• 'Human Error' playwright on comedy as a way of confronting our problems

    by John Moore | May 29, 2018
    Making of 'Human Error'

    Photos from opening night of 'Human Error' in Denver. Above, from left: Larry Bates, Joe Coots, Marissa McGowan, Kimberly Gilbert and Wayne Kennedy. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    (Note: Perspectives is a series of free public panel discussions held just before the first preview performance of each DCPA Theatre Company offering. Next up: Vietgone: 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, in the Jones Theatre.)

    Five things we learned at Perspectives: Right now is a pretty good time for all of us to sit back and have a laugh together

    By John Moore
    Senor Arts Journalist

    It’s not exactly breaking news that discourse in America is broken. But with ideological lines now drawn through the middle of American living rooms as definitively as borders, Human Error playwright Eric Pfeffinger and Director Shelley Butler think now might be a pretty good time for all of us to have a laugh together.

    Human Error Shelley Butler Eric Pfeffinger“I think we have to be realistic about the challenges we are facing as a nation, and we can't minimize the gravity of them, but there is something to be said for approaching the world with a sense of humanity and even optimism in terms of our capacity to deal with those problems,” Pfeffinger said before the first preview performance of his world-premiere play, now in performance at the Garner-Galleria Theatre through June 24.

    Human Error is Pfeffinger's comedy about two very different couples: One NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals; the other NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, the conservative wife is impregnated with the liberal wife’s fertilized embryo. Which sounds like an emotionally wrenching indie film that might inspire Oscar-worthy performances from the likes of, say, dramatic actors Tilda Swinton and Amy Adams.

    Yeah, not so much.

    “Most people would say: 'Oh, what a terrible tragedy for everybody involved.' And my reaction was: 'That could be a funny comedy,' Pfeffinger told audience members who gathered before the first preview performance of Human Error. “That's a strategy that I employ a lot as a writer: I take this thing that is not at all comedic for anybody involved and try to make it funny.”

    But something not so funny happened as Pfeffinger continued to develop his script after it was featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit and then chosen for full production to close out the 2017-18 season. “I thought I was writing a fun comedy about reproductive technology — because who doesn’t love those?" he said. "But as I started getting into the world of the play, I realized it was increasingly about these two couples and the echo chambers they have chosen to isolate themselves within. Now that they are forced to spend nine months together working this thing out, they can no longer demonize and caricature these other people who don't think like they do. Because they learn to actually like each other in some fun and enlightening and surprising ways.

    “I went into the writing of this play thinking it was going to be a dark illustration of how impossible it is for us to understand one another — and how we are doomed as a people. But it turns out my play had a more human outlook on America than I do.”

    Here are five more things we learned at Perspectives:

    NUMBER 1

    Foot in mouth. Butler says Pfeffinger’s comedy-writing style is akin to situational comedy. Pfeffinger even provides a wink to the sit-com form by having his liberal dad-to-be — a black man named Keenan — work at a think-tank on the study of comedy, where he recently presented the topic: “Tumbling Over the Populist Footstool: Anti-Intellectualism in The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The kids may not know why that is so funny. But one of the most beloved opening sequences in TV history had Van Dyke (as Rob Petrie) come home from work and sometimes trip over his ottoman — and sometimes not. For six years, Americans never knew (and reportedly heavily bet on) whether Van Dyke would trip from week to week. The bit was dreamed up as a tribute to silent clowns from days of yore. Here’s the whole story.

    NUMBER 2

    Wet blanket. OK, a quick reality check: In-vitro fertilization is a $3 billion industry in the U.S., responsible for more than 1 million babies. And mistaken embryo implantation is a real thing, too. There is no concrete data on its incidence, but here’s one couple’s particularly harrowing account. More often than not, these cases tend to go under the radar. Failure can be especially devastating, as a single round of IVF can cost a couple up to $20,000.

    NUMBER 3

    The Doctor is off. After reading the above item above, you can imagine that the fertility doctor in Pfeffinger’s play must be a bumbling, mumbling idiot to make that kind of mistake. And he is, thanks in large part to the comedic stylings of BDT Stage veteran Wayne Kennedy. “It's possibly not the most flattering portrayal of a doctor in the American theatre,” Pfeffinger said. “I don't know that the play is going to be endorsed by the American Medical Association. But Wayne Kennedy does a fantastic job of creating this guy who's usually really good at this one very narrow, technologically specific branch of medicine — and then this thing goes wrong and suddenly he has to be good at working with people. ... And he's not good at working with people.” 

    Read more: Our complete interview with the playwright

    NUMBER 4

    The space case. Human Error is the first DCPA Theatre Company season offering ever presented in the Garner Galleria Theatre, more commonly home to ensemble musicals such as The Taffetas and First Date. And Butler says the space has presented several logistical challenges. Galleria shows typically offer wait service throughout the show, but that is not the case for Human Error because, well: A play is going on. “We're really happy for people to buy drinks in the bar and bring them with them into the theatre,” Butler said, “but this isn't a cabaret show.” The Galleria is also an intimate space but it does seat 200 in narrow rows that go back a long way. Careful not to lose any of the subtlety of the comedy, Butler has chosen to mic her actors in an inconspicuous way. “You may not even notice they are there, but the mics allow the actors to play the comedy the way the comedy wants to be played — and still reach the back of the house,” she said. "Eric has so many great throwaway lines (spoken as an aside, often no more loudly than a whisper), and with mics the actors don’t have to change their delivery in order for those lines to be heard.”

    NUMBER 5 Working for a living. As playwrights go, Pfeffinger is a big deal, having had his works performed at the Humana Festival in Louisville, Ky., the Geva Theatre Center in New York, the Denver Center and more. He’s also a librarian at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library in Ohio — and didn’t get to attend Friday’s official opening performance because he had to work his shift. “Yes, playwriting is very lucrative,” Pfeffinger said with a laugh. “The day job is just for fun.” Actually, even successful playwrights juggle writing with all sorts of outside jobs to pay the bills. “Even Tony Kushner will say, 'If I'm weren't writing these screenplays, you wouldn't be getting these plays,’” Pfeffinger said. “That definitely influences the rhythm of my work. And when I have a great opportunity like this one in Denver, I have to take vacation time to do it. But I love working at the library. It keeps me in constant contact with a huge range of people — including the kinds of people who are in this play. I think working at the library informs my work as a playwright in an invaluable way.” But still, Butler added: “Every time Eric has to go back to the library, we get depressed.”

    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.

    Chris Coleman Human Error. Photo by John Moore
    Chris Coleman delivers his first opening-night curtain speech as the new Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company, at 'Human Error.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Human Error: Cast list

    Human Error: Creatives

    • Directed by Shelley Butler
    • Scenic Design by Lisa M. Orzolek
    • Costume Design by Sara Ryung Clement
    • Lighting Design by Charles R. MacLeod
    • Sound Design by Jason Ducat
    • Dramaturgy by Sarah Lunnie
    • Stage management by Christopher C. Ewing
    • Assistant Stage Management by D. Lynn Reiland
    • Casting by Elissa Myers Casting
    Video: Our interview with Eric Pfeffinger at the Colorado New Play Summit: 

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


    Human Error: Ticket information

    HumanError_show_thumbnail_160x160After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now two very different couples face sharing an uproarious nine-month odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through June 24
    • Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Human Error:
    Human Error:
    In comedy, your pain is our punchline
    Playwright on using comedy as a way of confronting our problems
    Five fun things we learned at first rehearsal
    Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Aaron Posner on revisiting ‘The Merchant of Venice’: To be or not to be?

    by John Moore | May 17, 2018

    Cast of The Merchant of Venice Sarah Roshan The cast of Miners Alley Playhouse's 'District Merchants,' which reimagines 'The Merchant of Venice' in 1870s America. Photo by Sarah Roshan.

    Rather than foreclose on The Bard's problem play, playwright gives it a new lease on American life in District Merchants

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Merchant of Venice, with its legendarily merciless Jewish money-lender who demands his pound of flesh and receives not one ounce of mercy in return, has not stood well the test of time. In these contemporary times, Shakespeare’s blatantly anti-Semitic leanings have even led some to suggest the play should no longer be performed at all.

    Aaron Posner, one of the leading imaginers and re-imaginers in the American theatre today, is not one of them. Which is not to say he likes the Bard’s problematic play.

    Aaron Posner Quote“I had known The Merchant of Venice for a long time, but I never wanted to direct it because I couldn't find a way to make the play, as it existed, interesting to me,” said Posner, who sustains multiple careers as playwright, adaptor, educator, company leader and acclaimed director in Washington D.C. “But I knew that if I was going to push it around too much, it ceases to be ‘the play’ for me. So I began to think: ‘Maybe I should use it as a launch-pad for a brand-new play.’ And that's what I did.” That brand-new play is District Merchants, which opens in its regional premiere tonight (May 18) at the Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden.

    District Merchants uses The Merchant of Venice as a jumping-off point to explore the complex relationship between blacks and Jews in America after the Civil War — without cleansing the troubling ethnic undertones of the original story.  

    “For all of his genius, Shakespeare was still a product of his time,” said Posner. “And while he was forward-thinking in a number of ways, he was still limited by those times. Thank goodness, civilization has progressed over the past 400 years.”  

    For centuries, many regarded The Merchant of Venice to be a harmless romantic comedy with a happy ending for all — save for that unforgiving and unforgiven Jew. “I actually think a lot of that play really is interesting and engaging and true and human,” said Posner. “But it has its darker side, too.

    “What's tricky is that I don’t have a problem with the darker sides of the play. I just think they are not explored fully enough in the play to make it clear to us what Shakespeare was really up to — or to make it resonant for us. You have to keep in mind that, for all his genius, Shakespeare was writing 300 years before Freud. He was not asking deep questions about relationships between his characters that we do today, because he didn't have that vocabulary. He doesn't care why this person falls in love with that person. He's not asking about what psychological wounds might be driving this person, or what kind of emotional healing needs to happen between those people. He was talking about incredibly interesting universal truths. But I wanted to engage with the issues of that play in a way where I could make it speak to people today.”  

    Posner easily could have taken inspiration from today’s headlines and set his modern variation in the offices of, let’s say, any the five largest banks in the United States, whose assets equal 60 percent of the U.S. economy. He wanted to create some distance instead. “Because the moment you see a guy named Shylock walking around the streets of D.C., and it’s today, and he's on his cellphone, you are in danger of becoming really kitschy really quickly,” he said.  

    Instead, Posner found “really fertile ground” exploring relations between blacks and Jews during the Reconstruction. He cites lines in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice that bluntly equate slavery to personal property. “That hit a chord with me,” said Posner. “And that led me to the Civil War, which circuitously led me to the setting of my play. And then the play quickly became about the relationships between blacks and Jews, which was very interesting and historically fraught.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    In District Merchants, set in the 1870s, Shylock is an immigrant who has fled ethnic cleansing in the Ukraine. Antonio — the unfortunate merchant of Shakespeare’s title — here becomes Antoine DuPre, a freeborn black man who unwisely borrows money from Shylock to help pal Benjamin Bassanio win Portia's heart and fortune. The play also has its modern, 21st-century meta-theater moments as well, simultaneously making the setting Shakespearean, post-Civil War and present-day — all at the same time. Think of it as two pasts make a present.

