• 'Messiah of movement' Bob Davidson passes away

    by John Moore | Dec 22, 2016

    Above: A video close-up at Bob Davidson's work with the National Theatre Conservatory.

    Though he grew up in rural Minnesota, renowned dancer and movement coach Bob Davidson lived a life of adventure Hemingway would have envied. Just last summer, he was training a group of European movement teachers in Istanbul “when we were rudely interrupted by a coup,” he said with typical panache.

    Bob Davidson Quote His global world view was shaped early in his life. He toured Central and South America with his college a cappella choir, followed by a summer studying indigenous music and dance in rural Uganda and Uzbekistan. He later received his advanced degree from the University of Washington in Ethnomusicology, the study of non-Western cultures.

    Davidson was found dead at his home earlier today, his family confirmed. He was 70. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

    Davidson was a teacher to the core. He started teaching Sunday school at the tender age of 13 and took charge of his church choir at 15. But if anything, he was a messiah for movement. Davidson fundamentally believed that the way we think and move influences what we say and do.

    Davidson was born July 20, 1946. He joined the Denver Center’s former National Theatre Conservatory faculty as Head of Movement in 1997 through its closure in 2012 and was largely responsible for the DCPA’s reputation as the national leader in teaching students how to incorporate the art of trapeze into theatrical productions. The NTC was the only graduate school in the country where studying trapeze for three years was not only an option, but a requirement.

    “He could help turn an MFA actor into a cowboy from Texas, and then into a 17th century aristocrat,” DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson told The Denver Post. “A lot of people don’t fully understand that isn’t simply clothing or dialect, but a physical process.”

    Davidson celebration
    To RSVP your attendance at Bob Davidson's life celebration on April 9, click here.


    His influence on the NTC's students was profound. A group of alumni led by Steven Cole Hughes (currently appearing in the DCPA's An Act of God), John Behlman and Eileen Little created a trapeze-based theatre company in New York called Fight or Flight, comprised almost entirely of NTC graduates. The troupe produces original works and aerial adaptations of classic stories.

    Davidson "changed a lot of tangible things about my life," Behlman wrote in tribute. "He's the reason I was ever introduced to the trapeze, and the source of a lot of joy and strange stories in my life. The world is significantly less interesting without Bob."

    Matt Zambrano, a member of the final graduating NTC class, called Davidson a brilliant teacher and student. "He was the man who taught me to fly, how to hold my head high with invisible strings and how to appreciate the space between things," Zambrano said.

    Bob Davidson. Photo courtesy DCPA EducationDavidson has collaborated with many directors on productions of Ibsen, Chekhov, Brecht and Shakespeare. He frequently choreographed productions for the DCPA Theatre Company, most recently a fully immersive movement adventure called Perception, which played out simultaneously as the audience toured several DCPA Education studios. The show was described as “a walk through a mind-bending, fantastical excursion where nothing is what it seems, and where every twist of your journey toys with your senses.”

    Read our recent faculty spotlight on Bob Davidson

    Davidson began exploring aerial dance on the triangular low-flying trapeze in 1986 and established his own aerial dance company in 1988. His epic, signature works were considered to be Rapture: Rumi and Airborne: Meister Eckhart, which have toured throughout the U.S., Europe and the former Soviet Union. He also choreographed successful aerial versions of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for Seattle’s Intiman Theatre as well as Portland Center Stage.

    (Story continues below)

    Video bonus: Masters students fly to poetry of Byron:

    Video highlights from the National Theatre Conservatory class of 2011's movement project inspired by the poetry of Lord Byron. Performed April 23, 2009.


    He was still teaching public classes as a faculty member for DCPA Education as recently as November. Asked what makes him a good teacher in a recent interview with the DCPA NewsCenter, he said, “Possibly because my education was so multi-disciplinary. And possibly because I’ve been doing it for almost 60 years!”

    Bob Davidson. Perception. Photo by Adams VisCom. DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous is a graduate of the NTC, and she considered being trained by Davidson on the trapeze to be an esteemed pleasure.

