• 2017 True West Award: Kenny Moten

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017
    2017 True West Award Kenny Moten. Photo by John Moore

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 7: Kenny Moten

    Motones vs. Jerseys
    Miscast 2017
    Aurora Fox Cabaret Series
    Owner, Narrative Creative Consulting

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    If you think being a performer is hard, try being a performer and the owner of your own entertainment and consulting company. Kenny Moten makes the transition from actor to producer to businessman and back again in same manner that often describes his rich singing voice: Smooth as silk.

    Moten is among the very few performers who also knows how to run a business.

    Kenny Moten“It’s rare because owning an entertainment business is brutal in a way that is very different from the way performing is brutal,” said Moten’s frequent creative partner — and employee — Jalyn Courtenay Webb. “When you’re the boss, you are not only responsible for yourself, but for the people you hire and the team you put together. But Kenny has just the right temperament for it. He does everything with integrity. He’s a solid human being.”  

    Moten is the creator and owner of Narrative Creative Consulting, which presents entertainment events and uses various art forms to help clients ranging from National Jewish Hospital to Snooze Eatery to the Denver Center shape their narratives, customer service, employee training and brand strategies.  

    Moten is also the co-creator, director, writer and a featured performer of a clever new musical form called Motones vs. Jerseys. In July, it was up for three Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards, including Outstanding Musical, for its nearly sold-out run at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins.

    In September, Moten lent his support (and that smooth-as-silk singing voice) to the Denver Actors Fund by appearing in Miscast 2017 as one of the three Fionas singing I Know It’s Today from Shrek the Musical. In October, the Aurora Fox turned to Moten to launch its risky new monthly cabaret series with 12 O’clock Tales: An Evening of Songs and Stories. Both shows sold out, which Webb said is further indication of Moten’s popularity as a performer — and his business acumen. Both come from more than 20 years as a professional performer, Webb says.

    Kenny Moten Miscast 2017“Kenny’s name is synonymous with excellence, and people know that in our community and beyond,” she said. “He was not going to do his show in an empty house — and he certainly did not.”

    Moten caps a remarkable 2017 with a return next week to Motones vs. Jerseys as part of a unique new creative partnership with BDT Stage in Boulder. "MvJ," as the kids call it, is a feel-good, nostalgic evening featuring the music of Motown and The Four Seasons — along with their many ancestors and descendants — in a good-natured competition. After two teams of four performers each rock out a playlist spanning Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bruno Mars and many more, the audience chooses a winning team using their cell phones to vote.

    (Pictured right: Kenny Moten with his 'Miscast 2017' co-stars, Margie Lamb, left, and Hope Grandon. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter,)

    It’s a concept Moten first developed with Chris Starkey, now of Imprint Group DMC. After several refinements, Moten unveiled a slick new version of the show last year at the Midtown Arts Center, where it received a standing ovation “every single night,” said Webb, who is both the show’s Music Director and nightly emcee. “And let me tell you, I’ve never seen that happen at any dinner theatre before in my life.”

    Motones vs. Jerseys opens on Dec. 10 and will play on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights through Jan. 23, playing in rep the rest of the week with BDT Stage’s holiday staging of Annie.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Moten, who is originally from Hagerstown, Md., graduated from Highlands Ranch High School and the University of Colorado Denver. He transitioned from Barnstormer to leading man with a remarkable 2005 performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the late Country Dinner Playhouse opposite now Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee. Westword’s Juliet Wittman called Moten not only “a wonderful singer with a voice full of poignancy and power,” but also “a charming and seductive performer who brings impressive precision and a smooth, lean elegance to the stage.”

    Other major credits include Swing at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Altar Boyz at the Clocktower Cabaret, but it wasn’t long before Moten was off to New York. He re-settled in Fort Collins a few years ago and has since been on a roll that has not only furthered his personal and professional interests, but has gainfully employed dozens of local actors and crew members on his many public and corporate projects.

    “The thing I love about Kenny is that he’s so fun, but he’s also completely no-nonsense when it comes to the work,” said Webb. “He expects the highest quality and the highest level of performance possible from his performers, and we respect that. He knows what he wants — and he goes out and gets it."

    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.

    Motones vs. Jerseys: At a glance

    • Dec. 10-Jan. 23
    • BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
    • Performances Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Dinner seating begins at 6:15, with the show to follow at 7:45
    • Featuring Brian Cronan, Will Hawkins, Brian Jackson and Jacob Villareal as The Jerseys, and Christian Mark Gibbs, Anthony McGlaun, Kenny Moten and Alejandro Roldan as The Motones.
    • Call 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

    Video bonus: Motones vs. Jerseys at the 2017 Henry Awards

  • Vintage, Denver Center collaborate to bring 'Lady Day,' Mary Louise Lee, to stage

    by John Moore | Nov 20, 2017
    Lady Day Mary Louise Lee Adams Viscom Mary Louise Lee in the 2016 DCPA Theatre Company workshop of 'Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.' Photo by  AdamsVisCom.

     

    From First Lady to Lady Day: Billie Holiday musical to open at Vintage, then move to Denver Center's Galleria Theatre

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Mary Louise LeeWhen Mary Louise Lee revisited her signature role as Billie Holiday
    in a special workshop production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill last year, she dedicated the performance to Shadow Theatre Company founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Nickelson. Lee considers having played the jazz legend in 2002 to be the most meaningful performance of her storied career.

    It couldn't be more fitting, then, that when Vintage Theatre Productions brings the story to full stage life again this January with Lee in the title role, she will be be performing in the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. 

    Nickelson, who died in 2009, was a graduate of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. In 1997, he founded Shadow Theatre to present “stories from the heart of the African-American community,” as he liked to say. And the biggest hit in Shadow’s history was that 2002 production of Lady Day, with Nickelson directing and Lee starring as Holiday.

    Lady DayFor her haunting portrayal of a woman with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit  — Lee won a Westword Best of Denver Award for Best Actress in a Musical. 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." She reprised the role for a special three-day workshop engagement in 2016 at the Denver Center's Jones Theatre. 

    After Nickelsen died of a heart attack in 2009, the theatre he opened at 1468 Dayton St. in Aurora was renamed the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. Vintage took over operations there in 2011. 

    Berry HartToday, Vintage and the Denver Center announced an unprecedented collaboration. Vintage will introduce its new production of Lanie Robertson's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, starring Lee and directed by Betty Hart (pictured right), from Jan. 12 through Feb. 18. The production will then move to the Denver Center's Garner-Galleria Theatre on March 5 and perform there on Monday nights through April 23 — while the Denver Center's ongoing musical comedy First Date continues its run for the rest of the week.

    Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill tells Holiday'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, and Lady Day is not just a memorable tribute to the singer, but also a moving portrait of her struggles with addiction, racism, and loss.

    "We're thrilled, of course," said Vintage Theatre Artistic Director Bernie Cardell. "This is an exciting event for Vintage and for the theatre community overall. If we are to thrive, collaboration is the key. While we certainly can survive on our own, we can reach bigger heights together. My hope is this is just the start of a new way of producing quality theatre for our community."

     Lady Day Mary Louise Lee. 2002Lee's performing career began at the Denver Center when she appeared in Beehive at what is now the Garner Galleria Theatre while only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. In 2011, Lady Day also became the First Lady of Denver when her husband, Michael B. Hancock, was elected Mayor.

    (Pictured right: Mary Louise Lee in rehearsal for her award-winning turn in 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill' for Shadow Theatre in 2002.)

    Lee has performing at many high profile events over the past two decades, including the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions. She performed with the Colorado Symphony at the 911 Remembrance Ceremony, and in the First Ladies of Jazz concert. She has sung the national anthem before 78,000 Denver Broncos fans, was featured vocalist at the grand opening of Union Station was a Season 9 contestant on America's Got Talent.  She has toured internationally performing for the troops of the U.S. Department of Defense. She 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. 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

    Mary Louise Lee The Wiz. AfterthoughtSome 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 (pictured right). She took on that role just after Hancock was elected in 2011.

    From students to senior citizens, Lee is committed to being an ambassador for the arts to help expose and expand access to Denver’s vibrant arts and cultural communities. 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.

    Betty Hart, the director, recently moved to Denver from Atlanta, where she was a Teaching Artist at the Alliance Theatre. She is the Special Projects Coordinator for Kaiser Permanente Arts Integrated Resources program and recently joined the board of directors for the Colorado Theatre Guild.

    The Music Director will be Trent Hines. He was most recently the conductor and pianist for The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, and he also performed in the show.


    A Lady Day Westword

    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At Vintage Theatre

  • Jan. 12-Feb 18, 2018 (Note: The Feb. 3 show will be performed by Shandra Duncan)
  • 1468 Dayton St., Aurora
  • Tickets $15-$34
  • Call 303-856-7830 or BUY ONLINE


  • Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At the Garner-Galleria Theatre

  • March 5-April 23, 2018
  • Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Tickets start at $42
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • The show runs approximately 90 minutes without intermission
  • Adult language and content
  • Age Recommendation: 17 and over
  •  

    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  the national touring production of 'Million Dollar Quartet' at the Buell Theatre in 2014.

  • Video: Denver Center CEO Janice Sinden dances with the Denver stars

    by John Moore | Sep 03, 2017

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Community feels the rhythm of the night raising $250,000 for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance's education programs.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The 8th annual Dancing with the Denver Stars raised about $250,000 on Aug. 19 to support arts-education programs at Denver's internationally renowned Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.

     Janice Sinden Dancing with the Denver Stars Cleo Parker Robinson 600 2Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, founded by honorary DCPA Trustee Cleo Parker Robinson, provides dance and movement education in schools using the power of dance to enrich the lives of children across Colorado.

    Dancing with the Denver Stars pairs notable members of Denver's arts, municipal and business communities with Robinson's dancers, all culminating in a gala performance at the Denver Marriott City Center.

    This year one of the featured pairs was Denver Center for the Performing Arts President and CEO Janice Sinden and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance's Cedric D. Hall.

    "It is so important to support arts and culture in our community, and Cleo is a legend," said Sinden. "Having the opportunity to support her and all of the dancers and our youth as they learn about the importance of dance in their lives? How lucky am I to be here?"

    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous was on hand to cheer Sinden on, and afterward praised Cleo Parker Robinson Dance for offering arts-education programs that closely align with the mission of DCPA Education. Robinson's programs serve 43 schools and nearly 20,000 children in metro Denver.

    Janice Sinden. Cleo Parker Robinson. Photo by John Moore"Arts education matters because it teaches the whole child," Watrous said. "Cleo Parker Robinson encourages her students to to be confident and fabulous."

    The evening included a special appearance from Dianne Reeves, a graduate of Denver's George Washington High School who won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

    In the video above, we hear from Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and First Lady Mary Louise Lee, and see highlights from Sinden and Hall's routine, set to DeBarge's 1980s hit "Rhythm of the Night." (The three are pictured above right.)

    Hancock, who accepted the same challenge from Robinson and himself danced in a previous Dancing with the Denver Stars fundraiser, had some teasing pre-show advice for Sinden, who served as his Chief of Staff for five years before joining the Denver Center.

