• Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

    by John Moore | Aug 31, 2016

    Regan Linton


    Denver’s acclaimed Phamaly Theatre Company, which exists to provide performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, is saying goodbye – and hello – to two of its most familiar faces.

    Artistic Director Bryce Alexander has resigned to assume the same position with the Naples (Fla.) Players. Regan Linton, who performed with Phamaly for six years before becoming a leading advocate for the inclusion of actors with disabilities in the national theatre, will run the company for at least the next year.

    “We’re largely on the same page and have a shared vision for the company, so I anticipate a smooth transition,” Linton said Tuesday from her home in Bozeman, Mont. "Bryce has started a lot of great initiatives, and I get to pick up where he left off.”

    Bryce Alexander It is believed that Linton, 34, will become the only Artistic Director in a wheelchair to be leading a major U.S. theatre company, according to the Theatre Communications Group.

    Phamaly has produced professional plays and musicals since 1989, cast entirely with performers who have physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. While the company now performs a full year-round season, including a statewide children’s tour, its primary offering each year is a Broadway musical staged each summer at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Next up: Peter Pan in the Stage Theatre in July 2017.

    “Having a person with a disability in a leadership role is an important statement for any theatre company to make,” Linton said. “This gives me an opportunity to engage with Phamaly’s vision in a more proactive way, and to engage with actors with disabilities in a new way.”

    Linton, a graduate of Denver East High School, was paralyzed in a 2002 car accident while an undergraduate at the University of Southern California. After graduation, she won Denver Post Ovation Awards for her work in Phamaly’s productions of Side Show and The Man of LaMancha. Since then, her many “firsts” have included becoming the first paralyzed student ever accepted into one of the nation’s top masters acting conservatory programs (the University of California at San Diego), and Linton was the first actor in a wheelchair to be hired into the venerable Oregon Shakespeare Festival's year-round repertory company.

    “Regan brings a national artistic presence as a renowned professional actress, but she also brings her hometown knowledge of the actors, the company and the community,” Alexander said of his successor. “Anytime a prominent artist returns home to her roots, that can be a very powerful tool for the company. I think Regan will be able to take Phamaly to the next level as a major regional theatre in America.”

    Alexander has been with Phamaly since 2007 and became the company’s first full-time Artistic Director just 18 months ago. He said he would not be leaving now if he didn’t have full confidence in the company’s current course. He said he leaves Phamaly with a solid presence in the local national theatre communities, and solid relationships with the respective disability communities.

    Under Alexander, Phamaly has instituted year-round season programming, doubled its staff to six, significantly increased its funding from both the local Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and the National Endowment for the Arts, and made an international goodwill tour to Japan. In addition to directing The Glass Menagerie, Cabaret, Taking Leave and Evita, Alexander counts among notable accomplishments the introduction and implementation of sensory friendly performances.

    “All of that is clear proof that Phamaly is only on the way up,” Alexander said. “As bittersweet as it is for me to say, it is time for Phamaly to take the next step with someone who is living everyday with a disability and is able to truly connect with both the the disability community and the professional theatre community.”

    Alexander worked tirelessly to eradicate any perception of his company as an “other,” preferring instead for Phamaly to be considered and compared by the same standards as any other Denver-area theatre company.

    “I’ll miss the people the most,” Alexander said, “especially the actors who sacrifice and love far beyond any standard degree. Who so excellently explore our craft. I will never forget the passion they’ve taught me.” 

    A Linton much-ado-aout-nothingIn the Naples Players, Alexander will lead a venerable, year-round community theatre founded in 1953 in southwestern Florida. It performs mostly family friendly plays and musicals such as the upcoming Coney Island Christmas, Outside Mullingar and My Fair Lady. Alexander said the company services many socioeconomic backgrounds, has a strong arts-education program and subsists largely on 50,000 volunteer hours per year.

    The move will represent a significant increase in scope for Alexander. The Naples Players operate on a $3 million annual operating budget, compared to Phamaly’s $850,000. He will have a full-time staff of 16 in Florida, while Phamaly has four. And while Phamaly performs before about 12,000 a year, the Naples Players draw about 60,000.

    “The model of the Naples Players is one that large, regional professional theatres will be looking at," said Alexander, "not only concerning how to engage their audiences on a significant level, but the community as well."

    Alexander graduated from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora and earned his graduate degree in Theatre Performance from the University of Colorado-Boulder. He was trained under the wing of DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who hired Alexander as his Assistant Director for White Christmas in 2012 and Just Like Us in 2013. He worked summers at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
     
    “Bryce has raised the bar during his time with Phamaly Theatre Company," said Phamaly Executive Director Maureen Johnson Ediger. "His passion for including artists living with all disabilities, combined with his innate talent for nurturing thought-provoking theatre, made him a profound artistic leader for our company.”

    Alexander is married to local actor Katie Cross, who will be featured in the Avenue Theater's The Money Shot, opening Friday and running through Sept. 24. They will move to Florida in October.

    Linton’s interim position will be considered a part-time role while the executive staff defines  job roles moving into the future. That will allow Linton to continue her work as a national disability advocate, though she said there is a very good possibility that her role could transition into a full-time career change next year.

