• Backyard border dispute: How does your garden grumble?

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018

    Your first video look at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'Native Gardens." Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

     

    Good fences make for good neighbors in new comedy about couples who draw a property line in the sand


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    These days, sure, we can choose our own families. But unless you live in a commune, you don’t really get to pick your own neighbors. And America’s great, ongoing ideological divide could not be expressed more definitively — or apparently, more comically — than in a play about a property line dispute between neighbors.

    KAREN ZACARIAS. Photo by John MooreThat’s the thorn in the rose of Karen Zacarías’ popular comedy Native Gardens. On one side of the fence, we have a pregnant Latinx couple who are new to town. On the other we have empty-nesters who think “Latinx” must surely be a misspelled word. (It's not.) Trouble blooms when the younger couple discovers their property line actually extends right over their next- door-Boomers’ pristine flowerbed.

    “It’s a deceptively simple play,” Chicago-based Director Lisa Portes said. “At first you might think you are watching this charming and disarming little play about neighbors and gardens. But the minute there is a dispute over 2 feet of land — all hell breaks loose.”

    Zacarías, a native of Mexico who penned previous DCPA Theatre Company stagings of Mariela in the Desert and Just Like Us, got the idea for her play at a dinner party where the guests all traded horror stories about their neighbors. Everyone, it seems, has one.

    “All of these stories, I found, were both upsetting and funny,” Zacarías said. “And what I discovered in listening to them is that we seem to have this primal attachment to land that is both poetic and absurd at the same time. And then I realized that almost every single fight that’s going on anywhere in the world can be distilled down to one of these two things: border disputes and cultural differences.”

    mariana-fernndez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_oWhat comes out on stage, Portes said, is an accessible comedy that explores weedy issues we don’t dare talk about in our own living rooms but maybe we can laugh at in the communal anonymity of a theatre.

    At a time when the nation is polarized by talk of borders and walls, Zacarías found a way to use gardening as what she calls “a really fun metaphor to talk about really much harder issues like class and race and ageism .”

    (Pictured above and right: Mariana Fernandez and John Ahlin in 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Even the title asks a prickly little question, Portes said: “What is native? Who is native? What does that word even mean? It’s not as black and white as we think.”

    The inaugural staging of Native Gardens accomplished something quite rare when the play was praised by a local reviewer both for having “a finger pressed to the pulse of the American mood” and for “its ability to make you forget the current political and social climate.” At the same time.

    That’s probably because Native Gardens, Zacarías said, puts no one on the defensive. “It’s sneaky that way,” she said. “I wrote all four main characters from a place of love. There’s a simplicity to the set-up, and that’s on purpose. It allows the play to sow some seeds and grow some deeper roots. And the audience is willing to go there together because really nobody comes up smelling like a rose.”

    LISA PORTES QUOTE. Photo by John Moore. Native Gardens premiered in 2016, before the ascendency of Donald Trump. But while debate over immigration has raged for as long as America, there is no question it now tops a list of issues Zacarías says “are bubbling to the surface in a vicious manner.”

    Zacarías experienced something similar in 2014, when she adapted Denver journalist Helen Thorpe’s book Just Like Us for its Denver Center world premiere. That true story followed four Denver Latinas through high school, and told how their struggles and opportunities diverged based on their citizenship status.

    “I was hoping Just Like Us would become less relevant over time, but unfortunately it’s only become more relevant,” Zacarías said, referring to the ongoing battle over the immigration policy known as DACA. And with the rise of Trump, she said, the same has proven true of Native Gardens. Only this play is much funnier.

    Zacarías and Portes were among the so-called “DC-8” who started a national movement called The Latinx Theatre Commons in 2012 to amplify the visibility of Latinx theatre in the United States. Since then, Portes has directed the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Breach, a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in Chicago, as well as an all-Latinx version of The Glass Menagerie for Cal Shakes in northern California.

    Read more: Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    Zacarías, now the most produced Latinx playwright in America, last month launched a high-profile production for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival called Destiny of Desire, a subversive homage to telenovelas, which she calls “one of the most exploitative forms of entertainment in the world.”

