• Check out the all-local casting for DCPA's 'First Date'

    by John Moore | Jul 12, 2017

    First Date

    The cast of 'First Date,' top row from left: Steven J. Burge, Seth Dhonau, Jordan Leigh and Lauren Shealy. Second row: Adriane Leigh Robinson, Cashelle Butler, Barret Harper and Director Ray Roderick. (Note: Aaron Vega plays Jordan Leigh's role from Nov. 11-Dec. 3.)


    Returning Galleria faces among the all-Colorado cast are Jordan Leigh, Lauren Shealy and Steven J. Burge

    By John Moore and Heidi Bosk
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has announced an all-local cast for its  upcoming production of First Date, playing The Garner Galleria Theatre from Nov. 11, 2017, through April 22, 2018.

    When blind date newbie Aaron is set up with serial-dater Casey, a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a comically high-stakes dinner. As the date unfolds in real time, the couple quickly finds they are not alone on this unpredictable evening. In an unexpected twist, Casey and Aaron’s inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents who sing and dance them through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines. Can this couple turn what could be a dating disaster into something special before the check arrives?

    Directed by Ray Roderick (The Last 5 Years, The Taffetas, Five Course Love and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), First Date features both returning Denver Center favorites and exciting new faces:  
    • Adriane Leigh Robinson – Casey
    • Seth Dhonau – Aaron
    • Steven J. Burge – Man 1
    • Aaron Vega – Man 2 (Nov. 11-Dec. 3)
    • Jordan Leigh – Man 2 (Dec. 5-April 22)
    • Lauren Shealy – Woman 1
    • Barret Harper – Male Understudy
    • Cashelle Butler – Female Understudy

    The First Date creative team includes Martha Yordy (musical direction), Lisa M. Orzolek (scenic design), Charles R. MacLeod (lighting design), Meghan Anderson Doyle (costume design) and Craig Breitenbach (sound design).

    The book is written by by Austin Winberg. Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen. Vocal and Incidental Music Arrangements by Dominick Amendum.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    (Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the ONLY authorized ticket provider for this productions in Denver. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party should be aware that the DCPA is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance.)


    First Date: Meet the cast

    Adriane Wilson 160ADRIANE LEIGH ROBINSON (Casey) is overjoyed to be making her Denver Center debut in this production of First Date. Before migrating to Colorado, Adriane performed internationally with a number of Air Force troupes and with James Madison University’s Children’s Playshop in Harrisburg, Virginia. Since graduating from The University of Northern Colorado, Adriane has appeared on the stages of Little Theatre of the Rockies and Miner’s Alley Playhouse, where she recently played Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Adriane was the recipient of Best Actress in a Musical at The European Toppers Awards in Heidelberg, Germany for her role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (Aviano Theatre) and an Irene Ryan Awards nomination for her performance as Laurie Williams in Oklahoma (University of Northern Colorado).

    Adriane WilsonHometown: Aviano, Italy. I spent the ity of my high-school years there, and consider it the place where I truly began finding myself as an adult.
    • College: University of Northern Colorado in Greeley
    • What's your handle? @little.adriane.leigh on Instagram
    • Twitter-sized bio: I am a Pit-bull-loving, cheese-devouring, Harry Potter enthusiast. I was raised in a military family, so I had the opportunity to live and perform all over the country, and overseas. In my free time, I am a princess impersonator with a fabulous company called Wands and Wishes Occasions, in addition to running a photography business with my partner called Marco Robinson Photo. I am happiest when I’m reading, cooking, and playing with my two handsome puppies.
    • The role that changed your life? I recently played Sally Bowles in Cabaret with Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden (pictured above.) Sally was by far the most challenging and enjoyable character I’ve had the opportunity to tackle in a long while. She is such an iconic persona in the musical theatre world, and it was an honor to put my own spin on her manic yet lovable personality.
    Ideal scene partner: Steve Carell. I am such an enormous fan of his work; his range is so vast, and he seems like such a friendly person.
    What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? I hope they walk away understanding that the presence of love in one’s life should stand above all other things. Professional success, material possessions and good looks all fade away at some point. But the one thing that has been proven to stand the test of time is love. Love deserves our attention, respect and dedication.
    Your worst first-date story: When I first arrived in Colorado in 2011, a friend set me up with one of his classmates. Let’s call him Ryan. Ryan seemed cute and sweet, so I agreed to the date. As a surprise, Ryan set up a horse-riding excursion for us in Colorado Springs, but we got hit by a terrible rainstorm, so that was no longer an option. I was new to the area, so I had no ideas, and neither did Ryan. Things were a little awkward as we sat in his car, trying to make small talk. Then things got very weird very fast. As our conversation started to dwindle, I realized we had nothing in common, especially when he started telling me about the demons that possess him. That’s right … demons. He went into great detail about the personalities of his demonic captors, and how they affected his daily life. Needless to say, there was no second date. I haven’t heard from Ryan or his demons since.
    Complete this sentence: “All I want is …"
    "... safety, good health, and happiness for those I love. Oh, and for my Hogwarts letter to arrive.
    Anything else you want to add?
    Enjoy the show, folks!