    “After my first year of graduate school at the NTC, everyone told me, ‘You seem taller’ - and it was true,” she said. “My already tall self had grown an inch because of trapeze and movement work with Bob. But I not only grew taller physically, I grew in artistry, passion, presence, creativity and love of the world because I met him.” 

    Davidson took particular pride in becoming certified in teaching the Skinner Releasing Technique way back in 1969, “making me the oldest living certified teacher of this technique in the world,” he said. SRT, he explained, “is a form of kinesthetic training that is essentially non-intellectual, yet image-oriented. So when SRT precedes an actor’s monologue work, the monologues generally improve greatly. It seems less strain, fear and ego are involved in the presentation — and more clarity, dynamics and confidence are the result.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Davidson remained founder Joan Skinner’s primary assistant at the University of Washington throughout the 1970s, becoming the director of the Skinner Releasing School in the 1974. He was a leading dancer in her American Contemporary Dance Company as well as the Music and Dance Ensemble.

    Bob Davidson. 1Davidson trained more than 65 teachers to be certified in SRT all over the world. “I am so passionate about it, I sometimes do it for free,” he said, “and it is a rigorous, challenging, sometimes painful 12-week commitment.”

    Watrous called Davidson "an extraordinary teacher who had a superpower to help actors find the power of connecting to their bodies,” she said. "He inspired so many artists and actors to carve space and take on the world - and he will forever inspire me.”

    Davidson is survived by his sister, Peggy Nield.

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


    Photo gallery: Off-Center's Perception in 2015:

    PERCEPTION- Off-Center at the JonesPhotos from 'Perception,' choreographed by Bob Davidson for the DCPA's Off-Center. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Adams VisCom.

    Additional testimonials

    Steve Jones, NTC, DCPA Theatre Company's 'As You Like It': "Bob taught me how to lift my skull to the heavens, plunge my feet down to the core of the Earth and how to fly with all of my heart."

    Geoffrey Kent, DCPA Fight Director: "If anyone deserves flights of angels, it's Bob."

    Alaina Beth Reel, student: "This man unleashed something in me, and made me surprised by how my own body could move. He was an incredible teacher I was lucky to have met and to have practiced under. Bob, thank you for all the lessons I practice daily and long to share with others. The Denver theatre community has another dark hole in its heart today."

    Curtiss Johns, student: Bob, you changed my life. You changed the way I looked at art and for that I am grateful. You changed the way I thought about theater and for that I am grateful. But most of all, you changed the way I move though this world and for that sir, I am forever in your debt. I, like so many of us who danced the dance of gossamer threads, will miss you terribly. But we will have you and the gifts you gave us in our bodies, minds and souls."

    Susanna Florence Risser, student: "This wild, mild, giant of a man shaped my artistic life as deeply as anyone I've known."

    Linnea Scott, student: Bob's spirit, grace, and suppleness are qualities that cannot be easily forgotten. His teachings were such a special gift, and I am so immensely grateful to have come in contact with his wisdom at such a young age.

    A Bob Davidson 800 1
    Photo below courtesy of DCPA Education.
  • Fall Classes: Meet Three DCPA Teaching Artists

    by John Moore | Sep 21, 2016
    Curtiss Johns.  DCPA Education's 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore.
    Curtiss Johns participated in a DCPA Education acting master class that culminated with a full staging of 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    DCPA Education offers year-round classes for 85,000 students of all ages, from a diverse lineup of experienced educators and professional teaching artists.

    This fall, DCPA Education is offering more than 40 adult classes and workshops ranging from stage accents to acting on camera to low-flying trapeze. There are business workshops available as well, including public speech (pictured below right). Classes are geared toward newcomers all the way through an acclaimed master class project for budding professionals that culminates each year in a fully produced play.

    “We are so fortunate to have the faculty we have,” said DCPA Head of Acting Instruction Tim McCracken. “They are terrific individuals from this market, who are highly skilled and able to offer so much to students of all levels.”

    Today, the DCPA NewsCenter is spotlighting three of those faculty members and the various classes they will be leading this fall. One is the acclaimed Christy Montour-Larson, who directed the DCPA Theatre Company’s Shadowlands, and will helm the world-premiere production of Two Degrees, opening Feb. 3.

