• Brynn Tucker of 'This is Modern Art': What are we willing to risk?

    by John Moore | Apr 15, 2018
    T This is Modern Art Brynn Tucker. Photo by Adams VisCom
    Rhonda (Brynn Tucker) argues that graffiti belongs outside and not inside on museum walls in Idris Goodwin's 'This is Modern Art,' closing today (April 15) at the Jones Theatre. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    The actor loves anime, stop-motion and now a more controversial variation on the art form: Graffiti, and its history

    MEET BRYNN TUCKER
    05+cut+-+Brynn+Tucker+in+The+Rape+of+the+Sabine+Women+by+Grace+B.+Matthias.+Photo+by+George+LangeBrynn Tucker, who plays Rhonda and other roles in Off-Center's This is Modern Art, made her DCPA Theatre company last year in Frankenstein. Other local credits include the True West Award-winning Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias for Local Theatre Company; Robert Schenkkan's Building the Wall for Curious Theatre and the Aspen Ideas Festival; and  Marcus: The Secret of Sweet for Curious Theatre. Regional credits include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Folger Theatre), The Widow Lincoln, Our Town (Ford's Theatre), A Guide to Dancing Naked* (DC Capital Fringe Festival). 

    • Brynn Tucker QUOTEHometown: Germantown, Maryland
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Rangeview
    • Training: Spelman College and The British American Drama Academy
    • What's your handle? @BrynnPossible on Twitter and Instagram
    • Website: brynnpossible.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Actress and dancer living in the Mile High City. Lover of anime and Adventure Time. Spirit animal is Lumpy Space Princess. Can bust out some black moguls on the ski mountain like a champ. #sostylee!
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be a travel vlogger. Traveling for extended periods of time, where most people don’t know me. Learning new languages is an aspiration of mine. Getting paid for it would be living the dream.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Benjamin Franklin
    • Bucket-list role: I don’t seek out specific roles, they reveal themselves to me and if I’m meant to have them, I take them on.
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Enrique Inglesias. (Baby I STILL like it!)
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I worked on an organic farm in Thailand with no air conditioning or electricity in a bamboo hut. I realized I didn’t know how to grow anything, and I wanted to learn Howa.
    • This Is Modern Art. Brynn Tucker 400.Photo by John MooreOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I’ve always been enamored by Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. The music, story and songs make it a must-watch during the holidays. The darkness, the beauty and the lifelike art of stop-motion animation really catered to my imagination as a child, and still does now as an adult.
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? Evolving theater to be more interactive and engaging than ever before. I think the next generation would appreciate a revolution of some kind. Especially when it comes to their entertainment.
    • What is This is Modern Art about? Idris Goodwin's play recounts the true story of one of the biggest graffiti bombs in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes in a 2010 snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago, raising big questions, including: What is art? Where does it go? And who gets to say so?
    • Why does This is Modern Art matter? It really resonates because it shows a group of young people who were willing to risk everything for something they believe in, something greater than themselves. The right to share your ideas, art, beliefs and even opinions is now under constant scrutiny. You can get into serious trouble if you say the wrong thing. I pose the question: “What are we willing to risk to say or do what we believe is right?”
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing This is Modern Art? I hope they  begin to notice graffiti in their neighborhoods. And that they understand the history and culture so they can make an informed decision for themselves, rather than a one-sided one.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I’ve been thinking about freedom for a while now. I’ve found it’s less about access to what we think we want or deserve. It’s more about your own hero’s journey: Taking up your sword and having the courage to go through life. Love and dragons, you take them all on. I think the ability and the choice to do this is the greatest freedom. Choose your own adventure book EVER!

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Meet Gustavo Márquez of Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

    This is Modern Art at Native Gardens opening

    Some members of the 'This is Modern Art' team attended Friday's opening of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens' on Friday. From left: Chloe McLeod, Brynn Tucker, John Jurcheck, Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller and Jake Mendes. 

  • Video: Your first look at Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art,' opening photos

    by John Moore | Apr 03, 2018
    Video: Your first look at This is Modern Art




    Video above: Your first look at Off-Center's This is Modern Art, written by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval. This proudly controversial play recounts the true story of one of the biggest graffiti bombs in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes in a 2010 snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago.

    The photo gallery below shows photos from the opening-night performance and celebration on March 23, from backstage before the show through the cast party afterward at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver. In attendance was Lisa Portes, who directed the original production of This is Modern Art for Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2015. She is in Denver to direct the comedy Native Gardens, opening April 13 in the next-door Ricketson Theatre. 

    This is Modern Art. Photo by John MooreThis is Modern Art
    runs through April 15 in the Jones Theatre. The cast includes Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurchek, Chloe McLeod, Jake Mendes, Marco Robinson and Brynn Tucker.

    The Scenic Designer is Nicholas Renaud, working with Graffiti Artist Robin Munro, Projection Designer Topher Blair, Lighting Designer Katie Gruenhagen, Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle, Sound Designer Elisheba Ittoop. The Stage Manager is Rick Mireles.

    To read more about the show and its background, click here.

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Photos by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Photo gallery: Opening Night photos and more

    Making of 'This is Modern Art'
    To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery.


