• 2017 True West Award: John Ashton

    by John Moore | Dec 24, 2017

    2017 True West Award John Ashton


    Day 24: John Ashton

    Vintage Theatre
    The Edge Theatre
    Benchmark Theatre
    Netflix's Our Souls at Night

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    John Ashton rang in 2017 as the guest of honor at his surprise 70th birthday party — and he went soft. Proactively, profoundly and proudly soft. Overwhelmed by both community and camaraderie, the longtime actor, director and producer publicly promised not to let himself become an angry old man. The line got a laugh. That's easy for Ashton.

    A John Ashton 70th birthday Pam Clifton Photo by John MooreIt was funny because Ashton has never shown any encroaching proclivity for shouting at anyone aged millennial or younger to get offa his lawn! Caustic, sure. Playfully cynical — you bet. He is one of the few ex-journalists to have ever worked at The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News AND Westword, after all. That ought to bake anyone’s shell.

    But the actor we saw on Denver stages this year was noticeably more open. More vulnerable. More focused. The change was evident in his work both as vaudevillian comic in The Edge Theatre’s The Nance and more subtly as a genuinely gentle husband in Vintage Theatre’s family corker August: Osage County.

    Ashton, it appears, celebrated his milestone birthday by taking his acting to the next level — something that’s virtually unheard of after reaching the senior side of 70.

    John Ashton Quote Abby Apple Boes“I think there is something about how closely he is examining his work and his life these days that is allowing him to dig deeper and be more honest,” said director and actor Abby Apple Boes, who is also Ashton’s partner in life and, occasionally, on stage. “It maybe means more to him now.”

    It certainly seemed to mean more in everything Ashton did this year. He finished 2016 directing a solid revival of Arthur Miller’s incestuous immigrant drama A View from the Bridge for The Edge Theatre — with Boes as the matriarch who looks the other way.

    “He was really proud of that project. I think he felt like he put a great cast together and brought some nuanced performances out of them,” Boes said of an expert ensemble that included Rick Yaconis, Benjamin Cowhick, Amelia Corrada, Jon Brown and the ever-reliable Kevin Hart.

    Ashton returned to The Edge as an actor in The Nance, Douglas Carter Beane’s disarming play about the lives of burlesque performers in the 1930s. That was a time when it was perfectly fine to play a “nance” onstage, but not to be an openly gay man off it. Ashton played a gruff vaudevillian and theatre manager. In the routine, Ashton's Ephraim played the slapstick “straight man” to  2016 True West Award winner Warren Sherril's self-described pansy, Miles.

    It would have been easy for Ashton to go unnoticed in the shadow of Sherrill’s rich and haunting portrayal, but Ashton did not. The Met Report’s Avery Anderson called Ashton “a Colorado theatre legend who keeps the laughs rolling, even at the toughest times."

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    True West Awards John Ashton by RDG Photography
    John Ashton with the cast of 'The Nance' at the Edge Theatre. RDG Photography.

    Sherrill said Ashton is "both a blast to watch and to be on stage with. He gives and he plays — and he plays a lot — but is always a professional.”

    That's about how Darcy Kennedy described partnering with Ashton in Vintage Theatre’s Herculean undertaking of Tracy LettsPulitzer Prize-winning beast August: Osage County. This feral story of a fractured Oklahoma family that has gathered after the disappearance of its patriarch is filled with strong female characters who could easily swallow all of the men whole. But Ashton’s performance was again impossible to ignore.

    A John Ashton Darcy Kennedy August Osage County RDG PhotographyAshton was perfectly cast as Charlie Aiken, a simple, quiet man who is fully in love with a woman who is very hard to fully love.

    “Oh, he’s a card backstage,” said Kennedy, who played Mattie Fae. “But it was a true pleasure to perform with him. He was very much a giver, and if you ever needed something from him for the sake of your own performance, he would be more than willing to work with you. For example, Mattie Fae says some really rotten things to Charlie, and at one point I told John I really needed him to get more pissed off at me for the scene to work — and we worked our way up to that together.”

    (Pictured above: John Ashton and Darcy Kennedy in Vintage Theatre's 'August: Osage County.' RDG Photography.)

    That moment comes when Charlie admonishes his wife for continually tearing down their son. Ashton nailed the killer line not by going large, but by going real: “We've been married 38 years and I wouldn't trade it for anything," he says to his wife. "But if you can't find a generous place in your heart for your own son, we're not gonna make it to 39.” It was a poignant display of both heart and backbone. Two things, Director Bernie Cardell says, that capture Ashton’s biggest strengths as an actor: Tenderness and strength.

    Ashton has been such a fixture in the Colorado theatre community for the past quarter-century that surely many are unaware of the adventurous pre-theatre life that preceded it.

    A quick recap: Ashton grew up in St. Louis and was sent to Colorado during the Vietnam War after filing for conscientious-objector status. Ashton was assigned to work with Monsignor Charles Woodrich, more popularly known as Father Woody — Denver’s patron saint of the poor. Ashton still works for people in need as an external affairs officer for FEMA, responding on-site to occasional disasters around the country.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “John truly is one of the most interesting people I have ever met,” said Boes. “Not only did he work in the newspaper business, he had a radio talk show and he wrote a bunch of murder mysteries, and he was in a bunch of movies — and he was in Breaking Bad."

    After his rather, ahem, colorful journalism career, Ashton reinvented himself as a theatre producer, director and performer. He bought operational control of the Avenue Theater from Bob Wells and ran the vagabond boutique theatre from 1990-2005, including overseeing its move down 17th Avenue from Vine Street to Logan in 2003. Ashton has continued to have a place in the running of The Avenue ever since, but it’s probably no coincidence that when he shifted his full focus to acting last December, he went on to perhaps the best year of his acting life.

    ARandyMooreJohnAshtonOh, and Ashton notched one other thrilling little achievement in 2017: He landed a role in the Netflix film Our Souls at Night, an adaptation of the beloved late Colorado novelist Kent Haruf’s final book. Ashton had two scenes with, ho-hum … Robert Redford.

    (Ashton is pictured at far right with veteran DCPA actor Randy Moore on the set of 'Our Souls at Night.' Photo courtesy of Ashton.)

    Ashton has managed to stay relevant in the Colorado theatre community, Boes said, because he's never stopped being curious or giving. He's always in demand as a voice of Colorado's theatre history, recently having hosted memorial celebrations for towering figures such as Henry Lowenstein and Terry Dodd. He's also always up forJohn Ashton Denver Actors Fund Miscast 2016. Photo by John Moore having fun at his own expense, appearing regularly at the Denver Actors Fund's annual Miscast fundraiser —  most recently as an aging Little Orphan Annie and as Grizabella from Cats (not in the same year).His first gig in 2018 will be directing the regional premiere of the musical Bullets Over Broadway for Vintage, opening April 13.

    “John is a pioneer of the Denver theatre scene, and I love his crazy stories of the good old days,” Sherrill said. “And yet he’s constantly thinking about what Denver needs next.”

    Sherrill admires Ashton no matter what hat he’s wearing. “He’s smart when it comes to producing because he always gives the audience what it wants," he said. "That may be nothing more than a simple slamming-door comedy — which really isn’t that simple — but he will work his hardest to make sure that comedy is a quality experience for his audience. As a director, he’s able to streamline and simplify things, without taking anything away. And as a person, he is one of the most kind and endearing people I’ve ever met.”