    “There has been an uneasy and complicated relationship between blacks and Jews in this country for years,” said Posner, who took inspiration from a book called Blacks and Jews by Nathan Lerner and Cornel West. “Of course, they have been allies at times. But there also have been times when they should have, and could have, been stronger allies. Instead, there is still some essential distrust between those communities to this day. It really piqued my interest to think about these historical relationships between oppressed peoples in this country where there should be natural affinity, and often instead, there is actually animosity, for a variety of interesting and compelling reasons. All of that is in the play to some extent.

    “But really, for all of the political and social aspects of the play, I'm always most interested in individual human beings and the complicated relationships they make. To me, District Merchants ends up being more a story of people coming together across difference, trying to build bridges, trying to reach out to each other, and looking at the things that divide us.”

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    District Merchants Miners Alley Playhouse Photo by Sarah Roshan
    Chris Kendall and Cris Davenport in Miners Alley Playhouse's 'District Merchants,' opening Friday. Photo by Sarah Roshan.


    And what has all of that to say about the rampant corruption in today’s banking industry, the lives left ruined in its wake, and the ongoing ideological polarization that seems to have America in a vice?

    “I guess the play is asking, as you look at such a divided society: Is it possible to come together across distrust, suspicion and genuine difference? Particularly after genuine, deep and abiding harm has been done? You can't pretend damage hasn’t been done. But how do you move forward anyhow?”

    But, just to clarify: Posner swears District Merchants is also a very funny play. Really.

    “If you come to it with an open mind, I think there's a lot there,” he said. “I don't think it takes sides in any one direction. It's just trying to engage people with questions about power and privilege. And if people are open to that story, I think that is a worthwhile story to tell.”

    The year of Aaron Posner in Colorado theatre

    Posner is on the verge of becoming much more known to Colorado theatre audiences, starting with Friday’s opening of District Merchants at Miners Alley Playhouse. Cherry Creek Theatre will stage Posner’s My Name is Asher Lev in October, and the Aurora Fox will stage Life Sucks, his hilariously titled variation on Chekhov Uncle Vanya, in February. 

     Jacqueline Garcia, Curtiss Johns, Albert Banker in My Name is Asher Lev. Photo by Sarah Roshan My Name is Asher Lev, an adaptation of the popular novel by Chaim Potok, follows the journey of a young Jewish painter torn between his Hassidic upbringing and his desperate need to fulfill his artistic promise. When his evident artistic genius threatens to destroy his relationship with his parents and community, young Asher realizes he must make a difficult choice between art and faith.

    (Pictured: Jacqueline Garcia, Curtiss Johns and Albert Banker in Miners Alley Playhouse's 2015 staging of 'My Name is Asher Lev.' Photo by Sarah Roshan Photography.)

    “It’s just a great story,” Posner said. “I already had adapted Chaim's novel The Chosen, (directed by new DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman in 2010 at Portland Center Stage), and I began meeting people who told me that Asher Lev had really changed their lives. It’s the story of growing up in a family that doesn't seem to be yours, or being pulled between your community and something else that is deeply important to you.”

    And while District Merchants and Life Sucks are very much Posner’s singular versions of their source stories, “Asher Lev is not my story,” he said. “This is Chaim Potok’s story. I'm very much the midwife trying to tell his story as best I can. I do think it is a deeply universal, very relatable story regardless of whether you've ever met a Jew.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    In Life Sucks, a group of old friends, ex-lovers, estranged in-laws and lifelong enemies grapple with life’s thorniest philosophical questions and stumble their way toward the inevitable conclusion that, yeah, life pretty much sucks. “It's one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, and maybe one of the closest to me,” Posner said. "Because while Stupid F***ing Bird (a meta takeoff on Chekhov’s The Seagull) is a young person's play in its core sensibilities, Life Sucks is more of a middle-aged play, which is where I sit in my life right now.”

    While The Merchant of Venice is steeped with villains, Posner said, there are no evil-doers here. “I'm much more interested in good people doing their best and still messing things up,” he said. “That's what Chekov tends to do, and that's what I apparently am building of off in Life Sucks. It’s people struggling to do their best and (bleeping) it up on a regular basis."

    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.

    District Merchants Miners Alley Playhouse Sarah Roshan Photography

    Candace Joice as Portia and Sinjin Jones as Benjamin Bassanio in 'District Merchants' at Miners Alley Playhouse. Sarah Roshan Photography.


    Aaron Posner at a glance

    Aaron Posner, born in Eugene, Ore., has built a thriving career as a theater administrator, playwright, and a freelance director of award-winning productions in the Washington, D.C. area and throughout the country with an emphasis on Shakespeare and literary classics. A graduate of Northwestern University with a B.S. in Performance Studies, Posner is an Eisenhower Fellow whose plays and productions have been seen at more than one-third of all LORT theatres in the country. He was a founding Artistic Director of Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, directing more than 35 productions there and Aaron is an Associate Artist at the Folger Theatre and Milwaukee Rep.  Posner has won four Helen Hayes Awards for Best Director for work at the Folger, including: Measure For Measure, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Cyrano, He also won the 2014 HHA -The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play along with two Barrymore Awards (A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Best Director), and The Chosen (playwright), both at the Arden.

    District Merchants: Ticket information

    • Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Performances May 18-June 24
    • Written by Aaron Posner
    • Directed by Len Matheo
    • Performances 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets: $15-$38
    • At 1224 Washington Ave., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com.
    • The play runs 2 hours and 30 minutes

    District Merchants Miners Alley PLayhouse, Sarah Roshan PhotographyCast

    • Cris Davenport as Antoine Dupree
    • Chris Kendall as Shylock
    • Amy Elizabeth Gray as Jessica
    • Sinjin Jones as Benjamin Bassanio
    • Sean Michael Cummings as Finn Randall
    • Candace Joice as Portia
    • Kristina Lorice Fountaine as Nessa
    • Isaiah Kelley as Lancelot
    Aaron Posner's work in Colorado:
  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Sweat'

    by John Moore | Apr 09, 2018

    In the video above, playwright Lynn Nottage and Broadway director Kate Whoriskey talk about connecting to the human experience with 'Sweat.'


    Note: In this daily series, we have been taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today we finish with Sweat

    Sweat

    • Written by: Lynn Nottage
    • Year: 2015
    • Director: Nataki Garrett
    • Dates: April 26-May 26, 2019 (Opens May 3)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • Genre: Drama
    • Ruined. Photo by Terry Shapiro. About the author: Nottage is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter from Brooklyn. In a national survey conducted by the DCPA NewsCenter following the 2017 death of Edward Albee, Nottage placed third as the leading, living voice in American playwriting, behind only Tony Kushner and Sam Shepard (who has since passed away). "Lynn Nottage, like August Wilson before her, spotlights the marginalized without sentiment, sensationalism or a victim mentality," The Denver Post wrote in 2011. Sweat won the Pulitzer, an Obie Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was nominated for a Tony Award. Ruined, which also won a Pulitzer, is set amid civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, based on the playwright's interviews with Congolese women, exposing largely unknown radical and violent injustice that happening in Africa. That made for one of the most remarkable productions in DCPA Theatre Company history in 2011. Nottage's Intimate Apparel has been presented at the Arvada Center and, just last month, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Nottage is currently an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory. (Pictured above: Kim Staunton in the DCPA's 'Ruined.' Photo by Terry Shapiro.)
    • lynn-nottage QUOTEThe play at a glance: For the people of poverty-stricken Reading, Pa., work is  much more than a paycheck – it’s the glue that has held the town together for generations. The floor of their central factory is where lifelong friendships are made, where love blossoms and where family members work side-by-side. But as layoffs become the new norm and a cheaper workforce threatens the viability of the local union, the threads that once kept the community together begin to fray. Using warm humor and deep empathy, Nottage paints a moving portrait of today’s working-class America in decline.
    • Says the playwright: "I very much wanted the play to be a conversation starter. I feel my role as an artist isn't to come up with solutions but to ask the right questions at the right moment.”
    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "One of the things I love the most about Lynn Nottage is the way she takes an idea and makes it human. Lynn is a significant voice in the American theatre, and I’m thrilled we get to experience her work again. We’re also incredibly lucky to have a powerhouse director like Nataki Garrett at the helm of this important drama, and I look forward to taking the questions this play asks and diving deeper into conversations with the Denver community.”

    The N.Y. Times article that inspired Nottage to write Sweat

    • The author's influence: Nottage began working on the play in 2011 by interviewing residents of Reading, which at the time was, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, officially one of the poorest cities in America, with a poverty rate of 41 percent. Nottage was particularly influenced by a New York Times article reporting on that city. "Reading is a city that’s sort of hopelessly fractured along racial and economic lines," Nottage told the Village Voice. "When you’re there, you feel it."
    • What the critics have said about Sweat: The New York Times called Sweat "an extraordinarily moving drama that powerfully contrasts life’s happiest highs with the heart-wrenching struggles of survival." The play's characters have  been described as the same kind of disenfranchised blue-collar workers who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Michael Schulman of The New Yorker called Sweat "the first theatrical landmark of the Trump Era —  a tough yet empathetic portrait of the America that came undone." He also said Nottage's play "harks back to the working-class naturalism of Clifford Odets." Wrote Jeremy Gerard of Deadline: “No play in recent memory has shed more light on the crises and tribulations of America’s great retrenched working middle class than Sweat."
    • Notes on the play: Sweat was first performed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015. It moved to to Broadway after a sold out off-Broadway run at The Public Theater. The Broadway cast included Carlo AlbanLydia5, who made an indelible turn in the DCPA Theatre Company's Lydia in 2008 (pictured right. ... The action takes place in a fictional bar. The story tells of two meetings: One between a parole officer and two ex-convictl the other three women who were childhood friends working in the same factory. Switching scenes from the present with eight years before, Nottage shows how events take these characters on divergent pathways ... Lower education generally means higher poverty.  Just 8 percent of Reading residents have a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 28 percent.

    TC-web-Season-Ann-800x3004
    Artwork by DCPA Senior Graphic Designer Kyle Malone.