    Native Gardens has already had several productions around the country, but the Denver Center’s will be the first to be staged in the round configuration,” which Portes said “almost makes this like a world premiere because that will create an entirely different actor-audience relationship. The audience will be its own kind of community circling this other community of actors, and we’re all sitting together in this real garden with real plants and flowers.”

    Zacarías said the Denver Center staging also will be a first because it will introduce small, first-time improvements to the script. “I do think this will be a whole different take on the play,” she said.

    “Native Gardens is a story that asks what it takes to be a good neighbor. It is about four specific, flawed people — but it’s not really about them. It’s about us. And how all of us can be better neighbors.”

    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


    Native Gardens: Production photos

    Native Gardens Photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing 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 Virgina 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 play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    Native Gardens Opening Night. Photo by John Moore. Cast and creatives on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season: In with the old ... and the new

    by John Moore | Apr 01, 2018
    Chris Coleman offers a play-by-play look at the 2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season, his first as the company's new Artistic Director. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Coleman's 40th anniversary season includes two world premieres, Tolstoy and an African-American Oklahoma!

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Incoming DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman has announced a 40th anniversary season he believes both honors the company’s past and boldly steps into the future — and in some intriguing examples, at the same time.

    Coleman will return to the company’s roots by presenting its third Rodgers and Hammerstein musical following previous stagings of Carousel and South Pacific. But Coleman is promising a fresh new look at Oklahoma! by telling the beloved story of a spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys from a mostly African-American perspective. Similarly, Coleman will offer adaptations of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife, stories of women overcoming great societal barriers that may strike audiences as remarkably contemporary.

    A Last Night 800 1“It’s incredibly exciting to imagine what you want your first season at an organization to be,” said Coleman, who assumes his full-time Denver duties in May. "This company has long been known as a place where you can do really big, interesting, meaty, dramatic literature. One of the things that's exciting to me is to do something really traditional and then follow that with something that is brand new and edgy. That collision of styles and voices is really juicy to me.”

    Pictured above: Valerie Curtis-Newton, left, will return to again direct 2017 Colorado New Play Summit offering 'Last Night and the Night Before' on the mainstage season. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Coleman covers the traditional-to-edgy gamut with the announcement of both an eight-play Theatre Company season that includes three classics and two world premieres, as well as an innovative five-play slate from the company's adventurous Off-Center wing.  

    nataki-garrettWhen Coleman was named Artistic Director in November, he promised programming that will further the DCPA’s efforts to diversify its audiences, champion local storytelling and give voice to underserved communities. All five of the other mainstage directors he named today are women — and three of the playwrights are women or persons of color. Four if you count Off-Center's commission of a planned immersive hip-hop piece from This is Modern Art co-writer Idris Goodwin.
      

    The mainstage season includes two world-premiere plays: Donnetta Lavinia GraysLast Night and the Night Before, which was featured at the company’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, and Itamar MosesThe Whistleblower. With the exception of A Christmas Carol, which returns for a 26th year, every playwright and source writer (even Tolstoy) will be new to Theatre Company audiences except Nottage, whose Ruined was one of the most celebrated productions in company history In 2011.

    The Off-Center offerings, said Curator Charlie Miller, will complement the Theatre Company season and tell exciting stories in unconventional ways. “From original micro plays to new theatrical experiments to a large-scale immersive hip-hop show, Off-Center will take audiences into unexpected Denver spaces and showcase local artists, stories, and communities,” he said.

    Take a deeper dive into each play on the 2018-19 season

    The Theatre Company debuted on New Year’s Eve 1979 with The Caucasian Chalk Circle, starring Tyne Daly. Coleman says there is special significance to this being the 40th anniversary season because the company is old enough to have built an significant canon but also young enough to still have staff, artists and audience members who have been here all along — a lot of them.

