• Summit Spotlight, Sigrid Gilmer: What makes you laugh will make you cry

    by John Moore | Feb 20, 2018

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    In this daily, four-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 13 years, 29 plays introduced at the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. First up: Sigrid Gilmer of San Francisco, author of Mama Metallica.

    'Mama Metallica' is playwright's love letter to her mother, Metallica and the theater in one heavy-metal smash-up

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    John Moore: What happens in your play?

    Sigrid Gilmer: A woman named Sterling Milburn has a mother with dementia and she's coping with the grief of that through her muse: The heavy-metal band Metallica.

    John Moore: So why Metallica?

    Sigrid Gilmer: The play really is a love letter to my mom, to Metallica, and to the theater, which were the three biggest influences on me growing up.

    John Moore: Let's go through those. First, tell us a little bit about your mom.

    Sigrid Gilmer: My mom right now suffers from dementia, but she obviously didn't for most of my life. She was a single mom, so a lot of it was just the two of us hanging out. We used to travel, and she cooked a lot. It was a good childhood. But and like all mother-daughter relationships, it was complicated, and I have had to kind of negotiate and  reconcile that. The play is really me grieving somebody who's still alive.

    John Moore: Is it possible that you've managed to write a play about dementia that's actually funny?

    Sigrid Gilmer: Oh, it's super funny. I mean, what makes you laugh will make you cry, right? I think that whatever that edge of crying and laughing is, that openness, I feel like they're in the same emotional neighborhood.

    Sigrid Gilmer Quote 800


    John Moore: Why do you love heavy-metal music?

    Sigrid Gilmer: Because it's just naked aggression and rhythm and rage. And that's what I feel like on the inside.

    John Moore: How does Metallica help you deal with what's going on with your mom?

    Sigrid Gilmer: I discovered Metallica in my sophomore year of high school. I was listening to the college radio station after school one day when they played the song “Master of Puppets,” and it just blew my mind. It's a very long song about how addiction is the puppet master. It's amazing. It's orchestral. We had this giant stereo system and I remember leaning against these really huge, tall speakers. It was cranked up, and my mind was just blown.

    JMama Metallica Adams Viscom. ohn Moore: And how is your play a love letter to theatre?

    Sigrid Gilmer: I have been doing theater since I was 9, so I haven't really haven't done anything else with my life. My play is a salute to the mid-century autobiographical plays like The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, anything by Arthur Miller. Those are the first plays I ever encountered, and they are so well-made. I felt like Mama Metallica is my homage to that kind of play. (Pictured right: Courtney Sauls. Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    John Moore: So, when I hear your mother, Metallica, and mid-20th-century playwrights  … they sound like three different plays. How do they work all together in one?

    Sigrid Gilmer: Well, they're three different things, but they're all filtered through me, so it becomes one thing. They're thrown together and spliced together and smashed up against each other, and I think it makes an interesting kaleidoscope. Some of the dissidence is really quite beautiful and fun. It’s a cacophony, like a good heavy-metal jam. If you listen to any really good Metallica song like “Master of Puppets” or “Disposable Heroes,” they're long and complicated and they have different melodies and strains and rhythms running throughout them. And at some point, it all coalesces into this magnificent tapestry of sound.

    Sigrid Gilmer Mama Metallica. Photo by John Moore


    John Moore: So tell us about some of the famous characters you have written into your story.

    Sigrid Gilmer: Tennessee Williams is in it, and Eugene O'Neill, and Metallica.

    John Moore: They were all available?

    Sigrid Gilmer: They were all available — and they all wanted to be in it.

    John Moore: This is what you do in a lot of your plays. You worked Duran Duran into one of your plays, Axiom.

    Sigrid Gilmer. Mama Metallica. Photo by John MooreSigrid Gilmer: Oh, yeah! That play is about how a Duran Duran song sparks a student-worker riot in a factory. I find that pop culture is a really good way of anchoring emotion. Especially pop music, because it’s always in the background as you're living your life.

    John Moore: How did it ever occur to you to re-imagine Harriet Tubman as an action star in your play Harry and the Thief?

    Sigrid Gilmer: Oh, my God, it's so easy. I read this one anecdote about Harriet Tubman and it was that she kept a gun with her when she ferried people to the north. And when people would freak out, she would turn to them, pull the gun out and say, "You're going to be free or you're going to be dead." And I was like, "That is the best action-movie line ever." I thought, "Where is the Michael Bay production of this story?" It was kick-ass.

    John Moore: Is it true that your playwriting career started with you taking a class in college?

    Sigrid Gilmer: Oh yes, and coincidentally, the writer of (The DCPA Theatre company’s current world premiere) American Mariachi, José Cruz González, was that playwriting instructor. I think the value of taking a playwriting class is the ability to shape a world for yourself and to be able to tell whatever story you want. And to to actually know how to construct a story for the stage is powerful.