    All of which helps to make him a better actor.

    “John is all heart, and that is what he brings to the stage,” Cardell said. “You love watching him — and, while you do, you fall in love with him.”

    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 bonus: A video review of The Edge Theatre's The Nance:

    Video by The Met Report's Avery Anderson.

    John Ashton: 2017

    • Directed A View from the Bridge for The Edge Theatre*
    • Played Efram in The Edge Theatre's The Nance
    • Played Charlie Aiken in Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Appeared in five plays for Benchmark Theatre's Fever Dream Festival
    • Played Rudy in Netflix's Our Souls at Night, with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda

    *This production was staged in December 2016. The True West Awards consideration period runs from December through November of each calendar year.

    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: Helen Hand

    by John Moore | Dec 18, 2017
    2017 True West Award Helen Hand Firehouse


    Day 18: Helen Hand

    Firehouse Theater Company

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    A funny thing happened while Helen Hand was preserving her murdered brother’s legacy. She fell in love with his theatre. And with theatre itself.

    Since 2004, the Firehouse Theater Company’s Board President, de facto Artistic Director and yet still modestly self-described “non-theatre person” has produced 41 plays and created performance opportunities for more than 300 actors of all experience levels in the boutique theatre that now bears his name.

    If only her brother had lived to see this.

    Helen Hand Firehouse John HandJohn Hand, the founder of both Colorado Free University and Firehouse Theater Company on the historic Lowry Air Force Base, was robbed and brutally stabbed to death in March 2004 by a 19-year-old drug felon who was later declared unfit to stand trial for his murder. After his death, Helen made it her mission to keep both his school and community theatre alive even though, as a clinical psychologist, she knew nothing at the time about running a theatre company.

    Or maybe more she knew more than she thought. Because under Helen Hand's leadership, Firehouse has outlived hundreds other Colorado theatre companies that have come and gone over the past 13 years.

    The Firehouse story starts with John Hand, a free spirit who had run an antique shop, owned a deli, bought and sold real estate, and started Colorado Free University by the time he bought the Lowry firehouse as a satellite for his school in 1999. He was 52 when he had the epiphany to start a theatre company for beginners. He had acted in a random musical once, so ... why not? John Hand was preparing to open his first play, Arthur Miller’s The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, when he was murdered.

    In a twist at once both cruel and divine, it was Stacey Nelms, a Denver actor who would later perform and direct at Firehouse, who witnessed Amber Torrez stab an immigrant taxi driver from Ethiopia 39 times the very next night. She called police, who later determined Torrez had also murdered John Hand 24 hours before.

    To honor John, Helen cut back on her private practice and took over the school and theatre to keep them both going. And she's still doing both.

    A Helen Hand 300 Ride Down Mount Morgan“Helen really went outside her comfort zone,” said Firehouse Treasurer Kris Paddock. She formed an emergency board of directors and solicited outside contributions just to keep the company afloat. Six months after John Hand's death, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (picture at right) finally opened — and the Firehouse Theater Company was officially launched. 

    “I think once Helen started hanging around with theatre people, she warmed up to the process and the people around her,” said Firehouse actor and board member Clint Heyn. "And now she is a theatre geek like the rest of us."

    She’s seen The Miracle Worker three times, he said of the company’s current offering. “She says it makes her feel all fuzzy inside.”

    Helen Hand Next Fall FirehouseHelen says running the Colorado Free University and the Firehouse Theater has been a way of staying connected to her brother in a positive, affirming way. “And it’s great fun to be able to give other people the opportunity to things in theater that he loved to do,” she said.

    But it has never been easy. She’s had to contend with ever-revolving board members and periods of audience deficits and revenue shortfalls. To keep the operation afloat, Helen started renting out the John Hand Theater to homeless theater groups such as Spotlight, Illumination, Silhouette and more — all of which found a place to play in the theatre John Hand imagined.

    In 2007, Lowry's Spotlight Theater became a permanent tenant, with both Firehouse and Spotlight producing up to five plays per year there. “Spotlight Artistic Director Bernie Cardell is fond of saying Spotlight does the comfort food that makes you laugh and goes down easy,” Paddock said, “while Firehouse explores the human heart.” That creative philosophy, she added, comes from Helen.

    A Helen Hand Arcadia Jamie Ann Romero Jona WaldmanFirehouse provides an opportunity for all to get involved with the theater from the novice to the experienced, Paddock said. Jamie Ann Romero, whose national standing was recently bolstered by two high-profile seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is one of a long list of accomplished actors who have performed for Firehouse (in Arcadia, pictured right with Jono Waldman). Others have included Emma Messenger (The Lion in Winter), James O’Hagan-Murphy (Murderer), Emily Paton Davies (Some Girls)  and Daniel Langhoff, who died of cancer in November less than a year after appearing in Firehouse’s The Crucible. But John Hand would be just as proud of all the names you've never heard of, Heyn said.

    (Note: Tonight, Monday, Dec. 18, Firehouse is presenting a special performance of ‘The Miracle Worker,’ directed by Peter Hughes, with all proceeds going to Langhoff’s wife for the care of their two infant daughters. Starts at 7:30 p.m. at the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place. Tickets: 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com).

    John Moore's fuller report on the 2004 death of John Hand

    Heyn, who has been involved with Firehouse since 2004, thinks John Hand would be “extremely proud” to see the evolution of his company from a safe and welcoming place for novice actors into its present place as a respected member of the larger Colorado theatre community under his sister’s care.

    “John had a program at his school called ‘Hands On’ that would specifically give people a chance to do something they had never done before,” Heyn said. “So if you have never directed before, you would get a chance to direct. If you have acted in a supporting role, but never in a lead role, he would very intentionally give you a lead role. John wanted people to get better."

    Helen also believes in giving people a chance — and that comes straight from her brother’s legacy.

    Dell Domnik and Susie Leiser in Red HerringPaddock says the Firehouse Theater Company that just entered its teen years remains John's vision — “but Helen is the one who has kept that vision alive. She juggles so many balls in the air, from guiding the board to selecting scripts to raising funds to attending rehearsals.”

    She even has been spotted up on the roof checking for leaks. Hand has essentially been “on call” for whatever the theatre needs for 13 years now. All while also running Colorado Free University.

    (Pictured at right: Dell Domnik and Sue Leiser in Firehouse's 'Red Herring.')

    “Helen is still very much the driving force behind all Firehouse operations,” Heyn said. She recently succeeded in making the company eligible for SCFD funding (a sure sign of credibility) and she has secured several grants from the Lowry Foundation. As a result, the company is turning a profit for the first time. Hand has directed those first-time profits directly back into theater operations in the form of building improvements, higher stipends for the cast and crew, and expansion of the company’s outreach and education programs.