    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'The Whistleblower'

    by John Moore | Apr 08, 2018
    Itamar Moses QUOTE


    Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today: The Whistleblower

    The Whistleblower

    • Written by: Itamar Moses
    • Year: 2019 (world premiere)
    • Director: To be announced
    • Dates: Feb. 8-March 10, 2019 (Opens Feb. 15)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • Genre: Contemporary comic drama
    • About the author: Itamar Moses is the award-winning book writer of the musical The Band's Visit, one of the most acclaimed new musicals on Broadway this season. That's the story of a stranded Egyptian police band that is sent to a remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert and are taken in by the locals. He's also the author of seven plays, two other musicals and an evening of shorts.
    • The Whistleblower. Photo by Adams ViscomThe play at a glance: For screenwriter Eli, an offer to finally create his own TV show should be the ultimate culmination of his goals, but instead shocks him into wondering why he had those dreams in the first place. Armed with a new sense of spiritual clarity, he sets out on a quest to serve up some hard truths to his co-workers, family, exes and friends. What could possibly go wrong? The Whistleblower will be a lively world premiere about the lies we tell to protect ourselves  and how the tiniest gestures can have deep impact on those around us.
    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "Itamar Moses is an absolutely brilliant playwright and an exciting voice to have on the season. This new play is hilarious, thought-provoking and really kind of a spiritual journey. When this man recognizes that there is a discord between his inner self and his authentic self, he begins telling the truth about the relationships in his life. And the people around him think he's lost his mind. He comes to a place that I think is very hopeful at the end. When I read it, I was absolutely knocked out. Itamar takes us on a humorous exploration of our purpose and whether our actions have the power to affect others. I’m incredibly honored to produce it as our second world premiere of the season."

    Read more: Los Angeles Times profile of Itamar Moses

    • From the author: "Any piece of writing needs to be getting at some truth, or excavating something unspoken, in order to have energy and hold our attention. So I got really interested in the idea of a character who, either because he's in a period of great clarity, or is maybe having some kind of psychological episode, or both, just starts channeling truth — or at least the truth as he sees it. I was compelled and amused by the idea of sort of firing this character out of a cannon at the beginning of the story and then watching as the sort of wind resistance of the rest of the world gradually brings him back down to earth."
    • THE WHISTLEBLOWER. South Coast Repertory. Photo by Debora RobinsonSmall world: Rob Nagle, who appeared in DCPA Theatre Company productions of The 39 Steps and Appoggiatura, was in the original cast of The Whistleblower as it was being developed at the South Coast Repertory's 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, Calif. It was his third Moses play. "One thing I love about The Whistleblower, and many of Itamar’s plays, as well as James Still’s Appoggiatura, is that it’s a modern Odyssey," Nagle told the DCPA NewsCenter. "Itamar takes characters through profound journeys of self discovery. And for me, that’s what great storytelling is all about.” (Pictured from left: Director Casey Stangl, Matthew Arkin and Rob Nagle in rehearsal for South Coast Repertory's 2015 reading of 'The Whitstleblower,' Photo by Debora Robinson. Note: The DCPA production has not yet been cast.)
    • What the critics have said about Itamar Moses' work: Ben Brantley of The New York Times called The Band's Visit "a Broadway rarity seldom found these days outside of the canon of Stephen Sondheim: An honest-to-God musical for grown-ups."
    • Fun facts: Moses, the child of Israeli immigrants, says seeing Tony Kushner's Angels in America as a high-school senior in Berkeley, Calif., is what inspired him to become a playwright ... Colorado theatre audiences got their first look at a Moses play in 2013 when the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company staged an extended run of Bach at Leipzig, a comic farce based on the true story of when Germany’s greatest organist dies, and the town city council invites a small number of scheming musicians to audition for the appointment — including a young Johann Sebastian Bach. ... The Band's Visit stars Tony Shalhoub (Monk), whose brother is Denver actor Michael Shalhoub. ... Coleman was onto Moses early. He staged the world premiere of his play Outrage at Portland Center Stage back in 2003, and the premiere of his play Celebrity Row in 2006, also at Portland ... The Whistleblower was first introduced as a 2014 staged reading at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Steamboat Springs (directed by Oliver Butler), and then was featured in South Coast Repertory's 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival alongside Qui Nguyen's Vietgone, which will open the DCPA Theatre Company's season in August. The tagline for the play then was: "Eli tries to rewrite the life he left behind — but the truth could ruin everything." ... Moses, who trained at New York University, was an Executive Story Editor for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Anna Karenina'

    by John Moore | Apr 07, 2018

    The video above shows highlights from Portland Center Stage's 2012 production of 'Anna Karenina,' directed by new Denver Center Artistic Director Chris Coleman.


    Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 mainstage season. Today: Anna Karenina.

    Anna Karenina

    • Written by: Kevin McKeon, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
    • Year: Original novel published in 1877; stage adaptation premiered in 2012
    • Director: Chris Coleman
    • Dates: Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Feb. 1)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • ANNA KARENINAGenre: Modern adaptation of Tolstoy's classic story of love and marriage in Imperial Russia
    • About the authors: Tolstoy, born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, is widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He is best known for the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Seattle playwright Kevin McKeon has adapted many books for the stage, including Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars. His adaptation of Anna Karenina was commissioned by Portland Center Stage and was premiered there in 2012. "When you boil it down," he says of the spawrling source novel, "it’s just a story about people trying to get by and figure it out."
    • The play at a glance: Love holds the power to bind us together or tear us apart, and no one knows better than Countess Anna Karenina. As a noblewoman and socialite, her glamorous lifestyle shrouds her unhappy marriage. But everything changes when she meets the dashing army officer Count Vronsky. She risks her social status, marriage, friends and family for the thrill of forbidden love. Anna Karenina uses the romantic backdrop of Tsarist Russia to tell a turbulent tale of passion and betrayal, dreams chased and lost, and the consequences of getting swept off your feet. This lush adaptation of Tolstoy’s masterpiece brings the opulent setting and heart-wrenching story to life.

    2018-19 season: In with the old ... and the new

    • Says Artistic Director — and Director — Chris Coleman: “We’ve seen time and time again that Denver audiences have a deep love and appetite for pieces that bring works of literature to life on stage. I’m thrilled to direct this beautiful adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel about a woman who risks everything for love. Kevin McKeon’s highly theatrical adaptation provides us with gorgeous language that engages the imagination of the audience in a really vivid way, sweeping us alongside this strong female character across aristocratic Tsarist Russia through ballrooms, ice-skating rinks and horse races.”
    • Quotable: "Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
    • What the critics said about Anna Karenina's world premiere: "McKeon’s adaptation tells the sprawling tale in quick, economical strokes. Chris Coleman's direction deftly balances scale and intimacy, deploying a cast of 17 without the proceedings ever appearing hectic." — Marty Hughley, The Oregonian ... "McKeon manages to condense Tolstoy’s sprawling masterpiece about a woman whose love rattles the prison of her social situation into a brisk, ensemble-based production that captures the tragedy of the original, adds a slightly anachronistic humor, and—the gargantuan length of the original be damned—does it all with intermission in under three hours. Whew!"— Aaron Scott, Portland Monthly
    • Fun facts: This is the first time in its 40 years the DCPA Theatre Company is presenting a work by (or inspired by) Tolstoy ... Upon its initial release, Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared Anna Karenina  "flawless as a work of art" and William Faulkner called the novel "the best ever written." ... Anna Karenina was voted the greatest book ever written in a 2007 Time poll of 125 contemporary authors ... The novel was made into a 2012 movie adapted by Tom Stoppard and featuring Keira Knightley and Jude Law." ... The DCPA Theatre Company commissioned and premiered all three three chapters of Kent Haruf's Plainsoing Trilogy, by Eric Schmiedl. Anna Karenina playwright Kevin McKeon separately adapted Plainsong for the Book It Theatre in 2015. He also performed in the cast.

    TC-web-Season-Anna-800x3003


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Last Night and the Night Before'

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2018

    In the video above, playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays talks about "Last Night and the Night Before" at the Denver Center's 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 mainstage season. Today: Last Night and the Night Before.

    Last Night and the Night Before

    • Written by: Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    • Year: 2019 (world premiere)
    • Director: Valerie Curtis-Newton
    • Dates: Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Jan. 25)
    • Where: Ricketson Theatre
    • Genre: Family drama/mystery
    • Donnetta Lavinia Grays. Last Night And the Night Before. About the author: Donnetta Lavinia Grays, born in Panama and raised in Columbia, S.C., is a Brooklyn-based actor and playwright whose plays have been staged, read or developed at Berkeley Rep, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference. the New York Theater Workshop, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Portland (Maine) Stage Company, Classical Theater of Harlem and more. She is the inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. Acting credits include Broadway’s Well and In the Next Room Or the Vibrator Play, as well as TV's "Blue Bloods" and "The Sopranos." Grays says she seeks to write strong roles for women of various ages, races, sexual identities and economic standings. She believes the most radical theater happens when cultural specificity meets common human conflict. She also believes that humor should marry heartbreak at most turns in a narrative.
    • The play at a glance: When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it shakes up Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble and brings their family’s Southern roots with her, grabbing hold of Rachel’s life more ferociously than she could have ever imagined. Poetic, powerful and remarkably funny, Last Night and the Night Before play explores the struggle between the responsibilities that are expected of us and the choices we actually end up making.

    On navigating trauma: Our full interview with the playwright

    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "Last Night and the Night Before is another testament to the amazing works that have come out of the Colorado New Play Summit. Donnetta Lavinia Grays is an incredibly special writer, and the heart she brings to all of her work as an actress shines through in this beautiful play. This is a story about families. It's about why one sibling goes one way the other goes another. It's about what comprises a family today and how this young kid finds unbelievable emotional resilience in very tricky, difficult circumstances, It's a beautiful play, a deeply human story, and I’m thrilled that we get to be the first to produce it. I’m sure that we will not be the last.”
    • Last Night And the Night Before. Photo by John MooreFrom the author: "Sam has suffered a traumatic event in her life. She is in the unfortunate position of being at the mercy of the adults in her life who are trying to safeguard her from what she has suffered. And now she is having to suffer the consequences of their decisions. I think Last Night and the Night Before is a play about the tremendous, enduring component of love in our lives. It is a play about loss. It is a play about family. And it is a play about finding your singular voice as a woman coming into adulthood."
    • What the critics have said about Donnetta Lavinia Grays' acting: "Grays is one of those actors who can enthrall while doing nothing more than standing still, listening, in character. What a treat to get to watch her do so." — OffOffOnline ... "Even before her wrenching second-act monologue, Donnetta Lavinia Grays proves the soul of the piece," — Indianapolis Business Journal, on Ruined.
    • Fun facts: This play was featured in the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Its original title was, simply, Sam. The new title references a line from the children’s game: "Last night and the night before, I met my baby at the candy store."... Says Grays, in describing herself on her website: "I will act for food. Or write a play. )r direct one for that matter so long as food is involved. Or, you know, whiskey."... She says her dream project "is to write something sexy with African-American roots and folk music."

    Last Night And the Night Before. Photo by John Moore
    Photos: Director Valerie Curtis-Newton (above) and her cast at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit.