    "As we step into the next chapter of the Theatre Company’s history, it's inspiring and energizing to look back on the extraordinary body of work that this company has brought to the region over the last 40 seasons," Coleman said. "What's really vivid to me is how many people have been around from Day 1. There are so many people who are really invested in the history and the future of this organization. So, to me, that's worth celebrating. And I view that as a launching pad for me.

    These playwrights and directors are the cream of the crop, and I look forward to the conversations these works will open up with the Denver community."

    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.

    Meet new Theatre Company Artistc Director Chris Coleman


    Chris Coleman 2018-19 season announcement


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

    • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) DEEPER DIVE
    • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) DEEPER DIVE

    DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions: New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, 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. BUY ONLINE

    2018-19 Off-Center season at a glance:

    • July 11-Aug. 22: Mixed Taste: Tag team lectures on unrelated topics (Wednesdays only, with MCA Denver, Seawell Ballroom)
    • Oct. 23-Nov. 18: Bite-Size: An evening of micro theatre (at BookBar)
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24: The SantaLand Diaries (with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company at The Jones)
    • March 2019: Powered by Off-Center (The Jones)
    • Dates TBA: Untitled Immersive Hip-Hop Show

    Off-Center ticket information: 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.


    2018-19 THEATRE COMPANY SEASON: Title by title

    (Descriptions provided by DCPA Theatre Company)

    Vietgone

    • Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2016 VietgoneBy Qui Nguyen
    • Original music by Shane Rettig
    • Directed by Seema Sueko
    • Aug. 24-Sept. 30, 2018 (Opens Aug. 31)
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • Glance: This rap-spitting, pop culture-crusted dramedy is an ode to the real-life courtship of Playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents. Forced to leave their country during the height of the Vietnam War, two refugees find themselves at the same relocation camp in Arkansas – the land of Harleys, hot dogs and “howdy!” Before they find their way into each other’s arms, they’ll have to blaze a trail in their weird new world and leave behind the baggage they didn’t pack. Jump on this emotional ride for an adventure that hums with excitement as it hops across time and around the globe through the highs and lows of love.
    • Fun fact: Qui Nguyen is the self-described geeky playwright behind She Kills Monsters, which addressed stereotypes and social issues through the game “Dungeons and Dragons.”
    • Take a deeper dive into Vietgone

    (Pictured: Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2016 production of 'Vietgone,' courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival.)

    Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

    • Oklahoma!Music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
    • Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
    • Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
    • Directed by Chris Coleman
    • Sept. 7-Oct. 14, 2018 (Opens Sept. 14)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: With a spring in their step and a song in their hearts, cowboys, farmers and travelling salesmen alike have chased their destinies to a land that promises everything they could hope for: love, opportunity and a brighter future. The first collaboration by the legendary team of Rodgers and Hammerstein became a landmark musical for its rollicking music and stunning dance numbers, and this joyful presentation will solidify why it has stood the test of time. New DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman makes his DCPA directorial debut with this production, and he will set the story in one of the 50 all-African-American towns in the early days of the Oklahoma Territory. Discover an overlooked piece of American history as one small community stakes its claim on a place full of hope. The choreographer will be Dominique Kelley, a dancer in the film La La Land and the musical Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.
    • Fun fact: Oklahoma! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre 75 years ago Saturday, and the cast of the Denver-born Frozen marked the anniversary with a curtain-call singalong that you can watch at this YouTube link.
    • Take a deeper dive into Oklahoma!

    The Constant Wife

    • The Constant WifeBy W. Somerset Maugham
    • Directed by Shelley Butler
    • Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2018 (Opens Sept. 28)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: As the intelligent, charming housewife of a successful doctor, Constance Middleton cheerfully plays her traditional role. But she knows far more than she’s willing to let on. This cheeky satire pokes holes in the expectations of relationships, fidelity and social roles that were just as relevant in the 1920s as they are today. Featuring an infectiously plucky heroine at the helm, The Constant Wife takes joy in the imperfections of life and applauds those who elude the strict confines of society to discover true happiness. DCPA alum Shelley Butler (Human Error, The Most Deserving) returns to direct this contagious comedy.Fun fact: Variety calls Maugham’s protagonist “a perverse protofeminist — and an antecedent to the women of “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City.”
    • Take a deeper dive into The Constant Wife