    "You should be absolutely, bonafide terrified," Hancock told Sinden. "This is nerve-wracking." Afterward, Hancock said Sinden danced with heart and passion. "She was perfect," he said.

    Hall said his partner's greatest assets were her bubbly personality - and her pink dress. Sinden went for full-pink ballerina, complete with pink bloomers and shoes dyed to match. She credited the DCPA Theatre Company costuming department for helping the pair with their outfits from DCPA's wardrobe inventory. There are more photos in the gallery below.

    The gala raised $50,000 more than the company's initial goal. Former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers led a live-auction segment that significantly boosted donations. Actor-comedian Shedrick Garrett (also known as Shed G) served as master of ceremonies.



    Dancing with the Denver Stars: Full photo gallery

    2017 Dancing with the Denver Stars

    Our full gallery of photos from the 2017 'Dancing with the Denver Stars.' To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    Dancing with the Denver Stars: 2017 Featured Dancers

    Jonathan Adelman. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Jonathan Adelman

    AVP, Strategic Resource and Business Planning, Xcel Energy
    Dancing with Bria Tyner



    John Bolger

    Managing Director, Aon Corporation
    Dancing with Jessica Horton



    Ivan Burwell. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Ivan Burwell

    CEO, Street Source
    Dancing with Ralaya (Rae) Goshea



    Celia Dietrich Wattles

    Founder & Principal, Dietrich & Company LLC
    Dancing with Edgar Page



    Ken Greene. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Ken Greene

    Chief Operating Officer, Denver International Airport
    Dancing with Chloe-Grant Abel



    Evan Dreyer. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Evan Dreyer

    Deputy Chief of Staff, Denver Mayor’s Office
    Dancing with Alexis Amos



    Scott Gilmore. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Scott Gilmore

    Deputy Executive Director, Denver Parks and Recreation
    Dancing with Theresa Berger



    Bruce Johnson. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Bruce Johnson

    Partner, Polsinelli Law Firm
    Dancing with YooJung Hahm



    Johnny Johnson. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Dr. Johnny Johnson

    Doctor, Western OBGYN
    Dancing with Amelia Dietz



    Britt Moreno. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Britt Moreno
    CBS4 Morning News Anchor
    Dancing with Antonio (Tony) De'Berry



    Huy Pham. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Huy Pham

    President/CEO, Innovative Retail Group, LLC
    Dancing with Chloe-Grant Abel

    Marcia Romero. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Marcia Romero
    Communications Specialist, CoBiz Financial
    Dancing with Davry Ratcliffe



    Janice Sinden. Cleo Parker Robinson. Dancing with the Denver Stars. Photo by John Moore. Janice Sinden
    President/CEO, DCPA
    Dancing with Cedric D. Hall


    More video:

    Here's a highlight reel from Cleo Parker Robinson Dance that shows more of the festivities from the 2017 'Dancing with the Denver Stars.'
  • 2017 Bobby G Awards: Persistence pays off at Valor Christian

    by John Moore | May 25, 2017

    A Bobby G AwardsThe cast of Valor Christian's production of 'Pippin,' which was named Outstanding Musical tonight. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Fourth time is the charm for Outstanding Actress
    Elleon Dobias, who will represent Colorado in New York.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The fifth annual Bobby G Awards, which celebrate achievement in Colorado high-school theatre, were proof positive that persistence pays off. Valor Christian High School Senior Elleon Dobias (pictured at right), who was nominated all three of her underclassman years but had never before won a Bobby G Award, was named Outstanding Actress. And her school won Outstanding Musical for the first time for its production of Pippin.

    Bobby G Awards. Elleon DobiasLakewood High School led all schools by earning four of the evening’s 19 awards for its epic production of Sweeney Todd. In all, a record 12 schools won at least one award, spreading the love wide among the 42 participating high schools. Valor Christian's Pippin earned three. Bobby G Awards will soon be taking up new residence at schools throughout the state, including at Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Niwot high schools.

    The Bobby G Awards are a culmination of a year-long program administered by the Denver Center that emphasizes camaraderie and shared experiences - but there is also much at stake. The students named Outstanding Actor and Actress go on to represent Colorado at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City.

    Bobby G Awards (Pictured at right: The cast of North High School/Strive Prep's production of 'In the Heights', which was nominated for best musical. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Austin Hand of Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins was named Outstanding Actor for his performance as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family. Dobias had been nominated as a freshman and sophomore in the "Rising Star" category, for promising underclassmen. Last year she was nominated as Outstanding Supporting Actress, and this year, playing the widow Catherine in Pippin, she won for Outstanding Actress.

    "For this to be my fourth year to be nominated at the Bobby G Awards and to go out on such a high has been a delight, to say the least," said Dobias, who also graduated from high school earlier in the day.

    Moments after the ceremony ended, the newly named Outstanding Actors already were exchanging phone numbers with previous recipients. "This is a family you've entered into," said last year's Outstanding Actor, Curtis Salinger. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Bobby G Awards. Austin Hand.As Colorado’s winners, Dobias and Hand (pictured right) will be joined next month by other regional honorees for "The Jimmys," as they are known in New York City. That’s 10 days of intensive training with some of Broadway's leading actors, choreographers and directors, all leading up to a fully staged, one-night performance at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre.

    Nominees for the Bobby G Awards are determined by scoring from a team of professional adjudicators. Unlike other awards categories, the Outstanding Actor and Actress winners are determined by two equally scored criteria: First, the students are judged for their actual performances in their respective school musicals. The five students with the highest scores then go before a professional panel for a private, scored audition.

    This year, a record 42 schools participated in the statewide Bobby G Awards program, up from 30 two years ago. Valor Christian, a private school with an enrollment of 879, is located on a 35-acre campus in Highlands Ranch. When she was a freshman, Dobias said, only 10 kids tried out for the school play at Valor Christian More than 60 auditioned for Pippin, she said.

    Bobby G AwardsColorado native Gene Gillette, who is a member of the national touring production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, opening Tuesday at the very same Ellie Caulkins Opera House, presented two awards.

    (Pictured at right: Gene Gillette with former Outstanding Actor Curtis Salinger and Outstanding Actresses Abby Noble and Charlotte Movizzo.)

    Gillette encouraged the high-school kids in their pursuits, saying professional success takes discipline, a strong belief in yourself and a strong sense of wonder.

    Denver First Lady and prominent area singer and actor Mary Louise Lee, who runs a nonprofit called Bringing Back the Arts, presented two awards. Lee, who made her professional debut at the Denver Center when she was 18, riffed from the signature song from The Wiz, "Believe in Yourself." The students were also greeted by DCPA CEO Janice Sinden and Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg.

    Among the heartfelt and comic acceptance speeches was Will Warner, who was named Outstanding Supporting Actor for his work as Beadle Bamford in Lakewood High School's Sweeney Todd. "I would like to thank the women in my life," Warner said ... "Because they told me I had to."

    (Story continues after the video.)

    Video: 2017 Bobby G Awards in 60 Seconds


    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Interviews by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore. More video and photos to come.


    Of note to the local theatre community was longtime BDT Stage performer Shelly Cox-Robie's nomination as a fifth-year director at Boulder High School. She directed Rent, with her son playing Angel. Two of her actors were nominated as Outstanding Actor (Jesse Shafroth) and Actress (Asha Romeo). Boulder won for both Outstanding Chorus and Orchestra.

    Students and educators were honored in the areas of performance, design, direction, choreography, technical production and overall production excellence. All participating schools received one personal master class session with a DCPA Education theatre teacher. Winners of the Outstanding Supporting Actor, Actress and Rising Star (Outstanding Underclassman) awards also earn a full year of free classes at the Denver Center. "Theatre is alive in Colorado," said Education Director Allison Watrous. “The DCPA is proud to be a part of your journey.”

    A Bobby G AwardsWhile the Bobby G Awards culminate each year with Thursday's awards ceremony, which is modeled after the Tony Awards, the year-long focus of the program is to both celebrate and educate. The participating schools receive detailed feedback on their musical productions from the adjudicators. The 10 nominated Outstanding Actors and Actresses are invited to the Denver Center two weeks before the awards to prepare a medley together in community and friendship, which they then perform at the ceremony on the Ellie Caulkins stage.

    Each of the five nominated Outstanding Productions performed a musical number during the ceremony, each drawing thunderous appreciation from an enthusiastic Ellie Caulkins  crowd estimated at 1,800.

    The Bobby G Awards were founded in 2013 by the late DCPA President Randy Weeks. They are named after late producer Robert Garner, who established Denver as a top destination for touring Broadway shows.

    The Master of ceremonies was again Greg Moody, longtime known as Colorado's Critic-At-Large for CBS-4.

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

    THE 2016-17 BOBBY G AWARDS

    Hair and Makeup

    Outstanding Achievement in Hair and Make-up Design

    Cierra Denning and Izze Sajdak
    The Scarlet Pimpernel
    , Chaparral High School

    Other nominees:

    • Devan Green, Fiddler on the Roof, Brighton High School
    • Katie Kostenik, Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School
    • Lydia Cole, Averi Davis, Emma Smith and Hannah Tester, Children of Eden, Mountain View High School
    • Maya Julien, Christina Larez and Simone Rodriguez, In the Heights, North High School and STRIVE Prep Excel High School


    Costumes

    Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design

    Camille Gionet, Kaila Govan and Alyssa Mader
    Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School

    Other nominees:
    • Joe Kennedy and Anne Murphy, Aida, Fairview High School
    • Mollie Beck and Rebecca Spafford,The Addams Family, Fossil Ridge High School
    • Jen Bleem, Lauryn Starke, Cynthia Vega and Ramses Vega, Children of Eden, Mountain View High School
    • Mona Lucero, Simone Rodriguez and Sarah Davies-Schley, In the Heights, North High School and STRIVE Prep Excel High School


    Lighting


    Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design

    Ethan Thomas and T.J. Thomas
    The Little Mermaid,
    Ralston Valley High School

    Other nominees:
    • Demian Detweiler and Scott Nelson, Pippin, Aspen High School
    • Brian Morgans, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Chaparral High School
    • Jude Franco, Dennis Gilsdorf and Nich Gilsdorf, Children of Eden, Mountain View High School
    • Karley Durate, Anthony Heredia, Joylene Quintana and Travis Roth, Tarzan, Westminster High School


    Scenic

    Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design
    Hannah Freeman and Tom Ward
    Pippin,
    Aspen High School

    Other nominees:

    • Katya Hirsch and Chris Sweeney, Rent, Boulder High School
    • Clare Buntrock, Rachel Barckholtz, Taylor Dykstra and Jace Smykil, Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School
    • Josh Belk and Starr Samkus, Starlight Express, Palmer Ridge High School
    • Tori Byam and Liam Southwick, Beauty and the Beast, Durango High School


    Choreography

    Outstanding Achievement in Choreography
    Angie Dryer
    Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School

    Other nominees:

    • Lindsey Solano, Fiddler on the Roof, Brighton High School
    • Caitlin Parets, Guys and Dolls, Loveland High School
    • Evan DeBord, Tammy Johnson, Cydney Kutcipal and Rachel Miller, Children of Eden, Mountain View High School
    • John DeYoung and Jamie Geary, Pippin, Valor Christian High School


