• What a wonderful world it was with Daniel Langhoff

    by John Moore | Nov 12, 2017

    Video above: Daniel Langhoff sings 'What a Wonderful World' at an April benefit concert for the Denver Actors Fund. Video provided by Eden Lane and Sleeping Dog Media.

    The busy actor, husband and father fought cancer like the errant knight he played in Man of La Mancha. He was 42.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    When award-winning Denver actor Daniel Langhoff was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2015, the first-time father dreamed what most every doctor told him was an impossible dream: To beat an unbeatable foe. And yet, over the next rocky and remarkable two and a half years, he reached star after unreachable star.

    Daniel LanghoffThe cancer was discovered just a few months after Langhoff and wife Rebecca Joseph welcomed daughter Clara into the world. Langhoff then fought the disease with the same earnest fortitude and blind optimism as Cervantes, the playwright who defends his life through storytelling in the classic Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. That's a bucket-list role Langhoff somehow found the mettle to play last year during a brief cease-fire with his disease, which would make a raging comeback only a few months later.

    In April, doctors discovered a second, more virulent form of cancer in Langhoff’s abdomen, and it was everywhere. The Langhoffs were told it would be a matter of months. Not that the diagnosis changed Langhoff’s attitude one bit. He fought on with grit, optimism and no small share of Quixotic delusion.

    “Dying never entered his mindset,” said Langhoff’s best friend, Brian Murray. “He always thought he would beat it.” It was only recently in the hospital, when Langhoff was no longer able to eat and fluid was filling his lungs that the impossible dreamer offered Murray this one slight concession to his adversary: “The prognosis is not good,” he told Murray.

    DanielLanghoffFacebook“Daniel fought the cancer by trivializing it — like it was just this little thing to be taken care of,” Murray said.

    Rebecca Joseph, known as R.J. to friends, gave birth to a second daughter, Naomi, on Nov. 2. It happened that day because Joseph made it happen that day. She had doctors induce labor to make certain Langhoff would be alive to see Naomi born. A few days later, Langhoff was admitted to Denver Hospice, where he again defied experts' expectations by fighting on for days until there was no fight left in him.  

    Langhoff died at precisely midnight today, peacefully and as his wife held his hand. He was 42.

    When he left, he was different from the man who married R.J. in 2015. During the ensuing years, as cancer gradually robbed his life, life in turn gave him everything to live for: A wife, two daughters, and the seminal roles of his acting career.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Daniel Langhoff Find an extensive gallery of Daniel Langhoff photos at the bottom of this report.


    A punctilious punster

    Langhoff was born in Denver on Nov. 8, 1975, and has been a performer since the third grade. He graduated from Cherry Creek High School and the University of Northern Colorado, and has been working steadily at theatres all over Colorado since 1999.

    He was known as a consummate actor with a quirky sense of humor; a way with a guitar, a song and a terrible pun; a geeky affinity for sci-fi films ...  and a massive collection of inappropriate T-Shirts.

    One of his favorites said: “When I die, I am going to haunt the (bleep) out of you.”

    "That was Daniel," his wife said.

    "Daniel was into weird science fiction, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, anything counter-culture and all manner of useless knowledge," said his frequent co-star and sometimes director, Robert Michael Sanders. "We had a shared love for underrated big-hair metal bands and Alien movies." 

    In the dressing room, Langhoff was a serial punster who was known for running exasperated castmates out of the room with his wit. But on stage, Sanders describes Langhoff as an intelligent, steady actor who could only be distracted from his task by perhaps, say … a random reference to Ridley Scott (maker of Alien).

    He was also one of the most dependable and pragmatic friends you could ever have, said Murray, who has been friends with Langhoff since appearing in Company together at the Town Hall Arts Center in 2008. 

    “I always called him my Vulcan,” said Murray, currently starring in Town Hall’s Seussical. “He was Spock, and I was Kirk. I was the emotional one, and he was the logical one."

    Ironically, Langhoff was the human being Murray turned to when he needed one most.

    "When I was going through a divorce in 2009, the only thing that helped me get by was playing video games with Daniel until 3 in the morning and telling him the same stories all over again," Murray said. "He would say to me, 'Brian, this thing happened. It was outside of your control. Now what you have to do is move through it and move on from that." 

    Perhaps the greatest testament to any man's character, Murray said: "Daniel was kind to everyone — even to the people who annoyed him." (Although, to be fair, Langhoff also loved to quote Tom Waits' life philosophy: "Champagne for my real friends ... and real pain for my sham friends.")

    Traci J. Kern was a real friend. For 22 years, Langhoff has been her constant. "Soon after our meeting, Daniel proclaimed himself the little brother I never wanted," she said. "Anytime I needed him, he was there. No questions asked, because it didn’t matter. Dan lived his life full of passion. Whether it was talking about music, theatre, movies, Stephen King novels, sports, his family, his babies or his wife — he spoke with such enthusiasm, you couldn’t help but be drawn in."

    A life on every stage

    Daniel Langhoff was, simply put, “the most consistent actor ever,” said Sanders. He was also just about the most consistently working Denver actor ever. The list of area theatre companies Langhoff has performed with reads essentially like the list of all area theatre companies. You would be hard-pressed to find a person or company whose path has not, at some point, crossed with Langhoff's on a Colorado stage.

    Dan Langhoff DCPA Love Perfect Change Shanna Steele Robert Michael Sanders Lauren Shealy“Once Daniel got it right, he went out and nailed it at that level every night," Sanders said. "You never had to worry what he was going to do, whether it was for one person or 100. Even for dumb stuff like Guys on Ice – he would find moments that mattered.”

    Langhoff made his Denver Center debut in 2010 in the musical comedy Five Course Love at the Galleria Theatre, followed by a stint in a revival of the longest-running musical in Denver history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. He also performed in the DCPA Theatre Company’s seasonal stagings of A Christmas Carol in 2014 and 2015. The latter staging was right when Langhoff was starting his cancer fight. He had surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes – then immediately joined the cast, fitting rounds of chemo into 10-show weeks at the Stage Theatre.

    Langhoff’s substance and versatility put him in an elevated class among local performers: He was a nuanced dramatic actor with a rich singing voice — and an uncommon knack for comedy and children’s theatre. He could glide from playing the conflicted pastor fomenting the Salem witch trials in Firehouse’s The Crucible, to Coolroy in the Arvada Center’s children’s production of Schoolhouse Rock Live, to the long-suffering husband of a bipolar housewife in Town Hall’s Next to Normal.

    Langhoff’s breakout year was 2016, which began in triumph and ended in terror. It started with Performance Now's Ragtime. As Langhoff was continuing his initial chemotherapy, when he called Director Kelly Van Oosbree to express his interest in playing Tateh.

    “I remember thinking, ‘How in the hell is this going to happen?’ ” Van Oosbree said. “I couldn’t wrap my brain around it because if were in the same situation, I wonder how I would even cope. But Daniel did not let cancer stop him from doing anything.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Langhoff had strong sentimental and professional reasons for wanting to play Tateh. He had played the homegrown terrorist known as “Younger Brother” in a remarkable production of Ragtime for the Arvada Center in 2011, and he wanted to complete the circle by playing Tateh — also a dreamer, also a new father — for Performance Now. “Tateh was a role that spoke to him,” said Van Oosbree said.

    Dan Langhoff Sunglasses project. Photo by John MooreIn the summer of 2016, doctors declared Langhoff cancer-free. He celebrated by performing for the Arvada Center (40th anniversary concert), Firehouse (The Crucible) and Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Every Christmas Story Ever Told). He began 2017 by reuniting with Van Oosbree to play the chivalrous and insistent dreamer in Man of La Mancha. These were perfect bookend roles, said Van Osbree: Both Tateh and Cervantes are kind, inventive men who see the world not as it is, but how it should — or could — be. “They are both Daniel,” she said.

    But just as Man of La Mancha was to begin rehearsals, Langhoff noticed another abnormality in his abdomen, and doctors soon discovered a new, more prevalent and more vicious strain of cancer in his abdominal walls. Langhoff began a second round of chemo just as he had been cast to perform in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Arvada Center, followed by Ring of Fire at Vintage Theatre. This time, he would not be well enough to play either role. And he again downplayed the challenge. “I am just more physically compromised than I was before,” he conceded at the time.

    The great work of helping others

    Langhoff was known for helping out any company or cause that needed a hand — or a voice. Back in 2010, he joined the volunteer cast of Magic Moments' The Child. That's an annual musical revue where up to 200 disabled and able-bodied performers perform together, many for the first time. Langhoff played a war veteran opposite a devil character played by Drew Frady, his castmate back in the Arvada Center's 2008 staging of Les Miserables. Langhoff had been recruited as a late replacement for another actor. On his first day, the stage manager ended her introduction of Langhoff by saying, to his horror, “He loves hugs.” And, he later said with a laugh, “I didn’t really have the heart to correct her.”

    Over the next few months, Langhoff said, he learned to love hugs.

