic, life-changing experiences.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Dear Dad, I got my nose pierced… I’ve been keeping it hidden for a few months… sorry.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I’m a certified Pre-Natal and Post Partum Personal Trainer.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:
    This is Modern Art will make you look
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • BETC moves up in class with ambitious 'The Curious Incident...'

    by John Moore | Mar 20, 2018
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time The Broadway company of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Boulder company will be first in Colorado to stage celebrated plays The Curious Incident and The Wolves

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s 13th season will include its most ambitious undertaking ever: Staging an enormously challenging play that was once thought to be unstageable. For the first time in its history, BETC will stage a Tony Award-winning best play before anyone else in Colorado when it caps its wildly aspirational 2018-19 season with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the stage adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 best-selling novel.

    Stephen-Weitz- quoteIntroducing Tony-winning best plays to Colorado audiences is a distinction that for the past two decades has generally been traded between the DCPA Theatre Company (All the Way, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) and Curious Theatre (Red, Clybourne Park, next year’s The Humans). No one in Colorado has had the temerity to bite on Curious Incident since it won the Tony in 2015.

    BETC steps into that company this year with the story of a socially awkward British teen who is a mathematical savant but falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. The story follows his quest to clear his name after the neighbor’s dog is speared by a garden fork in the middle of the night.

    The National Theatre’s 2012 London production was a sensation for its ingenious technological advances that somehow helped communicate to its audiences what might be going on inside the young man’s mysterious and often short-circuiting head. The staging used lighting and sound innovations that made the boy's sensory overload both harrowing and eminently understandable.

    But the groundbreaking success of the play also seemed to confirm the presumed belief that it would be impossible to produce for small theatres around the country that, like BETC, do not have multimillion-dollar budgets. “Curious Incident is one of the most fully immersive works ever to wallop Broadway,” the New York Times said. “So be prepared to have all your emotional and sensory buttons pushed, including a few you may have not known existed.”

    Gene Gillette comes home in The Curious Incident tour

    BETC co-founder Stephen Weitz was not scared off. He believes any good story is a stageable story. Somehow.

    “At its heart, Curious Incident is a powerful story about a young boy,” Weitz said. “People who encountered the play in New York or during the national tour may be expecting a particular production style. Ours will feature plenty of ‘theatre magic,’ but it will be our own BETC vision guiding the aesthetic with that story at its core.”

    Sarah BETC’s season is also notable for The Wolves, an utterly original story that takes place on the sidelines of a high-school girls soccer team's games. It is not only Sarah DeLappe’s first play, it was presented at New York’s Lincoln Center — and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

    "I'm thrilled that The Wolves has found its Colorado home at the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company,” DeLappe told the DCPA NewsCenter. The playwright, who grew up playing youth soccer in Reno, Nev., was tutored at Brown University by none other than Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive). DeLappe’s characters are listed in the script not by their names but rather their jersey numbers. They are teammates, after all.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    They play, which has surprisingly little to do with soccer, takes place in nine scenes, each while the girls are warming up for a match. “I was attracted to the idea of a stage where we were watching young women whose bodies were active throughout,” DeLappe told the Lincoln Center’s media office. She said she is hungry for narratives with strong female protagonists, and that she sees The Wolves as a story about women warriors. “I was inspired to think of these characters as a pack preparing for battle,” she said.

    Weitz calls The Wolves “possibly the most honest depiction of the lives of young women I've ever encountered,” he said. “Not only is it a profound story, but if affords an incredible opportunity for nine young women in our acting community — part of our efforts to address equity in all facets of our art form.”

    Arvada Cebter Sense and Sensibility. Mall Gale PhotographyThe 13th BETC season is also notable for two Jane Austen adaptations — Pride and Prejudice (a rollicking new adaptation by Kate Hamill, who also wrote the Arvada Center's current Sense and Sensibility) and its modern sequel, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. This makes the third straight BETC season with a title by Gunderson (Silent Sky, The Revolutionists), currently the most produced playwright in the world not named Shakespeare.

    (Pictured at right: Zachary Andrews, Jessica Robblee, Emma Messenger, Abner Genece, Geoffrey Kent, Jessica Austgen, and Emelie O'Hara in the Arvada Center's 'Sense and Sensibility', running through May 6. BETC will stage a sequel penned by the same adaptor. Matt Gale Photography.)

    2018-19 will also mark the 10th anniversary of BETC’s holiday staging of David Sedaris’ The SantaLand Diaries, the last seven in partnership with Off-Center at the DCPA’s Jones Theatre.The complete season is listed below.

    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.

    Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company 2018-19 at a glance

    • Sept. 13-Oct. 7, 2018: Pride and Prejudice
    • Oct. 25-Nov. 18, 2018: The Wolves
    • Dec. 8-24, 2018: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018: The SantaLand Diaries
    • Feb. 7-March 3, 2019: The Rembrandt
    • April 25-May 19, 2019: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    A closer look at each play:

    (Descriptions provided by BETC)

    Pride and Prejudice
    Sept. 13-Oct. 7, 2018
    By Jane Austen, adapted by Kate Hamill
    This is a playful and unconventional update Jane Austen's classic romance set in Regency, England, where marriage is a must for women. This clever comedy offers a decidedly progressive take on the trials of Lizzie, Mr. Darcy and the Bennet family — with a few dance breaks thrown in for good measure. 

    The Wolves
    Oct. 25-Nov. 18, 2018
    By Sarah DeLappe
    In each scene of this stunning first play by Sarah DeLappe, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, nine girls warm up for their upcoming soccer game. But they must also tackle coming of age and all the confusion, awkwardness, joy and sorrow that comes with it.  Along the way, these unforgettable young women make fierce choices, face their own fragility and ultimately grow into a team. The New York Times said: “The scary, exhilarating brightness of raw adolescence emanates from every scene of The Wolves.”

    Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
    Dec. 8-24, 2018
    By Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
    In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the bookish middle child of the Bennett family is constantly overshadowed by her four sisters and longs for a large life.' As Mary searches for her identity, she unexpectedly discovers the possibility of true love.

    The SantaLand Diaries
    Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018
    By David Sedaris, adapted by Joe Mantello
    For the 10th consecutive year, BETC returns to the Macys department store for this delightfully devilish holiday hit, produced in partnership with Off-Center at the Denver Center’s Jones Theatre. Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge will again alternate as David, the desperate New Yorker who takes a job as a SantaLand elf named Crumpet.

    The Rembrandt
    Feb. 7-March 3, 2019
    By Jessica Dickey
    Inside a modern-day museum, two security guards and a painter find themselves compelled to touch a masterpiece.  But soon, we are skipping through time; watching Rembrandt at work and listening to Homer discuss the nature of art. Dickey’s play asks us to consider the longevity of art, and the brevity of life.  

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    Gene Gillete. Curious Joan MarcusApril 25-May 19, 2019
    By Simon Stephens, adapted by Mark Haddon
    Christopher Boone, a sweet 15-year-old Brit, has an extraordinary mind but is ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of everyday life.  When falsely accused of killing his neighbor's dog, he sets out to find the true culprit. His journey across London leads to an earth-shattering discovery that will change his life forever. Winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.

    Pictured above and right: Colorado native Gene Gillette in the recent national touring production of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

  • Abner Genece: An actor survives, and the son also rises

    by John Moore | Mar 18, 2018
    Abner Genece. Matthew Gale Photography. Arvada Center.


    When the actor took one small step onto the Arvada Center stage, it was one giant leap back from near-fatal tragedy

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    When actor Abner Genece woke up days after the accident with as many tubes in his body as broken bones, he wasn’t thinking of whether he might ever perform again. He was thinking of his son, Jayden, who had been airlifted from the highway carnage to a pediatric trauma center in another state.

    “I was confused and upset,” said Genece, whose body was being held together by nine permanent titanium plates — and held down by physical restraints.

    But then he remembered hearing Jayden’s voice cut through the cacophony of fear in those terrifying initial moments after impact: “I’m OK, Daddy. I love you, Daddy.”

    Abner Genece Selfie with Jayden“As soon as I was able to think more clearly, I was assured by the trauma staff and my brother and sister that Jayden was indeed alive,” Genece said this week, eight months after he and Jayden were struck from behind by a semi-truck traveling at nearly 70 mph. Days later, he said, “what could have happened to Jayden dawned on me in its full clarity.”

    Father and son were driving to Oregon to visit cousins for the holiday weekend. They were stopped on a Wyoming highway by police because of an accident ahead. Genece remembers stopping at a rest stop a few minutes before to fuel up and buy some snacks. “We even took a selfie,” he said (pictured above and right). Genece doesn’t remember getting back into the car. “I only remember waking up several days later in a Salt Lake City intensive-care unit.”

    Genece and his son both sustained multiple, life-threatening injuries. Abner required several surgeries on his ribs and spine. Jayden, who was 11 at the time, had to wear a neck brace for several months. Both needed dental surgery to repair their teeth.

    Genece’s spirits were high that day. He had been recently featured in Curious Theatre’s Water by the Spoonful, and just the day before had participated as a director and performer in Curious’ National Collective Festival, a week-long intensive for promising young playwrights. Genece was preparing to perform in a play that September in Jackson, Wyo. And he had just received word days before that he was one of 11 actors chosen as full members of the Arvada Center’s Black Box Theatre Company for the 2017-18 season. That not only meant he would be performing in three plays in repertory — he had guaranteed employment for a year. It is considered one of the best jobs any actor in Denver can get.   

    Lynne Collins, artistic director of the Arvada Center’s repertory company, chose Genece to play Sir John in Sense and Sensibility, Jim Bayless in All My Sons and Ambimbola in The Electric Baby. So when she got the call days later that Genece was now fighting for his life in a Utah hospital, Collins couldn’t wrap her head around the sadness of it all — and the heavy irony.

    Abner Genece Sense and Sensibility“Just a week before, Abner was auditioning to play a Nigerian man who spends 90 percent of the play in a hospital bed wondering if he will ever walk again,” Collins said of The Electric Baby. That’s a play about a woman who causes a car accident that kills a young man and brings together a group of fractured souls who connect around a mysterious dying baby who glows like the moon.

    “When I cast him in the role, Abner told me, ‘I understand this character’s background. I know I can do the dialect. But you know what? I have never spent any time in a hospital,’ ” Collins said. He thought maybe he should spend some time in a hospital to better prepare for the role. And a week later … “

    A week later, Genece was facing a long road toward recovery that would be difficult, painful, expensive and presumably quite slow. His new daily regimen would now include ongoing physical, occupational and mental therapies.

    But one thing he never had to worry about was whether he still had a job at the Arvada Center at the end of October. In fact, the Arvada Center sent bouquet of flowers to the I.C.U. the very next day.

    Photos: NewsCenter coverage of All My Sons opening night

    “It never occurred to me not to stick with Abner,” Collins said. “Just as a general rule, you should try very hard not to punish people on the heels of a very horrible tragedy in their lives. The idea of making Abner’s situation worse by abandoning him was simply not an option.”

    Genece said support from Collins and Arvada Center Executive Director Philip Sneed was steadfast and clear from the beginning. “What was unclear was whether I would be physically able to return by the time rehearsals for Sense and Sensibility began,” said Genece.

    “The decision would be mine,” he added. “I would return only if I felt that I could perform at the level that I had set for myself."

    (Story continues below the video.)

    Video: Abner Genece speaks at Miscast 2017:


     

    But Genece, needless to say, was highly motivated to recover both fast and fully. That job for the Wyoming theatre in September was out of the question. Instead, the goal became walking into rehearsals for Sense and Sensibility not quite three months after the accident.

    Back in July, the end of October seemed both just around the corner and a lifetime away. While Genece went to work on his recovery, an army of friends, relatives and strangers mobilized to help. The Denver Actors Fund provided Genece with more than $6,300 in medical relief as well as volunteers who provided meals, groceries, housekeeping and transportation.  

     “Simply put, I would not be here without the Denver Actors Fund,” Genece said. “During some of the toughest times, they helped provide food, shelter, financial aid, a caring ear and a diligent hand.”

    Abner Genece Electric BabyBut during that time Genece, who is divorced, still had basic living expenses and obligations to meet. His supplemental streams of income were impacted directly. “My work as a teaching artist, a workshop facilitator and a Lyft driver stopped immediately,” he said. His family started an online fund that raised naother $23,000. Genece singled out local directors Betty Hart and Robert Michael Sanders for their help in the months after the accident, as well as Pastor Brad Richardson of Crossroads Church Northglenn and Genece's brothers, Richard and Daryl. “I was both humbled and inspired,” he said.

    Collins was hopeful Genece would be able to handle the demands of The Electric Baby from his character’s hospital bed. But this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is a rollicking one, and very demanding on the actors. “It was scary for all of us in the rehearsal room because it is a very physical play, and on certain days we could really tell that Abner was hurting and pushing himself too hard, so we made him sit down and rest," Collins said. "But he did not want any special treatment, so whatever pain he was dealing with, he was keeping very private.”

    Genece describes the support he received from his fellow artists as both "thoughtful and proactive." Arrangements were made for his dressing room to be located as close to the stage as possible. He was ordered not to do any heavy lifting. “Costume fittings were scheduled and executed with special care,” he said. “The stage managers were especially attentive to my need for frequent breaks as my spine, shoulder blades and ribs were all very much still healing. These and other considerations made it so much easier for me to focus on the task at hand.”

    Another constant source of support was his son, Jayden. Professional theatre companies don’t typically allow the actors to bring their children to rehearsals because of the potential distraction. But for Genece, Jayden’s presence was another form of medicine.

    “It definitely helped Abner to have Jayden literally in his corner,” Collins said. “He’s a good theatre kid and he was so quiet. But you could tell that just having Jayden there made Abner feel better. The love they share is really palpable, and I imagine this has only bonded them even more.”

