• To bee or to beetle? For Tristan C. Regini, that is the question

    by John Moore | May 25, 2018
    Tristan C. Regini Tommy. Photo by Bamboo Booth
    Tristan C. Regini, center, on opening night of 'The Who's Tommy' with castmates, from left, Radley Wright, Olivia Sullivent, Samuel Bird and Owen Zitek. Photo by Bamboo Booth.

    Sixth grader in The Who's Tommy has raised $13,000 to thank cancer doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado for saving friend

    Tristan C Regini QUOTEMEET TRISTAN C. REGINI
    Young Tristan C. Regini, known to Denver Center audiences as Boy Ebenezer in the Theatre Company's most recent A Christmas Carol, is now playing the Youth understudy in The Who’s Tommy. Elsewhere, Tristan performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London with West End Stage, and in Billy Elliot (as Small Boy) at the Vintage Theatre.  

    • Hometown: Denver
    • School: Sixth-grade majoring in Theatre at Denver School of the Arts
    • Twitter-sized bio: Likes to have fun and make new friends any opportunity he can. Entrepreneur who earns money through odd jobs such as shoveling snow and gardening work. Has a passion for live theatre and entertaining people. Desire to be on stage is infinite.
    • Website? tristansworkshop.com
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be a chef, because I like to cook.
    • Bucket-list role: Alexander Hamilton or King George in Hamilton
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Hamilton was a great show, and it makes me want to do lots more theatre. Every song inspired me.
    • One role where you were completely miscast: I played a Boll weevil beetle in Bugs. ... I’m more of a Yellow Jacket!
    • One thing we might not  know about you: I’ve raised more than $13,000 for Children’s Hospital Colorado. I’m still raising money to help thank the doctors for saving my friend's life from brain cancer. ... Also, I wrote and edited a kids newspaper last summer called “The Wash Park Kid Times.” You can check out these things on my website.

    • What's playing on your Spotify? Imagine Dragons
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? Have shows where kids can come up on stage if they are chosen, and want to.
    • Tristan C Regini Sam Gregory A Christmas Carol Photo by Adams VisComWhat is The Who's Tommy about? It's a musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff based on The Who's classic 1969 rock opera. Tommy retreats from the world after a traumatic incident, but a newfound talent for pinball introduces him to fame and fortune.
    • Why does The Who's Tommy matter? Because it tells people that even if you have disabilities, you can thrive in life.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing The Who's Tommy? To appreciate life and everything in it.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I wish I had political power, because there are horrible things happening in the world, and I wish I could stop them.

    (Pictured above and right: Tristan C Regini as Young Ebenezer with Sam Gregory in 2017's 'A Christmas Carol.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy:
    Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
    The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.

    • Corbin Payne of 'The Who's Tommy' on the future state of your eardrums

      by John Moore | May 23, 2018
      corbin_payne The Who's Tommy


      'Theatre is a place to stand up for what’s right, and change what’s wrong,' says Colorado native making DCPA debut.

      Corbin Payne Dogfight Ignite TheatreMEET CORBIN PAYNE
      Colorado Springs native Corbin Payne is making his DCPA Theatre Company debut as a male swing in The Who’s Tommy. In musical theatre, a swing is a member of the company who understudies several roles. Regional credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Arvada Center, Baby in Little Theatre of the Rockies in Greeley, Fun Home for the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins, and Dogfight for Denver's former Ignite Theatre (pictured at right)

      • Hometown: Colorado Springs
      • Home now: Greeley
      • Training: I have a B.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley (Go, Bears!)
      • What's your handle? @pint_0_corbin on Instagram
      • Corbin Payne. DCPA The Who's Tommy Photo by Bamboo BoothTwitter-sized bio: Singer, actor, Colorado native. Lover of craft beer, '80s guitar riffs and "Star Wars." Currently living in Greeley, and yes, it does smell like cows 90 percent of the time. Second passion is writing music. Lost without guitar and piano. Vegetarian and avid couch potato. Addicted to french fries. Loves hiking. (I grew up a few miles from Garden of the Gods how could I not?
      • Website: corbinpayne.com
      • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be a choir teacher. I grew up singing, became addicted to choir, and spent the majority of my high-school days in rehearsal for concerts. I was really quite torn between teaching and performing while I was auditioning for colleges across the country. I love teaching, enjoy kids for the most part, and celebrate the idea of spreading music to all corners of the globe. (Photo above: Opening night of The Who's Tommy by Bamboo Booth.)
      • Bucket-list role: Roger in Rent
      • What's playing on your Spotify? Logic. He is an incredible lyricist and has such an incredible message to share with the world. He can rhyme, his flow is insane and he just sounds like a cool dude.
      • DEH-Mike-Faist-Ben-Platt-0104-Photo-Credit-Matthew-MurphyOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Watching Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway (pictured right). It was the most phenomenal performance I have ever seen. Every second I watched was a lesson to be learned and it was truly beautiful.
      • One thing most people don't know about you: I hate throwing things away. Secretly I’m a hoarder. I keep every note, card and gift I am given. I love holding onto memories. But I’m neat about it. Everything has its place, and everything has a purpose. Reflecting on the past is one of my past times.
      • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? The next generation of theatregoers needs constant examples of inclusivity and diversity. No one should ever be left out, feel alone or be alienated because of race, gender or disability. Theatre is a place to stand up for what’s right, and change what’s wrong. The more we spread that message, the more success the next generation will have.
      • What is The Who's Tommy about? It's a musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff based on The Who's classic 1969 rock opera. Tommy retreats from the world after a traumatic incident, but a newfound talent for pinball introduces him to fame and fortune.
      • Why does The Who's Tommy matter? Because it is a story of reflection. It’s dissecting the past by journeying into it, and seeing how such small events can define or change who you are. All too often, we as humans forget about where we came from and focus on tomorrow, instead of living in the now by remembering where we came from, and using that to see the miracles of today.
      • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing The Who's Tommy? I hope audiences just get to rock out. No one should leave with both eardrums intact. If this cast doesn’t send you out the door ready to re-live the days of rock 'n roll, you need to check your heartbeat.
      • What do you want to get off your chest? Stop eating meat. Invest in public transportation, clean energy and education. Preserve this planet for generations to come instead of being selfish!

      Corbin Payne in Spring Awakening for the University of Northern ColoradoCorbin Payne in 'Spring Awakening' for the University of Northern Colorado.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


      The Who's Tommy:
      Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
      Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

      The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
      The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.

    • Owen Zitek on standing up for those who are thought of as lesser

      by John Moore | May 16, 2018
      Charl Brown as Captain Walker and Owen Zitek as Young in the DCPA Theatre Company's The Who's Tommy. Photo by Adams VisCom.
      Charl Brown as Captain Walker and Owen Zitek as Young Tommy in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      After three seasons of A Christmas Carol, the kid comes into his own as young Pinball Wizard in The Who's Tommy 

      Owen Zitek QuoteMEET OWEN ZITEK
      Owen Zitek, a 6th-grader at Falcon Creek Middle School in Aurora, plays Youth Tommy (age 10) in The Who’s Tommy. He has been in the Theatre Company's past three stagings of A Christmas Carol, Other Theatres: The Hobbit (Aurora Fox Theatre), Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan (Classic Acts). Film: Deal, 12th, Halves & Quarter. Training: DCPA Education, Colorado School of Acting.

      • Hometown: Aurora
      • School: Falcon Creek Middle School
      • What's your handle? @OwenZitek on Twitter
      • Twitter-sized bio: 6th-grader who loves acting, reading, running, singing, drawing, playing games with family, camping, climbing 14ers and snowboarding
      • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would probably be a singer or an Olympic track runner.
      • Bucket-list role: Any role in Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago or Hamilton.
      • One role you were completely miscast for: In January of 2017 I was cast as Michael Darling in Peter Pan, which I was really excited for except the people who were cast as Wendy and John were only 2 or 3 inches taller than me. So after the play, people came up to me and said, “Are you and John supposed to be twins?” or, “You’re his older brother, right?”
      • elphabaWhat's playing on your Spotify? I am currently listening to the Black Panther soundtrack, SZA, The Greatest Showman soundtrack and, of course, Beyoncé
      • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: The first time I saw Wicked in Denver and Elphaba flew up into the sky during Defying Gravity. Her cape began to enlarge, and it appeared as if she were floating. That moment was inspirational and one of the main reasons I wanted to be an actor.
      • One thing most people don't know about you: I was born in Ethiopia, and I am adopted.
      • Owen Zitek A Christmas Carol 2016. Photo by John MooreOne thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? We, as a cast, should make sure we are making a difference. If we do a stellar job, then audience members might even want to pursue theatre, too.
      • What is The Who's Tommy about? It's a musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff based on The Who's classic 1969 rock opera. Tommy retreats from the world after a traumatic incident, but a newfound talent for pinball introduces him to fame and fortune.
      • Why does The Who's Tommy matter? It shows that everyone is amazing in their own special way no matter what obstacles you face.
      • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing The Who's Tommy? I hope the audience leaves feeling they are special and that they should stand up for those who are seen as lesser in society’s eyes.
      • What do you want to get off your chest? Sometimes I forget left from right.

      Pictured at right: Owen Zitek on opening night of 'A Christmas Carol' 2016. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


      Owen Zitek Photo by John MooreOur Pinball Wizard, Owen Zitek, backstage before the opening performance of the DCPA Theatre's Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. See more here.


      The Who's Tommy:
      Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
      Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

      The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
      The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.

    • Lulu Fall of 'The Who's Tommy' sings national anthem for Colorado Rockies

      by John Moore | May 14, 2018

      Video above provided by Colorado Rockies.

      Watch as 'The Acid Queen' hits a home run at Coors Field singing anthem before a recent Colorado Rockies game 

      Lulu Fall, who plays The Acid Queen in The Who's Tommy, the DCPA Theatre Company’s star-studded stage adaptation of The Who’s 1969 concept album, sang the national anthem at a recent Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field.

      The Who's Tommy is about a boy who retreats into a world of silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and later emerges as a revered pinball wizard celebrity.    Performances continue through May 27 in the Stage Theatre. Video provided by the Colorado Rockies for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Lulu Fall Colorado Rockies The Who's Tommy. Photo by Hope Grandon

      Sound check for Lulu Fall's national anthem for the Colorado Rockies. Photo by Hope Grandon.

      The Who's Tommy:
      Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:

      Video bonus: Lulu Fall sings for The Denver Actors Fund:


      Video of Lulu Fall by Avery Anderson and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Lulu Fall Colorado Rockies Dinger The Who's Tommy Photo by Hope Grandon Lulu Fall with Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger. Photo by Hope Grandon.
    • 'Human Error': In comedy, your pain is our punchline

      by John Moore | May 12, 2018
      HUMAN ERROR ERIC PFEFFINGER QUOTE. Photo by John Moore


      With this new comedy about a botched embryo implant, playwright posits: To err is human ... to laugh divine

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      In the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere comedy Human Error, a young couple goes to what they think is a routine appointment at a fertility clinic only to discover that their fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted into somebody else. 

      So, obviously … it’s a comedy. 

      “You know: Another one of your standard-issue switched-fertilized-embryo farces,” jocular Midwestern playwright Eric Pfeffinger says with a laugh. 

      It’s a funny premise … but you haven’t even gotten to the punchline yet. 

      “So one couple are blue-state, latte-sipping, NPR-listening liberals,” Pfeffinger said. “And the other are NRA-cardholding, pickup-truck-driving, red-state conservatives.” 

      Human Error rehearsal. Photo by John MooreThat’s the punchline: Two couples who, under normal circumstances, would never choose to be in the same room with each other, now will have to spend nine months building some kind of a family — and hopefully not killing each other along the way. 

      As they say in comedy, your pain is another guy’s pleasure. 

      (Rehearsal photo, from left, Kimberly Gilbert, Marissa McGowan and Wayne Kennedy. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 

      Human Error is a comedy about the state of the nation currently and the political polarization we are all grappling with,” Pfeffinger said of his play, which was featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit only a month after Donald Trump’s inauguration. And, well, there’s been a bit more rancor since then.  

      “If anything, Americans’ inclination to isolate ourselves within comfortable ideological silos has only increased,” Pfeffinger said back on an April day when the national headlines were dominated by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress. 

      The bad news is: Political, social and cultural polarization is just a given in America right now.

      “But the good news is: The worse things get, the better it is for my play,” Pfeffinger said with a smile. “So … yay?”

      Geography, technology and social status have made it easy for Americans to isolate themselves from anyone who doesn’t already think the same way they do, Pfeffinger said. That means we are only rarely confronted with contradictory or challenging points of view. But Pfeffinger has the power of the playwright in his fingers: He can put any two people he wants face-to-face on a stage. Or, in this case, he can put any two couples he wants face-to-face in the same bumbling fertility doctor’s office.

      “None of the people in my play know anybody else like the other couple,” Pfeffinger said. “They don’t have to confront the reality of someone who thinks differently until they are thrown together by this clerical mix-up at the clinic.” The play is not so much about the ethics of fertility technology, Pfeffinger says — as dramatic as that can be. “It’s more about the echo chambers we Americans often find ourselves in, and the defense mechanisms we adopt when we are forced to step outside our comfort zones and acknowledge that there are other people in the world who are not just like us.”

      But remember, Pfeffinger said his play is not a Lifetime movie event. He said it was funny. And not nasty, David Mamet kind of funny. “It’s BIG funny,” he said. “When I first heard about this kind of thing actually happening at fertility clinics, my first response was, ‘Oh that sounds like an episode of Three’s Company: “Wait, that’s not your embryo — that’s my embryo!” And … cut to commercial.’