    Musical Direction

    Outstanding Achievement in Musical Direction
    Marty Magehee, Rick Paswaters and Jenny Timmons
    Pippin, Valor Christian High School

    Other nominees:

    • Duncan Cooper, Cabaret, Bear Creek High School
    • Mary Bateman, Rent, Boulder High School
    • Steve Hinman and Luke Tredinnick, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Chaparral High School
    • Bryce Melaragno and Debbie Miller, Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School


    Chorus

    Outstanding Performance by a Chorus
    Rent

    Boulder High School

    Other nominees:

    • Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School
    • Children of Eden, Mountain View High School
    • Pippin, Valor Christian High School
    • The Pirates of Penzance, Wheat Ridge High School


    Orchestra

    Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra

    Rent

    Boulder High School

    Other nominees:

    • Cabaret, Bear Creek High School
    • Fiddler on the Roof, Brighton High School
    • The Producers, Denver School of the Arts
    • Aida, Fairview High School


    Supporting Actress

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
    McKinley Mueller
    Grandma Addams, The Addams Family
    Glenwood Springs High School

    Other nominees:

    • Stella Martin as Andrea, Once on This Island, Conifer High School
    • Anna Rosenthal as Grandma Addams, The Addams Family, Heritage High School
    • Alexa Hand as Sydney, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, Resurrection Christian School
    • Libby Lukens as Jan, Grease, Steamboat Springs High School


    Supporting Actor

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
    Will Warner
    Beadle Bamford
    Sweeney Todd

    Lakewood High School

    Other nominees:

    • Will Coleman as Lumiere, Beauty and the Beast, Arvada West High School
    • Brandon Michael as Herr Schultz, Cabaret, Bear Creek High School
    • Adrian Clark as Farleigh, The Scarlett Pimpernel, Chaparral High School
    • Luccio Dellepiane, Harold Bride, Titanic, Cherry Creek High School


    Rising Star

    Rising Star

    Joe Robinson
    Dewhurst
    The Scarlet Pimpernel

    Chaparral High School

    Other nominees:

    • Ana Lemus as Serena, Legally Blonde, D’Evelyn High School
    • Luke McKenzie as Theo, Pippin, George Washington High School
    • Sam Feng as Oz Guard, The Wizard of Oz, Lutheran High School
    • Ellie Hill as La Fou, Beauty and the Beast, Regis Jesuit High School

    Leading Actress

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

    Elleon Dobias
    Catherine
    Pippin

    Valor Christian High School

    • Asha Romeo as Joanne Jefferson, Rent, Boulder High School
    • Grace Nolte as Marguerite St. Just, The Scarlett Pimpernel, Chaparral High School
    • Cameron Marter as Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School
    • Chantal King as Witch, Into the Woods, Niwot High School


    Leading Actor

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
    Austin Hand
    Gomez Addams
    The Addams Family

    Fossil Ridge High School

    Other nominees:

    • Jesse Shafroth as Mark Cohen, Rent, Boulder High School
    • Chandler Carter as Chauvelin, The Scarlett Pimpernel, Chaparral High School
    • Trey Kochevar as Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School
    • Gable Kinsman as Pippin, Pippin,Valor Christian High School


    Direction

    Outstanding Achievement in Direction
    Tami LoSasso and Yovana Milosevic
    Sweeney Todd

    Lakewood High School

    Other nominees:

    • Shelly Cox-Robie, Rent, Boulder High School
    • Kate McRaith, The Addams Family, Glenwood Springs High School
    • Katie Marshall, Children of Eden, Mountain View High School
    • Lindsey Hutcheon and Kurt Muenstermann, Pippin,Valor Christian High School


    Overall Production

    Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical
    Pippin

    Valor Christian High Schoo
    l

    Other nominees:

    • Rent, Boulder High School
    • The Scarlet Pimpernel, Chaparral High School
    • Sweeney Todd, Lakewood High School
    • In the Heights, North High School and STRIVE Prep Excel High School

    Valor


    Valor Christian High School's production of 'Pippin.'



    Video: A look back at the 2016 Bobby G Awards



    More video and photos from Thursday's awards ceremony will be posted next week.

    2017 SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT WINNERS:

    • Achievement in Orchestra: Tim Costello, Cabaret, Bear Creek High School
    • Achievement in Scenic Design: Danielle Waldman, The Producers, Denver School of the Arts
    • Achievement in Technical Direction: Chris Brown, Into the Woods, Niwot High School
    • Special Achievement for a Premiere Production in Colorado: cast and crew of Starlight Express, Palmer Ridge High School
    Previous 2017 Bobby G Awards coverage
    Meet your 2017 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress finalists
    Meet your 2017 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor finalists
    2016-17 Bobby G Award finalists are announced

    Video: Montage welcoming all 42 participating schools:

    Watch our welcoming video introducing all 42 schools participating in the 2016-17 Bobby G Awards. Video shot by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

  • Video, photos: Denver Actors Fund's 'United in Love' concert

    by John Moore | May 04, 2017
    United in Love: Video highlights

    Video highlights from the 'United in Love' concert featuring, from left, Beth Malone, Annaleigh Ashford, Mara Davi and dozens more. Video edited by John Moore from footage provided courtesy of Eden Lane and Sleeping Dog Media.

     


    Ashford, Malone, Davi help raise $40,000 for nonprofit
    that helps local theatre artists in situational medical need


    Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford (You Can't Take it With You) joined fellow Broadway veterans from Colorado Beth Malone (Fun Home) and Mara Davi (Dames at Sea) for United in Love, a sold-out concert event that raised $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund on April 30 at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

    Denver Actors FundThe three headliners were "back to give back." They were joined by powerhouse singer, actor and First Lady of Denver Mary Louise Lee; Broadway’s Jodie Langel (Les Misérables); composer Denise Gentilini (I Am Alive) and Denver performers Jimmy Bruenger, Eugene Ebner, Becca Fletcher, Clarissa Fugazzotto, Robert Johnson, Daniel Langhoff, Susannah McLeod, Chloe McLeod, Sarah Rex, Jeremy Rill, Kristen Samu, Willow Samu and Thaddeus Valdez.

    Also joining the lineup were the casts of both The Jerseys (Klint Rudolph, Brian Smith, Paul Dwyer and Randy St. Pierre), and the upcoming all-student 13 the Musical (Rylee Vogel, Josh Cellar,  Hannah Meg Weinraub, Hannah Katz, Lorenzo Giovannetti, Maddie Kee, Kaden Hinkle, Darrow Klein, Evan Gibley, Conrad Eck and Macy Friday).

    (Pictured above, clockwise from top left: Annaleigh Ashford, Beth Malone, Mary Louise Lee and Mara Davi.)

    The purpose of the evening was to spread a message of love and hope while raising funds for the Denver Actors Fund, which has made $90,000 available to local theatre artists facing situational medical need. The concert was presented by Ebner-Page Productions.

    (Story continues below the photo gallery)

    United in Love: Complete photo gallery

    Denver Actors Fund United in Love Concert

    Photos by RDG Photography, Gary Duff and John Moore. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded and redistributed with credit.


    One of the most poignant moments of the evening came when actor Daniel Langhoff addressed the crowd, telling the story of his continuing fight against cancer, with assistance from The Denver Actors Fund. Langhoff was first diagnosed weeks after the birth of his first daughter. His recent recurrence coincides with news that his wife will give birth to their second child in the fall. (How you can help Daniel Langhoff.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The emcees were local TV arts journalist Eden Lane (also director of the Aurora Fox's current Priscilla Queen of the Desert), and actor Steven J. Burge, who recently starred in the Denver Center's An Act of God at the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    The Music Director was Mitch Samu. The band included Tag Worley, Steve Klein, Andy Sexton, Scott Handler and Jeremy Wendelin.


    The photos above were provided by RDG Photography, Gary Duff and DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, who is also the founder of the Denver Actors Fund. That is a 501c3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax-deductible. For more information, or to apply for aid, go to www.denveractorsfund.org.

    The Presenting Sponsor of United in Love was Delta Dental of Colorado, which matched audience contributions at the end of the evening, turning about $2,200 in donations into more than $4,400. The Gold Sponsor was Kaiser-Permanente. Silver Sponsors were Billings Investments and the Alliance Insurance Group.

  • Shakespeare Fest: Students put spirit of youth in everything

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2017

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

     

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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Story continues under the photo gallery)

    Full photo gallery: 2017 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    2017 DPS Shakespeare Festival

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



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

    Watch our Facebook Live stream from the parade

    Each year, DPS students submit essays for the privilege to play William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I in the welcoming ceremonies, and ride at the head of a short parade from the 16th Street Mall to the Denver Performing Arts Complex. This year’s honorees were Denver North High School Senior Vincent Haney and Denver School of the Arts senior Amelia Corrada, who has been accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Haney said he was speechless and euphoric when he learned he had been selected to speak as The Bard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist. This is his 16th year covering the DPS Shakespeare Festival.


    2017-dps-shakespeare-festival

    Our 2017 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    2017-dps-shakespeare-festival
    TO SEE MORE PHOTOS, CLICK ON THE GALLERY AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE.
  • Tony nominee Beth Malone joins Denver Actors Fund concert lineup

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2017



    Beth Malone, who starred in the DCPA Theatre Company's reimagining of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and then was nominated for her work in Broadway's Fun Home, has joined the homegrown lineup for United in Love, a special concert event presented by Ebner-Page Productions and benefiting the Denver Actors Fund on Sunday, April 30, at the Lone Tree Arts Center. TICKETS HERE

    "It is important for me to be there with my friends because the Denver Actors Fund is an outreach program that helps people I love," Malone said. "I am connected to almost everybody in the Denver theatre community in a Kevin Bacon sort of way. And if any of those people ever needs anything, I know that the Denver Actors Fund is there for them. So when you get the opportunity to be a part of something so incredible, you have to just be grateful that you are the one who was chosen to be part of it." 

    Malone joins previously announced co-headliners Annaleigh Ashford, Andy Kelso and Mara Davi - all Colorado-born and raised performers who have gone on to Broadway success. Ashford won the Tony Award for her work opposite James Earl Jones in You Can’t Take it with You and is currently receiving rave reviews with Jake Gyllenhaal in a limited Broadway engagement of Sunday in the Park with George. She previously co-starred with Kelso in Kinky Boots. Davi (Dames at Sea, Smash, A Chorus Line) grew up in Highlands Ranch.

    Beth Malone QUOTEThese four powerhouse Broadway performers are coming home to unite with local performers and spread a message of love and hope while raising funds for the Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has made $82,000 available to local theatre artists facing situational medical need. 

    Ashford is a graduate of Wheat Ridge High School and also appeared on Broadway in Sylvia, Hair, Wicked and Legally Blonde. Next she will star as Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream this summer in New York's Central Park. Kelso, a graduate of Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, starred in Kinky Boots after a three-year run in Mamma Mia.