    John Moore: What would you think if someone tried to tell you that there are rules of playwriting that you should follow?

    Sigrid Gilmer: If somebody were to tell me there's one certain way to write a play, I would be thinking mean things — but I would be polite. There's no one way to tell a story. There are as many people in the world as there are ways to tell a story. Everyone has their certain way of viewing the world and negotiating and navigating that world. I mean there are certain devices and narrative structures that are helpful to know, but I think those are negotiable.

    John Moore: When did you find your own voice and know this is what you wanted to do?

    a jose-cruz-gonzalez-webSigrid Gilmer: It was actually taking that first playwriting class with Jose (pictured right). I had always known that I wanted to be in theater. I did theater, acting and directing as an undergrad until I realized that, as a black woman, there weren't going to be as many choice roles for me. Nobody was going to hand me Othello or let me play Iago — which I think is probably the best character ever created. I was really thinking of leaving theater altogether before I took that playwriting class. And when I wrote my first play, I knew this is where I belong in the theater. I got to play all the roles. I got to be everybody and make everything happen. That's an amazing feeling.

    John Moore: What are your initial thoughts on your first Colorado New Play Summit?

    Sigrid Gilmer: For me, having that second week allows the work we're doing in the first week to be less precious. We can be risky. We can take more chances knowing that if something doesn't work, we have another week to tweak it and put it back up on its feet. Having a process that's less geared toward presentation frees me up as a playwright. I think it also frees up the actors and the directors to be adventurous and find the beauty that can come out of a mess or an accident or by being haphazard. It doesn’t have to be perfect, which means there's more freedom and more breathing room. And when we try something out in front of an audience, and if it doesn't work we can just sweep that under the rug. Nobody has to know.

    John Moore: What would it mean to you if, one day, Metallica was in the audience watching this?

    Sigrid Gilmer: Oh, my God. It would just be crazy amazing. In the fantasy production in my head, Metallica's playing onstage — but it is Metallica in 1987. Dear Metallica, if you're reading this, come and be in my play.

    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.

    Mama Metallica. Photo by Adams VisComMama Metallica: Cast list
    Written by Sigrid Gilmer
    Directed by Jaki Bradley
    Dramaturgy by Ricardo A. Bracho
    Stage Manager: Dana Reiland
    Stage Management Apprentice: Molly Langeberg

    • Sterling Milburn: Courtney Sauls
    • Louise Bell Milburn: Lee Sherman (pictured right, photo by Adams VisCom.)
    • James Hetfeld: Nick Ducassi
    • Lars Ulrich: Grayson DeJesus
    • Kirk Hammett: Linden Tailor
    • Cliff Burton: Adam Haas Hunter
    • Blue Orchid: Robert Lee Hardy
    • Pink Orchid: Luis Quintero
    • Stage Directions: Aspen Rader

    2018 Colorado New Play Summit: Ticket information Second weekend (Festival Weekend): Friday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 25
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit

    Summit prep begins at the intersection of Eugene O'Neill and Metallica
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced
    Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 student playwriting finalists

  • Summit prep begins at the intersection of Eugene O'Neill and Metallica

    by John Moore | Feb 13, 2018
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit Photos from the first day of the DCPA Theatre Company's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit, which features readings of new works by Sigrid Gilmer, David Jacobi, Kemp Powers and Barbara Seyda. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of downloadable photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    DCPA's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit is underway as dozens of artists begin work on four new plays 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Preparations for the DCPA Theatre Company's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit officially got underway today with the first gathering of dozens of professional actors, playwrights, directors and other creative artists who will help to develop four promising new plays over the next two weeks.

    They will take on developing works that address systemic racism and hypocrisy in the criminal-justice system, that revisit the Challenger space disaster and an 1855 slave trial. One — no joke — explores the intersection of Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and the heavy-metal band Metallica

    A Summit 400"We're in this rocky time in this country, in our lives and in our history," Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett (pictured right) said at the welcome gathering. "As a nation, we are trying to figure who we are and who we are going to be — and in these moments, I feel like it is so important to listen to playwrights."

    The Colorado New Play Summit, which has one public weekend of readings Feb. 17-18, followed by a second weekend attended mostly industry professionals Feb. 23-25, is the DCPA’s signature festival dedicated to supporting playwrights and developing new work for the American theatre. Garrett made a point of thanking former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson for founding the celebration of playwrights back in 2006. The Summit comes at a time when Denver Center-born new plays are proliferating on national stages like never before. And just yesterday, it was announced that  Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, which was born at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit, will be made into a film starring Jim Parsons.

    Summit PlaywrightsThe 2018 Summit will feature readings of new works by (clockwise from top left) David Jacobi, Kemp Powers, Barbara Seyda and Sigrid Gilmer, alongside world-premiere productions by José Cruz González, Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee.

    The playwrights, some commissioned by the Theatre Company, are given two weeks with professional directors, actors and dramaturgs to workshop their new plays.

