• 'American Mariachi' community conversation: Food, music and tough issues

    by John Moore | Jan 18, 2018
    Making of 'American Mariachi'

    Local performers Deborah Gallegos and Yolanda Ortega of Su Teatro at the DCPA's 'recent American Mariachi' community conversation. To see more photos, click the image above to be taken to a full gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    'We've got some work to do,' DCPA tells Latinx community at forum addressing both barriers and opportunities

    By John Moore
    Senior Ats Journalist

    The DCPA hosted one its largest community conversations on record Jan. 11, when about 100 local Latinx and others gathered to talk about the many possibilities and challenges afforded by the Theatre Company's upcoming world premiere of the musical play American Mariachi.  

    And several admitted they came looking for a fight. One was Reynaldo Mireles, program manager of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of Colorado.

    “My first thought when I received the invitation was that I want to go down there and fight with some gringos,” Mirelis said to laughter. “I thought, ‘Well, I never got an invitation from the DCPA to have a conversation about us being Latinos before,’ so I was really coming in with that fighting energy.”  

    But he quickly softened after arriving at the DCPA’s Newman Center for Theatre Education. And for two reasons, he said: “There was cena … and there was musica.”

    Dinner and music.

    Cynthia Reifler Flores. American Mariachi Photo by John MooreThe latter was a rousing, 30-minute performance by the American Mariachi house band led by Cynthia Reifler Flores (pictured right), described by director James Vásquez as “one of the leading female mariachis in the world.” The musical demonstration, led by Flores' singing, moved legendary, five-decade Su Teatro actor Yolanda Ortega to spontaneously tell Flores: “You sing with your heart and with every little fiber in your body. I'm your new groupie.”

    Attendees represented a wide range of metro cultural, business and civic groups including the Mexican Cultural Center, Telemundo Denver, Mi Casa Resource Center, Museo de las Americas, The GrowHaus and the Denver mayor’s office, along with individual artists, teachers and students. Also representing was the entire cast of American Mariachi, José Cruz González’s story of a young woman in the 1970s who becomes determined to form an all-female mariachi band in a desperate attempt to connect with a mother lost in her dementia. The play, a co-production with the Old Globe Theatre, moves directly to San Diego for performances there after it closes in Denver on Feb. 25.

    Others admitted to their cynicism as well. But after 90 minutes of blunt and constructive conversation about the sustainability of the DCPA’s aggressive commitment to communities of color both during and after American Mariachi, any opening clenched fists changed to handshakes.

    “We are here to support you, and I am really excited about bringing more GLBT from our community to the play,” Mireles said at the end of the evening. “And of course, our ninas, because I am wanting them to see what they could actually become one day.”

    How did Mireles and others move so far in such a short period of time? In part because DCPA Director of Strategic Projects FloraJane DiRienzo came clean.

    “We’ve got some work to do,” DiRienzo said flatly. Not so much onstage: The Theatre Company has in recent years staged three world premieres by González as well as new works by Karen Zacarias, Octavio Solis, Rogelio Martinez and other Latinx playwrights.

    “We have always had a longstanding commitment to diverse voices on stage," she added. "But in some ways that has fallen a little bit short because we have make sure that our audiences are just as diverse as those voices that are onstage

    Suggestions from the community included making sure bilingual employees are positioned at the front door of the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex to welcome all first-time patrons who need help finding their way around. Others hope that translated supertitles like you see at the opera are made available for non-English-speaking audiences. Others wondered if a performance or two might be presented entirely in Spanish. The director and his cast committed to both exploring those possibilities, and to making personal appearances at any local school that asks them.

    The primary, systemic barriers to attendance at major arts venues by communities of color are not unique to Denver: The price barrier, getting the word out to the people who might be most invested in a given story, and the cost and general intimidation of downtown parking.

    One of the most moving testaments to that reality came from Bianca Acosta, a young, single mother who is working to becoming a teacher at Bryant-Webster, a dual language Denver Public School that happens to house Mariachi Juvenil de Bryant Webster — the first after-school elementary mariachi group in the DPS system. She said:

    “I was not going to come tonight because my grandfather passed last night in Mexico. The last time I came here, I got lost for almost an hour looking for this  building because I am not familiar with driving downtown. And if I pay $10 for parking — that's my budget for gas for an entire week. Those are real things. Denver is such a beautiful city, and I am so in love with it, but it's expensive. But I am here to represent my community.

    “When I first heard this play was happening, I was so excited, but then when I saw the price of the tickets, I said to myself, ‘I can't even afford to bring me, much lesss my family.’ I see my family every day struggling to survive. When we talk about theatre, it doesn't even cross their minds because it is so out of our reach.

    “That's why I wanted to come tonight: To tell you that our communities deserve to have the experience to see this play just like anyone else. So how can we make that happen? Is there a way to raise money to bring as many families, especially Spanish-speaking families, to the play? I imagine that many of those people who come will be going to be in a theatre for the first time. I can imagine their kids being blown away by seeing their culture and their music portrayed on the stage. How can we make that possible?”

    DiRienzo told the crowd the DCPA is committed to ensuring that everyone who wants to see the play has an opportunity.

    "It's possible," DiRienzo told Acosta. "Yes, it's possible.”

    DCPA board member Patricia Baca told Acosta and others in attendance that  the DCPA has scholarships and corporate underwriting that can make it affordable for families with financial hardship to come to the DCPA not only to see its plays but to participate in classes offered by the Education Division. And she made it plain that the DCPA’s commitment to Latinx and other communities of color is neither new nor fleeting.

    "The Denver Center is for everybody," she said.

    “And this is not the first or last play we will ask you to come in and give us your thoughts about,” Baca added. “And we will not only ask you to give us your thoughts on Latino-oriented plays. We want you here for the multitude of offerings, and we want to know what you think and feel.

    “The conversation cannot end here. The conversation needs to continue. The suggestions you have made have been noted. And we will take action on as many of those as we can.” 

    Here is a roundup of other comments from the community conversation:

    American Mariachi director James Vásquez: “My full name is Pedro James Vásquez. My dad was born in Mexico, and my mom in  Southern California. I look very much like my mother, while my two younger brothers look very Mexican. I don't have a Spanish accent, so growing up, I got made fun of by a lot of my cousins for the way I spoke. So I just stopped speaking. American Mariachi is about reconnecting people to their culture. It’s about being given permission to reconnect with your culture, and attempt to start speaking again. And I am grateful for that.”

    Tina Walls, DCPA Board member: “My big passion is bringing the arts and culture of the underrepresented to the broader community, and bringing the under-represented, especially the kids, to this wonderful cultural footprint that we have in this community."

    Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski, DCPA Associate Director of Education: “People don't get any whiter than I am, and no more devoted to mariachi. And I can tell you that mariachi saved my life when I was growing up. I came from a very violent high-school experience, but we would stop everything when my peers would bring out their instruments and bring us all together in the halls of our high school in Northern California. So I am very much a witness to the story you are telling. Could we have any greater Valentine to our community than this play?”

    Jesse Ogas, Su Teatro and Fire Fly Autism: “We are seeing bigotry and hatred and ugliness in our community that I have not experienced in my lifetime — but my parents did. And to watch them now as elders having to relive that just infuriates me. What you are doing right now with American Mariachi is extremely important at this particular time in our history because you are portraying who we are as people — and to celebrate us in this way really is important. It takes courage.”