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:
    This is Modern Art will make you look
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Meet the cast: Jake Mendes
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This is Modern Art. The set of 'This is Modern Art,' by Scenic Designer Nicholas Renaud and Graffiti Artist Robin Munro. Photo by John Moore.
  • 'This is Modern Art' will make you look

    by John Moore | Mar 04, 2018
    Making of 'This is Modern Art'

    Above: Our full photo gallery from the making of Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art,' opening March 22. To see more, click on the image above. From left in first photo above: Denver actors Robert Lee Hardy, Jake Mendes and Marco A. Robinson. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter


    Off-Center play starts a provocative conversation about art that controversial Chicago graffiti artists started in snow 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Graffiti crews have been called vandals, criminals — even creative terrorists. What they are is artists, says director, playwright and artist Idris Goodwin. “And in 2009, some of those artists set out to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world.”

    Goodwin, also a full-time associate theatre professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, co-wrote This is Modern Art, a book and now proudly controversial stage play based on an incident when a graffiti crew created a massive tag on the outside of the Art Institute of Chicago’s new, multimillion-dollar Modern Wing. Under cover of snowfall, they painted a 50-foot mural bookended by the words “Modern Art … Made You Look.”

    This explicit challenge of a powerful arts institution drew condemnation, outrage and, from many, celebration.

    "They wanted to have a conversation around art and culture that I don't think otherwise happens,” Goodwin said. "I think fine art has become very apolitical over the years, and that then fosters a certain apoliticism to class. These artists really wanted to have an open conversation about art but, unfortunately, that didn't really happen."

    Instead, the anonymous artists went — and remain — underground. But Goodwin’s co-writer Kevin Coval found them and interviewed them, Studs Terkel-style, for the play.

    This is Modern Art. Idris Goodwin Quote. Photo by John MooreThis Is Modern Art, which will be staged by the DCPA’s Off-Center from March 22 through April 15 in the Jones Theatre, offers a glimpse into the lives of graffiti artists and asks timeless questions about art: What is art — and who gets to say so? It also addresses the competing issues of artistic freedom and private property.

    This is a story, Goodwin added, “that allows the audience to get to know a very particular culture that has its own history, and its own set of morals. It allows them to go along on this ride without actually getting any paint on their hands.”

    Off-Center co-founder and curator Charlie Miller said Goodwin and Coval "take elements of hip-hop culture and put them onstage in a way that is both accessible to an audience who knows nothing about it, and to those who are deeply steeped in that culture. Idris makes the theatre a meeting place for both of those audiences.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Miller said he is “proud to be doing this work and engaging the artists who are working on this project. And, most important, to be engaging our audiences in the tough conversation this play brings up.”

    Goodwin knows the Denver Center’s traditional theatregoing audience base will be challenged. That’s the point, he said. 

    “I have this fantasy where these seniors who are 65 and older come to see the show and suddenly get a late-in-life spark to write graffiti. That's my goal," he said. "If I can get at least three octogenarians thrown in jail after seeing this play, I will have done my job.’ ”

    A THIS IS MODERN ART. Idris Goodwin. Photo by John Moore

    Photo by John Moore.


    Here are five more things we learned at the first rehearsal for 'This Is Modern Art,' followed by the announcement of the all-local cast and creative team:

    NUMBER 1

    Modern Art 800Small world. The world premiere of This is Modern Art was staged at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2015 (pictured right). The director was Lisa Portes, who just happens to arrive in Denver next week to begin work on the Karen Zacarías comedy Native Gardens for the DCPA Theatre Company. The Off-Center production of This is Modern Art is being directed by Goodwin himself. “Idris is a wildly imaginative thinker,” Portes told the DCPA NewsCenter. “He knows the necessity of traditional structure well, and he also pushes against it in order to get to something else. This is Modern Art follows a pretty traditional structure, but its content is quite subversive.” Indeed, the staging was among the most controversial of the past decade. The play was presented as part of Steppenwolf's Young Adult Series, and critics at the city’s two major daily papers bashed the morality of the piece. "There was a bit of a kerfuffle to say the least," Goodwin said with a laugh. "For critics, the question became, 'How dare you glorify anyone who challenges the law?' To which we said: 'Thank you for making us the N.W.A. of theatre,' " referring he said, to the polarizing gangsta-rap pioneers. Goodwin says he considers the scathing review by Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times to be among his most prized possessions. "It reads like it is right out of the 1930s," he said. "I kept waiting for the words 'Reefer Madness' to appear." A social media backlash accused the Chicago critics of being out of touch.

    NUMBER 2This is a heist! In writing the play, Goodwin and Coval were inspired by the film Man on Wire, which chronicles Philippe Petit's renegade 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. “It's a documentary, but it feels like a heist film,” Goodwin said. A heist film is a kind of crime film that focuses on the planning, execution and aftermath of a theft. “And that was the play we wanted to write,” Goodwin said.

    NUMBER 3Crushing it. The Jones Theatre will be transformed into an abandoned warehouse that serves as the primary location for the story. The theatre walls will be covered in layers of graffiti, while the actual tag at the Art Museum will be depicted through a real-time animated projection so that the actors don’t actually paint during the performance. “It's going to be really exciting,” said Scenic Designer Nicholas Renaud. Projection Designer Topher Blair has been consulting and collaborating with graffiti artist Robin Munro, founder of Colorado Crush, Colorado’s largest independent annual graffiti event that has transformed the two-block alleyway in RiNo now known as “Art Alley.” 

    Read more: Is graffiti modern art ... or urban terrorism?

    NUMBER 4Opening doors and minds. There will be eight student matinee performances of This is Modern Art, Miller said, “because the questions this play asks are really important, particularly for high-school students. This play really lifts up these artists, who are people we don't normally get to see on a stage.” There also will be a facilitated talkback after every student matinee to further the conversation. "We're really excited that every student who comes will get to really get to dig deep into the themes and questions of the play as part of their experience,” Miller said.

