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

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

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


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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Video: Your first look at Zoey's Perfect Wedding

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “What can I say? He completes me.”

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Story continues below the video.)

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

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

    Watch more: Our video interview with Director Mike Donahue

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

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

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

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

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    : Production photos

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding

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


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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

    by John Moore | Jan 10, 2018

     

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

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

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

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

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

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

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

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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding":

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

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

    by John Moore | Jan 09, 2018

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage of Kyle Malone's work:
    Theatre Company introduces bold new artwork for 2015-16 season
    Art and Artist: Meet Graphic Designer Kyle Malone

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

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

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

    by John Moore | Jan 02, 2018

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding":
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    Photo gallery The Making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

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

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

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

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


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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

    Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore


    Zoey's Perfect Wedding:
    Cast and creatives announced:

    • Playwright: Matthew Lopez
    • Director: Mike Donahue

       

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

       

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

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

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
  • Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons

    by John Moore | Apr 03, 2017

     

    Macbeth, The Who's Tommy, four world premieres and
    "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations"

    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s 39th season will include vast and visceral reimaginings of two distinct cutting-edge classics, a record-tying four world premieres and the company's 25th staging of perennial favorite A Christmas Carol.

    The season begins in September with visionary director Robert O'Hara’s Macbeth to reopen the newly renovated Space Theatre, and builds to The Who’s rock musical Tommy, directed by Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein). And both directors promise ambitious stagings unlike anything audiences have seen before.

    Nataki Garrett QuoteThe DCPA has worked its way to the forefront of new-play development in the American theatre, and next season’s slate will include the comedy Zoey’s Perfect Wedding by former Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez; José Cruz González’s American Mariachi, the musical tale of an all-female 1970s mariachi band; Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, about an American college basketball team that travels to Beijing in 1989; and Eric Pfeffinger’s timely comedy Human Error, which raucously explores the great American ideological divide through two vastly different couples - and one wrongly implanted embryo.

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding will reunite Lopez and Mike Donahue, writer and director from the DCPA’s endearing world premiere The Legend of Georgia McBride (which makes its West Coast debut tomorrow at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.)

    American Mariachi
    was a favorite from the Theatre Company's 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. "Women of course had many challenges trying to play in such a male-dominated musical form," González said. "We interviewed a number of amazing women who were able to help us enter into that world, and we found an amazing group of artists who will play and sing in the piece."

    The Great Leap and Human Error emerged from the recent 2017 Summit in February.  In The Great Leap, Yee explores sport as a metaphor for how countries rub up against each other in terms of strategy, styles and priorities. "If you think of all the sports out there, basketball is the one in which you can really lay the ideals of communism on top of it. Everyone gets to touch the ball. Everyone is equal in their position,” she says.

    Human Error will set a precedent as the first Theatre Company offering ever to be staged in the cabaret-style Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    “The 2017-18 DCPA Theatre Company season represents the microcosm at the heart of the American experiment,” said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. “These writers, spanning across generations, cultures, and genders, are exploring the ways in which our commonalities are more meaningful than our differences."

    2017-18 Broadway season brings Hamilton to Denver

    For the first time, the DCPA simultaneously announced the upcoming year of its adventurous and ambitious Off-Center line of programming. Off-Center is known for creating experiences that challenge conventions and expand on the traditional definition of theatre. Next season will be the largest yet for Off-Center. It includes Mixed Taste, a summer-long partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; a 360-degree immersive staging of The Wild Party musical at the Stanley Marketplace. Also of great intrigue: Remote Denver, a  guided audio tour of the secret city; and This Is Modern Art, a controversial play by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval that explores graffiti as modern art ...  or urban terrorism.

    “The expansion of Off-Center is a result of the incredible response of the Denver community,” said Off-Center Curator (and Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director) Charlie Miller. “We have seen that audiences are hungry for a broad range of experiences, and are eager for the unexpected.”

    Miller calls the upcoming year "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations." A continuing one will be the return of The SantaLand Diaries, in partnership with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and again starring Michael Bouchard

    Combined, the DCPA today announced 14 upcoming new productions that will be presented across eight different venues at the Denver Performing Arts Complex and beyond.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Theater has the opportunity and the ability to help bridge our differences by offering performances that inspire us to seek deeper connections with one another,” said Garrett, who will make her DCPA debut directing Lydia Diamond's acclaimed race comedy Smart People. “We are honored to provide a space for conversations and connections to the Denver community this year through this season's offerings.”

    Lisa Portes Robert O'HaraMacbeth will be directed by Robert O'Hara, a rising playwright, director and screenwriter who won the 2010 NAACP Best Director Award and the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play. He was a young prodigy of original Angels in America Director George C. Wolfe and is perhaps best-known as a writer for Insurrection, a time-traveling play exploring racial and sexual identity. 

