• Colorado's connection to Harry Dean Stanton's final film

    by John Moore | Sep 16, 2017
    Harry Dean Stanton 800Photo from 'Lucky,' starring Harry Dean Stanton, which will be released in Denver on Oct. 20 at the Chez Artiste.

     

    Director John Carroll Lynch allows actor Harry Dean Stanton, who died Friday, to go out fully seen and heard

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Harry Dean Stanton does not go gentle into that good night. Rather, he goes thoughtfully, spiritually and with unflinching honesty, thanks to a triumphant capstone film called Lucky directed by Colorado native John Carroll Lynch.

    Stanton, who died Friday of natural causes at age 91, was nothing if not lucky, said Lynch, who also considers himself among the charmed for having had the opportunity to direct the iconic American actor in his final leading role. Stanton plays an ornery 90-year-atheist who drifts toward terms with his mortality in an off-the-grid desert town. The supporting cast includes Ron Livingston, Tom Skerritt, Beth Grant, James Darren, David Lynch — no relation but yes, that David Lynch — and Ed Begley Jr. "There went a great one," David Lynch wrote in a statement earlier today.

    Harry Dean Stanton 400Lucky is a film, John Carroll Lynch says, that allows the indelibly gaunt character actor whose face “was etched with loneliness,” one critic wrote, to go out fully seen and heard.

    “This is a performance you can only get to when you get there,” Lynch told the DCPA NewsCenter today. “And I think the role successfully encapsulates his particular world view.”

    Stanton’s breakthrough came decades into his film career in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. He was also known for Twin Peaks, Pretty in Pink, Repo Man and most recently a high-profile role as a manipulative cult leader in the HBO polygamy drama Big Love.

    This morning, Denver’s Alamo Drafthouse announced it will screen Repo Man in Stanton's honor on Saturday, Sept. 23, and donate a portion of the proceeds to the Denver Actors Fund, which provides financial and practical relief to members of the Colorado theatre community facing situational medical need. Last year, Lynch made an appearance at his hometown Alamo to discuss his role in Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation.

    Lynch, a graduate of Regis Jesuit High School and a former member of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, is himself a veteran actor of more than 100 films and TV shows, most recently The Founder, Jackie and The Architect. He makes his directing debut with Lucky, which was rapturously received at the recent South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The film, written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja, will be showcased on Art House Theatre Day on Sept. 24 on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, and will be released in Denver on Oct. 20 at Landmark’s Chez Artiste movie theatre.

    “How lucky, no pun intended, we have this charming — with an edge — movie that has a terrific and humane performance from Harry Dean Stanton but is also infused with his view of the world, including his atheism,” contributing Denver Post film critic Lisa Kennedy told the NewsCenter today.  “It’s a gift, melancholy and affirming. It was that before news of his passing and even more so now.”

    Stanton’s character is the core of Lucky. He’s described as a lifelong smoker who is shaken by accident into tackling his inevitable death head-on. He searches for enlightenment against the backdrop of the desolate desert town, interacting and learning from those he encounters. Lynch said the character in the film was as much Stanton himself wrestling with his impending fate.

    “When you get older, you know you have fewer days, so you have no time to waste,” Lynch said. “Harry did not waste his days."

    Lynch said Stanton’s performance is no less than “(bleeping) awesome — and it is so vulnerably and humanly him. I hope people give it its due.”

    One of the producers of Lucky is familiar to DCPA Theatre Company audiences: It's actor Jason Delane Lee, who appeared in One Night in Miami and Two Degrees.

    Harry Dean Stanton: In theatres

    • Alamo Drafthouse will screen Repo Man in Stanton's honor at 7:20 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23. BUY TICKETS
    • Lucky will be showcased on Art House Theatre Day at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24, in the Muenzinger Auditorium on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. BUY TICKETS
    • Lucky opens in full release Oct. 20 at Denver’s Chez Artiste movie theatre.