    "We get to hear from the mouth and the body and the heart and the soul of these vessels who bring forth their incredible ideas to remind us how much better we can be in the world," Garrett said.

    The pool of more than 35 actors is a mix of familiar names in the Colorado theatre community, returning Denver Center, visiting actors and several who currently performing in Theatre Company world premieres.

    The roster includes Colorado Theatre Guild Lifetime Achievement winner Billie McBride, legendary film and stage director donnie l. betts; Denver Center veterans Steven Cole Hughes, Emily Van Fleet, Gareth Saxe, Erin Willis, Nick LaMedica and Aspen Rader; DPCA Teaching Artists Joelle Montoya, Quinn Marchman and Robert Lee Hardy; and nearly the entire cast of Curious Theatre's current offering of Detroit '67: Jada Dixon, Cajardo Lindsey and Anastasia Davidson. She and Alaina Beth Reel recently appeared in The Catamounts’ You on the Moors Now.

    The Summit casts also include Linden Tailor from the DCPA Theatre Company's The Great Leap; Natalie Camunas from American Mariachi; and Nija Okoro, Grayson DeJesus and Nick Ducassi from Zoey's Perfect Wedding.
     
    Since its founding, the Summit has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit world premieres include Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’ Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    2018 FEATURED NEW-PLAY READINGS:

    2018 New Play Summit 2018 Gilmer Mama Metallica
    By Sigrid Gilmer

    Directed by Jaki Bradley
    Dramaturgy by Ricardo A. Bracho
    Stage Manager: Dana Reiland
    Stage Management Apprentice: Molly Langeberg

    Budding playwright Sterling Milburn has always been overshadowed by her fabulous mother, Louise. Even when she’s holed up in a care facility with Parkinson’s, Louise finds a way to steal the spotlight. But with the overly critical eyes of Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams to fuel her rebellion and the frenetic energy of Metallica to help find her voice, Sterling sets out to write a story that is finally her own. As unfortunate histories mesh with hilarious interludes, Sterling must face the truth: her pain, her joys and her life will forever be shaped by and linked to the woman who raised her. Sigrid Gilmer’s joyfully irreverent black comedy entwines issues of identity with pop-culture icons for a truly unique — and head-banging experience.

    Says the playwright: "The two big influences on my life have been my mom and the heavy-metal band Metallica. My play is about how those two things collide. The play is also a love letter to theatre and the tradition of those big, sweeping autobiographical mid-20th century plays by Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams."

    • Sterling Milburn: Courtney Sauls
    • Louise Bell Milburn: Lee Sherman
    • James Hetfeld: Nick Ducassi
    • Lars Ulrich: Grayson DeJesus
    • Kirk Hammett: Linden Tailor
    • Cliff Burton: Adam Haas Hunter
    • Blue Orchid: Robert Lee Hardy
    • Pink Orchid: Luis Quintero
    • Stage Directions: Aspen Rader

    2018 New Play Summit 2018 David JacobiThe Couches
    By David Jacobi

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    Directed by Caitlin Ryan O’Connell
    Dramaturgy by Doug Langworthy
    Stage Manager: Corin Ferris
    Stage Management Apprentice: Amy LeGore

    Ethan Couch has lived in a bubble of pampered privilege for his entire life, so when he’s convicted of killing four people while driving drunk, he and his mother take $40,000 and flee to a resort in Mexico rather than face the consequences. In this self-imposed state of limbo, Ethan pays hotel clerk Daniel $1,000 to be his friend and help maintain the facade of his prior life. But as the unlikely pair drink, sing, and stumble through the night, delusions of how the world works melt away as quickly as their cash flow. Playwright David Jacobi draws from the infamous real-life 2013 “affluenza” court case to weave a surreal story of personal and legal recklessness.

    Says the playwright: "Ethan Couch came from a rich family and he a had a great lawyer who argued that Ethan was too rich to know right from wrong. I was enraged when he went on the run, but when he was caught, I felt like this was a really interesting idea of late-stage capitalism: These people hiding out in this antiseptic place waiting for justice. And the play devolves into this Lynchian nightmare. ... I think it's funny." 

    • Ethan Couch: Nick LaMedica
    • Tonya Couch: Tasha Lawrence
    • Daniel: Cesar J. Rosado
    • Stage Directions: Alaina Beth Reel



    2018 New Play Summit 2018 Kemp PowersChrista McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue
    By Kemp Powers
    A DCPA Theatre Company Commission

    Directed by Nicholas C. Avila
    Dramaturgy by Jerry Patch
    Stage Manager: Rick Mireles
    Stage Management Apprentice: Mariah Brown

    Even though they share the same DNA, twins Steven and Bernard have lived drastically different lives. The big reason? One is plagued by racism because of his dark skin while the other passes as white. Steven spent his childhood fitting in with fellow classmates and is now a successful attorney. Though he was an extraordinarily bright student who had his eyes on outer space, Bernard’s future is as dismal as the Challenger Space Shuttle that once inspired him. As he prepares for trial and potential jail time, Bernard must face his childhood bully behind the judge’s bench and confront his brother’s advantages. Following his DCPA audience favorite One Night in Miami…, playwright Kemp Powers’ piercing meditation on race and privilege targets the circumstances that can change a child’s destiny.