    Click here to choose your April 30 concert seats now

    Malone, Kelso and Ashford all regularly appeared the Country Dinner Playhouse (among many others) on their roads to New York. But Malone has never performed in a show with Ashford. They met when Ashford and her husband approached her outside of a theatre in New York.

    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore"She walked up to me and said, 'Are you Beth Malone from Denver?'" said Malone, who was star-struck herself. "I was like, 'Yes, girl from Masters of Sex who I am obsessed with. I am Beth Malone from Denver. Why?' I had no idea of our Country Dinner Playhouse connection because she was much younger than me. When I was coming up, I was obsessed with Kristie Welborn. Those years sitting next to Kristie and Maureen McHale and Alann Worley in the dressing room were the best years of my life." 

    Ashford and Malone soon got to know each other during the 2015 Tony Awards season, when they were both nominated for awards and frequently appeared together.   

    Photo above and right: Beth Malone last night at her DCPA concert with Steven J. Burge ('An Act of God') who is co-hosting the April 30 United in Love' concert with Eden Lane.)

    Malone's appearance at the United in Love concert is all the more remarkable because she is also committed to appearing in New York at an all-star tribute to Broadway's original Molly Brown, Tammy Grimes, on the day before the Denver concert. Grimes died in October.

    Malone presented two sold-out concerts yesterday at the Denver Center's Garner-Galleria Theatre. Next she will return to the role she re-created for the DCPA Theatre Company when The Unsinkable Molly Brown plays The Muny from July 21-27 in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    Read our full, new interview with Beth Malone here

    The United in Love concert also will feature longtime performer (and Denver First Lady) Mary Louise Lee, Broadway’s Jodie Langel (Les Misérables) and Denise Gentilini, composer of the Armenia genocide musical I Am Alive.

    Incidentally, Malone's first professional job was understudy to Lee when both performed in Beehive as teenagers at what is now the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    Additional appearances are scheduled from Denver favorites Jimmy Bruenger, Eugene Ebner, Becca Fletcher, Clarissa Fugazzotto, Robert Johnson, Daniel Langhoff, Susannah McLeod, Chloe McLeod, Sarah Rex, Jeremy Rill, Kristen Samu, Willow Samu, Thaddeus Valdez, and the casts of both The Jerseys (Brian Smith, Paul Dwyer, Klint Rudolph and Randy St. Pierre) and the upcoming 13 the Musical (featuring an all-student cast including Joshua Cellar, Conrad Eck, Macy Friday, Evan Gibley, Lorenzo Giovanetti, Kaden Hinkle, Hannah Katz, Darrow Klein, Rylee Vogel and Hannah Meg Weinraub).

    The lineup is subject to change.

    United in Love Lineup

    The emcees of the event will be performer and local TV arts journalist Eden Lane, also the director of the Aurora Fox's upcoming regional premiere of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and actor Steven J. Burge, who just starred in the Denver Center's An Act of God at the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    The Denver Actors Fund was founded in 2013 by former Denver Post Theatre Critic John Moore and actor/attorney Christopher Boeckx. The Denver Actors Fund offers both financial assistance with medical bills, insurance, co-payments, supplies and more, as well as volunteer assistance ranging from meals to transportation to snow-shoveling. Recently the Denver Actors Fund has helped a young father undergoing chemotherapy, a director who had triple-bypass surgery, and the parents of a child who died with medical and burial expenses. An team of more than 60 volunteers have provided more than 250 hours of service.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Actors Fund is a 501c3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax-deductible. For more information, or to apply for aid, go to denveractorsfund.org.

    The Presenting Sponsor of United in Love is Delta Dental of Colorado. The Gold Sponsor is Kaiser Permanente.  Silver Sponsors are Billings Investments and the Alliance Insurance Group.

     

  • The evolving Beth Malone: So Far ... So Good

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2017
    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore

    Beth Malone returns to Denver for two intimate cabaret concerts on April 15 at the DCPA's Garner Galleria Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Beth Malone's journey from a gravel road in Castle Rock to Broadway's bright lights took a right turn at a mirror.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    It’s about 1,800 miles from Haystack Road to Broadway, but the funny and sad and twisted and ultimately triumphant journey Beth Malone took from Castle Rock to New York City was light years in the making.

    Malone starred in the DCPA Theatre Company’s 2014 reimagining of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in the groundbreaking musical Fun Home. She will tell her story in two uncommonly intimate cabaret concerts on April 15 at the Denver Center’s Garner Galleria Theatre.

    It’s called Beth Malone: So Far, and it covers Malone’s formative years in Colorado. She describes the family, friends and lovers she encountered on her way to starring in Broadway’s first musical with a lesbian protagonist.

    Audiences can expect a swath of recognizable pop songs and very funny anecdotes filled with local references. “I mention Country Dinner Playhouse, the Arvada Center and Boulder's Dinner Theatre (now BDT Stage) before the end of the opening number,” she says.

    But there is a beating and very vulnerable heart at the center of Malone’s story. It’s the crucial off-stage part that covers how she discovered her sexuality and came to own her true self — and the toll it took on her suburban, testosterone-fueled Castle Rock family. Her father, Bill, is a cowboy, and so naturally Malone was a cowboy, too. She is careful not to use the word "cowgirl."

    A Peggy Malone“No, I was a cowboy. I used to be my dad's little clone,” she said. Her mother, Peggy Malone, continues to be a popular country singer along the Western Slope, and she grew up alongside three typically competitive brothers.

    “So Far is about my redneck beginnings and how my parents ended up with such a wildly left-swinging daughter,” Malone said. “But more than anything, it’s really about my relationship with my dad, and what happened when I came out.”

    When Malone performed So Far two years ago at Joe's Pub in New York City, the show went over like gangbusters, she said. In part because cabaret concerts typically deliver upbeat songs and funny anecdotes — and Malone has plenty of those to tell. Like when she stumbled across the film Singin’ in the Rain on TV as a girl. “I didn’t know stuff like this existed,” she said. “I remember running down the hall and saying, ‘Mom, the most amazing thing is on TV!’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, that’s called a musical.’ And I said, ‘Well … that’s what I am doing with the rest of my life.”

    But cabaret concerts don’t typically also deliver a meaningful and sadly universal story of a father and daughter finding each other, breaking apart, and finding each another again  — in an entirely new and uncomfortable context.

    “It’s unexpectedly heart-wrenching,” said Malone. “You are laughing your butt off, and then you find yourself really invested in the love story between me and this heroic cowboy father-figure. When it gets hard for me, I think it gets hard for a lot of people in the audience, too.”

    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore
    Beth Malone in Leadville. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Malone’s first play was Annie for Castle Rock Junior High School in 1984. When she was just 16, she landed her (first) dream job — as a hostess at the Country Dinner Playhouse. Two years later, she starred there in Baby. She made her Denver Center debut that same year at age 18 as the understudy to Mary Louise Lee — now the First Lady of Denver — in Beehive at the very same theatre Malone will be performing So Far on April 15.

    Malone made her debut with the DCPA Theatre Company in 1993 in the world premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Bon Voyage, an adaptation of Noel Coward’s failed musical Sail Away. She went on to make her name performing on stages all over Colorado from the Crystal Palace to Theatre Aspen to the Arvada Center, where she played the narrator in holiday stagings of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for five years running.

    But all through those years, Malone felt like an “other,” she says, and she didn't yet know exactly why. “I have a number in the show about what it's like to be Mulan in a dressing room with Snow White, Belle and Arial. … Do you know what I mean?”

    For those who might not know what she means, Malone describes Mulan as the cross-dressing Disney heroine who looks like a boy. “She's the action figure that nobody wants,” she said with a laugh. “That’s pretty sad for Mulan — and Mulan is me.”

    Malone fully expected to get married — to a man — when she met Rochelle (Shelly)  Schoppert 25 years ago. She says feeling true love for the first time was so intense, it felt like being shot by a gun. And that she fell in love with a woman, she said, “ruined my family for many, many years.” And yet, in 2014, the then 23-year couple rode their bikes to New York's City Hall and legally married.

    Beth Malone. Denver Broncos. Photo by John MooreMalone and her father will never come to a mutual understanding about many things, including their feelings on the current president. But time has a way of morphing the once inconceivable into the more natural order of things. Into something resembling a family. And like many families, the Malones have more in common than not — their love for the Colorado outdoors, their cowboy ways and perhaps most important — their intense mutual love of the Denver Broncos. Bill and Peggy Malone have accompanied Beth and her wife both times she sang the national anthem at Mile High Stadium, in 2014 and '16. (Pictured above from left: Peggy Malone, Beth Malone, Bill Malone and Rochelle Schoppert by John Moore.) Beth recently took her father on a trip to Ireland.

    So Far is actually a really warm, fuzzy, feel-good story,” Malone says of the way her story plays out. “And by the end, you’ll just want to call your dad.”

    Malone’s song list leans more toward pop than showtunes, starting with an appropriately country slant. “The show opens with Happiest Girl in the Whole USA, recorded by Donna Fargo, and segues into a Barbara Mandrell medley, so ... you can see where I am going with this,” Malone said with a laugh. “No one was more obsessed with Barbara Mandrell than I was.” Just wait till you hear the story about the kiss an 11-year-old Malone got from none other than ... Barbara Mandrell. 

    Coming-of-age songs include Melissa Etheridge’s Bring Me Some Water and k.d. lang’s Constant Craving alongside Foreigner’s I've Been Waiting for a Girl Like You. Musical-theatre fans will get a taste of Spring Awakening and a Fun Home mash-up that somehow invokes John Mayer. It builds, she says, to a poignant LeAnn Rimes song called What I Cannot Change.

    Malone has been developing So Far for years with initial producer Peter Schneider, playwright Patricia Cotter (The Break Up Notebook: A Musical) and Beautiful: The Carole King Story Music Director Susan Draus (who will play the show in Denver). But it has necessarily changed in tone, Malone said, since she last performed it in 2015, when  the gay community was riding an unprecedented wave of acceptance and legal victories.

    “All of these amazing, progressive things had just happened,” she said. “Marriage equality had passed, health-care was happening and Fun Home had won the Tony Award for Best Musical. So back then, I ended the show by saying, ‘It's a really bad time to be an angry white guy in America.’ ”

    Well ... that was then.

    "Now I have to say that the pendulum has fully swung the other way, and angry white guys are having their day again,” Malone said. “It’s just a hate orgy out there right now. That's how it feels to me. So there is a different vibe now, and I have had to rewrite the ending of the show a little because of that.”

    Beyond Fun Home
    The success of Fun Home has brought new career opportunities for Malone. Notable TV credits have included Brain Dead and The Good Wife. She has an upcoming indie film called Laying Low. But the biggest break by far was appearing opposite Robert DeNiro in last year's star-studded film The Comedian. Malone has a nice, long scene where she plays a reality-TV producer who gives DeNiro the brush-off when he pitches her an idea for a new show.

    “Yes, I busted DeNiro’s (bleeps),” Malone says with evident glee. “It was pretty amazing.”

    Also amazing: Hanging out on the set with the likes of Edie Falco, Danny DeVito and Broadway legend Patti Lupone when Lupone figured out that Malone was the star of Fun Home.

