• 5 things you don't know about Nataki Garrett

    by John Moore | Oct 26, 2017
    Nataki Garrett

     

    She's smart, in demand and making her Denver directorial debut with the Denver Center's Smart People.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    What you might not know about new Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett, who makes her Denver — and Denver Center — directing debut with Lydia R. Diamond’s Smart People, playing through Nov. 19 in the Ricketson Theatre:

    NUMBER 1Macbeth. Nataki Garrett SHE'S SMART PEOPLE. Garrett attended California Institute of the Arts to study theatre and went on to become the associate dean and the co-head of the undergraduate acting program at CalArts’ School of Theater. She became the DCPA Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director in January. (She's pictured right at the recent opening of the DCPA's reimagined 'Macbeth.')

    NUMBER 2 SHE'S IN DEMAND. Garrett directed Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ celebrated antebellum melodrama An Octoroon last year for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, a run that was so celebrated it was remounted in August. After her DCPA Theatre Company directorial debut, she will helm Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre’s staging of Aziza Barnes’ BLKS followed by Jefferson’s Garden at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. “These gigs confirm her status and the Denver Center’s place in the national conversation about theater’s future,” wrote Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post.  

    NUMBER 3SHE'S ADMIRED. “She’s a breath of fresh air. I think she’s a strong, visionary artist and director,” DCPA CEO Janice Sinden told The Denver Post in February. “I think she’s going to inspire us. I think she has a great eye for how we can engage new and different audiences at the DCPA as well. I’m beyond excited.”

    NUMBER 4 SHE'S MIXING THINGS UP. Garrett has established close artistic relationship ties with some of the boldest new voices in the American theatre, including Jacobs-Jenkins (a MacArthur Fellow and Obie winner), Katori Hall (The Mountaintop), Timberlake Wertenbaker (Jefferson’s Garden), and Sigrid Gilmer. Who is Sigrid Gilmer? According to her own website, “she makes black comedies that are historically bent, totally perverse, joyfully irreverent and are concerned with issues of identity, pop culture and contemporary American society.”

    NUMBER 5SHE'S ON THE RISE. Garrett was highlighted in the November issue of American Theatre’s “Role Call: People To Watch.” In that feature, she was quoted as saying she’s attracted to “plays that seem impossible to stage, and to those which impact us in tremendous ways, chasing us out of our comfort zones. My mandate in the theatre is to give voice to the voiceless, and I am inspired by stories that expose the dark and discarded in the corners of our existence.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that 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. 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.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson 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
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    In Smart People, the race is on from the start
    Perspectives: Could racism be filtered out through genetics?
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
    Photos, story: Smart People opens rehearsals in full swing




  • 'Smart People': First-look video, Opening Night photos

    by John Moore | Oct 25, 2017
    Video:

    Video above: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's Smart People, by Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that 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. The cast includes, below from left: Jason Veasey,  Esther Chen, Director Nataki Garrett, Tatiana Williams and Timothy McCracken. Smart People runs through Nov. 19 in the Ricketson Theatre. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photo gallery: Smart People Opening Night and more:
    Making of 'Smart People'
    Photos above from the making of Smart People, including the Opening Night celebration on Oct. 20, 2017. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that 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. 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.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson 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
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    In Smart People, the race is on from the start
    Perspectives: Could racism be filtered out through genetics?
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
    Photos, story: Smart People opens rehearsals in full swing
  • 'Smart People': The race is on from the start

    by John Moore | Oct 24, 2017
    Smart People
    Production photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' directed by Nataki Garrett and featuring Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Playwright Lydia R. Diamond refutes the notion that bigotry is owned only by certain people. No one is exempt.

    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People is a loaded title for a loaded play. 

    It opens with projected images: diverse people, young, old, rich, poor, engaged in various activities. When I asked the play’s author, Lydia R. Diamond, what these images meant, she thought for a moment.  

    Lydia_R._Diamond“I wanted to open with a sense of the diversity of the characters,” she said with gravitas. “I wanted to inspire the director in a certain direction. I write from a very visual place, particularly when it’s about race.” 

    And yes, Smart People is about race. 

    Diamond is meticulous when it comes to intent. Her talents now include writing for film and television as well as theatre, and she was in the middle of writing for Showtime’s The Affair when we spoke on the phone. This required that she pull her mind off that project to discuss her 2014 play. 

    Four complicated people vie for our attention in Smart People: Brian, a white, tenured Harvard professor of neuropsychiatry with an entitlement issue who’s pursuing a controversial project; Valerie, a young African-American struggling to break through as a professional actress; Ginny, a Chinese-Japanese-American professor of psychology at Harvard with a serious shopping habit who focuses on identity issues among Asian-American women; and Jackson, an African-American medical resident with an attitude, fresh out of Harvard Med and eyeing a career as a surgeon. 

    If these thumbnail descriptions sound rooted in academia, they are. 

    “My mother was a college professor,” Diamond offered. “I grew up in a family of academics.” 

    Her own career has included stints as a professor and, although they are now divorced, she was married to a Harvard professor with whom she has a son. “I was very aware of that self-congratulatory world,” she added, “and what shapes it.”

    Smart People was triggered by a Princeton study about how we, as a species, tend to dehumanize the lowest of the low. When the study’s focus group was confronted by images of indigent, homeless people, the group registered no reaction. That detail got Diamond’s attention. It confirmed for her that our preconceptions — how we see others — are where prejudice begins. 

    Nataki Garrett, who joined the DCPA Theatre Company as Associate Artistic Director in January, chose Smart People for her Denver directorial debut because she could relate, she said. Like Diamond, Garrett comes from an African-American family of academics. Except that she grew up in Oakland, Calif., in the 1980s. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “It was the middle of the Reagan scourge, the drug scene, the killings down the street from my house. That was my life,” Garrett said. With President Obama’s ascension to the presidency, “I was living in an extreme dichotomy with my sweet liberal friends because they were saying ‘racism is over,’ except it wasn’t. They weren’t listening to the wider world; they were listening to the sound of their own voice. Their sense of entitlement determined how the world was meant to be: my existence defined by your privilege. 

    SMART PEOPLE ADAMS_VISCOM“I wasn’t shocked by the (Trump) election and needed to ask myself why,” she continued. “Why wasn’t I…? And then I read Smart People and remembered how self-congratulatory my sweet liberal friends had been. This belief that you and I are alike just because we’re really good friends is an illusion. We’re not (alike). ‘Liberal’ does not protect you from bias; you have to go back to the beginning to understand how we got to here.”

    (Pictured right: Timothy McCracken and Tatiana Williams in 'Smart People.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Before coming to Denver, Garrett racked up solid credits working in various capacities with a broad range of the country’s best resident theatre companies and schools, most recently California’s CalArts. She was highlighted in American Theatre magazine last year as a person to watch and admits she favors doing cutting edge work by emerging artists. 

    “My mandate in the theatre is to give voice to the voiceless. I’m attracted to plays that seem impossible to stage and that chase us out of our comfort zones,”  she said.

    Garrett selected Efren Delgadillo Jr. to design the sets for Smart People because, she said, “he favors clean lines and uncluttered spaces. Nothing’s hidden. A neutral place, so we can hear the words.”  

    And Diamond’s words do demand to be heard, because Diamond is an equal-opportunity indicter. She refutes the notion that bigotry is owned only by certain people. As demonstrated by her stark 2008 play Stick Fly, racism cuts all ways. No one is exempt. 

    Her “smart people” have issues with the wider world, but they also have a hard time talking to each other. Their anger simmers under a fragile surface that erupts easily. As the world’s playwrights all know, communication is mainly miscommunication — a human failing, regardless of the color of one’s skin, yet made worse by it.

    “I knew Brian had to be a white man,” said Diamond, whose protagonist is “a neuroscientist out to prove that white people are biologically racist. No, that’s not what I believe,” she added quickly. 

    It was a way to jump-start the discussion.

    “I didn’t know what or who the characters around this man would be,” she said. “Creating characters is part of a process that’s purposeful, but also organic. It has a spiritual component. I discover things as I go along.” 

    That the play takes place in the weeks leading up to President Obama’s inauguration is a component that wasn’t there when she started thinking about Smart People. Yet when his presidency became reality, it played into her premise, helping to shape it.  

    As for the steady stream of controversial statements regarding race that have come from  Obama’s successor, Diamond said only: “I always thought that I would rather people be outspoken about their ideas — but I find it frightening."

    Sylvie Drake is a translator, former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, contributor to culturalweekly.com, American Theatre magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and is the DCPA's former Director of Media Relations and Publications.

    Lydia_R._Diamond SMART PEOPLE ADAMS_VISCOM

    Clockwise from top left: Esther Chen, Timothy McCracken, Tatiana Williams and Jason Veasey in 'Smart People.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Smart People
    : Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that 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. 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.

    • Written by Lydia R Diamond
    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson 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
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    Perspectives: Could racism be filtered out through genetics?
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
    Photos, story: Smart People opens rehearsals in full swing

    Photo gallery: The making of Smart People

    Making of 'Smart People' Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' directed by Nataki Garrett and featuring Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • Perspectives: 'Smart People' and the constant search for 'yes'

    by John Moore | Oct 18, 2017
    Making of 'Smart People' Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' directed by Nataki Garrett and featuring Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    Five things we learned about the Theatre Company’s new comedy at our ongoing series of free conversations.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Lydia R. Diamond’s Smart People, opening Friday in the Ricketson Theatre, is a play that takes its premise from an idealistic, real-life Princeton University neuropsychologist named whose research led her to believe that there is an identifiable gene in the bodies of white people that causes them to be racist. “Idealistic” because, in this emerging era of gene manipulation, the possibility might then exist that racism could one day be filtered out of human existence.

    It’s also a funny comedy about four impossibly smart and impossibly beautiful young people embroiled in America's often comically self-deluded conversations about gender and race at the hopeful dawn of the first Obama administration.

    When Diamond read the article about Fiske's quest to solve the problem of racism by locating that elusive gene, she knew she wanted to write a play about it. In an interview with the Huntington Theatre Company, Diamond said: "The genesis was a paper by Susan Fiske, who studies the roots of stereotyping based on race, gender and age. My husband, a sociologist, happened upon the article and said, 'You may want to look at this.' It kind of jolted me and made me think, 'What would be the ramifications of that line of inquiry? I started to see that across disciplines, studies about race aggressively worked to talk around race; I imagine because it’s such a powder keg."

    Here are five things we learned about the DCPA Theatre Company’s production of Smart People at Perspectives, an ongoing series of free conversations with audiences held before the first preview performance of most every Theatre Company offering. The panel featured Garrett and her entire four-actor cast of Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen, as well as Lighting Designer Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew.

    Join moderator Douglas Langworthy next at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19 in the Jones Theatre for a talk on Matthew Lopez’s world-premiere comedy Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.    