    The Who's Tommy, the rock musical based on the classic 1969 concept album about the pinball prodigy, will reunite acclaimed British Frankenstein director Sam Buntrock and Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood (who also will create the world of Macbeth). Native Gardens will mark the DCPA return of playwright Karen Zacarias, who wrote Just Like Us in 2014. Zacarias has penned a very close-to-home border-war story: One that plays out between two neighboring couples in D.C. who have a dispute over their property line. The director is Chicago's Lisa Portes, who recently won the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation's 2016 Zelda Fichandler Award, which recognizes an artist who is "transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in the theatre." She is head of the masters program in directing at DePaul University.

    Next year's A Christmas Carol will be the 25th season staging of Dickens' classic by the DCPA since 1990. Melissa Rain Anderson will return for her second turn at directing, and popular longtime DCPA actor Sam Gregory again will play Scrooge.

    DCPA THEATRE COMPANY SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • Sept. 15-Oct. 29: Robert O’Hara’s Macbeth (Space Theatre Grand Reopening)
    • Oct. 13-Nov. 19: Smart People (Ricketson Theatre)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre)
    • Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018: Zoey’s Perfect Wedding (Space Theatre)
    • Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018: American Mariachi (Stage Theatre)
    • Feb. 2-March 11, 2018: The Great Leap (Ricketson Theatre)
    • April 6-May 6, 2018: Native Gardens (Space Theatre)
    • April 20-May 27, 2018: The Who's Tommy (Stage Theatre)
    • May 18-June 24, 2018: Human Error (Garner Galleria Theatre)

    DCPA OFF-CENTER 2017-18 SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • July 5-Aug. 23 Mixed Taste, with MCA Denver (Seawell Grand Ballroom)
    • Oct. 12-31: The Wild Party (The Hangar at Stanley)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: The SantaLand Diaries, with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Jones Theatre)
    • March 22-April 15, 2018: This Is Modern Art (Jones Theatre)
    • Spring/Summer 2018: Remote Denver (on the streets of Denver)

    TC 2017-18 800

    And here is a more detailed look at all 14 newly announced productions, in chronological order:

    MIXED TASTE (Off-Center)
    mixed-tasteTag team lectures on unrelated topic
    Presented by Off-Center with MCA Denver
    Wednesdays from July 5 through Aug 23
    Seawell Grand Ballroom
    Even mismatched subjects will find common ground in a lecture series that can go pretty much anywhere. Two speakers get twenty minutes each to enlighten you on unrelated topics, but can’t make any connections to each other. Ideas start to blend afterward when audience members ask questions to both speakers and anything goes. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    MACBETH
    macbethBy William Shakespeare
    Directed by Robert O’Hara
    Sept. 15-Oct. 29
    Space Theatre (Grand Reopening)
    To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others, the people of Scotland or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. Shakespeare’s compact, brutal tragedy kicks off the grand reopening of our theatre-in-the-round in a visceral re-imagining from visionary director Robert O’Hara, who is “shaking up the world, one audience at a time” (The New York Times). This ambitious reinvention of the classic tale reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses the dagger must suffer the consequences. 



    THE WILD PARTY
    (Off-Center)
    the-wild-partyMusic and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson
    Oct. 12-31
    The Hangar at Stanley
    You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind for a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and booze-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees. Dress up in your finest pearls, suits and sequins – encouraged but not required.



    SMART PEOPLE

    smart-peopleBy Lydia R. Diamond
    Directed by Nataki Garrett
    Oct. 13-Nov. 19
    Ricketson Theatre
    Intelligence can only get you so far when it comes to navigating love, success and identity in the modern age. This biting comedy follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. But no matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life. Fiercely clever dialogue and energetic vignettes keep the laughs coming in a story that Variety calls “Sexy, serious and very, very funny.”



    A CHRISTMAS CAROL

    christmas-carolBy Charles Dickens
    Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    Music by David de Berry
    Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    Stage Theatre
    Essential to the holiday season in Denver, A Christmas Carol promises to “warm your heart and renew your holiday spirit” according to the Examiner. Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Denver favorite Sam Gregory returns as Scrooge. READ MORE ABOUT IT

    (Note: 'A Christmas Carol' is an added attraction, not part of the Theatre Company subscription season.)