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: Your first look at 'Vietgone'

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2018

    Vietgone. Oregon Shakespeare Festival
    James Ryen and Will Dao in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2016 production of 'Vietgone,' which is not a story about war. It’s a story about falling in love. Photo courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival.)


    Note: In this daily series, we will take a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. First: Vietgone.

    Vietgone

    • Playwright: Qui Nguyen
    • Original music by Shane Rettig
    • Director: Seema Sueko, Deputy Artistic Director at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
    • Dates: Aug. 24-Sept. 30 (Opens Aug. 31)
    • Where: Ricketson Theatre
    • Genre: Irreverent 1970s road-trip comedy
    • At a glance: This rap-spitting, pop culture-crusted dramedy is an ode to the real-life (and somewhat made-up) courtship of the playwright's parents. Forced to leave their country during the height of the Vietnam War, two refugees find themselves at the same relocation camp in Arkansas – the land of Harleys, hot dogs and “howdy!” Before they find their way into each other’s arms, they’ll have to blaze a trail in their weird new world and leave behind the baggage they didn’t pack. This stage adventure hops across time and around the globe through the highs and lows of love.
    • About the playwright: Arkansas native Qui Nguyen is one of the American theater’s most innovative and lauded young playwrights. He describes himself as "Playwright. Screenwriter. Geek."  His savvy comedy is known for its innovative use of pop-culture, stage violence, puppetry and multimedia.
    • Says Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "The Denver Center has done a fantastic job of introducing new voices and new storytelling styles to this community. What Qui Nguyen is on to with Vietgone is a beautiful continuation of that thread, and I’m thrilled that it will kick off our 40th anniversary seaShe Kills Monsters. Aurora Fox. A&J Photographyson. Qui is undeniably a fresh, irreverent voice in the American theatre and the exploration of his parents' saucy romance through rap music and hilarious dialogue takes us on a journey through a very different America than most of us grew up with.”
    • What the critics have said: "The raucous comedy Vietgone is proof-positive that in certain realms of theater, we have moved firmly beyond political correctness." — Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
    • Fun facts: Nguyen is also the playwright behind She Kills Monsters, which addressed stereotypes and social issues through the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, which had a playful staging at the Aurora Fox in 2015. Vampire Cowboys, the New York  theatre company Nguyen co-founded, is often credited for being the pioneers of "geek theatre." It holds the unique distinction of being the first and currently only professional theatre company to be officially sponsored by the New York Comic Con.

    (Pictured above: Jenna Moll Reyes in 'She Kills Monsters' at the Aurora Fox. A&J Photography.)

    Qui Nguyen.


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: Your first look at a new 'Oklahoma!'

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2018

    Chris Coleman Oklahoma


    Note: In this daily series, we will take a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today: Oklahoma!

    Oklahoma!

    • Written by: Richard Rodgers (music);  Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics). Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
    • Director: New DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman
    • Dates: Sept. 7-Oct. 14, 2018 (Opens Sept. 14)
    • Where: Stage Theatre
    • Genre: Classic American musical
    • OklahomaAt a glance: With a spring in their step and a song in their hearts, cowboys, farmers and traveling salesmen alike have chased their destinies to a land that promises everything they could hope for: Love, opportunity and a brighter future. The first collaboration by the legendary team of Rodgers and Hammerstein became a landmark musical for its rollicking music and stunning dance numbers, and this joyful presentation will solidify why it has stood the test of time.
    • The twist: Coleman will set the story in one of the 50 all-African-American towns that existed in the early days of the Oklahoma Territory. Coleman directed an all-black production of Oklahoma! once before, at Portland Center Stage in 2011. (Pictured: Marisha Wallace as Ado Annie and Jarran Muse as "Will,” courtesy Portland Center Stage.) 
    • Says Coleman: "I am honored to be making my Denver directorial debut with Oklahoma! This gorgeous musical is such a quintessential expression of what it means to be American. Oklahoma! is centered around a group of people on the verge of grabbing their piece of the American dream and incorporating themselves into the fabric of the whole nation. Experiencing that drive and sense of possibility expressed by a community we haven’t traditionally seen telling this story opens up new windows on what it means to be a Westerner, what it means to be an American and what it means to ‘stake your claim’ in the land."
    • More about the African-American variation: "Several years ago, when I first started thinking about doing this show, I came across a piece of information that blew me away: In 1907, the year before Oklahoma became a state, there were 50 all-black towns in the state, and a third of all cowboys were black. And that fact began to work its way into my imagination. I thought, 'What would it be like to see a community of black actors tell this extraordinary American story?' And I'm particularly excited to have black actors tell it, because when you hear, 'We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand' — that is an extraordinary sentiment to hear sung by that particular community in the moment we're living in today."
    • What the critics have said: Of the 1943 original, The New York Times' Lewis Nichols raved: "For years they have been saying the Theatre Guild is dead, words that obviously will have to be eaten with breakfast this morning." Of Coleman's 2011 all-black production in 2011, The Oregonian critic Marty Hughley wrote: "Coleman's version of the classic fully delivers on its entertaining promise while also subtly deepening the musical's underlying message about the nature of civil society and the distinctiveness of the American experience."
    • About the authors: Oklahoma! was the first musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and it set the standards and established the rules of musical theatre still being followed today.
    • Fun facts: The choreographer in Denver will be Dominique Kelley, a dancer in the film La La Land and the musical Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk ... Oklahoma! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre 75 years ago Saturday, and the cast of the Denver-born musical Frozen marked the anniversary with a curtain-call singalong that you can watch at this YouTube link ... In 1967, an all-female production of Oklahoma! opened at the Takarazuka Theatre, Tokyo ... The original title for the musical was Away We Go! ... So why the exclamation point at the end of Oklahoma!? According to the book “The Hammersteins: a Musical Theatre Family,” Rodgers and Hammerstein included it as a subtle way to distance it from the grim associations the word had taken on a few years earlier because of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

    TC-web-Season-Ann-800x300
    (Artwork by  DCPA Senior Graphic Designer Kyle Malone.) 


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season: In with the old ... and the new

    by John Moore | Apr 01, 2018
    Chris Coleman offers a play-by-play look at the 2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season, his first as the company's new Artistic Director. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Coleman's 40th anniversary season includes two world premieres, Tolstoy and an African-American Oklahoma!

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Incoming DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman has announced a 40th anniversary season he believes both honors the company’s past and boldly steps into the future — and in some intriguing examples, at the same time.

    Coleman will return to the company’s roots by presenting its third Rodgers and Hammerstein musical following previous stagings of Carousel and South Pacific. But Coleman is promising a fresh new look at Oklahoma! by telling the beloved story of a spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys from a mostly African-American perspective. Similarly, Coleman will offer adaptations of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife, stories of women overcoming great societal barriers that may strike audiences as remarkably contemporary.

    A Last Night 800 1“It’s incredibly exciting to imagine what you want your first season at an organization to be,” said Coleman, who assumes his full-time Denver duties in May. "This company has long been known as a place where you can do really big, interesting, meaty, dramatic literature. One of the things that's exciting to me is to do something really traditional and then follow that with something that is brand new and edgy. That collision of styles and voices is really juicy to me.”

    Pictured above: Valerie Curtis-Newton, left, will return to again direct 2017 Colorado New Play Summit offering 'Last Night and the Night Before' on the mainstage season. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Coleman covers the traditional-to-edgy gamut with the announcement of both an eight-play Theatre Company season that includes three classics and two world premieres, as well as an innovative five-play slate from the company's adventurous Off-Center wing.  

    nataki-garrettWhen Coleman was named Artistic Director in November, he promised programming that will further the DCPA’s efforts to diversify its audiences, champion local storytelling and give voice to underserved communities. All five of the other mainstage directors he named today are women — and three of the playwrights are women or persons of color. Four if you count Off-Center's commission of a planned immersive hip-hop piece from This is Modern Art co-writer Idris Goodwin.
      

    The mainstage season includes two world-premiere plays: Donnetta Lavinia GraysLast Night and the Night Before, which was featured at the company’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, and Itamar MosesThe Whistleblower. With the exception of A Christmas Carol, which returns for a 26th year, every playwright and source writer (even Tolstoy) will be new to Theatre Company audiences except Nottage, whose Ruined was one of the most celebrated productions in company history In 2011.

    The Off-Center offerings, said Curator Charlie Miller, will complement the Theatre Company season and tell exciting stories in unconventional ways. “From original micro plays to new theatrical experiments to a large-scale immersive hip-hop show, Off-Center will take audiences into unexpected Denver spaces and showcase local artists, stories, and communities,” he said.

    Take a deeper dive into each play on the 2018-19 season

    The Theatre Company debuted on New Year’s Eve 1979 with The Caucasian Chalk Circle, starring Tyne Daly. Coleman says there is special significance to this being the 40th anniversary season because the company is old enough to have built an significant canon but also young enough to still have staff, artists and audience members who have been here all along — a lot of them.

    "As we step into the next chapter of the Theatre Company’s history, it's inspiring and energizing to look back on the extraordinary body of work that this company has brought to the region over the last 40 seasons," Coleman said. "What's really vivid to me is how many people have been around from Day 1. There are so many people who are really invested in the history and the future of this organization. So, to me, that's worth celebrating. And I view that as a launching pad for me.

    These playwrights and directors are the cream of the crop, and I look forward to the conversations these works will open up with the Denver community."

    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.

    Meet new Theatre Company Artistc Director Chris Coleman


    Chris Coleman 2018-19 season announcement


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

    • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) DEEPER DIVE

    DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions: New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    2018-19 Off-Center season at a glance:

    • July 11-Aug. 22: Mixed Taste: Tag team lectures on unrelated topics (Wednesdays only, with MCA Denver, Seawell Ballroom)
    • Oct. 23-Nov. 18: Bite-Size: An evening of micro theatre (at BookBar)
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24: The SantaLand Diaries (with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company at The Jones)
    • March 2019: Powered by Off-Center (The Jones)
    • Dates TBA: Untitled Immersive Hip-Hop Show

    Off-Center ticket information: The single ticket on-sale date for all Off-Center productions will be announced at a later time. Subscriptions are not available for Off-Center shows.


    2018-19 THEATRE COMPANY SEASON: Title by title

    (Descriptions provided by DCPA Theatre Company)

    Vietgone

    • Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2016 VietgoneBy Qui Nguyen
    • Original music by Shane Rettig
    • Directed by Seema Sueko
    • Aug. 24-Sept. 30, 2018 (Opens Aug. 31)
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • Glance: This rap-spitting, pop culture-crusted dramedy is an ode to the real-life courtship of Playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents. Forced to leave their country during the height of the Vietnam War, two refugees find themselves at the same relocation camp in Arkansas – the land of Harleys, hot dogs and “howdy!” Before they find their way into each other’s arms, they’ll have to blaze a trail in their weird new world and leave behind the baggage they didn’t pack. Jump on this emotional ride for an adventure that hums with excitement as it hops across time and around the globe through the highs and lows of love.
    • Fun fact: Qui Nguyen is the self-described geeky playwright behind She Kills Monsters, which addressed stereotypes and social issues through the game “Dungeons and Dragons.”
    • Take a deeper dive into Vietgone

    (Pictured: Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2016 production of 'Vietgone,' courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival.)

    Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

    • Oklahoma!Music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
    • Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
    • Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
    • Directed by Chris Coleman
    • Sept. 7-Oct. 14, 2018 (Opens Sept. 14)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: With a spring in their step and a song in their hearts, cowboys, farmers and travelling salesmen alike have chased their destinies to a land that promises everything they could hope for: love, opportunity and a brighter future. The first collaboration by the legendary team of Rodgers and Hammerstein became a landmark musical for its rollicking music and stunning dance numbers, and this joyful presentation will solidify why it has stood the test of time. New DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman makes his DCPA directorial debut with this production, and he will set the story in one of the 50 all-African-American towns in the early days of the Oklahoma Territory. Discover an overlooked piece of American history as one small community stakes its claim on a place full of hope. The choreographer will be Dominique Kelley, a dancer in the film La La Land and the musical Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.
    • Fun fact: Oklahoma! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre 75 years ago Saturday, and the cast of the Denver-born Frozen marked the anniversary with a curtain-call singalong that you can watch at this YouTube link.
    • Take a deeper dive into Oklahoma!

    The Constant Wife

    • The Constant WifeBy W. Somerset Maugham
    • Directed by Shelley Butler
    • Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2018 (Opens Sept. 28)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: As the intelligent, charming housewife of a successful doctor, Constance Middleton cheerfully plays her traditional role. But she knows far more than she’s willing to let on. This cheeky satire pokes holes in the expectations of relationships, fidelity and social roles that were just as relevant in the 1920s as they are today. Featuring an infectiously plucky heroine at the helm, The Constant Wife takes joy in the imperfections of life and applauds those who elude the strict confines of society to discover true happiness. DCPA alum Shelley Butler (Human Error, The Most Deserving) returns to direct this contagious comedy.Fun fact: Variety calls Maugham’s protagonist “a perverse protofeminist — and an antecedent to the women of “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City.”
    • Take a deeper dive into The Constant Wife

    A Christmas Carol

    • Sam Gregory A Christmas Carol. By Charles Dickens
    • Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    • Music by David de Berry
    • Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    • Nov. 21-Dec. 24, 2018 (Opens Nov. 29)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, the Theatre Company’s joyous and opulent seasonal offering now in its 26th year traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Note: This is an added attraction, not part of the Theatre Company subscription season.
    • Fun fact: Denver favorite Sam Gregory is scheduled to return for a third time as Scrooge.
    • Take a deeper dive into A Christmas Carol

    Last Night and the Night Before (world premiere)

    • Summit. Last Night. Donnetta By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    • Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens January 25)
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • Glance: When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it shakes up Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble and brings their family’s Southern roots with her, grabbing hold of Rachel’s life more ferociously than she could have ever imagined. Poetic, powerful and remarkably funny, Last Night and the Night Before play explores the struggle between the responsibilities that are expected of us and the choices we actually end up making.
    • Fun fact: This play was featured in the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Its original title was simply, Sam. The new title references a line from the children’s game "Last night and the night before, I met my baby at the candy store."
    • Take a deeper dive into Last Night and the Night Before


    Anna Karenina

    • TC-web-Season-Ann-400x3003By Kevin McKeon, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
    • Directed by Artistic Director Chris Coleman
    • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Feb. 1)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: Love holds the power to bind us together or tear us apart, and no one knows better than Countess Anna Karenina. As a noblewoman and socialite, her glamorous lifestyle shrouds her unhappy marriage. But everything changes when she meets the dashing army officer Count Vronsky. She risks her social status, marriage, friends and family for the thrill of forbidden love. Anna Karenina uses the romantic backdrop of Tsarist Russia to tell a turbulent tale of passion and betrayal, dreams chased and lost, and the consequences of getting swept off your feet. Helmed by Artistic Director Chris Coleman, this lush, modern adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece brings the opulent setting and heart-wrenching story to life.
    • Fun fact: The play was made into a 2012 movie adapted by Tom Stoppard and featuring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.
    • Take a deeper dive into Anna Karenina


    The Whistleblower (world premiere)

    • itamarmoses whistleblowerBy Itamar Moses (pictured right)
    • Directed by TBA
    • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019 (Opens Feb. 15)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: For screenwriter Eli, an offer to finally create his own TV show should be the ultimate culmination of his goals, but instead shocks him into wondering why he had those dreams in the first place. Armed with a new sense of spiritual clarity, he sets out on a quest to serve up some hard truths to his coworkers, family, exes and friends. What could possibly go wrong? A lively world premiere about the lies we tell to protect ourselves  and how the tiniest gestures can have deep impact on those around us. Written by Itamar Moses, the award-winning author of the musical The Band’s Visit, currently on Broadway.
    • Fun facts: The Whistleblower was first introduced as a staged reading at South Coast Repertory’s 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, Calif. — alongside Vietgone. Also, Moses was an Executive Story Editor for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
    • Take a deeper dive into The Whistleblower

    Sweat

    • TC-web-Season-Ann-400x3004By Lynn Nottage
    • Directed by Nataki Garrett
    • April 26-May 26, 2019 (Opens May 3)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: For the people of poverty-stricken Reading, Pa., work is so much more than a paycheck – it’s the glue that holds the town together. The floor of their central factory is where lifelong friendships are made, where love blossoms and where family members work side-by-side. But as layoffs become the new norm and a cheaper workforce threatens the viability of the local union, the threads that once kept the community together begin to fray. Sweat is an “extraordinarily moving drama,” said The New York Times, that powerfully contrasts life’s happiest highs with the heart-wrenching struggles of survival. Using warm humor and deep empathy, this 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner from Lynn Nottage (Ruined) paints a moving portrait of today’s working-class America in decline.
    • Fun fact: Nottage developed her play through interviews with actual former steelworkers in Reading.
    • Take a deeper dive into Sweat

    2018-19 OFF-CENTER SEASON: Title by title

    Mixed Taste: Tag team lectures on unrelated topics

    • Mixed Taste Aug 9Co-presentation with MCA Denver
    • July 11-Aug. 22, 2018 (Wednesdays only)
    • Seawell Ballroom
    • Glance: Returning for a second summer series, even mismatched subjects find common ground in this fun lecture forum that can go pretty much anywhere. Two speakers get 20 minutes each to enlighten you on unrelated topics, but can’t make any connections to each other. Ideas start to blend afterward, when audience members ask questions to both speakers and anything goes.
    • Fun fact: One clever example from last year’s series: “Wild West mail delivery and post-conceptual art.” Last year’s series emcee Suzi Q. Smith wrote a poem during each performance and read them at the end of every evening.
     

    Bite-Size: An evening of micro theatre

    • 2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS Gary Grundie Meridith C. GrundeiCreated and directed by Meridith Crosley Grundei
    • Oct. 23-Nov. 18, 2018
    • At BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St.
    • Glance:
    • Bite-Size brings you five short plays with bookish twists performed in and around BookBar, an independent bookstore and wine bar in the Tennyson Street Arts District. Grab tapas and drinks between the short performances of original works by Colorado-based artists. There is no better way to see a variety of local playwrights and performers in one place. Whether you’re a theatre geek, a bookworm or on the hunt for an off-beat night out, this evening will leave you eager to crack into a fresh hard-cover and dream up some tales of your own.
    • Fun fact: Director Meridith Grundei, a 2017 True West Award winner, packed up a used R.V. and hit the road with her husband and daughter in 2017 to travel the United States and Mexico for a year.


    The SantaLand Diaries

    • A Santaland Diaries Michael BouchardCo-presentation with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • By David Sedaris, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
    • Directed by Stephen Weitz
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018 (Opens Nov. 25)
    • The Jones Theatre
    • Glance: This acclaimed one-man show is based on David Sedaris’ best-selling memoir about his curmudgeonly experience working as a Macy’s SantaLand elf, once again featuring Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge as David, and his devilish Macy’s persona, Crumpet the Elf. Think holiday shopping is brutal? Try being on the receiving end of Macy’s SantaLand madness in a pair of pointy shoes. This twisted tale is the cure for the common Christmas show and the perfect excuse to take a break from it all.
    • Fun fact: 2018-19 will mark the 10th anniversary of BETC’s annual holiday staging, the last seven in partnership with Off-Center. That will equal The Bug Theatre’s run of 10 seasonal The SantaLand Diaries starring Gary Culig.

    Powered by Off-Center

    • March 2019
    • The Jones Theatre
    • Glance: Discover your next favorite Colorado performer as they debut new work at the Denver Center. Off-Center is offering the spotlight to local creators of all kinds as they get their projects off the ground with the support of our team. We’re giving our local artistic community a new place to play and a platform to experiment, engage and excite us all. Performance dates and participating artists to be announced.

    Untitled Immersive Hip-Hop Show

    • Idris Goodwin 160Written by Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Jenny Koons
    • Glance: Following the hit experiential shows Sweet & Lucky and The Wild Party, Off-Center is cooking up its next large-scale immersive adventure. Off-Center has commissioned playwright Idris Goodwin and New York-based director Jenny Koons (Burn All Night at American Repertory Theatre) to create a one-of-a-kind new hip-hop-inspired event. Title, location, dates, and details to be announced.
    • Fun fact: Goodwin is the director and co-writer of This is Modern Art, currently playing through April 15 in The Jones Theatre.

    Note: Due to the nature of live performance, all productions, prices and dates are subject to change.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Lester Ward retires: 'There were really no dark days'

    by John Moore | Feb 01, 2018

    Lester Ward Donald Seawell 2004
    The retiring Lester Ward, left, stood — literally — as Donald R. Seawell's right-hand man all the way back to the founding of the Denver Center in 1972. And before.


    The DCPA's modest former president and longest-serving trustee officially retired last month after 46 years of service

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    If the late Donald R. Seawell was the dapper, larger-than-life showman who commanded the spotlight for decades as the founder of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, attorney Lester Ward was more the genial and contented partner quietly applauding from the wings.

    But make no mistake, Seawell said in 2004: “Lester Ward has been an integral part of the DCPA since its inception.”

    Ward’s 46-year history with the DCPA is in many ways the history of the DCPA itself. And despite wild fluctuations in the economy and seemingly constant turmoil in the outside world, Ward now says with utter sincerity: “There were really no dark days" at the DCPA ... "because I thoroughly enjoyed every day I spent here.”

    Ward, 87, officially retired last month as the DCPA’s longest-serving board member, dating back to his appointment in 1986. Three years later, he was named the DCPA’s first-ever president and Chief Operating Officer — positions he held until his partial retirement in 2004.