    NUMBER 5The more you know. If you are interested in the rich history of Chicago graffiti art and the story behind This is Modern Art before you attend the play, you can order the source book from Haymarket Books. “We wanted to do something different than just an acting edition of the play,” Goodwin of the book, which includes a foreword by Lisa Yun Lee, Director of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "This play is about more than just this particular art crime,” Lee wrote. “ It is also about an ongoing kind of crime perpetrated by the powerful against those in the margins, a more universal history of oppression that takes place through the prescription of what is beautiful.” It is available in paperback ($11) or e-book ($6) form here. And you can read the foreword here.

    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 Modern Art
    : Cast and creatives

    This is Modern Art Cast. Photos by John Moore

    Clockwise from top left, actors John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Robert Lee Hardy, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson. Photos by John Moore, filtered by Prisma. 

    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Scenic Designer: Nicholas Renaud
    • Costume Designer: Meghan Anderson Doyle
    • Lighting Designer: Katie Gruenhagen
    • Sound Designer: Elisheba Ittoop
    • Projection Design: Topher Blair
    • Graffiti Artist: Robin Munro
    • Dramaturg: Kristin Leahey
    • Stage Manager: Rick Mireles
    • Casting: Grady Soapes

    Cast:

    • Robert Lee Hardy (DCPA Education’s The Snowy Day, Vintage Theatre’s A Time To Kill) as Seven
    • John Jurcheck (Curious Theatre Company’s Hand To God, DCPA Theatre Company’s Jackie & Me) as Ensemble
    • Chloe McLeod (Miners Alley Playhouse’s Fun Home, DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Selena
    • Jake Mendes (Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, DCPA Debut) as Dose
    • Marco Robinson (Miners Alley Playhouse’s Fun Home, Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Jose Clemente/JC
    • Brynn Tucker (Local Theater Company’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein) as Ensemble

    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances March 22-April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Idris Goodwin:
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art
    Video: Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band


    About Off-Center

    As the most unconventional line of Denver Center programming Off-Center specializes in unexpected experiences such as Sweet & Lucky, the first large-scale immersive show in Denver; and The Wild Party, a decadent, 360-degree party set in the Roaring '20s. An Off-Center show is like no other theatre experience — by design. Off-Center focuses more on connecting people and upending expectations than on adhering to tradition. Off-Center wants you leaving a show thinking, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

    Cast and creatives for 'This is Modern Art' on the first day of rehearsal. Photo by John Moore.Cast and creatives for Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art' on the first day of rehearsal Feb. 27. Photo by John Moore.
  • Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' 'Detroit '67' to Denver Center

    by John Moore | Jan 11, 2018
    Detroit 67 Curious Theatre Cajardo Lindsey and Jada Suzanne Dixon. Photo by Micjael Ensminger.
    Cajardo Lindsey and Jada Suzanne Dixon in Curious Theatre's 'Detroit '67,' directed by Idris Goodwin and opening Saturday. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    Groundbreaking artist directs Curious' look back at uprising before bringing This is Modern Art to Jones Theatre

    By Jeannene Bragg
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Plays. Raps. Essays. Poems. Film. Idris Goodwin is a storyteller at heart. Performance and words are his jam. "Why not?" is his constant refrain.

    "If I can do all these things, why not?" says Goodwin. "Just like a visual artist has various mediums: oils, acrylics, collages, so do I. I work with stories and some are plays, some are raps or poems."

    Idris Goodwin QUOTE Detroit '67And that versatility has taken him far, from HBO to Sesame Street to the Kennedy Center to, at present, Curious Theatre Company — and after that, to the Denver Center.
           
    Curious Theatre's Detroit '67, opening Saturday, is Goodwin's Denver directorial debut. Goodwin then directs own play This is Modern Art at the Denver Center's Jones Theatre in March.

    Goodwin has a special connection to both Detroit and Detroit '67. He met playwright Dominique Morisseau during the premiere of his play And in This Corner ... Cassius Clay at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville, where the two connected over their shared childhoods in Detroit.
         
    "After meeting her, I immediately went out and read Detroit '67, and started teaching it in my class," said Goodwin, a full-time associate theatre professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. "It had been on my radar for many reasons, including being a fan of American history and drama. And when the opportunity came, I said, 'Of course, what a perfect piece for my directorial debut in Denver.' "

    The story is set in the summer of 1967, when the soulful sounds of Motown were breaking records and breaking down barriers. Siblings Chelle and Lank make ends meet by running an unlicensed bar in their Detroit basement — a risky business as police crack down on after-hours joints in black neighborhoods. When Lank offers shelter to an injured white woman, tensions escalate both in their home and in their community — and they find themselves caught in the middle of the violent ’67 riot. Detroit ‘67 explores a moment rife with police brutality, immense racial divide and a powderkeg of emotions.

    This is Modern Art Denver School of the ArtsAs a native of Detroit, Goodwin knows the world and rhythm of Morisseau's play. "I know the people. I know their spirit. But there is also a universality of the show," he said. "My goal is to make people feel like they are in that basement with that family, going through what they are going through, too."

    (Photo above and right: 'This is Modern Art' was read last year to the students at Denver School of the Arts.)

    Shorty after Detroit '67 closes on Feb. 24, Goodwin's This is Modern Art will bow at the Jones Theatre. That incendiary play, written with Kevin Coval, recounts the true story of one of the biggest graffiti bombs in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes in a 2010 snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago. The tagging began with the words “modern art” and ended with the phrase “made you look.”