    A Christmas Carol

    • Sam Gregory A Christmas Carol. By Charles Dickens
    • Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    • Music by David de Berry
    • Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    • Nov. 21-Dec. 24, 2018 (Opens Nov. 29)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, the Theatre Company’s joyous and opulent seasonal offering now in its 26th year 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. Note: This is an added attraction, not part of the Theatre Company subscription season.
    • Fun fact: Denver favorite Sam Gregory is scheduled to return for a third time as Scrooge.
    • Take a deeper dive into A Christmas Carol

    Last Night and the Night Before (world premiere)

    • Summit. Last Night. Donnetta By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    • Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens January 25)
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • Glance: When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it shakes up Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble and brings their family’s Southern roots with her, grabbing hold of Rachel’s life more ferociously than she could have ever imagined. Poetic, powerful and remarkably funny, Last Night and the Night Before play explores the struggle between the responsibilities that are expected of us and the choices we actually end up making.
    • Fun fact: This play was featured in the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Its original title was simply, Sam. The new title references a line from the children’s game "Last night and the night before, I met my baby at the candy store."
    • Take a deeper dive into Last Night and the Night Before


    Anna Karenina

    • TC-web-Season-Ann-400x3003By Kevin McKeon, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
    • Directed by Artistic Director Chris Coleman
    • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Feb. 1)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: Love holds the power to bind us together or tear us apart, and no one knows better than Countess Anna Karenina. As a noblewoman and socialite, her glamorous lifestyle shrouds her unhappy marriage. But everything changes when she meets the dashing army officer Count Vronsky. She risks her social status, marriage, friends and family for the thrill of forbidden love. Anna Karenina uses the romantic backdrop of Tsarist Russia to tell a turbulent tale of passion and betrayal, dreams chased and lost, and the consequences of getting swept off your feet. Helmed by Artistic Director Chris Coleman, this lush, modern adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece brings the opulent setting and heart-wrenching story to life.
    • Fun fact: The play was made into a 2012 movie adapted by Tom Stoppard and featuring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.
    • Take a deeper dive into Anna Karenina


    The Whistleblower (world premiere)

    • itamarmoses whistleblowerBy Itamar Moses (pictured right)
    • Directed by TBA
    • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019 (Opens Feb. 15)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: For screenwriter Eli, an offer to finally create his own TV show should be the ultimate culmination of his goals, but instead shocks him into wondering why he had those dreams in the first place. Armed with a new sense of spiritual clarity, he sets out on a quest to serve up some hard truths to his coworkers, family, exes and friends. What could possibly go wrong? A lively world premiere about the lies we tell to protect ourselves  and how the tiniest gestures can have deep impact on those around us. Written by Itamar Moses, the award-winning author of the musical The Band’s Visit, currently on Broadway.
    • Fun facts: The Whistleblower was first introduced as a staged reading at South Coast Repertory’s 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, Calif. — alongside Vietgone. Also, Moses was an Executive Story Editor for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
    • Take a deeper dive into The Whistleblower

    Sweat

    • TC-web-Season-Ann-400x3004By Lynn Nottage
    • Directed by Nataki Garrett
    • April 26-May 26, 2019 (Opens May 3)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: For the people of poverty-stricken Reading, Pa., work is so much more than a paycheck – it’s the glue that holds the town together. The floor of their central factory is where lifelong friendships are made, where love blossoms and where family members work side-by-side. But as layoffs become the new norm and a cheaper workforce threatens the viability of the local union, the threads that once kept the community together begin to fray. Sweat is an “extraordinarily moving drama,” said The New York Times, that powerfully contrasts life’s happiest highs with the heart-wrenching struggles of survival. Using warm humor and deep empathy, this 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner from Lynn Nottage (Ruined) paints a moving portrait of today’s working-class America in decline.
    • Fun fact: Nottage developed her play through interviews with actual former steelworkers in Reading.
    • Take a deeper dive into Sweat