    “This is the kind of place where you can still be 5 minutes late for rehearsal, even if you show up on time, because there is a 5-minute gantlet of hugs to navigate,” he said.

    Daniel Langhoff, Laura Mathew Siebert and Nate Siebert. Photo by John Moore. Throughout his cancer ordeal, Langhoff was both a beneficiary of, and great champion of, The Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has made $133,000 available to Colorado theatre artists in situational need. Between direct aid and targeted donations, the theatre community has so far made more than $14,000 available to help the Langhoff family with medical bills, along with practical volunteer assistance. And Langhoff has given back at every opportunity, performing at five DAF fundraising events over the past three years.

    In April, a weakening Langhoff made a galvanizing appearance at United in Love, a benefit concert staged by Ebner-Page Productions that raised $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund at the Lone Tree Arts Center. (See video at the top of this page.) 

    Dan Langhoff. Annaleigh Ashford. RDG PhotographyLanghoff sang a heart-rending version of What a Wonderful World to acknowledge the support and love he has received from the theatre community throughout his medical ordeal. “All of these performers, this stunning audience, all of these donors make me feel like my fight ahead is just a matter of logistics,” he said.

    (Photos at right, top: Photographer Laura Mathew Siebert, with son Nate Siebert, raised money for Langhoff's cancer fight in 2016 by taking portraits and donating the proceeds. Photo by John Moore. At right: Broadway's Annaleigh Ashford with Langhoff at Klint Rudolph at the April 'United in Love' concert for the Denver Actors Fund. RDG Photography.)

    His final performance was on Sept. 25 at Miscast, a popular annual fundraiser for The Denver Actors Fund, and it was one for the ages. Langhoff, Jona Alonzo and Norrell Moore, all actors in the midst of their own cancer journeys, performed a variation of the song Tonight, from West Side Story, that was written by Langhoff and his (pregnant) wife, who also choreographed. It was essentially a rousing declaration of war against cancer, and it brought the Town Hall Arts Center audience to their feet. The trio were immediately dubbed "The Cancer Warriors."

    (Story continues below the video.)

    Daniel Langhoff, Jona Alonzo and Norrell Moore perform Sept. 25 at 'Miscast,' a benefit for The Denver Actors Fund, at the Town Hall Arts Center.


    The impact of family


    Everyone close to Langhoff says the courage and unyielding optimism he has shown since his diagnosis can be explained in three simple words: Rebecca, Clara and Naomi. "Those three were everything to him," Murray said. "They were his life."

    He met his R.J.  in a theatre, but Langhoff wasn't on the stage; he was a member of the audience. Joseph caught Langhoff's eye after a performance of Vintage Theatre’s Avenue Q. Langhoff noticed the assistant stage manager — usually one of the most invisible jobs in all of theatre. She eventually agreed to a late-night date at the Rock Bottom Brewery that almost didn’t happen because she was running late. Langhoff was appearing in, ironically, the dating comedy I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at the Denver Center's Galleria Theatre. She was attending Red at the Curious Theatre, which ran longer than she was expecting. Luckily, he waited. Sanders later married the couple in a ceremony at the Town Hall Arts Center.

    Langhoff recently helped Sanders in a profound creative way when the singer-songwriter went into production on his second solo album (under the name Robert Michael). In 2013, Sanders was the victim of a botched shoulder surgery that partially paralyzed his arms and left him unable to play the guitar. Sanders now writes new music through the help of friends who act as his fingers. Langhoff co-wrote the lyrics and music to a track called Forever that Sanders says is informed in part by their own personal experiences:

    You found your forever. You put your hand in his.
    He pulled you close to him, gave you that forever kiss.
    You found your forever, now you'll wake up every day.

    With him smiling back at you, and you have no words to say.

    And that's OK.
    You found your forever. 

    (To listen to 'Forever' on Spotify, click here. Backing vocals by Daniel Langhoff and Norrell Moore.)

    As the theatre community struggles to process the news that Langhoff is gone, his friend Murray was asked what Langhoff himself might say to bring comfort to those he leaves behind. His response:

    "I think the Vulcan in Daniel would say to us exactly what he said to me: 'This thing happened. It was outside of everyone's control. I did everything I could to make it not happen, but it still happened. Now what you have to do is move through that and try to move on from that.' "

    In addition to his wife and daughters, Langhoff is survived by his parents, Jeannie and Charlie Langhoff, and his sister, Amy Langhoff Busch.

    After an intimate family service later this week, a larger celebration of Daniel Langhoff's life will be announced in the coming weeks.

    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.

    Here's how to help Daniel Langhoff's family:
    The Denver Actors Fund is accepting targeted donations that will go 100 percent to Rebecca Joseph to help with medical, funeral and expenses. Any eventual excess funds will go toward the future educational needs of daughters Clara and Naomi. Here's how it works: Click here. When prompted, "Where do you want your donation directed?" choose from the pulldown: "For the family of Daniel Langhoff." The Denver Actors Fund will absorb all transactional fees.) If you prefer to mail a check, the address is P.O. Box 11182, Denver , CO 80211. Separately, if you are motivated to start your own campaign to proactively raise additional funds for the Langhoffs, you can create your own personalized fundraising page on the Langhoffs' behalf. To do that, just click on this (different) link. Choose "Start a fundraiser." Follow the instructions from there.

    Photo gallery: A look back at the life of Daniel Langhoff

    Daniel LanghoffTo see more photos, click on the photo above to be taken to our full Flickr album.


    Daniel Langhoff/Selected shows and companies

    • High School: Cherry Creek
    • College: Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley
    • Denver Center for the Performing Arts: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Five Course Love at the Galleria Theatre; A Christmas Carol for the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Arvada Center: A Man of No Importance (Breton Beret), Ragtime (Younger Brother), A Man for All Seasons, A Wonderful Life, The Crucible, Man of La Mancha, Miracle On 34th Street Les Miserables. Children's shows: Charlotte's Web, Lyle the Crocodile, Schoolhouse Rock
    • Town Hall Arts Center: Next To Normal (Dan), Annie (Daddy Warbucks), 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Company, Batboy! The Musical
    • Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company: Every Christmas Story Ever Told
    • Firehouse Theatre Compay: The Crucible (Rev. Hale)
    • Miners Alley Playhouse: Pump Boys and Dinettes
    • Performance Now: Man of La Mancha (Cervantes), Ragtime (Tateh)
    • Aurora Fox: Spamalot (King Arthur)
    • Vintage Theatre: Hamlet, Prince of Pork, 18 Holes (Lyle)
    • Next Stage: Assassins (The Balladeer)
    • Magic Moments: The Child
    • Hunger Artists
    • Film: Bouquet of Consequence, Why There Are Rainbows

    Video: Daniel Langhoff presents Community Impact Award to Denver Actors Fund:

  • Teen performers raise $13,000 for Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Oct 15, 2017
    13 The Musical
    Photos from the two performances of '13 The Musical' at the Mizel Center on Oct. 8. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Officials estimate young people under 18 have now raised $35,000 for the grassroots nonprofit that serves local artists

    Watch the announcement as it happened on Facebook Live

    What do most kids do when they want to raise money for charity? Set up a lemonade stand, or organize a car wash? A group of 13 young, Denver-based performers who have grown up on professional stages throughout the Denver metro area decided to put on a show for the Denver Actors Fund.

    13 The Musical Denver Actors FundWith help from some of the local theatre community’s biggest names, the teens and their parents self-produced Jason Robert Brown's 13: The Musical, culminating in two performances at the Mizel Art and Culture Center's Wolf Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 8. Their efforts raised $13,188 for the DAF, a grassroots nonprofit that in four years has provided both financial and practical relief to members of the Colorado theatre community in situational medical need.

    That makes 13: The Musical the second-largest fundraising effort in The Denver Actors Fund's four-year history. It also puts the nonprofit over the $250,000 mark in overall funds raised. Of that total, almost $130,000 already has gone back out to individual artists to help with hospital and dental bills, or to pay for medical supplies, chemotherapy treatments, burial expenses and more. In addition, DAF volunteers have logged more than 500 hours of practical service ranging from transportation to snow-shoveling to personal company, meal preparation and delivery, and groceries. 

    Denver Actors Fund Founder and Executive Director John Moore said young people under 18 have now raised more than $35,000 for the DAF through their individual efforts, not even counting their regular participation in larger benefits such as the annual Miscast variety show. 

    13: The Musical was made possible largely because of the parents' investment of time, money and performers. The parents absorbed nearly all production costs as their own personal donations so that all proceeds from ticket sales and other revenue sources would go fully to the DAF.

    (Story continues below the photo.)


    13 The Musical Denver Actors Fund



    "The parents of these kids are a finely oiled machine of theatre moms who tackled the job of producing a full musical production like pros," said Director Robert Michael Sanders, who himself is responsible for raising more than $30,000 for The Denver Actors Fund. "They handled the marketing, ticket sales, rehearsal space, driving, coordinating, costumes, ushers, volunteers, fundraising and accounting head-on, all at great personal sacrifice and expense. That allowed me and my staff to focus on the performance."