    "They were putting out a challenge,” Goodwin said. “What is modern art? Who gets to decide who a real artist is? And where does art belong?”

    Athe-way-the-mountain-moved-2In 2018, Goodwin's plays will be seen all across the county. His highly anticipated new play The Way The Mountain Moved gets its world premiere at the esteemed Oregon Shakespeare Festival in July. It tells the powerful story of how the Transcontinental Railroad shaped the country’s moral and environmental future from previously untold perspectives.

    (Photo above and right: Christopher Salazar, Christiana Clark, Sara Bruner and Al Espinosa in Oregon Shakespeare Festival's upcoming 'The Way the Mountain Moved.')

    In This Corner...Cassius Clay, a children's play that explores the early life of the man who would later rename himself Muhammad Ali, will be performed in Charlotte, N.C.; Anchorage, Alaska; and Portland, Ore. This is Modern Art also will be staged by the New York Theatre Workshop June 1-24.

    Goodwin also will perform at a reading of the book Breakbeat Poets in the Age of Hop Hop in Southern California this spring. That's a collection of poems edited by Coval that features Goodwin, among otheres. Goodwin and Coval have their own book due to drop in February called Human Highlight: An Ode to Dominique Wilkins.

    All while teaching full-time at Colorado College and raising a young family.

    He's going places. But right now, he's in Denver at Curious Theatre.

    Jeannene Bragg is the Community Engagement Organizer for Curious Theatre and the founder of Creating Justness, which is committed to amplifying the voices of artists from oppressed arts , community and social justice groups. She also does contract work for Colorado Creative Industries, the state's arts council. She can be reached at 303-800-3030 or jeannene@curioustheatre.org.



    Detroit '67: Ticket information

    • Presented by the Curious Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 13-Feb. 24
    • 1080 Acoma St.
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Detroit 67 Ilasiea Gray and Anastasia Davidson. Photo by Michael EnsmingerCast and Creative team:
    • Jada Suzanne Dixon
    • Cajardo Lindsey
    • Anastasia Davidson
    • Ilasiea Gray
    • Frank Taylor Green

    • Idris Goodwin, Director
    • Charles Dean Packard, Scenic Designer
    • Kevin Brainerd, Costume Designer
    • Richard Devin, Lightning Designer
    • Jason Ducat, Sound Designer
    • Dylan Sprauge, Props Designer
    • Diana Ben-Kiki, Wig and Make-Up Design
    (Photo: Ilasiea Gray and Anastasia Davidson. Photo by Michael Ensminger.)

    Modern Art 800
    Above: 'This is Modern Art' at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre in 2015.

    This is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances March 22-April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Idris Goodwin:
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art
    Video: Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band



  • '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': A telling exchange at public conversation

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Photo gallery: The cast of 'Two Degrees' takes questions from the audience at Perspectives, a panel conversation held before the first public performance of every play. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    There was an exchange at Friday's public Perspectives discussion that both acknowledged the deep divide in America over climate science while also illustrating just what the DCPA Theatre Company’s new play Two Degrees aspires to do: Start a dialogue among not necessarily like-minded audience members.

    Two Degrees opens just three months after the Pew Research Institute released a major study that found only 48 percent of Americans understand the Earth to be warming because of human activity.

    The play 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. 

    Two Degrees quoteAnd the first chance for anyone to get together in a room and talk about it was at Friday’s Perspectives – an ongoing series of conversations between audiences and DCPA Theatre Company creative teams that is presented before every first public preview performance.

    “We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it,” Two Degrees director Christy Montour-Larson told those gathered at the Conservatory Theatre before last Friday’s first performance. Many in the audience surely took that as an environmental rallying cry. But at least one man in attendance took exception.

    Two Degrees cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research

    “That is an extremely alarming statement that really is not factual,” said the man, who said he does not consider himself a denier of climate science. “I think there is nothing more certain than that the climate is changing. The question I have is to what degree humanity is influencing the change. I don't consider this to be ‘settled’ science, and there are a lot of us out in the world who feel that way.”

    Playwright Tira Palmquist responded by pointing to research that suggests 97 percent of climate scientists around the world have endorsed the conclusion that humans have played a role in global warming since the Industrial Age. “There is scientific evidence to suggest that what we have done has made an impact,” she said.

    The man remained skeptical, but said he would keep an open mind when he saw the play later that night. Palmquist said the exchange is an example of the proactive role live theatre can contribute to any community. “For me, this is a play about the difficulty we have in having these kinds of conversations,” she said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Two Degrees Dramaturg Heather Helinsky said the exchange is what the play is all about.

    “For a play to be a good play, it has to give you characters with different points of view, and this play does that,” Helinsky said. “You don't want a play that just preaches one side. A successful play has to make you want to continue having that conversation after you leave.”

    And here are five more things we learned about 'Two Degrees' at Perspectives:

    NUMBER 1Two Degrees PerspectivesEvery DCPA Theatre Company production has a week of “preview performances” before it officially opens. And Montour-Larson was asked, well, what exactly is the point of these preview performances? Once a production opens, it’s pretty much locked down. But during preview week, the work continues. The designers continue to hone staging details. If it’s a new play like Two Degrees, the cast continues to rehearse line changes by day and perform the play before live audiences by night. “During a preview performance, we add the most important element, which is the audience,” Montour-Larson said. “All of us (on the creative team) are watching the play along with all of you, but I see less of what is happening onstage because I am watching you guys.”