    2018-19 OFF-CENTER SEASON: Title by title

    Mixed Taste: Tag team lectures on unrelated topics

    • Mixed Taste Aug 9Co-presentation with MCA Denver
    • July 11-Aug. 22, 2018 (Wednesdays only)
    • Seawell Ballroom
    • Glance: Returning for a second summer series, even mismatched subjects find common ground in this fun lecture forum that can go pretty much anywhere. Two speakers get 20 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.
    • Fun fact: One clever example from last year’s series: “Wild West mail delivery and post-conceptual art.” Last year’s series emcee Suzi Q. Smith wrote a poem during each performance and read them at the end of every evening.
     

    Bite-Size: An evening of micro theatre

    • 2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS Gary Grundie Meridith C. GrundeiCreated and directed by Meridith Crosley Grundei
    • Oct. 23-Nov. 18, 2018
    • At BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St.
    • Glance:
    • Bite-Size brings you five short plays with bookish twists performed in and around BookBar, an independent bookstore and wine bar in the Tennyson Street Arts District. Grab tapas and drinks between the short performances of original works by Colorado-based artists. There is no better way to see a variety of local playwrights and performers in one place. Whether you’re a theatre geek, a bookworm or on the hunt for an off-beat night out, this evening will leave you eager to crack into a fresh hard-cover and dream up some tales of your own.
    • Fun fact: Director Meridith Grundei, a 2017 True West Award winner, packed up a used R.V. and hit the road with her husband and daughter in 2017 to travel the United States and Mexico for a year.


    The SantaLand Diaries

    • A Santaland Diaries Michael BouchardCo-presentation with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • By David Sedaris, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
    • Directed by Stephen Weitz
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018 (Opens Nov. 25)
    • The Jones Theatre
    • Glance: This acclaimed one-man show is based on David Sedaris’ best-selling memoir about his curmudgeonly experience working as a Macy’s SantaLand elf, once again featuring Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge as David, and his devilish Macy’s persona, Crumpet the Elf. Think holiday shopping is brutal? Try being on the receiving end of Macy’s SantaLand madness in a pair of pointy shoes. This twisted tale is the cure for the common Christmas show and the perfect excuse to take a break from it all.
    • Fun fact: 2018-19 will mark the 10th anniversary of BETC’s annual holiday staging, the last seven in partnership with Off-Center. That will equal The Bug Theatre’s run of 10 seasonal The SantaLand Diaries starring Gary Culig.

    Powered by Off-Center

    • March 2019
    • The Jones Theatre
    • Glance: Discover your next favorite Colorado performer as they debut new work at the Denver Center. Off-Center is offering the spotlight to local creators of all kinds as they get their projects off the ground with the support of our team. We’re giving our local artistic community a new place to play and a platform to experiment, engage and excite us all. Performance dates and participating artists to be announced.

    Untitled Immersive Hip-Hop Show

    • Idris Goodwin 160Written by Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Jenny Koons
    • Glance: Following the hit experiential shows Sweet & Lucky and The Wild Party, Off-Center is cooking up its next large-scale immersive adventure. Off-Center has commissioned playwright Idris Goodwin and New York-based director Jenny Koons (Burn All Night at American Repertory Theatre) to create a one-of-a-kind new hip-hop-inspired event. Title, location, dates, and details to be announced.
    • Fun fact: Goodwin is the director and co-writer of This is Modern Art, currently playing through April 15 in The Jones Theatre.

    Note: Due to the nature of live performance, all productions, prices and dates are subject to change.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Photos, cast list: 'Native Gardens' draws line in the soil

    by John Moore | Mar 12, 2018
    Making of 'Native Gardens'Above: Our full photo gallery from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens,' starting with last week's first rehearsal. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter


    Karen Zacarías' popular comedy takes a lighter approach to the concept of a border war — with your next-door neighbor

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    "Who here has a neighbor?" Director Lisa Portes asked the cast, creatives, ambassadors and staff gathered for a festive first day of rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming production of Native Gardens. And when she further queried, "Who here has had a dispute with a neighbor?" and, "How many of those disputes have had to do with land or noise?" — not many of the many raised hands fell.   