    “I was like, 'Oh my God, is anybody hearing this? Patti Lupone is telling me how good I am right now!’ " Malone said. "And sure enough, Edie Falco came up to me and said, ‘Patti Lupone was just crazy about you.’ It was just the best.”

    A Beth Malone 800 5

    Still, the greatest impact Fun Home has had on Malone's life was not only giving her a voice, she said. “It also gave me an audience that wanted to hear that voice," she said.

    Fun Home helped me to define my own beliefs and to commit to them publicly,” she said. “As an actor, I was always sort of a politician. I wanted to be with my wife, Shelly, behind closed doors, but I never was political about it, and I never pushed it anyone's face. I never stood up for anyone besides myself.

    "I have lived in Aspen, L.A. and New York – and being gay there is pretty easy. I never really gave a thought to teenagers who were trying to come out in Tennessee and Kentucky and Alabama. Now, I think about those kids all the time. Now, I talk to them whenever I can. That is my gift from Fun Home: The awareness that just living my life openly can be a beacon for other people – if only I am strong enough to stand up and claim it.”

    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.

    Beth Malone: So Far
    Beth Malone About the show: Tony-nominated Beth Malone (DCPA Theatre Company’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown) brings her acclaimed solo show back to where it all happened. Follow this adorably insane little lesbian as she takes you on a journey from Castle Rock to the South Pacific. From little girl crushes to grown-woman heartbreak. Join us for comedy, tragedy, and a crush on Connie Chung.

    • April 15, 5 and 8 p.m.
    • Garner Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets start at $50
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    An update on The Unsinkable Molly Brown:

    Molly_Brown_Beth Malone_JK_800Beth Malone will return to the role she re-created for the DCPA Theatre Company this summer when The Unsinkable Molly Brown plays The Muny this coming July 21-27 in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    "That is absolutely the intention of putting it up at The Muny,” Malone said. “There is no other reason than for it go to Broadway," she said. And while there is not yet a producer attached for New York, “everyone involved with it feels very strongly that it we are completely on track to move it there.”

    (Photo above by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    The show has changed in some significant ways since its debut in Denver, Malone said. The song Don't Put Bananas on Bananas, originally written by Meredith Willson to be included in The Music Man, has been cut. And Molly Brown’s activism and commitment to social causes is given more dramatic importance in the new storyline.

    “Molly Brown was the head of the Survivors Committee of the RMS Titanic, and a big part of her work was making sure that all of those people in steerage weren't just immediately kicked out and sent back to the countries they came from because their paperwork was at the bottom of the ocean. Her commitment to the plight of the immigrant makes the story seem more relevant since our election in November.”

    There has been no announcement yet who will play opposite Malone as Leadville Johnny Brown.

     Selected previous Beth Malone coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter:



    Photo gallery: Beth Malone in Denver:

    Beth Malone in Denver

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Broadway's Ashford, Kelso and more in Denver benefit concert April 30

    by John Moore | Mar 13, 2017



    Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford will reunite with her Kinky Boots co-star (and fellow Colorado native) Andy Kelso for United in Love, a special concert event presented by Ebner-Page Productions and benefiting the Denver Actors Fund on Sunday night, April 30, at the Lone Tree Arts Center. TICKETS HERE

    Joining the headliners will be Mara Davi (Dames at Sea, Smash, A Chorus Line), who grew up in Highlands Ranch. These three powerhouse Broadway performers are coming home to unite with local performers and spread a message of love and hope while raising funds for the Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has made $82,000 available to local theatre artists facing situational medical need. 

    Ashford, a graduate of Wheat Ridge High School, won the Tony Award for her work in You Can’t Take it with You and is currently receiving rave reviews with Jake Gyllenhaal in a limited Broadway engagement of Sunday in the Park with George. She also has appeared on Broadway in Sylvia, Hair, Wicked and Legally Blonde. Kelso, a graduate of Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, starred in Kinky Boots after a three-year run in Mamma Mia.

    Click here to choose your April 30 concert seats now

    The concert also will feature longtime Denver performer (and Denver First Lady) Mary Louise Lee, Broadway’s Jodie Langel (Les Misérables) and Denise Gentilini, composer of the Armenia genocide musical I Am Alive.

    “These stars are returning to their roots to support the theatre community they came from,” said Ebner, who conceived the United in Love concert with Paul Page. “They are examples to all of us for fulfilling their dreams while inspiring and encouraging others.”

    Additional appearances are scheduled from Denver favorites Jimmy Bruenger, Eugene Ebner, Becca Fletcher, Clarissa Fugazzotto, Robert Johnson, Daniel Langhoff, Susannah McLeod, Chloe McLeod, Sarah Rex, Jeremy Rill, Kristen Samu, Willow Samu, Thaddeus Valdez, and the casts of both The Jerseys and the upcoming 13 the Musical (featuring an all-student casts).

    The lineup is subject to change, and additional stars may be added.

    The emcees of the event will be performer and local TV arts journalist Eden Lane with actor Steven J. Burge, currently starring in the Denver Center's An Act of God at the Garner-Galleria Theatre.


    United in Love

    The Denver Actors Fund was founded in 2013 by former Denver Post Theatre Critic John Moore and actor/attorney Christopher Boeckx. The Denver Actors Fund  offers both financial assistance with medical bills, insurance, co-payments, supplies and more, as well as volunteer assistance ranging from meals to transportation to snow-shoveling. Recently the Denver Actors Fund has helped a young father undergoing chemotherapy, a director who had triple-bypass surgery, and the parents of a child who died with medical and burial expenses. An team of more than 60 volunteers have provided more than 250 hours of service.

    “We are a grassroots organization to the core, and we depend on the kindness of people like Eugene Ebner and Paul Page to organize events like United in Love on our behalf, and the incredible generosity of the performing community for pull nights like this off,” said Moore, the DAF’s Executive Director. “United in Love will be the biggest night in our history, and we are united in gratitude to everyone who is helping to make it possible.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Actors Fund is a 501c3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax-deductible. For more information, or to apply for aid, go to denveractorsfund.org.

    The audience is invited to mingle with the performers at a post-show reception for additional $25. (There are only 100 full show/reception tickets available.)

    The Presenting Sponsor of United in Love is Delta Dental of Colorado. Silver Sponsors are Skyline Property Management and the Alliance Insurance Group.


    DAF Contest Lone Tree


    Front-row student social-media contest:
    The 14 front-row seats for the United in Love concert will be made available for $25 to seven students (high school seniors or younger) who make a 15-second video promoting the April 30 contest by professing their fandom for one of the performers on the lineup. Make a video and send it by Google Drive to denveractordfund@gmail.com. Deadline to submit: April 1. You will be notified if you are a winner. Two $25 tickets (face value $84 each) will be made available to the seven winners, along with free access to the post-concert reception. Questions, email denveractorsfund@gmail.com.

    Video bonus: Our 2014 interview with Ashford and Kelso at Kinky Boots:

    Look back on our backstage visit with Tony nominee Annaleigh Ashford and Andy Kelso, Denver-area natives with leading roles in 'Kinky Boots' on Broadway. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • 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
  • October: Colorado theatre openings

    by John Moore | Sep 28, 2016

    Rhonda Brown. Photo courtesy Richard H. Pegg.


    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of all upcoming Colorado theatre openings. Companies are encouraged to submit listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.


    Six intriguing titles for October:

    1 PerspectivesAward-winning actor Rhonda Brown, who relocated to Creede two years ago, returns to Denver for a three-night run of what has become her signature role: As the late, unapologetically left-leaning columnist Molly Ivins in Red-Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Ivins, who had a bumpy spell with the New York Times, was a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist who was constantly telling us to “stop letting big money buy our elections” and to “raise more hell.” Oct. 7-9 at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, 16th and Arapahoe St. 303-293-0075 or lannies.com

    2 PerspectivesDenver First Lady Mary Louise Lee will return to her professional roots 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 was 18 and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. Lady Day is a haunting look at Billie Holiday, 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."

    3 Perspectives

    A October SpillSpill examines the massive Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that killed 11 workers off the coast of Louisiana and triggered the largest oil spill in history. For 87 days, millions of gallons of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico in what President Barack Obama called "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” Spill was written by Leigh Fondakowski (pictured right), who was the Head Writer of the Denver-born The Laramie Project, and is based on more than 200 hours of interviews. Oct. 14-29 at Naropa University, 2130 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder.

    4 PerspectivesThe Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Full Code, winner of the company's first "Generations" play competition. After a freak accident puts a man in a coma, he must decide which of two women he wants - if he wakes up, that is. David Valdes Greenwood's story has been described as "a gripping look inside the human mind." Featuring Casey Andree, Laura Norman, Karen Slack, Warren Sherrill, Devon James and Luke Sorge. Oct. 20-Nov. 13 at the Dairy Arts, Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or betc.org

    5 PerspectivesLocal Theater Company opens its fifth season with the world premiere of Firestorm, a raw look into the first year of a biracial marriage. Playwright Meridith Friedman focuses on the response of a white political candidate's African-American wife when the media discovers a racially charged prank from her husband's past. Friedman says her play is "a searing look at who we decide to spend our life with," and begs the question: How well do we really know our partner? Oct. 20-Nov. 13 at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., in Boulder, localtheatercompany.org

    6 PerspectivesFirehouse Theater Company will undertake perhaps the largest production in its long history when it stages Arthur Miller's cautionary The Crucible, set during the Salem witch trials but really more of a commentary on the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Director Peter J. Hughes' large cast includes Jeff Jesmer, Lisa Kraai, Daniel Langhoff, Carolyn Lohr and David Fletcher. Oct. 8-Nov. 5 at the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    And that's just the start of things. Here are all your options in one handy list:  

    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    October DCPA openingsSept. 30-Nov. 6: Arvada Center’s Tartuffe
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org READ MORE

    Sept. 30-Oct. 16: Inspire Creative & Parker Arts Monty Python's Spamalot
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker 303-805-6800 or parkerarts.org

    Sept. 30-Oct. 30: Thin Air Theatre Company's Cripple Creep Show
    139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    Sept. 30-Oct. 15: Thunder River Theatre Company’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Sept. 30-Oct. 30: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
    Second Stage, 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Oct. 6-15: Buntport Theater's The Rembrandt Room
    At the Millibo Art Theatre, 1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321 or TICKET INFO

    Oct. 6-8: square product theatre company's This Aunt is Not a Cockroach
    At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., 800-838-3006 or TICKET INFO

    Oct. 7-30: DCPA Theatre Company's Frankenstein
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Oct. 7-Nov. 6, 2016: Aurora Fox's Dracula
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org

    Oct. 7-29: Bug Theatre's Night of the Living Dead, Live (with Paper Cat Films)
    3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info

    Oct. 7-30: Cherry Creek Theatre's The Last Romance

    Shaver Ramsey Showroom, 2414 E. 3rd Ave., Denver, 303-800-6578 or cherrycreektheatre.org

    Oct 7-8: Off-Center's Cult Following
    Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Oct. 7-8: Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret's Red Hot Patriot - The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins
    D&F Clock Tower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or lannies.com