    (Pictured above right: Two Degrees actor Kim Staunton at Perspectives. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)


    NUMBER 2Two Degrees is a ghost story. Emma, the scientist, is grieving the death of her husband. “And anyone who has ever grieved a loved one knows that process takes a while,” Palmquist said. “In Washington, Emma finds herself confronted by a gentleman who reminds her of her husband. And then we go back in time and find another person who reminds her of her husband. And then there is a guy in a bar who reminds her of her husband. For me, that is very much a metaphor for seeing the person you love as always with you, whether it is literal or figurative or metamorphic – or a ghost. Emma is being haunted constantly. And that ghost is not going to go away until that ghost is done with you.”

    NUMBER 3Two Degrees has changed since it was presented as a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit last February. And it has changed more since the election in November. “After the Summit readings last year, we were given this big packet of responses from the Denver audience members,” said Palmquist. “But as I was gearing up to make my revisions, I thought, ‘I don’t think I can re-write this until I know the outcome of the election.’ ” So she waited. Because the energy in the room would be quite different depending on whether audiences would be attending Two Degrees at the start of a Clinton Presidency compared to the start of a Trump Presidency. After Trump’s victory, she said, “We now have a White House that has said it is going to dismantle some of the things the Obama administration did in terms of climate-change legislation. And so for me, the engine of the play became a little more ratcheted-up. The environment in Washington (for a person like Emma) is not so friendly."

    NUMBER 4Two Degrees Jones TheatreTwo Degrees is the first mainstage offering to be held in the Jones Theatre (the DCPA Theatre Company’s smallest venue) since A Boston Marriage in 2004. That posed some unique challenges for Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan - not the least of which is that the story has 11 scenes in 10 different locations. “The Jones is a three-sided ‘thrust’ stage, so it’s a little like Florida,” Morgan said. “And it’s just a different show if you are watching from the sides than if you are watching from the front, so it's a tricky thing for us to make sure the entire audience gets the same story.”

    NUMBER 5From the start of the rehearsal process, the cast and crew have adopted what they call a two-pronged “daily action plan.” Helinsy and Stage Manager Karen Federing provide the team with a link to relevant reading on climate change, and suggest a proactive daily step each person can take to make a positivel impact in their daily lives. Over the past month, the cast has studied the work of the League of Conservation Voters, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, EarthJustice.Org and Denver’s own Snowriders International, among others. “The idea is to infuse our storytelling with a sense of urgency,” Montour-Larson 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.


    Video bonus: Your first look at 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.

    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:
    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' 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

  • Mary Louise Lee dedicates 'Lady Day' to Jeffrey Nickelson

    by John Moore | Oct 19, 2016
    Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill

    Photos from the opening rehearsal of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill starring Mary Louise Lee from Oct. 28-30 in the Jones Theatre. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 2002 production photos provided by Mary Louise Lee. 


    Mary Louise Lee, star of the DCPA’s upcoming limited engagement of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill at the Jones Theatre, has dedicated the run to late Shadow Theatre Company founder Jeffrey Nickelson.

    Nickelson, who died in 2009, was a graduate of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. He went on to present “stories from the heart of the African-American community,” he liked to say, from 1997-2011. The biggest hit in Shadow’s history was a 2002 production of Lady Day, with Nickelson directing and Lee playing jazz legend Billie Holiday.

    This new three-day “workshop production” at the Jones is being directed by Hugo Jon Sayles, who was Nickelson’s longtime Associate Artistic Director at Shadow. If Nickelson was the heart of the Shadow Theatre, then “Hugo Jon Sayles is the soul,” actor Jaime Lujan said when Sayles became Shadow's Artistic Director in 2010.

    Jeffrey loved this show,” Sayles said at Tuesday’s opening rehearsal of Lady Day. “He was just so proud of it. And Mary was wonderful in it. It could have kept running and running. We only stopped because we had another show starting up.”

    (Pictured above right, from left: Michael Williams, Mary Louise Lee and Hugo Jon Sayles at Tuesday's rehearsal. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Lady Day, written by Lanie Robertson, is a 1986 concert play that recounts Holiday’s troubled life as she performs in a run-down Philadelphia bar just days before her death in 1959. Holiday was known for songs like "God Bless the Child," "Strange Fruit" and "Taint Nobody's Biz-ness." She had a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit. Her powerful yet untrained vocal style pioneered a  new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. One critic equated Holiday's voice to a broken toy cornet, often slurred by addiction and pain, but one that could convey a range of emotions like few others.

    Lady Day. Hugo Jon sayles. Photo by John Moore“When I first heard Billie Holiday sing, I didn't like her voice,” said Sayles. “But then I met this old jazz player who said, 'I really dig Billie Holiday, man, because when she sings - it's like a horn.' And then I listened to her sing again, and I said, 'It is a horn!' From then on, I really understood why jazz musicians loved her.”

    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill reintroduces audiences to the jazz of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as to the tragic life of Holiday, who died at age 44. "It’s a tough story," Sayles said, "but I think it can engage the spirit." 

    There has been a huge resurgence of interest in Lady Day since superstar Audra MacDonald brought it to Broadway for the first time in 2014. But Lee never lost interest.

    “For years, every time I saw Mary, she would stop me and say, 'When are we going to do Lady Day again?’ ” said Sayles. “Just seeing the light in her eyes right now, doing it again, is so fulfilling.”

    Check out or Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Lee’s professional career began at the Denver Performing Arts Complex when she joined the cast of Beehive at what is now the Garner-Galleria Theatre. She was just a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School at the time. Through a career that has included performances around the world and singing in front of 75,000, Lee still considers her haunting portrayal of Holiday in 2002 to be her most meaningful performance.