    Check out the all-local casting for DCPA's The Wild Party



    Seth DhonauSETH DHONAU
    (Aaron). Since moving to Denver last year, Seth has been seen in several productions including Red Hot and Cole (Cherry Creek Theater, pictured below right) and Evita (Lone Tree Arts Center). Previously he lived in New York and sang with some of the top choirs in the area, appearing at both St. Patrick's Cathedral and Carnegie Hall. Seth studied opera, theater and economics at Northwestern University where he appeared in Bernstein’s Mass, The Waa-Mu Show and multiple productions with the American Music Theatre Project. 

    Seth DhonauHometown: Fond du Lac, Wis.
    • College: Bachelor of Music (Voice and Opera) from Northwestern University
    • What's your handle? @Deathsono on Instagram
    • Twitter-sized bio: Connoisseur of film, literature, music, wine and cowboy boots.
    • The role that changed your life? George in Sunday in the Park with George. It wasn’t until I took on this role that I realized the power of storytelling on stage. To me it’s the ultimate confluence of music and art and the attending emotions that each brings about in us.
    Ideal scene partner: Joaquin Phoenix. I’m absolutely transfixed when he’s on screen; whether he appears to be digging into some unfathomable, wild place or just … being.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? I hope our show reminds our audiences to take chances, and to not focus too much on the stuff you can’t change. There’s a big world out there if you allow yourself to go find it.
    • Your worst first-date story: Back in college, during the dark ages of Facebook (temporally, not socio-politically), I attempted to use my cell phone to look up an acquaintance with whom I’d be going on a first date that evening. Instead of typing her name into the search bar, I accidentally posted it, like a total creep, prominently atop my profile page where it remained for the duration of a recital I had just stepped on stage to perform. The post got no ‘likes,’ and I don’t think there was a second date.
    • Complete this sentence: “All I want is …"
    "... for people to slow down!”



    A Steven J. Burge 160STEVEN J. BURGE
     (Man 1) is thrilled to be back and treading the Denver Center boards again after making his Galleria debut last season as God in An Act of God (pictured below right). He made his Colorado debut in 2003 as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors following the national tours of … And Then They Came for Me and A Christmas Carol. Since then, this award-winning character actor has appeared on stages throughout the Denver metro area including the Denver Center, Arvada Center, Curious Theatre, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret and many others. Steven was the recipient of The Denver Post Ovation Award for Best Solo Performance in Fully Committed (Aurora Fox), a one-man show in which Steven portrayed more than 30 different characters. Steven has also been recognized for his work in Contrived Ending (Buntport Theatre) and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Avenue Theatre).

    Steven J. Burge, Erik Sandvold, Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God. Photo by John Moore. Hometown: Martelle, Iowa. There's a sign on the city limits that reads "Welcome to Martelle! The small town with a big heart!" And it very much lives up to that hype. When my family moved there just after my seventh birthday, the town claimed fewer than 300 people. But I remember them as being the nicest 300 people on Earth. 
    • College: Theatre and Communications at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa
    • What's your handle? I don't do the Twitter or the Instagram. But you should totally feel free to "friend" me on the Facebook if you'd like. It's my most favorite way to waste time.
    • The role that changed your life? In 2003, a tour I was doing ended and I came to Denver to take a three-month contract playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. The plan was for me to do the show and hit the road again. But Colorado was so beautiful, and the people were so great, that I just kept on not leaving. Thirteen years later, I consider myself a proud Denverite. I guess that role didn’t just change my life; in some ways it sort of created it.
    Ideal scene partner: I don't need to look beyond Colorado to find a scene partner who will excite me or challenge me or inspire me. The artist community here is vibrant and relevant and I, for one, am so grateful to the Denver Center’s producers and subscribers and individual ticket-buyers for giving so many local theatre artists the opportunity to work where we live. That is a great gift. … OK, also Cassandra Peterson, a k a Elvira Mistress of the Dark. She's hilarious and she has been my comic hero since I was 10 years old. And guess what? She’s also from Colorado, kind of. Colorado Springs. But that counts.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? Kissed. I hope you come to the show with someone you have a big ol' crush on ... whether it's a brand new crush or someone you've loved and married and crushed on for 50 years. I hope you sit in the audience together and get all twitterpated and nervous and get that "barfy" feeling. (It's a great feeling, isn't it?) And then I hope you get kissed. Every single one of you. 
    • Your worst first-date story: Ohmigosh, you guys, no lie: When I read this question, I immediately started to sweat. Then I briefly thought about quitting this show so I could avoid thinking about my dating life and answering this question. Then I recognized I was being a crazy person so I spent the better part of an hour Googling therapists in my insurance network and late-night delivery restaurants in my neighborhood. Then I watched a couple episodes of Dateline on Investigation Discovery because I find that when you're reflecting on your dating history, more often than not an episode of Dateline will remind you that no matter how bad you think it is, your taste in men could be worse. Pass.
    • Complete this sentence: “All I want is …"
    "... a room somewhere.
    Far away from the cold night air.
    With one enormous chair.