    SantaLand Diaries 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom
    'The SantaLand Diaries,' 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    THE SANTALAND DIARIES
    (Off-Center)
    By David Sedaris
    Adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
    Presented by Off-Center with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    Directed by Stephen Weitz
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    The Jones Theatre
    This disgruntled Macy's elf has the cure for the common Christmas show. Looking for a little more snark in your stocking? Crumpet the Elf returns for more hilarious hijinks in this acclaimed one-man show based on stories by David Sedaris. Crumpet’s twisted tales from his stint in Macy’s SantaLand are the cure for the common Christmas show. Release your holiday stress, get all of those obnoxious carols out of your head and check out even more late night options this year. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING

    zoeys-perfect-wedding2By Matthew Lopez
    Directed by Mike Donahue
    Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018
    Space Theatre
    The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. From the team that brought you, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Matthew Lopez’s wildly funny fiasco destroys expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up. READ OUR 2015 INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW LOPEZ



    AMERICAN MARIACHI

    american-mariachi2By José Cruz González
    Director to be announced
    Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    The Stage Theatre
    Lucha and Bolie are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band in the 1970s. The only things standing in their way are a male-dominated music genre, patriarchal pressure from inside their families and finding the right women to fill out their sound. As they practice, perform and strive to earn the respect of their community, their music sparks a transformation in the lives of those around them – especially Lucha’s parents. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music played on stage. González writes a passionate story about families and friendships that you should share with yours. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ CRUZ GONZÁLEZ


     

    THE GREAT LEAP
    the-great-leap2By Lauren Yee
    Director to be announced
    Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    Ricketson Theatre
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly-changing country and Chinese American player Manford seeks a lost connection. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium. Yee’s “acute ear for contemporary speech” and a “devilishly keen satiric eye” (San Francisco Chronicle) creates an unexpected and touching story inspired by events in her own father’s life. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN YEE


     

    THIS IS MODERN ART
    this-is-modern-artBy Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    Directed by Idris Goodwin
    March 22-April 15, 2018
    The Jones Theatre
    Graffiti crews are willing to risk anything for their art. Called vandals, criminals, even creative terrorists, Chicago graffiti artists set out night after night to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world. But when one crew finishes the biggest graffiti bomb of their careers, the consequences get serious and spark a public debate asking, where does art belong? This Is Modern Art gives a glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists and asks us to question the true purpose of art. READ MORE ABOUT IT


    NATIVE GARDENS
    native-gardensBy Karen Zacarias
    Directed by Lisa Portes
    April 6-May 6, 2018
    Space Theatre
    Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virginia have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt comedy about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.



    Sam Buntock

    THE WHO'S TOMMY
    the-whos-tommyMusic and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    Directed by Sam Buntrock
    April 20-May 27, 2018
    Stage Theatre
    Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive. This production reunites director Sam Buntrock and scenic designer Jason Sherwood, the team behind last season’s audience favorite, Frankenstein.



    HUMAN ERROR

    human-error2By Eric Pfeffinger
    Director to be announced
    May 18-June 24, 2018
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    Madelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing an uproarious nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships. “Up-and-coming scribe Eric Pfeffinger has the vital nerve to explore the gaping communication gap between red America and blue America, liberal humanists and the conservative right” (Chicago Tribune). READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH ERIC PFEFFINGER


    REMOTE DENVER
    remote-denverBy Rimini Protokoll
    Concept, Script and Direction: Stefan Kaegi
    Research, Script and Direction Denver: Jörg Karrenbauer
    Spring/Summer 2018
    On the streets of Denver
    Join a group of 50 people swarming Denver on a guided audio tour that seems to follow you as much as you are following it. Experience a soundtrack to the streets, sights, and rooftops of The Mile High City as a computer-generated voice guides your group’s movements in real time. Discover a "secret Denver," exploring places like gathering spaces, back alleyways, dark hallways and public areas through a new lens. You’re not just audience members — you’re actors and spectators, observers and observed, individuals and hordes, all at the same time.

     

    TICKET INFORMATION:

    • Theatre Company: New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are available online at denvercenter.org/nextseason or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. Note: Plans for the new season are subject to change and benefit restrictions may apply.
    • Off-Center: The single-ticket on-sale date for all Off-Center productions will be announced at a later time. Subscriptions are not available for Off-Center shows.

     

     

  • 'The Legend of Georgia McBride' charms New York critics

    by John Moore | Sep 10, 2015

    MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
    Dave Thomas Brown as Casey in MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus.


    New York theatre critics generally lauded the Denver Center-born comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride after its high-energy off-Broadway opening last night. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times led the way, praising Matthew Lopez’s heartfelt comedy as "a first-rate production."

    Isherwood, one of the most respected (and feared) theatre critics in America, called the MCC Theatre’s staging “a stitch-in-your-side comedy” that is “full of sass and good spirits — along with a spritz or two of sentimentality."

    With "quips flying like shuttlecocks," he continued, "there's as much richly catty humor here as in a full season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, along with some clever pop-culture gags. The Sound of Music joke alone is worth the price of admission."