    Karen Zacarías' celebrated play is the story of a young Latino couple that moves into a fixer-upper next to an older couple with a beautifully kept garden. All goes well until the aristocratic young Chileans discover their property line actually extends about 2 feet over their neighbors' existing flowerbed.

    "We all hope we get along with our neighbors," Portes said. But where there is a property line, there tends to be a line in the sand.

    Native Gardens is a comedy, "but it's a sneaky comedy," Portes added, "because suddenly there is this border dispute, and within that there is all kinds of conflict  — generational, ethnic, gender and class. And eventually these two couples really have to contend with one another."

    Portes, who primarily tackles new plays and musicals, serves on the board of Theatre Communications Group, heads the MFA directing program at DePaul University and has directed at dozens of theatres around the country. Her cast includes Broadway veterans Jordan Baker (The Normal Heart) and John Ahlin (Journey’s End), as well as Mariana Fernández, who two years ago starred the DCPA Theatre Company's FADE.

    'Native Gardens' has its first performance April 6 in the Space Theatre. Here are five fun facts we learned at first rehearsal:

    Lisa Portes quote
    Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    NUMBER 1

    The world goes round. Although Zacarías' play has been produced around the country since 2016, Portes is calling this the play's "world premiere production in the round." The Space is a five-sided theatre with the stage in the middle. In every previous staging, the audience has watched the story in a traditional theatre setting with an invisible fourth wall separating them from the actors on the stage. "That means the audience is examining this dispute from a safe distance," Portes said. "But in this production, the stage floor is the actual garden, and the fence separating the two houses runs right through the middle of the stage. And so depending on where your seat is, you will be sitting on one side of the fence or the other. That means you are a part of this dispute. And we're interested to see how that physical relationship you have with one side or the other plays out in your terms of your allegiances."  

    NUMBER 2RAQUEL BARRETO Expect the unexpected. If Costume Designer Raquel Barreto has one wish for how the audience feels when they walk into the Space Theatre, she said, "It's they don't encounter a preconceived set of characters" when the play begins. Meaning they should not be so easily pegged based on their appearance — or your presupposition. "This is a play that is as much about about cultural and ethnic perceptions as it is about generational differences, and so I would love it if people's expectations of having a Latino or a foolish older American neighbor are not met," she said. "We have a chance to present the audience with characters who are funny but at the same time have some layers to them. I may strongly disagree with my neighbor's politics and still love the scarf that she is wearing." 

    NUMBER 3 Is that a typo? Questions about the recent rise of the term “Latinx” (pronounced “Latin X”) have come up on a regular basis all season, and they came up again on the first day of rehearsal. They even come up in  Zacarías' script. It's not a term the older white couple in the story have ever heard of — and they are not alone. So, a refresher: Latinx has become widely embraced among scholars, community leaders and journalists as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina.  According to The Huffington Post, Latinx is part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.

    Just Like Us makes the political personal ... and entertaining

    NUMBER 4Speaking of ... Zacarías, who also wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's Just Like Us in 2014, and Portes were among the “DC-8” who started a national movement called The Latinx Theatre Commons in 2012 to amplify the visibility of Latinx theatre in the United States. Since then, Portes has directed the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Breach, a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in Chicago, as well as an all-Latinx version of The Glass Menagerie for Cal Shakes in northern California.  Zacarias last month launched a high-profile staging for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival called Destiny of Desire, a subversive homage to telenovelas, which she calls “one of the most exported forms of entertainment in the world.”

    NUMBER 5Small world. Next door to the Space Theatre, Off-Center is preparing to stage  This is Modern Art in The Jones Theatre. That story explores an  incident when a graffiti crew created a massive tag on the outside of the Art Institute of Chicago’s new, multimillion-dollar Modern Wing. The world-premiere of the play was staged at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2015, and it went down as among the most controversial stagings of the past decade. And it debuted under the direction of none other than .... Lisa Portes. "Idris is a wildly imaginative thinker,” Portes said of co-writer (and Off-Center director) Idris Goodwin. " He knows the necessity of traditional structure well, and he also pushes against it in order to get to something else. “This is Modern Art follows a pretty traditional structure, but its content is quite subversive.” READ MORE

    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.