    Donate to The Denver Actors Fund

    Erin Katz, mother of actor Hannah Katz, said there was something delightfully symmetrical about the final numbers: 13 performers appearing in 13: The Musical and raising just more than $13,000.            

    "I feel like all of the stars aligned for this project," Katz said. "That number has a magical quality to it." 

    Hannah Katz, a sophomore at Cherry Creek High School, has been raising money for The Denver Actors Fund through both group and self-initiated efforts for more than three years. Katz and castmate Darrow Klein each raised money for the DAF as part of their Bat Mitzvah service projects, among other efforts.

    13 The Musical Denver Actors Fund"We wanted the proceeds from 13 to go to The Denver Actors Fund because the DAF gives back to the people who have helped us become who we are," said Klein. "We have been raised by the people of this theater community, and we want to help them when they need it most. It is a great cause that supports great people."

    Erin Katz said many of the young cast members have been performing in shows all along the Front Range since they were as young as 9. "Many of us parents have this sense that the larger theatre community has helped raise our kids," she said. "They are developing into the young adults they are because of the people in the larger, local theatre community. So, doing something the kids could really own and do themselves and would give back to the community was a really important value for us as parents to teach our kids." 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    13 is an original musical by Brown, who is best known for The Last Five Years and The Bridges of Madison County. Brown heard about the effort and sent the cast his recorded well-wishes before Sunday's two performances. So, too, did a Colorado member of the Broadway cast of Hamilton

    The book is by Dan Elish and Robert Horn. 13 premiered on Broadway in 2008 and is the only Broadway musical ever presented with a cast made up entirely of teenagers. It's a coming-of-age story about a pre-teen boy who is plucked from his life in New York City and plopped into a sleepy Indiana town following his parents' divorce.

    This all comes right on the heels of the return of "The Killer Kids of Miscast," who were given that name after a remarkable performance at last year in which at Miscast, they performed a twisted variation of "The Cell-Block Tango" from Chicago. A video of that performance has been viewed nearly 500,000 times on YouTube and Facebook. 

    This time, six of the 13 cast members  performed a more Denver-centric parody of "Hey Officer Krupke" from West Side Story, in which they comically lament not yet being seriously considered by area directors for adult roles.

    "These are not only our next generation of actors," Sanders said, but a group of young people I believe possess the skills as people to grow up and show the world how to be a better place again."

    13 The Musical Denver Actors Fund
    The cast with parents and other crew members. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Cast
    Actors (moms in parentheses)
    Joshua Cellar (Emily Cellar)
    Conrad Eck (Kristin Eck)
    Macy Friday (Megan Friday)
    Evan Gibley (Michelle Gibley)
    Lorenzo Giovanetti (Carmela Giovanetti)
    Kaden Hinkle (Shannon Gaydos-Hinkle)
    Hannah Katz (Erin Katz)
    Darrow Klein (Jennifer Klein)
    Michelle Lee (Huwon Lee)
    Gabe Legg (Angela Legg)
    Carter Novinger (Jennifer Novinger)
    Rylee Vogel (Kristi Vogel)
    Hannah Meg Weinraub (Michelle Weinraub)

    Creative
    Robert Michael Sanders: Producer and director
    Paul Dwyer: Assistant director
    Anna Smith: Assistant director
    Jayln Courtenay Webb: Music director
    Lauren Hergenreter: Stage manager
    Sydney Eck: Assistant stage manager
    Tom Quinn: Sound
    Jennifer Orf: Lighting
    Stephanie Hess: Choreographer
    Shannan Steele: Choreographer
    Matthew D. Peters: Choreographer
    Jessica Hindsley: Choreographer
    Abigail Kochevar: Choreographer

    Band

    Jason Tyler Vaughn: Guitar
    Heather Holt Hall: Keyboards
    S. Parker Goubert: Bass
    Evan Jones: Drums

    For more information on the Denver Actors Fund and its services, or to donate, go to DenverActorsFund.Org.

    Video bonus: The Killer Kids at Miscast 2017:

    Performing here are Evan Gibley, Kaden Hinkle, Hannah Katz, Darrow Klein, Rylee Vogel and Hannah Meg Weinraub. Accompanied by Donna Debreceni on keyboards. Choreography by Piper Arpan. Directed by Robert Michael Sanders. Video by John Moore. Song written by the performers and their parents.

  • Video: Mamma Mia's Cashelle Butler returns to Cherry Creek High School

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2017


    Cashelle Butler, who attended Cherry Creek High School and graduated from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, is home playing Tanya in the farewell tour of Mamma Mia! at the Buell Theatre through April 16.

    Cashelle Butler. Mamma MiaButler spent an afternoon with the Cherry Creek High School choir and theatre students.

    She answered their questions, taught them some choreography from the show, and toured backstage at her old stomping grounds, where she performed in many school productions including Thoroughly Modern Millie.

    In the video above, Butler talks with Cherry Creek High School Theatre teacher Jimmy Miller about her day, as well as taking classes as a teenager from DCPA Education.

    Chashelle Butler. Town Hall Arts Center. "When I was 14, I took my first class with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts," she said. "I did their high-school theatre intensive. I took classes in singing; acting; dance; speech and dialects; so I got flavor of what it would look like if I went into this as a career. I was so hooked."

    After graduating from UNC, Butler performed in several musicals at the Town Hall Arts Center, including Young Frankenstein, Anything Goes, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Marvelous Wonderettes (pictured right with, from left, Taylor Nicole Young, Butler, Cara Lippitt and Colby Dunn).

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photo gallery: Cashelle Butler at Cherry Creek High School


    Mamma Mia in Denver 2017

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Mamma Mia! Farewell Tour
    : Ticket information
    MAMMA MIA! This hit musical that combines ABBA’s greatest hits, including Dancing Queen, S.O.S., Super Trouper, Take A Chance on Me and The Winner Takes It All, with a romantic tale  of love, laughter and friendship.

    Through April 16
    Buell Theatre
    ASL and audio-described performance: 2 p.m. April 15
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Mamma Mia in Denver:
    Guest column: Judy Craymer on the origins of Mamma Mia!

    Cashelle Butler. Mamma Mia.

    Cashelle Butler with teacher Jimmy Miller and his Cherry Creek High School students. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Below, Chashelle Butler with the male ensemble in the 'Mamma Mia' farewell tour. Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia.

    Chashelle Butler. Mamma Mia. Kevin Thomas Garcia.

  • Video: Bobby G Awards' Outstanding Musical nominee performances

    by John Moore | Jun 15, 2016


    The 2016 Bobby G Awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement in Colorado high-school theatre, were held May 26 at the Buell Theatre. Each of the five nominated Outstanding Musicals performed songs or medleys before the crowd of 1,700. Here are excerpts from each of those performances. The featured productions were:  

    • Cherry Creek High School's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
    • Denver School of the Arts' Spring Awakening
    • Mountain View High School's Anything Goes
    • Arvada West High School's Les Misérables
    • Fairview High School's Guys and Dolls
    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    Bonus video: Mountain View High School 's
    Anything Goes:


    Anything Goes,
    by Mountain View High School of Loveland, was named Outstanding Musical at the 2016 Bobby G Awards. Here is the school's full performance at the Buell Theatre.   


    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    Video, story: Kinship and camaraderie at 2016 Bobby G Awards
    Video: 2016 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Photos: 2016 Bobby G Awards (Download for free)
    Mountain View scales Bobby G Awards' 2016 peak
    Meet your 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Finalists
    Meet your 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Finalists
    2015-16 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'

    Bobby G Awards. Arvada West High School's Les Misérables Arvada West High School's 'Les Misérables.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. 
  • Video, story: Kinship and camaraderie at the 2016 Bobby G Awards

    by John Moore | Jun 08, 2016

    Acceptance speeches and interview comments before and after the 2016 Bobby G Awards. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Before newly graduated Ponderosa High School senior Charlotte Movizzo discovered the theatre, she said, “I was the quietest person you will ever meet. I was very shy.”

    How shy?

    “I was afraid to order at Qdoba,” she said. “It was terrifying.”

    Jimmy Miller Bobby G Awards But when Movizzo found the theatre, she found a second home. “I felt I could break out of my shell,” she said.

    Movizzo left any remaining fragments of her broken shell on the Buell Theatre stage last month when she was named Outstanding Actress at the 2016 Bobby G Awards, which honor achievements in Colorado high-school theatre. As the newly named Outstanding Actress and Actor, Movizzo and 15-year-old Durango High School sophomore Curtis Salinger earned a trip next week to New York City, where they will be immersed for 10 days of theatre training with Broadway professionals before performing in the Minskoff Theatre at the national Jimmy Awards.

    That’s how fast your life can change because of the Bobby G Awards, which were begun by late DCPA President Randy Weeks four years ago and named in honor of his late mentor, Denver theatre producer Robert Garner.