    Running any small theatre company always comes down to how you treat your people, and John Hand fundamentally believed in community over hierarchy, Paddock said. It's written into the company's mission statement: "Firehouse will be an open community of artists from all walks of life, creating quality productions for the community to enjoy, but never at the expense of being all-inclusive."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    And here is a perfect example of John Hand's mantra in practice under his sister's leadership: In 2015, Helen Hand went forward with a scheduled production of the demanding one-man play I Am My Own Wife just a few months after actor Greg Alan West had major surgery in preparation for upcoming heart and kidney transplants. “That meant that I had to perform the show with a bag full of large batteries and a controller under my costume,” West said. “I could barely walk a block without having to rest. There was always the possibility of a transplant happening at any time, but they stuck with me.”

    Helen Hand With Firehouse Board For Helen Hand, there was never any question West would play the role as long as he was physically up for it. Paddock says that tells you a lot about both Hand and West.

    “Helen does everything with humor, care and concern for all,” Paddock said. “She works very hard to ensure that everyone from the novice to the experienced feels supported and part of a family.”

    But she doesn’t do it alone. As Board President, Hand feels she has finally hit the sweet spot with a group (pictured right) made up of Paddock, Heyn, Kevin Rollins, Jeff Jesmer, Dell Domnik, Lorraine Scott, Julie Kaye Wolf, Deborah Montgomery and Mooey Hammond. And she owes much to the continuing presence of John Hand himself.

    “I miss him,” said Helen, “but he walks around with me all the time.”

    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.

    Firehouse Theatre 2017: 

    • A Suzanne Connors Nepi Firehouse 610Becky's New Car
    • Crimes of the Heart
    • Rock of Aging
    • The Mystery of Love and Sex (pictured at right)
    • The Miracle Worker (playing through Dec. 23)

    Firehouse Theatre 2018 (so far):

    • Feb. 17-March 17: Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde 
    • May 12-June 9: Superior Donuts

    A Helen Hand John Hand Theater. Photo by John Moore
    Photo by John Moore.

    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: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

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


    Day 4: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    "I'm in charge now!"

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

    The origin of the poison: Our interview with Tracy Letts

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

    Haley Johnson: 2017 at a glance

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

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

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

    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

  • Vintage, Denver Center collaborate to bring 'Lady Day,' Mary Louise Lee, to stage

    by John Moore | Nov 20, 2017
    Lady Day Mary Louise Lee Adams Viscom Mary Louise Lee in the 2016 DCPA Theatre Company workshop of 'Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.' Photo by  AdamsVisCom.


    From First Lady to Lady Day: Billie Holiday musical to open at Vintage, then move to Denver Center's Galleria Theatre

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Mary Louise LeeWhen Mary Louise Lee revisited her signature role as Billie Holiday
    in a special workshop production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill last year, she dedicated the performance to Shadow Theatre Company founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Nickelson. Lee considers having played the jazz legend in 2002 to be the most meaningful performance of her storied career.

    It couldn't be more fitting, then, that when Vintage Theatre Productions brings the story to full stage life again this January with Lee in the title role, she will be be performing in the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. 

    Nickelson, who died in 2009, was a graduate of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. In 1997, he founded Shadow Theatre to present “stories from the heart of the African-American community,” as he liked to say. And the biggest hit in Shadow’s history was that 2002 production of Lady Day, with Nickelson directing and Lee starring as Holiday.

    Lady DayFor her haunting portrayal of a woman with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit  — Lee won a Westword Best of Denver Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The review said: “A stunning evening of theatre. Lee's singing is absolutely radiant. Her voice is smooth as glass. At times she sounds uncannily like Holiday, at others entirely like her full-throated self." She reprised the role for a special three-day workshop engagement in 2016 at the Denver Center's Jones Theatre. 

    After Nickelsen died of a heart attack in 2009, the theatre he opened at 1468 Dayton St. in Aurora was renamed the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. Vintage took over operations there in 2011. 

    Berry HartToday, Vintage and the Denver Center announced an unprecedented collaboration. Vintage will introduce its new production of Lanie Robertson's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, starring Lee and directed by Betty Hart (pictured right), from Jan. 12 through Feb. 18. The production will then move to the Denver Center's Garner-Galleria Theatre on March 5 and perform there on Monday nights through April 23 — while the Denver Center's ongoing musical comedy First Date continues its run for the rest of the week.

    Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill tells Holiday's troubled life story through the songs that made her famous, including "God Bless the Child," "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Strange Fruit" and "Taint Nobody's Biz-ness." Set in Philadelphia in 1959, Holiday's performance at Emerson's Bar & Grill was one of her last, and Lady Day is not just a memorable tribute to the singer, but also a moving portrait of her struggles with addiction, racism, and loss.

    "We're thrilled, of course," said Vintage Theatre Artistic Director Bernie Cardell. "This is an exciting event for Vintage and for the theatre community overall. If we are to thrive, collaboration is the key. While we certainly can survive on our own, we can reach bigger heights together. My hope is this is just the start of a new way of producing quality theatre for our community."

     Lady Day Mary Louise Lee. 2002Lee's performing career began at the Denver Center when she appeared in Beehive at what is now the Garner Galleria Theatre while only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. In 2011, Lady Day also became the First Lady of Denver when her husband, Michael B. Hancock, was elected Mayor.

    (Pictured right: Mary Louise Lee in rehearsal for her award-winning turn in 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill' for Shadow Theatre in 2002.)

    Lee has performing at many high profile events over the past two decades, including the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions. She performed with the Colorado Symphony at the 911 Remembrance Ceremony, and in the First Ladies of Jazz concert. She has sung the national anthem before 78,000 Denver Broncos fans, was featured vocalist at the grand opening of Union Station was a Season 9 contestant on America's Got Talent.  She has toured internationally performing for the troops of the U.S. Department of Defense. She returned to the DCPA in 2014 to sing with the cast of the national touring production of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet onstage at the Buell Theatre. And last December, Lee won a 2015 True West Award for her performance in the new musical, Uncle Jed's Barbershop.  

    Read John Moore's Denver Post profile of Mary Louise Lee

    Mary Louise Lee The Wiz. AfterthoughtSome of Lee's other notable local theatre performances have included Vogue Theatre’s A Brief History of White Music, the Arvada Center’s The 1940s Radio Hour, Country Dinner Playhouse’s Ain’t Misbehavin', Denver Civic’s Menopause the Musical and Afterthought Theatre Company's The Wiz, as Glinda the Good Witch (pictured right). She took on that role just after Hancock was elected in 2011.

    From students to senior citizens, Lee is committed to being an ambassador for the arts to help expose and expand access to Denver’s vibrant arts and cultural communities. She is choir director at the New Hope Baptist Church and founder of “Bringin’ Back the Arts," a foundation that encourages arts education in the public schools.

    Betty Hart, the director, recently moved to Denver from Atlanta, where she was a Teaching Artist at the Alliance Theatre. She is the Special Projects Coordinator for Kaiser Permanente Arts Integrated Resources program and recently joined the board of directors for the Colorado Theatre Guild.

    The Music Director will be Trent Hines. He was most recently the conductor and pianist for The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, and he also performed in the show.