    Castmate Emma Messenger describes Genece as both a gentleman and a gentle man. "We are all very protective of him," actor Kate Gleason added. But perhaps none more so than Regina Fernandez, who remembers working with Genece on a schools touring production for Kaiser Permanente — and in particular one early morning drive to Greeley two years ago. 

    "We talked that day about how our ultimate goal was the same — to be hired into the Arvada Center's Black Box Theatre Company," Fernandez said. They achieved that goal together, but the triumph was nearly taken away from Genece as quickly as he got it. And that, Fernandez said, made seeing Genece walk onstage on opening night of Sense and Sensibility on Jan. 26 all the more of a miracle.

    "But no more so than any other night," Fernandez said, "because now I think that every night with Abner is a miracle."

    Genece says he has been blessed to work with many wonderful people over the years. "However, this repertory company holds a special place in my spirit," he said, "particularly when one considers the mountain I had to climb, and am still climbing. In so many ways, great and small, these talented artists made me feel welcomed, like a valued member of the team. And perhaps most of all, like I was being encouraged to bring my personal truth and creativity to the fore. That has had everything to do with the quality of my recovery.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Collins said she teared up when she saw Genece make his opening-night entrance. She said she saw an actor who was funny and adorable and, in her words, “a big ball of love" on the stage.

    Abner Genece All My Sons“Abner is a lovely and humble man,” she said. “I was just so grateful for him — and for us —  that we were all able to make this happen. Abner has earned a karma point.”

    Genece said Sense and Sensibility is such a physically robust production that on opening night, "I didn’t have much time to reflect during the show, thankfully,” he said. “But afterward, while celebrating with Jayden at the party, I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and triumph.”

    Gratitude for the opportunity to realize what Genece says every actor aspires to achieve: “Those brief onstage moments in the dark, when I can feel the audience gasp and my spirit expand,” he said. "When magic is possible — if only for an instant.”

    Now that all three plays are open (and will run through the first week of May), Genece has had an opportunity to reflect on his journey from being left broken on a Wyoming highway to whole and performing on the Arvada Center stage.

    “I’ve learned that we will be tested in our lives,” he said. “We will suffer. There will be pain. But it’s how we choose to deal with those events that ultimately determines the quality of our lives. It’s a long road. Trust that there are good people in the world; there are angels. And trust that you are enough.

    “And in those dark moments: Double down on yourself.”

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

    Abner Gence: My Three Characters

    • “In Sense and Sensibility, I play Sir John Middleton, a male gossip, a female gossip, an old servant, a furniture mover and the doctor. In Kate Hamill’s adaptation, the physical and vocal demands are considerable. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to play characters at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.”
    • “In The Electric Baby, I play Ambimbola, an immigrant from Nigeria who works as a cab driver. One of my challenges in this production was to embrace the irony of playing a man who spends the bulk of the play suffering in a hospital bed.”
    • In All My Sons, I play Dr. Jim Bayliss, a loyal friend of the Keller family who goes to great lengths to tend to their well-being. Among the challenges in this play was exploring the natures of loyalty and loss, two themes that I am familiar with in my own life.”

    Abner Genece: At a glance
    Abner Genece is making is Arvada Center debut. Other local credits: Water By The Spoonful (Curious Theatre Company); The Arabian Nights (Aurora Fox Center); Off Broadway: Othello, Hamlet, Tartuffe and Waiting For Godot (Jean Cocteau Repertory); Regional: The Bluest Eye (Moxie Theatre), The Meeting (Stella Adler Theatre), For The Love of Freedom (Greenway Arts Alliance), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum); Film and Television: Unrest, A-List, Harry’s Law, Zeke and Luther and Law & Order

    Arvada Center: Ticket information:

    Black Box Theatre Company repertory season:

    • All My Sons, written by Arthur Miller and directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 3
    • The Electric Baby, written by Stefanie Zadravec and directed By Rick Barbour, runs through May 4
    • Sense and Sensibility, adapted from the Jane Austen by Kate Hamill and directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 6
    • 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
    • 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org
    • The Arvada Center's 2017-18 Back Box Theatre Company ensemble members are 

      Zachary Andrews, Jessica Austgen, Regina Fernandez, Abner Genece, Kate Gleason, Geoffrey Kent, Emma Messenger, Emelie O'Hara, Lance Rasmussen, Jessica Robblee and Greg Ungar

    Abner Genece All My Sons. Matt Gale PhotographyThe cast of 'All My Sons.' Matt Gale Photography.
  • Photos: Opening night of Arvada Center's 'All My Sons'

    by John Moore | Mar 06, 2018
    Arvada Center's 'All My Sons'
    Full photo gallery from the opening performance of the Arvada Center's 'All My Sons,' directed by Lynne Collins. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full, downloadable Flickr gallery.  Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter at MyDenverCenter.Org.


    Photos: Opening night of Arvada Center's All My Sons

    Arthur Miller's breakthrough play All My Sons is based on the true story of an Ohio manufacturer who sold faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Joe Keller, played by Sam Gregory, is made to face the true cost of his business choices and their devastating impact on his family.

    The big-name cast features some of Denver's top actors, many with deep connections to the Denver Center, including:

    • All My Sons. Arvada Center. Sam Gregory: Joe Keller (More than 40 DCPA productions including Scrooge in A Christmas Carol)
    • Emma Messenger: Kate Keller
    • Lance Rasmussen: Chris Keller
    • Regina Fernandez: Ann Deever (DCPA's The Secret Garden)
    • Geoffrey Kent: George Deever (Acted in many DCPA productions, resident fight director, DCPA Education Teaching Artist and director of An Act of God)
    • Abner Genece: Dr. Jim Bayliss
    • Kate Gleason: Sue Bayliss (DCPA’s Don Quixote, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Love's Labour's Lost and more, DCPA Education Teaching Arts)
    • Zachary Andrews: Frank Lubey (DCPA’s Romeo and Juliet, The Three Musketeers and more)
    • Jessica Austgen: Lydia Lubey (former DCPA Education Teaching Artist, member of Off-Center’s Cult Following and writer of Drag On)
    • Harrison Hauptman: Bert
    • August Reichert: Bert (DCPA's A Christmas Carol)
    This is the final opening of the Arvada Center's second Black Box Theatre Company season. All My Sons, directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 3 in repertory with Sense and Sensibility and The Electric Baby at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org.


    Production photos:

    All My Sons at the Arvada Center, 2018

    Emma Messenger and Sam Gregory. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to a full Flickr gallery. Matt Gale Photography 2018.
  • March openings: Athena rises as 'All My Sons' leaves American Dream in ruins

    by John Moore | Mar 02, 2018
    All My Sons. Emma Messenger. Sam Gregory. Matt Gale Photography

    Emma Messenger and DCPA Theatre Company favorite Sam Gregory (Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol') are currently starring in the Arvada Center's 'All My Sons.' Matt Gale Photography 2018.


    Month-long Athena Project Festival turns March theatre spotlight to women in fields of theatre, music and dance

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company's newly completed Colorado New Play Summit serves as something of a kickoff to a series of Colorado festivals celebrating new work for the American Theatre. Throughout March, the spotlight shifts to the 6th annual Athena Project Arts Festival, which has grown into a massive, citywide celebration of women's voices in theatre, dance, music, comedy and fashion.

    Athena Project 2013The festival's signature program is its Plays In Progress series. Organizers have selected three promising scripts from among 150 submissions for development during the festival: The Buddha’s Wife by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin, Mama’s Eggnog by Angela Stern, and The Golden Hour by Elizabeth Nelson. Each script will get two public workshop readings between March 22 and March 31. In addition, Claire Caviglia's The Inside Child will receive a table read on March 22, and Philana Omorotionmwan's Strong Face will have a concert reading on March 29. Most theatre events will be held at the University of Denver.

    Music highlights will include an open-mic night for female singers on March 8 at the Swallow Hill Music Hall; and a concert headlined by Megan Burtt and emerging artist Nina de Freitas on March 10. New this year is Cross Pollinations, in which artists from different disciplines are paired together to create a live, original work of art to be presented March 9. Dance events will be held March 17 and 18.

    Tickets range from free to a $35 series pass that gets you into to all three plays, panel discussions and more. Full schedule and more information at AthenaProjectArts.org.

    The Athena Festival, founded by Angela Astle, will be followed by Local Theater Company's Local Lab new-play festival from April 20-22 in Boulder.

    Here are a few more highlights for the coming month in Colorado theatre, followed by a comprehensive list of all your statewide theatregoing options for March. 

    Ten intriguing titles for March:

    NUMBER 1All My Sons. It not only won the first-ever Best Play Tony Award, All My Sons may be Arthur Miller's best play, period. This classic tale is based on the true story of an Ohio manufacturer who sold faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Joe Keller, played by DCPA Theatre Company favorite Sam Gregory, is made to face the true cost of his business choices and their devastating impact on his family. This is the last opening of the Arvada Center's second Black Box Theatre Company season. The big-name cast also includes Emma Messenger, Geoffrey Kent, Kate Gleason, Regina Fernandez, Abner Genece, Zachary Andrews, Jessica Austgen, Lance Rasmussen and youngsters Harrison Hauptman and August Reichert. Runs through May 3 in repertory with Sense and Sensibility and The Electric Baby at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    NUMBER 2Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. Monday, March 5, promises to be an emotional night when Mary Louise Lee revisits her signature role as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the Galleria Theatre. Lee's performing career began in the Galleria (then called StageWest) when she appeared in Beehive at only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee first portrayed the jazz legend with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit — for Shadow Theatre in 2002. She returned to the role in January for this unique co-production with Vintage Theatre that now transfers to the Denver Center. This new production, directed by Betty Hart, will perform on Monday nights only through April 23. Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    NUMBER 3Wisdom from Everything. The latest provocative offering from Boulder's Local Theater Company asks: What you would sacrifice to escape a war? Chicago playwright Mia McCullough's story presents a 19-year-old Syrian who finds herself educating girls in the largest refugee camp in the world — until an older Jordanian doctor offers her an education in exchange for marriage. The primo cast includes Amy Carle (known for her work on "Chicago MED" and for the Goodman and Steppenwolf theatres) and Mehry Eslaminia, who performed in the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere play Appoggiatura. March 4-26 at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    NUMBER 4The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. With his trademark mix of soaring intellect and searing emotion, legendary playwright Tony Kushner unfurls an epic tale of love, family, sex, money and politics — all set under the hard-earned roof of an Italian family in Brooklyn. When former longshoreman and Marxist union activist Gus decides to die, his kids come home with a raucous parade of lovers and spouses to find that even the house keeps secrets. Curious Theatre presents the regional premiere of Kushner's 2009 opus with an all-star cast including the return of former DCPA Head of Acting Larry Hecht alongside Dee Covington, Karen Slack, Desirée Mee Jung, Kirkaldy Myers, Anne Oberbroeckling, Emily Paton Davies, Matthew Schneck, Luke Sorge and Brian Landis Folkins. March 17-April 14 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    NUMBER 5 Idris Goodwin 160This is Modern Art. Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval recount the true story of the biggest graffiti bomb in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes, and in a snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. The tagging began with the words “modern art” and ended with the phrase “made you look.” The work was sandblasted off the next day, but because the artists had chosen such a high-profile target, the consequences got serious. “They were putting out a challenge,” Goodwin said. “What is modern art? Who gets to decide who a real artist is? And where does art belong?” The all-local cast includes John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Robert Lee Hardy, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson/ Presented by Off-Center from March 22-April 15 at the Jones Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    NUMBER 6Ugly Lies the Bone. When a newly discharged veteran returns to her native Florida hometown after a disabling third tour in Afghanistan, she discovers that readjusting can be painful and disorienting. Through virtual reality video-game therapy, Lindsey Ferrentino's brave and bracing drama, featuring Missy Moore, examines the restoration of one soldier’s life, relationships and self. Through March 18 at the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    NUMBER 7Totally Awesome '80s Ski Town, USA. It's rare to see a fully staged, locally written and produced musical, and this silly new party tuner spoofs goofball ski movies of the '80s and early '90s. The story follows Billy Tanner, a hilariously tortured drifter who wanders into a seemingly quiet ski burg and gets mixed up in saving the town from a greedy oil tycoon while slaloming his way through house parties, Norse gods and strange foreign-exchange students. Writers Charlie Schmidt and Cory Wendling draw from films such as Ski Patrol, Better Off Dead, Hot Dog The Movie and even Footloose. Through March 31 at Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, 121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    NUMBER 8Company. On his 35th birthday, perpetual bachelor Bobby contemplates his unmarried state. Through a series of comical outings with pals and an especially anxious wedding, his friends explain the pros and cons of marriage and relationships. Bobby is forced to examine his adamant retention of bachelorhood during these hilarious arrays of social interactions. The humor is sharp and the music is legendary, written by Stephen Sondheim. Presented by the Evergreen Chorale through March 11 at 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen. 303-674-4002 or EvergreenChorale.org. A portion of ticket sales for the weekend of March 2-4 will benefit the Denver Actors Fund.

    Fun Home: Third staging to open in Colorado Springs

    NUMBER 9Jessica Robblee. Waiting for Obama. Waiting for Obama. Heeding the call from Florida high-school students for a national day of dialogue, marches and protest, the Bas Bleu Theatre will present a community conversation on the prevalence of gun violence in America, followed by a reading of John Moore's play Waiting for Obama about one Colorado family that, like so many others, is deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs. Waiting for Obama was praised at the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival as “a powerful and timely play that depicts the problem of gun violence in the United States in an emotional but often humorous light.” The cast will include Laurence Curry, Chris Kendall, Leslie O’Carroll, Drew Horwitz, Maggy Stacy, John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes. Panel at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, with the reading to follow at 7:30. p.m. Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St. in Fort Collins, CO 80524. Admission is free but donations to the Denver Actors Fund will be accepted. Reservations are strongly encouraged by calling 970-498-8949 or emailing basbleu@basbleu.org.