    When she heard her name called, Movizzo said, there were no words. “I almost started crying,” she said.

    Winning was nice, but the best part of her Bobby G Awards experience, she said, was working together with her nine fellow nominees for a week on a specially created medley they performed at the ceremony. “Working with all of the nominees has been amazing because they are all so talented,” she said. They became so close and supportive, she said, they formed a private Facebook group.

    But the Bobby G Awards are not all about churning out the next generation of Broadway performers. 2014 Outstanding Actor Conner Kingsley matriculated to Tulane University, where he had the cred to star as Jack in the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods as just a freshman. But his heart soon led him toward a Management Environmental Studies degree and, hopefully, next into law school. Kingsley said performing in high-school school theatre and the Bobby G Awards experience prepped him well for that transition.

    “That has really helped me to talk openly in front of people, and taught me how to share my ideas and opinions easily,” he said.

    In the lobby before the Bobby G Awards, it was clear this unique annual gathering is all about celebrating both theatre and camaraderie.

    Bobby G Awards Luccio Dellepiane “For my kids, high-school theatre is their life for four years, and the school musical becomes the epicenter of their entire year,” said Cherry Creek High School Drama Teacher Jimmy Miller, whose How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was nominated for eight Bobby G Awards. “But what my kids really enjoy about these awards is being around other high-school kids and sharing the energy, and sharing the love.”

    Another example of how much can change in a year was made plain when Cherry Creek student Luccio Dellepiane (pictured above) stepped onto the Buell Theatre stage as J. Pierpont Finch alongside his How to Succeed castmates to perform a medley from the show.

    Last year, Dellepiane was singled out as the Bobby G Awards’ Rising Star, an award that honors outstanding work by an underclassman for his work as The Herald in Creek’s Cinderella. This year, Dellepiane starred in the leading role of How to Succeed. Star risen.

    “That was really crazy,” said Dellepiane, who like many others, was surrounded by proud family and friends in the Buell lobby before the awards. “That was the greatest honor I have ever received.”

    Our 2016 Bobby G Awards photo gallery:

    2016 Bobby G Awards

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    One of the fringe benefits of winning the Rising Star Award is a year of free classes offered by the DCPA’s Education Department, and Dellepiane took full advantage by signing up for four summer classes ranging from improv comedy to audition tips.

    “I know I grew as a performer because of it,” he said. “It gave me confidence to go further.”

    The Bobby G Awards’ Outstanding Musical Award went to Mountain View High School’s tap-dance extravaganza, Anything Goes. Mountain View is a medium-sized school of 1,200 located in Loveland, about 45 miles north of Denver. 

    “It’s humbling,” leading actor Owen Whitham said of the honor. “We come from a smaller town and we pour our heart and soul into our work. Being recognized for that is something we never even thought of.” 

    The cast’s performance of the title song drew thunderous response from the Buell crowd of about 1,700.

    “Shockingly, only five of us had ever tapped before,” said cast member Kira Minter, who said the students went through a two-week tap-dancing boot camp before rehearsals even started. Their efforts paid off at the Bobby G Awards.

    “I think this program is amazing,” Minter said. “It’s one of those experiences that changes your life. Performing on a real, professional stage is a great opportunity, especially for kids who are new to theatre. It’s a chance for them to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is what I love to do.’ ”

    Denver School of the Arts was nominated for seven Bobby G Awards for its daring production of Spring Awakening, one of the first in the nation by any high school troupe. DSA is one of only two schools in the nation that have been invited to perform at the upcoming International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb. Actor Keely Kritz said performing Spring Awakening at the upcoming conference “is the fulfillment of a big dream.”

    Spring Awakening is a modern retelling of young 1880s German teens growing up in the complete absence of real information about sexuality or the human body.

    Bobby G Awards Mountain View High School
    Mountain View High School's cast of 'Anything Goes.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    “It was freeing to be able to do this show,” said cast member Beau Wilcox. “It’s great to be able to say, ‘This is our school, and we are going to take on a tough subject, and we are going to do a good job with it.”

    Added castmate Jimmy Bruenger: “We like to do shows that are impactful and share a human experience - and what a perfect show to that,” he said. “This is a show about growing up, and we’ve all done that in the past seven years.”

    Still, for many, the enduring moment of the 2016 Bobby G Awards was watching as Curtis Salinger of Durango High School was named Outstanding Actor one year after his brother, Evatt, won the same honor. And it was Evatt who had the honor of handing the trophy to his younger brother, who turns just 16 next week. Curtis called it a Zoolander moment. But he was was most happy for his parents.

    “We have amazing parents, and they have raised us well,” Curtis said. “I know I speak for Evatt when I say we are eternally grateful to them and for the opportunities they have given us.” 

    One of the giddiest attendees this year was 2014 Outstanding Actress Abby Noble, who was happy to be taking her seat in the Buell Theatre audience before the show. “I just ate at McDonalds, because I don’t have to sing,” she said with a smile as wide as her face.

    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.

     

    MORE QUOTES FROM THE BOBBY G AWARDS:

    2014 Outstanding Actress Abby Noble: “Theatre definitely helps me in every aspect of my life. Especially when it comes to working with other people at the work place. I am a tour guide at my school, and theatre has really helped with the presentational aspect of the job, abs being able to stand under pressure with a smile on your face and be genuine.”

    Shelly Cox-Robie, director of Boulder High School’s Beauty and the Beast and a 250-year performer at BDT Stage in Boulder: “I am so happy for these kids. We have to fight for funding and fight for any recognition for these kids, who work countless hours for months to make these shows.”

    Ronni Gallup, nominated for the third time at Cherry Creek High School and choreographer of Phamaly Theatre Company’s upcoming Evita: “It is so important that we give these kids a taste of what the real business is. I’m hard on them. I push them and I challenge them, year after year. And I think they are the better for it" 

    2015 Outstanding Actress Emma Buchanan: "Being back at the Bobby G Awards makes me nostalgic being back here at the Buell Theatre. You can feel the excitement of the event and how important it is for so many kids in the state."


    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    Video: 2016 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Photos: 2016 Bobby G Awards (Download for free)
    Mountain View scales Bobby G Awards' 2016 peak
    Meet your 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Finalists
    Meet your 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Finalists
    2015-16 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
  • 2014 Bobby G Awards: Cherry Creek wins top honor; Grandview, Lakewood students New York-bound

    by John Moore | May 29, 2014

    The Bobby G Awards honor outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre in the Denver metro area. And judging by the wide distribution of awards at Thursday’s second annual ceremony, great achievements are happening on high-school stages all over town.  

    The 18 awards handed out at Thursday’s Tony Awards-style ceremony went to 12 different area schools. Grandview High School of Aurora led the way with four Bobby G Awards for its production of Seussical. The award for Outstanding Production went to Cherry Creek High School for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Lakewood High School’s Young Frankenstein was honored with three awards, and Westminster High School’s High School Musical On Stage! earned two.

    [[MORE]]It was a big night for Abby Noble of Grandview High School and Conner Kingsley of  Lakewood High School. Noble was named Outstanding Leading Actress for playing Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical, while Kingsley was named Outstanding Leading Actor for playing Igor in Young Frankenstein.

    Their awards earn both students a week-long Broadway immersion as part of next month’s National High School Musical Theater Awards, which culminate in an awards ceremony affectionately known as “The Jimmys,” after Broadway producer Jimmy Nederlander. While in the Big Apple, the Outstanding Leading Actor and Actress honorees from 31 regional awards ceremonies around the country get to experience five days of private coaching, master classes and rehearsals with theater professionals administered by the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.

    Their week will culminate with a special performance on a Broadway stage June 30 at the Minskoff Theatre. More than 50,000 students participate in the awards program nationally each year, and in the past six years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been awarded in merit scholarships.

    The Bobby G Awards are Colorado’s regional representative within the larger National High School Musical Theater Awards program. They are named in honor of legendary producer Robert Garner and are hosted by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. This year, local adjudicators considered 20 public and private high-school stagings for awards consideration. And while nominees are determined by a strict numbered judging system, 15 high schools received at least one nomination this year, led by Westminster High School with 12.  

    The adjudicators were made up of professional working theatre artists in the Denver area. Using the standards set by The Bobby G Awards training and criteria, as well as their own professional experience, these adjudicators completed extensive evaluation forms, offering schools detailed feedback on various elements of their musical productions. Participating schools receive each adjudicator’s comments, praise and constructive criticism as a way of recognizing their accomplishments and motivating future growth.

    Thursday’s Bobby G Awards ceremony included performances by all five schools nominated for Outstanding Production.  The evening was emceed by Greg Moody of CBS4 and included special guests including actor Mary Louise Lee, who is married to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.  There was a performance by the 2013 recipients of the Bobby G’s for Outstanding Leading Actor and Actress, Chris Maclean and Nicki Seefried, as well as a medley by all 10 of the 2014 nominees.