    Oct. 7-Nov. 27: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Godspell
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Oct. 7-22: StageDoor Theatre's The Rocky Horror Show
    27357 Conifer Road, 303-886-2819 or stagedoortheatre.org

    Oct. 8-Nov. 5: Firehouse's Theatre's The Crucible
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page

    Oct. 8-Nov. 5, 2016: The Avenue Theater's Wait Until Dark
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

    Oct. 8-May 13, 2017: Buntport Theater for All Ages’ Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com
    (1 p.m. and 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month through May)

    Oct. 13-Nov. 6: Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres, or The Sun That You Are
    At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    Oct. 13-29: OpenStage Theatre Company’s Ultimate Beauty Bible
    At the Center for Fine Art Photography, 400 N. College Ave., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Oct. 13-30: Springs Ensemble Theatre’s The Elephant Man
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Oct. 14-Nov. 13, 2016: The Edge Theatre's Marie Antoinette
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Oct. 14-29, 2016: Naropa Universiity's Spill
    2130 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder MORE INFO

    Oct. 14-30: Thingamajig Theatre Company's Grounded
    At the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org

    Oct. 14-23, 2016: Town Hall Arts Center's Guys on Ice
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Oct. 15-March 12, 2017: DCPA Cabaret's An Act of God
    Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Oct. 16-Nov. 13: Local Theater Company’s The Firestorm
    Carsen Theater at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    Oct. 20-Nov. 13: Boulder Ensembe Theatre Company's Full Code
    Grace Gamm Theater at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or betc.org

    Oct. 20-Nov. 6, 2016: TheatreWorks' Game of Love and Chance
    3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Oct. 21-Nov. 13: Ignite Theatre's Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
    2590 Washington St., 866-811-4111 or click here for tickets

    Oct. 21-Nov. 6: Evergren Players' Stepping Out
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreen players’ home page

    Oct. 21-29: Longmont Theatre Company's Bat Boy: The Musical
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Oct. 21-22: Phamaly Theatre Company's Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach
    At the Lakewood Cultural Center, Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-575-0005 or phamaly.org

    Oct. 21-30: Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre’s Sarah, Plain and Tall
    Famous Performing Arts Center, 131 W Main St., Trinidad, 719-846-4765 or scrtheatre.com

    Oct. 21-Nov. 19 2016: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
    Second Stage, 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Oct 28-30: DCPA's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
    JonesTheatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Oct. 28-Nov. 12: Coal Creek Theater of Louisville and Theater Company of Lafayette's Absurd Person Singular
    At the Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant Ave., Louisville, 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org 

    Oct. 28-Nov. 27: Vintage Theatre Company's Stella and Lou
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

     

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through Oct. 1: Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre’s Million Dollar Quartet
    800 Grand Ave, Grand Lake, 970-627-3421 or rockymountainrep.com

    Through Oct. 1: OpenStage Theatre Company’s La Bête
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Through Oct. 1: Millibo Arts Theatre's Oddville: Happiness Comes in a Cardboard Box
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321 or themat.org

    Through Oct. 2: Arvada Center’s Sister Act
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org READ MORE
    Through Oct. 2: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Oklahoma
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Through Oct. 2: square product theatre company and CU Theatre & Dance's 44 Plays for 44 Presidents
    University Theatre, University of Colorado-Boulder campus, 303-492-8008 or colorado.edu

    Through Oct. 8: The Catamounts' The Taming
    At the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826, 720-468-0487 or thecatamounts.org READ MORE

    Through Oct. 8: Wide Eyed West’s theMumblings
    At The Bakery, 2132 Market St., wideeyedproductions.com READ MORE

    Through Oct 9: Roundabout Theatre Company’s Cabaret 
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through Oct. 9: Evergreen Chorale’s My Fair Lady
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4002 or evergreenchorale.org

    Through Oct. 9: Town Hall Arts Center's Once Upon a Mattress
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Through Oct. 9: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Grace Gamm Theater at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or betc.org READ MORE

    Through Oct. 15: Curious Theatre's Water by the Spoonful
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    Through Oct. 16: DCPA Theatre Company's The Glass Menagerie
    Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org VIDEO

    Through Oct. 16: Bas Bleu's The Blue Flower
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through Oct. 16: Germinal Stage-Denver's The Tracks Home
    At the 73rd Avenue Playhouse, 7287 Lowell Blvd., 303-455-7108 or germinalstage.com

    Through Oct. 16: Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com READ MORE

    Through Oct. 16: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Shear Madness
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Through Oct. 16, 2016: BiTSY Stage’s The Fortune Teller's Fortune: A Tale From Nicaragua
    1137 S. Huron St. Denver, 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com (Admission is free)

    Through Oct. 23: Vintage Theatre's The Oldest Boy (with Theatre Esprit Asia)
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Oct. 30: Vintage Theatre's Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, The Musical
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Nov. 5: Midtown Arts Center's Motones vs. Jerseys
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through Nov. 12: BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2! (#WhatDidIComeInHereFor)
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Through Nov. 13: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s Evita
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970) 744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

     

    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE
    Ongoing productions
    2406 Federal Blvd., Denver, 303-455-1848 or adamsmysteryplayhouse.com

    BUNTPORT THEATRE

    Sept. 30: Untitled at the Denver Art Museum
    Oct. 8: Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey (monthly theatre for young audiences)
    Oct. 18: The Great Debate
    Oct. 19: The Narrators (a live storytelling show and podcast)
    Oct. 21-22: So You Think You Can Watch Us Dance!
    Oct. 28: Untitled at the Denver Art Museum
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    DENVER ACTORS FUND PRESENTS ...

    (Monthly film series in partnership with local theatre companies)
    Oct. 10: Night of the Living Dead
    Pre-screening entertainment by cast of Bug Theatre's current production.
    At the Alamo Drafthouse, Aspen Grove, 7301 S Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, 720-588-4107 or BUY TICKETS

    LONE TREE ARTS CENTER
    10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000 or lonetreeartscenter.org
    Oct. 1: The Doo Wop Project
    Oct. 29: The Wonder Bread Years

    THE SOURCE THEATRE COMPANY

    Every third Monday: Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org

    STORIES ON STAGE
    Oct. 14 and 16: Things That Go Bump in the Night
    *Oct. 14: 7 p.m. at the Chautauqua Community House, 301 Morning Glory Drive, Boulder, 303-440-7666 or TICKETS
    *Oct. 16: 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-494-0523 or TICKETS
    Selections include “The October Game” by Ray Bradbury, read by John Arp; "The Open Window” by SakiPoor, read by Adrian Egolf; "The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link, read by Anne Penner



  • 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.

     

  • Photos, video: Hattitude 2016: Playing for a level playing field

    by John Moore | May 06, 2016

    Video coverage of the 2016 Women with Hattitude luncheon by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Interviews by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore. Just push play.


    Denver dance legend Cleo Parker Robinson looked around a ballroom filled to capacity with 650 (mostly) women donning majestic, artistic, floral, ethnic, comic and even playfully gaudy millinery - and simply marveled.

    “It’s just like rainbows moving, dancing and singing,” said Robinson, founder of the internationally acclaimed Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and a former DCPA Trustee. “It’s just wonderful.”

    Hattitude quote Cleo Parker RobinsonThe occasion was Thursday’s 11th annual DCPA Women with Hattitude luncheon at the Seawell Ballroom. Robinson was part of the original African-American Task force that dreamed up Hattitude to support the hiring of female playwrights and directors.

    Eleven years later, Artistic Director Kent Thompson’s Women’s Voices Fund is a national model that enables the DCPA Theatre Company to commission, workshop and produce new plays by women. Now valued at more than $1 million, the Women’s Voices Fund is one of the largest funds of any kind devoted to creating new works for the American theatre. Thursday's luncheon raised $80,000 for the cause.

    Last year, the DCPA Theatre Company presented world premieres by Theresa Rebeck (The Nest) and Tanya Saracho (FADE). Its Education Division’s annual statewide youth playwriting competition produced 10 semifinalists this year - nine of them young women - from a field of 212. In July, Kendra Knapp’s Sonder will get a full production in the Conservatory Theatre.

    Studies have shown that while women make up nearly 60 percent of all live theatregoing audiences nationwide, only about 25 percent of all plays and musicals staged in America are written by women. In its first 10 years, the Women’s Voices Fund made it possible for the DCPA Theatre Company to produce 26 plays by women (including 10 world premieres), commission 15 female playwrights and hire 17 female directors.

    “The Women’s Voices Fund matters so much because the majority of people in this industry seem to be female, but the majority of positions of authority seem to be held by men,” said Lori McClain, an actor performing in The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek in the Galleria Theatre. “The movie industry could take a cue from this event.”

    Next season, the Theatre Company will be presenting two world premieres, both by women: Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will and Tira Palmquist’s Two Degrees. Thompson also pointed out Thursday that the new Broadway musical Waitress spent some of its development time at the Denver Center. Kathleen Marshall workshopped the piece here while she was also bringing The Unsinkable Molly Brown to life in 2014. Waitress is the first Broadway musical in history with an all-female creative and design team.

    Our 2016 Women with Hattitude photo gallery:


    Hattitude 2016 Photos from the 2016 Hattitude luncheon. To see more, press the forward button on the image above. Click on any photo to download for free. Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow for the DCPA NewsCenter. More photos will be added to this gallery next week.

    “We are leading the way in making sure women’s voices are heard throughout the nation,” said DCPA CEO and President Scott Shiller. “And what we have done for the past 11 years is just the start of what we are going to do for the next 10.”

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

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

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

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

    (Pictured at right: Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee.)

    Hattitude culminates with a whimsical fashion show – each of the 65 tables nominate one woman (or man!) to walk down a runway and show off their hats. This year, University of Northern Colorado freshman musical-theatre student Abby Noble led the parade while singing “I Feel the Earth Move” from the upcoming touring musical Beautiful - The Carole King Story (July 19-31).

    More information on the Women’s Voices Fund

    As a young artist hoping to graduate into a more equitable world, Noble clearly gets the need, the benefit and the fun of an afternoon like Hattitude.

    “Women coming together to support women in the theatre is so necessary because of course women need to be represented equally in the theatre community,” said Noble, who as a high-schooler won the DCPA’s 2014 Bobby G Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. “This event is so important because it illustrates that we are making an impact, and we are trying to change (the numbers).”

    Hattitude quote Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek
    From left: Katy Carolina Collins, Denise Snyder (Mariel of Cherry Creek), Emjoy Gavino, Jackson Evans, Katie Caussin, Lindsey Pearlman, Lori McClain. Front: 'Best in Show' hat winner B.J. Dyer. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Director Christy Montour-Larson, who directed Two Degrees at the Theatre Company’s 2016 Colorado New Play Summit, was energized to see “such a wide spectrum of humanity, of women, and of hats” at Thursday’s luncheon. “Every time I look out into an audience, they are women. And if we give women opportunities to write plays and direct plays, then we hear their stories.”

     Hattitude Kevin Curtis Sweeney ToddAnd that matters to audiences, says Michanda Lindsey.