    (That's from My Fair Lady. Because I am a #MusicalTheatreNerd)
    • Anything else you want to add?
    Fine! Tell you what. ... If you REALLY want to hear my dating horror stories, find me after the show and I'll tell you over dessert. (It's a first date!) <3



    Jordan LeighJORDAN LEIGH
    (Man 2 from Dec. 5-April 22) couldn’t be happier to be back on the Garner Galleria stage for a fifth time after his record-setting run in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (1,731 performances), Five Course Love, The Doyle and Debbie Show and Forbidden Broadway. A proud Denver native, he has appeared on stages across the city for 20 years, including his co-starring role with the DCPA Theatre Company as the Apostle, Matt in 2015’s The 12 (pictured below right) and in front of capacity crowds at The Buell while co-starring in the DCPA Theatre Company’s, White Christmas. An award-winning film actor as well, (three-time Best Actor-48 Hour Filmmaking Project/Special Screening Cannes), he recently appeared alongside Hollywood legends, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, in the Netflix feature Our Souls at Night. Proud 17-year member of Actors Equity Association. Much love to Hannah.

    Jordan Leigh The 12Hometown: Denver. I am a third-generation Coloradan!
    • College: BA in Theatre and Masters Acting Intensive from UCLA School of Theatre (magna cum laude)
    • What's your handle? @JordanLeighActs on Twitter; @ThatActorGuyJordan on Instagram
    • Twitter-sized bio: Buddhist Jew who loves Jesus. And Science. And South Park. And Animals. Hopes we can find a way to cut through all this worldly Mishegas (Yiddish for “insanity”). 
    • The role that changed your life? I regularly find that the roles I play reflect aspects of my own life journey that I'm experiencing right then and there. I'm constantly reawakened to how this craft is somehow esoterically and intimately intertwined with my own life experience. Well that, and playing Danny Zuko my senior year in high school. Because, well... Danny Zuko.
    Ideal scene partner: I love the idea of discussing the fact with Hugh Jackman that he can pull off playing both Wolverine and Jean Valjean. That seems pretty ideal from an acting standpoint.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? When I am affected by the truth of human connection in this life, it restores my faith in our common journey on this planet. When I'm able to be a part of making others feel that way through theatre, it makes me all warm and fuzzy. That's what I'm hoping this show will do to the good folks who continue to support this ancient form of storytelling. Oh, and I hope that at least one person laughs hard enough to pee a little.
    • Your worst first-date story: When she said, “I'm not a big reader. My favorite book is Hop on Pop." No offense to Dr. Seuss, but I'll just leave that there.
    • Your best first-date story:
    Driving down to Albuquerque to meet the woman with whom I now love and share my life. Hooray for internet dating!
    • Complete this sentence: “All I want is …"
    "... for all sentient beings to be free from suffering.” (That is the goal of Buddhist philosophy.)
    • Anything else you want to add?
    I have been so fortunate to call the Denver Center (and especially The Galleria Theatre) my theatre home for 17 years now. I feel truly blessed to have been able to do what I do so frequently at this incredible place. To all at the DCPA who have placed your professional faith in me all these years, you have my undying gratitude.



    Lauren ShealyLAUREN SHEALY
    (Woman 1) DCPA Cabaret: Forbidden Broadway (Woman 2), The Doyle and Debbie Show (Debbie), I Love You, You’re Perfect… (Woman 2). DCPA Theatre Company: Sweeney Todd (Swing), A Christmas Carol (Ensemble). Off Broadway: Lingoland (Lauren), How to Succeed In Business... (Rosemary). The Arvada Center: White Christmas (Betty), A Man Of No Importance (Mrs. Patrick), Curtains (Georgia), Miracle On 34th Street (Doris), 1940’s Radio Hour (Anne). Lone Tree Arts Center: Evita (Eva, pictured below right), South Pacific (Nellie). National Tour: South Pacific (Nellie). Other Theaters: Jekyll and Hyde (Lucy), Tick, Tick…Boom (Susan), Phantom (Christine). Training/Awards: NYU, Tisch; 2015 CTG Henry nomination for Best Actress in a Musical; Westword’s Best Actress in a Musical for 2013. 