    The Musical Director for Lady Day is Sayles’ longtime musical collaborator Michael Williams. Sayles said he once asked Williams’ mother when she knew her son was going to be something in music. She told him: “When he walked up to me as a boy and said, 'The refrigerator is B-flat,’ ” Sayles said with a laugh.

    Remaining tickets are very limited for the three-day run of Lady Day, but Sayles hopes further opportunities will come from that. “I would love for it to have more life after this,” he said.

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

    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
    Lady DayBy Lanie Robertson
    Featuring Mary Louise Lee
    Directed by Hugo Sayles
    Music Direction and Piano by Michael Williams
    Oct. 28-30
    The Jones Theatre
    Tickets start at $25
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    The show runs approximately 90 minutes without intermission
    Adult language and content
    Age Recommendation: 17+

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Mary Louise Lee:
    Mary Louise Lee returning to Denver Center roots in Lady Day
    2015 True West Award: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Video: Denver First Lady hosts students, Motown the Musical cast members
    Mary Louise Lee sings with cast of Million Dollar Quartet
    Denver first lady Mary Louise Lee is her own woman
    Video podcast: Running Lines with Mary Louise Lee of The Wiz
  • Mary Louise Lee returning to Denver Center roots in 'Lady Day'

    by John Moore | Sep 16, 2016

    Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter


    Mary Louise LeeMary Louise Lee will return to her professional roots next month when she appears in a special workshop production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill from Oct. 28-30 in the Jones Theatre.

    Lee's performing career began at the Denver Center when she appeared in Beehive at what is now the Garner-Galleria Theatre while only 18 and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. She has said she considers playing Billie Holiday in a standout 2002 production of Lady Day for Shadow Theatre Company to be her most meaningful performance.

    Lady Day is a haunting portrayal of a woman with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit. During the performance, Lee tells the jazz legend's troubled life story through the songs that made her famous, including "God Bless the Child," "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Strange Fruit" and "Taint Nobody's Biz-ness." Set in Philadelphia in 1959, Holiday’s performance at Emerson’s Bar & Grill was one of her last. Lady Day is not just a memorable tribute to the singer, but also a moving portrait of her struggles with addiction, racism, and loss.

    Lee was named Best Actress in a Musical by Westword for her Lady Day performance in 2003. The review said: “A stunning evening of theatre. Lee's singing is absolutely radiant. Her voice is smooth as glass. At times she sounds uncannily like Holiday, at others entirely like her full-throated self.”

    Lee, who has sung the national anthem before 78,000 Denver Broncos fans and appeared on the nationally televised America’s Got Talent, returned to the DCPA in 2014 to sing with the cast of the national touring production of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet onstage at the Buell Theatre. (See photo by John Moore, above right, and video, below.) And last December, Lee won a 2015 True West Award for her performance in the new musical, Uncle Jed's Barbershop.

    Read John Moore's Denver Post profile of Mary Louise Lee

    Some of Lee's other notable local theatre performances have included Vogue Theatre’s A Brief History of White Music, the Arvada Center’s The 1940s Radio Hour, Country Dinner Playhouse’s Ain’t Misbehavin', Denver Civic’s Menopause the Musical and Afterthought Theatre Company's The Wiz, as Glinda the Good Witch. She took on that role just after husband Michael B. Hancock was elected Mayor of Denver in 2011.

    She is choir Director at the New Hope Baptist Church, and founder of “Bringin’ Back the Arts," a foundation that encourages arts education in the public schools.

    A Lady Day Westword

    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
    Lady DayBy Lanie Robertson
    Featuring Mary Louise Lee
    Directed by Hugo Sayles
    Music Direction and Piano by Michael Williams
    Oct 28-30, 2016
    The Jones Theatre
    Tickets start at $25
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Approximately 90 minutes without intermission
    Adult language and content
    Age Recommendation: 17+

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video: Mary Louise Lee sings with Million Dollar Quartet:

    Video: Watch Mary Louise Lee sing 'Fools Fall in Love' with the cast of 'Million Dollar Quartet' at the Buell Theatre in 2014.

     

  • Meet the cast: Ralonda Simmons of 'How I Got Over'

    by John Moore | Mar 25, 2016
    Ralonda Simmons is shown at Off-Center's season-opening launch party in September, where audiences got a first taste of "How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse" - five celebrated slam poets weaving an interconnected story about womanhood, self-discovery and adversity. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Photo by Nicholas Renaud.


    MEET RALONDA SIMMONS

    How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse
    • Hometown: Inland Empire, Calif. (presently living near Denver)
    • Fun fact about you: I’ve lived in four states; I’ve also studied abroad in Ghana while earning my bachelor's degree.
    • A favorite quote:
      “I like to keep my cake and it eat it, too
      but I’m the one who baked it.
      So who the f--- are you?”
      - Jenee Elise
    • Why is the voice of the female poet important in today’s society? The female voice, especially those who belong to women of color, is often marginalized. By using our voices, we can have a hand in breaking the things that have tried and failed to break us. By using our voices, we inspire other women to do the same. That’s why I do what I do.
    • How does it feel to perform your own writing in front of a live audience? Very nerve-wracking, but people who interact with us being in the audience goes a long way. Someone usually reacts verbally, which feeds my performance because of the commonality.
    • What do you hope audiences take away from How I Got Over ... ? I want them to know that they have all they need to succeed and thrive is already in their possession and not to let anyone tell them differently.
    • Describe How I Got Over in two sentences: It is a labor of love that pulls from ancestral and present-day wisdom. It is a celebration of survival for those who’ve come before and those who will come after us
    • How would you encourage people to see this show? Come to this show, and get your spirit fed.
    • What was your favorite part of developing this show? I love how my words work with those of my castmates to weave a common human thread that can touch our audience. I love the idea of an audience member hearing our words and using them to find what gets them over and past their own pains. I love the idea that our words can heal.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse: Ticket Information