    The Legend of Georgia McBride joins The Most Deserving and The Whale as recent DCPA Theatre Company world premieres that have found continued life on New York stages. Just Like Us and The House of the Spirits are other recent premieres that have been picked up outside of New York. Counting the upcoming Fade and The Nest, Kent Thompson has now slated 27 world premieres in his 11 years as Producing Artistic Director. He not only believes his legacy in Denver will one day be judged by those numbers — he has said he wants it to be.

    The Legend of Georgia McBride which was developed through Thompson's annual Colorado New Play Summit, is Lopez’s genial story of a broke Elvis impersonator who, in desperation, resorts to becoming a drag queen to support his growing family – and finds that he loves it. It is a fast-moving comedy about finding your true voice … complete with several high-energy drag numbers.

    The MCC Theatre production is directed by Mike Donahue, who also helmed the world premiere staging at the DCPA in February 2014. Isherwood called Donahue's direction snappy and “totally flawless.”

    Isherwood was particularly charmed by Matt McGrath's performance as an aging drag queen named Miss Tracy. McGrath is the only common cast member from the Denver staging. Isherwood wrote:

    Most impressively, while drag queens have practically become stock characters in pop culture, Mr. McGrath imbues his version with a life-hardened authenticity underneath the garish wig and the cracking makeup; there isn’t a trace of caricature in his portrayal of the sweetly maternal Tracy. Mr. Lopez has naturally given Tracy the play’s choicest bons mots, but Mr. McGrath also achieves the signal feat of making Tracy’s flip wit feel spontaneous and fresh.

    Assuming the role of Casey, the Elvis impersonator-turned-drag queen, Isherwood called  Dave Thomas Brown's move from a laid-back country boy to glittering, acid-tongued drag performer "a delight."

    Several of the New York critics expressed surprise that Lopez is the same playwright who previously broke through with his weighty Civil War slavery drama, The Whipping Man. Some were thrown to find Georgia McBride to be a much more intentionally uncomplicated comedy. Isherwood cited the potential to delve more deeply into what making a living as a drag queen might do to a country-bred heterosexual man’s psyche. Likewise, Alexis Soloski of The Guardian said questions of gender and sexuality remain unexplored. But that issue was more than countered, she felt, by “the cheerful abandon with which director Mike Donahue and his cast plan and execute the musical numbers." She wrote:

    McGrath, long reliable as a character actor, is a particular wonder, especially in a terrifying medley that jumbles pretty much every Broadway ballad and some pop ones, too. His Tracy is an utter caricature, though always somehow sympathetic and credible. And McGrath looks surprisingly good in capris.

    By contrast, Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News found the play to be “deceptively deep.” He found the relationship between Casey and his wife, Jo, to be filled with tenderness. “Lopez’s latest play may not make him a legend, but it confirms his status as a writer worth hearing from,” he wrote.

    Here are more excerpts from the reviews:

    Matt McGrath in MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus. Matt Windman of amNewYork called the play a heartfelt, feel-good comedy: “Once it gets going, some very funny exchanges and polished drag sequences follow, plus a spirited defense of drag as a form of cultural protest and a way of life. McGrath is terrific as Miss Tracy Mills, a witty and aging drag queen.”

    Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter called the play sleek and fast-paced: “Featuring enough amusingly bitchy one-liners and energetic musical numbers to be a genuine crowd-pleaser, the play is frothy to the extreme, a show for people who find Mamma Mia heavy lifting. But its relentless silliness is sweet and amiable enough to make it go down easy.”

    (Pictured right: Matt McGrath in MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

    Adam Feldman of Time Out New York: “A Queer Eye for the Straight Guy version of Tootsie, Matthew Lopez's feel-good comedy delivers many of the diversions that its premise suggests. Directed by Mike Donahue, on a terrific set by Donyale Werle, the production features silly-glam costumes and snappy one-liners for the queens, an amusing learning-curve montage for our hero and several zippy musical numbers, including a delightful show-tune medley. And McGrath is soup-to-nuts wonderful as Tracy: seasoned, sympathetic and shrewdly funny. But the other characters rarely get beyond the formulaic beats of the plot.

    The Legend of Georgia McBride: Production information
    By Matthew Lopez; directed by Mike Donahue; choreography by Paul McGill; sets by Donyale Werle; costumes by Anita Yavich; lighting by Ben Stanton; sound by Jill B C Du Boff; makeup and wig design by Jason Hayes; production manager, B. D. White; production stage manager, Lori Lundquist Featuring Dave Thomas Brown (Casey), Wayne Duvall (Eddie), Matt McGrath (Tracy), Keith Nobbs (Rexy/Jason) and Afton Williamson (Jo). Presented by MCC Theater, Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey and William Cantler, artistic directors; Blake West, executive director. At the Lucille Lortel Theater, 866-811-4111, mcctheater.org. Through Sept. 27. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes with no intermission.