      Human Error draws explicit connections to various kinds of classic comedy, particularly the TV sitcom, which is what I grew up mainlining.”  

      So really, Pfeffinger had no choice but to take a comic approach to the subject. It’s all he knows. 

      Human Error: Five funs things we learned at first rehearsal

      “Everyithing I write is a comedy. That’s how I function,” said Pfeffinger, who has past lives as both an improv comedian and a newspaper cartoonist. “Let’s take this thing that does not seem particularly funny to the people it is happening to and find the humor n it.”

      And after all that prolonged division and unrest in the country, he said, now might be a really good time for us to laugh. 

      “A lot of people embrace comedy as an opportunity to escape from what is stressful about the world,” Pfeffinger said. “I happen to believe that comedy is one of the best ways to confront difficult ideas and to examine and articulate those ideas. Comedy lowers your defenses by making you laugh.” 

      Human Error castPfeffinger has continued to hone the play in the 15 months since the Colorado New Play Summit, in close consultation with director Shelley Butler and dramaturg Sarah Lunnie. But not with the intent of either making the play more overtly funny or politically relevant.

      “Tonally, structurally and thematically, the play is pretty much the same now as it was at the Summit,” he said. “It’s more a matter of helping the play to become more of what it’s already wanting to be. That includes making the funny stuff funnier and the human stuff, uh, human-er.”

      Human Error will become the first Theatre Company season offering ever staged in the Garner Galleria Theatre, which will provide an intimate, cabaret-like atmosphere that will be new for many Theatre Company audiences. 

      “This is a play where the comedy comes from the audience connecting with these very different, very recognizable people,” Pfeffinger said. “I think where the audience and the performers are palpably sharing the same space and breathing the same air, that’s where comedy thrives.”

      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.


      Human Error at Tommy Photo by John Moore
      From left: Kimberly Gilbert, Director Shelley Butler, Playwright Eric Pfeffinger, Joe Coots, and Marissa McGowan of 'Human Error,' at the opening of DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Not pictured: Larry Bates and Wayne Kennedy. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      Human Error: Cast

      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 May 18 through June 24
      • Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    • Andy Mientus: That deaf, dumb and blind kid is anyone who's been marginalized

      by John Moore | May 10, 2018

      Video excerpts from Andy Mientus' conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about playing the title role in 'The Who's Tommy' for the DCPA Theatre Company through May 27.  

      Stage and TV star sees Tommy as a traumatized boy who is 'looking at his life through the wrong end of the telescope'

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      The Who’s Tommy is a rock opera that tells the sad story of a traumatized little boy who's beaten, exploited and molested — and comes out of it a madly adored pop star. But while to some Tommy's operatic ordeal might sound a tad close to a tilt (to use pinball parlance), it all feels very real to actor Andy Mientus.  

      “I think Tommy becomes a stand-in for anybody who feels marginalized in any way — anyone who isn't seen or heard or felt or touched,” said Mientus, who plays the adored and idolized and ultimately discarded Tommy in the DCPA Theatre Company’s acclaimed new production playing through May 27 in The Stage Theatre.

      Sam Buntrock quote. Andy Mientus“When we get to see how that kind of upbringing affects him into adulthood, I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to,” said Mientus, who has starred on Broadway in Spring Awakening and Les Misérables, and had a featured role on NBC’s “Smash.”

      “It's definitely something I can relate to: That feeling of being an ‘other’ in your own community. Feeling you're the one who doesn't quite fit in, or you’re the one people don't see. That definitely speaks to me.”

      Director Sam Buntrock said Mientus fundamentally understands the fame aspect of Tommy’s story from his own experiences with celebrity.

      “I think what Andy brings — and I mean this as the utmost compliment —  is a simplicity and an innocence, but without being childlike,” Buntrock said. “His Tommy is very clear and very charismatic. But also, when Tommy has experienced the effects of being famous, Andy is playing that with an honesty and a brutality that's really, really arresting. And it's real.”

      Mientus has had a remarkable but indirect ascent in his performing career, having risen from a Spring Awakening groupie in Michigan to having a featured role on "Smash."

      “My story really goes to show that there is no set path,” he said with a laugh. (More on that path below.)    

      “As somebody who has been trying to make a living in performing arts for almost 10 years now, yes, it is very true that people are quick to lift an artist up, and quick to forget them and drop them,” he said. “That’s the fickle nature of fame. When finally you are heard and seen by masses of people, it becomes an addiction. It becomes a drug. And it can lead to some really destructive behavior. And then what happens when those people go away? That’s definitely something that I continue to feel.”

      Here are more excerpts from Andy Mientus’ conversation with Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:    

      John Moore: I'm guessing you have one of the most mispronounced names in show business.

      Andy Mientus: I do. Mee-en-tas. It's weird because it's not an actual name from an actual cultural heritage. There are a lot of consonants in our family name, and when my ancestors got to Ellis Island they kind of hacked it in half. So no one knows where to place its origin.

      John Moore: And where does it actually come from?

      Andy Mientus: It’s Polish. So it had lots of Cs, and Zs and other excitement in there. And now … it doesn't.

      John Moore: Tell us when we have seen you before in Denver.

      Andy Mientus: I was here in 2009 doing the first national tour of Spring Awakening at the Buell Theatre. I remember that it was the dead of winter, so I didn't get to see much of Denver. I'm very happy to be back and able to explore.

      Our deeper dive with Director Sam Buntrock

      John Moore: What was it about this show, this production and this director that made you want to come to Denver to do this?

      Andy Mientus: Tommy is definitely a bucket-list show and role for me. I really didn't grow up in a household where we listened to a lot of musicals. But our house was filled with music. There were always classic rock albums playing, soul records, country. So I grew up with “Tommy,” the album. I loved the tunes, and my family loved the tunes. It’s one of the things that bonded us. That’s one reason I’ve always wanted to play the role. But also because this genre of music is more my actual wheelhouse than some of the things I've done in my musical-theatre career. This is the kind of music I like to sing in the shower. So just to get to do the role is really exciting to me. And then, when I saw that Sam Buntrock was directing, I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Being aware of his other work, I just knew this was going to be unlike any production of Tommy I had ever seen before. When you think of Tommy on stage, you think of that iconic Des McAnuff Broadway production: Tommy, the wig, the white costume, the geometric shapes — just the sheer scale of that production. I just  knew that Sam was going to do something completely different. He is, and it's really thrilling.

      (Story continues below the photo.)

      Andy mientus quote. Photo by John Moore.

      John Moore: Recount for us how you went from a Spring Awakening groupie to being on national TV in Smash?

      Andy Mientus:  When I was a theater student, I fell in love with Spring Awakening, and I made a Facebook fan group for the show — back in the days when you could do that. A bunch of my friends had seen it over the summer and we were just buzzing about it, and making that page was just something I did one Saturday. And then a bunch of people started following it. And then one of the producers reached out and said they were exploring using social media, which was a very new concept for a Broadway show at the time. I already had all these Spring Awakening followers, so they said: 'Why don't we just make your page the show page?' And so I became one of the first-ever Social Media Managers for a Broadway show.

      John Moore: Did they know then that you could sing?

      Andy Mientus: They knew that I was a performer. So when (auditions) were coming up for the first national tour, they said, ‘Oh, you should go audition.' There's one in Chicago, and you're in Michigan. It's not that far.’ It actually is kind of far, but I drove there. I waited in line at 5 o’clock in the morning. I still know the guys who stood on either side of me in line — and we are all still in the business. Many callbacks later, and after many more twists and turns, I was cast in the national tour.

      John Moore: That's storybook.

      Video bonus: Andy Mientus sings acoustic 'Sensation'

      Andy Mientus: It was a really big, auspicious first gig to have. And so naturally I thought, ‘OK, you're in the national tour of a Broadway show — so, next you'll be in a Broadway show. And it will just sort of continue from there. And ... that's not how it works. I had some very quiet years when that was done. I was really hitting the pavement, doing little gigs, getting my name out there, playing any concert, working for free, seeing casting directors. But I just could not get cast in a Broadway show. But then I did get cast by NBC for "Smash" — which oddly enough was a show about Broadway. It took being on a TV show about Broadway to get cast, finally, in a Broadway show. That was Les Misérables in 2014. And it's just gotten weirder since then. I mean, there really is no linear path.

      John Moore: It’s crazy to think that one episode of Smash was seen by more people than could probably ever see you perform live on a stage over your whole lifetime.

      Andy Mientus: That’s true.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

      John Moore: Can you relate any of the lessons learned through all of that to your performance now in Tommy?

      Andy Mientus: Oh, gosh, yes. I really relate to the part about Tommy growing up feeling isolated, feeling unseen, feeling unheard — and then suddenly, because of this one weird little talent he possesses, all these people want to be around him. I was so young during the Spring Awakening tour. I was away from home for the first time, and I was going through a really crazy time in my personal life. And suddenly there are all these people looking at you, and you think it's genuine. They've seen you on stage being vulnerable in front of an audience, and they are following what you're doing, and so they think that they know you. But they don't actually know you at all. There's this moment in Tommy where he brings all these people into his home and he thinks, ‘Oh, now I've filled the gap. I have this family.’ And then based on something Sally Simpson says, he quickly realizes that he had it all wrong. They don't really want to be around him — They want to be around the idea of him. That’s something I have encountered, that hunger for attention because of deep personal struggle. Yeah.

      John Moore: So here’s a practical actor question: How does one actually rehearse playing deaf, dumb and blind? Do you put on a blindfold and go, or do you go full-on Daniel Day-Lewis?

      (Story continues below the photo.)

      Tommy. Photo by Adams VisCom
      Andy Mientus and the cast of 'The Who's Tommy' for the DCPA Theatre Company, playing through May 27. Scenic Design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams VisCom.


      Andy Mientus: I really just try to lock into Tommy's inner life. I can relate to what it feels like to be marginalized, so that's what I try to feel when I'm doing all of that. But there is one practical way: I actually have terrible vision if I take my contacts out. So I rehearsed without them for the first few days —  just to really get into that ‘Tommy Stare.’ In my head, I'm thinking that I'm in one of those horror stories where the anesthesia has kicked in just enough for you to be paralyzed and numb, but not enough to be unconscious. Tommy's in there watching it all. It's a bit like the movie Get Out when they go to the Sunken Place. Tommy’s looking at his life through the wrong end of the telescope. He's seeing it all. He’s taking it all in — but he has no control over it. I just try to think about the terror of that and the isolation of that and the sadness of that. And that's a lot to think about — so then it's easy to just go numb and catatonic.

      John Moore: What do you want to say to those people who already are familiar with Tommy, either the album or from seeing a local stage production of The Who's Tommy, and think they may already may know what they are in for when they come to see this show?

      (Pictured below and right: Andy Mientus with the other three actors who portray Tommy for the Denver Center: Samuel Bird, left, and Radley Wright play Tommy at age 4; Owen Zitek, front, plays Tommy at age 10. Photo by Bamboo Booth.)

      Andy Mientus Tommy. Bamboo Booth.Andy Mientus: I think that no matter what experience you bring into our production — whether you're a huge fan of the album or a huge fan of the Des McAnuff Broadway production — I think you are going to be incredibly surprised and, I hope, pleasantly surprised. I think the album fans will be surprised because we are telling a fully realized visual story based on this music that you already know and love. And the film fans will see it all in a way that's different from the movie, which is very much ‘of its time.’ Our version tells a more human story and a more relatable story and a much more realistic story. For all of its fantastical elements, we really have found a way, I think, to make the story feel plausible and realistic. If you were a big fan of the Broadway production, you think scale. You think of a large cast, the dancing, the lights. This is not like that. I feel audiences today are hungry for a more chamber, intimate, authentic experience like Next to Normal or Dear Evan Hansen — shows that really strip everything away and focus on storytelling. Our production's feels a lot more like that. And I think that’s going to let you hear a lot of these lyrics, in a new way.

      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.

      Bonus coverage: Andy Mientus, author of 'The Backstagers and the Ghost Light'

      John Moore: Tell us about your book.

      Andy Mientus: I have been tasked with writing a series of books based on this incredible comic series called The Backstagers and the Ghost Light. The publisher was looking to expand the original eight-comic arc into a series of books for 10- to 14-year-olds. And they hired me to do so. I've never written a novel before, but I've just turned in the first installment, which is called The Backstagers, and it comes out on Sept. 25 from Chronicle Books, which is an imprint of Abrams Books. It's available for pre-order now. And I'm already working on the second one, which am writing while I'm here in Denver. So I think it's going to be influenced by my experiences here, definitely.

      John Moore: What’s it about?

      Andy Mientus: It's about a group of kids who come together and make magic behind the scenes. And I think that's a really important story to tell.

      John Moore: Who is your target audience?

      Andy Mientus: I think the readers for this book are theater kids. It's a book I wish that I had growing up as a theater nerd. Because not only is it about theater and what makes theater cool and fun and exciting, it's about friendship and inclusivity.

      John Moore: What about theatre nerds who are older than 14 … like me?

      Andy Mientus: I've written it to be appropriate and clear for 10- to 14-year-olds. But if you're into any kind of whimsical, sci-fi magic stories that also have jokes about Hello, Dolly! in it, you'll love this. So middle-aged theater nerds shouldn't feel embarrassed to read it.

      Pre-order 'Backstagers and the Ghost Light' now


      The Who's Tommy:
      Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:

      Video: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center

      Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk,

    • Denver Center's 'Hattitude' another feather in the cap for gender equity

      by John Moore | May 08, 2018
      Hattitude. Photo by Libby Nederman 2018

      The 2018 individual 'Hattitude' winners. Pictured above include Deborah Mueller Hruza, Regan Linton, Nathalia Fairbault, Cyndy Marsh, Toni Glynon, Ruby Houston and Diane Foster. Photo by Libby Neder.