    “I think there is a palatable difference when I see a play that has been directed by a woman, or has the voice of the woman as the writer,” said Lindsey, a Transformation Coach and wife of frequent Theatre Company actor Cajardo Lindsey (All the Way). “Different layers are captured that I believe are so necessary to tell the full spectrum of who we are as a humanity.”

    Hattitude was hosted this year by CBS-4 anchors Jim Benneman and Karen Leigh. The Event Chair was longtime Denver philanthropist Jamie Angelich. Actor Kevin Curtis (pictured right), who plays Tobias Ragg in the Theatre Company's critically acclaimed Sweeney Todd, sang "Nothing's Gonna Harm You," to the accompaniment of Erik Daniells.  

    Hattitude Best In Show. BJ DyerLongtime DCPA Trustee Judi Wolf acknowledged the recent passing of DCPA founder Donald R. Seawell, noting his attendance at all 10 previous Hattitude luncheons. It was Wolf’s task to choose the “Best in Show” hat, and she went with one lined entirely with ticket stubs to The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek. Its creator was BJ Dyer, owner of Denver’s Bouquets floral and gift shop (pictured right). Another award-winner was Lannie Garrett, owner of Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret and recent inductee into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Hattitude was especially fun, if a bit unfamiliar, for the newly arrived cast of The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek, who tour their Real Housewives parody from city to city, localizing the material for local audiences.

    “I really look forward to the time where the playing field is level in terms of gender diversity so we don’t have to have these gender designations like, ‘This is for women,’ or, ‘This is for people of color,’” said Realish actor Katie Caussin. “Hopefully soon we can have a level playing field - because artists are artists.”

    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.

    DCPA CEO Scott Shiller and Event Chair Jamie Angelich
    DCPA CEO Scott Shiller, left, and Hattitude Event Chair Jamie Angelich. Below, dignitaries and hat winners. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Hattitude dignitaries and hat winners.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 2015 True West Awards: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter

    by John Moore | Dec 20, 2015
    Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Photo by Lawrence Alexander/Reflections in Video Productions Inc.


    2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    ​Today’s recipient:
    Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Uncle Jed's Barbershop


    Today’s award presenter: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore


    Let’s get this first part out of the way: Yes, Mary Louise Lee happens to be married to the mayor of Denver. But this First Lady is second to no one when it comes to that voice. Lee’s professional stage cred dates back to being hired to perform in Beehive The Musical at the now Garner-Galleria Theatre when she was still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School.

    When they invite Lee to sing the national anthem before 78,000 Broncos fans, or to sing on America’s Got Talent, or to join the cast of the national touring production of The Million Dollar Quartet onstage at the Buell Theatre, it’s certainly not because her high-school sweetheart won an election.

    It’s because she’s Mary Louise Lee.

    Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine HunterLee's lengthy theater resume includes work at the DCPA, Arvada Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and theaters around the country. The Mary Louise Lee Band has been knocking out blues covers like "Chain of Fools" from military bases worldwide to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. 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.

    When the creators of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop decided it was time to finally, fully stage their unapologetically sentimental new family musical at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, they weren’t messing around. Their cast featured Broadway veterans Ken Prymus (Cats, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Wiz), Nora Cole (Jelly’s Last Jam, On The Town) and Terry Burrell (seven Broadway credits including the original DreamGirls), along with a host of local stalwarts including Lee, Harvy Blanks, Leonard Barrett Jr. and Anna High.

    Read more: First Lady hosts students, Motown the Musical cast members

    And they weren’t messing around when they unearthed a then 12-year-old named Yasmine Hunter to share with Lee the leading role of Sarah Jean.

    Uncle Jed's Barbershop follows Sarah Jean’s life dating to her childhood in rural Arkansas, where Uncle Jed was the only black barber in a segregated county. The sharecropper’s dream was to open his own barbershop, but instead he freely gave up his savings to pay for emergency medical care that saved Sarah’s life at age 5. Sarah Jean then struggles to reconcile her past in the decades that follow.

    Mary Louise Lee quoteLee is not easily intimidated – and young Hunter was clearly not daunted to share the role of Sarah Jean with her. Lee brought the backbone and Hunter brought down the house on a solo called “I Will Go Where You Go." 

    Lee said working with Hunter, a four-year member of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Choir, was a complete joy. "She's funny and congenial, and extremely talented," she said. "This girl has such a bright future."

    Margaree King Mitchell, author of the award-winning source book, has seen every iteration of this developing music, but this newest incarnation made her feel as if she were seeing it for the first time because of the caliber and exuberance of the company. “The high-spirited music and soul-stirring singing took me back in time,” she said. “The incomparable Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter brought Sarah Jean to life as she dreamed right along with Uncle Jed.”

    Uncle Jed's Barbershop, which has high ambitions for a continued life, is written by Kenneth Grimes, David Wohl and Susan Einhorn, who is also the director. For more information, click 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.

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

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS

    The True West Awards began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. This year, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from around the state over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE
    Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
    Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
    Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Day 4: Laurence Curry
    Day 5: Bernie Cardell
    Day 6: Susan Lyles
    Day 7: John Jurcheck​
    Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
    Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
    Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
    Day 11: Shauna Johnson
    Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
    Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
    Day 14: Keith Ewer
    Day 15: Allison Watrous
    Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
    Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
    Day 18: Emma Messenger
    Day 19: Shannon McKinney
    Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
    Day 22: Scott Beyette
    Day 23: Augustus Truhn
    Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
    Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
    Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
    Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
    Day 29: Mark Collins
    Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
    Bonus: Donald R. Seawell
  • Video: Denver First Lady hosts students, 'Motown' cast members

    by John Moore | Apr 24, 2015

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk.




    Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee with 'Motown' actors Reed L. Shannon and Leon Outlaw Jr. at Cableland. Photo by Emily Lozow. Motown at CablelandDenver First Lady Mary Louise Lee hosted students from Denver's Hamilton and Florida Pitt Waller middle schools for an afternoon of pizza, performances and inspiring conversations from Motown the Musical national touring production cast members.  And when the students were asked to return the favor, they sang a few songs for the pros as well.

    The participating Motown cast members included   Clifton Oliver, Leon Outlaw Jr., Reed L. Shannon, Patrice Covington, Ashley Tamar Davis and Martina Sykes.

    "I want everyone to know that this could be you too," said Lee, also the founder of  a nonprofit called the Bringing Back The Arts Foundation. "You can be anything you set your mind to. You can be an astronaut.  You can can be an architect. You an be the mayor of Denver. It doesn't matter what color you are, or where you come from."



    Pictured above: Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee with Motown actors Reed L. Shannon and Leon Outlaw Jr. at Cableland. Photo by Emily Lozow.

    Our photo gallery from the day at Cableland:


    Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video: Mayor declares 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2015


    Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and his wife, Mary Louise Lee. Photo by John Moore. On Friday, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock declared April 3 to be Motown The Musical Day in Denver. He was accompanied by his wife, performer Mary Louise Lee.

    Hancock and Lee celebrated their 20th anniversary by flying to New York and seeing Motown The Musical on Broadway. The Hancocks already have attended the show three times in Denver. Hear what they have to say about the importance of Motown music not only for them, but for all music lovers.

    Lee made her professional debut at age 18 performing in the Motown inspired musical Beehive at what is now the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    The national touring production of Motown The Musical will be visiting Denver through April 19.

    Read the entire proclamation at the bottom of this page.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Mayor Michael B. Hancock and wife Mary Louise Lee declare April 3 to be 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver. Phot by John Moore.
    Mayor Michael B. Hancock and wife Mary Louise Lee declare April 3 to be 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver. Photo by John Moore.



    Motown the Musical: Ticket information
    Through April 19
    The Buell Theatre
    ASL, Open Caption and Audio Described performance: April 18, 2 p.m.
    Tickets: 303-893.4100 | buy online
    800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups (10+): 303-446-4829
    Click here to go to the show's official web site

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Motown, The Musical:
    Video: Our Little Michael Jacksons in Denver
    Video: Allison Semmes on channeling Diana Ross
    Video: Scott Shiller's first day as DCPA CEO is Motown's opening night
    How Berry Gordy turned a slogan into The Supremes
    Photos: Motown in Denver
    Official show page
    Video: Montage of scenes

    Photos of Motown the Musical's stay in Denver:


    Here are  photos from the national touring production of 'Motown The Musical' in Denver. Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow.



    The proclamation:
    April 3 is 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver.
  • Photos: D-Town becomes Motown as national tour opens in Denver

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2015

    Here are  photos from the national touring production of Motown The Musical's opening night in Denver on Tuesday, March 31. Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow.

    Motown Opening Night. Photo by John Moore. Our gallery includes fan photos in the lobby and shots from the opening-night party at Limelight attended by, among others, Denver dance legend Cleo Parker Robinson, Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee and longtime local singer Robert Johnson. Lee is a performer who made her professional debut at age 18 in Beehive The Musical at the next-door Garner Galleria Theatre (then StageWest).

    The Motown opening was a homecoming for Production Manager Anna R. Kaltenbach, a graduate of the University of Denver and a longtime member of Denver's LIDA Project theatrical collective.

    All photos are downloadable for free at a variety of available sizes. Click here to go to our public Flickr album.

    Motown The Musical tells the true story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul. His American dream launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us move to the same beat.

    Leon Outlaw Jr. (Young Michael Jackson) and Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee at the 'Motown' opening night. Photo by John Moore.

    Leon Outlaw Jr. (Young Michael Jackson) and Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee at the 'Motown' opening night. Photo by John Moore.


    Motown the Musical:
    Ticket information

    Through April 19
    The Buell Theatre
    ASL, Open Caption and Audio Described performance: April 18, 2 p.m.
    Tickets: 303-893.4100 | buy online
    800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups (10+): 303-446-4829
    Click here to go to the show's official web site

    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of Motown The Musical:
    Video: Scott Shiller's first day as DCPA CEO is Motown's opening night
    How Berry Gordy turned a slogan into The Supremes
    Official show page
    Video: Montage of scenes


  • New DCPA CEO's first day is opening night of 'Motown'

    by John Moore | Apr 01, 2015



    Scott Shiller, newly appointed as just the second CEO in Denver Center for the Performing Arts history, had his first day on the job March 31. After a whirlwind day of greetings and meetings, he attended the opening performance  of the national touring production of Motown, the Musical, playing at the Buell Theatre through April 19.

    Shiller talks about his whirlwind day, which included meeting Denver First Lady and accomplished performer Mary Louise Lee, who made her professional stage debut at the Garner Galleria Theatre (then called StageWest) at the DCPA when she was just 18, and Motown star Allison Semmes (Diana Ross). Shiller also will attend the DCPA Theatre Company's One Night in Miami as well as Friday's world premiere of the new rock musical The 12, which imagines what happened to the disciples during the three days following their leader's death. Shiller begins his full-time duties as CEO on May 1.

    For information on any DCPA show, call 303-893-4100.