    NUMBER 1Jurassic-ParkHow did this play come about? “It’s a real study,” Smart People Director Nataki Garrett said of Fiske's research. “You can download that article on the internet right now.” And if you read it, she said, “What you will find is this person's earnest desire to create change. That is a symptom of this idealistic time we were in just after Barack Obama was elected. The character in our play who is pursuing this idea really does want to help humanity.” But Colorado Springs native Jason Veasey (pictured below right), who plays a different character in the play, says beware of the story’s Frankenstein overtones. “The problem with human beings' pursuit of knowledge to the furthest extremes, even with the best intentions, is that there will always be other human beings who want to take that knowledge and do something bad with it,” Veasay said, “whether it be trying to identify a gene that makes people racist — or creating a park with real live dinosaurs. Look what happened when they did that!

    NUMBER 2 Smart People. Jason Veasey. Photo by John MooreHigh hopes and high I.Qs. The play is intentionally set just as the country was electing its first African-American president, said Garrett, also the Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director. “That was a very optimistic time in our county — for some people,” she said. “There was this revelry around the idea that we were participating in something that was happening for the first time. Because whenever you embark on something for the first time, then what you are probably doing is changing the world. These people meet at a time when they, too, are embarking on something new — with the election, with each other and with their ideas. What they are looking to discover is something about who we are as a nation."

    NUMBER 3Double vision: It is believed that Smart People is the first time the Denver Center's tiny Ricketson Theatre has ever accommodated a double-decker set. That means it has two floors, courtesy of Scenic Designer Efren Delgadillo Jr., with input from Garrett, who initially was told the Ricketson had never been bisected horizontally because the former movie theatre just doesn't have the height. Which set Garrett’s curiosity on a quest to find out if it could be done. That didn't surprise her actors, who call working with Garrett what they call “The Search for Yes.” “I Iike to be told what I can't do, and then ... I just have to see for myself,” Garrett said to laughter. “We jigsaw-puzzled ideas for days looking for ways to make is happen” – and with help from the DCPA design team, they did. The result, Garrett said, is an intentionally spare set made up of extremely clean and efficient lines. “I needed a space where the playwright’s words are most prominent, unfettered by other scenic elements,” she said.


    Smart People. Photo by John Moore

    NUMBER 4 What is ‘The Search for Yes’? When design artists come to Denver, one thing they quickly discover, Garrett said, “is that the team from the Denver Center can do anything. If you say to the people who put their hands on the stages here that you have this really crazy idea, the answer is almost always, exclusively, going to be ‘yes.’ They will do whatever it takes to make it happen." As an example, she asked those in attendance to pay particular attention to the use of projections in Smart People. “How they did what they did in that teeny space is amazing to me,” Garrett said. Added Veasey: “It feels like you are on the inside of a TV.”

    NUMBER 5What is ‘color-blind casting’? Diamond’s script very specifically calls for an  African-American woman who in turn plays an aspiring actor. At one point in the story, she is asked about her current role in a production of Julius Caesar, and specifically whether her casting in the traditionally white Shakespeare play is the result of “color-blind casting” — one of the most polarizing issues among real-life actors. Garrett was asked to define the term, and say whether she advocates for it. After a deep breath, she accepted the challenge:

    “So … ‘color-blind casting’ is an idea that is born out of the age of multiculturalism, where you might take a play that historically was connected to just one culture and cast it instead in a way that is inclusive of several cultures or identities,” she said. “Color-blind casting sometimes works and sometimes it doesn't. I believe that when it doesn't work, it is because of an earnest desire to create a world in which color does not exist — as opposed to creating a world in which color and race and identity are actually tangible things that we hold dear. Where it is important for us to have and embrace difference, as opposed to homogeny. Often, color-blind casting can further marginalize people of color because the question usually comes with the inference that, ‘You were not supposed to be doing this.’ That means you were given an opportunity that doesn't actually belong to you. I believe in casting that allows for people to be considered for roles based on their skills and for their density and for their ability and depth and knowledge — not based primarily on their identity. So I am not a ‘color-blind caster.’ I would say that I am a ‘color-conscious caster.’ I am very aware of the people in the bodies of the people I work with, and I honor them in their bodies, and I need them to be who they are."

    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.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that 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. 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.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson 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
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
    Photos, story: Smart People opens rehearsals in full swing

  • 'American Mariachi': Community conversation begins

    by John Moore | Oct 09, 2017
    Making of 'American Mariachi'Photos from the Sept. 21 roundtable conversation on 'American Mariachi,' opening Jan. 26. To see more photos, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Playwright, director introduce coming world premiere that will tell a pioneering story from Denver to San Diego.


    By John Moore
    Senior Ats Journalist

    The DCPA invited members of various local Latino communities to join them on Sept. 21 for a roundtable conversation on American Mariachi, the Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere musical play by José Cruz González.

    American Mariachi Students from three local colleges, teachers, mariachi players and members of the Mi Casa Resource Center were among the two dozen who joined the playwright, director James Vásquez and members of the DCPA staff for a free-form introduction to the play, followed by an open discussion on how the Denver Center might best engage the community around this high-profile staging.

    American Mariachi is a first for the DCPA Theatre Company: It is being created as a co-production with the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. That means the story is being brought to life here in Denver from Jan. 26-Feb. 25 as a featured attraction of the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. And once it closes here, the entire production will be transported to San Diego for a second run opening March 23 – sets, actors and all.

    González and Vásquez gave the roundtable audience their enthusiastic accounts of the play’s history, inspirations, logistical challenges and potential audience impact. “I think this play is ultimately going to have a beautiful, brilliant life all around the country,” Vásquez said.

    But first González, who previously debuted September Shoes (2005) and Sunsets and Margaritas (2009) at the Denver Center, wants to make sure as many people from all economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds see the play when they have the opportunity in Denver. Here’s some of what they told those gathered:

    What’s the story? American Mariachi is set in the 1970s American southwest. It follows the journey of a young woman, Lucha, who has become the caretaker for a mother suffering from dementia. As a girl, Lucha’s father and his best friend were part of a mariachi band, and their home was filled with life and music. But something happened that tore the band apart, after which the mother began to lose herself. Now years later, Lucha and her cousin find a record of a mariachi song that briefly brings the mother back to life. Lucha is then determined to learn how to play this magical song for her mother before it is too late. But as the young women set out to start their own mariachi band (something unheard of in that day), everyone around them discourages them because they are women – including Lucha’s father. But they do it anyway.

    American Mariachi. Summit Are they any good? In a word, no. “They're The Bad News Bears of mariachi bands,” González said. “They're not great. But they find their path, and they learn the song. And along the way they find their voices - and their places in the world.”

    (Pictured right: Elia Saldana and Sal Lopez in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit reading of 'American Mariachi.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 

    Will the play include live music? The cast of nine not only must act and sing, they will play live musical instruments. In addition, five mariachi musicians will make up the orchestra.

    The music: About 14 songs will be performed in American Mariachi. González wrote three, including the poignant ballad song at center of the plot. The rest are traditional songs.    

    American Mariachi The development: American Mariachi was commissioned by the DCPA Theatre Company in 2014 and was presented as a featured reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. It has been honed through two workshops since, most recently in Los Angeles this past summer. At the Colorado New Play Summit in 2016, "it was 150-page play,” González said. "We're now down to 95 pages. So it's now very lean, and it moves like gangbusters.”

    (Pictured right: The cast of the DCPA's 'American Mariachi' at a workshop in Los Angeles in July. Photo provided by Douglas Langworthy.)

    Is there a language barrier? “The script is 95 percent English, with a smattering of Spanish here or there,” Vásquez said. And pains will be taken to convey the meaning of any Spanish word, through physical gestures or outright translation. “Now, the traditional songs are in Spanish,” Vásquez said. “But I think their meaning is something our audience will understand through the sheer theatricality of the musicians."

    That goes both ways: One roundtable attendee said the language barrier works both ways: “I think there would be an appetite for an all-Spanish version of this show for the communities that can only speak Spanish and would otherwise not be able to engage in the story fully,” she said. González took that to heart and said he will consider producing an all-Spanish version of the script.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Who is the play for? After an earlier public reading, Vásquez was greeted by a young woman who told him, “I have never seen myself represented on stage. I see movies or TV shows or plays, and it's never about me. This was about me." "She walked out feeling like she had a place in the world," Vásquez said, "which I think is a testament to the play Jose has written.” But González was quick to add that American Mariachi is not only about these young women finding their voices. “It's also about families dealing with Alzheimer’s and other issues we are all dealing with in our own communities,” he said.

    The aftermath:
    After the creators’ presentation, DCPA staff asked their guests for their questions and concerns. One intrigued attendee said American Mariachi may well be seen as an effective counter in communities that still have a stigma about the relevance of the arts. Among the other concerns: A possible price barrier, getting the word out to the people who might most be interested in this story, and the cost of downtown parking. DCPA representatives told them they are committed to ensuring that everyone who wants to see the play has an opportunity.

    “You can open doors,” the DCPA's Nataki Garrett said, “or you can remind people that the doors are open.”


    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.

     

    American Mariachi: Ticket information

    160x160-amercian-mariachi-tempAt a glance: Lucha and Boli are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band in 1970s’ Denver, but they’ll have to fight a male-dominated music genre and pressure from their families to get it done. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music..

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 26 through 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

    Video: José Cruz González at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit

     

     

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of American Mariachi:
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company season
    Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

  • Robert O'Hara: Can 'Macbeth' transcend gender?

    by John Moore | Oct 04, 2017

    In the video above, 'Macbeth' director Robert O’Hara talks about the setting for his re-imagined Macbeth, why making his players warlocks necessitated an all-male cast and more. The play continues in the Space Theatre through Oct. 29. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Shakespeare needs to be alive, Macbeth director says,
    'Or you are just blowing wind into a corpse.' 

    John Moore: There is a conflict in the American theatre when it comes to Shakespeare. Traditionalists think of Shakespeare as a sacred cow and that it should be presented exactly as written. But when you want to attract younger generations to Shakespeare, is it no longer enough to let his words speak for themselves?

    Robert O’Hara: It’s still live theatre, and that means it needs to be alive. If you are just blowing wind into a corpse, then you just have the walking dead. I think you need to give it life, and the life comes from the people who are in the room right now.  

    John Moore: How does that affect your approach to Macbeth?

    Robert O’Hara: I don't want to go into a theatre and see a museum piece. I think there is an elitist quality to Shakespeare in this country, and I don't believe in elite theatre. Theatre is already elite, and I don't want to come in and put another level of elitism on top of that. So I tried to make this production as honest as possible, and to speak for now.

    John Moore: As a director, this is your first production of a Shakespeare play. Has that been a matter of preference or opportunity?

    Robert O’Hara: I have not been afforded opportunities to direct Shakespeare. African-Americans are not usually in the room directing Shakespeare. So when I was asked to direct Macbeth by the Denver Center, I was very intrigued. I thought, ‘Now I can have a conversation I have been waiting to have for a long time.'