    “Our teachers have the professional experience in the industry to get you where you want to go,” said McCracken.

    Registration deadlines vary by each individual class’ starting date, but most begin the week of Oct. 3. Full class descriptions and a downloadable brochure are available online here. For more information, call 303-446-4892.

    MEET BOB DAVIDSON

    “I began teaching Sunday school at age 13, and was our church choral director at 15. I toured Central and South America with our college a cappella choir, followed by a summer studying music and dance in rural Uganda and Uzbekistan. I established my own aerial dance company in 1988 and joined the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory faculty as Head of Movement in 1997.
    I was certified in the Skinner Releasing Technique in 1970, making me the oldest living certified teacher of this technique in the world.

    • Hometown: I grew up in rural southern Minnesota
    • Home now: Denver
    • High school: Mabel (Minn.) High School
    • College: Hamline (Minn.) with a BA in Music Performance and Composition, minoring in English Lit
    • Advanced education: University of Washington in Ethnomusicology 
    • Who was your favorite teacher? I am neither scientifically nor mathematically oriented, but Dean Wendlandt taught me high-school geometry, algebra, trigonometry, chemistry and physics in such a clear and comprehensible way. His classes may have planted the seeds that helped me sort through the potential chaos that often is “the arts.”
    • What makes you a good teacher? Possibly because my education was so multi-disciplinary. Possibly because I’ve been doing it for almost 60 years!
    • About DCPA Education: We’re always striving to focus and refine our course offerings to be relevant to actors at all levels of training.

      YOUR COURSE: MIND AND MOVEMENT INTENSIVE FOR ACTORS
      (with Laurence Curry)

    • Course description: I will first introduce the basics of the Skinner Releasing Technique, a form of kinesthetic training that is essentially non-intellectual, yet image-oriented. When SRT precedes monologue work, the monologues generally improve greatly. It seems less strain, fear, and ego are involved in the presentation — and more clarity, dynamics and confidence are the result.
    • Dates: Oct. 29 through Nov. 19 in the Newman Building
    • When: 1-4 p.m. Saturdays (First two Saturdays taught by Laurence Curry; second two Saturdays by Bob Davidson)
    • Your ideal student? An experienced actor who wants to improve his or her technique and process — although beginners are welcome. Each student must bring in a fully memorized monologue to present at the beginning of the Nov. 12 session, preferably classical.
    • What do you hope your students get out of it? I hope they begin to acquire a deeper sense of technical competence in their approach to acting, and that they learn there’s more than one way to say a line, and that the way we think influences what we say and do.
    • Fun fact: This is essentially process-oriented training — as opposed to product-oriented; so it is virtually impossible to fail. The by-products of this form of experimental training may be plentiful and pleasurable to behold.
    •  

    Editor's Note: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated where Bob Davidson received his certification in the Skinner Releasing Technique. We regret the error.

    MEET TIA MARLIER

    Tia Marlier 3"Over the past 40 years, I have worked as a vocalist singing jazz, pop, rock and a cappella; as a stage actor at Arvada Center and BDT Stage; as an on-camera actor; singing coach; as a church worship leader; as a news announcer, and as a presentation-skills coach. I'm now a voiceover talent agent."

    • Hometown: I grew up in Cleveland and Detroit
    • Home now: Littleton
    • High school: I attended the all-girls Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Mich.
    • College: B.A. in Telecommunications from Michigan State University
    • Web site: tiamarlier.com
    • Who was your favorite teacher? Louise Scudlo, who taught a J.D. Salinger class in high school, recognized and encouraged my writing ability, and she was wildly interesting and mysterious — the epitome of eccentricity!
    • What makes you a good teacher? I am a great encourager, and I love to bring out the potential in people.
    • About DCPA Education: The DCPA provides a fun, safe environment where adults of all ages can explore their creative sides. You will learn new skills and gain insight into the performing arts, while getting to explore and grow.