    Lucky: The official film trailer

    Video above: The trailer for 'Lucky,' starring Harry Dean Stanton, which will be released in Denver on Oct. 6 at the Chez Artiste.

    Lucky: What RogerEbert.Com had to say:
    "Let’s start at the top of the pile with the fantastic directorial debut of John Carroll Lynch, an actor who always struck me as someone who cared about who he worked with and clearly was paying attention to former collaborators like Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Joel Coen. Lynch knows how to frame a shot and tell a story that actually feels like the recent work of a filmmaker with whom he has yet to work, Jim Jarmusch. There’s a similar, shambling, everyday poetry to Lynch’s Lucky, a beautiful showcase for the 90-year-old Harry Dean Stanton, giving one of the best performances of his remarkable career. With supporting work from other icons as diverse as David Lynch and Tom Skerritt (Alien reunion!), Lucky is a film about both not much at all and, well, pretty much everything." — Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

     

  • Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the danger of denial

    by John Moore | Feb 24, 2017

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


    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Next up: Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle), author of the new history play Hanussen.

    Pulitzer-winning playwright speaks bluntly
    on the danger of denial in a time of authoritarianism

    In 1930s Berlin, the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolf Hitler.

    John Moore: Let’s first review your recent history here at the Denver Center.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well here in Denver, you would know The 12, the musical that Neil Berg and I created a year and a half ago, which won the (Colorado Theatre Guild) Henry Award for best new work. Great production. It was very successful.

    John Moore: Well, there have been quite a few more awards since the Henrys. Emmys, most recently I believe a $10,000 Humanitas Prize for writing Hacksaw Ridge. (Note: Shenkkan donated his share of the prize to Doctors Without Borders). You are not exactly a late bloomer, but the last few years have been extraordinary for you, really starting with the 2014 Tony Award for All the Way.

    Robert Schenkkan: I have had a great run. On stage with All the Way and The Great Society, and then the HBO film version of All the Way starring Bryan Cranston that Steven Spielberg and I co-executive produced. Also here in Denver with The 12, and now Hanussen. And then with the movie Hacksaw Ridge, which I co-wrote with Andrew Knight that Mel Gibson directed and Andrew Garfield starred in, which is currently nominated for six Academy Awards. … Stay tuned!

    John Moore: We have gotten happily accustomed to seeing you on the awards circuit: The Emmys. Writers Guild of America. Screen Actors Guild. And coming Sunday:

    Robert Schenkkan: I have eaten a lot of rubber chicken lately, yes.

    Robert Schenkkan. Photo by John Moore

    John Moore: The Academy Awards are Sunday night, so let's talk briefly about Hacksaw Ridge, which manages to be a remarkable story of warfare and pacifism at once.

    Robert Schenkkan: It's an extraordinary story, and it has taken 10 years to get it on screen. It is the true story of the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, Desmond Doss. A country boy from Virginia whose faith and principles insisted that he go to war, and that same faith and principles also insisted that he not take a life. He became a medic, and in one extraordinary engagement in the battle of Okinawa, he saved upward of 75 or more American and Japanese lives.  It's a mind-boggling story, really.

    John Moore: That's an fascinating transition into the war story you are writing here for the DCPA Theatre Company. Can you introduce us to the story of Hanussen?

    Robert Schenkkan: Hanussen is based on the true story of Erik Jan Hanussen, who was the leading headliner in 1931 in the last days of the Weimar Republic in Berlin. Hanussen was a mentalist. He had a mental act. He could red your mind. He had psychic powers. He could hypnotize and he claimed he could predict the future. He's fascinating character. Very contradictory in many ways. Kind of Shakespearean in his size. It is always hard to parse the truth here, but it is said that Hanussen coached Hitler on how to be a more effective public speaker, and that he cast Hitler's horoscope, that he was his astrologer, and that he had something to do with the Reichstag fire. Hanussen was also Jewish.