    “I'm thrilled, honored, and really excited to see how I can support the company to keep doing great things, but also move into new directions,” said Linton, who has recently acted with The Arson Theatre in Minneapolis and the Griot Theatre in Los Angeles. “I am still very passionate about performing and developing as an artist, so I am going to continue to perform when it is beneficial to the company as well."

    Ediger said Linton’s charge is to focus on actor development, season implementation and development, and to continue to build partnerships with the theatre and disability communities.

    “She is the ideal candidate to pick up the torch and seamlessly move the company forward with their mission to inspire people to re-envision disability through professional theatre,” Ediger said. 

    Phamaly is not currently accepting applications for the permanent position. 

    Photos above: Regan Linton appearing in Phamaly's 'The Man of La Mancha,' Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 'Much Ado about Nothing,' and Phamaly's 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Linton played a paralyzed Don Juan with Barret O'Brien in ' Much Ado,' - her understudy even had to learn to perform the role from a wheelchair. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    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.

    Phamaly Theatre Company' 2016-17 season
    Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach (touring)
    Opening Oct. 21-22, 2016, at the Lakewood Cultural Center

    Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol
    Dec. 1-18, 2016
    At the King Center on the Auraria campus

    Pygmalion
    By George Bernard Shaw
    Feb. 23-March 12, 2017
    At the Aurora Fox

    Staged reading of Spirits of Another Sort
    in collaboration with New York's Apothetae Theatre
    May 6-7, 2017
    At the Lone Tree Arts Center

    Peter Pan
    July 13-Aug. 6, 2017
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex

    For further information, click here

    Selected previous coverage of Regan Linton and Phamaly:



    Phamaly will send wheelchairs flying in Peter Pan
    February 2015: Phamaly names Bryce Alexander to replace Steve Wilson
    Wilson resigns from Phamaly after 14 years
    Regan Linton works her magic in San Diego
    PBS podcast: Denver theater featuring disabled cast gains popularity
    Phamaly's historic goodwill tour to Japan
    Regan Linton: Performing for those who cannot
  • Phamaly will send wheelchairs flying in historic 'Peter Pan'

    by John Moore | Jun 05, 2016
    Phamalys 2016 season announcementPhotos from Phamaly's annual gala on June 4, where it was announced that 'Peter Pan' will anchor the 2016-17 season at the DCPA's Stage Theatre. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    Phamaly Theatre Company promises to send wheelchairs flying in the summer of 2017 when it presents Peter Pan in the Denver Center's expansive Stage Theatre, making it the largest undertaking in Phamaly's 28-year history.

    Peter Pan John Cameron Mitchell Phamaly Phamaly will be following in the hallowed fairy dust of John Cameron Mitchell, internationally ignored song stylist and creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, who performed the titular role in Peter Pan in the same Stage Theatre in 1989 as a member of the Denver Center Theatre Company (pictured at right).  

    Phamaly produces professional-scale plays and musicals year-round, cast entirely of performers with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. For years, Phamaly has presented its annual summer musical at the Denver Center's Space Theatre, but because of year-long renovations that are presently underway, Phamaly will offer Evita next month at the University of Denver's Byron Theatre (July 16-Aug. 7).

    "Peter Pan is a wonderful story about aging, the fairness of life and the value of obstacle," Artistic Director Bryce Alexander (pictured below right) said when announcing Phamaly's 2016-17 season at its annual gala on Saturday night.

    Phamaly Bryce AlexanderThe lineup is at once a complete embrace of both classic stories and presentational innovation. Phamaly will present Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol at the King Center on the Auraria campus, directed by Paul Dwyer. That will be followed by George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion at the Aurora Fox, directed by Carolyn Howarth, who recently helmed Colorado Shakespeare Festival's award-winning production of Henry V. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Next will be a staged reading of a new adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream in collaboration with New York's disability-based Apothetae Theatre at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

    "While still in Shakespeare's language, Phamaly and Apothetae will work together to further develop a script called Spirits of Another Sort that highlights the themes of war, chaos and otherness - as well as the magic that exists in love, and in variation of body," said Alexander, whose goal is to eventually fully produce the new play both in Denver and New York.

    Phamaly Evita Hannah Ballmer Rob Costigan
    Rob Costigan and Hannah Balmer demonstrate how the tango will look with the added dimension of a wheelchair when 'Evita' opens next month at the University of Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The touring children's production will be Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, opening in October at the Lakewood Cultural Center before touring Colorado and Wyoming through May. Alexander said the story of a boy who feels like an outsider, learning to accept differences and overcoming obstacles, makes Dahl's classic the perfect vehicle for Phamaly's educational outreach.

    "With this new season, we are daring the community to reimagine these classic stories through a new lens," Alexander said.

    But all eyes will be on the sky when Phamaly takes on Peter Pan in the Stage Theatre, which has has a capacity of 778. That's more than 200 greater than the Space Theatre. And while Phamaly traditionally performs "in the round," the Stage has a thrust stage with an audience that wraps around in a semi-circle. DU's Byron Theatre, which is hosting Evita next month, seats about 350.