    A Lady Day Westword

    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At Vintage Theatre

  • Jan. 12-Feb 18, 2018 (Note: The Feb. 3 show will be performed by Shandra Duncan)
  • 1468 Dayton St., Aurora
  • Tickets $15-$34
  • Call 303-856-7830 or BUY ONLINE

  • Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At the Garner-Galleria Theatre

  • March 5-April 23, 2018
  • Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Tickets start at $42
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • The show runs approximately 90 minutes without intermission
  • Adult language and content
  • Age Recommendation: 17 and over

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video: Mary Louise Lee sings with Million Dollar Quartet:

    Video: Watch Mary Louise Lee sing 'Fools Fall in Love' with the cast of  the national touring production of 'Million Dollar Quartet' at the Buell Theatre in 2014.

  • In the Spotlife: Deb Persoff of 'August: Osage County'

    by John Moore | Aug 28, 2017
    Deb Persoff August Osage County
    Deb Persoff, bottom left, stars in Vintage Theatre's 'August: Osage County' as a pill-popping grandma with more than one form of mouth cancer. Playing her daughters are, from left, Kelly Uhlenhopp, Haley Johnson and Lauren Bahlman.

    Violet Weston in Vintage Theatre's 'August: Osage County.' She was the winner of the Colorado Theatre Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

  • Hometown: PhiladelphiaDeb Persoff Marvin's Room
  • Home now: Aurora
  • College: I studied to become an X-Ray Technician and wanted to enter the medical field.
  • What have you done for us lately? I played Grandma in Vintage Theatre's production of Billy Elliot: the Musical.
  • What's next? I will be playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience opening next March at Vintage Theatre.
  • Twitter-sized bio: I am an actor who does not know what Twitter is.
  • Do you have a Twitter handle? Anyone who knows me just laughed out loud reading that question.
  • The role that changed your life: Playing Bessie in Marvin's Room for the late Theatre Group. At the end of the play, she says how lucky she is to have been able to love so deeply. A mantra for life.
  • Maggie SmithIdeal scene partner: Maggie Smith, for her comic timing, her aristocratic bearing, her wonderful expressive face and her history of theatre.
  • What is August: Osage County all about? Family, and the rich web that binds us, are not always smooth in  texture. There are frictions and distinct personalities, but always it is the lineage of our future. It defines us as people and the door is always open to home.
  • Tracy Letts talks 'origin of the poison' with John Moore

  • Deb Persoff August QuoteTell us about the challenge of playing this role: Violet loves her three daughters and feels she's knows what is best for them. Her defiance and resolve gets her through her days. Addiction to pills is always present, but she is a survivor. Her strength and fire makes me stronger as an actress.
  • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing your show? Sharing the time together from the stage to the audience, surrounded by this rich writing and riveting cast is a bond I hope will linger long after the evening ends. 
  • What don't we know about you? I love gift wrapping any surface. Paper is fragile, like us, and can create beauty and illusion. You then ask: "What is beneath?"
  • What do you want to get off your chest? Why is "age" such a stigma, when long life is what we all wish for? 
  • More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    August: Osage County: Ticket information
    • Written by Tracy Letts
    • Directed by Bernie Cardell
    • Sept. 1-Oct. 15
    • At the Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora 80010 MAP IT
    • Tickets $25-$30
    • For tickets, call 303-856-7830 or go to vintagetheatre.com

    Performance schedule:
    • Fridays, Saturdays and Monday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 p.m.
    • Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

    Cast list:

    • Deb Persoff: Violet Weston
    Roger Hudson: Beverly Weston
    Haley Johnson: Barbara Fordham
    Kelly Uhlenhopp: Ivy Weston
    Lauren Bahlman: Karen Weston
    Marc Stith: Bill Fordham
    Kaitlin Weinstein: Jean Fordham
    Andrew Uhlenhopp: Steve Heidebrecht
    Darcy Kennedy: Mattie Fae Aiken
    John Ashton: Charlie Aiken
    Brandon Palmer: Little Charlie Aiken
    Emily Gerhard: Johnna Monevata
    Stephen Krusoe: Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

    2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace

    Deb Persoff Life Achievement

    Deborah Persoff accepts the Colorado Theatre Guild's 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Henry Awards. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • February: Colorado theatre listings

    by John Moore | Feb 01, 2017
    February Theatre Openings

    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.

    Five intriguing titles for February:

    NUMBER 1The Zeus Problem. Buntport Theater’s latest creation is described as “a dark comedy about a god and the mess he made.” And they swear it was conceived and written before the recent presidential election. Whatever. Inspired by Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, The Zeus Problem is an original tale about abuse of power, the potential of storytelling "and the importance of a stretchy waistband at the dinner table." Featuring guest god Jim Hunt, winner of the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Feb. 3-25 at 717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    NUMBER 2A Murray Ross 160The Hairy Ape. Colorado Springs lost an icon with the death of Murray Ross, who started TheatreWorks from nothing on the campus of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs in 1975. In tribute to the man and his passion, TheatreWorks will continue as planned its staging of Eugene O’Neill’s 1922 expressionistic masterwork, with Scott RC Levy, Producing Artistic Director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, taking over as director. The Hairy Ape stars Dylan Mosley as Yank, an immigrant who finds America to be a world riddled by unrest and controlled by the wealthy. Sound familiar? Feb. 11-26 in the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater. 719-255-3232 or www.theatreworkscs.org

    NUMBER 3Billy Elliot, The Musical. Broadway’s stage adaptation of the charming British film about the coal-town kid who prefers ballet over boxing, has its first two homegrown Colorado stagings this month. Vintage Theatre’s production, directed by Bernie Cardell and featuring a cast of 26, plays Feb. 3-March 19 at 1468 Dayton St. in Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com. Evergreen Chorale, which is partnering with the Colorado Ballet for its production, plays Feb. 24-March 12 at Center Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive in Evergreen, 303-674-4002 or evergreenchorale.org. A special performance will be held on Friday, March 17, at the Colorado Ballet’s Armstrong Center for Dance.

    NUMBER 4February Theatre OpeningsKing Lear. Boulder’s 35-year-old Upstart Crow, Colorado’s only company dedicated exclusively to presenting classics, expands out to Longmont for its new staging of King Lear. Shakespeare’s infamously bad old dad brings his storm to the Longmont Performing Arts Center, otherwise known as the Longmont Theatre Company’s longtime home at 513 Main St. It’s a perfect marriage: Boulder County’s two oldest theatre companies cooperating on the story of Shakespeare’s oldest protagonist. Directed by Joan Kuder Bell. Starring Louis Clark as Lear. Feb. 9-19 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    NUMBER 5Yohen. Speaking of partnerships, Colorado’s only Asian-American theatre Company, Theatre Esprit Asia, has called on Tony Garcia, Producing Artistic Director  of Colorado’s only Chicano theatre, Su Teatro, to direct Philip Kan Gotanda's play, featuring Maria Cheng and Don Randle. "Yohen" refers to pottery that comes out of the kiln with imperfection. "Usually the pots are thrown away, but sometimes that imperfection is so unique that it makes the pot special and cherished," Garcia said. "I am thrilled to be able to work with other actors of color to continue to build these relationships. At ACAD Gallery, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-492-9479, or theatre-esprit-asia.org

    February Theatre Openings


    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Feb. 2-12: Lone Tree Arts Center's Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You There
    10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, lonetreeartscenter.org

    Feb. 2-26: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's An Iliad
    At the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org