    Patty Baca, DCPA board member: "This play is going to be one of the delights of our community this year. I believe so strongly in this story, especially for our children so that they can see our people on the stage. See our people writing the play, directing the play, designing the play — and knowing that those are all possibilities for them as well.”

    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: Ticket information

    160x160-amercian-mariachi-tempAt a glance: Lucha and Boli are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band in 1970s Denver, but they’ll have to fight a male-dominated music genre and pressure from their families to get it done. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music..

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 26 through Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of American Mariachi:
    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

  • Shakespeare Fest: Students put spirit of youth in everything

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2017

    Above: Video coverage from the 2017 The Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival on April 28. Our guests include Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock; DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden; DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg; teacher Tim Boyle (John F. Kennedy High School); students Amelia Corrada (Denver School for the Arts), Vincent Haney (Denver North High School) and Alexis Ayala (J.F.K). Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

     

    'Today, we keep the arts alive. Today we triumph
    over hatred, over grief and over despair.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Surely no one will compare Friday to a summer’s day. But compared to the bone-chilling festivities of a year ago, the 33rd Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival was, in the Bard’s own words, a comfort like sunshine after rain.

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festivalDespite a gloomy forecast, the mild weather cooperated just long enough for 5,000 students from kindergarten through high school to perform more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The celebration is the largest and oldest student Shakespeare Festival in the country.

    Performing in 14 tents, theatres and stairway landings spread out over four acres, students from an estimated 80 schools soliloquized, sang, fenced, danced, played musical instruments, raged and gently wooed – but did not kiss. (Festival rule: High-fives – not smooches!)

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festivalDressed in authentic period garb, Mayor Michael B. Hancock told the wee throng that the DPS Shakespeare Festival has become part of the fabric of Denver. “We believe wholeheartedly in arts education,” said Hancock, a graduate of DPS’ Manual High School. “We believe in connecting to our history. We believe in upholding our culture. You are making Denver proud today.”

    Most participating DPS teachers have spent the past two months introducing Shakespeare to their students and creating live performances through auditioning, rehearsals, text analysis and costume-building. Studies have shown that studying Shakespeare improves students’ literacy and literary skills, especially in a district like DPS, where more than 50 percent speak English as a second language.

    “This experience gives them the opportunity to really dig into Shakespeare’s words and find emotions and character motivations and storylines,” said Jacqueline Smilack, a journalist and fourth-year English teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School. And for those who speak English as a second language, she said, “Shakespeare is the great equalizer. Everyone comes into it on the same page.” A team from Denver School of the Arts presented a scene from Romeo and Juliet with two students performing in English and two others in Spanish.

    (Story continues under the photo gallery)

    Full photo gallery: 2017 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    2017 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. Photos may be downloaded and shared with credit to the DCPA NewsCenter. 



    Alix Gonzalez, 15-year-old sophomore from North High School, performed Friday in her third festival, dating back to middle school. “I love it because it gets me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “Speaking in old English stretches your confidence as an actor because of how big you have to go to do Shakespeare.”

    Watch our Facebook Live stream from the 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 a short parade from the 16th Street Mall to the Denver Performing Arts Complex. This year’s honorees were Denver North High School Senior Vincent Haney and Denver School of the Arts senior Amelia Corrada, who has been accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Haney said he was speechless and euphoric when he learned he had been selected to speak as The Bard.

    Story: Where do those 5,000 costumes come from?

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festival“Theatre is the voice of our people,” Haney said as Shakespeare. “And today, our message is as strong as ever. Today, we keep the arts alive. Today we triumph over hatred, over grief and over despair. Today we sing, today we dance, today we act.”

    Corrada said Shakespeare remains timely because “the themes of Shakespeare’s plays are the same themes we are living through in our country right now. Through his verse, he exposes us to the very truth and nature of friendship, magic, betrayal, war and even love in all its forms. It's totally relevant.”

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festivalSmilack admitted that Shakespeare can be intimidating for first-time students, and they are not alone. “It can be intimidating for teachers, too,” she said. Because many teachers are not specifically trained in teaching or interpreting the Shakespeare canon, she said, “This exercise gives teachers good perspective on what our students are going through.”

    Now in its fourth decade, the DPS Shakespeare Festival’s bloodlines go back for generations. Acclaimed singer and actor Mary Louise Lee (Hancock’s wife), performed in the festival as a student at Thomas Jefferson High School. The First Lady has made restoring arts-education programs in schools her top priority since founding her nonprofit, Bringing Back the Arts. John F. Kennedy High School Drama Director Tim Boyles, who brought a fresh group of festival participants this year, performed in the festival when he himself was a student at JFK.

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festivalNot all of the performances on Friday were by students. A team of DCPA Education Teaching Artists presented a 45-minute version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that they perform at schools statewide in and around a beat-up old pickup truck as part of the “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” program. All costumes and props come from the back of the truck – so, for example, floor mats are used as a wall, and an ice-scraper is used as a sword to depict a suicide.

    This is the DCPA’s third year partnering with Denver Public Schools and the DPS Foundation to present the festival. “We provided workshops, we judged auditions, we opened our doors and we offer financial support to 4,000 students from across Denver to participate in this event,” said President and CEO Janice Sinden. “We do that because the DCPA knows arts education improves academic success, produces leaders and cultivates creativity. Plus, it’s fun.”

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festivalDance Legend Cleo Parker Robinson, a graduate of the Denver Public Schools who created Cleo Parker Robinson Dance 47 years ago, brought two of her company members to perform a short excerpt from their current offering, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet layered with scenes from George Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess (through May 7 at 119 Park Avenue West.)

    “It's thrilling to see students of all backgrounds and ages be introduced to the magic of theatre in this way,” said Robinson. “Our presence here today is meant to show these young students that Shakespeare can be expressed through the word, through music – and also through the ballet of Prokofiev.”

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festivalThe Grand Marshal of this year’s parade was Deputy Director of Denver Arts and Venues Ginger White Brunetti, who heads the city’s Imagine 2020 arts program.

    While students were free to perform from any of Shakespeare’s works, this year’s featured title was Much Ado About Nothing. But in the words of DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg, “Today there is going to be much ado about something.” 

    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. This is his 16th year covering the DPS Shakespeare Festival.


    2017-dps-shakespeare-festival

    Our 2017 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festival
    TO SEE MORE PHOTOS, CLICK ON THE GALLERY AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE.
  • Hurlyburly of nation's largest student Shakespeare Festival returns Friday

    by John Moore | Apr 24, 2017

    Our video report from the 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival, which was considerably sunnier than last year's event. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    In Shakespeare's world, clothes make the man. Here's how they will make (but not break) 5,000 Denver students on Friday.

    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    Friday’s 33rd annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival is expected to draw 5,000 students in adorable Shakespearean garb to perform more than 600 scenes and sonnets in theatres and tents and crannies all around the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Which, when you think about it, is a whole lot of Shakespearean garb. And garb ain’t cheap.

    But it can be.

    2016 DPS Shakespeare FestivalIn these tight times, some schools provide teachers with modest funding for the semester-long classroom project, culminating in the oldest and largest student Shakespeare festival in the country. And for this festival, bona fide costumes are mandatory. Over the years, some DPS teachers have been known to dip into their own pockets to help the costume cause, while others have simply had to go it alone.