    Hanussen. Jamison Jones. Photo by John Moore


    John Moore: How does his religion play into the story?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's something that he keeps on the down-low while he plays this extremely dangerous game with the Nazis. The play is very much about the human condition, in particular our tendency to avoid that which is unpleasant, or that which we don't want to see. It's about denial, and the dangers of denial.

    You have said very forebodingly that this is not the worst time for us to be revisiting the Weimar Republic. Why is this play that goes so far back into history the right play at the right time for what is going on in the world right now?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's pretty fascinating. The playbook for authoritarianism is an old one. It's pretty well understood. I think one could make a very good claim that we are seeing that play out right now in American politics in this last election. JuRobert Schenkkan Quotest as in the Weimar Republic in Berlin, in the United States in 2017, I think it will be increasingly important for individuals to look to their own conscience and be careful in their decisions. This is not a time to stay silent. This is not a time for denial or avoidance. This is a time for action. 

    John Moore: Who are some of the other historical figures we meet in your play?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, part of the pleasure of Hanussen is that it is a so-called history play; that it is set with events that actually happened and people we know, and in this case there are some very prominent people that we know. Count Wolfe Von Heldorf, Joseph Goebbles and, of course, Adolf Hitler. It's not often that you see these characters on stage, and of course there is so much baggage that they carry; it presents a unique challenge to the writer I think. What can you do with this that we haven't seen before? Or how can you play with our expectations - what we expect that we will see with this? I have had a lot of fun with this. I think I've gotten it right. I think it will be extremely entertaining and very thought-provoking.

    Robert Schenkkan. Richard Thieriot.John Moore: I don't know how much you have to do with casting, but we here at the Denver Center find it enjoyable that the actor who is playing Hitler (Richard Thieriot) we remember as a masters student who played the Jimmy Stewart role in Harvey (pictured at right by John Moore).

    Robert Schenkkan: That is kind of perfect. He's a wonderful actor, by the way.

    John Moore: This is your first Colorado New Play Summit as a featured playwright.

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I have been an observer at two Summits, and I am really very grateful to be here. The way Kent Thompson has structured this is really kind of brilliant. You have the first week of work, ending with a public reading, And then you get another week of work culminating in a second and final reading. That second week of work is absolutely unique. I don't know any other theatre festival in the United States that does anything like that. And it's a really critical for the writer because so often, you are just beginning to get your arms around it just as you near the end of that first week. You are just beginning to say, "Now I see what I need to do." … And then it's over. Well, that's not true here. You get to take the tings that you learned at the first reading and really thrash it out and take all of that complexity and nuance and additional richness back into the text, culminating in a second public reading.

    Sarah Schenkkan. Photo by Adams VisCom. John Moore: This is the first time you have ever gotten to work with your daughter, who is playing three roles in Hanussen (pictured at right by Adams Viscom).

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I am very proud to say that I will be working with my daughter, Sarah Schenkkan, who is a professional actress living in New York City. Obviously I have followed her career very closely, but this is the first opportunity we have had to work together. As proud as I am of my professional achievements, my greatest achievement is my children. So it's a real thrill to be here working side-by-side as a professional colleague with Sarah.

    John Moore: Total right turn here: Going back for a second to LBJ and All the Way, what did you think of the guy who played LBJ in the new Natalie Portman movie Jackie?

    Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line

    Robert Schenkkan: I thought he did a very credible job. I thought that he brought a certain gravitas to it. I thought he avoided cliché. And he did not give us any of the more sensationalized - and to my way of thinking less interesting - aspects of LBJ.  

    John Moore: I ask that because the actor is John Carroll Lynch, and he is from Denver.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, I thought it was a very dignified performance. It was very accurate.

    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.