    Says the playwright: "This really happens through a wonder of genetics where one twin comes out looking completely black and the other comes out looking completely white. And in the days leading up to the Challenger disaster in 1986, these two brothers had a massive falling out. I wanted to explore how family so often manages to let each other down — with a racial context added. When the Challenger exploded, every schoolkid in America was watching live on television because Christa McAuliffe was the first schoolteacher to go into space, and that launch was supposed to symbolize where we were going as a society. Ultimately, this is a play about bullying and the issue of nature vs. nurture."   
    • Bernard “Bear” Gentry: Tobie Windham
    • Steven “Sevvy” Gentry: Allen E. Read
    • Joseph “Joey” Martinelli: Bradley Fleischer
    • Mr. B: Brian Shea
    • Migdalia: Natalie Camunas
    • Rich: Quinn Marchman
    • Summer: Anastasia Davidson
    • Stage Directions: Joelle Montoya


    2018 New Play Summit 2018 Barbara SeydaCelia, A Slave
    By Barbara Seyda

    Directed by Nataki Garrett
    Dramaturgy by Sydne Mahone
    Stage Manager: Heidi Echtenkamp
    Stage Management Apprentice: Molly Becerra

    In 1855, 19-year-old African-American slave Celia was convicted of killing her master and hanged. Her story became known as a notorious failure of justice in American history, but to truly understand its significance, look to the people of Calloway County who experienced it all. Using oral histories and official records as her guide, playwright Barbara Seyda investigates the event with a tapestry of interviews with the dead. This stunningly evocative play illuminates the brutal realities of female slave life in the pre-Civil War South as it resurrects a panorama of real people on stage. The piece won the Yale Drama Series playwriting competition.

    Says the playwright: "One of my structural prototypes was Fires in the Mirror, which was Anna Deavere Smith's response to the Crown Heights riot that took place in Brooklyn in 1991. She does this amazing integration of performance and public ritual and journalism, using the stage as a portal of truth. My themes include systemic racism and slave litigation."

    • Jingo: Cajardo Lindsey
    • Ulysses a.k.a. Uncle Pee Wee: donnie l. betts
    • George : Jacob Gibson
    • Justice Abiel Leonard / John Jameson: Gareth Saxe
    • Polly Newsom / Virginia Waynescot: Emily Van Fleet
    • David Newsom / Dr. Hockley Yong / Benjamin Sheets / Felix Bartey: Jake Horowitz
    • Viola / Solace: Nija Okoro
    • William Powell / Judge William Augustus Hall / Higgler: Steven Cole Hughes
    • Mildred Louisa Rollins: Billie McBride
    • Bethena / Euphrates: Jada Dixon
    • Celia: Celeste M. Cooper
    • Vine: Tihun Hann
    • Matt: Owen Zitek
    • Coffee Waynescot: Tristan Champion Regini
    • Aunt Winnie / Stage Directions: Erin Willis

    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 13th Annual Colorado New Play Summit

    Launch Weekend: Feb. 17-18
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 23-25
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced
    Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 student playwriting finalists


  • 'Zoey' playwright Matthew Lopez: America could use a laugh right now

    by John Moore | Feb 03, 2018
    Zoeys Perfect Wedding. Photo by Adams Viscom

    The cast of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' includes, from left: Mallory Portnoy, Grayson DeJesus, Nija Okoro and Jeff Biehl. Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    In the face of these trying times, the playwright rejects the notion that simply 'checking out' is an acceptable option

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    In this painfully protracted period of ideological divisiveness in the country, there is perhaps one (single) thing we can all agree on: America could use a laugh. 

    But despite the preponderance of comedies high and low to be found on screens large and small, American playwrights have not been widely producing flat-out, laugh-out-loud comedies for generations. And that, says playwright Matthew Lopez, is a good thing. Because theatre can do better than that. 

    matthew_lopez Quote Zoey 800“Comedy has one of two functions: To make you think or to make you forget,” he said. “The best make you forget that you’re thinking. I hope we’re the latter.” 

    Lopez is the author of the DCPA Theatre Company’s  2014 breakout hit The Legend of Georgia McBride, which went on to be performed Off-Broadway and at theatres across the country. He’s back this season with another world premiere comedy Zoey's Perfect Wedding — which is anything but. 

    “I’m allergic to the notion that, in the face of trying times — or perhaps more accurately put: in the face of a full-scale national disaster — it’s preferable to simply check out,” Lopez said. “Checking out really isn’t an option in a democracy. One could argue that’s how we got into this in the first place. However, we don’t always need to think directly at the thing.”   