    Lester Ward retired 2017. Photo by Julie Schumacher But Ward’s association with Seawell dates back to the mid-1960s, long before the famed theatre impresario dreamed up the 12-acre Denver Performing Arts Complex at the corner of 14th and Curtis streets on the back of a paper napkin. For decades, Ward stood in lockstep with Seawell as the newspaper magnate and confidant of prime ministers and Broadway stars grew the Denver Center for the Performing Arts into a world-class arts center out of what had been one of the sketchiest parts of downtown Denver.

    But Seawell’s vision was not universally shared by all of Denver. Not at first.

    “Don was rather amazed at the level of opposition there was,” Ward said. “And in fact, that was one of the reasons he wanted some help from me. But once Don decided on a course of action, that course of action was carried out, and carried out vigorously. And thank goodness. Just look what Don’s vision has meant for life in downtown Denver.”

    Audiences slowly came around. By 1998, the DCPA Theatre Company won the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Award as the nation’s Outstanding Regional Theatre. And so, two decades later, at Ward’s final board meeting on Dec. 5, DCPA Board Chairman Martin Semple and CEO Janice Sinden presented Ward with his own, personal replica of that award. 

    “It’s for Outstanding Performance as a Leader and Longstanding Supporter of the DCPA,” Semple said while presenting the award. (Photo above by Julie Schumaker.)

    Ward, Semple added, “was a key figure in the most glorious days of the DCPA and how it has developed over the years.”

    Ward, a modest Pueblo native, served Seawell as the DCPA’s attorney from its inception in 1972. They had met in 1965, when Ward was called in to help Denver Post editor Palmer Hoyt fight off a hostile takeover attempt. The newspaper’s longtime publisher at that time was heiress Helen Bonfils, and Seawell was her attorney and business partner until her death in 1972.

    “And then Don came up with the marvelous idea of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts,” Ward said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Ward helped Seawell create the DCPA Theatre Company and open the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex in 1979. From there, he had a hand in every significant development in the Denver Center’s growth and evolution. In 1984, for example, Ward facilitated the conversion of Seawell’s American National Theatre and Academy in New York into the DCPA’s on-site National Theatre Conservatory, a three-year masters program that included an apprenticeship with the DCPA Theatre Company through 2012.

    “The DCPA had virtually no education program until Lester came on board,” Semple said of a division that has since grown to serve 106,000 students a year.

    Lester and Rosalind WardWard and Seawell were key players in the 1988 creation of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, a voter-approved penny retail tax on every $10 that today infuses more than $50 million a year into metro-area arts organizations.

    Calling Mr. President …

    Seawell created the title of DCPA President and Chief Operating Officer for Ward in 1989. The job called for Ward to be in charge of all financial and administrative oversight of the DCPA while Seawell took charge of policy, fundraising and artistic direction.

    At the time, Ward still was living with wife Rosalind (pictured above) in their native Pueblo, where he had been a partner in his own law firm for 31 years. But the timing for a move to Denver was perfect. “The youngest of our three children was graduating high school and we were going to be empty nesters. So we thought, 'You know what? That sounds like a most enjoyable second career,' ” said Ward, who was 57 at the time. “It was a major decision, but we have had no regrets. I have been the luckiest guy in the world, with two wonderful careers.”

    But little did Ward know then that his second career would occupy his next 29 years.

    (Story continues below the photo gallery)

    Photo gallery: Lester Ward through the years

    Lester Ward: A Look back

    Photos above from Lester Ward's 46 years with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Click anywhere on the image above to be taken to a full gallery. Photos from Ward's final board meeting on Dec. 5 by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Under Ward's presidency, the Denver Center’s annual budget has grown from $13 million to $57 million. Ward supervised the creation of the DCPA’s National Center for Voice and Speech and the building of the Seawell Ballroom in the early 1990s. He worked with the city to open the Buell Theatre in 1990 as a home for Broadway touring productions. The inaugural visit, from The Phantom of the Opera, drew audiences from 40 states.

    In 2000, Time Magazine listed DCPA Theatre Company world premieres of The Laramie Project and Tantalus as both among the 10 best theatre productions in the United States that year. Tantalus was an epic, 10-play co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company that the Bonfils Foundation supported with about $12 million. “Nothing in the theater has come along like this in 2,500 years, and it probably won’t ever happen again,” he later said. RSC artistic director Adrian Noble called the collaboration “an extraordinary, landmark event in world culture.”

    In 2002, Ward helped the late DCPA Broadway Executive Director Randy Weeks land the launch of Disney’s The Lion King's first national tour for Denver.

    Robert Petkoff TantalusIn 2004, Seawell, who was then 92, and Ward, who was 75, decided to step down from their primary positions to make way for new blood. In Seawell’s case, that meant new CEO Daniel Ritchie — who was a spry, 73-year-old mountain climber. Ward was succeeded by Weeks, who died in 2014. Seawell and Ward both stayed on as board members, and in 2007, Ritchie persuaded Ward to become president of the Bonfils Foundation — a fund that began as Helen Bonfils' assets from owning The Denver Post and were used by Seawell to build the DCPA.

    But since 2001, the fund's investment portfolio has diminished from $82 million in cash, investments and real estate to about $35 million today, Ward said. That’s largely because in 1995, the Bonfils Foundation borrowed — and has since been repaying — $37 million in bonds and $13 million in interest to pay for building expansions and capital improvements. 

    Of all of Ward’s accomplishments, he said, the most lasting may be the least publicly known: As of December, the Bonfils Foundation — and by extension, the Denver Center — are now debt-free, he said.

    “I made the decision to step down in December because that was the month we paid off those bonds,” Ward said of the Foundation’s ongoing payments of between $1.5 million and $2 million per year.

    “I can say that the Denver Center is in terrific financial shape," Ward said, "and I am so excited for its future.”

    Regrets? He has a few: Seawell, Ward and Semple stood nearly alone when the board voted to close the National Center for Voice and Speech, and later, the National Theatre Conservatory, for financial reasons. “Those were programs that gave us national standing — and that meant something," Ward said.

    But Ward considers among his greatest accomplishments the gradual but now total demolition of the persistent cliché of Denver as being some sort of a cultural cowtown. Mostly because the agrarian in Ward believes the comparison to be an insult to cows.

    Lester Ward 400 FirstSCFDCheck“It’s absolutely a wrong perception to think that because you’re interested in livestock or agriculture or sports that you’re not also interested in theatre, dance or the symphony,” Ward said in a 1992 interview with the Intermountain Jewish News. “Colorado has an incredibly diverse array of lifestyles, and I think this community is as sophisticated as you will find anywhere in the country.”

    As he reflects on that matter today, Ward adds: “I think I am most proud of the way the Rocky Mountain community has adopted theatre into their lives. The theatre that we have both made here at the Denver Center and also presented from Broadway have absolutely made Denver a national focal point for theatre.”

    (Pictured right: Lester Ward with the very first Scientific and Cultural Facilities payout to the Denver Center, for nearly $500,000 in 1989.)

    ‘Denver is now the greatest city …’

    Ward is stepping back for a final time, he says with a laugh, during a period of continuing change at the Denver Center. Within the past two years, the executive team has added a new CEO (Janice Sinden), Board President (Martin Semple) Vice President of Technology (Yovani Pina), Theatre Company Artistic Director (Chris Coleman), Vice President of Marketing (Lisa Mallory) and is currently searching for a Director of Development. But Ward sees nothing but blue skies — and high-quality theatre — ahead.

    “I absolutely feel things are going in the right direction,” said Ward, who calls Sinden “a breath of fresh air” as CEO and says Coleman will be a “top-notch” Artistic Director.

    Like Ward, Semple has been around since the very beginning of the DCPA, and Semple was in the room when Seawell introduced Ward as president back in 1989.

    “Don Seawell described Lester that day as the most intelligent, the most conscientious and the most civic-minded person he knew,” Semple said. “We believe that, because we have seen that.”

    At the final board meeting last month, DCPA trustees voted to designate both Ward and Margot Frank, who also is retiring after 17 years of service, as honorary trustees. The motion passed unanimously. Attorney Robert Slosky pointed out that Frank’s license plate is a shortened version of the word FUNDRAISER. “The T is silent,” Slosky said, “but Margot is not.”

    Ward is feeling good about stepping aside now. “I am just as pleased as I can be,” he said. “Denver is now the greatest city in the country in my opinion, and it has been a privilege for me to be involved with that.” 

    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.

     

    Lester Ward: Four favorites

    MAMMA MIA! North American Tour 2015 by Joan MarcusFor all of his attention to the bottom line, former DCPA President Lester Ward is quick to point out that the sole purpose for the DCPA’s existence is “to make people aware of what a wonderful force live theatre is in our lives. How it helps people to see the world and understand issues of every kind.” To that end, we asked Ward to name four personal favorite Denver Center offerings over the years:

    • St. Joan, Theatre Company, 1989
    • Wit, Theatre Company, 2001
    • Julius Caesar, Theatre Company, 1992
    • Mamma Mia (six Denver stops between 2003-17, pictured at right)


    Lester Ward: Highlights

    • Hometown: Pueblo
    • Graduated from Pueblo Central High School, Harvard College and Harvard Law School
    • Wife: Rosalind, 53 years
    • Children: Ann Marie, Alison Kay and Lester III. Four grandchildren. Niece Elizabeth Ward Land is a Broadway actor, most recently in Amazing Grace
    • Served in the U.S. Army, 1955-57
    • Partner at the private law firm of Predovich, Ward and Banner, 1957-89
    • Named Outstanding Young Man of 1964 by the Pueblo Jaycees
    • Appointed by Governor Dick Lamm to serve on the Colorado Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, 1975
    • President of the Colorado Bar Association, 1983-84
    • Named to the DCPA Board of Trustees, 1986
    • Named President and Chief Operating Officer of the DCPA on July 1, 1989
    • Chair of the Performing Arts Center Consortium, consisting of 27 major performing-arts centers in the U.S., Canada and Australia, 2001-02
    • President of the Helen G. Bonfils Foundation, 2007-16
    • Boards and charities including: Pueblo Kiwanis Club, Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, Pueblo Public Library, St. Mary Corwin Hospital, Thatcher Foundation, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Lawyers for the Arts
  • Curious' 'The Body of An American' a snapshot into Coleman's vision

    by John Moore | Nov 17, 2017
    A Body of an American Michael Ensminger Sean Scrutchins, left, as playwright Dan O'Brien, and Michael McNeill as war photographer Paul Watson in Curious Theatre's 'The Body of an American,' playing through Dec. 9. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    DCPA Theatre Company's new Artistic Director gave searing new war play its first life in Portland

    Playwright Dan O'Brien and celebrated war photographer Paul Watson are in Denver this weekend talking about how their friendship became the basis for a play.


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The list of rising and established American playwrights new DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman has nurtured over the years is long and eclectic, but one name jumped out at his introduction this week for its current proximity to Denver: Dan O’Brien.  