    Motown the Musical: Ticket information
    Through April 19
    The Buell Theatre
    ASL, Open Caption and Audio Described performance: April 18, 2 p.m.
    Tickets: 303-893.4100 | Click here to order tickets in Denver online
    800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups (10+): 303-446-4829
    Click here to go to the show's official web site

    Previous coverage of the Scott Shiller hiring:
    Scott Shiller has theatre in his bones

    Previous coverage of Motown, The Musical:
    How Berry Gordy turned a slogan into The Supremes
    Official show page
    Video: Montage of scenes


    DCPA CEO Scott Shiller with 'Motown' star Allison Semmes and Denver First Lady (and performer) Mary Louise Lee. Photo by Emily Lozow.
    DCPA CEO Scott Shiller with 'Motown' star Allison Semmes and Denver First Lady (and performer) Mary Louise Lee. Photo by Emily Lozow.
  • Lowenstein's accomplishments read into Congressional Record

    by John Moore | Nov 19, 2014

    Henry_Lowenstein_Celebration_Cleo_Parker_Robinson_1_800Chris Page of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance performs "Motherless Child" at the Henry Lowenstein life celebration on Nov. 10. Photo by John Moore. Click here to see our full gallery of photos from the Henry Lowenstein celebration


    Henry_Lowenstein_Congressional_Record_300Henry Lowenstein’s achievements in theatre and his lifelong commitment to equal opportunity were read into the official Congressional Record on Nov. 12 by Rep. Diana DeGette from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

    The rare honor came two days after Lowenstein was championed for consistently breaking down racial and societal barriers at a celebration in the Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center in Denver.

    DeGette staffer Tricia Stevens read the Lowenstein proclamation to a crowd of nearly 400 who gathered on a frigid Nov. 10 evening to mark Lowenstein’s significance to the world of theatre – and the world at large.

    Lowenstein, who escaped the Nazis as a boy in the kindertransport of 1938 and went on to run the famed Bonfils Theatre in Denver from 1956-86, died Oct. 7 at age 89.

    “Henry Lowenstein was one of Colorado’s most respected and honorable residents,” said Stevens, reading DeGette’s words at the Mizel. “He is widely considered one of the most important people in the shaping of Denver.”

    DeGette hailed Lowenstein for consistently fighting against discrimination in any form. “Henry held a deep compassion for artists and for outcasts,” the proclamation read. “This passion formed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, which shaped the artist he would become.”

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    The celebration was a mixture of poignant anecdotes, jokes and performances co-hosted by John Ashton and Robert Wells. In a letter read by Ashton, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock called Lowenstein a jewel in Denver’s crown.

    “Henry Lowenstein, without a doubt, was a giant in the Denver community in general, and in the arts community in particular,” Hancock said. “His incredible love of theatre, his creativity and inspiring vision have set the standard for the high level of performances we enjoy today.

    “Henry was resolute in his commitment to providing opportunities to those who crossed his path, and was an encourager of young people regardless of their race, their religion or their background. As the father of Denver theatre, he embraced thought-provoking pieces that caused the audience to consider the plight of others.”

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    Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee, who grew up seeing performances at the Bonfils Theatre, sings "Believe in Yourself" from "The Wiz." Photo by John Moore


    Hancock’s wife, acclaimed singer Mary Louise Lee, who grew up watching shows at the Bonfils Theatre, then sang “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz. That theme resonated throughout the evening. International dance icon Cleo Parker Robinson delivered her rousing eulogy wearing colorful, sparkly shoes she once wore in a production of The Wiz. Why? “Because Henry made us believe in ourselves,” she said.

    Robinson’s father, Jonathan Parker, was a prolific actor and crew member at the Bonfils, located on East Colfax Avenue and Josephine Street. But he was first hired as a janitor, and only after Lowenstein intervened and overrode internal objections from Bonfils patrons to whom it was unthinkable the theatre might hire a black man – even as a custodian.

    “Henry made the Bonfils the greatest theatre on the planet because Henry made it our theatre,” Cleo Parker Robinson said. “It belonged to all of us. Henry used art as a way of changing the world so we could see it differently and feel it differently and have the opportunity to experience it differently."

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    Cleo Parker Robinson refers to Henry Lowenstein as her godfather. Photo by John Moore


    Robinson said without Lowenstein, there is no Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, “because the Bonfils made me who I am,” she said. And since his death, “sometimes I have felt like a motherless child,” she added as a way of introducing a dance she choreographed to the song “Motherless Child." It was performed by Chris Page, a member of her dance ensemble.

    “I felt like I was a little lost at first without Henry,” Robinson said. “But then I realized I will never be lost because Henry will always be our godfather, and he will always be a part of our hearts and lives.”

    Other speakers referenced many seminal chapters in Lowenstein’s storied life: Growing up in Berlin with artist parents whose friends included Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, who wrote The Threepenny Opera largely on the Lowenstein family piano. How a curious young Henry peeked in through the painted windows of the Kit Kat Club that inspired the musical Cabaret. Being accepted into the Yale School of Drama masters program without having earned an undergraduate degree. That his sister, Karen, was a spy for the Allies in World War II. Being hired by the legendary Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils to run her new crown jewel theatre in Denver on the same day in 1956 that she hired Donald R. Seawell to be her attorney. Seawell would go on to use Bonfils’ inheritance to build the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    Click here to see our full gallery of photos from the Henry Lowenstein celebration

    By the time the Bonfils Theatre closed in 1986, it had been renamed the Lowenstein Theatre and had hosted more than 400 plays and sponsored dozens more in city parks. In retirement, Lowenstein opened and ran the Denver Civic Theatre, which is now the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center.

    Along the way, Lowenstein provided opportunities for hundreds of artists. He launched careers. He encouraged women, gays and people of color. Anyone he ever considered oppressed, as he and his family were. For hundreds of thousands of Colorado audiences, the Bonfils served as their first exposure to live theater.

    “One of Henry’s greatest accomplishments was to provide meaningful creative opportunities to just about anyone he came into contact with,” Ashton said at the ceremony. “He saw a spark in just about everybody -- and he knew how to kindle it.”

    Lowenstein also was hailed for taking programming risks, including the 1971 Denver debut of the gay-themed Boys in the Band.

    “The number of people who came under the influence of Henry and his art is immeasurable,” said his friend, Bruce Jackson Jr. “I don’t think there is a place you can go in the American theatre where you can’t find somebody who either knows, worked with or was influenced by something that Henry did.”

    Michael R. Duran said Lowenstein not only gave him his creative start out of college, he gave him his first professional opportunity to work as a set designer, properties master and director.

    “Working for Henry was like a conservatory of learning,” Duran said. “And when I went out into the world, he was my greatest cheerleader. So on a very personal level, I don’t feel like I will ever lose him.”

    Actor Gwen Harris, who performed for Lowenstein at the Denver Civic and later became a regular performer for the DCPA’s Theatre Company, flew in from Georgia. She remembered Lowenstein being deeply troubled by the true story of a Denver policeman who ran a stop sign and killed a friend of Lowenstein’s -- and went unpunished for it. So Lowenstein rallied donnie l. betts (lower-case intentional) to direct a topical play called Split Second.

    “He was just so focused,” Harris said. “He came right up to me and said, ‘I am telling you right now: You are doing the role.’ And that was it. I did the role.”

    Lucy Roucis, who would make her way to Hollywood before being slowed by early onset Parkinson’s disease, still calls Lowenstein “Uncle Henry.” He gave Roucis her first – and last, she joked -- opportunity to direct. She remembered when she was assisting Lowenstein on a production of A Christmas Carol at the Denver Civic.

    “The stage was high, but you could put your feet against the wall in the first row,” she said. “So there I was with my notebook and my feet up when Henry came up to me and said, ‘Have some respect! Put your feet down!’ And I just said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And I put my feet down!”

    Buddy Butler, a resident director at the Bonfils for 10 years, flew in for the celebration from San Diego, where he is now the Artistic Director of the Magic Carpet Theatre. He said Lowenstein can be aptly described in one word: Humanist.

    “He was a man who cared and felt deeply for others,” said Butler, who directed 35 productions at the Bonfils Theatre. He credited Lowenstein for colorblind casting, which didn’t always sit well with all audiences.

    “We mounted an integrated version of Guys & Dolls, and some people couldn’t believe we were putting love relations on the stage that were mixed,” Butler said. “Some people couldn’t believe that black people were taking parts that weren’t necessarily created for African-Americans. But Henry believed good theatre could be done by good people -- and that good people will always appreciate it.”

    And good people came – and appreciated -- Guys & Dolls, he said.

    “Henry opened the front door, the back door and the side door. He had a vision to create a theatre that would embrace the entire city. Not just the white part; not just the Hispanic part; and not just the black part. Henry said, ‘We are not going to be in the box. In fact: We are not going to have a box.’ ”

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    Deborah Goodman Lowenstein and Donna Smith. Photo by John Moore


    Lowenstein’s sons, David and Joshua, recalled a father who enjoyed backpacking, camping, fly-fishing and four-wheel driving. Who took his kids to rock concerts at Mammoth Gardens (now the Fillmore Auditorium) on East Colfax Avenue.

    “At his commencement address at Colorado State University in 1986, Dad told the graduates to always question authority,” David Lowenstein said. “I was proud of him -- and sort of surprised by his radical nature.”

    Lowenstein had two great loves during his life. First wife Dorie died of cancer in 1990 and was the namesake of the Dorie Theatre at the Denver Civic. He later married Deborah Goodman, a massage therapist from California who had no intention of ever marrying – and certainly not a man in the arts.

    David Lowenstein called his mother a funny and improvisational woman who made for a wonderful partner for his father. “When she passed away, my father was a shell of himself -- until he met Deb,” he said. “She not only loved and supported him -- she also got him to mellow out and relax.”

    The ceremony drew friends and colleagues from around the country. But former Rocky Mountain News theatre critic Thom Wise was most impressed by the attendance of Joyce Meskis. She is the owner of the Tattered Cover Book Store that now operates in the shell of what once was the Bonfils Theatre.

    “Henry imbued in her a love of that building,” Wise said. “That theatre is still standing today because of her. And so I just thought it was incredible that she made the effort to come out tonight.”

    Wells, who runs the Avenue Theater and sits on the board of the Town Hall Arts Center, played Jesus in a wildly popular Bonfils production of Godspell in the 1970s. “No matter who else did the job,” Wells deadpanned “… Henry made sure it was done over.”

    Other performers included Robert Johnson, who sang “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin, and Mark Middlebrooks, who sang “The Colors of My Life” from Barnum.

    At the end of the poignant program, Nyssa Lowenstein likened her grandfather’s life, fittingly, to the act of producing a show.

    “Henry Lowenstein was a groundbreaking performance that had a tough rehearsal process, an inspirational tech week, and a glorious run,” she said. “And even though it has now closed -- the actors, the audience, the stage managers and stage hands, the box office and publicity, the boards and the critics, the directors, the choreographers, the designers and the crew will all talk about that show.”

    And if Lowenstein’s life was a performance, Ashton said as a way of closing the evening, “then all I can say is … Good show.”


    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.

    Read our essay on the life of Henry Lowenstein

    Click here to see our full gallery of photos from the Henry Lowenstein celebration

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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.

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