    There’s nothing wrong with people spending two hours laughing and having fun at the theatre, Lopez believes. But the route to funny must pass through true understanding.  

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding presents a wedding where disaster after disaster follows the frost-caked bride down the aisle, from boozy and brutally honest speeches to obliviously self-absorbed supporting characters to a wildly incompetent wedding planner. Ain’t weddings fun? 

    Lopez has been to enough to know that self-absorbed people often turn weddings into a referendum on their own lives. Put another way, he said: It’s shockingly easy to act like a narcissist at someone else’s wedding.

    Video: Director on how perfect Zoey's Perfect Wedding is

    “It was once said of Teddy Roosevelt that he was the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral,” Lopez said. “I think that applies to more people than anyone cares to admit.”

    It’s also true what they say about your misery being another person’s funny, because Zoey’s Perfect Wedding was inspired by a train wreck of a wedding Lopez was right in the middle of a few years after college.

    “It was the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Lopez said. “We had all just seen each other two days before, and here we were back again with nothing really more to talk about than what a fun night Thanksgiving was. Then one friend began to pick at a scab of something that bothered them from Thanksgiving and, before we knew it, we were all in a full-scale verbal brawl that eventually ended up ruining the night for most of us. 

    Zoey. Adams Viscom“I’m certain that, had this been a dry wedding, we all would have had a much better time. And I am certain that is the first time those words have ever been uttered.” 

    The characters and events in Lopez’s play are pure imagination. But the notion of friends showing up to a wedding and forgetting they’re at a wedding and acting like it’s just another night out at the bar? “That, I am ashamed to admit, is true,” he said. 

    (Pictured, from left: Nija Okoro and Mallory Portnoy of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    But it was the underlying fuel propelling that booze-soaked fire that interested the writer in Lopez. “These characters wrestle with commitment, loyalty and honesty,” Lopez said. “They wrestle with the difference between our expectations and our reality — and those are things we all grapple with in one way or another every day.” 

    Which is why it’s misleading to label his new play a simple comedy. Lopez would like for us to move beyond distinctions between comedy, tragedy and their many variations. The fact is, a great many plays are comedies … until they just aren’t anymore. 

    “Things aren’t funny if they aren’t true,” Lopez said. “Even sight gags require the laws of physics be obeyed in order to work. If and when a comedy veers unexpectedly into drama, perhaps the question one should ask is: ‘Is that true?’ Here’s an example: Is August: Osage County a comedy or a drama?”

    The same can be said about a great joke in the middle of an unquestionably serious play. If the moment is rooted in character, then it is rooted in truth.

    “Humans are funny. Humans are sad. Humans are sometimes funny and then, the next second, tragic,” Lopez said. “Life does not fit neatly into categories and neither should our stories. At the end of the day, it all comes down to story. And if stories are not rooted in some kind of recognizable truth, they are worthless.  

    “Lest we forget: There’s a fart joke in Waiting for Godot.”

    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.

    Matthew Lopez is currently in London for the March 2 premiere of his highly anticipated two-part play The Inheritance at The Young Vic. The epic play takes a panoramic view of gay life in New York today in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis depicted in Tony Kushner’s sprawling Angels in America.

    Video: Your first look at Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Your first look at 'Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    :
    Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances ThroughFeb. 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


    Bonus read: The perfect union behind Zoey’s Perfect Wedding


    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding is not about a perfect wedding. It’s about a wedding where one hilarious disaster follows another. But one creative marriage that was built to last is the one between playwright Matthew Lopez and director Mike Donahue, which started, and continues, in Denver. 

    Zoey Mike Donahue Matthew LopezThe pair first teamed up in 2013 for a reading of The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Colorado New Play Summit. After the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere staging the next year, Donahue and Lopez took the comedy to New York, and it has since been performed at theatres across the country. The two are partnering again on Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, which plays through Feb. 25 in The Space Theatre. 

    Donahue was definitely the pursuer in this relationship. He read an early draft of Georgia McBride, loved it, and asked his agents to arrange a meeting with Lopez. But Donahue was told that Lopez was probably a bit out of his league, because his breakthrough drama The Whipping Man had taken off in New York, he had landed a few screenplays, and was writing for TV’s “The Newsroom.” Jilted, but not for long — because Cupid conspired to bring them together a few years later for the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit in Denver. 

    Donahue was here directing Grace, or the Art of Climbing for the DCPA Theatre Company when the selected titles were announced for the upcoming Summit. “One of the plays on the list was Georgia McBride, and there was no director attached to it,” said Donahue, who again called his agents and ask them to arrange a phone call with Lopez. “He didn’t call me back,” Donahue said with a laugh. “But three weeks later I got the offer, and now Matthew is one of my best friends.” 