    John Moore: Why have you not been afforded that opportunity before now?

    Robert O'Hara Quote MacbethRobert O’Hara: There is a Catch-22 in the American theatre. I am mostly considered a playwright and a director of new plays, right? So I don't usually get offered to direct classical work. The Catch-22 is that you won't get offered classical work because you haven't done classical work. But if you are not getting the opportunity to direct classical work, when can you ever do it? I think we categorize artists of color, because white people are allowed to do everything. They can do black plays, Latino plays, classical plays, new plays, whatever. But somehow I am only supposed to do one certain type of play. My entire career has been working against that. There are far more white people directing Shakespeare than people of color in this country. That's something important to acknowledge and be transparent about. I know that I am in Denver doing Macbeth and that this is the first time anyone has ever asked me to do Shakespeare. That is significant for me in my career, but I'm sure it is significant for the theatre community here, too.

    John Moore: How did that happen?

    Robert O’Hara: (DCPA Associate Artistic Director) Nataki Garrett called and asked if I would be interested in coming to Denver. It was sort of a fishing expedition. She was interested in a play I had done at Steppenwolf in Chicago, and I said, 'Well, I'm not so sure I want to go all the way to Denver to do something I have already done. What else do you have?' And she said they were thinking about Macbeth and a couple of other plays. And I was like, "Hmmm ... Macbeth! And that sparked a conversation that just kept going. I threw the book at her, because I don't want to go to any theatre just to be told, 'Don't be who you are, because this is Shakespeare!' So I said to Nataki, 'Can I do this and this and that?' And she kept saying yes.

    John Moore: What do you bring to Shakespeare that a white director might not?

    Robert O’Hara: What Shakespeare means to me is going to be different from what Shakespeare means to a lot of other people, just based on who I am. James Baldwin once said that when African-Americans speak Shakespeare, it changes the meaning of Shakespeare’s words. The language becomes universal when it is spoken out loud by people who were never supposed to speak it.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: How is this Robert O'Hara's Macbeth?

    Robert O'Hara: It’s not. It's Shakespeare's Macbeth. Robert O'Hara is simply interpreting it. What I love is that Shakespeare allows you the interpretation. There is nothing that I am going to do that is going to destroy Macbeth. I don't have that power. But I think this production allows me the freedom to actually be fully who I am.
    John Moore: So what is your concept?

    Robert O'Hara: The concept comes out of a simple question that I asked myself when I was reading the play, and it sounds crazy. But I thought, 'Why are you talking to witches?' In what society does one see three witches in a field and he just goes up to them and is like, 'Hey, what's up?' If I see three witches, I am going to run, jump out the window, race, scream, pray, whatever. But these guys are just rolling up on witches, and they don't seem to be afraid of them. That in itself tells me that this is a play that is fantastical. That is has the imagination at its core. This is a world where people and witches can interact freely. And that started me thinking about the way we deal with otherness in our culture. At the same time we denigrate 'the other,' we also praise them. We go to the shaman or the witch doctor or the medicine man to help us root out the evils in our lives - and then we will burn them at the stake. I have always thought the witches are unfairly blamed for what Macbeth does. And so I thought, what if we told this story from the witches' perspective? What if a bunch of witches got together and said, ‘Why don't we do the story of Macbeth?’ They don’t change the story. The idea is that these characters are being played by people with supernatural powers. By people who are actually talked about in the play.

    John Moore: And in fact, you set the play in the Pit of Acheron.

    Robert O'Hara: Yes, and the Pit of Acheron is an actual setting in Shakespeare’s play. The warlocks take Macbeth there, and that is where our play takes place.

    John Moore: How is this relatable to today?

    Robert O'Hara: They have just built an arts complex on the 9/11 memorial site at the World Trade Center. And I am assuming there will be plays staged there that have something to do with the 9/11 tragedy. And I think to and set this play at a place that is actually in the story gives it a different life.

    John Moore: What about the idea to make it an all-male cast?

    Robert O'Hara: That comes from the Banquo line, when he says something like, ‘You should be women, but you have beards.’ When I read that, I was like, 'What if they are men?' Of course, all of Shakespeare's plays were originally performed by men. I wanted to explore what that means. 

    John Moore: Lady Macbeth has been called the most bloodthirsty character in all of Shakespeare – including her husband. Does that fact that she was created by a man in patriarchal Jacobean times tell us more about her – or about Shakespeare? 

    Robert O’Hara: Here we have this legendary character of Lady Macbeth, and she is demonized and deified and everything in between. But it's essentially a character written by a man and at the time played by a man, and most of the audiences then were probably men. It’s exciting for me to put a bunch of men in a room and we deal with that dynamic. It's exciting to explore how one feels about that.

    John Moore: How is she presented?

    Robert O’Hara: We are not making Lady Macbeth a man, we are just having her be played by a man. So we’re not doing a drag show.

    (Story continues below the photo)

     Macbeth Adam Poss. Photo by Adams Viscom


    John Moore: And what is your take on her now?

    Robert O’Hara: Look, she doesn't even have a name. Her name is ‘Lady.’ Right there, she is a symbol for something. I feel like she is just as important as the title character of Macbeth. That in fact you can't have Macbeth the play without Lady Macbeth. To me, they are one and the same. When I see Lady M on stage, they usually remove all femininity from her. She is basically a masculine, evil, unsexed woman. But I think she is no more evil than anyone else in the play. Remember the witches don't actually tell Macbeth to kill anyone. They just say, 'You are going to be the king.' And then he and his wife start reaching for daggers. What women goes, ‘I would dash the brains of this kid?' That sounds crazy. Especially a woman who has lost a child. And yet she is saying this to encourage Macbeth to kill someone.

    John Moore: What is Shakespeare's complicity in all of this?

    Robert O’Hara: There are no examples that I know of in Shakespeare of a man pretending to be a woman - as a serious plot point. There are tons of examples of a woman pretending to be a man, and everyone accepts it. But where is the play where a man pretends to be a woman, and everyone in the world of the play accepts it? That’s because nobody wants to be a woman in this sexist society. Women should want to be men. That says something about the society these plays are written in. 
     
    John Moore: Are you worried about an anti-feminist response by removing the female voice?

    Robert O’Hara: I contend that there was never a woman's voice in Macbeth. I want to explore the idea of what happens when you get a bunch of men in a locker-room setting, if you will, they begin to deal with a heterosexual relationship. What does that reveal? I am less interested in what happens if you remove the female voice because I am not doing a play in which there ever was a female voice. I am doing a play in which there was a male voice inside of a female character who acts, for the most part, as if she were a man. But just because I am doing men with all men does not mean that I’m not interested in women. I want to see what 17 male actors will make of some of the places in the play that are very vulnerable and emotional - on top of all the violence. Because violence is easy. But can we have a relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, and even between Macbeth and Banquo, that transcends gender?

    John Moore: Is there a statement in all of that?

    Robert O’Hara: I'm not really interested in making statements. I am really interested in asking questions about our value systems, and what we accept in male behavior that we don't accept in other behaviors. I am interested in the nature of being complicit in a society, because Macbeth gets away with a lot of stuff before they kill him. I am interested in exploring the idea of reaping what you sow. Because Macbeth's death is going to be brutal. I think about a dictator like Muammar Gaddafi and how he was killed and dragged through the streets. The message is: When you radicalize a group of people, be careful because they will turn on you. That is central to what I am exploring. When you do a play that has an act of violence as its central core, that dagger, if you will, may come and slit your own throat.

    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.

    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Oct. 29
    • 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
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage

    Tattoos, video and opening-night Macbeth photos
    Video, photos: Your first look at Macbeth
    Perspectives: Macbeth director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Video: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's Macbeth:



    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

  • Guns and broses: Tattoos, video and opening-night 'Macbeth' photos

    by John Moore | Sep 28, 2017
    Macbeth: Opening-night photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

     

    The photos above are from Opening Night of the DCPA Theatre Company's production of Macbeth on Sept. 22. To see more photos in the gallery above, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears.

    The evening marked the official reopening of the renovated Space Theatre and was capped by a party in the Seawell Ballroom. Backstage and party photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Photo-booth photos by Bamboo Booth.

    Making of Macbeth video: Actor Skyler Gallun's tattoo application:


    This short, fun time-lapse video shows DCPA Theatre Company makeup artists Taylor Malott and Robin Appleton applying opening-night tattoos to actor Skyler Gallun, who plays poor Donalbain, the hunted son of murdered King Duncan, in Shakespeare's bloody tragedy.

    Some of the 17 actors are naturally tattooed, but the artists say those who are having theirs applied can have them last anywhere from a day to almost a week. Gallun says he has been having his reapplied about every three days. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Macbeth. Nataki Garrett

    Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett addresses those gathered after the Opening Night performance of 'Macbeth,' with some cast members behind her. Photo by John Moore.


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Oct. 29
    • 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
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Video, photos: Your first look at Macbeth
    Perspectives: Macbeth director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Video: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's Macbeth:



    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

  • 'Smart People' opens rehearsals in full swing

    by John Moore | Sep 21, 2017
    Making of 'Smart People'

    Photos from the first day of rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' which features Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Sharp comedy takes on the ways in which racism pervades American culture just as the national pendulum swings.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Smart People is a thought-provoking new comedy about all the ways in which racism pervades American culture. And it took playwright Lydia R. Diamond eight years to finish it.

    Imagine taking on that incendiary subject just as Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency, and completing it the same year he would cede it to Donald Trump.

    "She started the play at one time in our collective zeitgeist, and she finished it at a completely different time in our collective zeitgeist,” DCPA Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said Tuesday at the opening rehearsal for Smart People, which marks her Denver directorial debut. 

    Smart PeopleThe collective national pendulum, as gravity seemingly demands, had fully swung. And Garrett believes the only way today’s highly polarized Americans are ever going to find common ground and genuine connection again is if they slow down and stop talking long enough to meet somewhere in the middle.

    "What's so awesome about something swinging wildly back and forth is the part that's in the middle," said Garrett. "Not the extremes where we all seemingly live now, but the space where we do come together and we are able to find intersection.”

    And that’s what Diamond butts up against in her critically acclaimed, four-person comedy that has its first performance Oct. 13 in the Ricketson Theatre.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Diamond’s story, set on the eve of Obama’s historic 2008 presidential election, centers on four "smart people" with Harvard connections: A surgeon, an actress, a psychologist and a neuro-psychiatrist who is studying how the brain responds to race. As their relationships evolve, the four discover that their motivations and interpretations are not as pure as their wealth of knowledge would have them believe.

    Diamond was inspired to write Smart People by a news report about an actual neuroscientist who was studying the potential link between bias and brain chemistry. He hypothesized that a person's chemical composition can cause him to be biased, prejudiced or racist.