    Our coverage of the 2014 Bobby G Awards to date:

    For information on signing up for next year’s Bobby G Awards, as it become available, bookmark the home page here

    We are covering the 2014 Bobby G Awards using words, photos and video:

    For information on signing up for next year’s Bobby G Awards, as it become available, bookmark the home page here

    2014 BOBBY G AWARDS RECIPIENTS

    Recipient’s name in bold:

    Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical

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    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School (highlights above the photo)

    The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Seussical: The Musical, Grandview High School

    Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Direction

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    Tami LoSasso & Delaney Bohlen, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Brianna Lindahl, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Kurt Muenstermann and Micah McDonald, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Jim Miller and TJ Donahue, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    André Rodriguez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Musical Direction

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    Chris Maunu and Craig Melhorn, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Adam Cave and Tim Libby, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Don Emmons and Jim Farrell, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Shawn Funk and Kelly Parmenter, Fiddler on the Roof, Arapahoe High School

    Bill Welsh, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

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    Abby Noble, Gertrude McFuzz, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Stephanie Bess, Christine Daaé, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Amelia Jacobs, Bobbi/Gabby, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Lorelei Thorne, Annie Oakley, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

    Kira Vuolo, Lola, Damn Yankees, Pomona High School

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

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    Conner Kingsley, Igor, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    James Marsh, Lord Farquaad, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Danny Miller, The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Dylan Ruder, Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Chris Salguero, Troy Bolton, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

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    Lizzie Plender, Frau Blucher, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Lauren Chew, Miss Sandra, All Shook Up, Legacy High School

    Alex Garramone, Hodel, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

     Desirae Maldonado, JoJo, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Lea Schoengarth, Sharpay Evans, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

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    Ryan Degnan, Dennis, All Shook Up, Legacy High School

    Jesse Aaronson, Pharaoh, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Jairo Guerrero, Ryan Evans, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Ricky Her, Chad Danforth, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Adam Lundy, The Monster, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Rising Star

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    Taylor Lewis, Featured Thespian, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Paul Cherubino, Lazar Wolf, Fiddler on The Roof, Evergreen High School

    Elleon Dobias, The Fiddler, Fiddler on The Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Rose Lucas; A clapper boy, Carla’s stand in and featured dancer; City of Angels; Littleton High School

    Allie Putze, Mr. Smee, Peter Pan, St. Mary’s Academy

    Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra

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    Seussical, Grandview High School

    The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

     Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Outstanding Performance by a Chorus

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    Fiddler on the Roof, Arapahoe High School

    Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Choreography

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    Heather Westenskow, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Beau Bohlen, Delaney Bohlen and Angela Dryer, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Jamie Geary and Nicole Toscano, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Ronni Gallup, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Rachel Ilk, Chris Salguero and Lexie Thammavongsa, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design

    image

     Chloe Carr, Taylor Dykstra, Matthew Shinnick and James Yeon, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Dean Arniotes, Shaye Evans and Andrew Montesi, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    TJ Donahue and Jack Hagen, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Matt Marchal, Mackenzie Montano and Anna Tiberi, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Erin Ramsey, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design

    image

    Shaye Evans, Ryan Kleist, Colin Riebel and Dillon Riebel, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    Dave Avery, Mike Lanning and Justin Yu, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    John DeYoung, Kurt Muenstermann and Richard Spomer, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Alex Groce, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Reid Mather, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design

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    Kathryn Demolli and Naomi Sanchez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    EB Bollendock and Connor Jones, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Taylor Gammel, Claire Goodwin, Brooke Herzog and Julianna Small, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

     Evin Harris and Alaina Haworth, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Mary Murray and Quiana Torres, Xanadu, Mountain Range High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Hair and Make-Up Design

    image

    Sam Lee, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Francesca Arniotes and Michelle Schrader, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    Tim Campbell and Emma Sargent, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Rachel Jeffries, Haley Nicas, Trisha Rouleau and Kelsie Saupe, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

     Rebecca Maestas and Fatima Rodriguez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Special Achievement Award Recipients

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    Andy Becker, City of Angels, Littleton High School

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    Destiny Humrich, Damn Yankees, Pomona High School

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    Jackson Warnock and AJ Winter, Xanadu, Mountain Range High School

  • Westminster High leads Bobby G Awards with 12 nominations

    by John Moore | May 09, 2014

    Scenes from Westminster High School's "High School Musical On Stage!" It's got its head in the game: The show has been nominated for 12 Bobby G Awards.

    Finalists for the second annual Bobby G Awards were released this morning. The awards program, which culminates in a Tony Awards-style gala May 29 at the Buell Theatre, honors outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre in the Denver metro area.

    Westminster High School leads all schools with 12 nominations, including outstanding musical, for its staging of Disney's High School Musical On Stage! Next are Cherry Creek High School's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Lakewood High School's Young Frankenstein, with 10 each. Grandview High School's Seussical: The Musical, and Valor Christian High School's Fiddler on the Roof earned seven each.[[MORE]]

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    Scenes from the 2013 Bobby G Awards: Chaparral High School wins outstanding musical for "Les Les Misérables." Photo by John Moore.

     

    In all, 15 high schools received at least one nomination. Three of those schools performed Fiddler on the Roof, which is celebrating its 50th year in 2014.

    The Bobby G Awards, overseen and hosted by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, are Colorado's regional representative within the larger "Jimmy Awards" -- the National High School Musical Theater Awards. The winners of Colorado's best actor and best actress awards not only will invited to attend the Jimmy Awards on July 2 in New York, but to participate in a week-long series of classes and workshops with Broadway actors, directors and designers.

    With today's announcement, tickets are now on sale for the 2014 Bobby G Awards Ceremony on May 29. Click here for ticket information

    Twenty private and public high schools are participating in this year's Bobby G Awards program. Adjudicators, made up of professional working theatre artists in the Denver area, attended the participating high schools’ musical theatre productions.

    Using the standards set by The Bobby G Awards training and criteria, as well as their own professional experience, these adjudicators completed extensive evaluation forms, offering schools detailed feedback on various elements of their musical productions. Participating schools receive each adjudicator's comments, praise and constructive criticism as a way of recognizing  accomplishments and motivating future growth.

    The Bobby G Awards gala will include performances from all five schools nominated for Outstanding Overall Production. The finalists are
    Arvada West High School's The Phantom of the Opera, Cherry Creek High School's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grandview High School's Seussical: The Musical, Lakewood High School's Young Frankenstein and Westminster High School's High School Musical On Stage! The evening will include special guests, and a performance by the 2013 winners of the Bobby G's for best actor and actress, Chris Maclean and Nicki Seefried.

    Achievements will be noted by students and educators in all areas of performance, including design, direction, choreography, technical production and overall excellence.

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    Grandview High School's "Seussical: The Musical" is among the nominees for outstanding musical.

     

    2014 BOBBY G AWARD NOMINATIONS

    Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical

    The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Seussical: The Musical, Grandview High School

    Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

     

    Outstanding Achievement in Direction

    Tami LoSasso & Delaney Bohlen, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Brianna Lindahl, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Kurt Muenstermann and Micah McDonald, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Jim Miller and TJ Donahue, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    André Rodriguez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

     

    imageKira Vuolo, who played Martha in the Arvada Center's recent "A Christmas Carol" musical," is nominated for a Bobby G Award for her portrayal of Lola in Pomona High School's "Damn Yankees."

     

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

    Stephanie Bess, Christine Daaé, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Amelia Jacobs, Bobbi/Gabby, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Abby Noble, Gertrude McFuzz, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Lorelei Thorne, Annie Oakley, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

    Kira Vuolo, Lola, Damn Yankees, Pomona High School

     

     image

    Dylan Ruder plays Tevye in Valor Christian High School's "Fiddler on the Roof."

     

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

    Conner Kingsley, Igor, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    James Marsh, Lord Farquaad, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Danny Miller, The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Dylan Ruder, Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Chris Salguero, Troy Bolton, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

    Lauren Chew, Miss Sandra, All Shook Up, Legacy High School

     Alex Garramone, Hodel, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

     Desirae Maldonado, JoJo, Seussical, Grandview High School

     Lizzie Plender, Frau Blucher, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Lea Schoengarth, Sharpay Evans, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

     

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

    Jesse Aaronson, Pharaoh, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Ryan Degnan, Dennis, All Shook Up, Legacy High School

    Jairo Guerrero, Ryan Evans, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Ricky Her, Chad Danforth, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Adam Lundy, The Monster, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

     

    Rising Star

    Paul Cherubino, Lazar Wolf, Fiddler on The Roof, Evergreen High School

    Elleon Dobias, The Fiddler, Fiddler on The Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Taylor Lewis, Featured Thespian, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Rose Lucas; A clapper boy, Carla's stand in and featured dancer; City of Angels; Littleton High School

    Allie Putze, Mr. Smee, Peter Pan, St. Mary's Academy

     

    image

    Scenes from the 2013 Bobby G Awards. Photo by John Moore.