    Click here for more info on Phamaly Theatre Company

    Alexander also took a moment from his announcement to commend the company's ongoing relationship with the Denver Center, particularly its Education Division.

    "Phamaly already has a renowned partnership with Denver Center Education, where we collaborate to provide free professional-arts training specifically for adults with disabilities. But as we look to change the standards of accessibility, I am thrilled to announce that this fall, Phamaly will begin adding classes specifically for children with disabilities. Phamaly is raising the bar for education."

    Alexander's first year as Artistic Director included an on-site visit from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu, and a move to bring both trained audio describers on staff and equipment in-house, making Phamaly one of only a handful of theatre companies in the country that can accommodate those audience requests on demand.

    "It's easy to focus on the past - to look at where we've come from, at what we have accomplished and who we have touched," Alexander said. "But I want us to look forward."

    The gala was hosted by KUSA anchor Kyle Dyer and former Denver Broncos running back Reggie Rivers.


    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.


    Phamaly Theatre Company' 2016-17 season
    Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach (touring)
    Opening Oct. 21-22, 2016, at the Lakewood Cultural Center
    Directed by Bryce Alexander

    Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol
    Dec. 1-18, 2016
    At the King Center on the Auraria campus
    Directed by Paul Dwyer

    Pygmalion
    By George Bernard Shaw
    Feb. 23-March 12, 2017
    At the Aurora Fox
    Directed by Carolyn Howarth
     
    Staged reading of Spirits of Another Sort
    in collaboration with New York's Apothetae Theatre
    May 6-7, 2017
    At the Lone Tree Arts Center

    Peter Pan
    July 13-Aug. 6, 2017
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Directed by Bryce Alexander


    Click here for more info on Phamaly Theatre Company

  • Photos: Backstage for Phamaly's remarkable opening-night ritual, 'Zap!'

    by John Moore | Jul 22, 2015


    Photos from before and after Phamaly Theatre Company's July 16 opening of "Cabaret" at the DCPA's Space Theatre. To download any photo above, click on "View original Flickr image." Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. 


    In the minutes before the opening performance of Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret, actor and founding company member Mark Dissette gathers the cast of 30 actors, each with widely varying disabilities, along with crew and volunteers, for one of the most electrifying pre-show rituals in the local theatre community.

    They form a circle. Those who can stand, stand. Those who cannot roll up in their wheelchairs. Those who can clasp hands, claps hands. Those with missing or disfigured hands make contact with their neighbors as best they can. They all close their eyes in reverence as Dissette calls out from memory the agonizingly long list of company members who have passed away during the 26 years that this unique company has been creating performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

    Dabiel Traylor, who plays one of the 'Cabaret' Emcees, just before the opening performance. Photo by John Moore. Dissette then begins the ritual they call "Zap." As if there weren't enough energy in the air already, the group begins to buzz. Literally. "This is our dream - get a little louder," Dissette orders. And they do. "Bzzz." "This is our vision - get a little louder." And they do. "BZZZ." After more exhortation, the vibration builds to a deafening climax.

    "1-2-3 ..." Dissette shouts, and all voices scream in unison, "ZAP!"

    Now there is nothing but sudden, solemn silence. The next spoken word is not to be uttered until the actors hit the stage. For a company whose actors are blind and deaf, with disabilities ranging from stroke to spina bifida to multiple sclerosis to AIDS, it is both the beginning and the culmination of an extraordinary journey.

    (Photo: Daniel Traylor, who plays one of the 'Cabaret' Emcees, just before the opening performance. Photo by John Moore.)

    Cabaret, directed by newly named Artistic Director Bryce Alexander, is inherently different from any Cabaret you may have seen before. (Although there are multiple versions of the Cabaret script out there, Phamaly is performing the version starring Alan Cumming on Broadway in 1998, which is the most sexually explicit.) 

    Consistent with the Phamaly philosophy, the actors’ handicaps are not hidden but rather adapted into the roles they play. So Sally Bowles (Lyndsay Palmer) happens to be hard of hearing. Fraulein Schneider (Lucy Roucis) has advanced Parkinson’s disease.

    Perhaps Alexander’s most daring creative departure is casting two actors to play the iconic Emcee at once. Longtime company member Daniel Traylor, who has Sensoral Neural Hearing Loss (among other issues), shares the role with newcomer Garrett Zuercher, who appeared as Huck Finn in Deaf West’s Broadway production of Big River.

    Rather than trade performances, the two share the same stage as “M” and “C,” respectively, a couple who run the show at a Kit Kat Klub - which in this world primarily services a disabled clientele in pre-World War II Germany. Traylor speaks the Emcee’s lines because he can, while Zuercher communicates with the audience, and his fellow actors, in multiple non-verbal ways.

    The creative intent of all this is to make plain to the audience that Holocaust victims also included artists, homosexuals, the disabled and many others.