    NUMBER 10The River Bride. The northern Brazilian locals say the river dolphin found in the Amazon River can transform into human beings in search of their destined life mate. Surely you don't believe that, but ... what if it were true? In this folk tale set alongside the mightiest river in the world, Marisela Treviño Orta's heartrending storytelling blends love, grudges and transformation. Directed Hugo Jon Sayles. March 8-25 at the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org


    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.

    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    DCPA March Mary Louise Lee. Lady Day. Photo by Adams VisComMarch 1-31: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Totally Awesome 80's Ski Town USA
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    March 2-May 3: Arvada Center's All My Sons
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    March 2-18: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Ugly Lies the Bone
    At the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    March 2-11: Evergreen Chorale's Company
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4002 or evergreenchorale.org

    March 3-31: Athena Project Arts Festival
    Various locations, 303-219-0882 or athenaprojectfestival.org

    March 2-11: Vintage Theatre's Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    March 3-26: BDT Stage's Always … Patsy Cline
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    March 4-24: Local Theatre Company's Wisdom From Everything
    The Carsen Theater at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    March 5-April 23: DCPA Cabaret's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
    Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    March 8-25: Su Teatro's The River Bride
    721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    March 8-25: Millibo Art Theatre's The Blow Up
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, themat.org

    Briar-Rose-Ilasiea-L.-Gray-pricks-her-finger-with-Prince-Owain-Austin-Lazek-SLEEPING-BEAUTY-MACC-2018-RDG-Photography-1440x810March 8-May 4: Denver Children's Theatre's Sleeping Beauty
    Public performances 1 p.m. Sundays
    Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6360 www.maccjcc.org

    March 9-April 1: Theatre Esprit Asia's Coping With America
    At ACAD Gallery, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-492-9479, or theatre-esprit-asia.org

    March 9-24: Theatrix USA's The Baptism
    At Blanc, 3150 Walnut St., wellattended.com

    March 16-April 8: Evergreen Players’ Love/Sick
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

    March 16-25: Inspire Creative's Laughter on the 23rd Floor
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, 303-805-6800 or inspirecreative.org

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    March 16-25: Longmont Theatre Company's Leaving Iowa
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    March 17-April 14: Curious Theatre's The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    Benjamin Cowhick RDG PhotographyMarch 20-April 1: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Androcles and the Lion (children's)
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    March 22-April 15: Off-Center's This Is Modern Art
    Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 22-25: Magic Moments' In the Same Boat
    Anschutz Family Theatre at Kent Denver School, 4000 East Quincy Ave, Englewood, 303-575-1005 or magicmomentsinc.org

    March 23-April 8: Performance Now's The Producers
    Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or performancenow.org

    March 23-April 29: Miners Alley Playhouse's The 39 Steps
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    March 23-May 26: Midtown Arts Center's Ragtime
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    March 29-April 22: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Fun Home
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org READ MORE

    March 29-April 8: The Upstart Crow's Playboy of the Western World
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or theupstartcrow.org

    March 30-May 13: Vintage Theatre's The Audience
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    March 31-April 28: Lowry's Spotlight Theatre's The Diary of Anne Frank
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    March 31-April 28: OpenStage's And Then There Were None
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Local Theater. Mehry Eslaminia. Naseem Etemad. Photo by Michael Ensminger
    Naseem Etemad and Regis Jesuit High School graduate Mehry Eslaminia (DCPA Theatre Company's 'Appoggiatura') in Local Theatre's upcoming 'Wisdom from Everything.' Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through March 3: Grapefruit Lab's JANE/EYRE
    The Bakery, 2132 Market St., eventbrite.com

    Through March 3: Miners Alley Children's Theatre’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through March 4: Miners Alley Playhouse's Fun Home
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com READ MORE

    Through March 4: Bas Bleu Theatre's Waiting for the Parade
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through March 4: Springs Ensemble Theatre's The Totalitarians
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 80909, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Through March 4: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Trouble in Tahiti
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through March 10: Coal Creek Theater of Louisville’s Becky Shaw
    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org

    Through March 10: Thunder River Theatre Company's The Price
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Through March 11: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Oklahoma
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through March 11: Vintage Theatre's Sleuth (with Lowry's Spotlight Theatre)
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through March 17: Midtown Arts Center's Fun Home
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com READ MORE

    Through March 17: Buntport Theater's The Book Handlers
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Through March 17: Firehouse Theatre's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com  

    Through March 18: DCPA Theatre Company’s The Great Leap
    Ricketson Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through March 18: Aurora Fox's Real Women Have Curves
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Through March 25: Benchmark Theatre's A Kid Like Jake
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, benchmarktheatre.com

    Through March 25: Town Hall Arts Center's Something’s Afoot
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Through March 25: Midtown Arts Center's Always ... Patsy Cline
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through March 26: Local Theater Company's Wisdom from Everything
    At The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

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

    Through April 1: National touring production of Hamilton
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through April 8: Jester’s Dinner Theatre’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Through April 8: The BiTSY Stage’s Jotunheim: A Legend of Thor and His Hammer
    1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com

    Through April 15: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Kiss Me Kate
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through May 4: Arvada Center's The Electric Baby
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through May 6: Arvada Center's Sense and Sensibility
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through May 25: Arvada Center Children's Theatre's Seussical
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through Aug. 11: Iron Springs Chateau’s A Precious Bit of the West, or: She Was Simply a Delight!
    444 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 719-685-5104 or ironspringschateau.com

    EVERGREEN CHORALE. Company. Photo by Michael Ensminger

     

    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE
  • Ongoing productions
  • ARVADA CENTER

  • Wednesday, March 14: The conflicted voices of America's World War I poets will spring to life in this performance written by Colorado Poet Laureate Joseph Hutchison and presented by members of the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Company. This event is part of “Where Do We Go From Here?” a multifaceted statewide event marking the 100th anniversary of World War I. 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $15.
  • AVENUE THEATER

  • Weekends: Comedy Sportz
  • leonard-barrett-jrAURORA FOX ARTS CENTER

    • March 23-24: True West Award-winning performer Leonard E. Barrett Jr. is the featured artist this month in the Aurora Fox's ongoing cabaret series in its studio theatre. Barrett will perform Unforgettable: The Songs of Nat King Cole, a tribute to Cole through story and song.

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


    BDT STAGE

    • March 5-6: The Glenn Miller Orchestra

    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    BUG THEATRE
    • Thursday, March 15: The Emerging Filmmakers Project, showcasing Denver's indie film scene on the third Thursday of every month.
    • Monday, March 26: Freak Train: Open-mic variety show hosted by GerRee Hinshaw on the final Monday of every month

    3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info


    BUNTPORT THEATER

    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com


    THE 39 STEPSDENVER ACTORS FUND

    • Sunday, March 4: Watch the biggest night of the year for movies on the big screen with Denver7 at Alamo Drafthouse Denver. Arrive around 5 p.m. in BarFly for your own red carpet, paparazzi, and more before for food, drinks and fun for everyone i the theatre. Your ticket includes a glass of champagne (or sparkling cider) and a donation to the Denver Actors Fund. Choose your preferred seating

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Sunday, March 11: Screening of the film The 39 Steps with live entertainment from Miners Alley Playhouse's s upcoming comical stage adaptation of the Hitchcock classic. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7. Choose your preferred seating

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Saturday, March 24: Waiting for Obama. Community conversation on the prevalence of gun violence in America, followed by a reading of John Moore's play about a Colorado family deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs. Panel at 6:30 p.m. with the reading to follow at 7:30. p.m. Admission is free but donations to the Denver Actors Fund will be accepted. 
    At Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., Fort Collins. Reservations are strongly encouraged by calling 970-498-8949 or emailing basbleu@basbleu.org

    DENVER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
  • Tuesday, March 20: The Magic of Adam Trent
      At the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

  • LOCAL THEATER COMPANY
  • Sunday, March 18: LocalREADS encourages a community-wide reading of a book with complementary themes to Local Theater Company's current production. First up: Helen Thorpe’s The Newcomers as a companion to Local's world premiere production of Wisdom From Everything. Read the book, see the play at 4 p.m. and stay for the conversation after the show.

    At the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or tickets.thedairy.org

  • 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
    • Sunday, March 18: Wild Women. Stories on Stage has renowned actors bring stories to life by combining literature with theater. This month: Rhonda Lee Brown, Allison Watrous and Betty Hart perform stories by and about women - unconstrained, fun-loving and living large. 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive,  303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org
    (Program repeats on Saturday, March 24 at the Dairy Center in Boulder)
  • Look back: 2018 Colorado New Play Summit got real

    by John Moore | Feb 26, 2018
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit

    Our gallery of photos above includes nearly 300 images from the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos Photos by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and Adams Viscom.

    Readings explored contemporary social issues through the lens of real stories taken from the recent and distant past

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Perhaps more so than ever, the Denver Center’s 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit explored complex contemporary social issues through the lens of real stories taken from both the recent and distant past.

    Summit 2018 The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, a forgotten pre-Civil War slave trial and a horrible, headline-grabbing drunk-driving tragedy were among the real-life inspirations for the Summit’s four featured readings, all of which become instant candidates for consideration to be fully staged in the future.  

    The Colorado New Play Summit has grown into one of the nation’s premier showcases of new plays. Since 2006, the Summit has workshopped 54 new plays, leading to 31 fully produced world premieres as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. At this year’s Summit, more than 800 attendees also were treated to a record three fully staged world premieres: American Mariachi, The Great Leap and Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.

    But history of another kind was made on Saturday when the topic of gender identity was addressed on a Denver Center stage for the first time in its nearly 40-year history, and it came from a most unexpected source. A teenage boy uttered the words, “Dad, I’m non-binary” in high-schooler Noah Jackson’s play Wine Colored Lip Gloss during public readings of DCPA Education’s three statewide student playwriting competition winners.

    “It means so much to me that the Denver Center allowed my story to be heard,” said Jackson, who attends Girls Athletic Leadership School. “I had someone come up to me in tears saying that my play touched her so much. I am just over the moon that people are actually feeling the words that I have worked so hard on.”  

    2018 Summit: A look at all four featured plays

    The 2018 Summit came as DCPA Theatre Company leadership continues to transition from Summit founder Kent Thompson to incoming Artistic Director Chris Coleman, who told the Friday night crowd the Summit was “a great calling card” for the job he is about to embrace. “A festival like this is impossible at a lot of theatres around the country,” he said. “But new-play development is creativity at its most pure. There is enormous joy and heartache in watching something come out of nothing. And I want to be a part of the future of this organization's voice around the country.”

    (Story continues below the video)

    Video: Our interviews with all four featured playwrights

    Press play to watch all four of our short spotlight videos.


    The four featured Summit readings at a glance
    :

    • A Summit Playwrights Social Barbara Seyda’s Celia, A Slave recalls a 19-year-old African-American slave in Missouri who was convicted of killing her master in 1855 and hanged.
    • Kemp Powers’ Christa McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue is the story of mixed-race twins who are genetically the same but to the entire outside world, one is perceived as black, and one is perceived as white.
    • David Jacobi’s The Couches takes its cue from the real-life story of a 16-year-old Texas boy who drove drunk and killed four people. His lawyer successfully argued the boy had “affluenza" — meaning he was too rich to know right from wrong.
    • Sigrid Gilmer's Mama Metallica is the story of a woman who copes with her mother's dementia through her muse: The heavy-metal band Metallica. "What makes you laugh will make you cry," she said.

    “This is a precious and fragile time in the life of these plays and that's because they are reflecting life which is also so fragile, as we have learned in these past couple of weeks,” said Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett,” referring to the Florida school shooting. “And that's why it’s so important to support new work and nurture it and fund it and produce it and give it to the world. That's our responsibility: To keep life moving forward. And I like to think of the Summit as the beginning of that.”

    (Pictured at right: From 'Celia, A Slave', from left: Jada Dixon, Owen Zitek, Director Nataki Garrett, Celeste M. Cooper.)

    Celia A Slave. Summit. Photo by John MooreThe Colorado New Play Summit allows for two weeks of development of each new play, culminating in a first round of public readings. Playwrights then take what they learn from their first readings back into rehearsal before more rehearsal and a second round of readings for industry professionals.

    This year’s Summit drew industry leaders from 33 local and national theatre organizations, with more than 150 directors, actors, artistic leaders, educators and others from 12 states attending or taking part. Visitors represented companies ranging from the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington D.C. to the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Closer to home, guests included the Arvada Center, Creede Repertory Theatre, Curious Theatre, The Catamounts, Athena Festival Project and others.

    There was another added twist at this year’s festival in that both American Mariachi and The Great Leap are the Theatre Company’s first co-productions in nearly 20 years — upon closing, both will set off for stagings at other theatres with their Denver creative teams intact.

    Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap is a Denver Center commission, meaning she was hired to write a play for the Theatre Company’s right of first refusal. She used her Asian-American father’s real-life goodwill basketball tour to China in the 1980s as the basis for exploring, among many other things, the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Her play was read at the 2017 Summit, premiered in January at the Denver Center and will re-open at the Seattle Repertory Theatre later in March.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “This play would not exist without the Denver Center,” Yee said. “Not just because it's a commission, but also because of the way that the Colorado New Play Summit launches you into national consciousness. This is an event that the whole new-play development world looks at every year for leadership and inspiration.”

    The Couches. Adams VisComJosé Cruz González’s American Mariachi was given a second full year to germinate before being fully staged. It was introduced at the 2016 Summit, then developed for two years before opening in January. The story of a pioneering young woman who forms an all-female mariachi band in a desperate attempt to use music to communicate with a mother falling into dementia struck a universal chord with Theatre Company audiences. It now moves to the Old Globe Theatre, which is Director James Vásquez’s artistic home, for a run in San Diego.  