    Steele Elementary School teacher Lane Miller is grateful not to be among them. He’s rallied an entire village of students, parents, school-district officials and members of the DCPA Education staff to help his students prepare for Friday’s festivities.

    “I really haven't ever raised money for the festival,” said Miller. “I think one thing DPS teachers need to know is where you can get the help you need. I have a key parent who orders T-shirts, occasionally helps with rehearsals, created our signs and helps with logistics at the festival.”

    Miller also called the DCPA for help with costume tips on a limited budget, and Costume Design Associate Meghan Anderson Doyle and At-Risk Coordinator Rachel Taylor responded by fashioning a free “Costuming on the Cheap” workshop at Steele Elementary that was attended by 160 parents and students on Feb. 23. The DCPA staffers got the children thinking about how you can spark costume creativity just by grabbing an old T-Shirt.

    “The goal of the workshop was to reinvent contemporary clothes from your closet or the thrift store as costumes that can help the students tell their stories,” said Doyle. “We wanted to make the experience kid-centered and the costumes kid-created without breaking the bank.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival 2016
    The 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival parade from the 16th Street Mall to the Denver Performing Arts Complex.  Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Taylor and Doyle eased the potential intimidation of students and parents finding or crafting Shakespearean costumes by removing sewing from the equation altogether. “We made ruffs out of coffee filters, doublets out of T-Shirts and shoelaces, and togas for Julius Caesar out of pillow cases,” Doyle said.  

    DPS Shakespeare Festival QUOTEMiller said the workshop was amazing. He also credited Beau Augustin, the Dance and Theatre Arts Instructional Curriculum Specialist for Denver Public Schools, as well as its district-wide costume department, led by Costume Shop Specialist Jean Benson, for their assistance. DPS houses more than 5,000 costumes in different time periods and styles, all of which are available to teachers who need them for the festival, along with a vast selection of accessories. More than 70 DPS schools participate in the festival each year.

    “Jean is the most talented costumer,” Miller said. “I have ordered more then 180 costumes from her for the festival before. This year, I only ordered a measly 80. All of our third-graders will be in costumes supplied by her.

    But the responsibility for costumes, and really all things DPS Shakespeare Festival, begins with the students themselves, Miller said. 

    "Our fourth- and fifth-graders create their own costumes, research their own characters and block their own scenes,” he said. "You can do it with a lot of help or very little. But knowing and utilizing your resources is key. The help is out there.”

    DPS Shakespeare FestivalThis will be the Denver Center’s third year co-presenting the festival with Denver Public Schools. DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous, a past Grand Marshal of the pre-festival parade, thinks the entire experience is an opportunity for the students to take pride in all they have invested in the project.

    “These schools have been working really hard on their scenes for months, and so the festival becomes a day of celebration," Watrous said. "They have gone through an audition process; they have memorized their lines; they have created their costumes. And now they get to walk in the parade through downtown Denver. You can feel the excitement from the moment they come off the school bus. Then they get to perform on our stages and get adjudicated by experts who provide helpful feedback and awards.

    "It is a great day because we are celebrating as individual classes, as individual schools, as the largest school district in the state and we are celebrating as a city. That's awesome.”

    DPS Shakespeare FestivalDPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg says studying Shakespeare in the classroom is itself a rich lesson in literature, culture, language and politics. “But having the opportunity to act in a production of Shakespeare’s works at a world-class venue like the Denver Center takes those lessons a step further," he said, "giving students a chance to experience the thrill and personal rewards of creative expression, which is such a critical part of a well-rounded education."

    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.

    33rd Annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival

    • 10 a.m.: Opening Ceremonies will be held at 15th and Arapahoe streets
    • 10:15 a.m.: All students will join a short parade down the 16th Street Mall to the Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • 10:45 a.m. through 4:15 p.m.: Short performances of sonnets and scenes from the works of Shakespeare, as well as demonstrations of dance, music and songs from Shakespeare’s time.
    • Ages: Kindergarten through high school
    • This year’s theme play: Much Ado About Nothing
    • More information on auditioning, workshops and resources for educators: shakespeare.dpsk12.org

    Photo gallery: The 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival:

    2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos may be downloaded and recirculated with source attribution. Click on any photo to download.

    Our 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

  • Video: DCPA in the classroom with Noble Energy

    by John Moore | Jun 11, 2016

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    DCPA Education is well-known for what is called “Dramatic Learning” – workshops that incorporate performative elements into classroom exercises to stimulate comprehension and retention.

    But its newest partnership with Noble Energy is perhaps its most unlikely collaboration yet.

    Noble Energy quoteReservoir Engineer Paul Majors is a scientist whose job is to find oil and gas reserves 7,000 feet below the surface of the Earth. DCPA Teaching Artist David Saphier is more used to teaching young people Shakespeare and introductory acting techniques. But working together, this odd and affable couple crafted an interactive pilot program to help 5th graders better understand oil, energy and the earth sciences.

    Denver’s Barnum Elementary School is one of 10 Denver schools the pair visited this semester. "The goal is to teach these students where energy comes from and why we need it," said Majors, who has been visiting classrooms on behalf of Noble Energy for 12 years.

    Their lesson plan: What is energy? Where is it found? How did it get there? How do we get it out? Then, of course: Why do we need it, and what do we do with it? Saphier said the program follows the Colorado Department of Education’s academic standards for science.

    “Everything we do takes some form of energy,” said Majors, who brought in jarred oil and core samples to show "that oil is a lot like people," he said. "It comes in all different colors, shapes and sizes."

    Saphier’s teaching style is learning by doing. “I like to get the kids out of their desks, moving around, creating something and learning in a different way,” he said. “What’s unique about this is that I have an actual expert in the here with me. That’s rare.”

    The kids learned about the different types of power including wind, hydropower, solar and gas. They learned that anything made of plastic is made of oil. Saphier had the students turning themselves into soccer balls, refrigerators and video-game consoles. Soon, he had them demonstrating how, over millions of years, a wilting tree is buried and turns into an energy deposit.

    Noble Energy DCPA Education Barnum Elementary
    DCPA Education's David Saphier leads Branum Elementary School 5th-graders in an interactive exercise. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Afterward, the students had the opportunity to ask questions, which revealed interesting facts such as: The subterranean oil field that stretches from Weld County in Northern Colorado to Wyoming is the ninth-largest oil and gas field in the nation.

    “I’m trying to get kids educated about oil and gas and how it’s a bigger part of the entire energy cycle,” said Majors. “This program with DCPA Education is an effective way to get the information across – and it’s a lot of fun. The kids retain the information. They are engaged. Everyone is on board.

    “You can’t be daydreaming when you are pretending you are a tree.”

    Noble Energy Barnum Elementary DCPA Education


    GLOSSARY:

    Renewable energy sources: Energy that is collected from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.

    Non-renewable energy sources: Most are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels.

    Fossil fuel: A natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.