     

    Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra

    The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

     Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Seussical, Grandview High School

    Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

     

    Outstanding Performance by a Chorus

    Fiddler on the Roof, Arapahoe High School

    Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

     

    Outstanding Achievement in Musical Direction

    Adam Cave and Tim Libby, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Don Emmons and Jim Farrell, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Shawn Funk and Kelly Parmenter, Fiddler on the Roof, Arapahoe High School

     Chris Maunu and Craig Melhorn, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Bill Welsh, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

    image

    Scenes from the 2013 Bobby G Awards. Denver School of the Arts' Nicki Seefried wins outstanding actress for "Avenue Q." Photo by John Moore.

     

    Outstanding Achievement in Choreography

    Beau Bohlen, Delaney Bohlen and Angela Dryer, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Jamie Gearyand Nicole Toscano, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Ronni Gallup, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Rachel Ilk, Chris Salguero and Lexie Thammavongsa, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Heather Westenskow, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

     

    Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design

    Dean Arniotes, Shaye Evans and Andrew Montesi, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

     Chloe Carr, Taylor Dykstra, Matthew Shinnick and James Yeon, Seussical, Grandview High School

    TJ Donahue and Jack Hagen, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Matt Marchal, Mackenzie Montano and Anna Tiberi, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Erin Ramsey, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

     

    Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design

    Dave Avery, Mike Lanning and Justin Yu, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    John DeYoung, Kurt Muenstermann and Richard Spomer, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

     Shaye Evans, Ryan Kleist, Colin Riebel and Dillon Riebel, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    Alex Groce, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Reid Mather, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    image

    Scenes from the 2013 Bobby G Awards. Photo by John Moore.

     

    Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design

    EB Bollendock and Connor Jones, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Kathryn Demolli and Naomi Sanchez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Taylor Gammel, Claire Goodwin, Brooke Herzog and Julianna Small, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

     Evin Harris and Alaina Haworth, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Mary Murray and Quiana Torres, Xanadu, Mountain Range High School

     

    Outstanding Achievement in Hair and Make-Up Design

    Francesca Arniotes and Michelle Schrader, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    Tim Campbell and Emma Sargent, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Rachel Jeffries, Haley Nicas, Trisha Rouleau and Kelsie Saupe, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Sam Lee, Seussical, Grandview High School

     Rebecca Maestas and Fatima Rodriguez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    image

    Rachel Carruthers and AJ Winter from Mountain Range High School's 'Xanadu.' Photo by MD Haralson.

     

    Special Achievement Award Recipients

    Andy Becker, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Destiny Humrich, Damn Yankees, Pomona High School

    Jackson Warnock and AJ Winter, Xanadu, Mountain Range High School

     

    imageScenes from the 2013 Bobby G Awards: Chaparral High School performs a scene from eventual outstanding musical, "Les Les Misérables." Photo by John Moore.

  • The Scenesters: Meet our 10 teen playwriting semfinalists

    by John Moore | Jan 06, 2014

    Today on Denver CenterStage, we present the 10 talented high-school student playwrights whose works have been selected as semifinalists for our inaugural statewide teen playwriting competition. 

    SCENESTER NO. 1: Mateo Correa

    image

    School: Denver School of the Arts
    Teacher:  Shawn Hann
    Play Title: The Story of You

    What is your play about?: It’s about how people allow fate, religion, people and more control their lives, whether it’s for the best or worst. It follows the stories of several people spanning several generations, showing how cause-and-effect makes the world what it is.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Copulate.

    Dream casting: John Goodman playing the part of Boy 2/God. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to see John Goodman play an overstressed, chain-smoking, loud-mouthed God?

    Who or what was your inspiration for writing your play? The whole world, really. More specifically, my grandpa Paul. In fact, I dedicate this play to him.

    What did you learn from writing this play? That I can write a play in seven days if I disregard friends, family and sleep.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Lyrical."
    "Quixotic."
    "Magical."
    "Compelling."
    "Existential."
    ________________________________________________________________

    SCENESTER NO. 2: Kendall Horan

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    School: Cheyenne Mountain High School, Colorado Springs
    Teacher: Jodi Papproth
    Play Title: The Coffee Shop

    What is your play about?: When a small coffee shop in an old downtown building is scheduled for demolition, seven characters react to the situation - and to each other - in seven very different ways.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Clincher.

    Dream casting: If I could cast anyone, no matter his status or payment expectations, I would cast Stephen Fry as Mr. Albert. One, Stephen Fry is an amazing actor with the exact amount of wordy eccentricity possessed by the character Mr. Albert. And two, I really, really want to meet Stephen Fry.

    Who was your inspiration for writing your play? In November, my granddad passed away at the age of 95. I had been working on my play already, but wasn't super happy with the direction I'd been taking. Once I learned that my granddad passed away, I realized that I wanted not only to design a character based on him, but also to make the piece as a whole a character study; a look at how different people deal with a common event; an event much like the death of my granddad in type and tone.

    What did you learn from writing this play? Hearing your dialogue read aloud is an invaluable playwriting tool.  Also, a coffee shop and a copy shop are not the same thing ... no matter what autocorrect says.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Colloquial."
    "Communal."
    "Contemporary."
    "Americana."
    "Profound."

    ________________________________________________________________

    Scenester No. 3: T.J. Norton

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    School: Discovery Canyon Campus High School
    Teacher: Amy Keating
    Play Title: Lost

    What is your play about? Lost is an absurdist coming-of-age story about a boy, depicting what everyone must face when crossing the threshold into adulthood. After seeking out purpose in his relationships, the boy creates something beautiful out of the pain he feels, and finds true purpose comes from being happy with yourself.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Vulnerable.

    Dream casting: I wouldn’t necessarily cast any known actor in my play. Lost is about real people experiencing real emotions, and the purpose is for real people to learn how to authentically and vulnerably play these characters. Lost shouldn’t be performed by an experienced actor; it should be experienced by an ordinary person.

    Who or what was your inspiration for writing your play? Lost was inspired after a master class I did with Ben Vereen ("Roots") at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. He asked me not to perform, but, instead, to draw from my personal experiences and be vulnerable in front of my audience. I wanted to create a work of theatre that expressed my state of mind, my fears, and emotions, but also helped other actors achieve the same honesty and truth that makes theatre so much more than just a performance.

    What did you learn from writing this play? I learned the importance of contrast. My dialogue is often stark, emotionless, and in the style of theatre of the absurd, but I also experimented with intermixing poetry in my dialogue, giving the play more depth. The same went for adding humor. Although Lost isn’t a comedy, some lighter moments were necessary to make the serious moments more profound.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Perceptive."
    "Absurdist."
    "Inventive."
    "Introspective."
    "Intimate."



    SCENESTER NO.
     4:
    Victoria Capraro

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    School: Denver School of the Arts
    Teachers: Brandon Becker and Shawn Hann
    Play title: Sailor’s Knot: A Play in Six Movements

    What is your play about? Two people who fall in love. Their story is told by a Greek-style chorus who represent fate. It seeks to examine the nature of nature itself, and the process it takes for stars to align.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Melancholy. It translates directly to “dark sickness,” which embodies the specific ache that comes from being in love.

    Dream casting: I’d want Tim Curry to play Him (the male lead), but only if he did it in his full Frank-n-Furter costume from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not because I think Tim Curry is at all suited for this kind of role, but because I want to meet him and obsess over him and the Rocky Horror franchise. To me, he is the king of risks, and I’d love to see what he did with this script.

    Who or what was your inspiration for writing your play? While I was writing this play, I took a trip with my school to the United Kingdom and participated in the marvelous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I saw strong ensembles using unconventional ways to tell simple stories, a concept I found remarkably powerful. I saw a lot of strong Shakespeare done there, and many of his ideas about fate translate into my work. Whether Romeo is screaming to the heavens, “I defy you, stars!” or Cassius is rationalizing that “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” his characters are constantly questioning the valid role of destiny in their lives. My work follows the same idea. My biggest question is this: If love is determined by fate, then why does the course of true love never run smooth?

    What did you learn from writing this play? I learned that playwriting is hard ... but ultimately rewarding. I am incredibly proud of this play because my own work and my own artistic process are the foundations of its success. I learned to trust myself as an artist and as a human.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Poetic."
    "Visually stunning."
    "Esoteric."
    "Ethereal."
    "Intricate."

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    SCENESTER NO. 5: Jack Fletcher

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    School: Denver East High School
    Teacher: Melody Duggan
    Play title: Into the Stars

    What is your play about? A youth lies comatose in his hospital bed after a car accident six months prior. The play takes place both in the real world, where we see his family struggling, and in his mind, where he captains a starship.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Deterioration.

    Dream casting: I would cast Gary Oldman as Daniel Logan, because the character has moments of eccentric anger, and moments of grief, both of which I have seen Gary Oldman play very well.