      Annual multicultural celebration raises nearly $60,000 in support of raising women's voices in American theatre

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      The DCPA's 13th annual 'Women with Hattitude' luncheon was held Thursday (May 3), in support of the DCPA Theatre Company's ongoing mission to level the playing field for women playwrights and directors.

      The Women’s Voices Fund is a national model that enables the Theatre Company to commission, workshop and produce new plays by women. Now valued at more than $1.5 million, the Women’s Voices Fund is one of the largest funds of any kind devoted to creating new works for the American theatre. Thursday's luncheon was attended by 650 and raised nearly $60,000 for the cause.

      "The Denver Center is promoting women’s voices all across the country and beyond," said DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden. "Gender equality in the American theatre is so important, and what a wonderful opportunity the DCPA has to shine such a bright light on it."

      With more than 130 individual donors, the Women's Voices Fund has become a national model for female-centric theatre fundraising.

      Story continues below the photo gallery:

      Our 2018 'Women with Hattitude' photo gallery:

      2018 HattitudePhotos from the 2018 'Women with Hattitude' luncheon. To see more, press the forward arrow on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. All photos can be downloaded for free. Photos by Libby Neder and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. More photos will be added to this gallery later this week.


      This season, the DCPA Theatre Company presented the world premiere of Lauren Yee's The Great Leap; four of its nine directors were women. DCPA Education's  annual statewide youth playwriting competition produced 10 semifinalist plays this year - and for the second straight year, eight of them were written or co-written women. In July, Julianna Luce and Trinell Samuel of Vista Peak Prep will get a full production of their play Technical Difficulties in the Conservatory Theatre.

      Studies have shown that while women make up nearly 60 percent of all live theatregoing audiences nationwide, only about 25 percent of all plays and musicals staged in America are written by women. In its first 13 years, the Women’s Voices Fund made it possible for the DCPA Theatre Company to produce 33 plays by women, commission 20 female playwrights and hire 31 female directors. Further, the Fund also has contributed to 13 world-premiere plays by women.

      Charlotte Movizzo Hattitude. Photo by John Moore"Today, much of the most exciting, innovative and imaginative writing for the theatre is being created by women," said Christy Montour-Larson, who in 2017 directed the world premiere of Tira Palmquist's Two Degrees. "We believe the Women’s Voices Fund both creates opportunities for some of America’s most exciting artists and leads to the creation of the theatrical classics of tomorrow."

      The 'Hattitude' party always culminates with a whimsical fashion show – each of the 58 tables nominates one woman (or man!) to walk down a runway and show off their hats. This year, University of Northern Colorado musical-theatre student Charlotte Movizzo led the parade while singing “On Your Feet!" from the upcoming touring musical of the same name, which visits Denver from Aug 8-19.

      The DCPA also hosts the annual Bobby G Awards, which celebrate achievements in Colorado high-school theatre. Movizzo is a recent winner of the Bobby G Awards' Outstanding Actress competition.

       

      (Photo continues below the photo.)

      LuLu Fall Hattitude. Photo by John Moore
      Lulu Fall from the DCPA Theatre Company's production of 'The Who's Tommy' at 'Hattitude.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      Broadway actor Lulu Fall, who plays The Acid Queen in the DCPA Theatre Company's crrent production of The Who's Tommy, performed her signature song from the show that continues in the Stage Theatre through May 27.

      "So many people talk about the importance of diversity in theatre and the arts," Fall said, "but a lot of people tend to exclude women when it comes to diversity. Diversity is not just about your skin color or your creed. It's also about gender.

      "I am happy to say that I am slowly starting to see more women on creative teams, and that absolutely, directly influences the work that you are seeing on on stage, on TV,  in film — everywhere.  

      The 'Hattitude' tradition began in 2005. It grew out of the Theatre Company’s presentation of Regina Taylor's Crowns. Her musical play explores black history and identity, using an exquisite variety of hats to tell the shared history and rituals of African-American women, ranging in era from slavery to current fashion.

      Crowns deals with what it meant for a woman to have her head covered, and the statement that it makes,” international dance legend Cleo Parker Robinson said in a previous interview. “In the African tradition, when we wear head wraps, it’s almost a regal thing.”

      More information on the Women’s Voices Fund

      Fall was not surprised to hear the 'Hattitude' tradition grew out of a local production of Crowns. She was in that show herself in 2009.

      "Black women celebrate the importance of wearing hats, especially in the church. We also celebrate individuality and uplifting each other. I mean, look at me: I am a woman, I am African-American, and I embrace my individuality. I love jazz. I love musical theatre. I have red hair. I think us embracing how different we all are, as well as lifting other women up in this male-centric business, is very important."

      Robinson was part of the DCPA's African-American Task Force that created 'Hattitude' in 2005.  “It was very important for us to include all multicultural communities,” said Robinson. The annual 'Hattitude' luncheon, she added, was the perfect opportunity for women of all backgrounds to come together, share lunch and tell stories, while also raising money for the Women’s Voices Fund.

      “This was one way to get out the African-American community. And you know - we sisters love to wear hats,” Robinson said. “Our hats make a cultural statement, and they make an age statement. It about her attitude — and her hattitude.”

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

      'Hattitude' was hosted this year by Denise Plante, a mid-day personality on KOSI 101.1 and host of TV's Colorado and Company on 9News. The Event Chairs were Murri Bishop and Terri Fisher.

      The Platinum Sponsors of 'Hattitude' were Denver Center Alliance; Macy's; and Jack and Adrienne Ruston Fitzgibbons.

      The Gold Sponsors were Mariel, Ray and Denise Bellucci; Margot and Allan Frank; and Mariel Boutique. The Media Sponsor was Reign Magazine.

      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 highlights: Denver Center's 2018 'Women with Hattitude' luncheon

      Video coverage of the 2018 'Women with Hattitude' luncheon by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Just push play.


      Individual hat winners:
      Deborah Mueller Hruza: Vintage Beauty
      Nathalia Fairbault: I Made it Myself
      Cyndy Marsh: Fabulous Fascinator
      Toni Glynon: High Society
      Regan Linton: Wildly Whimsical
      Ruby Houston: Exquisitely Elegant
      Diane Foster: Best Derby Hat
      Note: This year, all hat-wearers were awarded "Best in Show" by judge Judi Wolf

    • Video: 'Native Gardens' asks: 'How do we live together?'

      by John Moore | May 05, 2018

      In the video above, 'Native Gardens’ playwright Karen Zacarías and Director Lisa Portes about the DCPA Theatre Company’s current staging of Zacarías' celebrated comedy Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      How playwright Karen Zacarías' disarming comedy turns a conversation ender into a surprising conversation starter

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      Native Gardens is a play about neighbors. And “it's a border dispute,” as Director Lisa Portes mischievously puts it.

      On one side of the fence, we have Pablo and Tania Del Valle. He is a rich and rising hotshot attorney from Chile. She is a pregnant Chicana doctoral candidate. They have just moved to Washington D.C. and bought a messy fixer-upper. On the other side of the fence, we have Frank and Virginia Butley, an older, established Anglo couple with a pristine home and yard. Virginia is a conservative defense contractor, and Frank is a semi-retired GSA agent who now tends passionately to his pristine English garden.

      The couples are happy to be neighbors — until the young interlopers discover they actually own 2 more feet of backyard land than previously thought. Putting a new fence along the actual property line would mean smashing through Frank's cherished hydrangeas and peonies.

      800 Karen Zacarias. Photo by John MooreAnd from there, “shenanigans ensue,” said Portes.

      “All sorts of shenanigans,” playwright Karen Zacarías echoed.

      Like when the white couple decides their best legal defense in this property dispute is to argue that they have squatters’ rights. Which is funny, but might lead a reader to believe the play is either a serious political metaphor for the current ideological divide in America, or that it is a needling polemic. It is neither, said Zacarías, whose Native Gardens is presently among the 10 most produced plays in the country, with 15 professional stagings staged or scheduled. The DCPA Theatre Company’s production runs through Sunday (May 6).

      “The great joy in writing this play for me was that I wanted to look at the poetry and absurdity of conflict,” Zacarías said. “To do that, I had to take a comedic angle.

      “And I wrote all four of my characters from a place of love and respect.”

      Lisa Portes. Photo by John MooreBecause of that, Portes added, “Not only do you love each of these characters, you love them all the more because you see their foibles. None of them is perfect, and none of them are evil. They're all just like us: Flawed and funny.”

      But in this highly charged, politically divisive time, Portes admits that when you hear words like fence and borders and Latinos, “naturally you think this must be an immigration play,” she said. But it’s not. “I think this play touches on differences. There's class differences, gender differences, differences across ethnicity, differences in philosophy, differences between Republicans and Democrats. There are all kinds of borders in this play that ultimately, by the end of the play, are transcended.

      And from transcendence … comedy blooms.

      mariana-fernandez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_oAside: It’s almost impossible to talk about Native Gardens without invoking shovelfuls of gardening puns, but Zacarías could not be more on point when she says, “Nobody comes out smelling like a rose.” And: “Even though the play does dig in the dirt with some thorny issues, it does it in a disarming way. I think it's kind of this cathartic experience for people to sit and laugh — not at them, but at ourselves. People leave the theater feeling buoyant and hopeful.”  

      (Pictured: Mariana Fernandez and John Ahlin in the Denver Center's 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

      In the end, Portes said, “The play is really asking: ‘How do we live together?’ And I think there's no more important question to be asked at this time. And I think comedy is an invitation. When our souls are opened by laughter, I think we make room to expand ourselves.”

      Native Gardens is Zacarías’ third play at the Denver Center, following world premieres of Mariela in the Desert in 2010 and Just Like Us in 2013.

      Here are more highlighted excerpts from Senior Arts Journalist John Moore’s conversations with Karen Zacarías and Lisa Portes:

      John Moore: Karen, tell us how a dinner party changed the course of your playwriting career.

      Karen Zacarías: Ah, yes. I was at a dinner party, and I was saying to some friends, “Gosh, I don't know what to write about (next).” And so a friend tells me: “Oh, I know what you should write about. I had this fight with my neighbor” — and he went on to describe it in great detail. Then someone else says, “Oh, that's nothing. My parents have been in a seven-year legal battle with their neighbors over a tree.” And then someone else says, "Oh, yeah? Well, someone paved over our driveway!” And we were all just laughing and laughing. But then I realized all of these neighbor stories were a metaphor for human behavior — not just in our country, but all over the world. And I thought maybe I could take an absurdist look at that and have a little fun with the idea.

      Jordan Baker: 'Hard to listen when the message is a brick'

      John Moore: Lisa, tell us how your playwright managed to write a conversation starter as opposed to a conversation ender.

      Lisa Portes: Karen and I believe in theater as a live space in which many different kinds of people can come together and wrestle with the issues of our time. And I think that if you want people to come together, you can't shut anybody out. This play asks these characters to expand their circle, expand their borders and expand their sense of what's possible in the world.

      800 2 Lisa Portes. Photo by John MooreJohn Moore: Talk about the double entendre of the word “Native” in the title.

      Karen Zacarías: There is a movement called “native gardening,” and it's actually pretty strong here in Colorado. The idea is to plant only plants that are original to the landscape of a given area. Native plants take up less water, they're easier to take care of, and they feed bees and bugs in that area. So native planting is lower-maintenance and better for the environment. But some people would say native plants are not as attractive as some of the more European-style gardens like Frank’s, where you might see Japanese Azaleas or plants from all over the world. And so by using the word “Native” in the title, there are a lot of things to unpack: Who was here originally? Who is a transplant? Where is it acceptable for a hybrid garden to exist? It’s a great metaphor for a lot of things that are in the news today.”

      (Pictured: Lisa Portes addressing the opening-night celebration at the Denver Center. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

      John Moore: How do the Gomez Family Landscape Technicians fit into the story?

      Lisa Portes: They are the folks who are actually doing the work while everybody else is arguing over their first-world problems. They are literally changing the landscape as the play unfolds. Karen was telling me that there have been theaters around the country that have wanted to cut those characters, but you can't make this play without them. I think the way all three families come together at the end — the Del Valles, the Butleys and the Gomezes — is Karen’s way of creating the world we want to live in.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

      John Moore: How great is it that actor Gustavo Marquez, who plays a member of the Gomez family, has a day job working in the Denver Center ticket office?

      Lisa Portes: I think it's going to be such a treat for the audience who may have actually bought their ticket from Gustavo to then see him in the play because he brings such beautiful life to the stage. And I'll tell you a little secret: For the pre-show, we wanted music in Spanish having to do with gardens. So, Gustavo sent me three or four lists of songs, and we used them. I owe him special thanks for that.

      John Moore: Karen, I think the most surprising part of your play may be that it has a happy ending.

      Karen: I think everybody is happy that there's a happy ending. The first draft I wrote, the ending was quite different. It was kind of gritty and ended with a gut-punch. But then I sat back and thought, ‘Do I need another gut punch right now?’ And when I asked myself, ‘What does it take to make a happy ending?’ And it’s not that hard. It takes a little understanding, a little compromise, and a lot of listening. And so I decided to go full-throttle and get the happy ending I think we all deserve.