    Our photo gallery from the energy workshop:

    DCPA and Noble EnergyPhotos from our visit to Barnum Elementary. To see more, just push the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Countdown to the Bobby G Awards: Denver School of the Arts

    by John Moore | May 21, 2016
    Denver School of the Arts. Spring Awakening. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Denver School of the Arts is the fourth of five schools nominated for Outstanding Musical we will be featuring here in the DCPA NewsCenter in the days leading up to the May 26 Bobby G Awards at the Buell Theatre. Denver School of the Arts. Spring Awakening is nominated for seven awards. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    DENVER SCHOOL OF THE ARTS

    Spring Awakening
    7111 Montview Blvd, Denver, CO 80220 MAP IT
    WEB SITE 

    Denver School of the Arts is a comprehensive secondary arts magnet school for grages 6 through 12. It is part of the Denver Public Schools District. In addition to a rigorous academic program, students engage in intensive studies in Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Stagecraft and Design, Theatre, Video Cinema Arts and Visual Arts. DSA is committed to fostering a lifelong love of the arts in a culturally diverse, academically challenging environment. The theatre program itself is made up of about 160 theatre students who auditioned to gain admittance. Its leader is Shawn Hann, who has been at the school for 15 years.

    Reserve your seat for the May 26 Bobby G Awards

    • Tell us a little about your school’s theatre tradition and history: DSA, as it is known for short, started as part of Cole Middle School. Arts classes were held in the Byers building fro the late 1990s until the school was opened in its present location 13 years ago. Our most notable graduate and Colorado thespian is probably Gabriel Ebert (pictured at right), who won the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work as Mr. Wormwood in Matilda. Most recently he appeared in the movie Ricky and the Flash with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. Gabe still comes back as an occasional guest artist, and he  meets up with DSA students in New York every year to talk about acting. Another notable grad is Justine Lupe (Schomp), who was on Harry's Law, Shameless (with William H. Macy), Younger (with Sutton Foster), and in the film Frances Ha. DSA Gabriel Ebertgrad Jesse JP Johnson is currently in SpongeBob the Musical on Broadway. Jesse has done seven national tours, as well as three years in the ensemble of Wicked on Broadway. New York playwright Max Posner (Judy) is also a DSA theater major, as well as his sister Jessica Odede Posner, who founded  Shining Hope for Communities in Kenya, Africa. Also five members of the class of 2010 created the Black Actors Guild in Denver, who take Shakespeare into elementary schools and create original work. 
    • Your program goals: Our school is slightly different than a traditional high school in that we are a DPS magnet school. Students audition for one of 11 arts majors and get the opportunity to be a part of that art every single day for 90 minutes. Many of our students travel between 25 minutes to an hour to get to our campus and are very dedicated to studying theatre. Our goal in our performances is to give as many kids mainstage opportunities as possible in any given year, to challenge them with difficult material, and to work together with dancers, musicians, vocalists, and stagecraft majors. Spring Awakening, however, is cast with only acting majors as it is a theatre major performance not an all-school musical.
    • What kind of general support do you get? We are a "do it yourself" organization.  The tickets for each show pay for each show. Most of the time we barely break even on any show that we put on our mainstage. Support live theatre! 👍.
    • What would you say to a younger student at your school who might be nervous or unsure about participating in the performing arts? Our department motto is this: Step into the fear and be brave. We talk a lot with our students about how taking risks and putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, is the only way that you will get rewards back from this art form. I would say have fun and go for it.
    • What does it mean to your school for your show to be nominated for Outstanding Musical by the Bobby G Awards? We are beyond thrilled to be nominated for Outstanding Musical. The students have worked so hard on this production and believe so strongly in the message this musical carries. When we performed the show at our own school, many audience members were so moved and touched by the story that they opened up to cast members and school counselors about problems they had been dealing with at our school. The whole point of Spring Awakening is to encourage that kind of communication.
    • What does this whole experience tell you about the value of arts education and extracurricular activities at your school? Theatre changes students' lives. It gives them skills that will transfer into any occupation after high school. From self-esteem to coping skills to organizational skills to working as a team and/or leading a group, stidents walk away with a massive skill set.  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Denver School of the Arts. Spring Awakening. Jimmy Bruenger. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Denver School of the Arts' is nominated as Oustanding Supporting Actor for 'Spring Awakening.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    Denver School of the Arts' 2016 Bobby G Award nominations

    • Overall Production of a Musical (Spring Awakening)
    • Outstanding Direction: Shawn Hann
    • Actor in a Leading Role: Michael Kosko, Moritz
    • Actor in a Supporting Role: Jimmy Bruenger, Hanschen
    • Hair and Makeup Design: Skylar Arterburn and Owen Nuss
    • Costume Design: Mary V Benoit and Lara Kirksey
    • Orchestra

    Previous 2016 Outstanding Musical Nominee profiles:
    Cherry Creek High School
    Fairview High School
    Mountain View High School

    Denver School of the Arts
    Arvada West High School

    Bobby G Awards
    : Ticket information

  • Thursday, May 26
  • Buell Theatre 
  • 7 p.m.
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    2016 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High School
    Video: Outstanding Actor Nominee Performances
    Video: Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Video: A look at Durango's Outstanding Musical, Les Misérables
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Andre' Rodriguez's stirring Bobby G Awards speech
    Video: See how we introduced all 30 participating schools
    Video: Page to Stage highlights with Bobby G Awards winners
    Meet your Bobby G Awards nominees, in their own words
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards: Complete list of nominations 

  • Soggy skies can't shake 5,000 students' Shakespeare spirit

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2016
    2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos may be downloaded and recirculated with source attribution. Click on any photo to download.

    "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

    Michael Berger grew up with a stutter. On Friday, the high-school senior stood ebulliently in the rain and welcomed thousands to the 32nd annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    A DPS Shakespeare 160"This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my theatre career,” said Berger, a senior at Denver School of the Arts who was chosen from hundreds of DPS students to perform as none other than the Bard himself at the festival’s opening ceremonies in Skyline Park.

    “My first performance as an actor was here. It was in the fourth grade, I was 8 or 9, and I performed Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1,” he said definitively. “Because of that, I was inspired to continue in the theatre. And it was through Shakespeare that I learned how to speak clearly. So this is very much full circle for me.”

    The rain-snow mix didn’t dampen the students’ spirits, but the chill surely put the shake in the Shakespeare as nearly 5,000 chilly students from 80 schools in grades kindergarten through high school braved the cold to perform more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex while bundled in an array of colorful costumes that were often covered in parkas.

    DPS Shakespeare Fetsival opening ceremonies: Micael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    DPS Shakespeare Festival opening ceremonies: Michael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Denver Center or the Performing Arts CEO Scott Shiller served as Grand Marshall for the three-block opening parade alongside Berger and George Washington High School senior Vicky Serdyuk, who won the annual honor of playing Queen Elizabeth I at the oldest and largest student Shakespeare festival in the country.

    “Shakespeare was the first live performance I ever saw – and I was in daycare,” Serdyuk said with a laugh. “I remember that the actors talked funny, but that they made it sound so good.”

    Shiller told the students that by participating in arts-education programs like the Shakespeare Festival, studies indicate they will be more likely to graduate, enroll in college, contribute meaningfully to civic life and volunteer. “Plus, children who are exposed to live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree,” he said.

    Gillian McNally, who served as a festival adjudicator and general encourager, was undaunted by the cold. Despite the gloomy weather, she declared Friday to be the most beautiful day of the year.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote “This might be the only time most of these students ever perform on a stage in their whole lives – and we celebrate that,” said McNally, an Associate Professor of Theatre Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Just look at these wonderful, handmade costumes,” she added, indicating young students from the DaVinci Academy dressed as a human forest. “That tells me teachers collaborated with students and their parents, and they made something together. That’s what this is all about: We are making something together.”