    It’s not lost on Donahue that both of his Lopez plays have now originated at the Denver Center. “Who knows? Maybe Denver is just a magical place,” said Donahue, who says what he loves most about Lopez’s comedies is that “they are incredibly funny 
    and have a big heart.” 

    We also asked Lopez to explain what makes Donahue such a good fit to direct his plays.

    “As with any good marriage, we just get each other,” Lopez said. “We share a complimentary — though not identical — view of the world, of theatre, of storytelling. He’s smart in ways I’m not, and I’m intuitive in ways he might not always be. And sometimes vice versa.” 

    “What can I say? He completes me.”

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Perspectives: How is 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' funny? Let's count to three, no, five

    by John Moore | Jan 23, 2018
    Photo gallery: Zoey's Perfect Wedding opening-night photos:

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere comedy 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding,' by Matthew Lopez, playing through Feb. 25 in the Space Theatre. Photos include opening night and go back to the first rehearsal. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to the full photo gallery Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    How the creative team is creating a world-premiere comedy with a playwright who is making waves across the pond

    Perspectives is a series of public panel discussions held just before the first preview  performance of each DCPA Theatre Company offering. Next up:

    Zoey's Perfet Wedding. Perspectives. Photo by John MooreHere are five quick things we learned at the Jan. 19 conversation about Matthew Lopez's Zoey's Perfect Wedding, which opens Jan. 26 in the newly renovated Space Theatre:

    NUMBER 1Nice digs? Zoey's Perfect Wedding is a world-premiere comedy about a wedding that goes horribly, hilariously wrong. The play is set in 2008 at a Marriott Hotel in downtown Brooklyn, and there are many digs in Matthew Lopez's script about the nature of the digs. But the DCPA Theatre Company's creative team didn't exactly find the inspiration it was looking for when it visited the Brooklyn Marriott last summer. "It's sadly been renovated — and quite nicely," said Scenic Designer Dane Laffrey. "It's sort of rather tasteful now. I suspect in the former life of the hotel it was more decrepit than it is now. So our trip to that hotel was less helpful than we thought because it didn't feel like the right world for our play."

    (Pictured above, from left: DCPA Literary Director Douglas Langworthy, 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' Director Mike Donahue, Dramaturg Kimberly Colburn and Scenic Designer Dane Laffrey. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)  

    NUMBER 2Zoey Miek Donahue Matthew LopezCalling London. Playwright Matthew Lopez, who was in Denver last month for the start of Zoey's Perfect Wedding rehearsals, is currently in London for the March 2 premiere of his highly anticipated two-part play The Inheritance at The Young Vic. The epic play takes a panoramic view of gay life in New York today in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis depicted in Tony Kushner’s sprawling Angels in America, which is also about to get a Broadway remount with Denver native Beth Malone sharing the role of The Angel. Lopez's new plays will be directed by Stephen Daldry, the Tony Award-winner for, most recently, Billy Elliot, and an Oscar nominee for films including The Reader and The Hours. Lopez previously debuted his play The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Denver Center. (Pictured above: 'Zoey' Director Mike Donahue, left, and Playwright Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore.)

    NUMBER 3The game is afoot. Even though Lopez is ensconced in London, he remains very active in preparations for Friday's opening of Zoey's Perfect Wedding. "He's sending in rewrites every day," said Dramaturg Kimberly Colburn. How does that work? "In large part because he trusts in our  reporting," said Colburn, also the Literary Director at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif., who is spending much of her time watching preview audiences watch the play. "We tell Matthew where the audience laughed, and where they didn't ... which jokes aren't quite landing, or if the rhythm feels off. We'll tell him if a joke has maybe three too many words in it. And then he takes all that feedback and he puts it into that magical brain of his and he spits it out new pages. It has been a great and gratifying process because Matthew is such a trusting collaborator."

    (Story continues below the video.)

    Video bonus: Your first look at Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Your first look at 'Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Watch more: Our video interview with Director Mike Donahue

    NUMBER 4Rule of  threes. There is a reliable axiom in comedy that three of something is funny, but four is not. "It's a mystery, but it's almost always true," said Colburn, who says she is "rigorously faithful" in her allegiance to the rule of threes. And there are a lot of threes (or were) in Zoey's Perfect Wedding. "You find the places where something happens four times, and then you have cut the right one," she said. "In one of our cuts, we decided that we cut the wrong one, so now we are restoring the old line and cutting this other line. It's a fun puzzle." If you are wondering, there are other numerical rules, Colburn said: "So three is funny, and four is not, but once you get to seven, it gets funny again. So you actually have some options." Certain sounds are funnier than others, too, she added, such as any hard consonant. "So a kiwi is always going to be funnier than an orange, every time" she said. "It's a mystery, but it's true."