    Feb. 3-March 12: DCPA Theatre Company's Two Degrees
    Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 3-25: Buntport Theater's The Zeus Problem
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Feb. 3-26: Theatre Esprit Asia’s Yohen
    At ACAD Gallery, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-492-9479, or theatre-esprit-asia.org

    Feb. 3-March 19: Vintage Theatre Productions' Billy Elliot, The Musical
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Feb. 4-March 5: That Championship Season
    417 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Feb. 9-26: 5th Wall Productions' Straight
    At Tony P's, 777 E. 17th Ave., 5th-wall-productions.ticketleap.com
    (No shows Feb. 11 or 25)

    Feb. 9-19: Upstart Crow's King Lear
    Presented at Longmont Theatre Company, 513 Main St., 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Feb. 9-26: Millibo Art Theatre's Lovette
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321 or themat.org

    Feb. 10-11: Off-Center's Cult Following: Secrets & Confessions
    D&F Clocktower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 10-11: Evergreen Players' EPiC Winter (improv comedy)
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.com

    Feb. 10-26: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Enchanted April
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Feb. 11-26: TheatreWorks' The Hairy Ape
    3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Feb. 14-18: Vintage Theatre and Edge Theater's I'll Eat You Last: A Conversation with Sue Menger
    At the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org

    Feb. 15-19: National touring production of Motown the Musical 
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 16-March 18: OpenStage Theatre & Company’s August: Osage County
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    February Theatre OpeningsFeb. 16-March 5: The Heir Apparent
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Feb. 17-March 19: Town Hall Arts Center's Bonnie & Clyde
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or town hallartscenter.org

    Feb. 17-March 18: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's The Toxic Avenger
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Feb. 17-18: The Avenue Theater's The Golden Years
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page

    Feb. 18-March 18: Spotlight Theater Company's Sabrina Fair
    At the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    Feb. 21-26: Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 23-March 12: Phamaly Theatre Company's Pygmalion 
    At the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-575-0005 or phamaly.org

    Feb. 23-March 12: The Catamounts' Beowulf, A Thousand Years of Baggage
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or the dairy.org

    Feb. 23-March 11: Thunder River Theatre Company’s The Tempest
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or www.thunderrivertheatre.com

    Feb. 23-25: square product theatre’s The Box Marked Black: Tales from a Halfrican American Growing up Mulatto (with Sock Puppets)!
    Performed in rep with Hoarded Stuff Performance’s Practicing
    At the Boulder Creative Collective Warehouse, 2500 47th St., Unit 10, Boulder, 800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com
    (Also: March 2-4 at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver)

    Feb. 24-May 14: Arvada Center's Bus Stop
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page

    Feb. 24-March 12: Evergreen Chorale's Billy Elliot, The Musical
    At CenterStage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4002 or evergreenchorale.org

    Feb. 24-March 11: Coal Creek Theatre of Louisville's And Then There Were None
    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org

    Feb. 24-March 12: The Avenue Theater's Robert Dubac’s The Book of Moron
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page

    Feb. 24-March 26: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Junie B. Jones: The Musical
    Second Stage, 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org


    Through Feb. 4: Firehouse Theatre Company's Becky’s New Car
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or firehousetheatercompany.com
    Thursday, Feb. 2, benefits The Denver Actors Fund

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

    Through Feb. 4: OpenStage Theatre & Company’s Bright Ideas
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Through Feb. 4: Equinox Theatre Company’s The Who’s Tommy
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Through Feb. 12: The Edge Theatre's Burn This
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Through Feb. 12: The Avenue Theater's Almost, Maine
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page

    Through Feb. 12: Vintage Theatre Productions' Beauty and the Beast

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

    Through Feb. 12: Parker Center and Inspire Creative's Disney's Beauty and the Beast
    20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, parkerarts.org

    Through Feb. 12: Something’s Afoot
    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819, 800-838-3006 or stagedoor’s home page

    Through Feb. 17: Curious Theatre's The Happiest Song Plays Last
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    Through Feb. 19: BDT Stage's Thoroughly Modern Millie
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    February Theatre OpeningsThrough Feb. 19: Aurora Fox's Myth
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Through Feb. 19: Cherry Creek Theatre's Red Hot and Cole
    At the Mizel Arts and Culture Center's Pluss Theatre, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver, 303-800-6578 or cherry creek theatre’s home page

    Through Feb. 26: DCPA Theatre Company's The Christians
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through Feb. 26: DCPA Theatre Company's The Book of Will
    Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    February Theatre OpeningsThrough March 5: Miners Alley Playhouse's Hir
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through March 5: Vintage Theatre's Brilliant Traces
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintage’s home page

    Through March 12: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s Forever Plaid
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through March 18: Midtown Arts Center's Million Dollar Quartet
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through March 18: Midtown Arts Center's Forbidden Broadway (Studio Theatre)
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through April 8: DCPA Cabaret's An Act of God
    Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A February Openings 800 1


    Ongoing productions
    2406 Federal Blvd., Denver, 303-455-1848 or adamsmysteryplayhouse.com

    Sunday, Feb. 26: Oscars Viewing Party (with KMGH Channel 7)
    7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, drafthousedenver.com.
    Benefits Denver Actors Fund

    February Theatre Openings BDT STAGE
    Sunday, Feb. 19: Procceds from the closing (evening) performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie benefit the Denver Actors Fund
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    Feb. 11: Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey (Monthly theatre for young audiences at 1 and 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month, through May 13)
    Feb. 15: The Narrators (a live storytelling show and podcast)
    Feb. 24: Untitled (in the freight elevator at the Denver Art Museum)
    Feb. 20: Staged reading of The 30th of Baydak Tickets here

    Feb. 21: The Great Debate
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Sunday, Feb. 19: The Jerseys sing the Four Seasons and more
    D&F Clocktower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or clocktowercabaret.com
    Benefits the Denver Actors Fund

    Friday, Feb. 3: Drag Decades hosted by Shirley Delta Blow
    Performances inspired by musicals from TV, movies and the stage. Appearances by Vivian LeCher (Miss Gay Pride of Colorado), Zarah (Drag Machine) and Brody Danger.
    D&F Clocktower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or clocktowercabaret.com

    Monday, Feb. 6: Cabaret for a Cause
    Eugene Ebner and Paul Page Productions presents the third annual "Cabaret for a Cause," songs celebrating the power of love.
    D&F Clocktower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or clocktowercabaret.com
    Benefits Challenge Denver

    Wednesday, Feb. 22: Tony Desare in concert
    New York cabaret star Tony DeSare performs Night Life, his classic and elegant 1950s New York nightclub act featuring songs from Cole Porter to Bob Dylan
    D&F Clocktower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or clocktowercabaret.com
    Benefits Think360 Arts

    Feb. 18-26: Colorado New Play Summit
    Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Feb. 16, 18 and 22: Fathom Events screening of Broadway's Newsies, featuring Jeremy Jordan, at Alamo Drafthouse Denver, 7301 S Santa Fe Drive, https://drafthouse.com/denver/show/fathom-presents-disneys-newsies-the-broadway-musical
    See also: Alamo Drafthouse, Clocktower Cabaret and BDT Stage


    Friday, Feb. 3: Broadway st the Summit
    Celebrating the music of ABBA
    At the Outlets at Silverthorne. Dillon, 970-513-9386