    More than half of all students enrolled in Denver Public Schools speak English as a second language. Serdyuk says it makes sense that many DPS English teachers use Shakespeare as a language-learning tool in the classroom. “Shakespeare’s English follows a lot of the same rules as many of these students’ first languages,” she said. 

    Berger serves as student teacher for Denison Montessori School’s Shakespeare program.  He says Shakespeare is less intimidating for students whose native language isn’t English because they are already learning one foreign language – so what’s another? “It’s neat seeing kids learn to speak Shakespeare while they are learning English at the same time,” Berger said.

    Christine Gonzalez, who teaches kindergarten through 6th grade students at Denison, said Berger has been a big help to her students. “He keeps it light and fun and inspirational,” she said. “It’s easier to learn when you make it fun.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Mary Louise Lee, an accomplished performer and also the First Lady of Denver, addressed the crowd about the importance of arts education. “I am a proud product of the Denver Public Schools,” said the graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee, wife of Mayor Michael B. Hancock, has made restoring arts-education programs in schools her top priority since founding her nonprofit, Bringing Back the Arts.

    The DPS Shakespeare Festival draws students of all ages and experience levels. While hundreds were performing for the first time Friday, Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger was performing in his seventh DPS Festival.

    “I remember feeling nervous my first year because I was performing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Bruenger, who was born in Mexico. “But I looked around and I saw younger kids who were only 6 or 7 years old and they were completely into it. That gave me confidence that I could do it, too.”

    Seven years later, Bruenger is not only a recent winner of a True West Award and Denver Mayor's Award for the Arts, but also a full scholarship to the University of Oklahoma from the Daniels Fund. After he performed in his final Shakespeare Festival on Friday, he was off to star in the opening of a world premiere musical about the Armenian genocide called I Am Alive.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. This is the first year the DCPA served as a full producing partner in the DPS Festival. The DCPA’s Education Department offered up its Teaching Artists to assist all 80 participating schools in their preparations for Friday.

    “We are proud to partner alongside the largest school district in the state,” Shiller said. “Colorado’s commitment to arts integration outpaces the national average in nearly every category. In fact, 64 percent of our high schools offer theatre education, just like our own Shakespeare Festival.”

    Friday’s crowd was peppered with prominent figures in the local theatre community. Susan Lyles, founder of the city’s only company dedicated to female playwrights (And Toto Too) was on hand to root on her son, Harrison Lyles-Smith, who played a shepherd with a wicked death scene in As You Like It.

    Lyles said Harrison and his 5th-grade classmates at Steck Elementary School have been practicing for two hours every Friday since February. “It has given him self-confidence and a fearlessness when it comes to Shakespeare that a lot of adults don’t have,” she said.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sara McPherson Horle, Executive Producer of The Catamounts Theatre Company of Boulder, happened to have a nephew in that same class at Steck. For her, one of the great rewards young Samuel Davis has gotten out of the experience is the lost art of listening.

    “You have to be self-disciplined to be an actor at any age,” Horle said. “Learning to listen is a huge thing, but especially at this age.”

    McNally said the emphasis of the festival is not on producing professional-quality performances – although many of the older students come awfully close. What the judges want more to encourage is passion, which leads to the development of useful life skills such as public speaking and boosted self-esteem.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But occasionally there are performances that make even the Shakespeare purists turn their heads. DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken was particularly impressed with the 3rd through 5th graders from Isabella Bird, a “heart-centered” community school where teacher Rebecca Sage says students are all made to feel valued for their own specific, individual talents.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote 2“The general clarity of their storytelling was astounding, and their delivery were astounding,” McCracken said after watching Sage’s students perform a Cinco de Mayo-informed take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Ricketson Theatre. “That was an amazing throughline for elementary-school actors." 

    Sage said her approach to the project was not unlike the approach of any director who takes on a full-fledged theatrical production: “It all starts with table work,” she said. That means working through the script with the students line-by-line, making sure they understand the meaning, the innuendo and most important, the comedy of the words they speak.

    Sage’s students fully bought into the project, she said, in part because Friday’s festival was only the start of their reward. Next week, the students will perform the full story back at the school for parents and friends. Sage said her students have been putting in half-mornings two days a week since January.

    “It was hugely gratifying for them to put in the work, both at home and at school, and then to get that kind of validation and respect once they got here today,” she said. “This whole experience is a huge incentive for them to continue doing things that challenge them and take them to their edge.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's Romeo and Juliet

    DCPA Teaching Artists John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes starred in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Also new this year was the evening Shakespeare After-Fest program, when arts organizations from across Denver came together to continue the celebration of the Bard. The program included music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY. DCPA Education also performed its hour-long production of Romeo and Juliet from its outreach program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.

    The First Lady of Denver left the kids with a Shakespeare quote whose authorship has been disputed over time – but its meaning was indubitably apropos for Friday’s occasion:

    “The meaning of your life is to find your gift,” Lee told the gathered crowd. “The purpose of your life is to give it away.”

    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.

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Friday: Celebrate Shakespeare with live music, performances and art

    by NewsCenter Staff | Apr 27, 2016
    2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival returns to the Denver Performing Arts Complex for a 32nd year this Friday, April 29. Last year's celebration drew more than 5,000 students from 70 schools in grades kindergarten through high school. They performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets.

    Take a look back at last year's festival in photos (above) and video (below).



    DCPA expands partnership with DPS Shakespeare Festival

    New this year is the Shakespeare After-Fest from 4-7 p.m., when arts organizations from across Denver will come together  to celebrate the Bard. Hear music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman, as well as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, watch mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY.

    You'll even get sucked into the scene as local musicians, performers and painters use Shakespeare's works for inspiration. And best yet - it's all free.

    The DCPA is a co-producer of the 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Its Education Department reached all 80 participating schools in preparation for the festival.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore. 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • DCPA expands partnership with DPS Shakespeare Festival

    by John Moore | Apr 12, 2016

    The 2015 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival drew more than 5,000 students from 70 schools in grades kindergarten through high school who performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Check out these video highlights from DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    By Suzanne Yoe
    For the DCPA Newscenter

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is expanding its involvement in the 2016 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival. Held Friday, April 29, at the downtown Denver Performing Arts Complex, the 32-year-old festival now will be a co-production of the DCPA, Denver Public Schools and the Denver Public Schools Foundation.

    To complement the day, the DCPA invites students, parents, educators, residents and the downtown Denver business community to its all-new “Shakespeare After-Fest.” The community is invited to sample a variety of Shakespearean acts, scenes and vignettes accompanied by live music and on-site painting — all for free.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival Under the leadership of President & CEO Scott Shiller, the DCPA’s expanded role will serve teachers and students in all 80 participating schools through in-school workshops, professional development, audition adjudication, and financial support — both in-kind and through fundraising — to produce the event. Under the leadership of Acting Superintendent Susana Cordova, DPS’ Arts and Physical Education Department will align all activities with the Colorado State Standards, provide professional development opportunities to participating educators, solicit school participation and manage logistical coordination of both the audition process and the Festival itself.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival“The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is delighted to be a co-producer of the nation’s largest youth Shakespeare Festival,” said Shiller. “We know that children who are exposed to a live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree, so we are more than tripling our in-school workshops in order to ignite a passion for theatre in as many students as possible.”