    SELECTED PREVIOUS NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF GEORGIA McBRIDE:
    Georgia McBride to be staged in New York
    Photos: Opening night of The Legend of Georgia McBride
    Chairman and CEO Daniel Ritchie's drag transformation
    Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
    10 Ways Georgia McBride is going to blow your theatregoing mind​
    Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
    'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'
    Video: It's Waxing Day for Georgia McBride actors. Yelp!​

  • 'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

    by John Moore | Jan 28, 2014

    image

    image

    "Georgia McBride" Choreographer Will Taylor, left, and Director Mike Donahue.

    On opening day of the Denver Center’s world-premiere comedy, we took some time with director Mike Donahue and choreographer Will Taylor to talk about staging the story of a straight Elvis impersonator in the Florida Panhandle who turns to the world of drag to support his growing family. It plays through Feb. 23 in the Ricketson Theatre.

    John Moore: What did you guys think months ago, before rehearsals had even started, when you saw the video that showed 82-year-old Dan Ritchie, CEO of the largest performing-arts organization between L.A. and Chicago, undergoing a public drag transformation just to bring attention to this play? That video has had nearly 3,000 hits, and I just don’t think there are many other CEOs out there who would have done it.

    Mike Donahue: I thought it was awesome. And he looks fabulous, by the way. We had big plans for him to be one of the drag queens who perform in the lobby after every performance. But after some discussion, he politely declined. But still, I love his sense of humor, and his commitment to the show.

    Will Taylor: I thought it was a great gesture.

    Daniel L. Ritchie does drag.

    John Moore: Let’s talk about what first attracted you to this script by Matthew Lopez.

    Mike Donahue: Well, the play is incredibly funny, and there is this wonderful world of drag at play. But at the end of the day, the thing that is most exciting for me is actually what a big heart the play has. At its core, it's two love stories. The first is between this guy and his wife as they struggle to figure out how to survive in the world and take that next step toward having a family and raising a kid and having a house. And then there is the love story between this same straight man his drag mother; this artistic mentor who comes from the most unlikely of places. Somehow they are able to establish this really close and loving relationship. That's what is particularly special for me.

    Will Taylor: There is something really great about the fact that it’s about this very specific part of the country (the Florida Panhandle) and this very specific world of performance (drag) -- and yet it’s still somehow universal.

    Video montage of scenes from "Georgia McBride"

     

    John Moore: I'm curious about your thoughts on the Denver Center taking on this project in the first place. Because staging and selling any new play is inherently difficult. There is a lack of familiarity with the title and the subject matter. And they say producing any new play typically costs about 30 percent more than producing an existing script. From an outsider’s perspective, what does it say about the Denver Center that they were willing to take on this play as part of a 10-play new season in which there are four world premieres?

    Will Taylor: The Denver Center has a great reputation for being a place that has a lot of resources and open arms in embracing new works and nurturing them. 

    image

     

    Mike Donahue: For me, it is remarkable the way the Colorado New Play Summit works. They do readings of five new works every year, and most of them are then fully produced the next season. There are very few companies in the country that are able or willing to make that kind of promise to developing new work through to full production. I think that’s extraordinary, and the fact that four of the five readings from last year are being produced this season says so much about the Denver Center’s commitment to developing new work. It’s also exciting to me that we can do a world premiere here of a play like “Georgia McBride,” and many of the people in the audience were there at the staged reading last year. They really have an investment in the development of the piece. They have more of an attachment to the play than a lot of audiences typically get to have.

    John Moore: Are you at all surprised by how warmly audiences have received this story?

    Mike Donahue: One of the things I think (playwright) Matthew Lopez has done so brilliantly is how he introduces the audience to the world of drag. Your guide into that world is Casey, this sort of fumbling, straight-guy Elvis impersonator in the Panhandle. And then you consider all of the curatorial elements that have been added by the Denver Center to extend the experience into the lobby after the show. Everyone at the Denver Center has been so sensitive to exactly how we should be introducing this play to audiences. People here have been very respectful in trying to honor what the play actually is. It isn’t really a drag play. It’s a play about a guy who is trying to take care of his family. It’s a coming-of-age story.

    John Moore: You know, I think the fear that (actor) Ben Huber's character sheds during the course of the play speaks to the inherent squeamishness in our society about the bending of genders. But at a time of quickly changing opinion polls on subjects like same-sex marriage, Casey represents the Everyman. He’s got to get over his own fear of how he is being perceived by his wife and family in the same way the audience might have to get over whatever preconceptions about drag that they bring into it. But why do you think we are still somewhat hung up on this issue?

    image

     

    Mike Donahue: Oh gosh. Well, I don’t know, but I hope that we get over it real fast. Maybe it is our innate Puritanism.  I think the thing that is so beautiful in the play is that Casey is not a guy who is outwardly homophobic.  He just has a lack of familiarity with gay people and with drag queens. It's not something he or anyone in his life has ever come into real contact with before. There is an innate fear of the unknown and shame around participating in that, and he has to get over it. He approaches life with such openness, and hopefully that is infectious for audiences as well.