    Lauren Shealy. Photo by Danny Lam. EvitaHometown: Littleton
    • College: BFA Drama from NYU, Tisch School of the Arts
    • What's your handle? I am not that cool.
    • Twitter-sized bio: Lover of life, stories, music, family, heavy weights, hikes, hugs and cake pops. Habitual bath taker, banana bread maker and horror movie watcher.
    • The role that changed your life? My role as a mother changed me as a performer. My heart underwent profound renovations; the current model has no walls, many doors and seriously leaky faucets. Every day I wrestle with a delightful and terrifying mix of fear, love, and humility. I am often raw, I doubt my goodness, question my strength … but I am strangely more brave.
    Ideal scene partner: Emma Thompson. I want to work a scene with her, follow her around for a week, peek in her freezer. She’s so yummy to watch – fully present, strong and beautifully vulnerable. She is so smart! – she adapted the script for the Ang Lee version of Sense and Sensibility – it’s perfection.  
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? I hope the audience laughs and releases the stress of the day. I hope that they make a connection ... to me, to each other, and to the role that love/attraction plays in their lives.
    • Your best first-date story:
    In the summer of 2011, friends set me up on a blind date with Bret Hipsher. I had reservations. I was casually dating a photographer and felt conflicted about going on a date with someone else. My father encouraged me to go. “Lauren, you have nothing to lose and you never know ... this guy could be the love of your life," he said. I kept the date. When Bret arrived, I opened the door and promptly lost the ability to speak coherently. There was something about his easy smile, beautiful blue eyes and delicious smell that rendered me useless for a short time. Once I recovered, I found myself more at ease with Bret than I had ever been with another man. I loved talking to him. I stared at his forearms. I felt his kindness washing over me at regular intervals. I watched the breeze play with his hair. I marveled at his exceptional intelligence and great sense of humor. He had his stuff together. I knew he was important. After he kissed my cheek that night, I called the photographer and wished him well. I married Bret a year later.
    • Complete this sentence: “All I want is …"
    "… what I have.”



    Aaron VegaAARON VEGA
    (Man 2 from Nov. 11-Dec. 3)
    DCPA Off-Center: The Wild Party. Aaron has performed in theaters across the country and after many years in New York City moved to Colorado with his dog. He has adapted and directed Shakespeare, staged rock and symphony concerts, is a founding artist and board member for the puppet and mask ensemble The Zoot Theatre Company, is the Artistic Director for Eureka Suitcase in New York and is the Executive Producer for The People’s Theatre of Denver.

    Aaron Vega. The Wild Party. Adams VisComHometown: I grew up in Amish country in north central Ohio. A little rural town called Mansfield
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: I graduated from high school early so that I could get a degree at Wright State University's Professional Actor Training Program
    • What's your handle? @bardgeek on both Twitter and Instagram
    • Website: AaronVega.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Freelance actor and director who is committed to bringing the audience's imagination into the theatrical process. Also an over-eater of pizza and hummus.
    • The role that changed your life? I played John Harrower in an unknown musical by Ricky Ian Gordan and Tina Landau called States of Independence. That was the moment I realized that musical theatre could be something deeper and more meaningful than I previously thought. And that I didn't have to choose between being an actor and being a musical-theatre performer.
    • Ideal scene partner: Laurence Olivier. He was the perfect blend of technique, imagination, grace and courage.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? A sense that the world is not as scary as prime-time TV would have us believe. That there is love in the world and that the only thing separating us from it is our frantic mind.
    • Your best first-date story: I've been incredibly lucky, and I've never been on Tinder so ... I'm good.
    • Complete this sentence: “All I want is …”:
    "... for the world to create more and destroy less."
    • Anything else you want to add? I have the index page of Shakespeare's Folio tattooed on my forearm. Whenever I'm feeling to big for my britches I can just look down and be reminded of what true genius is, and it motivates me to keep working harder. Kaizen! (That's the Japanese word for "change for better.")



    Barret HarperBARRET HARPER
    (Male Understudy) Denver Center debut. Barret has performed across the country in New York, Arizona and Florida, but is thrilled to return to Denver, which he considers home. He was most recently seen as Lonny in Rock of Ages at BDT Stage after two regional premieres of the production in Colorado and Arizona. Other favorite roles include Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!, Jinx in Forever Plaid, Mark in Altar Boyz, and Link in Hairspray. Regional: Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Arvada Center, Central City Opera, Arizona Broadway Theater, Broadway Palm Theater and Colorado Light Opera. Thanks to friends, family, and my beautiful wife for always encouraging me to dream.

    Barret Harper Forever PlaidHometown: Littleton 
    • College: BFA in Theater Performance, BA in Biochemistry, Minor in Chemistry from the University of Colorado Boulder 
    • What's your handle? @BarretHarper on Twitter; @grin.and.barret on Instagram
    • Twitter-sized bio: Barret. Beets. Battlestar Galactica
    • The role that changed your life? Jinx in Forever Plaid (pictured right at the Town Hall Arts Center). He is this quiet and shy person the audience gets to see come out of his shell, exposing so much heart. Everyone loves an underdog, and Jinx is the perfect personification of one. I love the journey he takes and his uncompromising nerdiness, which makes him incredibly endearing. If given the chance, I would play that role forever. 
    Ideal scene partner: Tom Hanks is a master of subtlety and nuance. His attention to small details makes his characters so vibrant and rich. I would love to watch him work and play off of that energy.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? I hope the audience walks away with a renewed faith for the human spirit. In recent times, I have sensed that we have lost touch with the ability to find common ground as a source of compassion for people with different views. This show is about two impossibly matched people who find that deep down they are looking for the same thing. My hope is that we all find that common ground and a compassion for one another. 
    • Your worst first-date story: That would have to be the time I thought I would impress the girl with some culinary skills. The plan was to make a Greek-themed meal complete with homemade baklava, since she had never eaten any Greek food before. As we finished eating, she had a few bites of the baklava before her face started to flush and swell. I had never thought to ask her if she had a nut allergy, and the baklava was stuffed with finely crushed walnuts. Luckily, she realized what was happening and stopped eating the deadly dessert before it got any worse. We later laughed about my unintentional attempt at murder, but at the moment it happened I was sure I had blown it. 
    • Complete this sentence: “All I want is …"
    "... a room somewhere. Far away from the cold night air.” That’s from My Fair Lady. The world could use a little more of the kind of joy that musical theater celebrates. 