    • Remaining performances: 8 p.m. Friday, March 25; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby.
    Previous coverage of How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse
    Suzi Q. Smith: Opening doors that had been slammed shut
    Bianca Mikahn: 'Enthralled with all the power that is woman'

    Previous 2015-16 'Meet the Cast' profiles

    Meet Adeoye of Lookingglass Alice and All the Way
    Meet Kevin Berntson of The Nest
    Meet J. Paul Boehmer of As You Like It
    Meet Molly Brennan of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Courtney Capek of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Todd Cerveris of All the Way
    Meet Brian D. Coats of The Nest
    Meet Tad Cooley of Tribes
    Meet Paul DeBoy of All the Way
    Meet Allen Dorsey of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Kevin Douglas of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Napoleon M. Douglas of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Brian Dykstra of The Nest
    Meet Isabel Ellison of Tribes
    Meet Mariana Fernandez of FADE
    Meet Kate Finch of Tribes
    Meet Ella Galaty of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Mike Hartman of All the Way
    Meet Ben Heil of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Carolyn Holding of As You Like It
    Meet Drew Horwitz of As You Like It
    Meet Maurice Jones of As You Like It
    Meet Geoffrey Kent of As You Like It and All the Way
    Meet Emily Kron of As You Like It
    Meet Nick LaMedica of As You Like It
    Meet Victoria Mack of The Nest
    Meet Andrew Pastides of Tribes
    Meet Shannan Steele of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Carly Street of The Nest
    Meet Samuel Taylor of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Lindsey Noel Whiting of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Jake Williamson  of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Matt Zambrano of As You Like It

  • Meet the cast: Bianca Mikahn of 'How I Got Over'

    by John Moore | Mar 24, 2016
    Meet the Cast Bianca Mikahn. Off-Center. How I Got Over,
    Bianca Mikahn is shown at Off-Center's season-opening launch party in September, where audiences got a first taste of "How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse" - five celebrated slam poets weaving an interconnected story about womanhood, self-discovery and adversity. Mikahn is the director of the piece. She also appears in the live performance via simulcast because she gave birth on Sunday. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    MEET BIANCA MIKAHN

    How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse
    • A Meet the Cast Bianca Mikahn quoteHometown: Denver
    • Fun fact about you: I am birthing this show and my first child at the same time! (Note: Bianca gave birth on Sunday, March 20.)
    • A favorite quote: One of my favorite lines is actually from Suzi Q. Smith: "if you're scared, you should be."
    • Why is the voice of the female poet important in today’s society? Poetry, especially spoken word, is such an outlet for humanization, connection and growth. This is a phenomenal vehicle for us to speak untold truths, identify our counterparts, and potentially reach and affect those who may not offer us much margin in society. 
    • Suzi Q. Smith: Opening doors that had been slammed shut

    • How does it feel to perform your own writing in front of a live audience? Performing is a lovely double-edged sword. I feel called to speak out, use and share my voice, and exchange with my community. I also feel sensitive, curious and exposed. Overall, there is nothing like knowing you've spoken a personal truth and experienced it's reasonation in the mind of another.
    • What do you hope audiences take away from How I Got Over ... ? First, I really hope anyone who gets to experience this show sees themselves in the words and themes. Often when we come from a varying viewpoint, it's easy to write sentiments off as "other" when really everything in this show is on some level truly universal. Second, I hope people are more inclined to explore the experimental aspects of this style of show. Poets can do theatre. There is room for intersectionality here.
    • How would you encourage people to see this show? There has never been anything like this show in Denver, from the cast to the styling to the subject matter. Anyone attending will truly be a part of history.
    • What was your favorite part of developing this show? I am completely smitten by my castmates and having the joy of directing their genius with Suzi Q's support. This has been deeply invigorating. This process has run most of the length of my current pregnancy and to be growing a baby girl while working with this cast makes me enthralled with all the power that is woman.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    How I Got Over: Journeys in Verse: Ticket Information

    • Remaining performances: 8 p.m. Friday, March 25; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 26
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby.

    Previous 2015-16 'Meet the Cast' profiles:

    Meet Adeoye of Lookingglass Alice and All the Way
    Meet Kevin Berntson of The Nest
    Meet J. Paul Boehmer of As You Like It
    Meet Molly Brennan of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Courtney Capek of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Todd Cerveris of All the Way
    Meet Brian D. Coats of The Nest
    Meet Tad Cooley of Tribes
    Meet Paul DeBoy of All the Way
    Meet Allen Dorsey of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Kevin Douglas of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Napoleon M. Douglas of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Brian Dykstra of The Nest
    Meet Isabel Ellison of Tribes
    Meet Mariana Fernandez of FADE
    Meet Kate Finch of Tribes
    Meet Ella Galaty of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Mike Hartman of All the Way
    Meet Ben Heil of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Carolyn Holding of As You Like It
    Meet Drew Horwitz of As You Like It
    Meet Maurice Jones of As You Like It
    Meet Geoffrey Kent of As You Like It and All the Way
    Meet Emily Kron of As You Like It
    Meet Nick LaMedica of As You Like It
    Meet Victoria Mack of The Nest
    Meet Andrew Pastides of Tribes
    Meet Shannan Steele of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Carly Street of The Nest
    Meet Samuel Taylor of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Lindsey Noel Whiting of Lookingglass Alice
    Meet Jake Williamson  of A Christmas Carol
    Meet Matt Zambrano of As You Like It

  • Video: 2015 Local Playwrights Slam

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2016

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    As the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit approaches, we take a look back in the video above at the inaugural Local Playwrights Slam hosted and curated by a group of Colorado writers known as the Rough Draught Playwrights.