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


      Photo gallery: The making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens'

      Making of 'Native Gardens'Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      Native Gardens: Ticket information
      NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 6
      • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

      Native Gardens cast. Photo by John MooreThe cast of the Denver Center's 'Native Gardens' on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Native Gardens:
      Cast and creatives

      • Written by Karen Zacarías 
      • Directed by Lisa Portes
      • Scenic Designer: Lisa M. Orzolek
      • Costume Designer: Raquel Barreto
      • Lighting Designer: Charles R. MacLeod
      • Sound Designer: Rick Sims
      • Dramaturg: Douglas Langworthy
      • Stage manager: Heidi Echtenkamp
      • Kailey Buttrick: Assistant Stage Manager  

      Cast:

      • John Ahlin (Broadway’s Tony-Award winning revival of Journey’s End) as Frank Butley
      • Jordan Baker (Broadway’s Suddenly, Last Summer, The Normal Heart) as Virginia Butley
      • Mariana Fernández (DCPA’s FADE) as Tania Del Valle
      • Ryan Garbayo (Red Bull Theater’s The Government Inspector Off-Broadway) as Pablo Del Valle.
      • Anthony V. Haro (University of Northern Colorado Opera’s La Cenerentola), Ensemble
      • Brandon Lopez (Lucent Performing Arts’ American Idiot), Ensemble
      • Gustavo Marquez (Colorado Shakespeare Education’s Comedy of Errors), Ensemble
      • Gia Valverde (Su Teatro’s Enrique’s Journey), Ensemble
    • Director Sam Buntrock on 'Tommy' and riding the rock 'n roller coaster

      by John Moore | May 04, 2018


      Our video takes you behind-the-scenes with the making of the DCPA Theatre Company’s 'The Who's Tommy, Interviews include Director Sam Buntrock, star Andy Mientus and choreographer Katie Spelman. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

       

      A deeper drive with the director: What happens when we discover our fallen gods are merely human beings? 

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      The Who’s seminal rock opera Tommy is Pete Townshend's semi-autobiographical story of a kid who was molested, abused, exploited and grows up to be internationally celebrated. And then it becomes a commentary on the fickle nature of pop idolatry, which could be seen as two very different things.

      “Well, it is two different things, but it's the same thing,” said Sam Buntrock, who is directing the DCPA Theatre Company’s vibrant new look at the 1994 Broadway stage adaptation through May 27.  

      “That’s the Amy Winehouse story. We’ve seen it a thousand times, and we’ve seen it end tragically a thousand times. The notion of somebody whose stardom is made through their past, whose unique abilities and charisma and enigma is their past, and the idea of them becoming a star and then falling from grace — it's all the same thing. It’s the vicious cycle of stardom.”   

      In his story, Townshend turns a deaf, dumb and blind kid named Tommy into an iconic — and ironic — hero of a sport that no one actually fan-follows. And just as quickly, he’s yesterday's news.

      “That is why this is such a surprisingly rich piece,” Buntrock said. "He’s talking about how we love to lift up in order to tear down. You see it happen again and again in the British tabloids, almost on a daily basis: A star is either on their way up or being pulled back down again. It's this idea that because we have made their lives news, then every intimate thing about them must be known. And then we find out that they're just people. We find out that they're not gods. We find out that they're just human beings. And then they disappoint us. And that disappointment is the moment the elevator stops to go back down again.”

      Buntrock first came to Denver for the 2012 Colorado New Play Summit that would lead to his direction of Michael Mitnick’s world premiere Ed, Downloaded. He returned in 2016 for an innovative staging of the National Theatre’s Frankenstein, in which the actors playing both God and Monster switched each performance.

      Ed, Downloaded introduced me to the capacity and the ability of the Denver Center as a house for making sensational and world-class theater,” Buntrock said. “And then Frankenstein was essentially making a movie on stage.”

      Here is more of Buntrock’s conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:   

      Sam Buntrock The Who's Tommy. Photo by John Moore.


      John Moore: How did the idea to take a fresh look at The Who's Tommy come about?

      Sam Buntrock: When I was invited to come back and direct Frankenstein, I remember sitting on the steps of The Stage Theater with (former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director) Kent Thompson when he asked me what I wanted to do next. I said “Tommy,” because it was a piece I'd always dreamed of having a chance to do. And I realized that the only place I could do a version with my vision and of this ambition is at a place with the multi-departmental excellence of the Denver Center.

      John Moore: Your cast is smaller than the original Broadway production by half — but I have a feeling your vision is no less grand.

      Sam Buntrock: This one is gargantuan in its own way, but also tiny. I mean, that's the challenge — making an intimate version that's also huge.

      John Moore: You have said that as a theatregoer, you don't particularly like musicals. So is this then a musical for people who don't like musicals?

      Sam Buntrock: I, by default, don't like musicals because musical theater at its worst is a series of conventions unchecked. I've learned over decades of working in the development of musical theater that so much of the conversation is about how we have to do certain things because that's the way it is always done. It's almost like a factory. A production line. I'm drawn to musicals that don't do that. The work of Stephen Sondheim has been incredibly influential on me because he reinvents the form each time he does a show. He looks at what the story needs and he reinvents.

      Our interview with The Who's Tommy star Andy Mientus

      John Moore: How is Tommy an exception to the rule?

      Sam Buntrock: Tommy isn't a musical; it's a collage. It's a song cycle. It's an album written by a man in his early 20s that is a form of self-expression about his childhood. And he is talking about the childhoods of a whole generation of people who experienced the second World War and its repercussions as children. And therefore, it's about the birth of the '60s because those people went on to make the '60s. Pete Townshend is writing about his own personal experience through the filter of a grand metaphor, and somehow that manages to be about all of us. Our childhoods make us the people we are, for good or ill. Every single one of us. Tommy is about how these incredibly damaging things made him who he is — and also happened to make him a star. There's this line when his fan, Sally Simpson, says she wants to be more like him. But all he wants to be is more like them. He just wants not to have had his past. Not to have had those things that made him who he is. But if he doesn't have those things, he stops being the star.

      John Moore: The film version of Tommy was released the same year as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. In some ways, they seem to be the same story.

      Sam Buntrock: Well, Jesus's biggest crime was that he was just a man. That's what made his downfall. People aren't interested in any nuance. I mean, you look at that in the world we live in right now: People would rather just be told the simplified version of the truth and not deal with the fact that things aren't simple. And the moment you start to find out the reality of any human being — that they are contradictory, and that they are flawed, you start to lose sight of the mythology.

      Tommy-home-slide
      Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams VisCom.

      John Moore: In what ways are you changing the framing of the storytelling in your version of Tommy?

      Sam Buntrock: We present the beginning of the story as Tommy's mythology, as what he understands the story of his parents to be. So his father is a god. His father is this entity who created him and left, and never came back. And so when his father does arrive back home, the first thing he does is commit a brutal act of violence. And so the man is flawed and scared and human. And that’s the biggest crime of all — to be human.

      John Moore: What can we know about what Jason Sherwood is up to with the scenic design for this production?

      Sam Buntrock: Well, what isn’t Jason Sherwood up to in this production? This is the most ambitious thing we've ever done together, and we went through more iterations on this than any of our other shows combined because we knew we had to get it just right. It's not a literal space, it is a beautifully conceived abstract space that helps, I hope, the audience to see the whole show through an expressionist lens. This space is fragments and memory. I think he's done something extraordinary. But then again, he always does.

      andy-mientus-as-tommy-photo-by-adamsviscom_26827050207_oJohn Moore: You created some of your own animations for this production.

      Sam Buntrock: Yes, I have a history and an interest in combining projection and animation with live performance. And that was a lot of fun.

      John Moore: What do you want to say about the pedigree of your cast?

      Sam Buntrock: Well, casting for this show was a white-knuckle-ride, but we have collected a cast the caliber of which I couldn't have dreamed of across the board. They do extraordinary things on a vocal level, but they're also really good actors. It's been so rewarding with these actors to unearth all of the emotion and pain and truth inside of what Pete was playing with.

      John Moore: For fans of the film, will there be baked beans?

      Sam Buntrock: Ann-Margret's not here, but there will be baked beans on that stage at some point in the show, yes.

      John Moore: Let’s talk specifically about what Andy Mientus brings to the role of Tommy.

      Sam Buntrock: Andy fundamentally understands what fame is about from his own experiences. All of us in the Broadway community watch people get launched into the stratosphere. We see how people handle it, and some do it better than others. I think what Andy brings — and I mean this as the utmost compliment —  is a simplicity and an innocence, but without being childlike. He's very straightforward in the way he performs. His Tommy is very clear and very, very charismatic. Which he has to be, because he's the person who takes you on the journey. But also, when he’s experienced the effects of being famous, Andy is playing that with an honesty and a brutality that's really, really arresting. And it's real.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

      John Moore: You show more of young Tommy throughout than any previous staging of the show.

      Sam Buntrock: In this production, we meet the 4-year old at the very beginning of the show, and he takes us through his understanding of who he is and how he came to be. It's his story. The parents are incredibly important, but it's not their story; it's his story. Their story is only there because it makes his story.

      John Moore: What made you think you could take two 4-year-old kids off the street to share the role and know they could handle so much responsibility?

      Sam Buntrock. Photo by John MooreSam Buntrock: It was hairy initially, because first we had to find these kids who could really carry the show. And that was important to me because I think there's nothing like seeing a real 4-year old on stage to understand who Tommy was when all of this happened to him. To connect that frailty and vulnerability. Having any child on the stage is inherently fragile because you don't know what's going to happen next. And when Samuel Bird and Radley Wright are on the stage, it's incredibly fragile. As an audience member, you see a child on the stage and you wonder, ‘Well, how is it going to run?’ For me, the most unsatisfying part of seeing this show in the past has been that we only meet the 4-year old Tommy for about 90 seconds before the moment of violence that changes the course of his life. Everything that is his childhood gets internalized, and he goes into his stasis. And he’s gone. Now, if we've only seen that for 90 seconds, it's impactful, but it's not profound. If we see the whole story through his eyes, through his imagination, through his exuberance and innocence and hope, then the moment it gets internalized, I think that's a stomach punch.

      John Moore: What do you want to say to people who might be on the fence about coming to see a rock opera about a traumatized and exploited pinball wizard?

      Sam Buntrock: I've been approaching this show like Shakespeare. My goal is presenting a story that is clear on a visual level. This is a piece that has required every skill set; every part of what I can do and want to do. I believe that we are presenting this in a fresh way, in a very authentic way, that I hope has strong emotional resonance. But it also is really bloody entertaining, you know? This is rock and roll — and it goes up to 11.

      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: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

      Your first video look in video at scenes from the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'The Who's Tommy.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


      The Who's Tommy
      : Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
      Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

      The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
      The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27.To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.
    • The Who's Tommy: Opening night photos and celebration

      by John Moore | May 02, 2018
      Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

      The making of 'The Who's Tommy'

      The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27, including behind-the-scenes photos backstage and the celebration afterward in the Seawell Ballroom.

      To see more images, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of downloadable photos. All photos may be downloaded and shared with credit: Photo booth images by Bamboo Booth. All other opening-night photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      The Who's Tommy, based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, runs through May 27 in The Stage Theatre.

      Tommy Opening. Photo by John Moore
      That’s Radley Wright, who plays 4-year-old Tommy, off playing pinball while the openong-night party was going on in the Seawell Ballroom upstairs. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 
       
      Cast list:
      • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
      • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
      • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
      • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
      • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
      • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/EnsembleDCPA_TheWhosTommy-800 Bamboo Booth
      • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
      • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
      • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
      • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
      • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
      • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
      • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
      • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
      • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
      • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
      • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
      • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
      • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright share the role of Young Tommy at age 4

      (Pictured above and right, our four Tommys: Andy Mientus holding Radley Wright (left) and Samuel Bird. Owen Zitek in front. Photo by Bamboo Booth.) 

      Creatives:

      • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
      • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
      • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
      • Directed by Sam Buntrock
      • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
      • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
      • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
      • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
      • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
      • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
      • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
      • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
      • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
      • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
      • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales

      Video: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

      Your first video look in video at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'The Who's Tommy.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


      Photos: Your first look at the production photos:

      The Who's Tommy The first production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


      The Who's Tommy
      : Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    • 'Human Error': Comedy won't draw a red or blue line in the sand

      by John Moore | Apr 30, 2018
      Making of 'Human Error'

      Photos from the making of 'Human Error in Denver. Above, from left: Joe Coots, Marissa McGowan, Larry Bates, Kimberly Gilbert and Wayne Kennedy at the first day of rehearsal for 'Human Error,' which has its first performance on May 18. 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. 

      Director promises the only harm that may come from watching this world-premiere comedy is a busted gut

      By John Moore
      Senor Arts Journalist

      Rehearsals have begun for the DCPA Theatre Company's season-ending, world-premiere comedy Human Error, about what happens when you put two completely opposite young couples together with only one thing in common: A bumbling fertility doctor who has mistakenly implanted a fertilized embryo from one woman into the uterus of the other.

      You know: "Another one of your standard-issue switched-fertilized-embryo farces,” Ohio playwright Eric Pfeffinger said with a laugh.

      Human Error Shelley Butler Photo by John Moore One couple are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberal; the other NRA-card-holding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. The conflict between them will be recognizable to anyone presently breathing in America. Keenan and Madelyn are mixed-race liberals. Jim and Heather are affluent Christians who love God, guns and having babies. Have them share an egg, and hilarity ensues. (If the response of those audiences who first saw the play as a reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit are to be believed.)

      But in this highly polarized time in America, Director Shelley Butler and her team are determined to keep the play from becoming no more injurious to anyone watching than perhaps a busted gut.

      "You could approach this staging with a really obvious red-and-blue set design, and go hard on the red-and-blue lighting, but we really endeavored not to do that," Butler said.

      "When Eric and I met three years ago, the political and cultural divide in our country had been building for decades — but I don't think either one of us knew that in 2018, his play would be more applicable than ever. Part of what I responded to in the play then is that Eric didn't approach any of these characters as caricatures. He really embraced the humanity in all of them. This play is unapologetically a comedy, but we are not setting any of these people up for ridicule." 