    Video above: Watch as Cashelle Butler returned to her Cherry Creek High School stomping grounds when she was in Denver for the farewell tour of 'Mamma Mia!' Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    CashelleButlerCASHELLE BUTLER (Female Understudy) is thrilled to be back in her hometown of Denver following two years playing Tanya on the national tour of Mamma Mia!. Other credits include: Young Frankenstein (Elizabeth, Westword Best of Denver Award), The Marvelous Wonderettes (Cindy Lou, pictured below right at the Town Hall Arts Center), Parade (Lucille) and Legally Blonde (Paulette). University of Northern Colorado. Former DCPA Education student. Immense gratitude to DCPA, the cast, and the creatives. Love to Mom, Dad, Shea and Aaron.

    • Hometown: Denver
    • College: BA in Musical Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley
    • What's your handle? @cashellebutler on Twitter and Instagram
    • Website:
    cashelle-butler.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Lover of conversation, family, naps, music, coffee, cute animal photos and Chipotle.
    Chashelle Butler. Town Hall Arts Center. The role that changed your life? Playing Tanya in the Farewell Tour of Mamma Mia! The character is so fun and comical that it was a blast to be able to go to work every night and just be silly and laugh. However, it was also amazing discipline, doing the show for two years straight and staying truthful and genuine every night. It is crazy to think that live theatre can ever become muscle memory, but after a long run it is so important to be present every single night. The role was life-changing, but so was the lifestyle that went with it. Seeing the country while doing what I love was an incredible opportunity, and it was so wonderful to be able to perform in amazing theatres in awesome cities. (My favorite was Denver). It was such a whirlwind.
    Ideal scene partner: I really love Rachel Bay Jones, who is currently appearing in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway). She is so versatile and such a strong actress. I’ve seen her in a few different shows, and every character she plays is just so genuine and believable. She's funny and fierce and vulnerable all in one, and I would love to work a scene (or 20) with her and learn from her.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing First Date? I hope the audience is able to laugh, enjoy, and escape the world, I think First Date has a little bit of something for everyone. The story is so easy to connect with, and the music is so great that I think it’s an awesome way to spend an evening.
    • Your worst first-date story: One first date suggested we go on a hike and, in retrospect, it’s kind of creepy going off into the woods with a stranger. He said he was going to bring his dog, and I love dogs, so that really sold me. I met him at the trail thinking we will get to know each other while we leisurely walk. Instead, the guy broke into a full uphill sprint. What followed was two breathless hours of me trying to keep up on the trail run with this man and his dog. I tripped a lot, sweat a lot - and all we got to know about each other was our very different fitness levels.
    • Complete this sentence: “All I want is …"
    "... Happiness for myself and all those around me. Also music, Chipotle, and endless photos of baby animals.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    First Date: Ticket information
    First DateNov. 11, 2017, through through April 22, 2018
    Tickets : Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Garner Galleria Theatre

    The book is written by by Austin Winberg. Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen. Vocal and Incidental Music Arrangements by Dominick Amendum.

  • 'Two Degrees': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 06, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal of Tira Palmquist's play 'Two Degrees' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    When Director Christy Montour-Larson went looking for the key to unlock Tira Palmquist’s new play Two Degrees, she looked no further than her own pocket.

    “All I had to do is pull out my own house key, because when I read this play for the first time, I felt like I was home,” said Montour-Larson, who will direct the upcoming world premiere for the DCPA Theatre Company opening Feb. 3.

    Two Degrees. Director Christy Montour-Larson and Tira Palmquist. hoto by John Moore. Two Degrees is about a woman – and a planet – in crisis. Emma is scientist who has been called to Washington to testify to a congressional committee on climate legislation. And it’s the anniversary of her husband's death.

    “I love this play because it is about something,” Montour-Larson said on the first day of rehearsal. “Climate change isn't just another issue in a world proliferating with other issues. Climate change is the one issue that, left unchecked, will swamp all other issues.”

    New calculations from Scientific American magazine indicate that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, the average temperature of the Earth will rise 2 degrees Celsius by 2036, crossing a threshold that will devastate human civilization, Montour-Larson said.

    “We are the first generation in the history of humanity to feel the effects of climate change,” she said, “and we are the last generation who can do anything about it.”

    And if you are a playwright, the thing you do about it is you write a play about it.

    “For me, as a playwright, the personal is political, and the political is personal,” said Palmquist, who wrote Two Degrees as opportunity to write roles for women older than 45, and also as an opportunity to talk about climate change. For her, that’s as political – and as personal – as it gets.