    Hanussen
    Directed by Kent Thompson
    Dramaturgy by Liz Engelman
    Hanussen: Jamison Jones
    Hitler: Richard Thieriot
    Wolfe: Kevin Kilner
    Ernerst Juhn, Bruno Frei and Stage Manager: Andy Nagraj
    Fred Marion, Joseph Goebbles, Young Man and Manager: Robert Montano
    Fritzi, Katrina and Maria Paudler: Sarah Schenkkan
    Servant, Rudolf Steinle and Nobleman: Leigh Miller
    Businessman and Kurt Egger: Jason Delane
    Stage Directions: Luke Sorge

    Leigh Miller and the cast of Hanussen. Photo by Adams VisComLeigh Miller and the cast of 'Hanussen' in rehearsal. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Building the Wall: A new Schenkkan play coming to Curious Theatre
    Note: Immediately after the presidential election, Robert Schenkkan wrote the play Building the Wall, which imagines the first six months of the Donald Trump presidency while invoking George Orwell’s 1984 and the Nazi regime. The play focuses on the frontman of the new administration, who loses his humanity amid chaos and martial law. It is, Schenkkan says, “a terrifying and gripping exploration of what happens if we let fear win.” The play, starring John Jurcheck and Brynn Tucker (who is appearing at the Colorado New Play Summit in Last Night and the Night Before) from April 4-19 at Curious Theatre, 1080 Acoma St., Call 303-623-0524.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit


    Hacksaw Ridge
    : The official trailer

  • 'Two Degrees': Opening night photos

    by John Moore | Feb 11, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Above: Photos from opening night of Tira Palmquist's world-premiere play 'Two Degrees' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Director Christy Montour-Larson is on the right. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Video bonus: How do they make that ice, ice baby?

    Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan takes you backstage for a look at how he created the ever-changing world of Two Degrees for the DCPA Theatre Company. The set includes 56 Plexiglass panels that are treated to look like ice - but six of them actually are made of ice and melt throughout the show. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    • Through March 12
    • Jones Theatre
    • ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Video: How do they make that ice, ice, baby?
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Meet the cast: Kim Staunton
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

  • 'Two Degrees': How do they make that ice, ice, baby?

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2017


    Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan takes you backstage for a look at how he created the ever-changing world of Two Degrees for the DCPA Theatre Company.

    Tira Palmquist's world-premiere play introduces us to a scientist named Emma who is called to Washington to testify – reluctantly – before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation.

    Two DegreesCompounding her anxiety: It’s the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It’s meant to be a human story about both a woman and a planet in crisis.

    The play takes place in 11 scenes in 10 locations in the Jones Theatre. "We tried to create an abstract space that was evocative and had an arc like Emma's character that went from frozen to somewhat melting,' Morgan said. The set includes 56 Plexiglass panels that are treated to look like ice - and six of them are actual ice that will melt throughout the show.

    How did he do it? Watch and learn. Two Degrees, directed by Christy Montour-Larson, features Kathleen McCall, Robert Montano, Kim Staunton and Jason Delane Lee, and plays through March 12. 

    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    • Through March 12
    • Jones Theatre
    • ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Meet the cast: Kim Staunton
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'Two Degrees'

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2017
    Video: Your first look at Two Degrees

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s world-premiere play Two Degrees introduces us to a scientist named Emma who is called to Washington to testify – reluctantly – before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation. Compounding her anxiety: It’s the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It’s meant to be a human story about both a woman and a planet in crisis. 

    "What we did in the past affects our present and will change our future,” Emma tells those in Washington. But is anyone listening?

    Two Degrees
    is written by Tira Palmquist, directed by Christy Montour-Larson and features Kathleen McCall, Robert Montano, Kim Staunton and Jason Delane Lee. It plays through March 12 in the Jones Theatre. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photo gallery: Two Degrees production images

    Two Degrees- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season Photos from 'Two Degrees' by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees

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

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

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    Two Degrees Jones Theatre'Two Degrees' is the first mainstage Theatre Company offering to be presented in The Jones Theatre since 2004. It is located on the corner of Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe streets. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'Two Degrees' cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research

    by John Moore | Feb 03, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Photos from the 'Two Degrees' field trip to the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at CU-Boulder (INSTAAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    The actors' visit to Boulder brought them face-to-face with the scientists - and the science - in their world-premiere play.