    (Pictured: Tasha Lawrence and Cesar J. Rosado in 'The Couches.' Photo by Adams Viscom.)

    “The Denver Center has been so unbelievably supportive since the moment we got here,” Vásquez said. “It's been a dream. And I feel like the luckiest guy in the world that now I get to take the show home and share it with my family and friends in San Diego.”  

    Vásquez is particularly grateful the Summit coincided with the Denver run of American Mariachi, where it was seen by dozens of artistic leaders from around the country.

    “It's overwhelming and exciting to think of how many industry professionals saw our play here at the Summit,” said Vásquez. “We do this work so we can share it, and I want Jose's play to get out into the world. So if the other professionals want to take it, I say … ‘Go.’ ”

    One of those professionals is former longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor David Ivers, now the Artistic Director at the Arizona Theatre Company. He already has added American Mariachi to his season lineup for performance in March 2019.

    American Mariachi resonates in myriad ways with the kaleidoscope of our community,” Ivers said. “The writing, the gift of mariachi music, the celebration and empowerment of women, and the struggle of loss in the face of hope are powerful and meaningful messages to explore in the communities we have the honor of serving.”

    2018 Colorado New Play Summit Slam. Photo by John MooreThe Summit again included two late-night "Playwrights Slams," where writers sampled their developing works in a fun and supportive atmosphere. One focused on local playwrights and was curated this year by the Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

    (Pictured at right: Playwrights Slam reader Mfoniso Udofia. Others included José Cruz González, Ricardo A. Bracho, Denver native Max Posner and Luis Quintero. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The Summit also included a gathering of the Women's Voices Fund, the Denver Center’s $1.5 million endowment that supports new plays by women and female creative team members. Since 2006, the Denver Center has produced 33 plays by women, including 14 world premieres, commissioned 19 female playwrights and hired 28 female directors Supporters of the fund were treated to a private gathering with 2018 featured playwright Sigrid Gilmer (Mama Metallica.)   

    The Summit ended on the same day the Denver run of American Mariachi closed. But unlike most other shows, closing day in Denver was just the start for the San Diego-bound cast and crew.

    “We’re leaving Denver,” said actor Amanda Robles. “But it doesn't feel like the end.”

    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.


    Christa McAuliffe's Eyes Were Blue
    From left: Cast members Tihun Hann, Celeste M. Cooper and Owen Zitek. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Selected NewsCenter coverage of the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit

    Summit Spotlight: Barbara Seyda's collision with voices of the dead
    Summit Spotlight: Kemp Powers on a matter that's black and white
    Summit Spotlight: David Jacobi on affluenza, the rich man's plague
    Summit Spotlight, Sigrid Gilmer: 'What makes you laugh will make you cry'
    Summit prep begins at the intersection of Eugene O'Neill and Metallica
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced
    Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 student playwriting finalists

  • February openings: 'Hamilton,' a Summit and a new $60 million jewel for Colorado Springs

    by John Moore | Feb 01, 2018
    February Arvada Center Electric Baby. Matt Gale Photography

    Jessica Robblee and Abner Genece in the Arvada Center's magical realism play 'The Electric Baby. Matt Gale Photography 2018.


    R-E-S-P-E-CT, Colorado theatre: You have provided 82 theatregoing options in the shortest month of the year

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Hamilton.

    OK, there is a lot more than that going on in local theatre in February. At the Denver Center alone (in addition to that eagerly awaited national touring production) there will be three consecutive world-premiere plays: Zoey's Perfect Wedding, American Mariachi and The Great Leap that will be the cornerstone of the upcoming Colorado New Play Summit that was just named among the top 20 theatre festivals in the world. Also: STOMP's eighth Denver visit, and the musical comedy First Date continues at the Galleria Theatre. (Go to denvercenter.org for info on all of them.)

    And then there is ... the rest of the state. Now try to keep up ... but we warn you, it won't be easy — because the shortest month of the year may be presenting the most theatre offerings of any month ... ever. We're talking 34 openings and a whopping 83 theatregoing options overall, counting a huge number of special events. In 28 days.

    Here are just a few highlights outside the Denver Performing Arts Complex, followed by a comprehensive list of all your Colorado theatregoing options for February:

    Ten intriguing titles for February:

    NUMBER 1Oklahoma! All eyes will be on Colorado Springs this month for the opening of the jaw-dropping $60 million Ent Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. The new home of the venerable TheatreWorks and several other performing groups is a 92,000-square-foot building with multiple performance and gallery spaces. It officially launches with TheatreWorks' presentation of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical in a sparkling new theatre with a familiar name to TheatreWorks audiences: The Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater. Feb. 15-March 11 at 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org.

    NUMBER 2Respect: A Musical Journey of Women. Cherry Creek Theatre's musical tribute to women is being billed as the company's show of support for the #MeToo Movement. It's an all-female production: Directors, cast, crew and playwright. That's Dorothy Marcic, who will be in attendance for both the evening performance on Saturday, Feb. 3, and the matinee on Sunday, Feb. 4. The show is co-directed and choreographed by longtime Denver Center favorite Shannan Steele with a cast that includes big-shots Sharon Kay White, Rachel Turner, Sarah Rex, Anna High and co-director Traci Kern. The Top-40 score includes "I Will Survive," "These Boots are Made for Walking," "What's Love Got to Do with it" and many more. NOTE: No Friday performances — and evening shows start at 7 p.m. Feb. 1-25 at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-800-6578 or cherrycreektheatre.org

    NUMBER 3Intimate Apparel. The newly merged Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College brings revered playwright Lynn Nottage's breakout work to southern Colorado for the first time. Nottage, who later won Pulitzer Prizes for Ruined and Sweat, here tells an intensely personal story that weaves the joys and sorrows of an African-American seamstress in 1905 New York City. Feb. 8-25 at 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    NUMBER 4Crying Wolf: Stories of the Lupus Warriors. Rhonda Jackson's new  play, presented by The Source Theatre Company (which has grown up in the shadow of the former Shadow Theatre Company) is an attempt to document what it's like to live with a chronic autoimmune disease such as  lupus. For mature audiences. Feb. 8-17 at Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org

    NUMBER 5 The Electric Baby. The Arvada Center's second full repertory season kicks into full gear with Stefanie Zadravec's adult folktale about six strangers whose lives collide after a tragic car accident, forcing them to confront their secrets, hopes and fears. At the play’s center is a mysterious baby who glows like the moon. The play, directed by Rick Barbour of the University of Denver, combines magic, myth and humor to explore devastating loss and hopeful healing. Running Feb. 9-May 4 and in repertory with Sense and Sensibility and All My Sons (opening March 2) at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    NUMBER 6Waiting for the Parade William A. CottonWaiting for the Parade. Playwright John Murrell's 1977 fact-based drama introduces five very different women who find a way to survive by working together and accepting one another’s differences during the depths of World War II in 1940s Calgary. It's based on interviews with wartime survivors. Co-directed by Ami Dayan and Lou Ann Wright. Feb. 3-March 4 at the Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org (Photo by William A. Cotton)

    NUMBER 7JANE/EYRE. Denver, meet the Grapefruit Lab, a new performance company that debuts with a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel with live original music by Teacup Gorilla and Dameon Merkl (of the Denver band Bad Luck City). Adapted by author, musician and True West Award winner Miriam Suzanne, along with former LIDA Project director Julie Rada. Their  hybrid play/concert takes a dark and often humorous look at early feminism — bringing a contemporary, queer perspective to Jane’s story. Feb. 23-March 3 at The Bakery, 2132 Market St., eventbrite.com

    NUMBER 8Wisdom from Everything. The latest provocative offering from Boulder's Local Theater Company asks: What you would sacrifice to escape a war? Chicago playwright Mia McCullough's story presents a 19-year-old Syrian who finds herself educating girls in the largest refugee camp in the world — until an older Jordanian doctor offers her an education in exchange for marriage. The primo cast includes  Amy Carle (known for her work on "Chicago MED" and for the Goodman and Steppenwolf theatres) and Mehry Eslaminia, who performed in the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere play Appoggiatura. Feb. 28-March 26 at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    Fun Home is finding a home on stages all over Colorado

    NUMBER 9The Book Handlers. Buntport Theater's newest original creation in its 17th season of original creations is a world-premiere comedy about a handy service that will make your books look read, even though they haven't been. Because, you know ... who reads anymore? This fun satire is inspired by a short story written by Brian O'Nolan. Feb. 23-March 17 at 717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    NUMBER 10A Kid Like Jake. Benchmark Theatre moves into its permanent new home at the former Edge Theatre with Daniel Pearle’s 2013 play that explores the conflict that grows between a married couple when it becomes plain their 4-year-old prefers Cinderella to GI Joe. Directed by Warren Sherrill. The Lakewood theatre has been renamed The Bench at 40W. Feb. 16-March 25 at 1560 Teller St., benchmarktheatre.com

    DCPA February listings
    Photo of 'American Mariachi' by Adams Viscom.

     

    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.

    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    Feb. 1-25: Cherry Creek Theatre's Respect: A Musical Journey of Women
    At the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-800-6578 or cherrycreektheatre.org

    Feb. 1-4: UpstART's Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    604 Clinton St., Ridgway, 81432, 970-325-3501or http://www.upstartmoves.org

    Feb. 2-25: DCPA Theatre Company’s American Mariachi
    Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Feb. 2-March 11: Vintage Theatre's Sleuth (with Lowry's Spotlight Theatre)
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Feb. 2-17: Longmont Theatre Company's Steel Magnolias
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Seussical Ben Griffin and Melissa Morris. Matt Gale Photography 2018Feb. 2-May 25: Arvada Center Children's Theatre's Seussical
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    (Pictured at right: Ben Griffin and Melissa Morris. Matt Gale Photography 2018)

    Feb. 3-March 4: Bas Bleu Theatre's Waiting for the Parade
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Feb. 3-March 3: Miners Alley Children's Theatre’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Feb. 8-25: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Intimate Apparel
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Feb. 8-17: The Source Theatre Company’s Crying Wolf: Stories of the Lupus Warriors
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org

    Feb. 8-18: Millibo Art Theatre's Cake
    1626 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, themat.org

    Feb. 9-March 18: DCPA Theatre Company’s The Great Leap
    Ricketson Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Feb. 9-May 4: Arvada Center's The Electric Baby
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Feb. 9-25: 5280 Artists Co-op's Colorism
    At the Aurora Cultural Arts District Building, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-432-9162 or 5280ArtistCoop.com

    Feb. 9-11: National touring production of Shen Yun
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 888-316-4234 or shenyunperformingarts.org

    Feb. 9-Aug. 11: Iron Springs Chateau’s A Precious Bit of the West, or: She Was Simply a Delight!
    444 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 719-685-5104 or ironspringschateau.com

    Feb. 13-18: National touring production of STOMP
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 15-March 4, 2018: Springs Ensemble Theatre's The Totalitarians
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 80909, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Feb. 15-March 11: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Oklahoma
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Feb. 16-March 25: Benchmark Theatre's A Kid Like Jake
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, benchmarktheatre.com

    Feb. 16-24: Theatrix USA's Call Me Mrs. Evers
    At the Lakewood Cultural/Heritage Center, theatrixdenver.com




    Feb. 17-25: DCPA Theatre Company’s Colorado New Play Summit
    Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 17-March 17: Firehouse Theatre's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com  

    Feb. 22-March 4: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Trouble in Tahiti
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Feb. 22-March 10: Thunder River Theatre Company's The Price
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Feb. 22-April 8: The BiTSY Stage’s Jotunheim: A Legend of Thor and His Hammer
    1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com

    Feb. 23-March 17: Buntport Theater's The Book Handlers
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Feb. 23-March 25: Town Hall Arts Center's Something’s Afoot
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Feb. 23-March 18: Aurora Fox's Real Women Have Curves
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Feb. 23-April 15: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Kiss Me Kate
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Feb. 23-March 10: Coal Creek Theater of Louisville’s Becky Shaw
    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org

    Feb. 23-March 3: Grapefruit Lab's JANE/EYRE
    The Bakery, 2132 Market St., eventbrite.com

    Company Evergreen Chorale Feb. 23-March 11: Evergreen Chorale's Company
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4002 or evergreenchorale.org

    Feb. 27-April 1: National touring production of Hamilton
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 28-March 26: Local Theater Company's Wisdom from Everything
    At The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

     

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through Feb. 3: Lowry's Spotlight Theatre's Rumors
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    Through Feb. 3: Funky Little Theatre Company's The Bigot
    2109 Templeton Gap Road, Colorado Springs, 719-425-9509 or funkylittletheater.org

    Through Feb. 4: Town Hall Arts Center's Peter and the Starcatcher
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Through Feb. 4: Theatrix USA's Kiss
    At Dobrin Studios, 931 Santa Fe Drive, theatrixdenver.com

    Through Feb. 10: Aurora Fox's Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Through Feb 11: Inspire Creative's The Little Mermaid
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker, 303-805-6800 or inspirecreative.org

    Through Feb. 11: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Building the Wall
    At the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Pkwy, Silverthorne,  970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    Through Feb. 11: StageDoor Theatre's The 39 Steps
    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819, 800-838-3006 or stagedoortheatre.org

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

    Through Feb. 17: OpenStage Theatre Company's The Crucible
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Through Feb. 17: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits
    At  121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Through Feb. 17: Equinox Theatre Company's Evil Dead: The Musical
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Through Feb. 18: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Guards at the Taj
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or boulderensembletheatre.org

    Through Feb. 18: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com READ MORE

    Through Feb. 18: BDT Stage's Motones vs. Jerseys
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com (Sundays only)

    Through Feb. 24: Curious Theatre's Detroit 67
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org READ MORE

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

    Through Feb. 24: Avenue Theater's Comedy Sportz
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com READ MORE

    Through Feb. 25: DCPA Theatre Company’s Zoey’s Perfect Wedding
    Space Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    SophieDotsonAbigaleKochevarandSusannahMcLeod Fun Home. Photo by Sarah Roshan.Through March 4: Miners Alley Playhouse's Fun Home
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com READ MORE

    (Pictured: Susannah McLeod, Sophie Dotson and Abigail Kochevar. Photo by Sarah Roshan.)