    Before the opening performance, Phamaly hosted its annual fundraising gala, at which the company's 2015-16 season was announced. The lineup includes the presentation of Nagle Jackson's Taking Leave at the Jones Theatre. Because the DCPA's Space Theatre will be undergoing a renovation next summer, Phamaly's presentation of Evita will move to the University of Denver's Newman Center.

    Phamaly now operates year-round, so this is the first season announcement that will allow audiences the opportunity to purchase a season ticket. (Call 303-365-0005, ext. 3). The lineup:

    Baby with the Bathwater
    By Christopher Durang
    Directed by Warren Sherrill
    Oct. 9-25 at the Avenue Theater

    Fuddy Meers
    By David Lyndsay-Abaire
    Directed by the DCPA's Emily Tarquin
    Jan. 28-Feb. 14, 2016, at the Aurora Fox
    Feb. 26-28, 2016, at the Arvada Center

    Taking Leave
    By Nagle Jackson
    Directed by Bryce Alexander
    April 1-17, 2016
    At the Jones Theatre at the DCPA

    Evita
    By Time Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
    Directed by Bryce Alexander
    July 14-Aug. 7, 2016
    At the University of Denver's Byron Theatre in the Newman Center

    Phamaly Theatre Company's pre-show 'Zap' ritual before the opening performance of 'Cabaret.' Photo by John Moore.

    Phamaly Theatre Company's pre-show 'Zap' ritual before the opening performance of 'Cabaret.' Photo by John Moore. 


    Cabaret: Ticket information
    Performances through Aug. 9
    Space Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Contains mature themes and is not recommended for children.
    Tickets $32-42
    Groups of 10 or more $26 per person
    Call 303-893-4100 or go to Phamaly's web site

    Cast List:
    Directed by Bryce Alexander
    Musical Direction by Mary Dailey
    Choreography by Debbie Stark and Ronni Gallup
    Master of Ceremonies (Emcee): Garrett Zuercher and Daniel Traylor
    Clifford Bradshaw: Jeremy Palmer
    Fraulein Schneider: Lucy Roucis
    Herr Shultz: Mark Dissette
    Fraulein Kost: Ashley Kelashian
    Sally Bowles: Lyndsay Palmer
    Ernst Ludwig: Trenton Schindele

    Female Ensemble:
    Khea Craig
    Harper Liles
    Megan McGuire
    Amber Marsh
    Lauren Cora Marsh
    Laurice Quinn
    Micayla Smith
    Kristi Siedow-Thompson
    Vicki Thiem
    Rachel VanScoy
    Shannon Wilson
    Linda Wirth

    Male Ensemble:
    Kevin Ahl
    Brian Be
    Stewart Caswell
    Donny Gabenski
    Adam Johnson
    Phillip Lomeo
    James Sherman
    Andrew Tubbs

    Youth Ensemble:
    Everett Ediger
    Harper Ediger
    Leslie Wilburn

  • Japantastick No. 5: Making music with total strangers

    by John Moore | Mar 27, 2015
    Note: This is Day 5 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip that will culminate with a performance of "The Fantasticks":


    Video above: Phamaly Theatre Company Musical Director Mary Kay Dailey leads four random Japanese students she met in a park in a song.


    Taking a respite from rehearsals and workshops, Phamaly Theatre Company Music Director Mary Kay Dailey and harpist Barb Lepke-Sims took to the streets and quickly found themselves at a loss for words. Specifically a loss for Japanese words.

    Phamaly in Japan. Mary Kay Dailey. “Barb snapped pictures of the station stops so we could backtrack our way home like leaving breadcrumbs in the forest,” Dailey said. But if there is a universal language, it is music. As Daily arrived at her destination of Osaka Palace, she heard faint singing in the distance.

    “Four young girls in proper school uniforms stood in a circle by the entrance to the park. They had sheet music in their hands and they seemed to be practicing,” said Dailey, who couldn't help but ask to listen.

    “Through an awkward game of charades, I found out that they were in a choir and their high school was right across the street,” Dailey said. “I explained that I am a music teacher.”

    And then they communicated the only way they really could.

    “I pointed to the soprano and alto lines of the four-part vocal score," Dailey said. "They were all sopranos. I hummed a note, and we all sang the tune.

    “My entire day before and after was a communication challenge, but for those brief 30 seconds, we totally understood and communicated in the same language – music. I am truly blessed to be able to share and receive the gift of music, for it has no boundaries.”


    'Frozen' barriers melt away in Disney song: 


    Video above: In case you wanted to know, here is how the monster hit song "Let it Go" from "Frozen" sounds in Japanese. Video by Jenna Bainbridge.

    Back at the Big-I – headquarters for Phamaly’s week of cultural goodwill – actor Jenna Bainbridge discovered if there is one more universal language besides music, it is Disney music. As Bainbridge began to try to find a commonality with her assigned Japanese students, she discovered they all knew – and love – the song “Let it Go” from Disney’s global animated hit film, Frozen. And the teacher became student.

    “They proceeded to teach me how to sing it in Japanese,” she said. “One girl was so helpful, that she wrote everything down phonetically so the Americans could sing it, too. We now know it all in English and Japanese, and are eager to perform it in the workshop."