      YOUR COURSE: COMMERCIAL VOICEOVER 1 

    • Course description: Is your voice your favorite asset? Step up to the mic and learn the basics of the radio and television voiceover industry. Analyze and activate commercial copy, learn to take direction and increase your versatility. Learn about demos, agents, auditions and the voiceover market to get going with your career. You’ll even get to work in a professional recording studio during your final class.
    • Dates: Oct. 8-Nov. 12
    • When: First five Saturdays from 1-3:30 p.m. in the Newman Building. The final class will be held at a professional recording studio where students will experience a real voiceover recording session.
    • Your ideal student? ... is interested in using their voice, and has either some acting background, or a willingness to explore acting - which is an important voiceover skill.
    • What do you hope your students get out of it? I hope my students enjoy learning how to make words on a page come alive through their voices.
    • Fun fact: It's harder than you think to do voice over. And yet when you do it right, it's effortless!

       

    MEET CHRISTY MONTOUR-LARSON

    Christy Montour-Larson is a multiple award-winning director, recently named Top Director by Westword Magazine, 5280 Magazine and CBS4 Denver. Christy is looking forward to directing Two Degrees for the DCPA Theatre Company and Constellations at Curious Theatre, both in early 2017. She studied Meisner Technique from Bill Esper and Maggie Flanagin and has taught Acting and Directing at Metropolitan State University of Denver for more than 15 years. 

    • Hometown: Minneapolis
    • Home now: Denver
    • High school: Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minn.
    • College: BFA in Theatre from the University of Minnesota-Duluth
    • Advanced education: MFA in Directing from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Jersey
    • Who was your favorite teacher? I have been blessed to have had several inspiring teachers in my life. The great ones include my high-school drama teacher Gretchen Heath, who taught me to believe in myself; and Maggie Flanagin and Amy Saltz from Rutgers, who taught me to reach for the highest artistic standards
    • What makes you a good teacher? I pride myself on creating a space where students feel safe and have permission to take risks. I strive to be demanding without being unkind. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. 
    • About DCPA Education: The DCPA makes the whole classroom experience unforgettable and inspiring. The DCPA gives you a spark of life and equipment for living. For when you study theatre, you are crafting deeper skills in how to live more authentically — not only on stage, but off-stage as well.

      YOUR COURSE: MEISNER TECHNIQUE

    • Course description: Through the Meisner acting technique, students will discover they are never done learning the craft. Rooted in the work of master acting teacher Sanford Meisner, this class uses a series of exercises that build upon each other to create a useful set of new skills to master truthful human behavior.
    • Dates: Oct. 5-Nov. 9
    • When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the Newman Building
    • Your ideal student? Maybe someone who is beginning his or her studies as an actor.  You are passionate and hungry to find a way to use all of yourself to express those deep feelings. Maybe someone who has studied acting and has noticed there are moments when something has “clicked,” but it seems to be hit-or-miss. You wish you had something solid that you could build on and grow with. Maybe someone who has acted some but so often you feel you have lost touch with your own creative center.
    • What do you hope your students get out of it? To experience themselves as much greater and more powerful than they were previously aware. That they can be totally available and receptive to their acting partners. That they are courageous and ready to take risks.
    • Fun fact: When I first read Meisner on Acting, it changed the course of my professional life.
    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous leads a class for local business professionals. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'Perception' promises to bend your mind and move your feet

    by NewsCenter Staff | Apr 03, 2015



    By Elizabeth Jewitt

    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Perception will be a massive theatrical undertaking unlike anything Off-Center @ The Jones has ever done before.

    “In fact, we call ourselves Off-Center at The Jones, but this time we're not (even performing) at The Jones, which is exciting,” said Charlie Miller, one of three Perception directors.

    Perception quoteInstead, Perception is an immersive, interactive theatrical experience that will take place in the red-bricked Newman Center for Theater Education across the street from the Denver Performing Arts Complex at 13th and Arapahoe streets. Audiences are being told to come prepared for anything. And be prepared to move.

    “The concept of the show is that Professor Phelyx sends the audience on a journey to gain awareness around perception,” Miller said. “It's almost like living in a video game.”