    “The DPS Shakespeare Festival is an opportunity for 5,000 K-12 students to perform scenes from the works of William Shakespeare,” said Karen Radman, Interim President and CEO of the DPS Foundation. “These students will fill every inch of the Arts Complex with dance, singing and music of Shakespeare’s time. We’re delighted to welcome the community to this free celebration.”

    “The DPS Shakespeare Festival has been a centerpiece of our commitment to arts integration throughout the District,” said Susana Cordova, Acting Superintendent of Denver Public Schools. “The event is open to children of all backgrounds and uses literacy and the creative arts to boost student achievement and develop critical thinking. Plus, it’s just fun!”

    2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos from the 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival. To see more, click the arrow on the photo above to page through the full gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    DCPA SHAKESPEARE AFTER-FEST

    In an effort to encourage connections between downtown businesses and residents with the Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is launching an all-new Shakespeare After-Fest.

    Held from 4-7pm throughout the open-air Galleria at the Arts Complex, this free event will include a string quartet featuring Tom Hagerman (DeVotchKa, DCPA Theatre Company’s Sweeney Todd); live, on-site canvas painting of Shakespearean-inspired art; scenes from Romeo and Juliet by the DCPA’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, and performances by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Cult Following, The Catamounts, Stories on Stage, Black Actors’ Guild and Phamaly Theatre Company, among other arts groups. Shakespeare After-Fest is supported by the Downtown Theatre District.


    TIMELINE FOR FRIDAY, APRIL 29

    10 a.m.: Opening Ceremonies in Skyline Park at 15th & Arapahoe streets

    10:15 a.m.: Elizabethan Parade down 16th Street and Curtis streets

    10:45 a.m.: Student Performances begin on more than 18 stages at the Arts Complex

    Noon: Challenge Bowl school competition begins and student performances continue

    4-7 p.m.: Shakespeare After-Fest, open-air Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex

    • 4 p.m.: Quartet performance (Tom Hagerman of DeVotchka) outside The Ellie
    • 4:15 p.m.: Shakespearean-inspired painting begins throughout the Galleria
    • 5 p.m.: Scenes from Shakespeare are performed outside the Bonfils Theatre Complex
    • 7 p.m.: Festival concludes

    For information on the DPS Shakespeare Festival, visit shakespeare.dpsk12.org
    For information about the Shakespeare After-Fest, visit denvercenter.org/after-fest

    NewsCenter coverage of the DPS Shakespeare Festival:

    DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner
    Photos: 2014 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival

     

  • Mayor unveils bold vision for new Denver Performing Arts Complex

    by John Moore | Mar 10, 2016
    Nest Stage: The New Denver Performing Arts Complex

    Our complete gallery of photos from the city's press event today, including a look at artist renderings and live entertainment that was spread throughout the Denver Performing Arts Complex. To see more photos, simply click the forward arrow on the photo above. To download for free, click on the photo. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    The city’s grand vision for a new downtown Denver Performing Arts Complex is for now, just that. But when the mayor orders you to dream big … you dream big.

    On Thursday, Mayor Michael B. Hancock unveiled “Next Stage,” a bold proposal for what a transformed arts center might look like at a public press event held under the iconic arches of the 38-year-old Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    Scott ShillerIf realized, the 12-acre site that is already the largest arts complex in the country by attendance will undergo a makeover that aims to go much further than simply transforming the city’s Theatre District.

    “We are here to transform a city,” Hancock said.

    When you combine the Performing Arts Complex with the Colorado Convention Center next door, Hancock said, more than 2 million people visit Denver’s arts corridor each year. “But what I love about Denver is that that even though we are No. 1, we are saying that’s simply not good enough,” he added. “This project has the potential to change our city's cultural life in untold ways.

    “I want Denver  to be known for its commitment to arts and culture.”

    The ambitious – and as of now unfunded - plan calls for expanding Sculpture Park, which runs along Speer Boulevard between Arapahoe and Stout streets, into an entertainment destination that would be anchored by an amphitheater that would rival Chicago’s Millennium Park. It calls for moving Denver School of the Arts from its east Denver campus to the Boettcher Concert Hall property. It calls for three 40-story residential towers that would include new hotels, restaurants, office and retail space where the city’s public parking garage is currently located. It imagines a new 1,200-seat music hall at 14th and Arapahoe streets that would, among other things, serve as a new home to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It calls for a new parking facility under Sculpture Park that would raise the current number of available parking spots from 1,700 to more than 2,600. And it calls for dedicating at least $250,000 to introduce new public art projects in and around the Performing Arts Complex over the next two years.

    For starters.

    A look at what the new Denver Performing Arts Complex might look like from the entranceway at 13th and Curtis streets.A look at what the new Denver Performing Arts Complex might look like from the entranceway at 13th and Curtis streets.


    The goal is to make the Denver Performing Arts Complex a place that will be buzzing with activity for 18 hours every day. And remaining right at the heart of it all would be the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which presently draws about 800,000 to the Denver Performing Arts Complex with its theatre programming and educational opportunities. DCPA CEO Scott Shiller was present on Thursday to lend his full support for the plan.

    Go to the city’s ‘Next Stage’ web page

    “The city has made arts and culture one of the pillars of what is going to make Denver a global arts center,” said Shiller, who was backed by more than 200 DCPA employees wearing matching black DCPA jackets. “Mayor Hancock has been supportive of us, and we want to be supportive of him.”

    Mayor Michael B. Hancock: 'What I love about Denver is that that even though we are No. 1, we are saying that's simply not good enoughAccording to city officials, the new DPAC will be “an enlivened, vibrant, thriving, public regional center of cultural activity in the heart of downtown. It will attract diverse audiences, celebrate a variety of art forms, contribute to the city's economic vitality, enhance Denver's urban fabric, integrate with neighboring amenities and serve as an innovative model for sustainable cultural and civic investment.”

    And despite the radical proposed new looks, all early architectural renderings call for maintaining the signature arch that connects the two sides of the Complex at Curtis Street, and provides patrons protection from the weather.

    The plan unveiled Thursday was developed by an Executive Leadership Team appointed by Hancock (pictured above right) that received input from more than 4,200 Denver residents, as well as arts patrons, performers and presenters. Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks, who served on that Leadership Team, said its charge from the mayor was to simply reimagine what the new Performing Arts Complex might look like in the future, without limits.

    "It is rare to announce something that can change the face of a city and in a way that we are doing today,” said Brooks.  

    Added Hancock: “I asked the Leadership Team to be bold, to think outside the box and to not acknowledge limitations. I asked them to make this Complex into something that will take Denver to the next level."

    Colorado Ballet. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  Among those representing the DCPA on that Executive Leadership Team were Shiller, Broadway Division Executive Director John Ekeberg and board member Tina Walls.

    “As the largest non-profit theatre company in America and the primary programmer of the Performing Arts Complex,” Shiller said, “we appreciate Mayor Hancock's challenge to look beyond what the Complex is today and to focus on what we can become tomorrow. The cornerstone elements that comprise Next Stage align with our own vision to be the most engaging theatre organization in the nation.”