    John Moore: It's interesting timing with "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" having toured here just a few months ago. The messages of tolerance are similar. The Denver Center turned opening night into "Drag Night in Denver” and invited drag performers to come see the show and pose with audience members for photos in the lobby. Everywhere you looked you could see these suburban, white-haired grandmothers having these tearful conversations with these 6-foot-6 performers, one of whom later told us that her half hour in the lobby was the most validated she ever felt as a drag performer. When you look at how warmly audiences are now responding to Georgia McBride: Are we further along than maybe we think we are?

    Mike Donahue: That would be a lovely thing if that were true. Maybe Denver is just a magical place. 

    Me: Hah, yes, maybe Denver is. Will, I want to ask you about your challenge as the choreographer. The drag numbers are such an essential element in this play, but this isn't just another musical. Can you speak to all of the various challenges you faced, and not just with high heels. Two of the three guys you worked with are not musical theatre actors.

    Will: Yes, they aren't inherently musical theatre actors. And a couple of them are very masculine. So one challenge was finding a way to minimize the masculinity in the heels and in the clothing. Now I think a little bit of masculinity in drag is actually kind of interesting, so we haven't completely eliminated it. But we had to break it down to a science. We had to find a way to use the physicality they have in life and make it work in the clothing they have to wear. Sometimes it was a matter of keeping the legs straight as they walk, or keeping their feet closer together. When you put masculine guys in a pair of heels, they kind of want to let it all hang out, like they are used to doing. It was a challenge at first just getting them really comfortable in the heels so that we could then build the choreography on top of that. And then there’s the lip-syncing, which is a big part of the drag performance. That’s maybe the most important element in creating the illusion. When we talked with some drag queens before we started, we found that subtlety is our enemy. We really wanted to find a heightened expression of everything feminine and everything performance-related. The lyrics are heightened in a way that is almost bastardized. We decided to take the quirks and nuances the original artists sometimes show on their tracks and lift them up to an almost comedic level. We also found that working with the mirror is really helpful.

    John Moore: How do you think your actors did with the whole movement challenge?

    Will Taylor: They did great. I am glad we had such strong support here at the Denver Center with the costume pieces we were able to have available to us early in the rehearsal process. That were really, really integral in getting us there.

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    John Moore: Speaking of subtlety, were you sometimes shocked by some of the things you have gotten away with, in terms of, say, costuming and props?

    Mike Donahue: Maybe … pleasantly surprised. I mean, what we are doing is nothing compared to what I feel like so many people must surely see on TV and movies. And our matinee audiences, which tend to be made up of older people, actually have been our most raucous, raunchy houses so far.

    John Moore: Mike, let’s talk about Nick Mills and Ben Huber. You sent them to Drag Camp. They went through body waxing and eyebrow threading. And they both play characters who at some point have to be at the top of the drag craft. Talk about the challenge they undertook, and how they did with it.

    Mike Donahue: The first thing I will say about both of those guys is that they are both so unbelievably game to do anything and everything we asked of them. They are also both so rigorous in their work. I almost think the part of their drag performance that has to be really good is almost easier for them to get to than the stuff that has to be obviously bad. That’s because you sort of know what the good thing is supposed to look like eventually, and you just have to keep working until it's as good as it possibly can be. So something like My Man, which has to be the best performance of Ben’s that we see, I think was maybe easier for him. Whereas figuring out, say, how that first Edith Piaf scene works, when Ben is walking in heels for the first time in a way that has to be believable and honest … that’s almost the trickier thing to accomplish. You have to get them to be as good as possible -- and then you have to get them to forget all of that stuff and remember what they were naturally and instinctually doing badly back when none of us knew any better. That’s unbelievably hard.

    Video: Waxing Day for cast members.

     

    John Moore: And then there is Matt McGrath, who has some experience at this.

    Mike Donahue: Yeah, Matt's done a lot of musical theatre. He has played Hedwig and he’s done “Rocky Horror,” so he's done work that bends gender before. But Ben and Nick really had never even worn a pair of heels before.

    John Moore: So how would you summarize your experience at Drag Camp? 

    Mike Donahue: Drag Camp was like being alone in your bedroom playing dress-up in front of a mirror -- and hoping that no one else can see you. 

    Will: Nobody should have to pay to see that.

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    John Moore: For those people who don’t know much about the show yet, what do you want to tell them about what it’s trying to accomplish?

    Will Taylor: I really like what (artistic director Kent Thompson) said about the show on the first day of rehearsal: It’s not about drag. It’s about the transformative power of performance. It’s about the power of transformation.