    “Humans aren't the first species to alter the atmosphere,” added Two Degrees Dramaturg Heather Helinsky, quoting Elizabeth Kolbert’s book Field Notes from a Catastrophe. That distinction belongs to early bacteria, which invented photosynthesis 2 two billion years ago. “But we are the first species to be in a position to understand what we are doing.”

    And that’s why, Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod said, “This is a play we have to do. And not 20 years from now - we have to do it now.”

    (Pictured above and right: 'Two Degrees' Director Christy Montour-Larson and Playwright Tira Palmquist. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Here are five things we learned at that first rehearsal for Two Degrees, opening Feb. 3 in the Jones Theatre:

    NUMBER 1 It’s melting! That’s right. Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan has fashioned a series of hanging painted panels that will look like different forms of ice. But look closely, because about six of them are going to be literally made out of ice that will slowly melt throughout the performance. The idea: The world of the play is the world of our world. “Our hope is that maybe 50 percent of the audience will say afterward, ‘Hey, wasn't it really cool that part of the set melted?’ And the other 50 percent will say, 'I didn't see that,’ ” said Montour-Larson, adding to laughs: “And then you can say to that person: 'Yeah, and that's why you are part of the problem! You didn't notice!"  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Book of Will

    NUMBER 2Credit is due. A small local collective called The Athena Project is responsible for Two Degrees coming to the attention of DCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. Montour-Larson directed a reading of the play as part of the Athena Project’s 2015 new-play festival, then handed the script over to Thompson, who shouted out founder Angela Astle and her 3-year-old company at the first rehearsal. “Athena envisions a world where women's voices are powerfully expressed and recognized for their artistic merit in the community,” Thompson said.

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Christians

    NUMBER 3Mr. Jones and you. Two Degrees will be the first play the DCPA Theatre Company presents in the Jones Theatre as a mainstage production since David Mamet’s A Boston Marriage in 2004. At 200 seats, The Jones is the Denver Center’s smallest theatre. “It's just perfect for Two Degrees because it’s so intimate, and the audience is going to be right there with us as we tell the story,” Montour-Larson said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4Two Degrees. Jason Ducat The sound of ice. Sound Designer Jason Ducat (right) promises to replicate the sound of real, cracking ice at key points of the story. He and fellow DCPA soundman Craig Breitenbach embedded microphones into real ice and then recorded the sound as it broke up. “We're going to have speakers underneath the seats so the audience will really be able to feel that rumble,” said Ducat, who grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, hometown of Olympic figure-skating champion Scott Hamilton. “For about 15 years of my life, I pretty much lived on a sheet of ice. It is one of the most peaceful things you can ever experience," Ducat said. But the sound ice cracking also can be terrifying. I know this because when I was young, I was really stupid and I would see how far out on the ice I could get before it started to crack - and then I would have to fly back in to try to beat it. But when I think of the character of Emma, I think she really wants to be on that ice. So I wanted to create that as the soundscape of the play."

    NUMBER 5Do I know you? Montour-Larson met Palmquist at the 2012 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, Idaho. They got to talking and soon learned they both grew up in Minnesota. Then they figured out that they both had performed in a summer repertory theatre program in Duluth, Minn., decades before. So Montour-Larson asked Palmquist what shows she was in, and Palmquist answered, “Oh a few, like, Dames at Sea and Play it Again Sam.” And Montour-Larson dead-panned: "I was in all those shows with you." Everyone talks about six degrees of separation, but in Palmquist’s play every character has, appropriately enough, just two degrees of separation. “And here we discovered that Tira and I had two degrees of separation, because we already knew each other through our younger selves,” said Montour-Larson.

    Bonus: There will be some Greenlandic spoken during the play. That is all.

     

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


    Video bonus: Spotlight on Two Degrees



    Two Degrees
    : Cast list

    Written by Tira Palmquist
    Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

    • Jason Delane (One Night in Miami) as Clay Simpson

    • Kathleen McCall (The Glass Menagerie) as Emma Phelps

    • Robert Montano (Colorado New Play Summit) as Jeffrey Phelps/Eric Wilson/Malik Peterson

    • Kim Staunton (Fences) as Louise Allen


    Two Degrees: Ticket information
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

    Feb. 3-March 12
    Jones Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Two Degrees. Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore.
    First rehearsal for the upcoming 'Two Degrees': Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

  • Video Playlist: Our 2016 Henry Awards coverage

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016


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

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

    Videos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Watch our montage of performance highlights

    Watch Deborah Persoff accept the Lifetime Achievement Award

    Watch Melody Duggan accept the Theatre Educator Award

    Watch our 2016 Memoriam video


    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards:

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

    Our complete photo gallery from the Henry Awards:

    2016 Henry Awards

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

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zaXig4EKD8I?list=PLexX4Wflzocm3436-lTxQoy5ppYZSH9Px" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>Kevin Copenhaver accepts his Henry Award for Outstanding Ciostume Design for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.
  • Henry Awards a triumph for Theatre Aspen, 'Rabbit Hole'

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016

    ragtimePerformance Now presents a powerful medley from "Ragtime" at Monday's Henry Awards. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Here’s a sure sign of growth: Last year, Theatre Aspen was nominated for eight Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards. This year, it won eight.