    Through March 17: Midtown Arts Center's Fun Home
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com READ MORE

    Through March 25: Midtown Arts Center's Always ... Patsy Cline
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

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

    Through May 6: Arvada Center's Sense and Sensibility
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

     

    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE

    Sharon KayAURORA FOX ARTS CENTER

    • Feb. 16 and 18: True West Award-winning performer Sharon Kay White is the featured artist this month in the Aurora Fox's ongoing cabaret series in its studio theatre. In the shadow of Valentine’s Day, White weaves tales and music through a journey of love, loss, joy, heartbreak, relationships, realities and absurdities.

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


    BUG THEATRE
    • Feb. 15: The Emerging Filmmakers Project, showcasing Denver's indie film scene on the third Thursday of every month. This month's program will honor local actress Stacy Farrar, who was murdered along with her son by her husband last May.
    • Feb. 26: Freak Train: Open-mic variety show hosted by GerRee Hinshaw on the final Monday of every month

    3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info


    BUNTPORT THEATRE


    THE CATAMOUNTS
    • Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 10-11: FEED: Love (an theatrical examination of the journey from our youthful ideals of love, to the more hard-won truths of adulthood — served with a four-course meal and live music by Wes Watkins, formerly of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. 7 p.m.
    At VOCO Studios, 3700 Franklin St., Denver. feedlove.brownpapertickets.com


    Leonard BernsteinCOLORADO COLLEGE
    • Feb. 22-24: Leonard Bernstein at 100, a three-day symposium examining the  composer, conductor and performer as one of the most celebrated figures of the 20th century. Includes and interview with oldest daughter Jamie Bernstein and keynote address by a Bernstein scholar. Registration is limited to 450 attendees and is required by Feb. 15 to attend any events on the conference program.
    At Colorado College’s Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs


    DAIRY ARTS CENTER

    • Thursday, Feb. 8: Every discipline of the arts will be represented in a single evening at this fundraiser for the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder. With food stations, craft beverages, a live DJ and surprises. Performers include Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance with Spinphony, The work of Stacey Steers, Maya and Goddess Here Productions and comedian John "Hippieman" Novosad. 6 p.m.
    2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org

    DUMBANDDUMBER

    DENVER ACTORS FUND

    • Sunday, Feb. 18: Screening of the film Dumb and Dumber starring with live entertainment from Backstage Breckenridge Theatre's upcoming original party musical Totally Awesome '80s Ski Town USA. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    Bruce Montgomery 300EVERGREEN PLAYERS

    • Feb. 2 and 10: The Big B.M. (A one-man bio-comedy featuring Bruce Montgomery, pictured at right)

    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org


    MILLIBO ART THEATRE
    • Feb. 3-4: The Dinosaur Show (for kids)
    1626 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, www.themat.org


    THEATRE MADE IN BOULDER FESTIVAL
    • Continuing through Feb. 10: Staged readings, low-tech productions and free public workshops from local artists. Featured production: How To Screw Up Your Life! by Ami Dayan
    • Feb. 4: Trans/Actions, by K. Woodzick and Ayla Sullivan
    • Feb. 4: What Happens in the Dark, by Kristofer Buxton
    • Feb. 11: Rooted, by Joy Barber
    • Feb. 11: Laura and Ibsen, by Susan Flakes
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org


    THEATREWORKS

    • Saturday, Feb. 3: Grand opening of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs’ Ent Center for the Arts, including dedication ceremonies and performances throughout the building, including  the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale, Theatreworks, UCCS Music Program and UCCS Theatre and Dance Program.
    Located off Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, uccs.edu/entgala


    PARKER ARTS

    • Saturday, Feb. 17: Comedy & Cocktails: Nancy Norton, an evening of stand-up comedy that marks the re-opening of the newly remodeled Schoolhouse Theater. 8 p.m.
    Schoolhouse Theater, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave.,, Parker, 303-805-6800 or parkerarts.org

    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
    • Sunday, Feb. 11: Love & Marriage, 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive,  303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org

    Stories on Stage has renowned actors bring stories to life by combining literature with theater. This month: “The Big Cat,” by Louise Erdrich, read by Timothy McCracken; “Madame Lazarus,” by Maile Meloy, read by Randy Moore; and “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” by Anne Patchett; read by Mare Trevathan

    VINTAGE THEATRE
    • Feb. 14: Same Time, Next Year (reading featuring Andrew and Kelly Uhlenhopp)
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com
  • Video, photos: Daniel Langhoff celebration of life highlights

    by John Moore | Jan 21, 2018
    Video highlights:



    The video above offers highlights from the celebration of life for Denver actor Daniel Langhoff held Dec. 4, 2017, at the Arvada Center. (Photos below.)

    The host was Robert Michael Sanders.

    Daniel Langhoff, who performed at the Denver Center and around the state, died of cancer at age 42 just 10 days after the birth of his second daughter.

    Performances and testimonials from Kathy Albertson, Jacquie Jo Billings, Lindsey Falduto, InterMezZo, Traci J. Kern, Norrell Moore, Brian Murray, Matt LaFontaine, Neil McPherson, Brian Merz-Hutchinson, David Nehls, Mark Sharp, Brian Smith, Carter Edward Smith, Megan Van De Hey and Markus Warren.

    The event planners were Eugene Ebner and Paul Page. The Band Organizer was Rick Thompson.

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Special thanks: Rebecca Joseph.

    Read more on the life of Daniel Langhoff


    Photo gallery:

    Daniel Langhoff

    To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr photo gallery Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • January openings: Make way for 'Lady Day,' 'Fun Home' and 'Hedwig'

    by John Moore | Jan 05, 2018
    Lady Day Mary Louise Lee Adams Viscom

    Mary Louise Lee in 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill,' opening Jan. 12 at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora before a spring transfer t the DCPA's Galleria Theatre. Photo by Adams Viscom

    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.


    Showcase month in Colorado theatre spotlights Mary Louise Lee, world premieres and Boulder artists

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    January will usher in the new theatrical year with a showcase vehicle for the First Lady of Denver, the state's first two homegrown productions of the groundbreaking 2015 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Fun Home, and what promises to be an electrifying staging of the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Aurora Fox. January is also when the DCPA Theatre Company begins its rollout of three consecutive world-premiere plays — Zoey's Perfect Wedding, American Mariachi and The Great Leap. With such an eclectic mix of material, this month we will kick off the winter theatre season with a brief look at 10 intriguing titles to watch, followed by complete list of all your Colorado theatregoing options for January:

    Ten intriguing titles for January:

    NUMBER 1Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. January 12 promises to be an emotional night when Mary Louise Lee revisits her signature role as Billie Holiday in Vintage Theatre's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. She will be performing in Vintage's Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium, named after the late founder of the Shadow Theatre Company who directed Lee back in 2002. Lee's haunting portrayal of the jazz legend woman with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit — was the biggest hit in Shadow’s history. This new production, directed by Betty Hart, will play weekends at Vintage through Feb. 18 (except Feb. 3), then move to the DCPA's Galleria Theatre on Monday nights from March 5 through April 23. Lee's performing career began in the Galleria Theatre (then called StageWest) when she appeared in Beehive at only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. In 2011, Lee also became the First Lady of Denver when her husband, Michael B. Hancock, was elected Mayor. 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com READ MORE

    NUMBER 2A JANUARY JAKE MendesHedwig and the Angry Inch. It's impossible to overstate the impact John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask's underground rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has had on generations of misfits over the past 24 years. The show is essentially a rock concert featuring a genderqueer singer who was born a boy in communist East Germany and underwent a botched sex-change operation to marry an American soldier who then abandoned her. It's an incredibly powerful, literate and raunchy beacon of hope for anyone who has felt ever felt divided. And Jake Mendes and Norrell Moore promise to infuse the new Aurora Fox production, the first by a Denver theatre company in eight years, with fresh vitality. Jan. 19-Feb. 10 at 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    NUMBER 3A Banned Together 800 1Fun Home. In 2015, Fun Home became the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist. Now the the rights to perform it at theatres across the country, it speaks well of the Colorado theatre community that different companies in Fort Collins, Golden and Colorado Springs have jumped at the chance to stage it. Based on Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, Fun Home recounts one women's unique childhood as she grows to understanding her own sexuality and looming, unanswerable questions about her father’s hidden desires.The first to open will be Midtown Arts Center (Jan. 18-March 17) at 3750 S. Mason St. in Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com. The Miners Alley Playhouse production runs  Jan. 26-March 4 at 1224 Washington St. in Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com. And the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College follows from March 29 through April 22 at 30 W. Dale St., 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org. (Pictured: Sophie Dotson of the Golden cast performs "Ring of Keys" at an anti-censorship event this past fall. Photo by John Moore.)

    NUMBER 4Detroit 67. Curious Theatre continues its most provocative season in years with playwright Dominque Morisseau's incendiary look back at the sizzling summer of 1967, a moment in history rife with police brutality, immense racial divide, and a violent uprising, all through the eyes of one family. Featuring Jada Suzanne Dixon and Cajardo Lindsey under the direction of hip hop artist, writer and educator Idris Goodwin, whose own play This is Modern Art opens March 22 at the DCPA's Jones Theatre. Jan. 13 through Feb. 24 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org.  

    NUMBER 5Trump Lear. David Carl, known for mixing Shakespeare with timely political satire, returns not to bury the president but to skewer him in this one-man comedy in which he plays an actor who evokes the wrath of thechief executive as he creates a solo version of King Lear – Shakespeare’s tragic play of a ruler whose vanity tears his country apart. At Millibo Art Theatre, 1626 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, www.themat.org

    NUMBER 6Disney's The Little Mermaid. The DCPA hosted the Broadway company on its way to the Great White Way in 2006, and now this Inspire Creative effort will be the first homegrown, Denver-area staging of the underwater musical. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's beloved love stories, The Little Mermaid features music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, including familiar songs like "Under the Sea," "Kiss the Girl" and "Part of Your World." Jan. 19-Feb 11 at the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker, 303-805-6800 or inspirecreative.org

    NUMBER 7Guards at the Taj. This dark comedy, set in India in 1648, introduces audiences to two lifelong friends standing watch on the night before the first unveiling of the Taj Mahal. As the action unfolds, these two must take part in an act of unfathomable cruelty, one that will shatter their lives and their relationship. Written by Rajiv Joseph and staged by Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. Jan. 25-Feb. 18 at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or boulderensembletheatre.org

    NUMBER 8Fermata. Denver's Theatre Esprit Asia partners with Theater Company of Lafayette to present three generations of Chinese westernized women, two of whom two are world-class musicians and one who became a neurosurgeon. In playwright Maria Cheng’s sixth full-length play, she explores the burden of virtuosity, the politics of art making and the purpose of music. Jan. 12-28 at the Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson St., 720-209-2154 or www.tclstage.org

    NUMBER 9Abner GeneceSense and Sensibility. The Arvada Center's uber-hip repertory company returns with an all-new new adaptation of the Jane Austen classic (by Kate Hamill) that follows the Dashwood sisters as they pursue their quest for love and happiness. This cast is loaded with big names like Kate Gleason, Geoffrey Kent, Emma Messenger and Jessica Austgen (for starters), but the whole community should be cheering the return to the stage of Abner Genece as Sir John Middleton) six months after a devastating car accident nearly killed him and his son. Jan. 26-May 6 at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    NUMBER 10Theatre Made in Boulder. This new festival running Jan. 18 through Feb. 10 will include a robust selection of staged readings, low-tech productions and free public workshops from a diverse group of local artists. (Full schedule below.) The featured, fully staged presentation will be How To Screw Up Your Life!, written specifically for the festival by reliable Boulder playwright Ami Dayan. Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org

    First Date Photo by Emily Lozow


    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Jan. 5-21: Performance Now's Into the Woods
    Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or performance now’s home page

    Jan. 5-March 25: Midtown Arts Center's Always ... Patsy Cline
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Jan. 6-Feb. 3: Lowry's Spotlight Theatre's Rumors
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    Jan. 12-Feb. 18: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com READ MORE

    Jan. 12-Feb. 4, 2018: Town Hall Arts Center's Peter and the Starcatcher
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Jan. 12-28: Theater Company of Lafayette's Fermata (with Theatre Esprit Asia)
    Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson, 720-209-2154 or tclstage.org

    Jan. 12-27: 5th Wall Productions' Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
    At The Bakery Arts Warehouse, 2132 Market St., 5th-wall-productions.com

    Jan. 13-Feb. 24: Curious Theatre's Detroit 67
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org  

    Jan. 18-March 17: Midtown Arts Center's Fun Home
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Jan. 18-20: David Carl's Trump Lear
    Millibo Arts Center, 1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, www.themat.org

    Jan. 18-Feb. 10: How To Screw Up Your Life!
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org

    Jan. 19-Feb. 4: Theatrix USA's Kiss
    At Dobrin Studios, 931 Santa Fe Drive, theatrixdenver.com

    Jan. 29-Feb. 11: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Building the Wall
    At the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Pkwy, Silverthorne,  970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    Jan. 19-Feb. 10: Aurora Fox's Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Jan. 19-Feb 11: Inspire Creative's The Little Mermaid
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker, 303-805-6800 or inspirecreative.org

    Jan. 19-Feb. 3: Funky Little Theatre Company's The Bigot
    2109 Templeton Gap Road, Colorado Springs, 719-425-9509 or funkylittletheater.org

    Jan. 20-Feb. 17, 2018: OpenStage Theatre Company's The Crucible
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Jan. 25-Feb. 18: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Guards at the Taj
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or boulderensembletheatre.org

    Jan. 26-Feb. 25: DCPA Theatre Company’s Zoey’s Perfect Wedding
    Space Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Jan. 26-March 4: Miners Alley Playhouse's Fun Home
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Jan. 26-May 6: Arvada Center's Sense and Sensibility
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Jan. 26-Feb. 17: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits
    At  121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Jan. 26-Feb. 17: Equinox Theatre Company's Evil Dead: The Musical
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Jan 26-Feb 11: StageDoor Theatre's The 39 Steps
    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819, 800-838-3006 or stagedoortheatre.org

    Feb. 2-25: DCPA Theatre Company’s American Mariachi
    Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Evil Dead
    From left: Emily Ebertz, Derek Helsing and Chelsea O'Grady from Equinox Theatre's 'Evil Dead The Musical.'