      Here are five more things we learned at first rehearsal: 

      NUMBER 1Get thee to the Galleria. Human Error will be 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. This unlikely venue for a play will provide an intimate, cabaret-like atmosphere that will be new for many Theatre Company subscribers. "We put in in the Galleria Theatre because it has that inherent feel of being compact and very personal," Theatre Company Associate Producer Grady Soapes said. Added Butler: "It really feeds into our populist approach to this production."

      NUMBER 2

      Border war! The play is set in Sylvania, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo whose northern border is the southern border of Michigan. Keenan and Madelyn live in Michigan, while Jim and Heather live on Sylvania. Anyone who knows that part of the Midwest also knows the antagonism between those two states is real. A lot of it has to do with perhaps the greatest rivalry in all of college sports, between the Ohio State and the University of Michigan football teams, but tere is an ideological divide as well. Human Error Sound Designer Jason Ducat knows of this all too well, having grown up in the border town of Bowling Green, Ohio, which is probably what the coiner of the term "spitting distance" had in mind. "We don't feel too highly about that state to the north," said Ducat, who couldn't even bring himself to say "Michigan."  

      NUMBER 3

      Book of Will Kimberly Gilbert Round House TheatreKennedy is back. Local audiences will be quick to recognize Wayne Kennedy in the role of the bumbling fertility doctor. Kennedy, who was a featured performer in Off-Center's recent immersive staging of The Wild Party, has been a familiar face on the BDT Stage in Boulder for 27 years, and he won all the awards for his portrayal of Tateh in productions of Ragtime at the Arvada Center and BDT Stage. The actors playing the two couples are mostly new to Denver. Big Joe Coots, who was a meanie in the national touring production of Kinky Boots, participated in a five-part video series for the DCPA NewsCenter while he was here. It was called "Kinky Qs," and in it, Coots tackled meaningful questions like, "Have you ever been bullied?" (His answer may surprise you.) Marissa McGowan toured through Denver with Les Miserables. Kimberly Gilbert was not in the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere staging of The Book of Will — however, she did play Elizabeth Condell in the Round House Theatre's recent production in Bethesda, Md. (Photo above by Kaley Etzkorn.)  Larry Bates played Martin Luther King in South Coast Repertory's All the Way.   

      Read more: Our complete interview with the playwright

      NUMBER 4

      Director's roots. You may remember Director Shelley Butler from the Theatre Company's 2013 staging of Catherine Trieschmann's The Most Deserving, a world-premiere comedy about amateur art and amateur politics in a tiny West Kansas town. Butler already has her return trip to to Denver booked: She will be directing W. Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife from Sept. 21-Oct. 21 in the Space Theatre.

      NUMBER 5 We're only human-er: Pfeffinger has continued to hone his play in the 15 months since the Colorado New Play Summit, in close consultation with Butler and dramaturg Sarah Lunnie. But not with the intent of either making the play more overtly funny or politically relevant. “Tonally, structurally and thematically, the play is pretty much the same now it was at the Summit,” he said. “It's more a matter of helping the play to become more of what it's already wanting to be. That includes making the funny stuff funnier and the human stuff, uh, human-er.”

      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.


      Human Error at Tommy Photo by John Moore
      From left: Kimberly Gilbert, Diretor Shelley Butler, Playwright Eric Pfeffinger, Joe Coots, and Marissa McGowan of 'Human Error,' at the opening of DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Who's Tommy' last Friday. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      Human Error: Cast:

      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 May 18 through June 24
      • Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    • Photos, audio: Broadway's Alex Brightman sings praises of 'Tommy'

      by John Moore | Apr 29, 2018

      Here is a short audio excerpt from singing the beloved "My Fair Lady" ballad "On the Street Where You Live" — as a serial killer. Audio by John Moore.

      At the Aurora Fox, Tony-nominated star of School of Rock, says it all began at 8 watching Michael Cerveris as Tommy

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      Safe to say, if Alex Brightman doesn't see the Broadway production of The Who's Tommy when he was 8 years old, he does not go on to become a Broadway star, and he does not headline the Aurora Fox's annual gala last week.

      "That is literally my favorite show of all time," Brightman told the DCPA NewsCenter last Saturday before delivering a 50-minute musical set for an audience celebrating the announcement of the Aurora Fox's upcoming 34th season. And, appropriately enough, the event raised about $34,000 for the cause.

      Alex Brightman Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore. Down the road, the DCPA Theatre Company was just beginning preview performances for a now-open staging of The Who's Tommy, and it was killing Brightman that he would not have the chance to see it.

      Brightman, 31, loved The Who growing up in California. "But then I saw Michael Cerveris blow the roof down on Broadway in 1995, and that is legitimately what started me in musical theatre," he said. "I was saying to myself, 'Wait a minute. That can be a thing? That's what I want to do.'”

      Brightman was well-aware of the new Denver Center production directed by Sam Buntrock, designed by Jason Sherwood and starring Andy Mientus. "It looks amazing,” he said. “I saw one screenshot of that set and I said, 'This is glorious.' Plus, I love Andy.”

       

      Aurora Fox ushers in new era with Caroline, Or Change

      Brightman, who was nominated for a Tony Award for originating the role of Dewey Finn in the Broadway adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock and will return to Broadway this fall starring in an as-yet unannounced new musical, knows how lucky he is. He tells a great story about how he got his first agent off a recommendation from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who dropped a dime after randomly seeing Brightman perform in a show. He is featured on two songs of a massive new, four-CD collection of Lloyd Webber songs along with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Lana Del Rey and Madonna.

      “And now I'm friends with Michael Cerveris,” he said. “We just sang together at a concert. I told him, ‘I was at the stage door for Tommy when I was 8 years old, and you shook my hand and said, “Thanks for coming to my show.” And now here we are onstage together.’ And he told me, ‘I'm not kidding you: ‘I want to be Alex Brightman when I grow up.' And I choked up. I couldn't believe it.”

      Graduating from School of Rock

      Brightman, whose Broadway credits also include Wicked, Matilda the Musical and Big Fish, has crossed paths with all sorts of Colorado-connected Broadway actors. In School of Rock, he starred opposite Sierra Boggess, who graduated from George Washington High School before the Denver-born The Little Mermaid launched her to international stardom (Love Never Dies, The Phantom of the Opera.) “I love Sierra,” Brightman said. “She is one of the coolest people of all time. And she is coming to my wedding next month.”

      The first national touring production of School of Rock visits the Buell Theatre from May 29-June 10, with Rob Colletti starring in the role Brightman originated on Broadway. “I know the dude, and he's fabulous,” Brightman said. “He’s a great amalgam of a lot of the guys who came before him.”

      (Story continues below the photo gallery.)

      Photo gallery: Aurora Fox gallery and Alex Brightman headlining concert:

      Aurora Fox Gala with Alex Brightman

      Photos from the Aurora Fox's 2018 season-announcement gala on April 21, and Alex Brightman's headlining concert. To see more, click on the photo above to be taken to our full, downloadable Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Based on the hit Jack Black film, School of Rock follows a wannabe rock star who turns a class of straight-A students into grade-A rockers. The show features all new songs from Lloyd Webber, and is the first on Broadway to ever feature a live kids rock band.

      School of Rock is a pure family show,” Brightman said. “That doesn't mean it’s all smiles and rainbows. But everyone who is age 8 to 80 can find something in it — and thankfully, we have good source material that everybody loves.” 

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

      Brightman still calls Lloyd Webber “The Boss,” and he still laughs about the coincidence of his having the same last name as British songbird Sarah Brightman, who was Lloyd Webber's wife from 1984 to 1990. "We were in a Page 6 article!" Brightman said of the New York Post’s gossip page. "People were sniffing around thinking I might be the hidden love child of Sarah Brightman and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I do fit the timeline. I totally could be. Maybe I am!

      He's not. Not even close. Alex Brightman (no relation, repeat: no relation) was born in 1987 to an American mother also named Brightman in Saratoga, Calif., who worked at a dialysis clinic. Still, Brightman and “The Boss” have enjoyed toying with the press' fascination with the name.

      "When Andrew officially announced me for Broadway, it was a full press event the Grammercy Theatre. He said: ‘Not only am I thrilled to say that Alex Brightman will be leading our show on Broadway, I am doubly exited to say that I have no intention whatsoever of marrying him!’ I was backstage freaking out because the whole thing was just so insane." 

      From Sweeney Todd to 'Sweet Baby James'

      Brightman was asked to headline the Aurora Fox gala by new Executive Producer Helen R. Murray, who previously directed him in a one-man play called How I Paid for College at The Hub Theatre in Virginia. “Helen is a great hire for this theatre,” he said. “There is just something about her being in the room that makes everybody else want to step up and make things happen.”

      Passing Strange. Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore. Brightman began his set by urging everyone in attendance to come back for the theatre’s current production of Passing Strange, running through May 13. He had seen the show the night before.

      “I loved the show on Broadway and was so thrilled to watch it re-created here in such a way that was different and interesting,” he said. “If you haven't seen it, you need to re-prioritize your entire schedule just to see it."

      (Pictured, from left: 'Passing Strange' Director Nick Sugar with actors Joseph Lamar, Shane Franklin, Katherine Paynter, Randy Chalmers and Sheryl McCallum. Not pictured: Trent Armand Kendall and Faith  Angelise Goins-Simmons. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

      Aurora Fox leaders Beau Bisson and Helen R. MurrayHe then launched into an eclectic set of mostly contemporary musical-theatre songs and pop standards that all had one thing in common. “These are songs that I like singing in the shower,” he said. “Tonight, I'm just clothed.”

      Familiar tunes included Billy Joel's “I Love You Just the Way You Are” and James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” along with Broadway standards “Johanna” from Sweeney Todd and “I Don't Care Much" from Cabaret. But mostly Brightman introduced the audience to up-and-coming young off-Broadway songwriters he likes.
      (Pictured: Aurora Fox leaders Beau Bisson and Helen R. Murray.)

      The arguable highlight of the night was Brightman singing the beloved My Fair Lady ballad "On the Street Where You Live" — as a serial killer. He credited the idea to one of his vocal students. “When you think about it, you don't even have to change any of the lyrics,” he said. (Click here to hear a short audio excerpt.)

      John Moore's original report on closing of Glory Days

      Brightman spoke of his humbling, sorta Broadway debut in the ill-fated Glory Days, which in 2008 became the first Broadway musical in decades to open and close on the same day. The cast included Denver's Jesse JP Johnson, who did make his Broadway debut by virtue of 17 previews and an opening (and closing) performance. Brightman was the swing, so he never actually got to step on the stage. But things turned out OK for both of them — they both landed in Wicked, and away they went.

      Brightman ended the evening by thanking the audience for indulging him in what he calls his compulsion to perform.

      “This is all I have ever wanted do since as I was 8 years old, so thank you,” he said.

      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.


      Set list: Alex Brightman performs at the Aurora Fox

      • "Scratch-Off" (about a guy who bought a lottery ticket)
      • "Johanna," from Sweeney Todd
      • "Hey Man, This Place is Beautiful"* (about a friend who moves to Alaska)
      • "Nothing New to Do in Brooklyn Anymore"*
      • "Just the Way You Are," by Billy Joel
      • "Perfect, finite," by Chris Miller, from the 2005 song cycle Songs from an Unmade Bed
      • "After All" from the Broadway musical Glory Day
      • "Lost Horizon" from the Michael Friedman musical Gone Missing
      • "On the Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady
      • "C Major " by Adam Gwon
      • "I Don't Care Much," from Cabaret
      • "A Little Bit" from Crazy, Just Like Me, by Drew Gasparini
      • "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor

      *Unconfirmed titles

      Aurora Fox 2018-19 mainstage season at a glance

      • Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2018: Songs for a New World
      • Oct. 31, 2018: Killer Wigs from Outer Space
      • Nov. 23-Dec. 23, 2018: Twist Your Dickens
      • Jan. 18-Feb. 10, 2019: Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies
      • Feb. 22-March 17, 2019: Life Sucks
      • March 8 - March 24, 2019: The Happiest Place on Earth
      • April 5-May 12, 2019: Caroline or Change
      Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore.

      The Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore.

      Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Aurora Fox:
      Aurora Fox ushers in daring new era with Caroline, Or Change
      Passing Strange: Sheryl McCallum on the search for something more real than real
      April theatre openings: Don't pass on Passing Strange
      Colorado Fall Theatre Preview. Aurora Fox presents Hi-Hat Hattie
      Colorado Fall Theatre Preview: Aurora Fox presents Company
      Aurora Fox amping up musicals, diversity in 2017-18
      Charles Packard leaving Aurora Fox after 19 years


    • 2018 DPS Shakespeare Festival turns into a celebration of teachers

      by John Moore | Apr 28, 2018

      Our NewsCenter video recap of the 2018 DPS Shakespeare Festival. "What I like is that any person can play any character," said Wedase Gezahagi of Denver Green School.  Photo gallery below. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Despite rally at the state Capitol, most teachers wouldn't have missed seeing culmination of students' hard work

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      To be or not to be … red. That was not even a question on Friday.

      The 34th Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival took on the feel of recent downtown protest marches in support of women and gun control — only in this case, most of the marchers were dressed in colorful Elizabethan garb as queens, clowns, swordsmen and ghosts. But the prevailing color of the day was assuredly red, in support of thousands of Colorado teachers who were gathering down the road at the state Capitol building for a second day of rallies calling for better pay and more school funding.

      2018 Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore. “Red for Ed” and “Kids First” were common chants along the short opening parade from the 16th Street Mall to the Denver Performing Arts Complex, where an estimated 3,400 students from kindergarten through high school performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on 18 indoor and outdoor stages. An estimated 5,000 attended.