    "For me, the play is kind of like going back to the scene of the crime: Going back to the beginning of something to try to figure out where we are now," said Garrett.

    “This play intersects with these four highly intellectual people who keep smacking up against each other like two rocks trying to make a spark. They are trying figure out, 'Well why don't you believe what I believe? Because if I believe that something is really important and true, then you should also have that belief.’

    “That's what sparks the comedy: You have these four sexy, crazy people who are almost too smart for their own good all colliding around these ideas. But if they could just stop talking and give in to each other's ideas, they might actually be able to hear something.

    “I think ultimately, Smart People is a call for people to listen."

    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.  

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that 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. 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.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Oct. 13, through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson 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
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
  • Cast announced for DCPA's 'Smart People': Fresh and familiar

    by John Moore | Sep 19, 2017

    Smart People
    From left: Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen.


    The DCPA Theatre Company has announced the full cast and creative team for its upcoming production of Lydia R. Diamond's Smart People, featuring the Denver directorial debut of Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. The production includes:

    • Esther Chen as Ginny Yang
    • Timothy McCracken as Brian White
    • Jason Veasey as Jackson Moore
    • Tatiana Williams as Valerie Johnston

    McCracken, a graduate of the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory and now the Head of Acting for DCPA Education, has previously appeared in Theatre Company productions of A Christmas Carol, Jackie and Me, The Giver and others.

    A Smart People 360 Jaso VeasayVeasey, a native of Colorado Springs, graduated from Coronado High School and the University of Northern Colorado. His local credits include playing Jesus in Town Hall Arts Center's Godspell in 2003 (pictured right), and the ensemble in the Arvada Center's Ragtime. Last year, he performed in the Henry Award-nominated Best Musical Motones vs. Jerseys at the Lone Tree Arts Center. He made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of The Lion King.

    Garrett was profiled in American Theatre as “One to Watch,” saying she is attracted to “plays that impact us in tremendous ways, chasing us out of our comfort zones.”

    Veasay, Chen and Williams will be making their DCPA Theatre Company debuts in Diamond's acclaimed new play, a biting comedy that 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. 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.”

    Diamond’s award-winning plays have been produced throughout the country, including the 2011 Tony Award-nominated Broadway production Stick Fly.

    The creative team for Smart People will include:
    • Efren Delgadillo Jr. (Scenic Designer)
    • Lex Liang (Costume Designer, DCPA's Disgraced)
    • Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (Lighting Designer)
    • Curtis Craig (Sound Designer)
    • Kaitlyn Pietras (Projection Designer)
    • Lyle Raper (returning longtime Theatre Company Stage Manager)
    • Corin Ferris (Assistant Stage Manager).
     

    Smart People: Ticket information

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Oct. 13, through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson 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
  • 'Macbeth' at a time when everything is shifting

    by John Moore | Aug 17, 2017
    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the first day of rehearsal for Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above. 'Macbeth' plays Sept. 15-Oct. 29 in the newly reopened Space Theatre. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Rehearsals open in a divided country roiling and reeling from violence that is becoming commonplace in its streets

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company opened rehearsals Tuesday for the first offering of its 39th season in a deeply divided country that is roiling and reeling from violence that is again becoming commonplace in its streets.

    That makes it both important – and poignant – to be re-examining the troubled world of Shakespeare’s bloodthirsty tragedy of Macbeth right now through the lens of a rising, rebel director named Robert O’Hara, DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said in an impassioned welcome to cast, crew, staff and guests.

    Macbeth Nataki Garrett“Everything about the way we live is shifting,” Garrett said. “And that’s why this is the perfect time to be doing this play right now, in the middle of the shift. We are in this chrysalis right now, trying to figure out who we are as a people, who we are as a theatre community, who we are as creative people,” Garrett said.

    “Especially in light of where we are right now, particularly in the United States, this is what you do: You do this play, right now, because Shakespeare has this uncanny way of reaching forward and back at the same time, and making us really think about why we think the things we do. Who put those ideas there? And is there a way to have a different way of thinking than the way we think now."

    Garrett promised those gathered that O’Hara’s Macbeth “ain’t your grandmama's Macbeth.” O’Hara’s Macbeth is set entirely at the Pit of Acheron, a swamp near Macbeth's castle where the witches are ordered to bring Macbeth. Only in this telling it’s years, perhaps centuries later, and the witches are warlocks.

    “I thought, what if every so often, a bunch of witches go off and tell that messed-up story about that guy who went off killing people just because they told him he was going to be king? That would be interesting …  and crazy,” O’Hara said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    "We tend to demonize the witches. We blame them for what Macbeth does in the story. They always got the short end of the stick. So, what if our play is about giving those ancient witches a renewed voice, through this ritual?”

    O’Hara’s Macbeth will have a very modern, almost futuristic element, “but also one that honors the past,” said award-winning scenic designer Jason Sherwood. Dede M. Ayite's costumes will offer “lots of skin, and lots of leather,” she said, “and when we transition into the actual storytelling we will have pieces that reflect Jacobean garments.” Alex Jainchill’s lighting design will incorporate modern technologies and incorporate dub-step music from sound designer Lindsay Jones.

    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    “Robert called me last week and said, ‘Hey did I tell you that you were writing a score that's like Game of Thrones?’ And I was like, 'No, you did not.' So I'm writing a score that's like Game of Thrones, along with rap music, lots of sound effects and other really exciting stuff.”

    O’Hara and Garrett hope this reimagined way of looking at Macbeth will give audiences another way of contextualizing the shocking daily headlines that are becoming more and more difficult to process.

    “We are a nation that moves and evolves. Said Garrett. “We are a theatre company that moves and evolves, and it is moving before our very eyes right now. And so I am very excited to have this play open our new Space Theatre, open our season and open our minds."

    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.


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.
    • Presented bythe DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • 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
  • Read Suzi Q. Smith's original 'Mixed Taste' poems here

    by John Moore | Jul 20, 2017
    Suzy Q Smith
    Suzi Q. Smith at the inaugural 'Mixed Taste' in the Seawell Ballroom on July 5. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    'Know which voice to listen to
    when it’s time to fly,
    when it’s time to land.
    '

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Mixed Taste is a weekly tag-team lecture series that paired playfully unrelated topics on Wednesday nights throughout the summer in the Denver Center's Seawell Ballroom. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is now collaborating on the popular series with Off-Center, the Denver Center's most unconventional programming arm

    Read more: Mixed Taste walks the talk to the Seawell Ballroom

    Local slam poet Suzi Q. Smith was the series emcee. As part of the fun, she created an original poem as each evening progressed to connect the dots between two featured but seemingly unrelated topics. She read them at the end of each night, and we have been publishing them here throughout the summer.

    Read our previous interview with Mixed Taste emcee Suzi Q. Smith

    On Glimmer and Flight

    Aug. 23
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture Topics: Air Traffic Control and Drag Queen Activism
    Lecturers: Bruce Goetz and Shirley Delta Blow

    There are so many ways to approach a runway.
    Fast, heavy as a skilled boxer’s glove;
    Precise as a jeweled manicure
    or a highlighted cheekbone;
    Clumsy as the first time in heels.
    It takes time, coordination, and practice
    to get it right.

    Last Suzi QWhat I love about the airport
    is the vastness of possibility:
    every terminal filled with dreams and stories,
    beginnings and long kisses goodbye,
    every face choreographed
    into magnificent ballet – and who
    serves more face
    than drag queens?
    Every wink
    and eyebrow raise
    is worth at least
    56 square miles of
    absolutely.

    We must remember that certainty
    when we find ourselves mid-flight
    in what could be chaos.
    Listen: there is a small voice lending us direction –

    stay here,
    come closer,
    not yet,
    aim higher,
    the runway is yours, darling –

    and if we listen, that voice keeps us from disaster.
    Step to the front
    while flashing lights sing
    in reverence to your every eyelash.
    Sashay when they wave you on,
    ignore the flailing arms
    that offer you no welcome.

    Know which voice to listen to
    when it’s time to fly,
    when it’s time to land,
    know who keeps you safe,
    keeps you airborne amidst roaring winds
    that would have your wings
    if you let them.

    Let your pride swell.
    When you hear the sky calling, fly.
    Stay fly
    and flying,
    let the breath of those who love you
    be your wind,
    let their voices be your beacon.

    You, brilliant shimmer,
    land on that runway
    like you mean it.


    On Perspective and Relativity

    Aug. 16
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: P.T. Barnum and Infinity
    Lecturers: Kathy Maher and Diane Davis


    I first used the term “infinity” as a means
    to compound an insult
    on some schoolyard playground, as in

                “you’re ugly”
                “your mama’s ugly”
                “you’re ugly times a million”
                “your ugly times INFINITY”

    until
    my Sunday School teacher said infinity
    was like carrying a bucket of water
    from the Atlantic Ocean
    to the Pacific Ocean,
    pouring it in, refilling the bucket
    and carrying it back,
    repeating this process until all of one ocean
    had been poured into the other entirely,
    and I stopped using it then
    as a weapon.

    It seemed a cruel use of vocabulary.
    Speaking of cruelty, I can’t help but weep
    when I consider the life of Joice Heth
    whose body, even in death, was someone else’s spectacle,
    whose suffering was no less than infinite,
    heavy as endless buckets of water colliding into a gulf
    a grand showcase of laughing waves, crashing the shore
    and winking at the grains of sand for their pretense of grandiosity.

    Maybe it is all perspective, bending with time.
    Is time a line, or a circle?
    Are we standing at zero or infinity?
    Is it ingenuity or exploitation?
    Is an elaborate hoax to be scorned or celebrated?

    Neither the sand nor the stars are infinite,
    but they offer a grand show.
    A brilliant display of possibility,
    a quantifiable image to lend this vast vocabulary
    to the dream of something greater.

    And what is greater, more infinite, than our dreams?
    Are we not the most stunning display of blue and bite?
    The most illustrious outpour of story and song?

    May we learn from our history.
    May we transform our finite breath
    into a stunning cascade of tomorrows,
    may we build a world of infinite compassion, courage and creativity –
    I believe it will be the greatest show on earth,
    to infinity

    (and beyond).