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through Jan. 6: Oddville and Stand Up Smart (Dave Shirley and Bob Dubac)
    At  121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Through Jan. 7: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's Annie
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

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

    Through Jan. 14: Vintage Theatre Productions' Red
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Jan. 30: BDT Stage's Motones vs. Jerseys
    (Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays only)
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

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

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

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

    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE

    BOULDER ENSEMBLE THEATRE COMPANY

    • Jan. 11-21: P3M5: Privacy in the Digital Age, a transatlantic theatre project presented in a series of 5-minute films and live plays. 

    Boedecker Cinema at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or dairyartscenter.org


    BUG THEATRE

    • Jan. 6: Fourth annual 50 First Jokes festival (50 of Denver's best comedians tell their first joke of the new year), benefiting The Gathering Place
    • Jan. 18 The Emerging Filmmakers Project, showcasing Denver's indie film scene on the third Thursday of every month.
    • Jan. 29: Freak Train: Open-mic variety show hosted by GerRee Hinshaw on the final Monday of every month
    • Jan. 30: Open Screen Night: Make a video of at least 2 minutes in length about this month's theme (16-bit) and include the phrase "All your base are belong to us." Info:  openscreennight.com

    3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info


    BUNTPORT THEATRE

    • Saturday, Jan. 13: Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey (Monthly theatre for young audiences at 1 and 3 p.m.)
    • Saturday, Jan. 13: The Penny Savers, for Stories on Stage, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive (303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org)
    500DAYSOFSUMMERDENVER ACTORS FUND
    • Monday, Jan. 22: Screening of the film 500 Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel with live pre-screening entertainment from DCPA Cabaret's First Date. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloans Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com


    EVERGREEN PLAYERS

    • Jan. 20 and Feb. 9: EPiC Returns (improv comedy featuring Evergreen High School's state-champion improv team
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

     

    MILLIBO ART THEATRE
    • Jan. 6: RiP (improv comedy)
    • Jan 12-13: Vintage Glamour Burlesque
    • Jan 26-27: Cabaret Voltaire (variety performance art) 
    1626 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, www.themat.org


    THEATRE MADE IN BOULDER FESTIVAL
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 10: Staged readings, low-tech productions and free public workshops from local artists. Featured production: How To Screw Up Your Life!, by Ami Dayan
    • Jan. 21: Afropuff Lederhosen: A Critically Comical Investigation of Race, by Vanessa Roberts
    • Jan. 24: Strange Grace, by Jane Shepard
    • Jan. 28: Mud Season, by Felice Locker
    • Jan. 31: An Evening of Shorts: Terrember (Four Choose Two), by Mike Eisenberg; Kosmic Joke: Killing Time, by Buck Lee; and Bloodlines, by Ashley Rice
    • Feb. 4: Trans/Actions, by K. Woodzick and Ayla Sullivan
    • Feb. 4: What Happens in the Dark, by Kristofer Buxton
    • Feb. 11: Rooted, by Joy Barber
    • Feb. 11: Laura and Ibsen, by Susan Flakes
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org

    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, Jan. 13: The Penny Savers, with members of Buntport Theater, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive

       

    303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org

    Stories on Stage has renowned actors bring stories to life by combining literature with theater.

  • 2017 True West Awards: Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Awards The Breakouts  Jeremy Rill Steven J. Burge

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 30: The Breakouts

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill are very different performers. Think Sean Hayes and Frank Sinatra. Burge will shock you into gut-busting laughter, while Rill will make you swoon. If Burge is the flamboyant life of the party, then Rill is more, say … sunset on the beach.

    “If there is a spectrum,” said director and actor Robert Michael Sanders, "those two are on the opposite ends of it.”

    The comedian and the crooner.

    Steven J Burge and Jeremy Rill But these two emerging actors have far more in common than you might think. Both had big-time breakout years on Denver stages in 2017 — and both were separately described as “the nicest guy in Denver theatre” in interviews for this very story.

    Something's gotta give.

    Steven Cole Hughes, Burge’s castmate in the Denver Center’s extended hit comedy An Act of God, goes so far as to declare with dead-on eye contact that “Steven Burge is the nicest guy working in the American theatre today. Period.”

    Even Hughes’ 2-year-old daughter, Birdie, backed her father up.

    “Hey Birdie, who is this?” Hughes said, pointing to a poster for An Act of God. The child’s face immediately lit up. She pointed to a photo of Burge playing no less than God Himself, and she declared enthusiastically: “Steven!”

    “She’s 2,” Hughes reiterated. “Even the 2-year-olds love Steve Burge.”

    That’s high praise (or short praise, come to think of it) for Burge, who has been working his way up to this moment with one joyful performance after another since moving from Iowa in 2003, most often in extroverted comic roles. Highlights have included playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and conquering the epic challenge of playing 40 roles in the one-man comedy Fully Committed. In 2012, Westword’s Juliet Wittman flatly declared, “Steve Burge is one of the funniest actors anywhere.”

    Says his friend and fellow actor Shannan Steele: “I love watching him delight in making others happy.”

    But Burge’s body of work has revealed far greater range and uncommon emotional honesty in stagings such as Dog Sees God at The Avenue Theater (I called him "triumphant" in The Denver Post) and Curious Theatre’s Speech and Debate. No matter how big the character Burge is called upon to play, “you always know there's a real and very interesting person underneath," Wittman wrote.

    (Story continues after the photo.)

    Steven J. Burge United in Love Photo by John Moore
    Steven J. Burge co-hosted the 'United in Love' benefit concert with Eden Lane that raised $40,000 for The Denver Actors Fund.  Photo by John Moore.


    But Burge’s steady career trajectory took a turn for the skyward late last year when he was hired by Director Geoffrey Kent to be the understudy for An Act of God, a pointed social comedy in which God comes down to Earth in human form to set the record straight about the misguided ways in which we sometimes act in God’s name. When Broadway and TV star Wesley Taylor’s contract expired, the Denver Center did not seek out a similarly big-named national replacement. It already had Burge, who smoothly ascended to Almighty status for what turned into an extended run at the Galleria Theatre. The role called on all of Burge’s comic skills, as well as his uncommon gift to make people listen and laugh, even when they might not like what he is telling them. Burge had An Act of God audiences eating out of his holy goblet.

    To say that Burge made an impression in his Denver Center debut would be an understatement.

    “Steven has spot-on comic timing, a fantastic voice and the best rehearsal attitude and esprit de corps I know of,” said Kent. “He improves the quality of everything he touches.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A few months later, Director Ray Roderick punched Burge's ticket for an immediate return trip to the Galleria Theatre in the musical comedy First Date. Gigs at the Galleria are considered jackpot jobs among local actors because they generally come with a minimum six-month contract.

    Burge plays many characters in First Date, most notably the quintessential gay best friend of a young woman who’s just starting to brave the dating pool. The reason Burge succeeds at taking such a stock character and making him meaningfully connect with an audience, says Steele, is his willingness to bring his authentic self to all his roles.

    “The thing you need to know about Steven is that just beneath his hilarious and charming exterior is a beautifully tender, vulnerable, compassionate and generous person,” she said.

    “Steven is the opposite of an old soul. He is brand new to his world ... and his childlike wonder and joy are palpable.”

    800 Red Hot and Cole Cherry Creek Theatre Jeremy Rill Phot by Olga LopezHe’s now being rewarded for paying his many dues, and everyone agrees — it could not be happening to a nicer guy. For years, Burge has been known for saying yes to anyone who asks for his time and talents. This year, he co-hosted a benefit concert at the Lone Tree Arts Center that netted $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund, and Miscast 2017 at the Town Hall Arts Center, which raised $7,000 more. He also has kept the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards buzzing along since 2012 with his unpredictable comic energy as co-host with GerRee Hinshaw.

    "To me, Burge encapsulates the heart and soul of the Denver theatre community,” Kent said. “He volunteers for almost every arts organization I can list. If Denver were to elect a ‘Theatre Ambassador,’ he would have my vote.”

    Also receiving votes for Nicest Guy in Denver Theatre would be Jeremy Rill, an Arkansas native who already was a big deal in the lofty Chicago theatre scene when he moved to Colorado for love. And it didn’t take long for people to notice.

    “It's that voice,” said his frequent director, Kelly Van Oosbree. “The richness and his absolute control of it is remarkable. The first time I heard Jeremy open his mouth, I said, ‘This guy is going to be big.’ You just can’t deny that voice.”

    Coming Sunday: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    The Performance Now Theatre Company in Lakewood was the first Colorado company to catch wise, casting Rill in the regional premiere of Jane Eyre (Edward Rochester), Guys and Dolls (Sky Masterson) and Ragtime (Younger Brother). By then it was becoming pretty obvious to anyone within earshot that Rill was going to be a man in demand this year.

    Jeremy Rill Miscast Photo by John MooreA lot more people know “that voice” after it opened up and sang for the first time on four different metro stages this year. Rill started out playing no less than Cole Porter himself in the Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s Red, Hot and Cole at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, landing quite cozily among a star-filled cast that included Steele alongside local big-shots Seth Dhonau and Lauren Shealy (both now co-starring with Burge in First Date), Damon Guerasio, Stephen Day, Matt LaFontaine, Sharon Kay White and several others.

    Rill then earned karma points for life when he was asked to join the ensemble of the Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar after the actor playing Judas had to leave the show for medical reasons. That set off casting dominoes that ended with Rill stepping onto one of the biggest theatre stages in the state a mere four hours before the first performance in front of an audience.

    There’s a reason Arvada Center director Rod Lansberry turned to Rill, whom he had never before cast, when the chips were down, Van Oosbree said. It’s that Sinatra cool.

    “If someone ever asked me to do something like that, I would have said, ‘No, thanks,’ ” Van Oosbree said. “But Rod knew Jeremy could handle the pressure. And he did.”

    That may be one reason karma has smiled back on Rill, who will return to Performance Now to play Cinderella’s prince in Into the Woods opening Jan. 5 at the Lakewood Cultural Center. He then joins the cast of the Arvada Center’s Sunday in the Park with George — and on the first day of rehearsal this time. Rill will play Louis, fiancé of the model who attracts the eye of an artist based on Georges Seurat.

    Superstar led to the 2017 performance that will put Rill on every director’s radar – and wish list — for years to come. Van Oosbree tapped Rill to head another dauntingly loaded ensemble in Stephen Sondheim’s Company for the Aurora Fox that included Shealy, Heather Lacy, Lindsey Falduto, Carolyn Lohr, Rebekah Ortiz, Heather Doris and many others.

    (Story continues below the video.)


    Video bonus: Jeremy Rill performs 'Everybody's Girl' at Miscast 2017:




    You knew going in that Rill would bring any production of Company to a thunderous finish with his take on the forceful ballad “Being Alive.” But what separates a good Company from a great one is an actor who understands that Bobby’s journey is a serious rumination on the relative pros and cons of choosing a married or solitary life. Rill allowed himself to get fully lost in his journey — which at times meant going inside and checking out from the Aurora Fox audience altogether.

    Turns out, as Van Oosbree plainly puts it: Jeremy Rill is not just another pretty voice.

    “He’s also a really good actor,” she said. “He found the vulnerable in Bobby and the underlying pain that I think sometimes goes missing in other performances. The easy thing would be to make Bobby a fun, jovial bachelor, but that’s just not who this man is. Jeremy was clever and he was sexy and he was charming and he was cynical and he was sad. He was all the things. He just killed it.”

    Wrote Ramsey Scott for the Aurora Sentinel: “Jeremy Rill nails the mix of aloofness and emotional despair that plagues his character throughout the show and matches it with a voice that deserves to be the center of attention.”  Added Wittman for Westword: "Jeremy Rill has a richly melodious and supple voice that’s sheer pleasure to listen to."

    Norell Moore by Jeremy RillAnd Rill’s artistry, by the way, is not limited to the stage. He’s also a disarmingly effective portrait photographer who is known for bringing out an astonishing clarity of character in a single frame. Look no further than his revealing portrait of fellow actor Norrell Moore (right) soon after she started chemotherapy for breast cancer.

    “I mean this as no disrespect to any other photographer,” said Sanders. “But if you put 100 random actor headshots in a pile in front of me, I could easily pick out the ones taken by Jeremy because he has such a distinctive style behind the camera. He just has a way of making actors look their best. Maybe it’s because he’s one of them. But somehow he manages to put a sparkle in the eye of every single person he photographs.”

    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 

    Steven J. Burge: 2017
    • The Almighty in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    • Co-Host, United in Love benefit concert
    • Co-Host, Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards
    • Co-Host, Miscast 2017
    • Multiple roles in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date

    Jeremy Rill: 2017
    • Man 1 (Cole Porter) in Cherry Creek Theatre’s Red, Hot and Cole
    • Ensemble in Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar
    • Aurora Fox’s Company
    • Emile de Becque in Platte Valley Players' South Pacific (concert version)
    • Performed in Miscast 2017 for the Denver Actors Fund

    Steven J Burge GerRee Hinshaw 2017 Henry Awards BLF Photography
    Steven J. Burge and GerRee Hinshaw co-hosting the 2017 Henry Awards. BLF Photography.