    The event was held during the opening weekend of the DCPA Theatre Company's 2015 Colorado New Play Summit last February, and featured William Missouri Downs, Megan Fevurly, Ellen K. Graham, Josh Hartwell, Cajardo Rameer Lindsey and Buntport Theater's Erin Rollman and Hannah Duggan. The evening's hosts were Nina Miller, Leslie C. Lewis and Jeff Neuman.

    Playwrights Slam. Josh Hartwell. Buntport went on to produce its work in progress, Middle Aged People Sitting in Boxes, which was nominated for seven Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards. Graham's The Wave That Set the Fire was a finalist at The O'Neill's 2014 National Playwrights Conference. Downs' Mr. Perfect has been published by Playscripts. Fevurly's The Funambulist, renamed Tightrope, was staged at the University of Idaho. Hartwell's one-act The Extraordinarily Mundane Adventures of Earth Boy was previously staged in 2012 at the Changing Scene Northwest. (Hartwell is pictured above.)

    The 2016 Slam will be hosted by the Athena Project, which exists to support and provide opportunities for women writers. It will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at The Jones Theatre.

    This year's featured writers will be Lisa Wagner Erickson, Jennifer Faletto, Rebecca Gorman O’Neill, Leslie Lewis, Felice Locker and Catherine Wiley. Tickets are $10. For information, go to athenaprojectfestival.org.


    Photos from the 2015 Local Playwrights Slam:

    2015 Local Playwrights Slam Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'SantaLand' Podcast: Michael Bouchard is the new elf in town

    by John Moore | Nov 09, 2015

    To listen to our podcast, press play.

    Episode 175 of our Running Lines Audio Podcast:

    There's a new elf in town. Yes, there will be a fresh, caustic candy-striper playing Crumpet in the Denver Center’s annual presentation of The SantaLand Diaries, David Sedaris’ comic monologue recounting his real-life experience working as a Macy’s Department store elf. His name is Michael Bouchard, a Denver Post Ovation Award-winning actor best-known to Colorado audiences from his time at the Arvada Center, the Creede Repertory Theatre, and as a newly appointed company member with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which is presenting The SantaLand Diaries at the Jones Theatrein collaboration with the DCPA’s Off-Center.

    Why is he perfect for the role of David Sedaris? Bouchard isn't bragging when he says with a twinkle, "I’m a cynical bastard through and through." He says the people who most annoy him are "classical liberal intellectuals," whom he defines as "those who love humanity … but they hate people." He only associates with them, he says, "when I look in the mirror."

    Bouchard may be cynical about the commercialization of Christmas, but he thinks audiences should consider attending both The SantaLand Diaries' and the far less cynical A Christmas Carol, because it will be fellow actor Philip Pleasants' last time playing Scrooge. "And he might be the greatest scrooge I have ever heard of, much less seen," he said. 

    A Christmas Carol is good for the human spirit," he added. The joy of SantaLand, he added, is that it pokes fun at the industry of Christmas. "You can shed some of that cynicism off while getting a really hard laugh."

    The running time of the podcast is 6 minutes.

    Podcast Outtake:

    Bouchard is proud to have recently been named a full company member with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. The company, known colloquially as "Betsy " after its BETC acronym, was co-founded by Bouchard's SantaLand Director, Steven Weitz, who also just directed Tribes for the DCPA Theatre Company. 

    "There are a lot of great theatre local companies out there doing a lot of different theatre," Bouchard said. "But BETC is a theatre that is doing just really good work. They are doing the best shows they can find with the best people they can get their hands on, and there's not necessarily a gimmick to it. For me, that's the sweet spot."


    Matt Zambrano, left, with Michael Bouchard. Photo by John Moore.

    There was a recent informal passing of the hat when Matt Zambrano, who played Crumpet in the 2013 and '14 DCPA stagings of "The SantaLand Diaries," symbolically turned the role over to Michael Bouchard. Zambrano recently appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company's "As You Like It." Last year, Bouchard appeared in "A Christmas Carol."  Photo by John Moore. 


    The SantaLand Diaries: Ticket information

  • Nov. 27-Dec. 27 at the Jones Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Accessibility performances: 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 20
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for 'The SantaLand Diaries.'


    More SantaLand coverage
    :
    Beginnings and endings A Christmas Carol, The SantaLand Diaries'

    Recent Running Lines podcasts:
    Our interview with ... Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Our interview with ... Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford
    Our interview with: Emma Messenger and Haley Johnson of 'Night, Mother
    Our interview with ... Margie Lamb of Next to Normal
    Our interview with ... Jane Lynch of Glee
    Our interview with ... Cyndi Lauper of Kinky Boots
    Our interview on dialects with ... The cast of Lord of the Flies
    Our interview with ... Jeremy Palmer, Ed Mills and J Murray d'Armand of Wit's L.A. Diner
    Our interview with ... Laura Norman and Josh Hartwell of Grounded
    Our interview with ... Dramaturg Allison Horsley of Animal Crackers
    Our interview with ... Director Christy Montour-Larson of Shadowlands

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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.