    On Bob and booze

    Aug. 9
    A Meet the Cast Bianca Mikahn 600Written by Guest Host Bianca Mikahn
    (Pictured right in May 2016)
    Lecture Topics: Prohibition and Bob Ross
    Lecturers: Jason Hanson and Doug Blandy 

    Bob was once drunk off power
    off his hands and all they could spill

    Thirty years before
    maybe his family would have been driven
    by his bust 'em up demeanor
    to the voting polls
    But then Bob got hooked on painting’s joy

    I wonder
    before he fermented his feelings into
    the nectar of inspiration
    Was his voice
    a rough and burning moonshine
    a howling across brand new highways
    while false McCoys raced in the distance
    How many distillations did it take
    to find the perfect smoky earthy pitch
    lulling so many of us to comfort
    like a perfectly aged red

    Mr Ross is famed for saying
    “there are no mistakes”
    I wonder had he witnessed to the
    dehydrated hypocrisy and
    Overreaching amendment which was the eighteenth
    Would he have maintained his floating
    and free demeanor
    Or would he revive his famed military fire
    for access to the saloon

    Mixed Taste Aug 9Maybe his only intoxication was the palette
    Most likely he would have found a
    favored speakeasy
    (which should be called Bob Rosses
    if time continuum allowed)
    A single malt
    Maybe a dear friend

    Bob Ross was my bartender
    the first to fill my cup with color
    and affirmation
    Replete with seasoned ice and
    landscapes which burned so good going down
    Temperance comes from the Latin word
    temperar which means to restrain
    Tempera is a form of paint and means
    to paint in distemper
    May we generate a toast
    to the eschewing of prohibition’s temperance
    less temperar renders us
    each of us little burgeoning Bobs
    Missing our happy little trees and forgetting
    there are no mistakes
    Just happy accidents



    On Growth and Dirt 

    Aug. 2
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Asparagus and Money Laundering
    Lecturers: Carol O'Meara and Micah Schwalb

    To grow asparagus, it must be planted deeply,
    like an oil drum full of money.
    It helps to have good real estate to bury it in.
    It takes patience and skill to get it right,
    with a nose for detail that must be studied.
    Maybe banks are the best place to begin
    the sprouts, they always have plenty
    of dirt.

    The Romans had a love
    for asparagus as well as coin,
    as both have been known
    as aphrodisiacs, both have led to
    suspicions and secrets, both traceable
    if you know where to sniff.

    I love asparagus. 
    Once, I ate marinated asparagus at a party.
    It was so magical that I decided to recreate the dish at home.
    Asparagus? Check.
    Herbs, seasonings, oil, vinegar? Check.
    I placed the ingredients in a casserole dish
    and covered, then promptly
    forgot about it.
    For days.
    Several days.
    Several long, hot, summer days.

    When I remembered,
    I excitedly removed the lid, ready to delight
    in my first attempt at marinated asparagus, and
    BEHOLD!
    The worst smell I have ever experienced –
    the kind of smell that expands the realms of imagination,
    so bad that my brain had to activate new functions
    just to accurately perceive this level of awful.

    I grabbed the dish and ran outside to throw it in the dumpster –
    the asparagus,
    the spices,
    the oils and vinegars,
    and the glass dish they’d been conspiring in.
    No amount of laundering would have saved it.
    The crime was so dreadful
    that I had to hide the evidence.

    I fled the scene, packed up my daughter,
    and stayed with family that night
    because the scene was too ghastly to remain.

    The word “asparagus” comes from a Persian word
    meaning “shoot” or “sprout.”
    I imagine I asparagussed my way out the back door
    on that fateful day.

    While it was once know for its reproductive effects,
    I have yet to reproduce the marinated asparagus since then,
    the evidence of the failed attempt left an unmistakable mark.

    Both money and asparagus involve a bit of dirt,
    a fair amount of work, but when done well
    can sustain us for generations.

    May all of our harvests be fair and clean. 


    On Ways and Words

    July 26
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Giant Flutes and Celestial Navigation
    Lecturers: Akio Lis and Jim Cook

    I’ve heard that in Australia,
    Aboriginal tribes used to navigate their land
    through music.  Each place had its own song.

    Charlie.jpg_largeI’ve heard it said that
    while any person can learn to play a note,
    it takes a true musician to know why to play a note, and when,
    how to navigate a song and draw its map.

    The earth spins at nearly 1,000 miles per hour,
    so fast it almost feels like we’ve always been still.
    Sound travels at nearly 800 miles per hour,
    so fast it feels eternal, like we’ve always known this music.

    Do you ever think about the fact that we are in space
    right now? Do you wonder why?
    Are we what happens when the momentum of
    sound and orbit collide?
    Does the weight and gravity
    of our instruments help us to know
    where our momentum means something?

    When we look at the center or
    the surface of the earth
    and move toward the distant
    celestial lights twinkling their hello
    (or goodbye, as the case may be),
    is it reasonable to still feel lost?

    Is it reasonable
    to bellow into the dark
    and hope your breath will be enough
    to carry you toward home?
    The way that wind holds a sail,
    our breath carries notes
    and we are transported.

    I’ve heard conflicting tales
    about the Pied Piper, and who he lured away
    with a hypnotizing flute.
    Music has always moved us,
    even if we don’t know where its glinting guides us,
    it is natural to follow what might still be light.



    On Science and Magic

    July 19 By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Telekinesis and Sauerkraut
    Lecturers: Professor Phelyx and Mara and Willow King

    We train our kids to wash their hands
    with potions
    made by people who want to sell us something.
    We all have a lot to unlearn.

    One kiss is an exchange
    of 8 million bacteria
    invisible, moving beings
    that could kill us
    or heal us,
    we all know kisses can go either way.

    It’s amazing, the magic
    we do with our mouths & minds,
    break down
    or be broken – I don’t think I understand
    the difference between magic and science,
    when the same botulism that can kill us
    can also stop stories
    a living face might tell,
    I suppose it’s a bit of both – wielding nature,
    being wielded by it.

    Maybe everything is cultural –
    time, science, magic, movement –
    like food, fermenting into medicine,
    breaking and becoming more whole.
    They say seeds break open to sprout.
    They say people who are married for a long time
    start to look alike.

    Maybe it is like sauerkraut –
    the more time we spend together, the better we get.
    Maybe science and magic are the same thing.
    Either theory requires a bit of faith,
    even when we see it, even when we taste it.
    Maybe it’s all in our minds,
    or maybe only the best parts of each
    survive.


    On Language and Justice

    July 12
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Esperanto and Trial by Jury
    Lecturers: Orlando Raola and Fred Bloom

    I have never served on a jury. 

    Have been left to share my opinions on stages,
    and especially on twitter, which is

    fine,
    I guess.

    Somehow, I have never been invited to the party

    no one else wants to go to.
    I mean – I’d be a good juror, I think.
    I’ve seen like every single episode of Law & Order at least twice.
    And Ally McBeal, The Practice, and pretty much every courtroom drama
    that Netflix has to offer.

    When it comes to the wisdom of crowds,
    the finders of facts, even standing in unpopular opinions,
    I feel like I’d make a strong candidate.

    My friends roll their eyes at being called for jury duty . . .

    again,
    while I raise my hand, eager and polite
    as any wallflower
    wanting to dance.

    Meanwhile, it sounds like jury duty is sometimes
    A LITERAL PARTY!

    Maybe I want it so bad
    because I believe in the weight of words,
    the intention and design of each syllable.

    How our languages shape fate,
    words as heavy as “guilty” or “not guilty”,
    of course we should speak in planned language
    when our words change lives.

    I saw an article yesterday about a family
    who was drowning in the Atlantic Ocean
    until the people on the beach formed an 80-person chain
    to bring them safely to shore.

    Imagine if we all used the power of our words
    in the same tongue.
    If we all spoke together, listened and understood.
    I imagine the harmony would make me weep,
    I imagine the volume would shake the ground,
    if we knew the weight of our words,
    imagine how heavy we could be.



    On History and Movement

    July 5
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Wild West mail delivery and post-conceptual art
    Lecturers: Adam Lerner (pictured right) and Nataki Garrett

    July 4, 1776, some of my ancestors were enslaved.
    One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.
    What conversations they must be having in my unexpected blood,
    emancipated and armed like Stagecoach Mary.
    How unprepared they must have been for such “mixed taste.”

    Adam Lerner Sometimes, the most essential stories are the impossible truths, born of need.
    Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention.
    Stagecoach Mary was one of the Wild West’s urgent needs:
    her shotgun,
    her six horses,
    her mule named Moses
    and if her story ain’t a burning bush
    clearing our way, maybe we are ready
    for some post-conceptual belief
    and art;
    stasis has never saved us.

    Watch how we grow wild as sagebrush,
    how we perpetuate our own movement like tumbleweed,
    how we find new ways to show the unseen
    as a means to survive.
    See how our manifestation stays migrating,
    maybe home has always been a moving target, the place
    where we are best heard.
    See how we make new language of color and moment.

    I come from a long line of wild westerners.
    Some who were enslaved and fled.
    Some who were desperately poor and fled.
    Some who’ve been here since forever ever ever ever.
    All of them finding new ways to survive.

    We are people who learn to make what we need.
    We are people who pour ourselves over horizons in unmistakable color.
    We both find, and have always been, the frontier.
    What is art if not us?
    If not the impossible conversations in my blood?
    In this room?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

    by John Moore | Jul 02, 2017

    Lauren Yee. The Great Leap
    Lauren Yee’s 'The Great Leap,' which was introduced as a reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, will premiere at the Denver Center next February, then re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Companies are now jumping on new Denver Center works before they have even been fully staged here.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver Center is taking a major step forward in its development of new work for the American theatre in 2017. And one major reason is a hip new term in the theatrical lexicon: “Co-Pro.”

    For the first time, the DCPA Theatre Company will stage two new plays next season that will immediately transfer to major theatres around the country as essentially continuing world premieres. They will quickly re-open in their second cities with their Denver Center directors and casts intact.

    American Mariachi. Summit The Theatre Company opens José Cruz González’s American Mariachi on Jan. 26, 2018. Less than a month after it closes in Denver, the production will re-open at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, which bows in Denver on Feb. 2, will re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here.

    By virtue of these unique partnerships, both stagings are considered “co-productions.” Or, as the kids say, “Co-Pros.” Coincidentally, the re-opening nights in San Diego and Seattle will both take place on March 23.

    (Pictured above right: 'American Mariachi' was introduced as a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    For 12 years, artistic leaders from around the country have come to the Denver Center’s Colorado New Play Summit each February to see readings of developing new works, then come back the next year to see the subsequent fully staged world-premiere productions before scheduling some of the plays themselves. Among the popular titles that have expanded through this slow growth plan have been Jason Grote’s 1001 and Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale.

    But now companies are coming here to see readings and committing to scheduling them even before they are fully staged at the Denver Center for the first time.

    Matt McGrath in 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. All this comes at a time when Denver Center-born works are proliferating on national stages like never before. In 2017, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride will become the most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. Ten companies this year are presenting the story of a straight man who explores the world of drag to feed his family in cities stretching from Los Angeles to Key West, Fla., with four more already slated for 2018. Lopez’s newest work, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, will debut at the DCPA’s Space Theatre next Jan. 19.

    (Pictured above right: Matt McGrath in the Denver Center's 2014 world premiere of 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.) 

    How Georgia McBride has evolved since Denver

    Since former Artistic Director Kent Thompson launched the Colorado New Play Summit in 2006, the DCPA has given 27 new plays their world-premiere stagings. At least 32 productions of 13 DCPA-born works are being presented around the country this year and next, most notably a high-profile return of the reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which plays from July 21-27 at The Muny in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, star Beth Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    LEAD MOLLY"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. Everyone involved with it feels very strongly that we are completely on track.”