    Lennon song still making, not imagining, a better world:  

    Video above: Phamaly Theatre Company Artistic Director Bryce Alexander directing, interpreted first into Japanese, then into Japanese Sign Language. The final piece has no words but is still understandable to anyone watching. Video by Jeremy Palmer.

    Jeremy Palmer is not only a Phamaly board member but also an actor, director and writer as well. He has headed the company’s now longstanding venture into creating original comedy performance opportunities for disabled actors through ongoing  programs called Vox Phamilia and dislabled. Palmer, Alexander and actor Robert Michael Sanders took three chosen “storytellers” from among the Japanese workshop participants and helped them shape their personal stories into original staged pieces.

    “The first woman had a piece that was already so beautiful and expressive, we all understood it even though it was completely silent,” said Palmer, who plays El Gallo in The Fantasticks. “Bryce added and expanded her movement and it was done.” Later Bainbridge and Palmer added other choral singers at the end as the woman, named Hirowei (“But I can't swear to that spelling,” he says) signed and danced to John Lennon’s song, "Imagine."

    A young transgendered girl with autism named Syuyo asked for a script to read, so Palmer did what he has always done with new Phamaly actors back home in Denver. He let her talk - through an interpreter. Over lunch, Palmer formed his notes into a narrative monologue. The interpreter then read his words to Syuyo’s mother, who then wrote it out in Chinese characters – and then rewrote it again in Japanese characters Syuyo could  understand. A circuitous and successful journey toward communication.

    At one point, Syuyo told her Phamaly group leaders she wants to help others like her, because she feels like she can't express herself.

    “Bryce and I explained that 26 years ago, that's why Phamaly was founded,” Palmer said. “One can only hope that many years from now, Syuyo might look back on this week as a spark that started something just as significant as Phamaly.”

    More observations from the day from Phamaly members in Japan:

    Lyndsay Palmer (The Mute in “The Fantasticks): “After a shaky start, I ended up working with my fellow cast members to teach my parasol dance originally choreographed by Phamaly's Debbie Stark to a full room of workshop participants. And they locked it up in a snap. It brought tears to my eyes to see us all work together like that, in spite of barriers of disability and language. I'm so proud, and I know we will put on a beautiful show together tomorrow.”

    Daniel Traylor (Matt): “I'm sitting among so much passion right now, it's overwhelming. We're breaking down language barriers and constructing a production in a matter of hours. I feel like I'm witnessing passions blossoming that have otherwise been stifled. Something has been awakened in them, and I hope that when we leave, we won't be taking their only creative outlet away. Some of these performers will want to follow in Phamaly's footsteps. Maybe Big-i will be a part of that.”

    Jenna Bainbridge (Luisa): "We went to a wonderful restaurant where our waiter handed us the translation app on the phone. It said, in very broken English, ‘You has pictures of all?’ I assumed the waiter was asking if we wanted a picture of the whole table, so I handed him my phone - and he ran away. He came back a moment later with a Polaroid camera and asked to take a picture of us all to put on a wall in the back. He was so helpful and eager to talk to us that he kept handing his translation app to us so we could communicate. We wrote on our picture: ‘Phamaly, The Fantasticks, March 2015. Wonderful food, Love Stewart, David, Lyndsay, Jeremy, Jenna.’ What a great time.

    CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW FOR OUR NEXT JAPANTASTICK UPDATE 

    OUR PHAMALY PHOTO GALLERY (TO DATE):



    OUR PREVIOUS JAPANTASTICK PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:

    No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins
    No. 2: It's raining yen​
    No. 3: Boundaries created by war can be broken
    No. 4: Overcoming barriers and finding commonality 

     

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:

    Phamaly to take The Fantasticks to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director

    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors

     

     



    Phamaly in Japan.
  • Japantastick No. 3: Boundaries created by war can be broken

    by John Moore | Mar 25, 2015
    Phamaly group photo at Japanese theme park.

    Note: This is Day 3 of our daily report from Japan, where members of Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company are participating in a 10-day goodwill trip that will culminate with a performance of "The Fantasticks":



    Last night, as a group from Denver’s Phamaly Theatre Company sat down for dinner on their second full day in Japan, an older man who spoke very little English approached them.

    “He apologized the best way he could for interrupting our dinner,” said Phamaly Artistic Director Bryce Alexander. “He had a gentle, kind look in his eyes. He managed to introduce himself to us by simply saying: 'I ... 1950s ... Hiroshima.'  

    “He smiled, shook our hands very warmly, and bowed with the deepest respect. He had no other words.” 

    Welcome Phamaly The Americans, representing Denver’s acclaimed theatre company made up entirely of actors with disabilities, had no way to respond. “We were rendered speechless - and not because we know so very little Japanese,” Alexander said. 

    Such are the ordinary, extraordinary encounters the Phamaly contingent is in for during their 10-day goodwill trip to Osaka, which will culminate in their performance of The Fantasticks before 1,500 at the Communication Center for Persons with Disabilities, also known as “Big-i” in Osaka. 