      Protest signs were prevalent, such as, “I would rather be in a funded classroom,” and, “Out, damned TABOR. Out, I say.” That’s both a takeoff on Lady Macbeth’s famous “Out, damned spot” speech, and a dig at a state constitutional amendment that severely limits Colorado’s spending — and has been blamed for the state’s dismal ranking as 47th in educational spending.

      For decades, the nation's largest annual student Shakespeare Festival has been a celebration of both students and the man considered to be the greatest writer in the English language. But on Friday, the festival turned into a joyous and organic exaltation of teachers.

      “Today is absolutely a celebration of teachers,” said Denver Center President and CEO Janice Sinden. “Thousands of teachers across Denver Public Schools give every minute of every day to their students, and this is an opportunity celebrate their contributions to our educational system.”

      The call for Colorado teachers to rally at the state capitol on Friday came down only last week. But DPS have been preparing their students for the hard work of Friday’s fun back since the semester began in January. Missing it, said Highline Academy teacher Rachel VanScoy, “would have been horrible,” she said.

      “What's happening at the state Capitol is important, but what is happening here is important, too. We have a lot of good people representing us at the rally, but I wanted to be here to see what my kids have worked so hard to accomplish.”

      Read more: Our list of Shakespeare's Top 10 teenagers

      Studies have shown that studying and performing Shakespeare improves students’ reading skills, vocabulary, critical thinking, public speaking, confidence, self-esteem and even empathy. VanScoy said her students got even more out of it on Friday. “Well, they got a little bit of stage fright,” she said with a laugh. “But they also got a sense of accomplishment. … And they get turkey legs and cotton candy.”

      All in all, a pretty great day.

      (Story continues below the photo.)

      2018 Shakespeare Festival. Travis Ostrum. Photo by John Moore.
      Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      Travis Ostrom, a fourth-grade reading and writing teacher at Denver Green School, said Friday was easily the highlight of his school year. “The sense of pride and love that I have for my students has never shined stronger than when I got to see them perform,” he said. “I support everything that is going on down at the Capitol, and I will join them later today. But there was no way I was going to miss this for anything. This is my special time with my students.”

      2018 Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John MooreDPS officials said only two schools pulled out of the Shakespeare Festival because of Friday’s teacher walkout.

      Denver School of the Arts theatre teacher Shawn Hann said she thought about going to the Capitol on Friday “for a split second,” she said. “But we have 177 students in this program, and so there was no question about it. I had to be here. This is about being the biggest advocate we can be for theatre in Denver Public Schools.”

      The DPS Shakespeare Festival, founded in 1984 by the legendary teacher Joe Craft, is presented by the Denver Public Schools in partnership with the city of Denver, the Denver Public Schools Foundation and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

      Sinden delivered opening remarks wearing a gown that was used by the actor playing Juliet’s attendant in the DCPA Theatre Company’s 2013 production of Romeo and Juliet.

      “My favorite part of the day was walking across the street this morning and a swarm of children ran to greet me asking me who I was dressed as,” Sinden said. “Another highlight was seeing a little group of boys wearing mafia outfits as Shakespeare’s Kingsmen. “They all have their own interpretation of what Shakespeare is.”

      Priya Burkett, Chair-Elect of the DPS Foundation Board of Directors, said "the Foundation believes our city is strengthened by each student who graduates and leads a successful life, and we see this Shakespeare Festival as a key component for learning about literature, culture and creative expression."

      Gabriella Cavallero and Leslie O’Carroll, both longtime actors for the DCPA Theatre Company, each have daughters who performed on Friday. Cavallero’s daughter, Ariana Lavezza, is a first-timer because only fifth graders at Park Hill Elementary School participate in the festival. Lavezza said she loved the chance to perform because it is a chance for her to be like her mom, who won a 2016 True West Award and most recently appeared in the Aurora Fox’s staging of Real Women Have Curves.

      O’Carroll, best known for playing Mrs. Fezziwig in the Denver Center’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, has watched her daughter Olivia Wilson grow — and grow up — through her six years at the DPS festival. On Friday, she could hardly believe how grown up her daughter has become as she engaged in a rather intense sparring match playing Anne opposite the wicked Richard III.

      (Story continues after the photo gallery below.)

      Photo gallery: The day in pictures:

      2018 DPS Shakespeare Festival
      Photo gallery: Our best images from the 2018 DPS Shakespeare Festival. To see more, click on the photo above to be taken to our full, downloadable Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      “When I was little, going to the DPS Festival was all about wearing costumes and being around the big kids,” said Wilson, a ninth-grader at Denver School of the Arts. “As I have gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate Shakespeare's language, and I have learned so much about acting because Shakespeare basically tells you exactly how to play the scene.”

      Ostrom, who was bringing his Denver Green School students to the DPS festival for the first time, said the semester-long Shakespeare project gave them a real sense of purpose. “That’s the best type of education,” he said, “when your students are completely engaged, and fully invested in an assignment."

      Watch our Facebook Live stream of the 2018 parade

      Each year, DPS students submit essays for the privilege to play William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I in the welcoming ceremonies, and ride at the head of the parade. This year’s honorees were Daniel McCorquodale, a senior at Denver Center for International Studies, and Denver School of the Arts senior Emily Embleton.

      2018 Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore“It’s such an honor for me because this is the biggest student-run Shakespeare festival in the country, and theatre arts are so important,” Embleton said. “I am so honored to help facilitate the opportunity for all of these young people to be here doing theatre. It’s amazing."

      McCorquodale was treated like a rock star wherever he went, often stopping to talk with groups of young student performers.  

      “This is just tremendous,” he said. "I am so glad to be part of something as wonderful as this, in a city as wonderful as Denver is, and to just be having a good time with all these lovely theatre kids.”

      Friday’s program included a performance by DCPA Education’s “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” ensemble — a group of six professional teaching artists who presented a shortened, 45-minute version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This semester, the group has traveled to 52 schools and logged 132 performances of Midsummer and Romeo and Juliet, followed by classroom workshops that connect the themes of the plays with  issues relevant to contemporary students. The group will perform at 1 and 3 p.m. today (Saturday, April 28) at 1610 Little Raven St., just north of 15th Street. The public is welcome.

      Shakespeare keeps on truckin' in high-school parking lots

      “When schools might not have the opportunity to come downtown and see a matinee, we are so excited to bring Shakespeare to them,” said DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous. “We also think it’s just so important for Shakespeare to be a part of the core curriculum in schools across Denver, and so to have ‘Shakespeare in the Parking Lot’ perform as part of this festival just connects with that mission. And when the kids see our teaching artists performing at the highest level, it shows them that Shakespeare is still very relevant, that it is accessible and that his stories are just incredible.Charlie Korman as Romeo

      “And to be able to watch these professional actors perform Shakespeare, that gives them something to shoot for themselves.”

      Friday was a busy day at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Three young members of the DCPA Theatre Company's production of The Who's Tommy attend Denver Public School and performed in the fest before Friday evening's opening of The Who's rock opera: Charlie Korman (pictured as right Romeo), Olivia Sullivent and Tristan C. Regini. The national touring production of Disney's Aladdin also performed a matinee that attracted nearly 3,000 to the Buell Theatre during the festival.

      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.


      2018 Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore
      The 2018 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore.

      Our coverage of the DPS Shakespeare Festival through the years
      Our 2017 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage
      Our 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage
      Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage
      Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    • Video: Your first look at 'The Who's Tommy' at the Denver Center

      by John Moore | Apr 27, 2018

      Your first video look in video at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, running though May 27 on The Stage Theatre. Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, 'Tommy' is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive. 'The Who's Tommy' is directed by Sam Buntrock and features Andy Mientus, Charl Brown and Betsy Morgan. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.  For information, call 303-893-4100 or go to denvercenter.org.

      Cast:

      • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
      • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
      • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
      • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
      • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
      • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
      • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
      • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
      • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
      • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
      • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
      • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
      • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
      • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
      • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
      • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
      • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
      • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
      • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4
       

      Creatives

      • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
      • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
      • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
      • Directed by Sam Buntrock
      • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
      • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
      • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
      • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
      • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
      • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
      • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
      • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
      • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
      • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
      • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales

      Photos: Your first look at the production photos:

      The Who's Tommy The first production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. More photos will be added later this week. Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. 'The Who's Tommy' opens today.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


      The Who's Tommy
      at the DCPA: Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
      Photos: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

      The making of 'The Who's Tommy'

      Photos from the making of 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. More photos will be added later this week. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    • Photos: Your first look at 'The Who's Tommy' at the Denver Center

      by John Moore | Apr 25, 2018
      The Who's Tommy Production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. 'The Who's Tommy' opens Friday.

      Cast:

      • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
      • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
      • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
      • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
      • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
      • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
      • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
      • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
      • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
      • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
      • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
      • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
      • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
      • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
      • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
      • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
      • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
      • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
      • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4
       

      Creatives

      • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
      • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
      • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
      • Directed by Sam Buntrock
      • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
      • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
      • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
      • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
      • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
      • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
      • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
      • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
      • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
      • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
      • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


      The Who's Tommy
      at the DCPA: Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    • John Ahlin of 'Native Gardens' on what theatre can learn from Comic-Con

      by John Moore | Apr 20, 2018
      mariana-fernandez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_o
      Photo by Adams VisCom.

      Broadway veteran's garden grew out of a dream to be a forest ranger. Now he's tilling the soil in the Space Theatre.  

      MEET JOHN AHLIN
      John-Ahlin-Jefferson-Mays-in-the-2007-Broadway-revival-of-Journeys-End-at-the-Belasco-Theatre.-Photo-by-Paul-Kolnik.John Ahlin, who plays gardening fan Frank Butley in Native Gardens, has appeared on Broadway in seven productions including Waiting for Godot with Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin, 2007 Tony Award-winning Best Revival Journey’s End (alongside DCPA master's graduate John Behlmann), The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Macbeth, and others. Other New York credits include Orson Welles in Orson’s Shadow (Barrow Street Theatre), Gray Area (Barrow Group), ChipandGus (Soho Playhouse) and others. TV and film credits include: “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Coen Brothers), “Law & Order: SVU,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “As the World Turns” and many more. (Pictured above: John Ahlin and Jefferson Mays in Journey's End.' Photo by Paul Kolnik.)

      • Hometown: Aurora
      • Home now: New York
      • Training: BFA from Syracuse University Go Orange
      • Website: JohnAhlin.com
      • Twitter-sized bio: Actor, playwright, thinker: Lives 36 floors above New York City: Works hard: Plays nice: Likes all people and distant train whistles
      • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? Out of high school, I wanted to be a forest ranger, and I was sidetracked by theatre in college and never looked back. I still have the “what if” pangs whenever I look up at forested mountains, and as I type this I can look out to see some snowy Rockies. There is where I’d most likely be if not for acting.
      • One role you were completely miscast for: Not a prideful fellow I, but I feel I’m able to perform myriad roles somewhat effectively, and am not pigeonholed into a type. For example, I’ve appeared on Broadway in a splashy musical, a whodunit, a contemporary Irish black comedy, an all-black musical revue, a Shakespeare, an absurdist classic and a Tony Award-winning revival of a World War I drama. I did, however, once get mis-booked on a radio show where I thought I was going to promote a play I had written, and they instead thought I was a bright young comedian. Luckily I was quick-witted enough to survive that interview, but I wouldn’t want to do that again.
      • John+Ahlin+as+FalstaffBucket-list role: If I were forced to list my all-time bucket-list role, it would be Lear. A small portion of the rest of the list: Willie Loman, Big Daddy, Sheridan Whiteside, Walter Burns, Estragon and Mama Rose. (Note: I included Mama Rose because, in theory, after you complete your bucket list, don’t you kick the bucket? If I have one un-played role on my list, I hope to stave off the inevitable end.)
      • What's playing on your Spotify? "Levon" by Elton John, "Everybody’s Talkin’ " by Harry Nilsson, "Elusive Butterfly of Love" by Bob Lind, "Gentle on My Mind" by Glen Campbell and "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat and Tears — my favorite band. I would call these my top-five favorite songs, and it wasn’t until this little exercise that I realized what was alike about them all: Scope. The expansive reflection on one’s life, both past and future and its echoing through time.
      • What's one thing we don't know about you? I have done Falstaff 11 times — and I’d be happy to do him 11 more times. (Pictured above right.)
      • 200 Mark Rylance. jerusalem. (Photo by Simon Annand)One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Watching Mark Rylance in Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth was the happy confluence of seeing both the greatest performance and the greatest play I had ever witnessed, at the same time. And to see such a marvel, after my nearly four decades in show business, was more than an inspiring glimpse of what theatre can be. It was a rejuvenating experience, fueling me to go on, to keep wondering, and seeking the surprises that lurk around every corner of life. (Pictured at right: Mark Rylance in 'Jerusalem.' Photo by Simon Annand.)
      • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? This is a bit wacky, but I think everyone who makes or markets theatre should go to a Comic-Con and see the enthusiasm of the crowds of young people lining up around the outside of the convention center, and then just ponder what it is that drives these joyous fans to surrender themselves completely to the stories, characters and ambience. There are probably many revelations that can come just by thinking and wondering how to nurture, increase, reciprocate and reward fandom for theatre — and not just the young, but all theatregoers.
      • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
      • Why does Native Gardens matter? Native Gardens is what all good theatre should be: the lifting out of ideas and concepts intrinsic to life, to be examined in a focused and palatable way. The themes, characters, plot and style blend beautifully so that the play makes its points through behavior and not comment. This play wonderfully fulfills theatre’s purpose, where we humans gather in one big room and debate life through our stories.
      • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? Someone once said “the audience is the only genius in theatre,” so what they get out of it is all that really matters. I have a feeling they will get a wonderful and funny night of theatre, but more, they will see a play that shakes preconceived notions and will cause the audience to look at something afresh, as if for the first time. And hint at avenues of hope.
      • What do you want to get off your chest? I think too many people are getting things off their chests. I’m far more interested in common ground and common pursuits.  There are an awful lot of good things to be done without all the complaints and recriminations dividing people.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


      Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 


      Native Gardens
      : Ticket information

      NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 6
      • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    • Video: A tree grows ... and grows ... in 'Native Gardens'

      by John Moore | Apr 19, 2018

      Video: DCPA Theatre Company Charge Scenic Artist Jana Mitchell talks about the creative challenges that came with building a massive 30-foot indoor tree. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

      How the DCPA's team of scenic artists built a 30-foot indoor tree for a play in the round without blocking audience views

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      The set for the DCPA Theatre Company’s new comedy Native Gardens is dominated by a large and meaningful oak tree that grows tall and encompasses the entire space above and below the stage.