    Wednesday, March 1: Snowshoe Hike and Supper
    Raven Golf Course, Silverthorne. Email megan@lakedillontheatre.org


    Wednesday, Feb. 6: Public reading of Home in the Heart, a student adaptation of Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street
    This free, 45-minute presentation  is geared for elementary and middle-school students. Starring Mehry Eslaminia. Directed by Megan Mathews.  
    At Boulder Public Library's Canyon Theater, 1001 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder. Get tickets in advance


    Thursday, Feb. 23: The Berenstain Bears Live! in Family Matters, the Musical
    20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, parkerarts.org


    Every third Monday: Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org

    Friday, Feb. 25: Being Black in Boulder: A Community Conversation
    Immediately following the performance of The Box Marked Black: Tales from a Halfrican American Growing up Mulatto (with Sock Puppets)!
    Panelists: Arthur Antoine, Paris Ferribee, and Vanessa Roberts
    At the Boulder Creative Collective Warehouse, 2500 47th St., Unit 10, Boulder. Free. 800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com


    Sunday, Feb. 12: Legal Fictions
    “The Something by John Grisham,” by B.J. Novak, performed by Leigh Miller
    “Weight,” by Margaret Atwood, performed by Stephen Weitz
    "The Conversion of the Jews,” by Philip Roth Young, performed by Michael Bouchard
    "The Blue Hole” by Erika Krouse, performed by Jessica Austgen
    "A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets,” by Kevin Brockmeier, performed by Cajardo Rameer Lindsey
    1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org

    Friday, Feb. 24: At its production of The Tempest, Thunder River will re-name the “black-box” studio theatre its founder opened in 2006 as The Lon Winston Theatre.

    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or www.thunderrivertheatre.com

  • 2016 True West Award: John Hauser

    by John Moore | Dec 25, 2016
    True West Awards John Hauser

    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 25: John Hauser

    If you were to call him Doogie Hauser, you would only be the latest. But given how well former child TV star Neil Patrick Harris’ career has turned out, John Hauser would surely take the compliment.

    We’re not saying Hauser is a kid. But his Biloxi Blues director Kate Gleason is saying that “as soon as John is potty-trained … he's gonna make a great actor.”

    True West Awards John Hauser QuoteSo he’s young. But there was nothing embryonic about his fully formed year on local stages: He starred in Biloxi Blues at Miners Alley Playhouse, and in Hand to God for Curious Theatre. He made a key appearance in Vintage Theatre's Rabbit Hole, and he performed as Romeo before 10,000 high-school students for DCPA Education.

    That’s a U.S. Army private who comes of age at Basic Training in Neil Simon’s 1943 Mississippi. A grieving, God-fearing teen in possession of (or possessed by) a devilish hand puppet. A guilt-wracked teen who plowed his car into a 4-year-old. And only the most famous lover in all of literature. Plus, he joined the cast of Off-Center’s immersive freakout Sweet and Lucky, and later understudied several roles in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein.

    John Hauser may not be old. But as an actor, he grew up in 2016.

    “He’s so good, you forget how young he is,” said  Gleason, herself a 2014 True West Award winner. “I mean, he's barely teething, and yet he manages to find humanity in all his roles.”

    When DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous launched a new pilot program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot in May 2015, she turned to Hauser first. A team from DCPA Education perform an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet on and around a beat-up old truck in school parking lots - sometimes four times a day. Meaning four times a day, students who otherwise might never be exposed to Shakespeare (or live theatre) crush on the Bard, crush on live performance and, invariably for some, crush on the actor who could win Prom King at just about every school he visits.

    “John is stunning as Romeo,” Watrous said. “He connects to the hearts and minds of the students through authenticity, vulnerability, humor, kindness and depth.” (Pictured below and right: John Hauser as Romeo. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Read our recent profile on John Hauser

    Hauser and his castmates, all skilled DCPA Education Teaching Artists, return to each school the next day for classroom workshops and ask students tough, ethically ambiguous questions that revolve around teenagers, their parents and issues of privacy and personal responsibility. The point is to help them better understand the issues at the heart of Romeo and Juliet. Because being a teen hasn't changed as much as you might think.

    True West Awards John Hauser Shakespeare in the Parking Lot"I am so grateful for John's energy and impact,” Watrous said. “He is a true talent.”

    Next semester, the team will tackle A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    Hauser did not just turn a finger up at his squeaky-clean image, but his entire right hand with Hand to God, Robert Askins’ profanely dark comedy about a troubled teen who is forced to join his mother’s church-led puppet group after his father dies. But when his foul-mouthed sock puppet Tyrone takes on a life of its own and begins to encourage all those around him to give in to their carnal desires, the teen starts to question everything he's been taught. 

    “John brings a true lightness to the room,” said Hand to God Director Dee Covington. “He is generous, reflective and tireless in his determination to not only conquer but totally devour the creative task at hand. He knew the mountain was steep and arduous, but I was so impressed by his ability to temper that slightly self-effacing inner critic with humor and fearlessness. His grit and heart are inspiring.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Westword theatre critic Juliet Wittman wrote: “Hauser does brilliantly in the schizophrenic role of Jason, fully inhabiting both the teen’s innocence and Tyrone’s savagery, skillfully manipulating the intransigent puppet.”

    True West Awards John Hauser Rabbit Hole In July, Hauser and his Rabbit Hole cast were honored with the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Outstanding Ensemble Henry Award (with Haley Johnson, Marc Stith, Maggy Stacy and Deborah Persoff). As the accidental grim reaper who devastates a family when their son runs in front of his car, “John Hauser manages to deliver a handful of wallops in his limited scenes,” wrote the Aurora Sentinel’s Quincy Snowdon.

    But perhaps the most impressive evidence of Hauser’s stellar year is simply his dream team of directors: Kate Gleason, Allison Watrous, Dee Covington, Bernie Cardell  (Rabbit Hole), Zach Morris (Sweet and Lucky) and Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein).

    “He is a lovely human being,” Covington said, “and he makes the world a more artful place.”

    And he's not slowing down in 2017. In January, Hauser will be playing Ken in John Logan’s acclaimed Red, the story of the temperamental genius artist Mark Rothko and his apprentice, at the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre.

    (Pictured above and right: Haley Johnson and John Hauser in Vintage Theatre's 'Rabbit Hole.' Photo by Denver Mind Media.)

    John Hauser/At a glance

    • Hometown: Cocoa, Fla.
    • Home now: Denver
    • High school: The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs
    • College: Adams State University in Alamosa
    • Selected additional credits: The Few and Ambition Facing West for Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company; Jerusalem for The Edge Theatre Company
    The True West Awards, now in their 16th 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 2016 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

    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride
  • Video Playlist: Our 2016 Henry Awards coverage

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016

    The fifth in our series of videos from the 2016 Henry Awards brings you the names of every winner being called out, and highlights from their acceptance speeches.

    The Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards were held on July 18, 2016, at the PACE Center in Parker. More videos will be added to this special YouTube playlist.