    In an uncommonly well-spread evening celebrating statewide achievement in Colorado theatre, two upstarts clearly emerged: Theatre Aspen, which won both the Outstanding Musical for Cabaret and the prestigious Outstanding Season by a Company awards; and Vintage Theatre, which swept nearly all of the acting awards for the family drama Rabbit Hole.

    Rabbit Hole, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for David Lindsay-Abaire, is the wrenching story of a family coming to grips with the death of a child. The Vintage staging, directed by Bernie Cardell, was named Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Marc Stith) and Outstanding Actress (Maggy Stacy - who was also nominated in that category for her performance in The Edge’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)

    While the annual Henry Awards often turn into landslides, this year the 25 competitive awards were distributed among 11 different companies and 13 different shows. That still left a number of the state's most prestigious companies on the sidelines this year, including the Arvada Center, Curious Theatre Company, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Phamaly Theatre Company, BDT Stage and Creede Repertory Theatre.

    The evening drew many standing ovations - none more fervent than for Performance Now's medley from Ragtime. It culminated with the lines "We'll never get to heaven till we reach that day," which took on added significance given recent tragic events in America.

    Perhaps the biggest upset of the night? Three hours and not a single reference to the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton.

    Jonathan Farwell, otherwise known as “The Force of Fort Collins,” won his second Outstanding Actor Henry Award – since turning 80. Seriously. Farwell won in 2013 for his performance as Salieri in OpenStage’s Amadeus. On Monday, now 84 and legally blind, Farwell won his second Henry, for Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s The Outgoing Tide. Farwell delivered a fully fleshed and close-to-the-bone portrayal of a man whose encroaching Alzheimer’s disease steels his determination to control the final course of his life. Farwell, who also won a True West Award for his performance in The Outgoing Tide, was The Fantasticks’ first-ever El Gallo, back when the enduring musical was a college workshop project.

    "The joy is in the doing, and in the sharing of the work," said Farwell, who cited encouragement from a young and not-yet Dame Maggie Smith for propelling him on his acting journey.

    Outstanding Actress in a Play went to Missy Moore, who played a newly tamed, just-released jailbird in The Edge Theatre's Getting Out. That broke a streak of two straight wins by Emma Messenger, who was again nominated in the category for The Edge's Exit Strategies.

    The DCPA Theatre Company led all companies with 27 nominations and won five Henry Awards, including four for its DeVotchKa-infused staging of Sweeney Todd. Linda Mugleston, who made the human pie-maker Mrs. Lovett seem downright motherly, was named Outstanding Actress in a musical. Other DCPA winners included Director Kent Thompson, Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver and Scenic Designer Jim Kronzer for Sweeney Todd; as well as Sound Designer Craig Breitenbach for Tribes.

    (The Henry Awards split the four design categories, honoring winners in both larger budget and smaller-budget productions. The dividing line between tiers is whether the presenting company’s annual budget is above or below $1.2 million.)

    Theatre Aspen won five Henrys for Cabaret, including Jon Peterson as Outstanding Actor in a Musical, and Lori Wilner as Outstanding Supporting Actress. Peterson described Theatre Aspen as "a magical kindom of theatre."

    Like Theatre Aspen, the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre of Grand Lake won its first competitive Henry Award when Steven Sitzman was named Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for “The Addams Family.”

    2016 Henry Awards memoriam video:


    Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Lifetime Achievement Award: Deborah Persoff

    deborah-persoff-henry-awards-rabbit-holeThe winner of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award was Deborah Persoff, who was part of Vintage Theatre’s winning Rabbit Hole ensemble. Persoff was born in Philadelphia to a composer father and pianist mother. She moved to Colorado in 1969. Her first show was at the Changing Scene.

    "I was the fifth narrator on the left, which meant that I sat in a chair, opened a book and just babbled. Everyone who paid their dues in those days had to work at the Changing Scene," Persoff, who later player Glinda in the Bonfils Theatre’s 1971 production of The Wizard of Oz, said in a previous interview.

    In recent years, Persoff has played Maude in Harold and Maude, Edith Bouvier Beale in Grey Gardens and a 91-year-old Communist in Miners Alley Playhouse’s 4000 Miles. She has worked for most every theatre company in the metro area and beyond, and has been president of Vintage Theatre’s Board of Directors since 2013.

    “I want to have a bumper sticker that says. ‘Got gas. Will work,’ " she said. "I feel like the border patrol. I do all four sides of the I-25 corridor. I’ll go anywhere.”  

    Persoff took seven years away from acting to raise her two sons. And while women are often told the best roles tend to dry up with age, Persoff says instead, “I’ve been lucky. I don’t find that to be true in Denver. The roles are terrific. I’ve been working in a city that is just abounding with fabulous women, and it’s just been a joy to watch this city grow and grow up.”