      But the Space Theatre is in-the-round, which means the indoor tree posed a significant creative challenge for Scenic Designer Lisa M. Orzolek and her team of artists for this first-ever staging of Karen Zacarías' celebrated comedy in a theatre where the audience is seated in a circle all around the stage.

      The play centers on two neighboring couples at odds over the location of their property line — and the presence of a massive backyard oak tree that one couple loves but aggravates the other when it drops its leaves, acorns and branches on the other side of the fence.

      How did she pull it off? “That's the magic of theatre," Orzolek teased.

      Jana Mitchell On the page, it would seem that the tree should be located between the two houses, just on one side of the property line closest to the fence. But that would be the middle of the Space Theatre, and you can't put a big tree in the middle of a round stage because of the sightline problems that would create for audiences. So Orzolek put the tree in one of the theatre’s five “voms” (or actor entranceways). And then built it to such a massive size that its branches still create all kinds of havoc for the neighboring couple.

      “In order for the tree to reach all the way across the theatre into the neighbor’s yard, it just kept getting taller and longer and wider,” Orzolek said. "It goes up and then comes back down. In the end, it was 24 feet tall and 30 feet wide.”

      The tree began as a tiny clay model. Then came wood, steel, chicken wire and muslin. “The bark structure is actually carpet padding,” Orzolek said. “Our amazing scenic-artist team just ripped carpet padding into strips to make bark and then they spray-painted it with drywall texture." It's a technique former DCPA Scenic Artist Brian Proud invented for The Secret Graden. 

      The tree plays a major part in the story, and not just because it represents a physical point of contention. It reveals differences in the way the two couples look at the world.

      “The oak tree is very important in any native garden,” Zacarías said. “They have the most biodiversity of any tree species.”

      And that's relevant to one of the couples, and hogwash to the other.

      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.

      Making of 'Native Gardens'Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      Native Gardens: Ticket information
      NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 6
      • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    • 'Tommy': How The Who went from smashing guitars to blowing people's minds

      by John Moore | Apr 16, 2018
      Sam Buntrock. Photo by John Moore
      Performances of the DCPA Theatre Company's staging of 'The Who's Tommy' begin Saturday. Photo of Director Sam Buntrock by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Director Sam Buntrock says 50 years on, Tommy's true wizardry remains its emotionally authentic storytelling

      By Sylvie Drake
      For the DCPA NewsCenter

      Remember The Who’s Tommy? Remember when it played Denver’s Buell Theatre in 1994? Maybe you were too young.

      The show was very young then too, known mostly by hearsay or from the 1969 rock concept album on which it is based. It had made waves by elevating the life of a deaf, mute and blind boy whose prodigious talent at pinball makes him a celebrity. By applying what was then a lot of new technology to his fertile imagination, director Des McAnuff’s 1992 transfer of that iconic album to the La Jolla Playhouse stage in San Diego took musical theatre to a whole new level of innovation.

      At the time, The Who was a British rock group seeking broader recognition, so the album’s breakthrough in London — and the rock opera created in La Jolla — became sensations. Rock operas were still uncommon. There had been Hair (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), both huge, to say nothing of The Rocky Horror Show that exploded on several London stages in 1973 before spreading across the globe with its enduring popularity.

      Rommy Sam Buntrock Andy Mientus. Photo by John MooreTommy was different. Its La Jolla opening with its flashy tech effects, its combination of heartbreaking story and unrestrained flamboyance, was a big surprise. The tools were the same, but watching the astonishing fall and rise of a traumatized child on stage offered a deeper and deeply thrilling experience. The subsequent 1993 Broadway run set box-office records, and the show traveled to Denver the following year on the wings of great press and five Tony Awards.

      (Pictured: Sam Buntrock with Andy Mientus (Tommy) on the first day of rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

      Today’s DCPA Theatre Company revival is a homegrown incarnation, with a live band and reinvented staging by director Sam Buntrock, whose Frankenstein at the DCPA and whose West End direction of Sunday In the Park With George scored high marks.

      “I’ve never directed Tommy before,” he said by email earlier this spring. “In the ’60s, Townsend wrote the score to be performed in concert. In the ’90s he worked with Des McAnuff to transform it into a big and brilliant stage musical. I suspect mine will be a more emotionally driven, intimate version of the show. I’m approaching that version through the lens of contemporary theatrical conventions.

      “Audiences have become accustomed to simpler, more distilled storytelling, the sort whose thrills are precise and unexpected. With Tommy, I’m excited to stage a fantastical show that has, at its heart, a rich and emotionally authentic story.”

      Video: Andy Mientus, Lulu Fall sing for Denver Actors Fund

      Among the new ideas Buntrock brings to his staging is younger casting, including that of Andy Mientus (of TV’s “Smash” and Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening) as Tommy.

      “Of course, there are children written into the fabric of the show — 4-year-old and 10-year-old Tommy,” Buntrock said. “These two are givens, though our 4-year-old may play a larger part than people expect.

      Sam Buntock Tommy“The only other child is a teenaged Kevin. The story spans some 20 years, and Kevin is one of the characters who features through most of the timeline. So if he interacts with 10-year-old Tommy, and then adult Tommy, it’s powerful to see him grow up too. How that doubling works and what the payoff is, are both things conceived in service of creating a credible family on stage.” 

      (Right: 'Tommy' artwork by DCPA Theatre Company Director Sam Buntrock.)

      Pete Townshend, The Who’s lead guitarist, composed most of the score for Tommy. He told Applause magazine in 1994 “that story is, in a sense, my life brought up-to-date. I didn’t quite realize how autobiographical it was. Not just of me, but of the people around me at the time … everybody in the group. Not only was it an important step for us artistically, it also was the critical financial breakthrough for a group that, up to that point, had been known for wearing funny clothes and pop-art outfits and smashing guitars.”   

      Almost 50 years on, the Tommy story, and especially its score, still resonate.

      Four-year-old Tommy is thrown into a catatonic state after he witnesses a traumatic family event reflected in a mirror. It makes him instantly deaf, dumb and blind. This triple whammy brings him the wrong kinds of attention; he struggles through childhood, badgered and abused — until he discovers he has a freakish talent for winning at pinball. 

      In late adolescence, when he’s accidentally present as his mother, in a moment of despair, smashes the same mirror that caused his catatonia, Tommy is magically healed. The revitalized pinball wizard becomes an international star before evolving into a sentient, responsive and compassionate human being. All this melodrama, married to its stunning musical score, results in a rock opera whose alchemy is practically addictive.

      When asked if he agrees that what continues to make the show so gripping
      is this melding of music, magic, mystery, mysticism and melodrama,
      Buntrock demurred.

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

      “Yes. In part. It remains so gripping because it is one of the greatest musical scores ever written,” he said. “It’s not faux musical theatre rock and roll, it’s … rock and roll. All those ‘m’s are intrinsic to what Townshend was exploring when he wrote it.

      “Ultimately,” he added, “it’s a deeply honest exploration of Townshend’s own childhood. With Tommy, with his prone passivity, we have a hero we can all project ourselves upon. Yes, it’s magnified and melodramatic, but it’s rock and roll, so what do you expect? And despite this, I think it has something profound to say about our relationship to our childhood selves.”

      Theatre, being a primary champion of human understanding, often takes the lead in reversing secretive old-fashioned attitudes. Tommy is an example of art shining a light into the darkness and, in former theatre critic Frank Rich’s words, “spreading catharsis like wildfire through the cheering house.

      Sylvie Drake is a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a translator, a contributor to culturalweekly.com and American Theatre magazine, and a former Director of Media Relations and Publications for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

      Tommy cast Photo by John MooreThe cast of 'The Who's Tommy' at its first rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      The Who's Tommy
      at the DCPA: Ticket information

      Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances April 21-May 27
      • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    • Backyard border dispute: How does your garden grumble?

      by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018

      Your first video look at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'Native Gardens." Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

       

      Good fences make for good neighbors in new comedy about couples who draw a property line in the sand


      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      These days, sure, we can choose our own families. But unless you live in a commune, you don’t really get to pick your own neighbors. And America’s great, ongoing ideological divide could not be expressed more definitively — or apparently, more comically — than in a play about a property line dispute between neighbors.

      KAREN ZACARIAS. Photo by John MooreThat’s the thorn in the rose of Karen Zacarías’ popular comedy Native Gardens. On one side of the fence, we have a pregnant Latinx couple who are new to town. On the other we have empty-nesters who think “Latinx” must surely be a misspelled word. (It's not.) Trouble blooms when the younger couple discovers their property line actually extends right over their next- door-Boomers’ pristine flowerbed.

      “It’s a deceptively simple play,” Chicago-based Director Lisa Portes said. “At first you might think you are watching this charming and disarming little play about neighbors and gardens. But the minute there is a dispute over 2 feet of land — all hell breaks loose.”

      Zacarías, a native of Mexico who penned previous DCPA Theatre Company stagings of Mariela in the Desert and Just Like Us, got the idea for her play at a dinner party where the guests all traded horror stories about their neighbors. Everyone, it seems, has one.

      “All of these stories, I found, were both upsetting and funny,” Zacarías said. “And what I discovered in listening to them is that we seem to have this primal attachment to land that is both poetic and absurd at the same time. And then I realized that almost every single fight that’s going on anywhere in the world can be distilled down to one of these two things: border disputes and cultural differences.”

      mariana-fernndez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_oWhat comes out on stage, Portes said, is an accessible comedy that explores weedy issues we don’t dare talk about in our own living rooms but maybe we can laugh at in the communal anonymity of a theatre.

      At a time when the nation is polarized by talk of borders and walls, Zacarías found a way to use gardening as what she calls “a really fun metaphor to talk about really much harder issues like class and race and ageism .”

      (Pictured above and right: Mariana Fernandez and John Ahlin in 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

      Even the title asks a prickly little question, Portes said: “What is native? Who is native? What does that word even mean? It’s not as black and white as we think.”

      The inaugural staging of Native Gardens accomplished something quite rare when the play was praised by a local reviewer both for having “a finger pressed to the pulse of the American mood” and for “its ability to make you forget the current political and social climate.” At the same time.

      That’s probably because Native Gardens, Zacarías said, puts no one on the defensive. “It’s sneaky that way,” she said. “I wrote all four main characters from a place of love. There’s a simplicity to the set-up, and that’s on purpose. It allows the play to sow some seeds and grow some deeper roots. And the audience is willing to go there together because really nobody comes up smelling like a rose.”

      LISA PORTES QUOTE. Photo by John Moore. Native Gardens premiered in 2016, before the ascendency of Donald Trump. But while debate over immigration has raged for as long as America, there is no question it now tops a list of issues Zacarías says “are bubbling to the surface in a vicious manner.”

      Zacarías experienced something similar in 2014, when she adapted Denver journalist Helen Thorpe’s book Just Like Us for its Denver Center world premiere. That true story followed four Denver Latinas through high school, and told how their struggles and opportunities diverged based on their citizenship status.

      “I was hoping Just Like Us would become less relevant over time, but unfortunately it’s only become more relevant,” Zacarías said, referring to the ongoing battle over the immigration policy known as DACA. And with the rise of Trump, she said, the same has proven true of Native Gardens. Only this play is much funnier.

      Zacarías and Portes were among the so-called “DC-8” who started a national movement called The Latinx Theatre Commons in 2012 to amplify the visibility of Latinx theatre in the United States. Since then, Portes has directed the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Breach, a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in Chicago, as well as an all-Latinx version of The Glass Menagerie for Cal Shakes in northern California.

      Read more: Five things we learned at first rehearsal

      Zacarías, now the most produced Latinx playwright in America, last month launched a high-profile production for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival called Destiny of Desire, a subversive homage to telenovelas, which she calls “one of the most exploitative forms of entertainment in the world.”

      Native Gardens has already had several productions around the country, but the Denver Center’s will be the first to be staged in the round configuration,” which Portes said “almost makes this like a world premiere because that will create an entirely different actor-audience relationship. The audience will be its own kind of community circling this other community of actors, and we’re all sitting together in this real garden with real plants and flowers.”

      Zacarías said the Denver Center staging also will be a first because it will introduce small, first-time improvements to the script. “I do think this will be a whole different take on the play,” she said.

      “Native Gardens is a story that asks what it takes to be a good neighbor. It is about four specific, flawed people — but it’s not really about them. It’s about us. And how all of us can be better neighbors.”