    By John Moore
    For the DCPA NewsCenter
     
    The cast and creative team from the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere play Two Degrees took a recent field trip to Boulder and learned about a whole lot more than climate change.

    Fun stuff like: Polar bears in the Arctic can smell you from 100 miles away. That the oldest discovered ice on Earth is more than 800,000 years old. And that disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong was busted by the same science used in ice cores.

    Two Degrees Field Trip. John MooreSeriously.

    The stripped Tour de France winner was caught blood-doping, and what nailed him was isotopes, said scientist Bruce Vaughn, who should know.  He’s got the most distinct business card from Boulder to Greenland: Stable Isotope Lab Manager at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at CU-Boulder. Or INSTAAR, for short.

    “The steroids they were using were synthetic, so they have a different carbon isotopic signature than the ones your body would produce,” said Vaughn, who could give Bill Nye a run for his isotopes when it comes to his enthusiasm for science.

    Isotopes, it turns out, are forensic smoking guns. They are unique atomic differences in water molecules that record past climate changes over hundreds of thousands of years in ice cores. It was a tool first conceived by the father of ice-core science, Willi Dansgaard. In the atmosphere, isotopes can act like a red dye tracer, revealing the sources of and sinks of greenhouse gases.

    “There is no problem so big it can't be solved with isotopes," said Vaughn, only half joking. He is convinced that ice buried 2 miles under the surface of the earth is telling us that we are on a path to ecological catastrophe.

    (Photo above and right: Director Christy Montour-Larson and cast feign being locked in a locker where 1,000-year-old ice is kept at minus-10 degrees. A photo of the cast touching the ice is shown below. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The cast’s Boulder tour covered INSTAAR and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR. They got a crash course in climate history, ice-core research and what that means for our changing atmosphere. “You may hate me by the end of the day," Vaughn joked. Instead, there were hugs all around. When Vaughn let his visitors touch a 1,000-year old ice-core sample, they immediately melted into awestruck 8-year-olds.

    Two Degrees Field Trip “To have the opportunity to touch something that is 1,000 years old is just extraordinary,” said actor Kathleen McCall.

    Vaughn says these precious samples prove the rise in global temperature since the Industrial Age is linked to the rise in manmade greenhouse gasses. “They are in lock-step,” he said. “No one can argue that.”

    Two Degrees, written by Tira Palmquist and directed by Christy Montour-Larson, introduces us to a paleoclimatologist named Emma who is called to Washington to reluctantly testify before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation. At NCAR in Boulder, the cast was introduced to Marika Holland, a very Emma-like paleoclimatologist who is just as unenthusiastic when called upon to testify before politicians about her area of expertise.

    “That kind of thing makes me nervous, to be perfectly honest,” Holland said, “because it’s very confrontational – and I am not a terribly confrontational person.”

    Two Degrees Field Trip QuoteHolland has a PhD in ice-core research and has spent 25 years studying how and why the climate is changing so rapidly, and what that means for the Earth’s future.

    Holland and dozens of global collaborators have been charting rapid sea-ice loss, rising global temperatures and the impact that is having on plant and animal life around the world. Hundreds of species are going extinct every day, and dwindling ice sheets are profoundly affecting the survival of polar bears, seals, penguins and more.

    More dramatically Vaughn warned that future sea-level rise is a serious probability. Some projections show parts of Miami and other Florida areas under water in 2100. If that happens, an estimated 9,200 structures will be lost and 1 million homes will be below average high tide. That puts 26 hospitals, 213 schools and seven power plants at risk. Total value of the endangered property: $390 billion.

    “And it is human activity that is increasing greenhouse gas emissions. That is not for debate,” he said. “And the decisions we make today have irrevocable implications for the future, so we have to act now.”  