    O’Brien (pictured at right) is the author of The Body of An American, a searing look at the psychological impact of post-traumatic stress currently being staged in its regional premiere by the Curious Theatre Company. And he is in town this weekend to talk about it.  

    A Dan OBrien Playwright 160 fullFor 17 years, Coleman was the Artistic Director at Portland Center Stage, which is known for its incubation of new American plays. Among the many rising playwrights Coleman has nurtured along their paths are Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee, whose latest plays Zoey’s Perfect Wedding and The Great Leap, respectively, will be on the DCPA Theatre Company’s stages this winter. Coleman's roster also spans Jason Grote (DCPA’s 1001), Ntozake Shange, Luis Alfaro, Melanie Marnich, Constance Congdon, Dael Orlandersmith and many more.

    But Coleman cites developing and premiering The Body of An American as among his favorite accomplishments. And after arriving in Denver this week, he was tickled to learn the play is getting its regional premiere less than a mile from his new place of work.

    The Body of an American is a play that I love and I am very, very proud that we premiered,” Coleman said of the script, which won the PEN Center USA Award for Drama, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama and the Horton Foote Prize for New American Plays.

    This true story tells how one stark photograph in 1993 reshaped the course of global events. It shows the body of Staff Sergeant William David Cleveland as he was dragged from the wreckage of a Blackhawk helicopter and through the streets of Mogadishu. The famous image won celebrated Canadian war photographer Paul Watson the Pulitzer Prize. But Watson was haunted, not only by that single shutter click, but from bearing witness to 30 years of devastating scenes around the world. And in Somalia, the ghosts of all those accumulated tragedies were bearing down on him.

    “Just as he was taking that picture, Paul heard a voice say, ‘If you do this, I will own you forever,’ ” O’Brien said. “And he believes it was the voice of this dead soldier.”

    O’Brien, who was struggling with personal ghosts of his own at the time, reached out to Watson after hearing his story on NPR. In the unlikely friendship they forged, the two men found a way to reckon with the traumas consuming their lives. And that is what O’Brien’s intimate play is really all about, he says: “True friendship.”

    Coleman introduced the play at Portland Center Stage’s 2011 new-play festival and gave it a full production the next year as part of the company’s 25th anniversary season. It was soon snatched up by the Gate Theatre in London, Hartford Stage and Primary Stages in New York City.

    “That play has been successful all across the country now, but I will tell you, we had a hell of a time finding an audience for it at first,” Coleman said. “It’s brilliant writing, but it is tough subject matter, especially when you describe the premise to someone.”

    Coleman said one of his hardest jobs in developing topical, resonant and relevant stories is also navigating the audience’s capacity to absorb it. “It’s a fine line,” Coleman said, “especially in the moment we are living in politically today.”

    In her review of Curious Theatre’s new production, Denver Post Theatre Critic Joanne Ostrow said current events make this the perfect time to be staging The Body of an American, which she says is being given a "muscular and thoroughly haunting" staging by director Chip Walton and actors Sean Scrutchins and Michael McNeill. It continues through Dec. 9.

    The Body of an American: Weekend events with Dan O’Brien and Paul Watson

    • Performances at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, at Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma St.
    • Playwright Dan O’Brien and photographer Paul Watson will participate in the audience talkback following tonight’s (Nov. 17) performance.
    • Inside the Artists’ Mind: Director Chip Walton will interview O’Brien and Watson at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 18) at Venue 221, 221 Detroit St., in Cherry Creek. Tickets $25. Click here.
    • Note: The Body of an American continues in performance through Dec. 9. Call 303-623-0524 or go to curioustheatre.org

     A Body of an American Chris Coleman 800 John Moore

     

  • 'RENT' and more: No day like Tuesday at the Denver Center

    by John Moore | Nov 15, 2017
    Rent Cast Denver Rodney Hicks. Photo by John Moore
    Original 'RENT' cast member Rodney Hicks, front, joins the ensemble performing the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour playing at the Buell Theatre through Tuesday, Nov. 21. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Original cast member meets the newest crop of stage squatters, capping a Tuesday that's one to remember

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    “No day but today,” the cast sings at the finale of RENT, which opened in Denver on Tuesday night. But there was no day quite like Tuesday at the Denver Center in recent memory.

    The day began early with the morning introduction to employees of Chris Coleman as the DCPA Theatre Company’s fourth Artistic Director. Coleman, who has led Portland Center Stage for 17 years, was accompanied by husband Rodney Hicks, who originated the role of Paul and others when RENT debuted on Broadway in 1996.

    Tuesday was a homecoming for Hicks, who played Edmund in the DCPA Theatre Company’s King Lear in 2007. Coleman said Hicks was encouraging about the potential new job in Denver based on his brief experience here. "He told me, ‘What’s possible in that performing-arts complex is very unique in the American theatre,’ ” said Coleman.

    Chris Coleman Rodney Hicks. Photo by John Moore. Coleman also told the gathered company members a personal story that elucidates why storytelling means so much to him. It happened when his sister died quickly and unexpectedly, he said, from a burst clot that stopped her heart.

    “What that solidified for me is that we know not the hour or the day,” Coleman said. “We do know that the universe calls to each of us to carve out meaning in the time that we have together on this planet.”

    (Pictured right: Chris Coleman and his husband, Rodney Hicks. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    At the same time Coleman was being introduced, DCPA Education was staging a morning performance of its inaugural Theatre for Young Audiences offering, The Snowy Day, in the Conservatory Theatre.

    That evening, as RENT was opening its 20th Anniversary touring production to screaming fans in the Buell Theatre, the the Garner Galleria Theatre was hosting a preview performance of the homegrown musical First Date, featuring a cast of all-local actors. Over in the Ricketson Theatre, the Theatre Company's smart comedy Smart People was playing out. It's the story of four young Harvard intellectuals who collide over race and sexual politics.

    Breaking: Coleman DCPA Theatre Company's new leader 

    Following RENT, Hicks and Coleman were taken backstage along with DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden and Broadway Division Executive Director John Ekeberg. The cast and crew gathered in the green room to meet Hicks, trade some stories and take a group photo.  

    Hicks told the newest RENT squatters their performance transported him right back into his 21-year-old shoes, and that at intermission, he texted superstar Anthony Rapp (the original Mark Cohen) to tell him all about it. Hicks, who has several other Broadway credits, most recently Come from Away, returned to the RENT family in 2007 to play Benny, the conformed ex-roommate who is now evicting his penniless old bohemian friends “for their own good.” Hick spoke to the cast of the ongoing influence the late RENT composer Jonathan Larson has on his life.

    Back in the Buell, four cast members regaled a few hundred audience members who stayed for a post-show Q&A — and some in the crowd returned the favor. One woman told the story of having been in attendance at RENT’s first pre-Broadway performance (and that this touring cast compared quite favorably). Another thanked the cast for bringing the show back to life with this touring production, and revealed a RENT shoulder tattoo that takes its inspiration from the show.

    A Rent Lyndie Moe 400The audience was also delighted to learn that actor Lyndie Moe, who plays the demonstrative performance artist Maureen in RENT, is a Colorado native and granddaughter of beloved former Denver Nuggets coach Doug Moe. She was asked how the loveable, legendary old coach liked seeing her perform the evocative role created by Idina Menzel. “I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about that — but he actually really liked it, thank God,” said Lyndie, whose sport of choice was volleyball through high school and college.

    (Here is a video of Lyndie Moe performing the national anthem at a Nuggets game at McNichols Sports Arena in 2006. Photo at right.)
     

    One young audience member asked what advice the cast has for aspiring performers such as herself.

    “Well, RENT was my first audition in New York — and I got it,” said Moe. “So my advice is to just go for everything, because you can never know what you are going to get.”  

    All in all, “today” was one very full day at the Denver Center, one that was unique in many ways but at the same time representative of the non-stop activity that both surrounds and fuels the Denver Performing Arts Complexon a daily basis. 

    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.

    RENT: 20th Anniversary Tour: Ticket information200x200-rent
    At a glance: This Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning masterpiece returns to the stage in a vibrant 20th anniversary touring production. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, this timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters.

    • National touring production
    • Performances Nov. 14-21
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more CLICK HERE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of RENT:
    Two decades later, RENT still comes in on time
    RENT announces daily Denver lottery for $20 orchestra seats
  • Chris Coleman promises a DCPA Theatre Company that's robust and resonant

    by John Moore | Nov 14, 2017
    Chris Coleman named A.D.
    Photos from today's announcement of Chris Coleman as just the fourth Artistic Director in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The longtime Portland leader champions a range of voices from George Bernard Shaw to Lauren Gunderson, who says: 'Denver is so lucky to get him.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Chris ColemanWhen the Managing Director at Portland Center Stage learned that longtime Artistic Director Chris Coleman was being hired away by the DCPA Theatre Company, she shook her head and said, “Denver, I hope you know you just won the lottery.”

    “Chris Coleman is not only a gifted theater artist, he's one of the best community connectors I've ever worked with,” a resigned Cynthia Fuhrman added from Portland. “That is a rare combination.”

    Coleman was introduced this morning as only the fourth Artistic Director in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA Theatre Company. For the past 17 years, the Atlanta native has led a company with many of the same sensibilities as his new one. Portland Center Stage offers up to 12 offerings each season ranging from classics to contemporary works to homegrown musicals on two stages while also hosting an annual new-play festival, education programs and an array of community events. All of which sounds a lot like the mission of the DCPA Theatre Company. With one big difference: Twice as many performance spaces, and more financial resources. 

    “There is not another theatre in the country with the same administrative and physical infrastructure inside one organization,” said Coleman, who also will oversee the company’s burgeoning line of Off-Center programming — the kind that takes place in non-traditional performance spaces ranging fro the Stanley Marketplace to the streets of Denver.

    Asked to name one dream offering that might help elucidate his artistic sensibilities, Coleman mulled the possibilities before offering this tantalizing prospect: “One of my fantasies would be to go back to the beginnings of the company and remount The Caucasian Chalk Circle and engage DeVotchKa to write a score for it,” he said. “I just think that would be so cool.”

    Coleman clearly has studied up on his Denver Center history. The Theatre Company launched on New Year’s Eve 1979 with Bertolt Brecht’s modernist masterpiece, starring Tyne Daly. And just last year, Colorado’s own Grammy-nominated gypsy-punk band DeVotchKa not only experimented with Stephen Sondheim’s beloved Sweeney Todd score, but the band members got their necks at every performance.

    Shawn King Devotchke Sweeney Todd. Photo by John MooreColeman lists Brecht as among his favorite playwrights — and it is a wildly eclectic list that includes William Shakespeare, Luis Alfaro, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel and the playwright Coleman has directed more than any other: George Bernard Shaw. Under Coleman, 52 of the new plays Center Stage helped in their gestation have been performed at 115 theatres around the country. One he is most proud of is Dan O’Brien’s Body of an American, about how a photograph of an American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu haunted the photographer who took it. (It is currently being presented by Denver’s Curious Theatre).