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

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


      Native Gardens: Production photos

      Native Gardens Photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


      Native Gardens
      : Ticket information

      NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

      • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
      • Performances through May 6
      • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
      • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
      Native Gardens Opening Night. Photo by John Moore. Cast and creatives on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    • New Denver Center plays take center stage in Seattle, San Diego

      by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018
      Our video report from the openings of the Denver Center-born plays 'The Great Leap' and 'American Mariachi' in Seattle and San Diego. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


      Theatre Company's first co-productions in a decade open for West Coast audiences on back-to-back nights 

      By John Moore
      Senior Arts Journalist

      It was an hour before the opening performance of the Denver-born play American Mariachi at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and something wasn't quite right. A large backstage table was filled with floating balloons, sweets and several bouquets of fresh congratulatory flowers, including one from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

      But then there was the incongruous vase on Bobby Plasencia’s dressing-room table. Its water was discolored, its flowers tired and wilting. But to the actor, they were surely the most vibrant flowers in the room.

      American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by John Moore“They’ve been here ever since our final dress rehearsal,” said Plasencia, who plays an old-school mariachi player whose wife dies in the story. After that performance almost a week before, the actor got word that a 12-year-old boy in the audience wanted to meet him. Plasencia walked to the stage door and was greeted by “this super-cool little dude,” he said, wearing a tie and perfectly gelled hair. The boy took one look at Plasencia, fell into his arms and burst into tears. “And he just couldn’t stop,” Plasencia said.  

      One of the grown-ups in the entourage pulled Plasencia aside and whispered that the boy had recently lost someone very close to him, and that the play had moved him immensely. The boy collected himself and presented Plasencia with flowers as a gift for the entire cast. “And they are going to stay right here until our very last day here on April 29,” Plasencia promised.  

      Those kinds of powerful audience responses to José Cruz González’s family drama have been steady since the play premiered back in Denver on Feb. 2. And because of several unique partnerships the DCPA Theatre Company has forged this season, they are continuing to happen in multiple cities.

      American Mariachi is one of two world-premiere plays the Denver Center has recently launched as co-productions with other leading national theatre organizations. The other was Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap in partnership with the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Both plays tell culturally specific stories that bring underrepresented voices to the stage while also telling uncommonly universal family stories.

      Jose Cruz Gonzalez quoteA co-production, or “co-pro,” as they say in the biz, is a collaboration between two companies that have a shared investment in launching a new play, both artistically and financially. They work together on the development of the piece, share certain expenses and then present the play in both cities back-to-back, with the original casts intact.

      When both plays closed in Denver last month, all key creative personnel packed up along with the sets, props and costumes and set forth to either Seattle or San Diego for their immediate transfers. By great calendrical coincidence, both plays opened in their second cities on back-to-back nights: March 28 and 29.

      Despite the modest financial benefit that comes with partnering with other companies, large-scale co-productions are rare in the American theatre. In its nearly 40-year history, the DCPA Theatre Company has only participated in three previous co-pros — Pure Confidence with Cincinnati Playhouse in 2007; and the world premieres of The Laramie Project with the Tectonic Theatre Project in 1999-2000 and Tantalus with the Royal Shakespeare Company the following year.

      The partnerships with Seattle Rep and the Old Globe involved dozens of people but were primarily negotiated by first-year DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. The goal, she said, was simple: To make better, more finished plays — thereby giving them better chances for a continued life in the American theatre.  

      “The main reason I wanted to push for these co-productions is because I wanted to look for opportunities for the writers to continue to work on developing their plays,” Garrett said.

      Both productions shared key creative personnel from both companies, including American Mariachi director James Vásquez, who considers the Old Globe to be his artistic home; and Seattle Rep Director of New Works Kristen Leahey, who has served as Dramaturg for The Great Leap since its first draft. That almost all of the Latinx artists Vazquez has brought home with him to the Old Globe are now working there for the first time, Artistic Director Barry Edelstein said, “is a special happiness for all of us.” His Seattle counterpart, Braden Abraham, called The Great Leap "an irresistible opportunity to showcase a rising Chinese-American playwright in the Pacific Northwest," and said working with Garrett and the whole team in Denver was "a pure joy."   

      (Story continues below the photo gallery.)

      Our complete photo gallery from Seattle and San Diego:

      Denver Center in Seattle and San Diego

      Photos from the openings of 'The Great Leap' and 'American Mariachi' in Seattle and San Diego. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Both plays were begun as commissions by former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson. A commission is when a company pays a playwright a stipend to write a new work for its right of first refusal to produce. González began writing American Mariachi in 2014, and it was first presented as a featured reading at the Denver Center’s 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Back then it was a sprawling, 150-page script. By the time of its world premiere in Denver in February, it was down to 95 pages. “So it's now very lean, and it moves like gangbusters,” said González, who continued to hone the script all the way up to opening night in San Diego on March 29.

      “Having the opportunity to have a play done in two places is a tremendous gift to a playwright,” González said. “First, to be able to premiere it in Denver and work out all the things that still needed to happen in terms of casting, storytelling and design. We left Denver feeling very satisfied, and yet that whole time we were still watching our audiences take in the play. We were learning from them and thinking about how we could improve it. And then there is the gift of that second production.”

      the-company-of-american-mariachi-photo-by-adamsviscom_39989611081_oAmerican Mariachi, set in the early 1970s, follows the journey of a young woman named Lucha who has become the caretaker for a mother with dementia. When she finds an old mariachi record that briefly brings her mother back to life, Lucha becomes determined to learn how to play the song for her with live musicians before it is too late. Although being a female mariachi player was unheard of at that time, Lucha defies her grumpy father, assembles a group of women and makes her dream come true.

      (Pictured above, from left: Amanda Robles, Jennifer Paredes, Natalie Camunas, Crissy Guerrero and Heather Velazquez. Photo by Adams VisCom.)

      American Mariachi played in the Denver Center’s largest theatre (750 seats) and exceeded box-office projections. The play is enjoying the same kind of crossover appeal in San Diego, where it is playing in a slightly more intimate, 600-seat space. None of which surprises the women in the cast.

      “This play is doing much more than filling a Latino slot on the season,” said actor Crissy Guerrero. “It has touched anyone from any background.” It is also the right time to be telling this story in the current cultural zeitgeist, said castmate Natalie Camunas. “It is important to show strong women on the stage doing what they do best right now, which is encouraging and supporting each other and shining,” she said.

      Video spotlight: Our interview with Lauren Yee

      All theatre companies, to an extent, program according to their censuses. In Denver, the Latino population is 31.8 percent, compared to 31.6 percent in San Diego. While the Denver Center has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to presenting plays with Latinx voices (most recently Native Gardens, Just Like Us, Fade and Lydia), The Great Leap, meanwhile, is only the second play by an Asian-American playwright the Denver Center has ever presented. But in Denver, the Asian-American population is just 3.4 percent, compared to 13.7 in Seattle.

      linden-tailor-photo-by-adamsviscom_39272674395_oYee’s The Great Leap, set in the late 1980s, follows a scrappy Asian-American kid who talks his way onto a college basketball team that embarks on a series of “friendship” games in a China in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution. Yee grew up in basketball-mad San Francisco, and her story was inspired by events from her father’s real experiences. Much of the play revolves around the intersecting lives of the two coaches — the compliant Chinese and the (really) ugly American.

      "This is a play that I never would have written in quite the way I did without Denver." Yee said. "Wherever it goes, there is something embedded in its DNA what Denver is all about." Added Director Eric Ting: "What a gift to have two pre-eminent theatre companies working together to make this play happen."

      Actors Keiko Green and Linden Tailor say Seattle audiences, which are made up of many more Asian-Americans than in Denver, are reacting to the story very differently, specifically as it pertains to the American coach who spews comic racial epithets throughout.

      “In Seattle, the audiences are way tougher on the coach, absolutely,” Green said. “The race comments that he makes are definitely felt more. You can see people be slightly offended and then remember, ‘Oh yeah, this is written by a Chinese-American woman.’ ”

      That, said Tailor, “is the great thing about Lauren's writing. She wants to push the envelope and ride that fine line of making you uncomfortable and making you think. I feel like here in Seattle, we are more making them think.”

      Vásquez says the same is true of American Mariachi in San Diego. “It was a raucous comedy in Denver,” he said. “I think people are leaning in and really listening to the story a little closer here.”

      American Mariachi in San DiegoThat, to Seattle Rep’s Kristin Leahey, was the whole fun of The Great Leap. “It was a really exciting thing to be sharing this work with the Denver audience as well as the Seattle audience, and to see how it engages with each of them differently,” said Leahey.

      Making the money work

      DCPA Managing Director Charles Varin said the unusual creative arrangement of a co-pro calls for an unusual financial arrangement as well. As the instigating company, he said the Denver Center assumed the cost of producing each initial staging as it would for any other show on its season. But in the case of The Great Leap, Seattle Rep contributed about $40,000 toward the $350,000 budget and the Old Globe contributed about $75,000 of a $650,000 budget.

      Varin estimated that having a producing partner ultimately represented about a 10 percent improvement to the Denver Center’s bottom line. While that is significant, he said, it is not enough to be a motivating reason to enter into a co-pro. “This was all very much artistically motivated,” said Varin, who attended both out-of-town openings. “Having a second staging helps the playwright immensely, and I think both productions were measurably improved in their second cities.”

      Video spotlight: Our interview with José Cruz González

      A similar model of play development has been employed by the National New Play Network since 1998. That’s a group of 30 core companies that select a number of new plays each year to be fully staged by a minimum of three member companies successively. It’s called a “rolling world premiere,” and the script isn’t sealed and published until after the third staging. The major difference from a co-pro is that the chosen playwright works with completely different casts and creative teams in all three cities.

      LAUREN YEE QUOTESo what happens now?

      The extended initial birth journeys for both plays end soon — The Great Leap closes April 22 and American Mariachi on April 29. But both already have their immediate futures laid out for them: The Great Leap will be staged off-Broadway this June at The Atlantic Theatre starring Tony Award-winner BD Wong. It also will be staged by the prestigious Guthrie Theatre next January in Minneapolis. American Mariachi will be presented by the Arizona Theatre Company next March.

      American Mariachi resonates in myriad ways with the kaleidoscope of our community,” said Arizona Theatre Company Artistic Director David Ivers, a former longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor. “The writing, the gift of mariachi music, the celebration and empowerment of women, and the struggle of loss in the face of hope are powerful and meaningful messages to explore in the communities we have the honor of serving.”

      This all comes in a year when Denver Center-born works are proliferating on national stages like never before. Last year, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride became the Denver Center’s most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. Not only is it getting its own upcoming staging at The Guthrie, it is also being made into a film starring Jim Parsons. Last week, Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will won the American Theatre Critics Association’s Steinberg Award as the best new play of the year produced outside of New York. It opens this summer on one of the nation’s largest stages, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 

      Read more: Denver Center's new place on national stage

      “I think all of that continues to advance the idea that the Denver Center is at the forefront of new-play development,” said Garrett. “As we are moving through the 21st century, one thing I lament about how we develop plays is that we all seem to be looking only for opportunities for playwrights to write something that is going to be a hit right now. There is a need for immediate success, as opposed to providing a space for something to unfold and be given life over time.”

      The benefit for actors  

      One of the ancillary windfalls that comes with any co-production benefits the actors themselves. The casts of both The Great Leap and American Mariachi were signed to four-month contracts. In a business where actors are most often signed to smaller contracts ranging from just four to eight weeks, an extended co-pro is about the best job they can get outside of a long run in New York.

      American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by John Moore“I feel very lucky, and I think everyone else who is involved with this play feels very lucky to be a part of it,” said Plasencia.

      But the biggest benefit, says Rodney Lizcano and others, is the familia that takes shape when a creative team spends that much more time together. The American Mariachi team performs six days a week, he said. And yet, he said, they have almost to a person spent nearly every day off together as well.

      “There has been a consistently positive camaraderie since Day 1,” he said. “We share or lives both onstage and offstage — and I think the performances have deepened because of that.”

      Which makes ultimate benefit of a co-pro to the play itself and, by extension, to its expanded audiences.

      “I always had a feeling that this was going to be a very special play for everyone who saw it, and it has come to pass because it tells a story that audiences are hungry for at this very moment in our history,” Plasencia said of American Mariachi. “This is a story about inclusion and seeing yourself represented onstage, and I feel like a lot of people have been longing for a play like this. I think there is an audience this play in every big city in the country.”

      And in every audience is the potential for another life-changing moment, like that 12-year-old boy at the final dress rehearsal of American Mariachi in San Diego.

      “It is such an honor to walk out into that theatre lobby each night and see crowds of Latino families. That doesn't happen a lot,” Vásquez said. “Just tonight, a young Latino friend came up to me and said the moment the lights came up and the music started and he saw Mexican people onstage, he just started crying — because he had never seen anything like it.

      “I think that's the biggest takeaway.”

      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.


      American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by Douglas Gates
      'American Mariachi' in San Diego. Photo by Douglas Gates.


      Previous NewsCenter Coverage of American Mariachi:

      Behind the scenes video: Making the Great Wall of American Mariachi
      Tony Garcia: American Mariachi is an American beauty
      When Leonor Perez found mariachi, she found her true voice
      American Mariachi
      Perspectives: Music as a powerful memory trigger
      Photos, video: Your first look at American Mariachi
      American Mariachi
      's second community conversation: Food, music and tough issues
      Cast announced, and 5 things we learned at first rehearsal
      American Mariachi
      : Community conversation begins
      Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
      2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
      Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company season
      Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

       

      The Great Leap in Seattle'The Great Leap' in Seattle. Photo by John Moore.

      Selected previous coverage of The Great Leap:
      The Great Leap prepares for its big bound to Seattle
      Lauren Yee: “This play would not exist without the Denver Center'
      Video: First look at The Great Leap, and five things we learned at Perspectives
      For The Great Leap playwright Lauren Yee, family is a generation map
      Five pieces of fun hoops history to know, like: What's a pick and roll?
      Five things we learned at first rehearsal, with photos
      Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
      Vast and visceral: Theatre Company season will include The Great Leap

      More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    POPULAR POSTS
     
    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.