    John Moore: You mentioned the curated effort that has gone into giving the audience an extended lobby experience so that the show in some ways continues after the final curtain. How do you describe the overall experience of attending “Georgia McBride”?

    Mike Donahue: Hopefully it's an event, and it's a fun night out. Come with friends and have a drink. The atmosphere in the lobby is a little more relaxed than it normally might be. It’s infectiously funny. And the whole curatorial thing just makes it easy for people to tap into that early on. I think it's a life-affirming, joyous night at the theatre.

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    Ben Huber and Jamie Ann Romero in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s world premiere production of "The Legend of Georgia McBride." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

     

    The Legend of Georgia McBride

    • Through Feb 23 • Ricketson Theatre
    • Tickets: 303.893.4100
    • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    • Groups (10+): 303.446.4829 • denvercenter.org

    The Denver Center Theatre Company is a community-supported, nonprofit theatre company

  • Photos: Opening night of 'The Legend of Georgia McBride'

    by John Moore | Jan 17, 2014

    image"Georgia McBride" Choregrapher Will Taylor, left, with Director Mike Donahue.

    Here are some photos from last night's world-premiere performance of Matthew Lopez's sweet new comedy, The Legend of Georgia McBride. It’s the story of an Elvis impersonator who delves into the world of drag to help support his growing family. The play runs through Feb. 23 in the Ricketson Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org. Photos by John Moore.

    And to see our complete gallery of production photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen, click here.

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    Playwright Matthew Lopez and Denver Center costumer Kevin Copenhaver. The 'Georgia McBride' costume designer was Dane Laffrey.

     

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    Audience members Brianna Firestone, Eden Lane and Rhonda Brown after the show.

     

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    Ben Huber (Casey/Georgia McBride) with his wife.

     

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    Nick Mills (Miss Rexy/Jason) with his friend, Beatrice Seale.

     

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    Actor Jamie Ann Romero (Jo/Eddie), right, with an usher sporting a  new, casual "Panhandle of Florida" look.

     

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    Post-show drag entertainer Danielle DeCoteau.

     

    imagePost-show drag entertainer Danielle DeCoteau.

     

    imageChoreographer Will Taylor, center, with post-show drag entertainer Danielle DeCoteau. 

     

    imageThe audience is asked to leave their comments on the lobby mirror with lipstick.

     

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    Post-show drag entertainer Danielle DeCoteau.

     

    The Legend of Georgia McBride

    • Through Feb 23 • Ricketson Theatre
    • Tickets: 303.893.4100
    • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    • Groups (10+): 303.446.4829 • denvercenter.org

    The Denver Center Theatre Company is a community-supported, nonprofit theatre company

  • 2014 Colorado New Play Summit will complete 'Plainsong' trilogy

    by John Moore | Nov 19, 2013

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    Jamie Ann Romero and Quincy Dunn-Baker read "The Legend of Georgia McBride" at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by Kyle Malone.

    The Denver Center Theatre Company's 9th annual Colorado New Play Summit will include a reading based on the novel Benediction, completing author Kent Haruf's trilogy of rural Colorado tales, all  adapted for the stage by Eric Schmiedl.

    The Colorado New Play Summit previously introduced Haruf's "Plainsong" in 2007 and "Eventide" in 2009, both of which went on to full productions on Denver Center mainstage seasons.

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    "Eventide," the second of Kent Haruf's novels to be adapted to the stage by the Denver Center, was fully staged in 2010. Photo by Terry Shapiro.

     

    Also on the 2014 Summit lineup for the weekend of Feb. 7-9 are Victory Jones and The Incredible One Woman Band by Idris Goodwin;  Appoggiatura, by three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee James Still; and The Comparables by Laura Schellhardt. A fifth title will be announced at a  later date.

    The Colorado New Play Summit is the brainchild of Denver Center Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson and Associate Artistic Director., Bruce K. Sevy. Their festival draws artistic directors, literary managers, dramaturgs, directors, members of the media and the curious public to view the latest works by some of America’s most exciting playwrights. For savvy subscribers, the Summit is often a preview of the following year's mainstage season. The current season, for example, includes mainstage productions of four plays that were introduced as readings at the last Summit in February: "Just Like Us," by Karen Zacarías; "The Most Deserving," by Catherine Trieschmann; "black odyssey," by Marcus Gardley; and "The Legend of Georgia McBride," by Matthew Lopez.

    The Denver Center's new-play tradition goes back to its beginnings, with credits ranging from “Quilters” to “The Laramie Project.” By season's end, the Denver Center Theatre Company will have launched 129 world premieres in its 35-year history.

    Since Thompson arrived in 2005, he has nurtured some of America’s most celebrated and promising playwrights through his new-play development program, including Lee Blessing, Steven Dietz, Richard Dresser, Laura Eason, Jason Grote, Samuel D. Hunter, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Michael Mitnick, Julie Marie Myatt, Theresa Rebeck, Octavio Solis, Caridad Svich, Catherine Trieschmann, Ken Weitzman and Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder. Those are just some of the playwrights who have been commissioned, premiered or otherwise developed at the Denver Center under Thompson.