    NUMBER 5Turning the table. Because the play takes place at a wedding reception, it makes sense that the banquet table serves as the nerve center of the action. And that presents a particular staging challenge for Laffrey: You never want things to get static in a story with a lot of scenes that have people sitting around a table. "That's a challenge on any kind of set, but there are ways to cheat," Laffrey said. "Often on a proscenium stage, you'll only see three chairs at a four-sided table, and I am always wondering where the fourth chair went." For Zoey's Perfect Wedding, which is presented in the round, Laffrey is employing a turntable so the banquet table slowly rotates throughout the play. "It's like a revolving restaurant — without the restaurant," Laffrey said. His solution means no one in the audience will be stuck looking at the same point of view for the entire pay. "It makes for a more democratic audience experience," he said.

    Bonus: What's your fortune? Audiences will be be handed fortune cookies upon their arrival at the Stage Theatre that offer yummy life advice — in  the form of quotes from Lopez's script. Samples: "Get a cheap apartment, find a couple dozen roommates and live!" and, "Tradition dies today!"

    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.

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    : Production photos

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Your first look at the official production photos for 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to the full Flickr photo gallery. Photos by Adams VicsCom.


    Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    :
    Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-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
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • In your face: There's frost bite on the set of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding'

    by John Moore | Jan 10, 2018

     

    Cakesmash! Find out what happens when you let them eat cake on the set of the new comedy Zoey's Perfect Wedding.

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding Cakesmash  Grayson DeJesus Photo by Adams Viscom Cakesmash! Check out the fun cast members from the DCPA Theatre Company's Zoey’s Perfect Wedding had for this commercial and photo shoot.

    The cast members featured in the video above are Jeff Biehl, Grayson DeJesus, Nija Okoro and Mallory Portnoy. The cast also includes Nick Ducassi  and Kristin Villanueva. The director is Mike Donahue. 

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding is a comedy by Matthew Lopez about a wedding that goes catastrophically wrong. It performs from Jan. 19 through March 25 in the Space Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Ticket information below.

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

    Photo gallery: The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding in Denver

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    Check out our full gallery of photos from the making of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' in Denver (to date!), beginning with the 'Cakesmash' photo shoot above and going back to first rehearsal. To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by Sam Adams of Adams Viscom and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-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
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding":

    Time-lapse video: Creating your first look at Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    Video: Director Mike Donahue on just how perfect Zoey's Perfect Wedding really is
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal

  • Time-lapse video: Creating your first look at 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding'

    by John Moore | Jan 09, 2018

     

    How a broad brushstroke turns into a raw, emotional and contemporary introduction of a new play to its audience

    Kyle MaloneArt Director Kyle Malone, an 18-year employee of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, isn’t an actor. Nonetheless, he has had a profound influence on how audiences have experienced every DCPA Theatre Company production since 2013.

    Check out our time-lapse video look at how Malone came up with the show art for the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming world premiere Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, the raucous story of a wedding gone horribly, comically, catastrophically wrong, which has its first performance on Jan. 19 in the Space Theatre.

    "The Theatre Company illustrations are meant to feel raw, emotional and contemporary," says Malone. "I do this by using a mix of hand-done pencil-and-ink washes topped off with digital color floods and simple object overlays."

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding show Art Kyle Malone For each show, DCPA Creative Director Rob Silk and Copywriter Carolyn Michaels come up with what they call an “Ignition Point” to guide the narrative of the image. For Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, written by Matthew Lopez, the team worked off the phrase: “Commitment isn’t pretty.” Malone starts off exploring that direction with lots of quick sketches, After some curation, the team gathers to review and decide on the strongest one.

    “To create the final illustration, I lay down a pencil drawing as a guide,” Malone said. He then goes over it using Micron pens for fine details and ink washes for large areas.

    “Once the hand-done character is complete, I take a high-resolution photo to create the digital version,” he said. “From there on out, the art lives in the computer, where I add the colors and play with various object overlays that I’ve drawn in Adobe Illustrator. Finally, I explore different compositions until I find the best way to fit all of the pieces together.”

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Ticket information
    At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-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
    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage of Kyle Malone's work:
    Theatre Company introduces bold new artwork for 2015-16 season
    Art and Artist: Meet Graphic Designer Kyle Malone

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding":

    Video: Director Mike Donahue on just how perfect Zoey's Perfect Wedding really is
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal

  • Video: Director on just how perfect 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' really is

    by John Moore | Jan 02, 2018

     

    'This is a totally raucous, wild, sexy, wedding gone horribly, catastrophically wrong. It is wild, silly, absurd, fun.'

    What kind of wedding is Zoey’s Perfect Wedding? Here’s a hint: Not-so-perfect. Mike Donahue, who was last in Denver directing the successful 2014 world-premiere comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride for the DCPA Theatre Company, introduces you to the world of the play, also penned by Georgia scribe Matthew Lopez.

    Mike Donahue. Photo by John MooreThe play “is a totally raucous, wild, sexy, wedding gone horribly, catastrophically wrong,” Donahue tells us in the video above. “It is wild, silly, absurd, fun.”  