    Videos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Watch our montage of performance highlights

    Watch Deborah Persoff accept the Lifetime Achievement Award

    Watch Melody Duggan accept the Theatre Educator Award

    Watch our 2016 Memoriam video

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards:

    2016 Henry Awards a triumph for Theatre Aspen, Rabbit Hole
    Preview: Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers
    DCPA leads way with 11 2015 Henry Awards

    Our complete photo gallery from the Henry Awards:

    2016 Henry Awards

    Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the forward arrow above.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zaXig4EKD8I?list=PLexX4Wflzocm3436-lTxQoy5ppYZSH9Px" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>Kevin Copenhaver accepts his Henry Award for Outstanding Ciostume Design for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.
  • Directors talk tough with local actors: Get to class!

    by John Moore | Jan 19, 2016
    Continuing Classes Forum

    Photos from the recent communitywide forum on the need for continuing education among local theatre performers. To see more photos, hit the 'forward' button. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Local theatre directors and producers had a provocative message for Colorado’s teeming talent pool at a specially called forum last week: “Get to class.”

    Representatives from Colorado theatre companies large and small gathered at Cap City on Jan. 12 to light a fire under the creative community.

    “We’re good,” said longtime BDT Stage Artistic Director Michael J. Duran. “But good is not good enough.”

    Producers sense a complacency settling in over the acting community because, ironically enough, the local theatre ecology is so healthy. There are more than 50 theatre companies in the metro area, and more than 100 statewide, which means there are plenty of shows - and plenty of roles - to go around.

    But if you want the jobs that actually pay more than gas money, the actors were told in the complete absence of sugar-coating: They need to be continually honing their craft.

    “I think the problem is our community doesn’t think they have to work that hard because they are working all the time,” said choreographer Piper Arpan. “If I am working all the time, then there is a sense then that I must be good enough.’ ” 

    Doctors and attorneys are required to participate in continuing education to keep their licenses, but nothing obligates an actor to continue taking dance, voice or acting classes. "Why is that?" Duran said. "Athletes don’t stop practicing when they turn pro."

    But as long as actors continue to be cast in shows, why should they bother with the time, expense and inconvenience of classes?

    Read more: Audition advice from the experts

    Duran had a rather pointed response: Just because actors are working does not mean they are they are getting better by merely working. Worse, Duran said, many don’t even seem to want to get better. And that is being reflected in the quality of productions theatres are putting on local stages.

    “Every one of us (producers) makes concessions and lowers our expectations for our shows,” Duran said. “We dumb it down because we don’t have the dancers to make our shows what they could be. Listen, just because you are cast in a dance show does not make you a good dancer: It makes you a warm body.”

    Tim McCracken QuoteWell, if that doesn’t make a warm body hot … to trot … to class … what will? That is the question.

    “How do we find the competitive edge within ourselves?” Duran said. “How do we create the desire to improve just for the sake of getting better at what we do?”

    Arvada Center Artistic Director Rod Lansberry told the gathering of about 40 that every casting director goes into every audition hoping that any given actor will be amazing. After all, you would then be the solution to the director’s problem. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

    “We want you to have those skills that we need,” Lansberry said. “But you have to bring them to us. We can’t give them to you.”

    This was an uncommonly blunt forum presented by Duran in partnership with the Colorado Theatre Guild. Others who spoke either in person or by proxy included Charles Packard of the Aurora Fox; Chris Starkey from AXS Group; Gloria Shanstrom and Pat Payne of the Colorado Theatre Guild; Jalyn Courtenay Webb from the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins; Ali King of the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown; directors Nick Sugar (Town Hall Arts Center’s Violet”) and Spotlight's Bernie Cardell; Arvada Center choreographer Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck; BDT Stage's Matthew D. Peters, Jessica Hindsley and Scott Beyette; and other interested individuals.

    And the tough love didn’t get any less tough as the evening progressed. For example, Lansberry told attendees that the buzzword today is “triple threat.” As in, “If you want to work in this town, you have to be able to do all three well,” Lansberry said of acting, singing and dancing. “They don’t have shows coming out that are not for triple threats.”

    Starkey took that one step further. “Now you actually have to be a quadruple threat,” he said, “because more and more, shows are calling on performers who also can play their own musical instruments.”

    Once the ABC message got through – “Always Be Classing” – the conversation turned to practical matters, such as: Are there a variety of classes out there available to be taken (there are); how is a potential student to know where they are (read on); and who’s to say the investment will eventually pay off? (No one honestly can.)

    Tim McCracken, the new Head of Acting for DCPA Education, took the opportunity to introduce those in attendance to the breadth of year-round classes the Denver Center makes available to more than 68,000 every year, covering all disciplines, experience levels and age groups.

    “I think in the past there has been this notion that the DCPA is somehow separate from the rest of the theatre community, and that could not be further from the truth,” McCracken said, citing a whole host of the community’s most prominent performers who also work as Teaching Artists for the DCPA. As for any perceived cost barrier, McCracken spoke of scholarship opportunities that can bring the cost of classes down by as much as 75 percent.

    “We want more inclusion with the entire Denver theatre community,” McCracken said. “That’s our goal.”

    Michael J DuranArpan ran down a range of metro area dance companies that offer lessons for all abilities, and Hindsley and Peters spoke of continuing classes held at BDT Stage as well. By the end of the evening, a Facebook page (The Denver Area Actors Continuing Education Forum) had been created that is dedicated to informing potential students about class opportunities. There was also preliminary talk of a more organized repository, perhaps one to be taken on by the Colorado Theatre Guild’s web site.

    “So I would suggest this is not question of opportunity,” Arpan said in conclusion. “It is a question of motivation.”

    This is not a topic of conversation you can start within the local theatre community without opening up a Pandora's Box of ecology-related questions, such as: Why can’t more theatres afford to pay a living wage? Why do the biggest theatres feel they must cast from outside the metro talent pool? How can a mid-size market like Denver make it more attractive for our most talented performers not to leave for New York or Los Angeles? Each is worthy of its own forum.

    But as the discussion pertains to classes, Duran reiterated his staunch belief that the quality of theatre on our local stages would be much higher if every singer, dancer and actor took it upon themselves to continually work on their craft.

    “The thing I think we need to figure out,” Duran said, “is how to make people hungry to be better.”

    Please enter your comments at the bottom of this story. 

  • 2015 True West Award: Bernie Cardell

    by John Moore | Dec 05, 2015
    Bernie Cardell and Mari Geasair. Photo credit: Soular Radiant Photography
    Bernie Cardell and Mari Geasair in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Photo credit: Soular Radiant Photography.


    ​Today’s recipient:
    Director and actor Bernie Cardell

    Today’s presenter: 2013 and '14 True West Award-winning actor
    Emma Messenger

    Prolific actor and director Bernie Cardell reached a milestone in 2015 with his 100th area production, making him perhaps Colorado’s most prolific deliverer of unpretentious entertainment. That means he has averaged more than seven productions every year since 2002.

    Bernie Cardell.He reached the milestone in July with his starring role in The Foreigner for the Spotlight Theatre. To give you an idea of what kind of breakneck artistic pace he is on, consider that before year’s end, his overall total has already upticked to 105 with his direction of La Cage Aux Folles (Ignite Theatre), Curtains (Vintage Theatre), To Kill a Mockingbird (Spotlight Theater), The 39 Steps (Coal Creek Community Theatre in Louisville) and The 1940s Radio Hour (running through Dec. 19 at the D.L. Parsons Theatre in Northglenn). Note that his last five productions have been for five different companies.