    Who or what was your inspiration for writing your play? I am a huge science-fiction fan, and I’ve wanted to explore creating my own stories therein for some time. As for the idea of the coma patient, there’s a sense of morality and mortality that I think is worthwhile to explore.

    What did you learn from writing this play? I learned things ranging from causes of heart attacks and vascular anatomy to rank structure in the Navy to the proper script formatting of a stage play.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Astute"
    "Fun"
    "Futuristic"
    "Tender"
    "Melancholic"

    ________________________________________________________________

    SCENESTER NO. 6: Gabriela Gonzales

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    School: Denver School of the Arts
    Teacher: Moss Kaplan
    Play title: Yesterdays

    What is your play about? When Ainsley moves into her new apartment with the help of her high-school sweetheart and friend, Levi, both realize how much they’ve changed since their adolescence. While Levi wants nothing but to help her, Ainsley is afraid of becoming dependent on him again and tries to push him away.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Cactus-y!

    Dream casting: I would choose Anna Kendrick in the role of Ainsley. In the movies I've seen her in, she is able to play a strong female character with her guard up as well as get across a vulnerability that explains her character's fear to reveal herself to others. These characteristics are really important to the story of Yesterdays and the character of Ainsley.

    What was your inspiration for writing your play? Probably the conversations and relationships of people around me. I love to listen to people talk and interact with each other, so being able to replicate that in a story of my own is exciting to me. I also pull characteristics from friends, family and myself that can be meshed together to create characters that engage in interesting conflict while being able to find a way out of that same conflict.

    What did you learn from writing this play? I learned how important subtext is in real-life conversations as well as in a fictional dialogue. The problem and resolution don't need to be stated explicitly. People don't always say exactly what they mean in a straightforward way. The underlying meanings in movements, habits and the things unsaid during a conversation can get points across and drive the story in an important and meaningful way.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Enigmatic"
    "Personal"
    "Fresh"
    "Nuanced"
    "Sharp"

    ________________________________________________________________

    SCENESTER NO. 6: Nicholas Sugarman

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    School: Cherry Creek High School
    Teacher: Jim Miller
    Play title: Never EvEn Tried

    What is your play about? Joe, a lonely shut-in who has not left his apartment in years, faces hallucinations of his inner demons when the girl next door begins to flirt with him. Things don’t go as he planned.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Wallowing.

    Dream casting: Jim Carrey as the TV, because that character needs an actor with an expressive voice, and Jim Carrey's voice definitely fits the bill.

    What was your inspiration for writing your play? The plot, the TV and Joe were inspired by mixing some of my own life with the novel Welcome to the NHK! by Takimoto Tatsuhiko. Joe’s (only) friend, Anne, was a few different girls I know mixed together. The rest just fell into place as I was writing.

    What did you learn from writing this play? You can’t let one bad thing from a person’s past ruin that person for you. Love’s about taking the bad with the good, after all.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Astute"
    "Gritty"
    "Evocative"
    "Investigative"
    "Brave"

    ________________________________________________________________

    SCENESTER NO. 8: Meg Flinders

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    School: Heritage High School
    Teacher: Mark Devine
    Play title: The Adventures of Sammie the Heartless and Cory the Firebreather

    What is your play about? Sammie and Cory think the only way to have fun is to play games and pretend to be swashbuckling pirates. Their parents find it disappointing that Sammie and Cory say they hate stories, and they decide to try everything they can to make stories fun for their children.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Lubber.

    Dream casting:  I would pick Will Ferrell to play B-Wiz. The key to most of these roles is having fun, but this character is particularly crazy and needs a very comedic actor to pull it off. As we all know from so many of his movies, Mr. Ferrell is fantastic at the weird, crazy, and comedic and would do well performing as B-Wiz.

    What was your inspiration for writing your play? This play was meant to be very family friendly, and is most certainly targeted toward a younger audience. I tried to think about what younger kids would find enjoyable to watch, and even consulted my 11-year-old brother, Kaleb. about things he thought should be included.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Innocent"
    "Sagacious"
    "Adventurous"
    "Timeless"
    "Ancestral"

    ________________________________________________________________

    SCENESTER NO. 9: Tristan Cunningham

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    School: Sand Creek High School
    Teacher:  Leslie Fischer
    Play title: A Case of the Mondays

    What is your play about? It's a comedy about a mundane, minute office-worker, Terrance, who has suddenly had an epiphany. Throughout his abnormal Monday, he fumbles to search for why today is so special, and what exactly has caused his epiphany ... or if he has even had one.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: Stik-Tech

    Dream casting: I would select Jeff Anderson from the indie cult-classic Clerks playing Terrance's best-friend and slacker, Dale. I would choose Jeff because the character he portrays in Clerks, Randal Graves, was the inspiration for Dale and his traits such as being lazy, sarcastic and, most important, a slacker.

    What was your inspiration for writing your play? A mixture of Cormac McCarthy's play The Sunset Limited, Athol Fugard's play Master Harold ... and the boys, and the TV comedy The Office. From McCarthy and Fugard's plays, I became interested in writing a story that took place in the same setting throughout. And thanks to The Office, I was able to find the setting of an office, with added comedy.

    What did you learn from writing your play? I learnedthat it's OK to fail as long as you improve. Writing the play was, at times, difficult when reaching a stall in the story. Now, in hindsight, it was those difficult times that brought firm strength to the play and helped me grow as a writer. It was exciting to see a finished product I was proud of, when at times I thought of scrapping the whole project!

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Comedic"
    "Tender"
    "Quirky"
    "Witty"
    "Charming"

    ________________________________________________________________

    SCENESTER NO. 10: Laurain Park

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    School: Alexander Dawson School
    Teacher:  Cynthia Kolanowski
    Play title: One-Sided Fish

    What is your play about? Probably most people will have some kind of regret about their school days, and this story is about some of those regrets. Maybe an uneventful, plain story, feelings, thoughts,  surroundings, and behaviors of a shy girl, telling us few interesting messages is what this play is about.

    Favorite word that appears in your script: "One-sided," because although it may not have a happy atmosphere to everyone, being one-sided allows people to explore different fields and thoughts that they wouldn’t be able to know in their lifetime if they were just focused on general, balanced things.

    Dream casting: I have a tremendous list of favorite actors, but I can’t think of anyone I'd rather play Felicity than Kat Dennings. I’m a huge fan, and I can write pages about the reason. While I was writing this play, I watched Thor, and I loved how she played Darcy Lewis. I got inspired from it, and added more characteristics to Felicity. So it is possible to say that the role of Felicity is made for her.

    [[MORE]]What was your inspiration for writing your play? Three of my favorite sayings are: “Live like you’re dying,” “Be honest to yourself” and “Live a life without regrets.” These are my favorite mottos, and they get forgotten in some occasions.  I was also inspired by my surroundings, my parents'  advice, my sister’s complaint and regret, my teacher’s advice, good movies and books, my friends’ stories, my own stories and some of my favorite song lyrics. Of course, not all stories have a happy ending, so I thought about what choices would make the end better.

    What did you learn from writing your play? The importance of  feedback. I made a few friends, family members and teachers read my play, and asked what they thought about. That way I was able to reduce the number of grammar and spelling mistakes, and got ideas and advice to continue writing the play. I appreciate their help deeply, and I think it really helped.

    Words invoked by our judges to describe your play:
    "Genuine"
    "Insightful"
    "Beautiful"
    "Honest"
    "Inspiring"

    ________________________________________________________________

    About the 2013 Regional Youth Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: “Your Story. Our Stage”: This one-act playwriting competition is designed for area high schools.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: Submissions were judged blindly by Denver Center artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, the three finalists will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. The winner will have his or her one-act play fully produced as part of the Denver Center Theatre Academy’s 2014 summer program.

  • John Wells comes home to talk Meryl Streep and 'August: Osage County'

    by John Moore | Nov 16, 2013

     

    Acclaimed TV producer John Wells came home to Denver last night to screen his highly anticipated film adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning play “August: Osage County” at the Starz Denver Film Festival.

    The play, the most savage American family drama written in the past 50 years, is Tracy Letts’ answer to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” When the poet patriarch of a rural Oklahoma family disappears, three generations of Westons gather to bicker and attack one another. At the center of this modern Dust Bowl is a poisonous, pill-popping matriarch named Violet. She has cancer of the mouth – medically and metaphorically. It's one of the most considerable characters ever created for the stage, so naturally the job of playing her on film fell to Meryl Streep.

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    John Wells, left, is a Cherry Creek High School grad, producer of "The West Wing" and director of the new film, "August Osage County." He's with Starz Denver Film Festival executive director Tom Bothelo. Photo by John Moore.

    [[MORE]]"August: Osage County" is a perfect companion piece to Alexander Payne’s new “Nebraska” (starring Bruce Dern as Violet’s cinematic soulmate). It opens, ironically enough, on Christmas day.