    Among the many rising playwrights Coleman has nurtured along their paths are Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee, whose latest plays Zoey’s Perfect Wedding and The Great Leap, respectively, are coming up soon on the Theatre Company’s current season.

    (Pictured above and right: Shawn King of DeVotchka in 'Sweeney Todd' in 2016. Photo by John Moore.)

    In announcing the appointment, DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden cited Coleman’s “commitment to artistic excellence, community engagement, new-play development, crowd-pleasing musicals and discovery of new voices” — all of which she said will resonate throughout the region, and will further the DCPA’s efforts to diversify its audience. Coleman said his priorities also include local storytelling, giving voice to underserved communities and building a robust collaboration with the DCPA’s Education division.

    Chris Coleman and husband Rodney Hicks. Photo by John Moore.  “I am super-interested in figuring out how we put the most resonant work on stage we can,” Coleman said. “And by that I don’t necessarily think every play has to be topical to be resonant. I mean work that really lands emotionally for people. So much so that audiences feel compelled to reach out and let us know that we affected them, and that the work has stayed with them.”

    (Pictured at right: New Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman with his husband, Rodney Hicks, at today's announcement. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Coleman says he is not only a fan of the Theatre Company's annual Colorado New Play Summit, one of the signature programs launched by his predecessor, Kent Thompson, he sees it as the company’s greatest drawing card, along with the $1.4 million Women’s Voices Fund, which supports plays written and directed by women. “I am eager to connect great artists with the larger conversation Denver is having about its future right now,” he said. “I am interested in telling big stories — both from cultures that haven’t found their way onto our stages yet, and those that are waiting to burst out of the mind of the young playwright down the street.

    “I don't think there is any reason we shouldn't be one of the top institutions for producing new work in the country.”

    ‘He sure can pick em’

    At Portland Center Stage’s 2002 equivalent of the Colorado New Play Summit, Coleman had a hunch about a submission from a budding 18-year-old playwright. So he took the extraordinary step of giving the young woman a featured slot in the festival alongside, among others, a comparatively grizzled 25-year-old named Itamar Moses. His latest play, The Band’s Visit, opened on Broadway just this past Thursday.

    Chris Coleman quote 8 LAUREN GUNDERSONThe teenager’s play was called Parts They Call Deep, about three Southern women in a Winnebago. Now for the kicker: The playwright was Lauren Gunderson, who, fast-forward 14 years, wrote the Denver Center’s red-hot world-premiere The Book of Will and is now the most-produced playwright in America for the second year running. “It has been amazing to watch her rise,” Coleman said. 

    “Yeah, he sure can pick ’em,” Gunderson said with a laugh.

    Gunderson calls Coleman a mentor who helped her to visualize a possible life in the theatre for herself – when she was 12. Her hometown is also Atlanta, where in 1988 Coleman founded Actor’s Express, dubbed Atlanta's "gutsiest and most vital theatre."

    In those tender years, Gunderson fancied herself an actor, and she was cast as the kid in two mainstage productions there — The Philadelphia Story and Approaching Zanzibar — and she absorbed everything. “That’s the first time I realized that people actually sit down and write plays,” Gunderson said. “By just watching Chris, I started to see all of these other avenues for a life in the theatre for me.”

    Coleman, whose family's Atlanta roots go back to 1804 ("But we were poor dirt farmers," he says), was a bit of a star of the stage himself in those days. How big of a fan was Gunderson of his work? “My 14th birthday party was taking my girlfriends to see Chris Coleman play Hamlet,” she said. “I loved it, and I will never forget it.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    While at Portland, Coleman also produced or directed plays by Sophocles, Molière, Anton Chekhov, Edward Albee, August Wilson, Tennessee Williams, Ntozake Shange, Dael Orlandersmith, David Henry Hwang, John Patrick Shanley, Naomi Wallace, Sam Shepard, Douglas Carter Beane, Martin McDonaugh and Amy Freed — among others.

    “He just has such a knack for championing a remarkably wide variety of voices in the new-play world,” Gunderson said. “I think that’s because he has such a variety of experiences himself as a director, playwright, actor and artistic leader. What makes him a genius is that he knows every aspect of the creation of art first-hand. He has nonstop incredible ideas.” 

    Chris Coleman Introduction PhotoColeman is something of a renaissance man. Before he leaves Portland, he will direct a two-part epic he adapted himself called Astoria, featuring a cast of 16. Based on the best-selling book by Peter Stark, it tells of the harrowing but little-known journeys west undertaken by President Thomas Jefferson and millionaire John Jacob Astor that served as turning points in the conquest of the North American continent. It’s a story Coleman imagines might be of interest to Denver Center audiences because it taps directly into the spirit of the west.

    (Pictured at above and right: Chris Coleman with husband Rodney Hickst o his right and, to his left: DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden, and Chairman Martin Semple. Photo by Brittany Gutierrez for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    But his acting days are likely behind him, he says. These days, he is far more interested in ballot measures and fundraising and other administrative duties (he swears). He led the design and construction of Portland Center Stage’s new home in the 122-year-old Historic Portland Armory. That experience will be critical as the DCPA prepares to renovate both its Stage and Ricketson theatres within the next four years.

    Under Coleman, who earned his BFA from Baylor University and his MFA from Carnegie Mellon University, annual attendance at Portland Center Stage increased from 77,000 to 139,000. The average age of the audience dropped from 64 to 48. The company brings in about 7,600 students a year to see its plays.

    Coleman will direct his two-part adaptation of Astoria, followed by Major Barbara at Portland Center Stage before moving to Denver with his husband, Rodney Hicks, in May. In the meantime, he will work with DCPA Managing Director Charles Varin and Associate Artistic Directors Nataki Garrett and Charlie Miller to finalize the 2018-19 season selection.

    “I just think he is a great voice for the American theatre as a whole, and I can’t wait to see what he does to continue Kent’s legacy," Gunderson, said. “Oh my God, Denver is so lucky to get him.”  

    Video above: A 2015 interview with Portland Center Stage Artistic Director Chris Coleman.

    7 QUICK QUESTIONS WITH CHRIS COLEMAN:

    NUMBER 1Rodney Hicks King Lear Terry ShapiroHey, we already know your husband here in Denver: Rodney Hicks played bad-boy Edmund here in Kent Thompson’s 2007 production of King Lear. He was in the original Broadway cast of Rent and Come from Away. Is it safe to say he will be an active member of our acting community? It is not safe to say that. Rodney is totally excited about coming to Denver, and he wants to figure out what engaging with the artistic community here might look like for him. But his focus right now is primarily on film and television and his budding writing career. Rodney had a big career before we met, and there’s every reason to believe he will have a big career for the rest of his life. So while I think you will see him around Denver a lot, I am not sure you are ever going to see him onstage at the Denver Center.

    Pictured above right: Rodney Hicks as Edmund and Markus Potter as Edgar in the DCPA Theatre Company's 2007 production of 'King Lear.' Photo by Terry Shapiro.)


    NUMBER 2What was your introduction to theatre as a kid? It was my mom, who was trained as an actor. She started a drama ministry at our Southern Baptist church in the 1970s. So literally from the time I can remember, I was dragging angel wings around or operating a dimmer board or giving the actors their lines. So it's always been a part of my life. During my senior year in high school, it became clear that's what I wanted to pursue. And when I got to Baylor University I very quickly realized, 'This is what I want to do. This is the room I want to be in. This is my tribe of people.' 

    NUMBER 3How do you plan to move the dial when it comes to the national problem of equity, diversity and inclusion in the American theatre? As a gay man, I am on the bandwagon. I absolutely agree with the movement, and I believe it is high time for there to be opportunities for lots of different kinds of people in leadership roles. And I think there is a lot that any artistic leader can do to make positive changes, no matter that leader's gender and skin color. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is more passionate and committed to move us forward on that front. That certainly was the case in Portland, and I expect that only to increase in Denver.

    NUMBER 4You may have heard that Denver Center audiences are passionate about their Shakespeare. Will there be a continuing commitment to Shakespeare? And if so — what kind of Shakespeare? There absolutely will be a continuing commitment to Shakespeare. Now, over the years, I have done every kind of radical Shakespeare reinvention you can possibly imagine. But then about four years ago, I thought: 'You know what would be really radical? To do a Shakespeare play in the period when it was actually written. That would be radical.’ I expect that I am probably more of a centrist when it comes to Shakespeare at this point in my life. What I value most is truthfulness, authenticity and the ability for an audience to engage emotionally. I just want audiences to take the whole ride and not sit back.

    NUMBER 5Should the DCPA Theatre Company be actively responding to the political polarization of the country right now? I think if you are doing interesting new plays, then that happens, whether you want it to or not. Politics tends to show up whenever you are talking about the things that are happening in our world. For example, when we programmed a new play we are staging right now called Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles, we already knew of course that immigration is a big issue in this country. But we had no idea how searingly hot it was going to be by the time we opened the play. It is delightful that Luis Alfaro’s play engages with the issues of the current moment, but that’s not why we did it. We did it because we liked the play. But the issue allowed us to build community partnerships around the play that are absolutely conscious of engaging with the conversation of the moment. For example, we have two symposiums in partnership with Catholic Charities that will include our attorney general, a leading immigration attorney, the deputy director of I.C.E. and two Dreamers. That kind of thing is totally in our zone. It’s not just pushing one point of view. It’s bringing together many sides and deepening the conversation you just experienced on the stage.

    NUMBER 6george-bernard-shaw-9480925-1-402So what’s with your love for George Bernard Shaw? I will tell you: The play we are doing this season that most directly engages the executive leadership of this country is Major Barbara — which of course never refers to America or our current president because it was written in 1907. But the themes are uncannily resonant.

    NUMBER 7Is there a place for current DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett on your team? I have actually known Nataki Garrett for 20 years because she stage-managed a show I acted in back in Atlanta. I have enormous respect and fondness for her, and I was delighted when she was hired to be the Associate Artistic Director here. I anticipate that she will continue in that role until she decides she doesn’t want it anymore. I also know there are a lot of people around the country who have noted Nataki's leadership capabilities, so I suspect there are people knocking at her door.

    NUMBER 8DCPA Education just launched its Theatre for Young Audiences program with a production of The Snowy Day that is directed at pre-kindergarten through third graders, and it was made in full collaboration with the Theatre Company's design staff. How important is it for the Theatre Company to have a strong relationship with the Education division? It's critical to me. One, because we have to prepare future audiences. It is so easy today to walk through life without any real cultural participation of some kind. So I think it's critical that we create, invent and provide as many on-ramps as we can. So education, outreach, and using every opportunity we can to build community relationships with people is just huge.

    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.

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    ABOUT THE EDITOR
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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