    Dude gets around.

    Cardell's selection for a 2015 True West Award was made by Guest Picker Emma Messenger, a two-time True West Award-winning actor. She believes the key to Cardell’s ongoing artistic success and employment is pure populism.

    “He has a clear vision of what theatre is supposed to be at its most accessible level,” said Messenger, who won her first True West Award performing in Cardell’s Sordid Lives. “It’s a place for entertainment and escapism.”

    Bernie quoteCardell reminds Messenger of the scene in Amadeus where Mozart is struggling to survive among the highbrow, elite musicians who compose for the court. “So he goes to visit his friend who runs a bawdy theater for the people,” Messenger said. Cardell is comfortable in either world, having directed the Denver Post Ovation Award-winning Best Ensembles in both Vintage Theatre’s Avenue Q and Angels in America.

    Cardell’s strength as a director, Messenger said, stems from his innate ability as a comic actor. No one likes slipping, tripping, falling over couches and getting smacked in the face with doors more than Cardell does.

    “He finds the joy in everything,” Messenger said. “Bernie has a natural ability to tell a story and to just know what moments are going to resonate. His sense of humor is very intelligent. And that’s something you can’t teach."

    Cardell was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his family to Las Vegas when he was 7. He studied English at the University of New Mexico, moved on to Santa Fe and then to Denver in 2001. He took up theatre at age 28 and quickly established himself as a comic actor with the E-Project in Lakewood, the precursor to today’s Edge Theatre. Since then, he has worked with a whopping 29 local theatre companies, most regularly with Spotlight (in the John Hand Theatre at Colorado Free University) and Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

    And Cardell's slate next year surely will be as full as it was this year, starting with directing Vintage’s searing family tragedy Rabbit Hole for a March opening.

    See his work now: The 1940s Radio Hour
    Presented by the D.L. Parsons Theatre in Northglenn through Dec. 19, in th Northglenn Recreaton Center. 303-450-8800 or www.northglenn.org


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

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

    by John Moore | Jul 08, 2015
    Bernie Cardell quote. Soular Radiant Photography.

    Since the turn of the century, actor and director Bernie Cardell has been in all likelihood the single busiest person in Colorado theatre. His starring role in Spotlight Theatre’s The Foreigner marks his 100th production since 2002. That means Cardell has averaged more than seven productions every year since. He once booked 11 shows in a single calendar year.

    “There was one weekend that year where I had three shows running in the same weekend,” Cardell said. “Now that was insane.”

    Not a lot of creative people ever make it to 100 shows - and certainly not at Cardell’s breakneck pace. He attributes that to getting a late start.

    Luke Terry and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography. “When I discovered theatre later in life - I was 28,” he said, “I felt I had found something I should have been doing my entire life. I feel like I have a lot of lost time to make up for. That certainly keeps me going, as well as the people of this theatre community who are so loving, welcoming and very, very funny.”

    (Photo: Luke Terry and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography.)

    Cardell was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his family to Las Vegas when he was 7. He studied English at the University of New Mexico, moved on to Santa Fe and then to Denver in 2001. He quickly established himself as a comic actor with the E-Project in Lakewood, the precursor to today’s Edge Theatre.

    Since then, he has worked with a whopping 29 local theatre companies, most regularly with Spotlight (in the John Hand Theatre at Colorado Free University) and Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

    The Foreigner
    , which has been extended through Aug. 1, is Larry Shue’s lighthearted comedy about a socially awkward Englishman who pretends to speak no English so he doesn’t have to talk with other guests at a remote fishing lodge in Georgia. But the comedy takes on significant social undertones when Cardell's Charlie learns of an impending, unwelcome visit by the Ku Klux Klan.

    “The biggest challenge with this role is not speaking for so long in Act I,” Cardell said. “Finding ways to connect with the material and the other actors when you are not supposed to understand what they are saying has been the greatest - and most fun - challenge of this show."

    With five more upcoming jobs already booked, it’s unlikely Cardell will be slowing down anytime soon. Cardell took a moment this week to look back – and forward – at his whirlwind 14 years in the Colorado theatre:

    Mari Geasair and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography.

    Mari Geasair and Bernie Cardell in Spotlight Theatre's 'The Foreigner.' Soular Radiant Photography.

    John Moore: In your first 100 shows, which two would you say show the greatest range on your resume?

    Bernie Cardell: I would say Angels in America (which I directed) and Run for Your Wife (my first breakout acting role). Does it get any more deeply dramatic than Tony Kushner's masterwork, or any sillier than Ray Cooney's classic farce?

    John Moore: At this stage of your career, do you prefer directing or acting, and why?

    Bernie Cardell: I definitely prefer directing. I have always liked acting and would never want to give it up completely. But with directing, there is a wider scope and vision you can impart to your audience. I adore working with actors and designers to achieve a singular vision for each show I direct, and I love witnessing many divergent paths leading to opening night.

    John Moore: Give us one great all-time favorite anecdote from those first 100 shows.

    Bernie Cardell: I discovered an innate talent for pratfalls by accident. On opening night of Play On! one of the lighting instruments went out, so I had moved upstage. Then, when the maid came out and slipped - as she was supposed to - she crashed into me, and I went down as well. The director loved the moment and decided to keep it in the show. This led to 10 years of tripping, falling over couches and getting smacked in the face with doors.

    John Moore: What’s your Bucket List directing job?

    Bernie Cardell: Stephen Sondheim's Follies.

    John Moore: What’s your Bucket List acting role?

    Bernie Cardell: Mel Edison, the Jack Lemmon role in Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue

    John Moore: So with all of your stage work, it should be pointed out that you still have an outside career to pay the bills. What's your day job?

    Bernie Cardell: I work in the accounts payable department for an engineering company.  December will mark my 10th year with the company.

    John Moore: Do you think the day will ever come when you and other local actors and directors will be fairly compensated for your time and talent? What would it take?

    Bernie Cardell: This brings up the question of what's fair, and what I think is fair is what we are willing to accept. People should never accept a job for less than what they think is fair. They will only resent the project. This is really an issue of supply and demand. As long as actors are willing to work for what a theater is willing to pay, then the compensation won't go up. It's the same with directors.

    John Moore: From your perspective, how would you describe the health of the Colorado theater ecology, and how would that answer compare to when you first started out?

    Bernie Cardell: From the number of shows that are happening, the Colorado theater ecology is healthier than ever. Of the 29 companies I have worked for, 12 are no longer with us. But I would hazard a guess that 16 to 20 new companies have opened to take their place. More companies are featuring new works, which I think is very important. We're holding auditions this weekend where over 150 people will show up. I don't know if there are more actors than 14 years ago, but the level of talent remains strong. It's a great community to work in.

    John Moore: And what shows do you have coming up?

    Bernie Cardell: I am directing several shows:


    The Foreigner: Ticket information

    • Presented by Spotlight Theatre Company
    • Performs through Aug. 1
    • At the John Hand Theater, 7653 E. 1st Place, Denver, CO 80230
    • Showtimes 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets $19-$21
    • Information: 720-880-8727 or www.thisisspotlight.com
    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.