     What sets the Denver Center apart from other new-play programs is its ongoing commitment to developing new plays from readings through full-scale season productions. More than 40 new plays have now been introduced in readings at the Colorado New Play Summit. By the end of the current season, the Denver Center will have fully premiered 21 new American plays since 2005.

    Many of those productions have gone on to significant continued life in the American theatre, including Grote’s “1001,” a deconstruction of the tales of the Arabian Nights that has had 22 stagings since 2007, including Page 73 Productions in New York and the Contemporary American Theater Festival in West Virginia). Grote has written for “Mad Men” and “Hannibal.” Solis’ "Lydia,” about an unusual maid charged with caring for a Mexican-American teenage girl severely injured in a car accident, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Hunter’s “The Whale,” about a morbidly obese man’s attempt to re-connect with his daughter, has since last year been staged by Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, and at South Coast Repertory in California. Haruf's "Plainsong" will make its Chicago premiere from Jan. 30-March 8 at the Signal Theatre Company.

    In addition to five staged readings, Visitors to the 2014 Summit also will see mainstage productions of two plays from February's Summit:  The Legend of Georgia McBride and the lower-cased black odyssey.

    The 2014 Colorado New Play Summit will take place Feb. 7-9 at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Summit passes, which include seating at all readings, admission to the two world premieres, plus meals, receptions, and discounts to nearby downtown Denver hotels, are now available. Tickets to individual readings will be available in early January. For more information and Summit registration, go to  www.denvercenter.org/summit,  or call 303-893-6030.

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    Director Chay Yew during rehearsal with the cast of "black odyssey" during the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit." Photo by Kyle Malone.

     

    The 2014 Colorado New Play Summit plays at a glance:

    Staged reading

    APPOGGIATURA

    By James Still

     Followed by a violin-playing Vivaldi, a charming but bogus Italian tour guide accompanies a widow and a bereaved middle-aged man who both mourn the same person while her granddaughter questions her future. Appoggiatura is a sun-drenched romance about love, loss, and a broken family re-living the past and healing its heart in Venice.   Playwright James Still is a three-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A Denver Center Commission.

     

    Staged reading

    VICTORY JONES AND THE INCREDIBLE ONE-WOMAN BAND

    By Idris Goodwin

     A brightly talented girl aims for a place center stage in the world of music.  Using live and recorded "looping" technology, the world of break beat music sets the background for an African American girl's hip hop odyssey along the bumpy road to music stardom.   Smart, sassy, humorous, heartfelt and rousing with a cast of colorful, contemporary characters, Victory Jones is an ear-to-the-streets portrait of American pop culture experienced by one gifted girl.  Goodwin’s previous break beat play, How We Got On, was read two seasons ago at The Humana Festival and was produced in Chicago at Company One. Victory Jones and The Incredible One Woman Band is a Denver Center commission.

     

    Staged reading

    BENEDICTION

    By Eric Schmiedl

    Based on the novel by Kent Haruf

     Set on the high plains of eastern Colorado, Benediction follows the lives of three souls yearning for communion--a dying elderly man, a young orphaned girl and a renegade preacher. As with Haruf’s novels Plainsong and Eventide, the Denver Center has once again brought playwright Eric Schmiedl on board to adapt this penetrating, deeply human story for the stage. A Denver Center commission.

     

    Staged reading

    THE COMPARABLES

    By Laura Schellhardt

     In this dark comedy, Iris and Monica jockey for power in Bette’s “Boutique” –a high-end real estate agency run and staffed almost solely by women. In a world of double standards, what happens when the gender tables are turned? Does the glass ceiling still pertain? And who’s going to make the coffee?  The Comparables is a hilarious look at climbing the corporate ladder in three-inch heels.

     

    World Premiere: Mainstage production

    THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE

    by Matthew Lopez

    Directed by Mike Donahue

     A heartwarming, music-filled comedy about Casey, an Elvis impersonator who just learned his dive bar act is being replaced with a drag show. With the bills stacking up and a kid on the way, Casey’s going to have to adapt to a whole new show business like none he’s ever known in this risqué romp. The Legend of Georgia McBride was workshopped at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit.

     

    World Premiere: Mainstage production

    black odyssey

    by Marcus Gardley

    Directed by Chay Yew

    The Greek gods meet African-American culture in this twist on Homer’s The Odyssey. Centered on a black soldier returning home from a harrowing tour in the War in Afghanistan, this compelling new play fuses modern reality, humor, and song with ancient myth. black odyssey was workshopped at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit. A Denver Center commission.

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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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