    (Pictured at right: The cast of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Last week, two recent Colorado New Play Summit readings landed on The Kilroys, a curated list of the 31 most promising new plays by women: Yee's The Great Leap and Donnetta Lavinia Grays' Last Night and the Night Before.

    NATAKI GARRETT 3Even older new plays like Octavio Solis' Lydia (2008) are still making an impact. “Lydia is a blast-furnace drama now in its Seattle debut in a blistering, urgent staging from Strawberry Theatre Workshop," Misha Berson of the Seattle Times wrote last month of a "forcefully directed ensemble of visceral power." Last year, the Aurora Fox became the first company to stage the Denver Center’s Native American premiere of Black Elk Speaks since 1996.

    All of this proliferation is not only changing the way the nation looks at the Denver Center, said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. It is changing how the Denver Center looks at itself.

    “The Colorado New Play Summit is a nationally renowned place where theatre companies from all over the United States come to see those playwrights who are moving up in the ranks and becoming the clarions for the future of playwriting,” she said.  “But I think this is where it was always heading. The most important part of the work we do as theatre artists is to foster and develop new work, and I think this is that idea coming to full fruition.”

    (Story continues after the video)

    Video spotlight: American Mariachi



    What makes for a successful Co-Pro, Garrett said, is the continuation of the Denver Center’s commitment to the playwright once the new play reaches its immediate second destination.

    “What I am really focused on with these companies is, 'Are you willing to make space for that writer to keep writing?’ ” Garrett said. “The whole point is to for them to be able to keep evolving their piece after they leave Denver, if that’s what the piece needs.”

    The Theatre Company’s commissioning program is one reason the pipeline stays stocked. At any given time, the company has a number of renowned and emerging playwrights under commissions. That essentially binds the playwright to write a new work of his or her choice, and the DCPA Theatre Company then has the right of first refusal to stage it. The playwrights with commissions in progress are:

    • Kemp Powers
    • Anne Garcia-Romero
    • Aleshea Harris
    • Mary Kathryn Nagle
    • Tony Meneses
    • David Jacobi
    • Regina Taylor

    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 AROUND THE COUNTRY: 2017-18

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown, by Dick Scanlan and Meredith Willson: The 1960 musical that tells the rags-to-riches tale of Colorado's greatest heroine is infused with new songs and a new script.

    • The Muny, St. Louis, July 21-27, 2017

    The Book of Will, By Lauren Gunderson:  The untold story of the race to publish Shakespeare's First Folio before half his canon was lost to history.

    • Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, June 9-July 28, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Nov. 9-Dec. 17, 2017
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 2017
    • Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Ore., June-October, 2018

    The Great Leap, by Lauren Yee: An American college basketball team travels to Beijing in 1989.

    • American Conservatory Theatre New Strands Festival, San Francisco (reading), May 19, 2017
    • DCPA Theatre Company, Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    • Seattle Rep, March 23-April 22, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    The Legend of Georgia McBride, by Matthew Lopez: A young Elvis impersonator turns to drag to feed his growing family.

    • Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, April 4-May 14, 2017
    • GableStage, Coral Gables, Fla., May 27-June 25, 2017
    • Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco, June 8-July 9, 2017
    • ACT Theatre, Seattle, June 9-July 2, 2017
    • Theatre Nova, Detroit, June 9- July 9, 2017
    • Dorset Theatre Festival, Vermont, Aug. 3-19, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Sept. 14-Oct. 22, 2017
    • Hippodrome State Theatre, Gainesville, Fla., Oct. 13-Nov. 5, 2017
    • B Street Theatre, Sacramento, Calif.,Nov. 6-Dec. 9, 2017
    • Uptown Players, Dallas, Dec. 1-17, 2017
    • Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, March 23-April 22, 2018
    • Key West Players, Key West, Fla., May 2-19, 2018
    • Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham Mass., May 3-20, 2018
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., June 8-July 1, 2018

    American Mariachi, by Jose Cruz Gonzalez: The musical tale of an all-female mariachi band in the 1970s.

    • DCPA Theatre Company, Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    • Old Globe (San Diego), March 23-April 29, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    Just Like Us, by Karen Zacarías: Documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver - two are documented, two are not.

    • Visión Latino Theatre Company, Feb. 24-March 12, 2017

    Dusty and the Big Bad World, by Cusi Cram: When a popular children’s TV  show spotlights a family with two daddies, it sparks a conservative outcry.

    • Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, July 6-19, 2017

    Appoggiatura, by James Still: A trip to Venice brings love, loss, pain and joy to three weary travelers in search of healing and happiness in a magical story filled with music and amore.
    • Indiana Repertory Theatre, March 7-31, 2018

    FADE, by Tanya Saracho: When Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character, she finds an unexpected muse in the Latino studio custodian.
    • Cherry Lane Theatre, New York, Feb. 8-March 5, 2017
    • TheatreWorks, Hartford, June 1-30, 2017

    Lydia, by Octavio Solis: A maid cares for a border family's near-vegetative teenage daughter who was left in a coma after a mysterious accident. 

    • Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Seattle, June 1-24, 2017

    Almost Heaven: The Songs and Stories of John Denver: The songwriter's life story is told through anecdotes and 21 songs.

    • Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, Grand Lake, Sept. 1-30, 2017

    The Whale, by Samuel D. Hunter: An oversized, homebound and dying man struggles to reconcile with his estranged teenage daughter before it’s too late.
    • Verge Theatre Company, Nashville, June 2-14, 2017

    black odyssey, by Marcus Gardley: An imagination of Homer’s epic lens through the lens of the black American experience.
    • California Shakespeare Theatre, Orinda, Calif., Aug. 9-Sept. 3, 2017

    Quilters, by Molly Newman: A series of vignettes performed in song and spoken word that chart the joys and sorrows of the frontier journey West.

    • Ferndale (Calif.) Repertory Theatre, March 9-April 2, 2017

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Video spotlight: The Great Leap

  • DCPA CEO welcomes new arts leaders to Denver

    by John Moore | Jun 05, 2017
    Welcome Nataki Garrett and Kendra Ingram
    Kendra Whitlock Ingram, left, and Nataki Garrett. To see more photos, press the forward arrow in the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    With major new voices coming to the forefront of the Colorado artistic community, Denver Center for the Performing Arts President and CEO Janice Sinden called a social gathering last week to officially welcome new arts leaders Nataki Garrett and Kendra Whitlock Ingram to Denver.

    Garrett, colloquially referred to as the DCPA's "change artist," is the new Associate Artistic Director for the DCPA Theatre Company. She had been Associate Artistic Director of CalArts Center for New Performance, as well as Associate Dean and Co-Head of Undergraduate Acting for CalArts School of Theater. READ MORE ABOUT HER

    Ingram is the University of Denver’s new executive director of Newman Center Presents at the Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts, succeeding Stephen Seifert. She was most recently vice president of programming and education for Omaha Performing Arts. READ MORE ABOUT HER

    Sinden, Ingram and Garrett all have been appointed to their new roles since August. Sinden hosted the reception on June 1 at the Limelight Supper Club, drawing a variety of local arts and civic leaders including Denver Arts and Venues Executive Director Kent Rice; Denver Post Chairman and Bonfils Foundation President Dean Singleton; Curious Theatre co-founder Chip Walton; Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company founders Stephen and Rebecca Weitz; and prominent director (and original DCPA Theatre Company member) donnie l. betts.

  • 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.

     

     

  • After Albee: America's 10 leading, living playwriting voices

    by John Moore | Feb 26, 2017
    Tony Kushner. Steven Barclay Agency.
    Photo: Steven Barclay Agency.


    When Edward Albee died last year, USA Today and Time Magazine were just two major publications that referred to the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner as “America’s greatest living playwright.” Which begged the question: America now turns its lonely eyes to … whom?”

    That’s the wrong word, of course – “greatest.” Playwriting is not a competitive sport. Substitute the words “most important” or “most influential,” and you have the seeds for a subjective dialogue on those voices who now bear the opportunity – and the burden – to tell the stories that will help audiences make sense of these newly unstable and uncertain times.  Nataki Garrett Quote

    The DCPA NewsCenter posed the “After Albee” question to a swath of local and national playwrights and industry professionals, and it should surprise no one that they believe the leading, living voice in the American theatre today is Tony Kushner. Not  even close.

    But the Top 10 names the survey yielded is a welcome indication that “the status quo is shifting,” said Nataki Garrett, the DCPA’s incoming Associate Artistic Director. The list, which not long ago might have consisted of nearly all white men, is evenly divided between male and female playwrights - even at a time when studies suggest as few as 25 percent of the plays staged in America today are written by women.

    The Top 10 includes not only Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Paula Vogel, Sarah Ruhl and avant-garde off-Broadway pioneer María Irene Fornés, but they are all writers who have in their own ways abandoned old-school literalism in their storytelling.

    Read John Moore's 2005 interview with Edward Albee

    “This list lets us know we’ve entered the 21st century, but we still have much work to do,” Garrett said. “There is not a trans writer in the Top 10, and there are not enough people of color. There is a greater complexity of voices in the American theatre out there.”

    It is notable that while an equal number of male and female theatre professionals were invited to participate in this survey, more men than women actually responded. And yet, the Top 10 still yielded five women. The panel includes playwrights Robert Schenkkan, Caridad Svich and Jason Grote; American Theatre Magazine editor Rob Weinert-Kendt; Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg, and resigning Denver Center Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson.

    The response to Albee’s death last year seemed to acknowledge a storytelling void in his wake. "But I believe us to be in a Golden Age of American playwriting,” said Goldberg, who championed, among others, Annie Baker and the emerging, 32-year-old African-American Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon).

    How I learned to Drive. Curious TheatreThe Top 10 also acknowledged established names that have dominated the American playwriting landscape for the past five decades - a wide range of voices and tones that spans the bittersweet nostalgic comedy of Neil Simon to the gleeful cruelty of David Mamet, who inspired a generation of followers who have reveled in the worst in human behavior. On the other end of the spectrum is Vogel, best known for her deeply human examination of family incest in How I Learned to Drive, but whose legacy will include her influence as a playwriting professor who has unleashed the boundary-bending creative freedom in two generations of students.

    Read John Moore's 2011 interview with Tony Kushner

    Simon’s place on the list, while obvious and necessary, surprised even some of those whose votes put him there. “I went back and forth over a 24-hour period and was actually very surprised to land on Neil Simon at the top,” said Denver playwright Jeffrey Neuman (Exit Strategies.) “But when you look at the depth, scope and breadth of Simon's career, his plays have had enormous impact and an immeasurable reach. Simon's plays are a part of our cultural consciousness in a way that virtually no other American playwright can claim today.”