    “It became very clear that being here, in this culture, is so very important for so many reasons,” Alexander said. “That with all of the awful news in the world, there is hope, and love, and forgiveness, and openness between peoples. That boundaries created by war, or poverty or disability, can be broken. That in the end, life should be about living - struggles, triumphs, and all.”

    Added actor Robert Michael Sanders: “Everywhere we go, we are witness to what seems to be a lifestyle of kindness and efficient simplicity.”  

    Actor Daniel Traylor said the overwhelming courtesy is a big part of the culture shock he's experiencing. “People have gone out of their way to be helpful, rather than turning a blind eye,” he said. “One steward in particular never left our side from the instant we got off the plane until we had gathered our bags and left. He never acted as though we were keeping him from something else, and was patient until we said our goodbyes.” 

    Theme of the day: Theme park
    The Phamaly team had a full day to themselves on Tuesday before today’s first official workshop. They spent it at a Japanese movie studio theme park in Kyoto. Some observations: 

    Robert Michael Sanders (Bellomy): “Today we saw some samurai demonstrations as well as films being made. While trying to make conversation with a local woman in a gift shop, I remembered to give her my card that says, “American actor" in Japanese. “As she read, she began jumping up-and-down as if George Clooney had just entered the building. I assured her he hadn't.  But it was quite amazing. The people are busy but never rude. In fact, they are very patient, accommodating and willing to help.” 

    Jenna Bainbridge (Luisa): I've learned children in particular love to talk to Americans. I had quite a few run up to me, yell “hello” at me and run away -- some as young as 4. I can't wait for another adventure tomorrow.”

    Lyndsay Palmer (The Mute): “They were actually filming a ninja movie at the park. We also got to show off our anime drawing skills and have fun in a trick art museum. We ate at a place called Lotteria, which served hamburgers and French fries but Robert Michael Sanders was convinced it was kangaroo meat. You could even smoke in the restaurant, but not during lunch hour. ... We were not there during lunch hour ... Eww!”

    Jeremy Palmer (El Gallo): “We spent the day at a watching ninja and samurai shows. Fingers crossed we replace our sword fight in The Fantasticks with an epic katana blade battle! 

    More on where the conference is happening:
    The Big-i in Osaka. The location of the conference is called “The Big-i," which is the International Communications Center for Persons with Disabilities. The institute was established in 2001 for the commemoration of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992). Among the ideas The Big-i promotes: 

    • Persons with disabilities play the leading role.
    • Promotion of social participation by persons with disabilities through art, cultural activities and international communications.

    “It is a state-of-the-art facility,” said Phamaly harpist Barb Lepke-Sims."We are staying in the Western rooms where they even have heated toilet seats. (Definitely something that should be adopted by the Colorado housing industry.)

    OUR PHAMALY PHOTO GALLERY (TO DATE):



    CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW FOR OUR NEXT JAPANTASTICK UPDATE
     

    OUR PREVIOUS JAPANTASTICK PHAMALY JOURNAL ENTRIES:
    No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins
    No. 2: It's raining yen​

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:
    Phamaly to take The Fantasticks to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director
    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors

  • Japantastick No. 1: Phamaly's 'massive moment' in Osaka begins

    by John Moore | Mar 22, 2015

    Stewart Caswell, David Wright and Jeremy Palmer. Photo by Michael Ensminger

    From left: Stewart Caswell, David Wright and Jeremy Palmer in Phamaly Theatre Company's 'The Fantasticks.' Photo by Michael Ensminger  



    It is, in the words of actor Daniel Traylor, “a massive moment in Phamaly's history.”

    Denver’s acclaimed professional handicapped theatre company is traveling today to Osaka, Japan, to perform the classic musical The Fantasticks. It will be the first-ever international performance in the company’s 26-year history.

    “I am at once exhilarated and anxious,” said newly appointed Phamaly Artistic Director Bryce Russell Alexander. The 10-day cultural exchange trip will include Phamaly actors leading community workshops and will culminate with a performance of The Fantasticks in front of more than 1,500 – the largest one-time Phamaly audience ever ... by perhaps three times.

    Fantasticks Quote“How will they react - not only to our very open disabilities - but also to the production?” Alexander said. "Only time will tell.”

    Phamaly has produced professional plays and musicals since 1989, cast entirely with performers who have physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. The company has been invited to Japan by the Communication Center for Persons with Disabilities, also known as “Big i” in Osaka. The nickname stands for the first letter of the words independence, information, intercommunication and international. The name was chosen in hopes of advancing global exchange and the independence of people with disabilities.

    “This whole thing hasn't settled for me quite yet, and I don't think it will till we land in Japan,” said Traylor, who plays Matt in The Fantasticks. “We're going out there embracing what makes each other's awareness of disabilities different and successful. I'm excited to see the butterfly that comes from this.”

    Original company member Mark Dissette, who plays Hucklebee, says he has "wondered, cried, screamed and begged for Phamaly to have more recognition beyond Denver. Now, that time has come.”