    While presenting the award, Vintage Theatre founder Craig Bond said, "to receive this award is to work with legends of the community."

    Persoff was one of many who took time to honor the late Miners Alley Playhouse Artistic Director Brenda Billings, who died in April of a sudden brain aneurysm. She was known for her motto, "Be Brave." Said Persoff: Those are not just two words.

    "Keep shining," she told the crowd, "because dreams have no expiration date." 

    Denver Actors Fund going statewide

    Other special Henry Awards went to the Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has raised $117,000 to support artists (on stage on off) facing situational medical need. In accepting the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Community Impact Award, President Will Barnette announced the non-profit’s breaking news that it is expanding eligibility to theatre artists statewide.

    Denver East’s legendary and recently retired Melody Duggan was named Theatre Educator of the Year.

    The evening was again hosted by GerRee Hinshaw and Steve J. Burge and directed by Jim Hunt and Josh Hartwell.

    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.  

    2015-2016 COLORADO THEATRE GUILD HENRY AWARDS

    1-theatre-aspen-season-henry-awardsOUTSTANDING SEASON FOR A THEATRE COMPANY
    Theatre Aspen



    2-rabbit-hole-playOUTSTANDING PLAY
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions
    Bernie Cardell, Director

     

     



    3-theatre-aspen-musical-henry-awardsOUTSTANDING MUSICAL
    Cabaret
    Theatre Aspen
    Mark Martino, Director; Eric Alsford, Musical Director

     

     



    4-sarna-lapine-henry-awardsDIRECTION OF A PLAY
    Sarna Lapine
    Other Desert Cities
    Theatre Aspen



    5-eric-alsford-5-henry-awardsMUSICAL DIRECTION
    Eric Alsford
    Cabaret
    Theatre Aspen

     

     



    6-kent-thompson-henry-awardsDIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
    Kent Thompson
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

     

     



    7-rembrandyt-room-henry-awardsOUTSTANDING NEW PLAY
    The Rembrandt Room
    Buntport Theater

     

     



    8-missy-moore-henry-awardsLEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY
    Missy Moore
    Getting Out
    The Edge Theater

     

     



    9-jonathan-farwell-henry-awardsLEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY
    Jonathan Farwell
    The Outgoing Tide
    Bas Bleu Theatre Company


     

    10-linda-mugleston-henry-awardsLEAD ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
    Linda Mugleston
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

     



    11-jon-peterson-cabaret-henry-awardsLEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
    Jon Peterson
    Cabaret
    Theatre Aspen

     

     



    12-ensemble-rabbit-holeENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions

     

     



    13-maggie-stacy-henry-awardsSUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
    Maggy Stacy
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions

     

     



    14-marc-stith-henry-awardsSUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY
    Marc Stith
    Rabbit Hole
    Vintage Theatre Productions

     

    15-lori-wilner-henry-awardsSUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
    Lori Wilner
    Cabaret
    Theatre Aspen

     



    16-steven-sitzman-henry-awardsSUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
    Steven Sitzman
    The Addams Family
    Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre

     

     



    17-mark-martino-choreo-henry-awardsCHOREOGRAPHY
    Mark Martino
    Cabaret
    Theatre Aspen

     

     



    18-craig-breitenbach-henry-awardsSOUND DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Craig Breitenbach
    Tribes
    DCPA Theatre Company

     

     



    19-jonathan-scott-mckean-henry-awardsSOUND DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Jonathan Scott-Mckean
    Pump Boys and Dinettes
    Miners Alley Playhouse

     

     



    20-paul-black-henry-awardsLIGHTING DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Paul Black
    Peter and the Starcatcher
    Theatre Aspen

     

     



    21-shannon-mckinney-henry-awardsLIGHTING DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Shannon McKinney
    Faith
    Local Theatre Company

     

     



    22-kevin-copenhaver-henry-awardsCOSTUME DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Kevin Copenhaver
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

     

     



    23-cindy-franke-henry-awardsCOSTUME DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Cindy Franke
    Ragtime: The Musical
    Performance Now

     

     



    24-jim-kronzer-henry-awardsSCENIC DESIGN (Larger companies)
    Jim Kronzer
    Sweeney Todd
    DCPA Theatre Company

     

     



    25-michael-r-duran-henry-awardsSCENIC DESIGN (Smaller companies)
    Michael R. Duran
    The Explorers Club
    Lone Tree Arts Center



    SPECIAL AWARDS

    26-deborah-persoff-henry-awardsLIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
    Deborah Persoff

     

     



    Denver Actors FundCOMMUNITY IMPACT AWARD
    Denver Actors Fund

     

     



    27-melody-duggan-henry-awardsTHEATRE EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
    Melody Duggan, Denver East High School

     


    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Henry Awards: 
    Henry Awards welcome Theatre Aspen to the party
    DCPA leads hugely expanded pool of 2016 Henry Award nominees
    Paige Price: From Broadway to Sex With Strangers
    DCPA leads way with 11 2015 Henry Awards


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

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