    Wells, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School, is best known for producing T.V.'s “E.R.” and “The West Wing.” “August: Osage County” is only his second film as a director. His cast is an embarrassment of fame, most (but not all) to his film's benefit. The who’s-who includes Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dermot Mulroney. About the only Weston you won’t recognize isn’t exactly unknown – she’s Jack Nicholson’s daughter (Julianne, and she’s great as sister Ivy). You know you have an A-List when Jim Carrey, Renée Zellweger and Chloë Grace Moretz are among those who didn’t make the cut.

    After the screening before nearly 2,000 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Wells was interviewed by former Rocky Mountain News film critic Robert Denerstein. Wells explained that the final version of the film had only been locked down four days before. So the version Denver audiences had just seen, he said, was slightly different in places. For example, the Denver version ended with a Kings of Leon song playing during the closing credits -- and that has since been changed to an acoustic version.

    Wells talked about filming in Oklahoma’s real-life Osage County; the challenge of turning a 3½-hour stage play into a 2-hour film; and playing in the sandbox with Meryl Streep. Here are some of the highlights:

    Robert Denerstein: You could have gone to long shots and exteriors and put everyone everyone in a studio. Instead you went to Oklahoma. Why was that important to you?

    John Wells: I felt very strongly that the place itself was a huge part of what the piece is, and that the group of actors coming primarily from New York and Los Angeles and, in a couple of cases, London, were going to have an impression of what that place was without really understanding what it was. So we went there … We didn’t build any sets. We purchased this house that was in Osage County, which had been a $600 Sears & Roebuck kit house in 1921. We re-did it for what our needs were. And we just sort of lived there. We rehearsed in the house, fully dressed, for a week in advance. That allowed for the accents we were going to try for to be authentic. We brought in a lot of people from the area who were the proper ages of the characters to talk to us, and the actors really got to know the people. There is a very specific sort of thing to a plains individualism, and a hearty kind of pioneer spirit that they got. And because of all the blue state/red state ideas, I wanted them to really understand the difference between a social or religious conservatism, and the kind of rugged individualism where you just want to be left alone.

    And then Meryl had the idea that the actors should all live together, which turned out to be a wonderful experience for everybody. We were in Bartlesville (Oklahoma), and there wasn’t really a hotel big enough that could accommodate us all, so we found some recently completed townhouses that were right there behind the Chile's. We rented all nine of them, and the cast took over these townhouses. Meryl was next to Julia who was next to Margo (Martindale). Meryl and Margo cooked most nights. Meryl is a very good cook, and she likes having people over. So we would rehearse there. They also studied each other during that whole period of time. They tried to learn each other's gestures, like how Meryl was going to laugh, and how she was going to tilt her head, and how she was going to move her hands. We knew our actors didn’t really look like a family. They just don’t look all that similar. But we thought that by doing those kinds of exercises, they would certainly really seem like a family.

    Robert Denerstein: The post-funeral dinner scene takes about 20 minutes. How long did it take to film it, and what was your approach to that, since you have just about everything you can think of in it: Comedy, tragedy, death, anger?

    John Wells: Well, that was the thing that we were almost frightened of. We were going to be around a table looking at the same chicken for a significant period of time. It’s about 20 pages of the script, so we were planning to shoot it over a week. I had broken the scene into three blocks of six pages or so to shoot. But at the end of what were going to be the first six pages, Meryl kind of gave me a wink from the end of the table, and she just kept going. She was off-book for the whole thing. The other actors were not as prepared, and so they had their scripts kind of in their laps under the table going like this (turning pages). But that put everybody on notice that we were going to actually perform. It was going to be a real thing. I spent most of my time talking to the individuals about what their connections were from the past; who was going to look at whom; what this meant, and who had done what before. And then we tried to capture that -- and not overdo it. Because in those kinds of scenes when you have that many people, and you are trying to get individual shots of each one, if you do 10 or 15 takes of each person, by the time you come around to the last couple of people, you have already done it 150 times, and you lose the spontaneity. So most of those shots were the first or second take for each one of them.

    Robert Denerstein: So what was it about this particular play that drew you to it?

    John Wells: I had seen it on Broadway long before I knew I was going to have anything to do with it. When the lights came up at the end, I was very taken with this feeling that everyone around me in the theater was suddenly telling stories about their own families. There was something that Tracy had gotten right about the way in which sibling rivalries work.  About certain kinds of problems in families. There really isn’t enough love to go around, so there is this constant competition. I felt like I knew what to do with that. It felt very real to me and honest. I have lived through many, many dinners similar to that one … many of them not too far from here, in fact.

    Robert Denerstein: All right then … don‘t invite us over for Thanksgiving.

    START OF BRIEF SPOILER ALERT (skip ahead if you care)

    Robert Denerstein: When the film showed in Toronto, there was some talk about the ending. How did you come to decide that the ending of the movie should be a little different from the ending of the play?

    John Wells: Tracy has always felt that Barbara is the protagonist of the piece in the end. He didn’t know how to show that on stage, because he couldn’t really just have her off to the side sitting in a chair while pretending to drive. That would be sort of silly. So it ended with Johnna and Violet on the stairs, which we shot, and we had it in and out a couple of different times. We had different lengths of (shots of) Barbara driving, and how long she stays up on that hill, and we couldn’t quite get that rhythm right. So you are fooling with it, trying to get the right emotional balance. You want people to feel that there is some hope for Barbara -- that something is going to happen, and she is going to go forward in her life.  What will happen with her marriage, what will happen with her relationship with her child, that we don't know, but we should feel that  she has at least taken the first step toward breaking the cycle of emotional violence that has been perpetuated from her grandmother to her mother, and now down to her.

    END OF SPOILER ALERT

     Robert Denerstein: Do you think it’s possible to take the Chris Cooper view that, well, maybe we can all just be a little bit nicer to each other?

    John Wells: I hope so. When they first started talking to me about doing this film, the second phone call I made was to Chris. He said, “Meryl’s doing it?” And I said yes, and he said, “When can I be there?” You need to understand that there is honesty and decency in the world that Charlie (Cooper's character) represents. The balance in the piece between the damage that Violet is inflicting on everyone around her and the basic decency of Charlie’s character is essential, or it just becomes a vicious, violent circle.

    Robert Denerstein: You did open up the world of the play for the film, and that’s a tricky business, especially in something like this where you need a little claustrophobia and some of that hothouse environment. But at the same time, you can’t make a film that is totally situated there in the house.

    John Wells: We had a lot of conversations about that. In his first draft, Tracy had a lot of things that were wonderful, and stayed in. One was going to the doctor’s office, which was only talked about in the play. And Violet trying to escape from the car across the fields. We had tried to open it up even more. In fact, one of the mistakes I made early-on was the cabana scene, where the three sisters sit around and talk before they run into their mother, who tells them the boot story. That was set in three different locations. In one of them, Tracy had them out drinking. We shot it early in the process, and it was wrong to have them be away from the house at that point. Luckily, we put that together before we finished shooting, and I went back and re-shot it on the second-to-last night. It was for just that reason. The gravity that Violet holds over all of them, the force that keeps them in this orbit that is tied to this house that she doesn’t really leave or won’t leave, is essential. We literally talked about, “Well, can we go up to 50 feet away from the house?” “Does the house need to be in the background of everything?" "Who actually can leave the house?" But to also see the landscape and the beautiful country around it tells you a lot about the desolation, the isolation and the claustrophobia of the area, too.

    Robert Denerstein: What for you is the genius of Meryl Streep?

     John Wells: It really is a remarkable thing. When I was still in college, I was fortunate enough to see her at Lincoln Center doing “The Cherry Orchard,” playing a relatively small part. She was just out of Yale. I remember her vividly, and for exactly the same reason then as I do now, which is that she has the ability to fill silence. She can just look and you know there are all of these other things going on. I don’t really gauge the great actors by when they are speaking. I gauge them by when they are listening.  Are they actually so completely in the moment of what they are doing that they actually really do hear and understand what’s going on? And Meryl gives you lots of different variations of something. We started having conversations early-on where I would say, “In the is scene, how many of these takes do you think you actually have in you?” Because some of it is very difficult. As an example, in the scene where she talks about the boots -- her mother’s Christmas gift -- Meryl said to me, “You know, I think I only have maybe one or two times in me.” So we began in that scene on her close-up, and what's in the film comes from the first take that she did. I asked her to do one more, just in case something went wrong. So we did it twice, and then I worked my way outside the scene, which is a very unusual way to do it. Her genius is to be so completely involved with the character. She's not Daniel Day-Lewis, where you have to call him Mr. Lincoln for three months, but she has a complete understanding of the character. By the time we first got together to talk about this project, which was probably six or seven months before we shot the film, she was already trying out voices for me at lunch. And she wasn’t saying, “Now I am trying out a voice.” She would be literally already working her way into the character. And while we never talked about it specifically, I believe she worked on the character for a full six months before she showed up for rehearsals. It’s that kind of professionalism and dedication that makes her who she is.

    imageJohn Wells and Robert Denerstein. 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.