    Angels in America. Bas Bleu OpenstageMost of those who placed Kushner at the top of the list did so in acknowledgement of his epic, angry, six-hour masterpiece Angels in America. Written in two parts and now, shockingly, 25 years old, Angels in America “put gay men at the center of American politics, history and mythology at a time when they were marginalized by the culture at large and dying in waves,” wrote Isaac Butler and Dan Kois for slate.com.

    In a 2011 interview, Curious Theatre founder Chip Walton told me what Kushner does better than anyone else is make the personal the political, and the political the personal. “So rather than sitting in a theater and listening to an ideological argument, he tells this deeply human story that is intricately interwoven with the politics at play,” Walton said, referring to Kushner's Homebody/Kabul. Kushner has always embraced the role of the playwright in the political discourse. Even back in 2011, he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever read about a time in human history as dangerous as this.”

    In that interview, which preceded a public appearance in Colorado Springs, I asked Kushner to assess the importance of the playwright, and he looked to the inherent, ephemeral nature of theatre itself. “When a production is done, it’s gone forever,” he said. “You can take pictures of it. You can make a film of it. But it’s not the production. It’s not the same thing. And yes, you can describe it, and you can read hopefully good criticism about it. But the thing itself is gone, and the only thing that remains behind is the Bible. The play. It’s what begins and it’s what endures. It’s the only fixed thing – to the extent that it is fixed.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Stephanie Prugh, recently the dramaturg for the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Glass Menagerie, said Kushner belongs at the top of her list because of his ability to create beautiful and epic plays that capture how humans struggle with prejudice, fear, longing and an innate need for love and acceptance in such an intimate and personal way.

    Tony Kushner Quote“I think sometimes I walk into the theatre longing to be reminded of our collective humanness, especially during these tumultuous times," said Prugh. "Kushner's body of work is challenging us on the most important topics. He never avoids difficult conversations, and he's asking that we not only remember what we are capable of as individuals, but as a collective - defined by the humanness he actively puts on the stage.” 

    Curious Theatre announced last week it will stage Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures next year as part of its 20th anniversary season.

    Asked his own opinion on America’s leading playwriting voices, Kushner pointed to Suzan-Lori Parks, calling her Top Dog/Underdog “completely in the tradition of a play like Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night."

    While this survey specifically sought “writers of plays,” it should be noted that several voters believe lyricists Stephen Sondheim and Lin-Manuel Miranda deserve their places on the list - “by a factor of 10 billion,” said playwright Michael Mitnick (Ed, Downloaded).

    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 TOP 10 AT A GLANCE:

    Tony Kushner

    NUMBER 1Born: New York
    Age: 60
    Best-known work: Angels in America
    Published plays: 30
    He said it: “We’re living in an age right now where there is a problem in general with serious dramatic criticism, which I think is largely gone and has been replaced by a lot of consumer advocacy-type writing. It’s a problem because theater, given how cash-starved it is, is more vulnerable to the effects of newspaper criticism than something like film. Theater really gets damaged when there is a paucity of good criticism around.”
    Comment: "To me, the title of 'greatest living American playwright' should go to an artist whose work combines structural daring with rhetorical heft. His or her plays should be aesthetically thrilling and intellectually stimulating in equal degree, and they should also be possessed of something mysterious - some pulse of life that we can feel without quite being able to name. Tony Kushner's plays [and musical books] epitomize all those qualities. His work can be savored purely for its aesthetics, yet for anyone trying to think big thoughts about America, it's also an indispensable companion. Plus, one always gets the sense of something bigger lurking just outside his scripts, waiting for us to grasp it. It's exhilarating." – Mark Blankenship, Theatre Development Fund

     


    Sam ShepardSam Shepard

    NUMBER 2Born: Fort Sheridan, Ill.
    Age: 73
    Best-known work: Buried Child
    Published plays: 62
    He said it: “The funny thing about having all this so-called success is that behind it is a certain horrible emptiness.”
    Comment: "Shepard’s dramatic world often takes on the struggles of manhood and is peopled with derelict, disappointed somnambulists: Unmoored souls who form a kind of tribe of the living dead, deracinated men trying to escape a sense of shame that they only vaguely understand. They recede from family, from society, and, through drink, from themselves.” John Lahr, The New Yorker (from his essay here)


    lynn nottageLynn Nottage
    NUMBER 3Born: Brooklyn
    Age: 52
    Best-known work: Ruined
    Published plays: 22
    She said it: "I always thought of my mother as a warrior woman, and I became interested in pursuing stories of women who invent lives in order to survive."
    Comment: “For 30 years, Lynn Nottage has written quality plays from an African-American perspective that are socially important and appeal to wide audiences. I would say she is the successor to August Wilson in that regard.” - DCPA Director of New Play Development Douglas Langworthy. Playwright Michael Mitnick calls Nottage “the inheritor of Paula Vogel and John Guare.”


    Suzan-Lori ParksSuzan-Lori Parks
    NUMBER 4Born: Fort Knox, Ky.
    Age: 53
    Best-known work: Top Dog/Underdog
    Published plays: 19
    She said it: “I don't care what anybody says. Stick to the spirit of the play and you're doing it right. It's about embracing the spirit of the text instead of noodling some idea about things.
    Comment: “As with Caryl Churchill, one doesn’t know what to expect next from her. She can be playful, serious, and theatrical all at the same time. She is bold. She has a lot of plays left to write and she has remained loyal to the theater.” Playwright Rogelio Martinez.
    And another: "Parks brilliantly and unapologetically revises history, revealing the ways in which the personal truly is political. Her plays are delightfully irreverent, keenly subversive, radiant, hilarious, heartbreaking and ultimately very, very important." Emily K. Harrison, founder, square product theatre company


    Neil SimonNeil Simon
    NUMBER 5Born: The Bronx, N.Y.
    Age: 89
    Best-known work: The Odd Couple
    Published plays: 34
    He said it: “All comedy is based on hostility.”
    Comment: “Neil Simon. Yeah, I said it. (Bleep) everyone who disagrees. Comedy is an art, and he is the most popular artist of his generation and beyond because his comedy is foundational and spot-on. Humans love it. Not snobby-smart humans. Humans. That is my statement.” Denver actor Michael Bouchard



    Paual_VogelPaula Vogel
    NUMBER 6Born: Washington, D.C.
    Age: 65
    Best-known work: How I Learned to Drive
    Published plays: 15
    She said it: “The theatre is now so afraid to face its social demons that we've given that responsibility over to film. But it will always be harder to deal with certain issues in the theatre. The live event - being watched by people as we watch - makes it seem all the more dangerous.”
    Comment: “The woman is a lot like her plays: Fun to listen to, tough, relentlessly friendly, and more than a little bit twisted. Paula also holds something back, as her plays do so brilliantly. An unreadable smile, a demon or two, a voice that cracks from pain and then recovers; enigmas, left for her audience to explore or not.” – Actor Mary Louise Parker (in an interview here)


    Sarah RuhlSarah Ruhl
    NUMBER 7Born: Wilmette, Ill.
    Age: 42
    Best-known work: The Clean House
    Published plays: 19
    She said it: “Theatre is, at its roots, some very brave people mutually consenting to a make-believe world, with nothing but language to rest on.”
    Comment: "Sarah Ruhl she knows that childhood shapes world events with a vengeance, even among the powerful. More, she is a deeply literary writer, and what this gentle literary pilferer peruses, she uses. She reads Shakespeare and re-dreams his romances; she reads Woolf and time travels with Orlando. She makes a play from the letters of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. – Todd London, Executive Director of the University of Washington's School of Drama (from his essay here)


     

    MariaIreneFornesMaría Irene Fornés
    NUMBER 8Born: Cuba
    Age: 86
    Best-known work: And What of the Night?
    Published plays: 45
    You should know: Fornés is a Cuban-American avant-garde playwright and director who was a leading figure of the Off-Off Broadway movement in the 1960s. Fornés' themes focused on poverty and feminism, and lesbian identity has been central to her art.
    Comment: “María Irene Fornés is a rough contemporary to Albee who created a new kind of visceral and feminist language for the stage, writing drama as if she'd just landed from another planet and was handed a few random pages of Ibsen and Chekhov.” – playwright Jason Grote, ‘1001’


     

    David MametDavid Mamet
    NUMBER 9Born: Chicago
    Age: 69
    Best-known work: Glengarry Glen Ross
    Published plays: 104
    He said it: “Nobody cares what you feel.”
    Comment: “The master provocateur is infuriatingly brilliant, having spent the majority of his career honing a peculiar, cruel adeptness for showing men and women at their most amoral and violent. His world is a vulgar wasteland devoid of ethics and compassion, but there is an undeniably rhythmic intoxication to his dialogue.” – DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore



    David Lindsay-AbaireDavid Lindsey-Abaire

    NUMBER 10Born: Boston
    Age: 47
    Best-known work: Rabbit Hole
    Published plays: 18
    He said it: “Look, writing Rabbit Hole came out of an interest in diversifying my portfolio, frankly.”
    Comment: “Rabbit Hole is the most perfect play I know of by a living playwright. It strikes the utmost balance between pathos and progress as it examines the relationships of all those left behind after the child's death.” – playwright Leslie C. Lewis



    PRAISE FOR OTHER AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHTS:
    (in alphabetical order)

    Lee Blessing
    “Lee Blessing is, in my opinion, the best-kept secret in American theatre. He has written more plays than Shakespeare and is produced all over the country. His plays are always about something. He has said, ‘The purpose of theater is to shake you up, not give you a warm glow. That's the job of the circus.’ His plays make me think, let me grow and develop as a human being.” - Director Christy Montour-Larson

    Stephen Adly Guirgis
    “I feel strongly that any ‘great’ American playwright should know how to capture the complex and vibrant voices of a diverse America. I fear that many great playwrights get overlooked because they don't consistently write stories from a cultural point of view that is shared by the theatre-patron majority. With Guirgis, I feel there's a vibrancy and cultural complexity to his work that captures America. And as an actor, I love the visceral tensions that fill the souls and words of his characters." - Regan Linton, Artistic Director and Acting Executive Director, Phamaly Theatre Company

    Arthur Kopit
    "He’s had a long career and written some incredible plays. What makes him special is you just don’t know what he’ll write next. Wings, Indians and Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad, are all classics. The Road to Nirvana has not been seen by enough people, but it’s funny and vicious as all hell. People forget that a lot of his plays are a response to the times he was living in when he wrote them." - ‘Blind Date’ Playwright Rogelio Martinez

    Tarell Alvin McCraney
    "I put Tarell on my list because he's doing something so new and different. He is telling important and intriguing stories for the African-American communities as well as the LGBTQ world. But he is still so young. I think, if he continues to be so prolific, he will be the greatest." - Josh Hartwell, Dramatists Guild