    Off-Center is the DCPA Theatre Company's theatrical testing ground. Perception is considered “immersion theatre” because it is not taking place in a traditional theatre space, and the audience is never seated. Instead they travel through a series of rooms, where all of their senses will be provoked and challenged.

    A major component of the experience will be live music in each room composed for Perception by Tom Hagerman of the local band DeVotchKa, which will be adapting the musical Sweeney Todd for production by the DCPA Theatre Company next season.

    Perception. Photos by John Moore. “There's been a growing trend around this type of theater, and some really exciting work happening out of London and New York,” Miller said. Since 2011, Sleep No More has been attracting a whole new theatre audience to an abandoned Manhattan meatpacking building that a British theatre company turned into a 1930s-era hotel where inside, an adaptation of Macbeth plays out over five dimly lit floors.

    "But this kind of theatre has never happened at the DCPA before, and we are excited to be experimenting with that,” Miller said.  

    Perception audiences will also walk at their own pace through a variety of theatrically designed rooms. Their host is Denver native Phelyx Hopkins, better known as Professor Phelyx.

    Hopkins has been performing his mentalism craft for more than 34 years. So naturally, Professor Phelyx was the go-to guy for the Off-Center creative team to go to.  

    “I am blown away that so many people are putting this much work into a show, and they've been working on it all day, every day for a long time,” Hopkins said. “We started writing this thing eight months ago, and it's come a long way. I couldn't be more happy to work with such a capable team.”

    Hopkins describes himself as a comedic mind reader, “but there's a big, skeptical side to me,” he said. The audience can expect a “strong dose of skepticism, a lot of humor, mixed with unexplainable elements that look like mind reading or psycho-kinetic metal bending.”

    The show begins with an introduction from Professor Phelyx. Audience members then will be whisked away in small groups to explore each room where fantasy will become reality, and reality will become mere fantasy.

    “I think that everyone is going to have a unique experience,” Hopkins said. “At the end of the show, we expect audience members to talk with each other and discover that they missed something. But they got to see something that someone else missed. I hope the audience leaves with a sense of empowerment.”

    Miller describes Perception as a proudly abstract show. “It really calls for someone with a sense of adventure and an open mind to try something new and to be taken out of their  comfort zone,” he said.

    Hopkins guarantees something for everyone. “There are a couple of experiences we've designed to allude to how a politician might lie or how product marketing is designed to be a little deceptive,” he said. “I'll teach a few techniques for parents to detect when their children are lying. I'll teach techniques to tell how anyone is lying, for that matter. A lot of it is left for interpretation, so I think that is a part of why everybody is going to have a different experience.”

    Perception will have a limited engagement of just five performances with only 120 tickets available for each. Because audience members will be on their feet for the majority of the experience, comfortable clothing and shoes are recommended. The show is handicap accessible. 

    The directors of Perception are Miller, Allison Watrous and Bob Davidson. The  Production Manager is Melissa Cashion. The Producer is Emily Tarquin. The production team includes Topher Blair, Meghan Anderson Doyle, Eileen Garcia, Frank Haas, Erika Kae, Matthew Plamp and Nicholas Renaud. The Production Stage Manager is D. Lynn Reiland.

    Cast:
    Noah Anderson
    Danyelle Coble
    Peter Farr
    Lija Fisher
    Ali Francis
    Rachel Gibbons
    Rob Leary
    Iona Leighton
    Kevin Richard McGuire
    Leigh Miller
    Jacques Morrow
    Sam Provenzano
    Aspen Roder
    Mackenzie Sherburne
    Zach Tait
    Austin Terrell

    Perception: Performance information:
    April 10-25, 2015
    Performances 8 p.m. Fridays April 10, 17 and 24; Saturdays April 18 and 25
    At the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education, corner of 13th and Arapahoe streets
    Tickets $25
    303-893-4100 or buy online

    Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa will be providing original music for each of the rooms in 'Perception.' Photo by John Moore. Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa will be providing original music for each of the rooms in 'Perception.' He's pictured above performing at the DCPA's Holiday Box Office in December. Photo by John Moore.
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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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