    Harpist Barb Lepke-Sims is new to Phamaly with this production, which was recently presented at both the Aurora Fox and Arvada Center. “I am excited to become part of the Phamaly family and make new friends in Japan,” she said. “I also want to thank the Japanese harpists who made it possible for us to rent a harp in Japan so that Phamaly could be able to use the full orchestration for the play.”

    Lepke-Sims first played harp for The Fantasticks as a high-schooler in New Jersey, and she has been playing the show regularly in the 35 years since. “As a 17-year-old, I would never have dreamed this play would one day take me to Japan,” she said. “It’s exciting to see how one thing leads to another and how one's life unfolds.”

    Alexander and his cast of eight actors will lead four days of mock auditions and acting workshops for nearly 100 participants traveling from all over Osaka Prefecture, a geographical region of Japan that spans 733 square miles. At the end of the four days, the community participants will hold their own performance of original writing, in which they will share their own stories.

    “The opportunity to share our stories, understand their experiences and combine our performance styles will result in a deeper and unified understanding of disability theory and advocacy across our cultures,” Alexander said. “We will bring that knowledge back to the United States where we can broaden our impact, refine our messaging and deepen our artistic process.”

    The Fantasticks, written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, is the world’s longest-playing musical. It has been running off-Broadway for more than 52 years in New York. It is the poignant tale of two young lovers, their meddling fathers and the wall that divides them.

    The DCPA NewsCenter will follow Phamaly’s trip by producing a daily blog with words and photos from the cast and crew in Japan.

    Daniel Traylor, who plays Matt, sang at the DCPA's recent 'Saturday Night Alive' fundraiser. Photo by Steve Peterson.As the team prepared to make the flight today, we asked them to tell us what they are most excited or nervous about. Here are some of their responses:

    • "Who do you have to write to get international time sped up? This cultural exchange of ideas and friendship can't happen fast enough." —Stewart Caswell, Mortimer
    • “How do I fit everything I need for 10 days into a manageable suitcase? If only there were some art of folding I could study, but where in the world would THAT be a thing?” Jeremy Palmer, El Gallo
    • “I am anxious and so very excited for Sunday to get here, even though I'm not packed at all for our 10-day trip yet.” Lyndsay Palmer (Mute)
    • “I am so excited. I have no idea what to expect, but I know it will be a great adventure. I mean, look who I am going with. This will be the trip of a lifetime for this old (older) man.” David Wright (Henry the old Actor)
    • “I am nervous about the plane trip and that we get there safely. But once we arrive, I will be 100 percent open to anything that happens.” Harpist Barb Lepke-Sims.
    • “I (feel I) must meet a challenge that is both exciting and terrifying in a place that I have only read about." Mark Dissette, Huckabee.
    Phamaly’s primary production each year is a Broadway musical staged at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. This summer, it will present Cabaret from July 16-Aug. 9.


    Pictured above right: Daniel Traylor, who plays Matt, sang "Being Alive" from "Company" at the DCPA's recent "Saturday Night Alive" fundraiser. Photo by Steve Peterson.

    CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW FOR OUR NEXT JAPANTASTICK UPDATE 

    CAST LIST:
    El Gallo: Jeremy Palmer
    Luisa: Jenna Bainbridge
    Matt: Daniel Traylor
    Hucklebee: Mark Dissette
    Bellomy: Robert Michael Sanders
    Henry: David Wright
    Mortimer: Stewart Caswell
    Mute: Lyndsay Palmer

    OUR RECENT NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF PHAMALY:
    Phamaly to take 'The Fantasticks' to Japan
    Phamaly picks Bryce Alexander as new artistic director
    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    DCPA Access-Ability Video featuring Phamaly actors
  • Phamaly promotes Bryce Alexander to replace longtime artistic leader

    by John Moore | Feb 19, 2015

    Steve Wilson and Bryce Alexander. Photo by John Moore.
    The retiring Steve Wilson, left, and his replacement, Bryce Alexander. Photo by John Moore.


    Denver’s Phamaly Theatre Company, acclaimed for creating performance opportunities for hundreds of actors with disabilities, has named Bryce Alexander its new Artistic Director. 

    Alexander, 25, hBryce Alexander Quoteas been with Phamaly for six years, most recently as Associate Artistic Director under Steve Wilson, who resigned after 14 years on Dec. 31.

    "I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to deepen my relationship with our extraordinary company through the trust of the board, the staff, the performers and the community," Alexander said. "Steve Wilson has built Phamaly’s reputation of high quality, professional theatre. I am humbled to succeed him and take Phamaly to the next level."

    DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson hired Alexander as his Assistant Director for White Christmas in 2012 and Just Like Us in 2013. “I am thrilled by Bryce’s appointment, having seen several productions he has directed,” said Thompson. Alexander also assisted Art Manke on the Theatre Company's The Three Musketeers.

    “I have no doubt that his energy, talent and deep commitment to Phamaly will help it reach new heights of artistic success and national acclaim,” Thompson added.

    Phamaly has produced professional plays and musicals since 1989, cast entirely with performers who have physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. While the company now performs up to six productions a year, its primary offering each year is a Broadway musical staged at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. 