    Terrence McNally
    "My vote is for longevity, continuity, diversity of subject matter, openly addressing homosexuality and the AIDS crisis, working in both straight-play and musical genres, and general intelligence, wit and social criticism. But I vote for McNally especially for Master Class." - DCPA Literary Associate Chad Henry

    Lin-Manuel Miranda
    "Lin-Manuel Miranda is reinventing the American theatre in an unprecedented way. 'Greatest playwright since Shakespeare' is a bit premature, but I hope it ends up being true." - Steve Wilson, Mizel Arts and Cultural Center Executive Director 

    Stephen Sondheim
    “Time will accurately lump him with Mozart and Shakespeare. (And yet, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.)" - Playwright Michael Mitnick

    And another: "Sondheim is, in fact, the greatest theatrical voice alive today." - Blind Date playwright Rogelio Martinez


    THE VOTING PANEL:

    • Mark Blankenship, Theatre Development Fund
    • Michael Bouchard, Denver actor and writer
    • Ben Dicke, Theatre Department Chair at The Chicago Academy for the Arts
    • Brian Freeland, New York writer and director
    • Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
    • Jason Grote, playwright
    • Emily K. Harrison, square product theatre company founder
    • Josh Hartwell, playwright, Dramatists Guild
    • Chad Henry, playwright, DCPA Literary Associate
    • Douglas Langworthy, DCPA Director of New Play Development
    • Leslie C. Lewis, playwright
    • Regan Linton, actor, Phamaly Theatre Company Artistic Director and Acting Executive Director
    • Ina Marlowe, director
    • Rogelio Martinez, playwright
    • Melissa Lucero McCarl, playwright
    • Timothy McCracken, actor, DCPA Education Head of acting
    • Charlie Miller, DCPA Associate Artistic Director for Strategy and Innovation
    • Michael Mitnick, playwright
    • Christy Montour-Larson, director
    • Jeffrey Neuman, playwright
    • Bev Newcomb, director
    • Stephanie Prugh, dramaturg
    • Robert Schenkkan, playwright
    • Howard Sherman, Director at Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School for Drama
    • Philip Sneed, Arvada Center Executive Director
    • Octavio Solis, playwright
    • Caridad Svich, playwright
    • Kent Thompson, DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director
    • Diep Tran, American Theatre Magazine
    • Allison Watrous, DCPA Director of Education
    • Rob Weinert-Kendt, Editor, American Theatre Magazine
    • Edith Weiss, actor, director, playwright
    • Rebecca Weitz, Managing Director, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Stephen Weitz, Producing Ensemble Director, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, playwright
    • Steve Wilson, Executive Director, Mizel Arts and Culture Center


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

  • Photos: 2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal

    by John Moore | Feb 14, 2017
    Colorado New Play Summit opening-day photo gallery:

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded simply free by clicking on them. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The DCPA Theatre Company today welcomed dozens of actors, playwrights, directors and crew for the first day of rehearsal for the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. The 12th annual festival will feature readings of new works by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Rogelio Martinez, Eric Pfeffinger, Robert Schenkkan and Lauren Yee.

    The Colorado New Play Summit presents readings of new plays over two weeks as the playwrights continue to craft their developing works alongside a full, professional creative team. Audiences also are offered the opportunity to see two fully staged world premiere productions that emerged from the previous year's Summit: The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson and Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist. In addition, the DCPA Theatre Company is presenting the regional premiere of Lucas Hnath's The Christians. Most of the Summit actors are also appearing in one of those three mainstage plays.

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit "I always feel blessed at this time of year when we get to tell new stories that provide windows on the world," said DCPA Artistic Director Kent Thompson. "Our audiences can see how these playwrights and these artists are responding to the world around them today."

    (Pictured right: Olivia Sullivent in rehearsal for 'Last Night and the Night Before.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Tuesday's launch was bittersweet given that the 2017 Summit will be Thompson's last. Thompson, who founded the Summit upon his arrival in Denver in 2006, has announced his resignation effective March 3. 

    "We have workshopped 50 plays at the Summit," Thompson said. "We have had 44 playwrights, including 20 female playwrights. We have had 27 world premieres that began at the Summit, and we have launched two major musicals (The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Sense and Sensibility the Musical)."

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Kent ThompsonThree years ago, Thompson (pictured at right) expanded the Summit by a week so that once playwrights get their work in front of an audience, they can take feedback and come back for another round of rehearsals and readings.

    "These two weeks are really about the playwright," Thompson said. 

    The five 2017 Summit readings will take audiences from an American suburb to Brooklyn to China to Nazi Germany to the first meeting between Reagan and Gorbechev.

    New DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said this is an important time in history for playwrights. "It's the playwright's responsibility to always have their ear not only to the present, but also to the future," she said. "What I am most most excited about the plays we are about to unpack at the Summit is that these playwrights have one foot in the present and one foot in the future. We will get to the other side."

    Here is a look at each featured Summit play, with an introduction from each of the playwrights:

    Last Night and the Night Before
    By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Donetta GraysWhen Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble, and her husband is nowhere to be seen. The family’s deep Southern roots have a long reach, and they grab hold of Rachel’s life stronger than she could have ever imagined.

    Says Grays: "It's fitting that today is Valentine's Day because I think this play is squarely about the power and dynamic of love. There are questions around motherhood, what defines motherhood, what defines being a woman, what makes a family, and what loss is as well."

    Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
    Dramaturgy by Lauren Whitehead
    Sam: Olivia Sullivent
    Monique: Brynn Tucker
    Reggie: Cajardo Lindsay
    Rachel: Jasmine Hughes
    Nadima: Valeka Holt
    Stage Directions: Tresha Farris   

    Blind Date
    By Rogelio Martinez

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Rogelio MartinezThis play centers on odd-couple Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's first meeting in Geneva in an attempt to  open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Though members of their cabinets try to keep them on track, the leaders steer the conversation to pop culture and films. While the men chip away at the mistrust between their countries, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev play out a passive-aggressive tango that mirrors their husbands’ negotiations. This play is the conclusion to Martinez’s Cold War trilogy. Martinez previously wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere of When Tang Met Laika.

    Says Martinez: "At some point in their lives, both of these men took a huge pivot. They they were from completely different philosophies and had different ideas. But for a small moment in time they became idealists and they believed in something that no one else believed in. Ultimately the play is about trust: Can one person trust the other across the negotiating table?

    Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
    Dramaturgy by Douglas Langworthy
    George Shultz: Liam Craig                                                                                   
    Eduard Shevardnadze: Steve Brady
    Mikhail Gorbachev: Triney Sandavol
    Ronald Reagan: Victor Slezak
    Edmund Morris: Kurt Rhoads
    Raisa Gorbachev: Kathleen McCall
    Nancy Reagan: Nance Williamson
    Peter, Politburo Member, Dimitri Zarechnak: Rodney Lizcano
    Stage Directions: Mehry Eslaminia                            

    Human Error
    By Eric Pfeffinger

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Eric PfeffingerMadelyn 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 a nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely friendships.

    Says Pfeffinger: "One couple's fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted in a stranger so, obviously, it's a comedy: One of those classic 'switched embryo' farces. What ensues is the two couples trying to come to understand a kind of people they have never had any interest in knowing before."

    Directed by Jane Page
    Dramaturgy by Amy Jensen
    Madelyn: Caitlin Wise
    Keenan: Robert Manning Jr.
    Jim: John DiAntonio
    Heather: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Dr. Hoskins: Wesley Mann
    Stage Directions: Drew Horwitz               

    Hanussen

    By Robert Schenkkan

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Robert SchenkkanIn 1930s Berlin, the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolph Hitler. While his star seems to be on the rise, the consequences of his next major prediction (and his own true identity) may break his spell. Based on true events. Schenkkan is a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (All the Way, The 12).

    Says Schenkkan: "The Weimar Republic seems like a good place to be visiting right now. It is said that Hanussen helped coach Hitler to improve his public speaking. That he cast Hitler's horoscope. And that he may or may not have had some part in the Black Flag Operation known as The Reichstag fire. Hanussen was Jewish. This is a play about denial and avoidance and individual responsibility."

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

    Manford From Half Court, or The Great Leap
    By Lauren Yee

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Lauren YeeWhen an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game in the post-Cultural Revolution 1980s, both countries try to tease out the politics behind this newly popular sport. Cultures clash as the Chinese coach tries to pick up moves from the Americans and a Chinese-American player named Manford spies on his opponents.

    Says Yee: "What you need to know about The Great Leap is that my father is 6-foot-1. He grew up in San Francisco Chinatown, and before he had kids, the only thing he was good at was basketball. He was never going to the NBA, but he was good enough that even today in San Francisco, people stop us on the street and say, 'I used to play you in basketball.' And as they walk away, my dad is always like, 'Yeah ... and I kicked his ass.' In the 1980s, my father and his Chinese-American teammates went to China to play a series of exhibition games throughout the country. And he got completely demolished in almost every single game. Apparently in Beijing, they played against all these 7-foot-6, 300-pound gods - and remember, my dad was 6-foot-1. And he was the tallest guy on his team. 'We did not even know when they had the ball,' he said."

    Directed by Josh Brody
    Dramaturgy by Kristen Leahey
    Manford: Kevin Lin
    Saul: Brian Keane
    Wen Chang: Francis Jue
    Connie: Jo Mei
    Stage Directions: Samantha Long

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Nataki Garrett named DCPA Associate Artistic Director

    by John Moore | Nov 10, 2016
    Nataki Garrett Quote


    Nataki Garrett has been named the new Associate Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company, it was announced this morning. 

    Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson called Garrett "an exceptional theatre artist with a proven dedication to fostering new and diverse voices in the American theatre."

    Garrett, who was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Oakland, Calif. is the Associate Artistic Director of CalArts Center for New Performance, as well as Associate Dean and Co-Head of Undergraduate Acting for CalArts School of Theater. She is a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, where she recently directed the critically acclaimed production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon.

    Kent Thompson Quote“Nataki is undoubtedly a rising star, both as a director and industry leader," Thompson said. She is brilliant, innovative and passionate and we are thrilled that she has chosen to make Denver her artistic home.”

    Garrett was highlighted in the November issue of American Theatre’s “Role Call: People To Watch.” In that feature, she was quoted as saying she’s attracted to “plays that seem impossible to stage, and to those which impact us in tremendous ways, chasing us out of our comfort zones. My mandate in the theatre is to give voice to the voiceless, and I am inspired by stories that expose the dark and discarded in the corners of our existence.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Garrett received a NAACP Theatre Award nomination in 2008 for Best Director for Black Women State of the Union: An Evening of Plays by Black Women. She serves as co-Artistic Director of Blank-the-Dog Productions, a Los Angeles and New York-based ensemble theater company that is dedicated to developing and fostering new work by emerging, adventurous and experimental artists.

    Garrett will begin in her new role at the DCPA in January 2017.

    (Photo above right: Kent Thompson announces hiring of Nataki Garrett as Associate Artistic Director to DCPA staff.)
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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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