    There are few political issues as polarizing as climate change, which hurts the souls of climate scientists because, to them, this is a human issue, not a political issue. People in the insurance industry, oddly enough, are the ones who "totally get it," Vaughn said. “That’s because they have the most to lose.”

    Two Degrees Field TripBut politicians are another challenge.

    “It’s not that they are intimidated by the science,” said INSTAAR Research Scientist Anne Jennings, who specializes in the study of ocean sediments. “I just think they find it inconvenient, like Al Gore called it. This information gets in the way of commerce.”

    Telling someone you are a climate scientist in this heated political environment can certainly bring a dinner party to a halt, said Holland, a mother of two who would rather spend her time more peacefully on the ice or in her lab. When people discover Vaughn’s profession, he added, the inevitable, incredulous first question that tends to follow is something along the lines of: “Do you really believe in climate change?' Which makes him say: “Are we really having this conversation in 2017?” Just not out loud.

    “No, what I really say is, 'I don't believe in climate change any more than I believe in gravity. Because it’s not a belief system. It's physics,’” Vaughn said.

    “You can have your own opinion, but you can't have your own physics."

    Two Degrees Trump TweetMcCall asked Holland how she reacts when, say, then-candidate Donald Trump tweeted out his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

    “First I get angry, which isn't necessarily the most productive response,” Holland said. “When someone tells me, 'You lie; you are part of the hoax,’ it does feel very personal. Your integrity is being attacked.

    “I think of myself as a very honest person, and I am raising my children to be honest people. I love my work, and I try to educate people when I talk about it. The fact of the matter is, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what we do. For example, I would say we are 100 percent sure that sea-ice loss is occurring; that greenhouse gas emissions are causing dramatic changes in our climate, and that we humans are responsible for those emissions. That foundation of information is incredibly solid.

    Two Degrees Field Trip Quote“But if you want me to tell you whether humans are responsible for, say, 50 percent of the sea-ice loss, or 80 percent of the sea-ice loss, that is a much more complicated question, and that is where the uncertainty comes in.”

    Vaughn said the discussion now really should be directed toward children, “because it’s the next generation that is really going to have to deal with this,” he said. Holland most enjoys talking with school groups because, she said, “they are not deniers or skeptics. They’re curious.”

    Trump’s election has the local scientists worried, given his stated opinion on climate change, and that the Boulder institutes are funded by U.S. tax dollars.

    “There has been a lot of discussion about defunding climate science,” Holland said, “but we don’t know yet exactly how it will play out.” Senior Scientist Bette Otto-Bleisner, head of NCAR's Paleoclimate Modeling Program, is concerned about the larger distrust of science and medicine that seems to be growing among some Americans. “We are living in a very anti-science moment right now,” added Palmquist, the playwright. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Despite the gloomy ecological forecast, the cast and crew left their Boulder field trip eager to get back into the rehearsal room with a renewed focus. McCall said it was a gift to be playing a rare female paleoclimatologist and to have a real-life one just like her character living and working just 30 miles north.

    “The biggest thing I got out of watching Marika was how composed and still and confident she is in her science,” she said. “This is not a hunch to her. Having that base of knowledge gives her a solid center.”

    Actor Jason Delane Lee was especially interested to learn more about the mindset of climate skeptics, because he plays a substantive contrarian in Two Degrees. Actor Robert Montano called the field trip “confirming.”

    “This has just made everything so much more clear,” Montano said. “Everything these scientists told us is written in Tira’s script. They match.”

    Added Lee: “You can argue about a lot of things. But you can’t argue the science.”


    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.

    Two Degrees Field Trip
    Photo by John Moore.


    Video bonus: Playwright Tira Palmquist talking about Two Degrees


    Our video with 'Two Degrees' playwright Tira Palmquist, at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

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

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

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Two Degrees heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

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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.