    Bryce AlexanderWilson, who served on the search committee to find his own replacement, was overjoyed by the decision. “There is no one in whom I would place more confidence to lead Phamaly to the next level than Bryce,” he said. 

    Phamaly Executive Director Chris Silberman said Alexander’s artistic talent and operational skills “have served as the glue for all of the many moving parts of this company.” He cited Alexander’s successful efforts to send Phamaly’s current production of The Fantasticks to Japan as part of a convention to advance the global independence of people with disabilities. The musical, directed by Alexander, opened with three weeks of performances at the Aurora Fox. It moves to the Arvada Center from Feb. 27-March 1 before heading to Osaka for a 10-day goodwill mission in March that will culminate with a performance in a 1,500-seat theatre. This will be the 25-year-old company’s first-ever international performance.

    Alexander “turned the idea from an unachievable dream to a reality,” Silberman said.

    Alexander, who lives in Westminster, graduated from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, and earned his graduate degree in Theatre Performance from the University of Colorado in Boulder. His thesis was titled Applying Modern Disability Theory as an Actor and Director to Theatrical Texts of the Past and Present. He was an assistant director for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival for three summers. For Phamaly, he co-directed The Elephant Man and It's a Wonderful Life and directed The Glass Menagerie and several children’s productions. 

    "In many ways, Phamaly is the place where I truly learned to be an artist; a place that challenged my perceptions, encouraged my exploration and deepened my respect for our craft," Alexander said. "To have the opportunity to lead this incredible organization forward, to continue our exceptional growth, to deepen our exploration of humanity - and our own understanding as a result - is a dream come true."

    Last year, Alexander interned under the retiring Guthrie Theatre Artistic Director Joe Dowling for its staging of My Fair Lady.

    His disability-related experience includes working as a counselor at Adam’s Camp Colorado, and swim coach for Special Olympics Colorado.

    For Phamaly, Alexander conceptualized and implemented a series of sensory-friendly performances that led to Phamaly recently having received a $14,000 award from the Arts Affinity Group of The Denver Foundation. Alexander also has had a hand in shaping Phamaly’s outreach and tour programming that has toured to Crested Butte, Colorado Springs and Wyoming. He came to Phamaly in 2009 as an intern.

    "I have always found Bryce to be as wonderful with people as he is with details,” said frequent Phamaly Musical Director Donna Debreceni. “It's great to have someone in his position who I can trust to take care of whatever is asked. And in this company, that could be about anything.” 

    While Silberman said Alexander will direct many of Phamaly’s future shows, including this summer’s Cabaret at the DCPA, the Artistic Director position will be expanded to include artistic visioning and planning, as well as community engagement on a local and national level. Alexander’s three primary goals will be to serve a more broad population of actors with disabilities; to seek out new education opportunities for individuals with disabilities of all ages; and to engage the local theatre community and encourage more performance opportunities for actors with disabilities on stages outside of Phamaly’s.

    "There are distinct challenges, but unmistakable achievements ahead as we expand our programming, enrich our audience experience, refine our messaging, and expound our impact," Alexander said. "Phamaly is poised to become a national model for disability in the arts, and I am confident that the company will work together to further cement our place in the local, national, and international arts and disability communities."

    The selection of Alexander, Wilson added, “will leave the company in very good hands moving forward.”

    Previous coverage of the Phamaly leadership change story:
    Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson
    Wilson resigns from Phamaly Theatre Company after 14 years
    Wilson named 2014 Theatre Person of the Year

    'The Fantasticks,' Directed by Bryce Alexander. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    'The Fantasticks,' directed by Bryce Alexander and featuring, from left, Stewart Caswell, David Wright and Jeremy Palmer, will be performed in Japan after an upcoming weekend at the Arvada Center. Photo by Michael Ensminger.
  • Video: Phamaly says thanks to artistic director Steve Wilson

    by John Moore | Jan 28, 2015


    Steve Wilson. Photo by John Moore.On Dec. 31, Steve Wilson resigned as Artistic Director of Denver's nationally acclaimed Phamaly Theatre Company. Over 14 years, Wilson created countless professional performance opportunities for actors with disabilities - 200 in 2014 alone.

    Wilson is a graduate of the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory masters program, and last month was named the True West 2014 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year.

    Friends gathered at the Garner-Galleria Theatre on Jan. 12, not to say goodbye, but to say thanks. It was particularly poignant when Lucy Roucis, who has advanced Parkinson's Disease, thanked Wilson for treating her like a peer.

    "Most important, you saw me as an actor," she says. "You treated me like someone who gave a (bleep)."

    Others featured in the video include Chris Silberman, Bryce Alexander, Maureen Ediger, Harper Ediger, Mark Dissette, Jeremy Palmer, Mickey Mauck, Kim Jackson, Laurice Quinn, James Sherman, Carol Kelly-Rohach, Paul Behrhorst and Kathi Gibbs Wood.

    Video by John Moore.

    Previous coverage of the Steve Wilson story:
    Wilson resigns from Phamaly Theatre Company after 14 years
    Wilson named 2014 Theatre Person of the Year
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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.

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