    But at the same time, “There is such a heart to it,” he said.

    The play revolves around a group of multiracial New York friends ranging in age from their mid-20s to early 30s. The title character is Jewish, and that Zoey will be played by an African-American actor, Donahue said, “is awesome.”

    Nija Okoro is playing Zoey as a  Jewish African-American woman who is marrying a Southern white guy from Arkansas whose family is southern Baptist and this, and part of that point is people from very different places coming together and those differences not having to matter.”

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-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
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding":
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    Photo gallery The Making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding.' 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.

  • 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding': Photos and 5 things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Dec 20, 2017
    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Photo gallery

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Photos from the first rehearsal of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' on Dec. 20. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to the full photo gallery. The world-premiere comedy plays Jan. 19-Feb. 25 in the Space Theatre. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Playwright Matthew Lopez's newest comedy is about a wedding that goes horribly, horrifically wrong. As they do.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    NUMBER 1Zoey's Perfect Wedding, the DCPA Theatre Company's next world-premiere play, reunites playwright Matthew Lopez, author of The Whipping Man, with director Mike Donahue. The pair met in Denver in 2013 when they introduced Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride as part of the DCPA Theatre Company's Colorado New Play Summit. The play went on to have its full world-premiere staging at the Denver Center in 2014, followed by successful run Off-Broadway and subsequent productions around the country. "We met over a bagel in this very building," Donahue said. "That play has been very important for both of us, and now Matthew is one of my closest friends."

    NUMBER 2 Mike Donahue. Photo by John MooreZoey’s Perfect Wedding was inspired by a train wreck of a wedding Lopez found himself right in the middle of a few years after graduating from college. His play has old friends getting back together and when one friend begins to pick at a old scab, it leads to a full-scale (but funny!) verbal brawl. "This is a play about a group of people who at one point were really close friends," said Donahue (pictured at right). "But now they are at a moment in time where they are just starting to realize that their friendships and their relationships and their marriages are not as alive and vital and necessary as they once were. One of the things the play looks at is: How do you negotiate the realization that your life isn't where you thought it would be?" 

    NUMBER 3Zoey’s Perfect Wedding is at once Lopez's newest — and one of his oldest — plays. "Yeah, this one is old enough to vote," Lopez joked. He wrote it back in 2008, and now that the play is finally coming to stage life in 2017, Lopez and Donahue had a decision to make: Keep the time of the play in 2008, or update it to 2018. "2008 doesn't seem like so many years ago," Donahue said, "but we realized that it really was a very different moment in time. It feels to us like the consciousness of the country was in a very different place. That was not long after the stock-market crash, and soon after Obama was elected for the first time. A lot of us were realizing that for the first time as a nation, we were not economically invincible anymore. But also, coming so soon after the election, a lot of people had hope, both socially and politically. That's where we were as a country, and that's where this story lives. So we made the decision to let this play be a period piece. And I happen to think it is incredibly, raucously funny." 

    NUMBER 4 Zoey's Perfect Wedding will be presented in the round in the Space Theatre, which poses significant challenges for the creative team. "We are utilizing the full roundness of the theatre," said DCPA Lighting Designer Charles R. MacLeod. "The main wedding table is on a rectangular turntable and will remain in motion throughout the story, which will allow everyone in the audience to take things in from a 360-degree perspective. And because this is wedding reception, that of course means there will be a DJ — compete with janky DJ lighting," MacLeod said. One seating section in the Space Theatre is being removed in favor of the DJ station, but capacity won't change much because two of the "voms" that usually serve as actor entranceways will instead be used for seating.

    NUMBER 5 Lopez says it was the encouragement he got from the DCPA creative team during the making of The Legend of Georgia McBride that got him to revisit Zoey's Perfect Wedding. The DCPA conducted development workshops of the play in Denver and Steamboat Springs, which were shown to various audiences for their feedback. One thing they learned from the experience is that 17-year-olds apparently love to laugh at weddings gone horribly, horrifically wrong, "because 17-year-olds love this play," said Donahue, The director added that the support he gets from the Denver Center team is just one reason, he said, that "to this day, this is my favorite place to work." 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    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.

    Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore


    Zoey's Perfect Wedding:
    Cast and creatives announced:

    • Playwright: Matthew Lopez
    • Director: Mike Donahue

       

    • Jeff Biehl as Charlie
    • Grayson DeJesus as Sammy
    • Nick Ducassi as DJ
    • Nija Okoro as Zoey
    • Mallory Portnoy as Rachel
    • Kristin Villanueva as Missy

       

    • Scenic Designer: Dane Laffrey
    • Costume Designer: Dede Ayite
    • Lighting Designer: Charles R. MacLeod
    • Sound Designer: Veronika Vorel
    • Dramaturg: Kimberly Colburn
    • Stage Manager: Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Manager: Corin Ferris

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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