    A key component of the plan is tearing down the 2,600-seat Boettcher Concert Hall to create a new home for Denver School of the Arts, currently located at East Montview Boulevard and Quebec Street. Denver Public Schools Acting Superintendent Susana Cordova hailed the Hancock plan as “revolutionary.” She said moving DSA to the downtown corridor would not only infuse the new Performing Arts Complex with “adolescent energy,” but, being centrally located near many public transportation hubs would solve many existing transportation problems for low-income students who come from all over the city.

    “We are so excited to be a part of all this newness coming here to downtown Denver,” Cordova said. “We know that as the Performing Arts Complex grows, so will grow the opportunities for our students, both on the stage and as supporters of the amazing arts community here in Denver.”

    Read the city’s Executive Summary

    There has been no attempt at attaching a price tag or a timeline to the project yet. And as for how Hancock will pay for it all, he said bluntly, “I don’t know.” He has appointed a funding and governance committee that has been tasked with delivering a financing plan by the end of the year.

    The unveiling event included entertainment from Colorado Ballet, the Colorado Symphony, Denver Brass, Black Actors Guild, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, Opera Colorado, Gift of Jazz, Denver Young Artists Orchestra, students from Denver School of the Arts and former Bobby G Awards winner (for outstanding high-school achievement in musical theatre) Abby Noble.

    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.

    Frequent Flyers. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  A member of the Frequent Flyers performs from a makeshift trapeze outside the Bonfils Theatre Complex at the heart of the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Thursday. Above right: A member of the Colorado Ballet. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    A video prepared by the city's Department of Arts and Venues about its plans for a new Performing Arts Complex.

  • 2015 Shakespeare Festival is a celebration of Will Power

    by John Moore | Apr 24, 2015
    VIDEO: Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    PHOTOS:
    Photos from the 2015 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are available for free downloading at a variety of file sizes. Just click here


    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    Jessica Quiñónez locked hands in a circle with her 15 students from Newlon Elementary School and told them not to be nervous when their time came to perform at today’s 31st annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    But … her line of little Shakespeareans did look a teensy-bit nervous, from her dapper young Petruchio with the swashbuckling musketeer hat down to her lovely little Bianca.

    “But there is no reason to be scared, because you have practiced for this for so long,” she reassured them.

    Oh, and one more thing, she told them: “Be loud!”

    They listened.

    Newlon Elementary teacher Jessica Quiñónez. Photo by John Moore. For Quiñónez’s students, six months of hard work culminated with only about 5 glorious minutes of performance time under a tent on the grounds of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. 

    And it was worth every millisecond of it, said Quiñónez (pictured at right).

    “They got so amped up to do this, and they learned so much,” said Quiñónez, whose third- through fifth-graders performed two short scenes and a dance from The Taming of the Shrew

    “They learned how to act and how to become their characters. But more important, they learned how to be on a team together, and they learned how to embrace each other’s different cultures,” she said. “Everybody is different but we all came together for one goal, and that was to perform at the festival and, of all things, on the Olde Globe stage.”

    The 31st DPS Shakespeare Festival drew more than 5,000 students from 70 schools in grades kindergarten through high school who performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets. They all had to audition to get in, and those deemed most promising by the judges were invited to perform today on the Olde Globe Stage. This was the first time students from Newlon, located in Denver’s Barnum West neighborhood, have been invited to perform alongside the best of the best.

    “That was a huge accomplishment for our school,” said Quiñónez.

    Newlon Elementary teacher Jessica Quiñónez with her students and Devin Seligsohn. Photo by John Moore.

    Newlon Elementary teacher Jessica Quiñónez (above and right) with her students and director, Devin Seligsohn. Photo by John Moore.


    School office manager Devin Seligsohn directed the project, starting in November. The costumes mostly came from the DPS’ district warehouse, but like many teachers, Quiñónez and Seligsohn threw in about $250 of their own money to cover other expenses.

    And like about half of the DPS enrollment, many of Quiñónez’s students are learning English as a second language. She said learning Shakespeare “absolutely” has helped her students improve their English. One of her little thespians speaks fluent Spanish, but practicing to play Biondello for the festival gave her the confidence not only to say her words in the Bard’s English – she threw in a little accent as well. Her character assists Lucentio in his scheme to win the love of Bianca.

    “She really embraced this whole experience, and it has helped her with her English,” said Quiñónez. “I think it’s the fun of it that makes learning more interesting. It really makes her want to learn the words.

    “It’s just amazing for them to be able to do all of this this at a DPS school.”

    While the DPS Shakespeare festival has long played out in and around the DCPA’s grounds, this was the DCPA’s first year as a full partner of the event. DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous said it’s a partnership that makes perfect sense. 

    “We are the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, in the center of downtown - and this is our school district,” she said. “The DPS is one of our greatest partnerships already, so if we can be a champion for them, that’s what we want to do. Especially for those schools that do not have arts programming due to budget cuts or time constraints, it’s great that we can support this program.”

    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous was the Grand Marshall of this year's parade. Photo by John Moore.
    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous was the Grand Marshall of this year's parade. Photo by John Moore. 


    Watrous served as the Grand Marshall for the short parade that preceded the astonishing array of performances that played out every few minutes on 14 stages spreading from Sculpture Park to - no kidding - the upper decks of the nearby city parking lot.

    She said the Newlon students’ experience is a perfect example of the festival’s goal to emphasize process over performance. 

    “As actors and theatre artists, we know that process is the most important part,” she said. “It’s the preparation that gives us the chance to figure out what these words mean, how to say them and how to best put them out into the world.

    “We know that theatre gives students portable skills. Will they end up in theatre? Maybe not, but the skills they learn here are skills they can use in their careers.” 

    In her introductory remarks to the crowd that gathered this morning at Skyline Park, Watrous called this festival a treasured community event that continues to enrich the lives of students.

    “Shakespeare and the theatre shows us the power of language and gives us the ability to see the world in metaphor, and to paint with images. These rich gifts lead up to empathy and critical thinking," she said.

    “The DCPA is dedicated to arts in education, and believes that every student deserves opportunities like this.” 

    CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR FULL GALLERY OF FESTIVAL PHOTOS

    Every year, exceptional students are chosen to portray Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth at the opening ceremonies. This year’s honorees were seniors from Denver School of the Arts: Noah Anderson, who has been active with DCPA Education programs for several years and last year was an understudy in the Theatre Company’s production of black odyssey; and fellow senior Stacey Tilton. And, as always, Denver City Auditor Dennis J. Gallagher serenaded the crowd with an always letter-perfect, memorized sonnet.

    Injured Denver police officer released from hospital

    Many at the front of the crowd for the morning parade saw a disturbing sight when the horse that was to lead the festival dignitaries in a carriage suddenly bucked and kicked a Denver police officer square in the face. The officer suffered a facial laceration and was bleeding profusely. A Denver police spokesman said the officer never lost consciousness and was treated and released after being transported to Denver Health.

    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 NewsCenter coverage of the DPS Shakespeare Festival:

    DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner
    Photos: 2014 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival


    A Shakespeare 800 3
    Queen Elizabeth, as played by Stacey Tilton, is second from left. Noah Anderson, as Shakespeare, is far right. Photo by John Moore.

    Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore.
  • DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2015
    John Moore's photos of the 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival returns for a 31st year this Friday (April 24) under a new partnership with the DPS Foundation that now includes the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    This is the oldest and largest student Shakespeare Festival in the country. About 5,000 DPS students from kindergarten through high school will perform on 14 stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Students from 70 schools will tackle 630 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets. That’s a 15 percent increase in participation over last year.

    "There is nothing else even remotely on this scale anywhere else," said Michael LoMonico of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

    DPS QuoteThe daylong party opens with welcoming ceremonies at Skyline Park and continues with an Elizabethan parade down Curtis Street. A sea of kings, soldiers, maidens, jesters and ghosts donning everything from Elizabethan to African tribal garb will then spread throughout the grounds for their performances.

    The city-owned arts complex has long hosted this annual Shakesplosion, but this is the DCPA’s first year as a full partner. DCPA Chairman Daniel L. Ritchie says his non-profit champions the student fest for two simple reasons: It’s important … and it’s fun.

    “We have a common history over 30-plus years in the community,” said Ritchie. “Our focus on great theatre classics provides a shared vision. And our commitment to engage youth through theatre education motivates us with a unified purpose. Together, we will combine history’s greatest plays with passionate teachers and inspired young actors to expose thousands of students and spectators to the joy of live theatre.”

    Kristin Heath Colon, President and CEO of the Denver Public Schools Foundation, calls the new partnership with the DCPA “a prime example of what it takes to help every child in the Denver Public Schools succeed. We can’t do this alone.”

    Since 2006, the DPS Foundation has awarded 946 classroom grants totaling $1.26 million that subsidize enrichment programs and activities that go beyond individual schools’ limited budgets. Among these “A to Z” grants are stipends that help the poorest schools make costumes or help pay for other festival costs.


    Students from Lowry Elementary School perform Sonnet 74 for the Denver Sonnets Project as part of last year's DPS Shakespeare Festival.

    The free festival, started in 1985 by teacher Joe Craft, has now given about 100,000 students the chance to jump on a stage and screw their courage to the sticking post. One of them was Marty Schettler, a 1999 graduate of Manual High School. He’s now a 34-year-old mathematician, software developer and father of two boys.

    “I was in the festival a couple times; most memorably in 10th grade,” said Schettler. “We did a scene with the two sets of lovers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I just remember it being so much easier to connect with the text after rehearsing and performing it. It was a really great way to get a taste of performing without having to commit to a whole play - especially a Shakespeare play.” 

    That’s because Shakespeare can be nothing if not intimidating at first. But, four centuries later, the Bard continues to be regarded as the most important playwright in the English language. And the DPS Shakespeare Festival allows students to get used to his language early in life. That gives them a competitive academic advantage because studies have shown that when students don’t encounter Shakespeare for the first time until they are in a high-school class, they have more difficulty understanding Shakespeare and engaging with the words.

    Dana Bergren Dana Bergren, a senior at George Washington High School (pictured right) has been performing in the Shakespeare Festival almost every year since the fourth grade. She says that annual exercise helped her overcome the intimidation factor long ago. 

    “Since I've done it for so long, I have a better understanding of it,” said Bergren, who will be portraying the brooding prince Hamlet in a gender-swapped scene on Friday. “I also feel like it helps take the stigma and intimidation of it away. When you realize that it's just words like any other play, that makes more fun and less scary.”

    Colon said the DPS Shakespeare Festival not only gives students the chance to perform and develop their public speaking and critical thinking skills, it gives them an important opportunity to express themselves and interact with peers.

    That is particularly important in the Denver Public Schools district, which in 2011 reported that 70 percent of its students live below the poverty level, 12 percent have identified education disabilities and 46 percent speak languages other than English in their homes.

    “In my classroom, 100 percent of my students speak English as a second language,” said Rachael Nyberg-Hampton, a teacher at Munroe Elementary. “So one of the things we struggle with is expression when speaking.” Shakespeare, she adds, provides students with new strategies for improving their reading levels.

    Colon says that’s all part of the school district’s commitment to the development of the whole child. “And the Shakespeare Festival is a critical component of that,” she 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.

    The 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival parade. Photo by John Moore.

    The 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival parade. Photo by John Moore. 


    2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival Schedule: 

    10 a.m.: Opening Ceremonies in Skyline Park (15th and Arapahoe)
    10:15 a.m.: Elizabethan Parade from Skyline Park to the Denver Performing Arts Complex
    10:45 a.m.-4:15 p.m.: Student performances on 14  stages throughout the DPAC
    Noon-2:45 p.m.: The Shakespeare Challenge Bowl at The Joe Craft Theatre (inside the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex).

    Schools and stages:
    (Name of stage, followed by participating schools. Note: Schools that are in The Challenge Bowl might be on two stages.)

    The theme of the 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival is 'The Tempest.' BLACKFRIARS STAGE: Gateway, Southmoor, Kennedy, Montclair, Colfax, Greenwood, Traylor, Carson and Edison.

    BOAR’S HEAD:  DSST at Green Valley Ranch, Hill, Brown, Newlon and Bill Roberts.

    CURTAIN:  Grant Ranch, Dennison, Doull, Skinner, Goldrick and DaVinci Academy.

    FORTUNE:  Denver School of the Arts

    HOPE: McAuliffe, Lowry, Marrama, Thomas Jefferson, Columbian, Lincoln, Golden and Palmer.

    INNS OF COURT:  University Park, Park Hill, MSLA, Ashley, Cheltenham, Corey, Aurora Academy, Sandoval, Henry, Kaiser and Hamilton.

    JOE CRAFT:  Munroe, Holm, DCIS at Fairmont and Archuleta.  This is also The Challenge Bowl Stage.

    RED LION:  Steele, Morey and Grant Beacon.

    ROSE:  Polaris at Ebert, GALS, Denver Green School, George Washington and Bromwell.

    SWAN:  Highline Academy, Merrill, George Washington, Force, Thomas Jefferson, Slavens and DSST at Cole.

    THEATRE:  Swigert, Highline Academy and Steele.

    WHITEFRIARS:  Steck, Gust, McKinley Thatcher, Sabin, Kunsmiller, Denver Montessori, DSST at Stapleton and Lowry.

    WHITEHALL :  Bradley, Kennedy, Teller, Hamilton and Smith

    OLDE GLOBE:  Hill, Montclair, Newlon, Polaris at Ebert, GALS, Morey, University Park, Sabin, Merrill, Smith, Skinner, Barrett, DSST at Stapleton, Palmer, North, Slavens and Bromwell

    For stage locations and other information, click here

  • Photos: 2014 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival

    by John Moore | Apr 25, 2014

    image

    Marina Leo, daughter of local actors Christopher Leo and C. Kelly Leo, played a ferocious Macbeth, and, at the end of the scene, paid for it with her head. Photo by John Moore.

    The 30th Annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival was held today. Approximately 5,000 DPS students performed at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. This is the oldest and largest student Shakespeare Festival in the country. This day-long party provides the opportunity for students to perform scenes and sonnets from the works of William Shakespeare as well as demonstrate the dance, and vocal and instrumental music of Shakespeare’s time.

    Click here to see our complete gallery of nearly 100 photos from this year's DPS Shakespeare Festival.

    All photos by John Moore for the Denver Center. All rights reserved. Copyright 2014.

  • 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.