    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's 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: Composer and Music Director David Nehls

    by John Moore | Dec 29, 2017
    2017 True West Award David Nehls

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 29: David Nehls

    Composer and Music Director
    I’ll Be Home for Christmas

    Killer Wigs from Outer Space

    The Wild Party

    Mommie Dearest

    A Midnight Clear

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Composer David Nehls had four new musicals in various stages of development over the past 12 months.

    Wait, wait. Let me repeat that:

    Composer David Nehls had FOUR NEW MUSICALS in various stages of development over the past 12 months.

    It’s nearly incomprehensible to think that one composer based here in Colorado could have that much new musical material gestating out there in the theatre world all at once. And all four of his musicals got staged and seen, in some form or other, in three states.

    And that doesn’t even include his musical direction of someone else’s musical: Nehls made his Denver Center debut in 2017 by taking on Off-Center’s full-flapper cannonball dive into immersive theatre with The Wild Party, a truth-in-title Jazz Age musical that was staged under The Hangar at Stanley in Aurora.

    Joan_CrawfordLadies and gentlemen, this is David Nehls’ moment. And his moment includes brain-eating parasites, unapologetic holiday sentiment and partnerships with none other than the daughter of Joan Crawford (pictured at right) and a star of Broadway’s Rock of Ages.

    Maybe we should go back to the beginning of the year.

    Nehls began 2017 by bravely leaving the safe embrace of his 12-year artistic home at the Arvada Center, where he supervised the music for about 45 mainstage productions. And he went out on top: His final project there was one of his own: The Arvada Center premiered Nehls’ I’ll Be Home for Christmas, a familiar holiday throwback with a little bit of bite. He ended 2017 premiering a purely joyful holiday commission called A Midnight Clear: A Musical Tale of Christmas at Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston, where Nehls’ writing partner, Kenn McLaughlin, is the Artistic Director.

    "The work that David is doing is really vital for the future of the American musical,” said Denver's Robert Michael Sanders, who traveled to Houston to be the assistant director A Midnight Clear. "Because without people like David continuing to take these big risks and write this new stuff, we’ll continue to just perform The Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast into the next century."

    Here’s a quick look at Nehls' four very different new musicals in 2017:

    A David Nehls 800


    I’ll Be Home for Christmas

    • World premiere at the Arvada Center
    • Nov. 18-Dec. 23, 2016
    • Written with: Kenn McLaughlin
    • At a glance: Set in 1969, the Bright family prepares for their annual Christmas variety show, always one of the most-watched national TV events of the year. As the telecast approaches, they welcome their eldest son home from the Vietnam war. The former teen idol is now a decorated hero but deeply challenged by his return to civilian life in front of the cameras.

    Killer Wigs from Outer Space

    • Workshop staging at the University of Colorado Boulder on Dec. 5-6, 2016. Fully presented at the New York Musical Festival from July 10-16, 2017
    • Written with: Zac Miller
    • At a glance: This “hair-raising rock opera” is the story of a carnival handyman named Orville who is attacked by a galactic, brain-eating parasite. The alien transforms Orville into "a rock ’n roll prophet for peace with out-of-this-world hair." We follow Orville on his epic operatic journey to save our world. The New York cast featured Mitch Jarvis, who starred in Broadway’s Rock of Ages.

    Mommie Dearest

    • Presented as a reading on Sept. 1, 2017, at Out of the Box Theatrics in New York
    • Written with: Christina Crawford
    • At a glance: This is the musical stage adaptation of Crawford’s shocking, bestselling memoir about growing up as the adopted daughter of Joan Crawford. The focal point of the stage story, written in full collaboration with Christina Crawford, is the famous actor’s will, which disinherits her two eldest adopted children. The plot becomes the coming-of-age story of the brother-sister pair who try to remain family as various obstacles force them down different paths.

    A Midnight Clear: A Musical Tale of Christmas

    • True West Award David Nehls Megan Van De Hey A Midnight Clear HoustonNov. 8-Dec. 24, 2017
    • Stages Repertory Theatre, Houston
    • Written with: Kenn McLaughlin
    • At a glance: It’s Christmas Eve 1964, and a snowstorm threatens to cancel a concert hosted by the Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart. But when a mysterious stranger and a stranded motorist arrive at their chapel, the nuns find that the songs of Christmas have far more power than they had imagined. The score combines traditional Christmas songs with Nehls originals including “A Joyful Christmas Noise,” “St. Christopher's Prayer” and “Eyes of a Wandering Stranger.”


    'If regular theatre takes place in three dimensions, then immersive theatre takes place in six.'

    No less impressive than creating those four new works from scratch was tackling the unique challenges Nehls was presented by Off-Center’s staging of The Wild Party, said director Amanda Berg Wilson.

    “First of all, the way the music functions in an immersive-theatre space like The Stanley is a totally different ballgame from how it works in a traditional theatre,” Berg Wilson said. “If regular theatre takes place in three dimensions, then immersive theatre takes place in six. Performing the show environmentally seriously changes how the music is going to play out in your time and space.”

    Imagine a cast of 15 actors playing characters who are attending a drunken, decadent party in a 16,000-square-foot apartment crammed with 200 guests. The live band is stationed in one far corner of the room, but the actors sing and dance and run down tiny aisleways at times more than 100 feet away from the musicians. This was a new performance challenge for actors and musicians alike.

    “David really had to be there to support the actors and to help them develop techniques for how to perform the songs in completely different corners of this massive room and still make it sound blended and lovely,” Berg Wilson said.

    A David Nehls The Wild Party Aaron Vega Jenna Moll Reyes Photo by Adams ViscomAnd Nehls had to abandon his own comfort zone to do that. “After so many years at the Arvada Center doing outstanding, but traditionally presented musical theatre, David had to be willing to go places he had never gone before —  and he was completely game for it,” Berg Wilson said.

    Perhaps no actor has more practical experience working with Nehls than the multiple award-winning Megan Van De Hey, who has performed in nearly two dozen productions under Nehls’ musical supervision since 2005. She even went on the road to Houston with Nehls last month to play the Mother Superior in A Midnight Clear.

    “The one thing that has impressed me the most about David over the years is how much that he, as a composer and lyricist, thinks about the characters and the story and the mood and the ambience — and then he puts all of that into his songs,” said Van De Hey. “He has a very clear concept for every show that he goes into.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    She cited the Arvada Center’s 2012 production of the Cold War musical Chess as an example. “He took every song that was focused on the Russians and filled it with the warmth of violin and cellos,” Van De Hey said. “And anything that had to do with the Americans had more of an electric sound to it. That’s the kind of twist that David adds to everything he does.”

    In recent years, Nehls vigorously joined the now 30-year-old grassroots movement to resurrect the dilapidated old Elitch Theatre summer playhouse that once hosted the likes of Vincent Price, Grace Kelly and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a year-round, functioning crown-jewel of Denver theatre. As a former board member, Nehls got further than anyone else has in 2015 when the old wooden theatre in the Highlands began hosting an annual new-play festival of readings.

    Despite Nehls’ breakout year as a composer in 2017, his success in new-musical development is not actually new. Nehls first hit it big back in 2004 with The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which he developed here in Denver with Betsy Kelso before it went on to dozens of productions in New York, Australia, the U.K. and many points in-between.

    Van De Hey was asked how she reconciles the breadth of Nehls’ story subjects, ranging from the sci-fi silliness of Killer Wigs to basking in the show-biz mud to holiday stories geared for traditional theatre audiences.

    From 2014: Nehls' work to save the Historic Elitch Theatre

    “No one who has met David would ever expect him to turn out to be a sentimentalist in any way, shape or form,” said Van De Hey. “But actually, so much of his work is rooted in actual memories from his own childhood.”

    She describes working with him as "insanely collaborative."

    “It’s never been his way or the highway,” she said. "If you are the person who is going to be singing his song, he talks to you. He asks you questions. He asks for your point of view. As a composer, he works with the actor, and you discover the song together. And when David turns a song over to you, he is really turning a piece of himself over to you."

    And that works to everyone's advantage, Sanders said.

    "David is not only furthering his own craft — he’s creating work for the rest of us,” Sanders said on behalf of the hundreds of actors, musicians and other creative personnel who produce musicals in Colorado and around the country.

    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 

    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's 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: Vance McKenzie

    by John Moore | Dec 28, 2017

    2017 True West Awards Vance McKenzie

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 28: Vance McKenzie

    Lighting Designer

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    To shed a little light on Lighting Designer Vance McKenzie, we offer this bit of illumination: He’s a cool kid with a cool kid. Clearly. He and wife Crystal named their son Grayson — the non-nom de plume of Batman’s original sidekick Robin before he became known in the DC universe as Nightwing.

    Seriously, how cool would it be to have a nickname like Nightwing? As your birthright?

    McKenzie is a busy lighting designer from Carbondale whose friends use other words to describe him as well: Collaborative. Patient. Unafraid. Outside the theatre, they say he's an avid skier who loves board games, role-playing Starship Troopers and playing Xbox. "So yeah, he's a total uber-geek,” says Miners Alley Playhouse Managing Director Jonathan Scott-McKean. (And it takes one to know one.)  

    Vance McKenzie QuoteSuch a fine line between tech-nerd and guardian protector of the universe.

    McKenzie is definitely a superhero to Seth Caikowski, who directed The Wedding Singer last summer with McKenzie as his “let-there-be-light” guy. McKenzie is the resident lighting director for Performance Now Theatre Company at the Lakewood Cultural Center.

    “I would trust him with any type of show,” Caikowski said. “From Shakespeare to Sondheim, Vance will always deliver.” 

    He’s delivered for a wide variety of Colorado theatre companies including the Arvada Center, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks, Performance Now, Phamaly Theatre Company, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, Miners Alley Playhouse, Platte Valley Players, the University of Denver, Ballet Nouveau Colorado and Lake Dillon Theatre. Those companies perform in venues ranging from a state-of-the-art, 975-seat concert hall to a tiny, 60-seat studio. And it takes a special someone, Scott-McKean says — one might even say cool — to design for both kinds of spaces effectively.

    “Miners Alley Playhouse is a harder place for a lighting designer to work than, say, the Arvada Center because we have fewer instruments and circuits to work with,” Scott-McKean said. “Vance came in here wanting to do highly professional work in a venue that, frankly, was not designed for truly high-quality lighting. But instead of settling, he worked with us to move up in the world and get better gear. He’s upped the game here.”

    Vance McKenzie Adriane Wilson Cabaret Miners Alley Playhouse 400Here’s a brief look at McKenzie’s busy and very varied 2017:

    • Miners Alley Playhouse’s Hir
    • Miners Alley Playhouse’s Cabaret (photo at right of Adriane Wilson, currently appearing in DCPA's 'First Date' as Adriane Leigh Robinson, by Sarah Roshan.)
    • Performance Now’s Man of La Mancha
    Performance Now’s Hello Dolly
    • Performance Now’s The Wedding Singer
    • Performance Now’s The Mervelous Wonderettes
    • Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s Sister Act
    • Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s Ghost
    • Arvada Center’s The Foreigner
    • Platte Valley Players' A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

    Lake Dillon Theatre Company Artistic Director Christopher Alleman said McKenzie’s adaptability made him the perfect choice to simultaneously design two very different film adaptations in its swank new $9 million Silverthorne Arts Center: Sister Act in the 165-seat mainstage theatre and Ghost in the 60-seat studio next door.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Those are two very different spaces,” Alleman said. “Sister Act had more bells and whistles, while Ghost was simple storytelling. Although Vance was successful with both shows, I believe his design in the smaller and more challenging theatre was beautiful.”

    Vance McKenzie Sister ActDespite the obstacles McKenzie faced in designing Cabaret for the 120-seat Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, Director Len Matheo said McKenzie went the extra mile to make sure the lighting "truly evoked the seedy atmosphere of Berlin’s pre-World War II Kit Kat Club." McKenzie’s lighting ideas even informed the show’s scenic design.

    “We decided early on we wanted to use spotlights,” Matheo said — which, to anyone’s memory, had never been used for any MAP show since its 2003 opening. “Working together, we created actual towers to house those spotlights — and those same towers eventually became the guard towers in the concentration-camp scene.”

    (Photo at right of Lake Dillon Theatre Company's 'Sister Act' by Christopher Alleman.)

    McKenzie, a graduate of Roaring Fork High School, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, teaches lighting for the Community College of Denver. His wife, Crystal, is the Assistant Costume ShopVance McKenzie The Wedding Singer Manager at the Arvada Center and is currently focused on the upcoming Sense and Sensibility, opening Jan. 26. Crystal designed the costumes for Neil Simon's Broadway Bound at MAP last summer and will be designing two more shows there in 2018.

    Here’s more of what those who worked with McKenzie in 2017 had to say about today's True West Award winner:

    • Alleman: “We love working with Vance. We like to surround ourselves with talented and knowledgeable people but, most important, we surround ourselves with generous, kind and collaborative people. Vance is all of those. His spirit in the room is palpable. His goal is to make the show stronger — whether it is his lighting vision or not.  He listens to directors and incorporates their thoughts — without losing his own vision.”
    • Vance McKenzie The ForeignerCaikowski: “Vance understands exactly how to work in challenging spaces. And he has the patience to roll with changes in a very small amount of time. Vance has to navigate around the chaos of load-in and produce an entire show in about two days. All while taking notes and being patient in a sea of frustrations. He is truly incredible."

    (Photo of the DeLorean from The Wedding Singer courtesy Seth Caikowski. Set photo from the Arvada Center's 'The Foreigner' by M. Gale Photography.)

    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

    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's 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 Awards: Six set-sational set designs

    by John Moore | Dec 23, 2017

    True West Awards 2017 Scenic Designers 800

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 22: Six set-sational set designs

    Markas Henry, Curious Theatre’s Appropriate
    Roger Hanna, Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s Elephant’s Graveyard
    Lori Rosedahl, OpenStage’s The Flick
    Robert Mark Morgan, Creede Repertory Theatre’s General Store
    Christopher M. Waller, Benchmark Theatre’s Smokefall
    Jason Sherwood, Off-Center’s The Wild Party


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The magical worlds scenic designers conjur on Colorado stages come in all scopes and budget sizes. And in 2017, the challenges thrown their way were thrillingly varied and exhilaratingly executed. Just by way of example:

    • Two Degrees. Robert Mark Morgan. Photo by John MooreRobert Mark Morgan integrated actual panes of slowly melting ice into his set for the DCPA Theatre Company’s world-premiere play Two Degrees (pictured right). Eagle eyes might have noticed the ice slowly dripped throughout every performance to subtly reinforce the play’s climate-change theme.
    • Jonathan Scott-McKean dug a 5-foot grave out of a stage that’s only about 20 feet wide in Miners Alley Playhouse’s A Skull in Connemara.
    • Buntport Theater’s wholly original The Crud was exactly that — A huge pile of cast-off objects, toys and appliances that represented the crud on your floor and the crud in your head and the crud in the world. You know: The crud.
    • And Brian Mallgrave, who so consistently makes magic at the Arvada Center, somehow devised a way for three actors to splash about on water in the mesmerizing The Drowning Girls even though the stage has no drainage — and the entire set had to be regularly cleared to make room for other plays being performed there in repertory.

    And those aren’t even the amazing scenic designs we are focusing on today.

    The True West Awards are not about “bests,” so singling out just one compellingly executed design this year seemed entirely inadequate. So instead, we chose to spotlight six inventions of varying scopes and budget sizes that have just two things in common: The sets are themselves essential characters in all of their stories, and each presented boggling challenges for their creators that begged for playful innovation.

    Please don’t think of these six as comprehensive. They are meant instead to be representative acknowledgements of all scenic designers bringing new worlds to life throughout the Colorado theatre community:

    Curious Theatre’s Appropriate:

    2017 True West Award  Markas Henry. Photo by Michael Ensminger

    • Scenic Designer: Markas Henry
    • Playwright: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
    • Director: Jamil Jude
    • The challenge: It’s not every day a script’s final two pages are entirely instructions for what must happen with the set pieces, lights and sound. The traditional “last word” of the play has been taken out the mouths of actors here and given over instead to Henry, Sound Designer Jason Ducat and Lighting Designer Richard Devin. The story’s setting is an old mansion on a now abandoned, hand-me-down ex-slave plantation. And in a dance of technical synergy, we see the literal crumbling of an old way of life disintegrating into the earth.
    • Markus Henry: “The script calls for a chandelier to crash to the floor, but Jamil wanted to do something that felt a little more final than that. And so, to 'up the ante' a little bit, I came up with the idea that a beam should come down to signify that the house was falling down. It was simple stagecraft involving a rope and pulley, and it was all done manually: No motors and no techno gadgetry. It’s an old-school trick. But we thought that would be a fitting metaphor for ushering in a new sense of humanity. Sometimes it’s good that things come crashing down."
    • Jamil Jude: "Markas took on the Herculean task of making a house collapse on itself every night for six weeks. Most would run away from that challenge, but Markas ran to it and kicked its butt." 


    Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s Elephant’s Graveyard

    2017 True West Award Roger Hanna

    • Scenic Designer: Roger Hanna
    • Playwright: George Brant
    • Director: Garrett Ayers
    • The challenge: The setting of this play is a dirt floor on the grounds of a 1916 circus where witnesses tell us the true tale of the tragic collision between a struggling circus and a tiny town in Tennessee that resulted in the only ever-known lynching of an elephant. And here, that meant covering the stage with 15 metric tons of dirt.
    • Roger Hanna (who doubled as Lighting Director): “Our biggest challenge was how to make our empty space actually look like an empty space. We achieved that by adding mirrors in the windows and extending walls to make the space closed off. Our production manager naturally wondered if we couldn’t just paint the floor brown, rather than shovel in all that dirt. Fortunately, the whole creative team and cast was on board with the dirt, and Jonathan Burns found a way to make it happen. Once the dirt was down, I was concerned with how the actors would know where to stand for each light cue since there’s no way to use spike tape on dirt. But that worry proved unfounded. It was really a joyous collaboration from start to finish, thanks to the smart way Garrett, and the company, and the staff, and the volunteers all embraced the style of the show."



    OpenStage Theatre’s The Flick

    2017 True West Award Lori Rosedahl

    • Scenic Designer: Lori Rosedahl
    • Director: Sydney Parks Smith
    • Playwright: Annie Baker
    • The challenge: The Flick takes place in a dilapidated old movie palace, so it must at once reflect the grandeur of a time gone by, while still making it abundantly clear that time certainly has, in fact, gone by.
    • Sydney Smith: “Annie Baker deals in realism with everything she does, and we wanted our audiences to be able to really smell the mildew and the rancid popcorn butter. Lori started by building a truly lovely movie theatre that she then tore down and deconstructed to make look like it had existed for enough years to become run down. Then her Set Decorater, Starla Kovar, went in and put fake gum under the seats and actually glued popcorn into the seat corners. She also created old puddles of spilled soda and put stains on the rug that no one could really identify."


    Creede Repertory Theatre’s General Store

    2017 True West Award Robert Mark Morgan

    • Scenic Designer: Robert Mark Morgan
    • Director: Christy Montour-Larson
    • Playwright: Brian Watkins
    • The challenge: There’s a monster living under the floorboard of Mike’s faltering general store on the Eastern plains of Colorado. It growls. It shakes the foundation. There’s a pit, a snapping bear trap, lots of rope and tons of crazy light and sound cues. By the end, this violent confrontation between man and metaphor takes a considerable physical toll on the set. Actor Logan Ernstthal calls General Store “a beautiful beast of a play.”
    • Artistic Director Jessica Jackson: "Rob’s designs do everything at once: They tell the story, define a world, and also work beautifully within a repertory season. They embody the transformative, sophisticated, imagination-over-spectacle aspect of rep that defines the Creede Repertory Theatre. What's also great about Rob is that, despite being the smartest guy in the room, he’s also the nicest. He's not just there to design a set. He works like a true ensemble member.” 


    Benchmark Theatre’s Smokefall

    2017 True West Award  Christopher M. Waller

    • Scenic Designer: Christopher M. Waller
    • Playwright: Noah Haidle
    • Director: Rachel Rogers
    • The challenge: Haidle’s modest, magical play tells the story of one family that learns, through the course of generations, that life can change in an instant. Changes to the set at intermission must communicate to the audience in one visually visceral moment that many years have gone by in this same house. You know this because there is now an overgrown apple tree whose branches have infiltrated the house from the outside and are now growing freely throughout several rooms. And in this story, that really means something.
    • Rachel Rogers: “What I love about working with Christopher is his collaborative spirit. One of of my favorite aspects of his Smokefall design is that he gave the kitchen a half wall. That brilliantly helped delineate the house and created a metaphorical nest where the mother at the center of the story continually retreats. His solution for adding the tree into the home after intermission was also inspired, as it continued the theme of magic rather than attempting to be entirely realistic."


    DCPA Off-Center’s The Wild Party:

    2017 True West Award Jason Sherwood

    • Scenic Designer: Jason Sherwood
    • Writers: Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    • Director: Amanda Berg Wilson
    • The challenge: The Wild Party was performed environmentally under The Hanger at Stanley Marketplace. Audiences were first led into a vaudeville-style theatre and then invited to join the performers for a party on the other side of the curtain — which was revealed to be a sprawling Jazz Age, New York apartment. Now, the Hangar is 18,500 square feet. But once you put 15 actors, a band and 200 audience members inside the apartment (with furniture for them to sit on), Sherwood was left with mere nooks and crannies that could be used as viable playing spaces. And it was a musical, so, you know — there's dancing. And as a piece of on-site, environmental theatre: The whole thing had to be built from scratch.
    • Amanda Berg Wilson: "Any time the actors and the audience are all in the same space together, it's a huge challenge for the Scenic Designer. There was nowhere for the actors to perform that was wider than a few feet. But the way Jason did it was brilliant. He really wove these little threads throughout the room so there was never any one obvious place for them to play. Even the aisles were genius. And the way he filled the space and the walls was incredibly detailed. He absolutely ran with the idea that this was a downtown crowd of true bohemians. They were maxilamists, and that was evident in every detail of the set, which Jason saturated with color."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

    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's 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

  • 2017 True West Award: Maegan Burnell

    by John Moore | Dec 14, 2017
    2017 True West Award Meagan Burnell Arvada Center

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 14: Maegan Burnell

    Arvada Center Stage Manager

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Maegan Burnell moved to Colorado to become a stage manager and fell in love with a stage manager and is soon moving to Chicago so they can both be stage managers together.

    We're talking a two-logistician family.

    “If those two ever have a kid,” Director Robert Michael Sanders said of Burnell and Jonathan D. Allsup, “he’ll be born with head-sets on and holding a spreadsheet.”  

    Today’s True West Award is a parting shot. Because Burnell is moving true east. And the Arvada Center’s Lynne Collins, for one, is “desperately sad we are losing her."

    Stage managers are the chief practitioners of what are often called the invisible arts. They are highly organized, detail-oriented, no-nonsense train conductors who are inordinately calm in the midst of chaos. And if they are doing their jobs well — you in the audience will never know they even exist.  

    “Stage managers are the unsung heroes of what we do,” said Collins, who was hired as the Arvada Center’s Artistic Director of Plays in 2016 to create a company of recurring actors to perform a four-play repertory season. It was Collins’ job to run that operation. It was Burnell’s job to help build that operation from scratch.

    “The logistics of stage-managing a repertory company are enormous,” Collins said. “In our case, it means you are running three productions at the same time. It means managing overlapping actor calendars. It means keeping track of hours and rehearsal spaces."

    A stage manager’s job description can vary from theatre to theatre and show to show. Typically, they provide practical and organizational support to the director, actors, designers, stage crew and technicians throughout the production process. And after the opening performance, when it’s time for the director to move on, the stage manager becomes the law by running the show and standing in for the director in all matters.

    And Burnell, Collins said, “is phenomenal at all of that. She is calm and cool and collected and organized and compassionate and utterly without drama.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Burnell was a grad student when she was hired in 2012 as an assistant stage manager by the acclaimed Creede Repertory Theatre, which presents up to seven productions each summer in the San Juan Mountains about 250 miles southwest of Denver. Her boss was Allsup, who is now the cause of all the distress running throughout the Colorado theatre community because he’s the one she will be starting a life with in Chicago after the Arvada Center’s second rep season ends in May with All My Sons.

    Burnell, originally from Waterford, Mich., graduated from Central Michigan University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City's graduate program before answering the call from Creede. She was lured to Denver in 2014 to become the permanent Stage Manager (losing the “Assistant” from her title forever) of the Arvada Center’s highly accomplished children’s theatre program, starting with Billie McBride’s Lyle the Crocodile.

    In the short three years since, she has helmed mainstage productions at the Aurora Fox, Cherry Creek Theatre Company, The Avenue Theater, Slingshot Theatre and Vintage Theatre, working for an impressive roster of top-notch directors including Sanders, Christy Montour-Larson, Edith Weiss, Bev Newcomb-Madden, Warren Sherrill, Jim Hunt, Piper Lindsay-Arpan, Gavin Mayer, Pat Payne and DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous.

    Notable credits include Porgy & Bess at the Aurora Fox and Tartuffe, which launched the Arvada Center’s rep company in 2016. And it can’t be underestimated, Allsup said, what it took to start that operation from nothing. Her impressive list of 2017 credits has included Bus Stop, The Drowning Girls and The Foreigner. Coming up, before she bolts: Sense and Sensibility and All My Sons.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Maegan Burnell Quote Robert Michael Sanders Miscast True West Awards


    But Allsup says what gives Burnell the most joy has been running the Arvada Center’s annual “teen intensive” — that’s a fully staged Broadway production for students, most recently no less than Les Misérables. That and volunteering to run big benefit events such as Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards and the Denver Actors Fund’s annual Miscast cabaret at the Town Hall Arts Center.

    “I love seeing the pure joy that she feels when she is working with students who are eager to learn,” Allsup said. “And I think she especially loves mentoring young theatre technicians at the Arvada Center more than anything.”

    Jonathan Allsup Maegan Burnell True West AwardsAs one of the state’s few gainfully employed, full-time stage managers, Burnell really has no free time for charity. But she makes time, Sanders said, because since the minute she landed in Creede, the Colorado theatre family has become her family. That was obvious enough last week when more than 700 packed the Arvada Center to celebrate the life of actor Daniel Langhoff. “You just don’t always see that in other cities,” Allsup said.  

    Allsup thinks Burnell can do just about anything, but he said the most difficult challenge she has ever taken on will simply be leaving the theatre community that has in short order gone from embracing her to utterly depending on her. “Colorado will always be the state that gave her the start of her career,” said Allsup, who was hired as the new Production Manager at Chicago’s Paramount Theatre seven months ago.

    “Maegan stepped into this community and she made a difference everywhere she went,” added Sanders. “She made a lot of places better while she was here.”

    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.

    Stage Manager Maegan Burnell 2017: 

    • Drowning Girls, Arvada Center
    • Bus Stop, Arvada Center
    • Les Misérables Teen Intensive, Arvada Center
    • The Foreigner, Arvada Center
    • Henry Awards, Colorado Theatre Guild
    • Miscast 2017, Denver Actors Fund

    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

  • 2017 True West Award: Sammie Joe Kinnett

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2017
    True West Award Sammie Joe Kinnett
    Photo at right by Zachary Andrews.

    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

  • 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

    Video bonus: Emily Van Fleet talks The Wild Party

  • POPULAR POSTS
     
    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.