    Native Gardens: Cast and creatives
    • Written by Karen Zacarías 
    • Directed by Lisa Portes
    • Scenic Designer: Lisa M. Orzolek
    • Costume Designer: Raquel Barreto
    • Lighting Designer: Charles R. MacLeod
    • Sound Designer: Rick Sims
    • Dramaturg: Douglas Langworthy
    • Stage manager: Heidi Echtenkamp
    • Kailey Buttrick: Assistant Stage Manager  

    Cast:

    • John Ahlin (Broadway’s Tony-Award winning revival of Journey’s End) as Frank Butley
    • Jordan Baker (Broadway’s Suddenly, Last Summer, The Normal Heart) as Virginia Butley
    • Mariana Fernández (DCPA’s FADE) as Tania Del Valle
    • Ryan Garbayo (Red Bull Theater’s The Government Inspector Off-Broadway) as Pablo Del Valle.
    • Anthony V. Haro (University of Northern Colorado Opera’s La Cenerentola), Ensemble
    • Brandon Lopez (Lucent Performing Arts’ American Idiot), Ensemble
    • Gustavo Marquez (Colorado Shakespeare Education’s Comedy of Errors), Ensemble
    • Gia Valverde (Su Teatro’s Enrique’s Journey), Ensemble
    Native Gardens: Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing 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 Virgina 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 play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.
    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances April 6-May 6
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' 'Detroit '67' to Denver Center

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

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

    By Jeannene Bragg
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Detroit '67: Ticket information

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

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

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

    This is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

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



  • 2017 True West Award: Colorado Theatre Person of the Year Regan Linton

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Award Regan Linton

     

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Regan Linton

    Colorado Theatre Person of the Year


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    We’ll never know whether Phamaly Theatre Company would have survived 2017 had Regan Linton not been here. She was here. And one of the nation's signature theatre companies is still here. And that's why Linton is the True West Awards' 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year.

    For 28 years, one of Denver’s crown jewels has produced professional plays and musicals exclusively for actors with disabilities. But at this time a year ago, it was in catastrophic financial trouble.

    Regan Linton True West Award Quote Photo by John MooreLinton, a former core company member who went on to become a shining national example of what begets opportunity, had just been named Phamaly’s interim Artistic and Executive Director to fill a short-term leadership vacuum.

    Linton’s appointment was a cause for celebration. Not only had the Denver East High School graduate helped elevate Phamaly’s game as an actor with wrenching performances in musicals such as Side Show and Man of La Mancha, she came home with serious cred. In 2012, she became the first paralyzed student ever to be enrolled into one of the nation's top master’s conservatory programs when she was accepted at the University of California San Diego. And in 2015, Linton became the first actor in a wheelchair ever to be hired into the venerable Oregon Shakespeare Festival's year-round repertory company since it was founded in 1935.

    Today, Linton is a highly respected actor, educator and prominent voice for disability inclusion in the national theatre community. And when she accepted the one-year Phamaly assignment last year at age 34, Linton became the first person in a wheelchair ever to lead a major U.S. theatre company as Artistic Director, according to Theatre Communications Group.

    Then came the sticker shock.

    “I immediately became aware that the company was not in as healthy a financial position as I had thought,” Linton said. Phamaly's annual operating budget had more than doubled over the previous seven years, to $850,000. But revenue had not grown proportionally. Just two months into the job, Linton realized Phamaly was facing an immediate $100,000 shortfall.

    (Story continues after the photo gallery below.)

    Photo gallery: A look back at Regan Linton's year (and years) with Phamaly:

    Regan Linton: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year
    Photos from Regan Linton's first year as interim Artistic and Executive Director of Phamaly Theatre Company, followed by additional photos from years past. To see more images, just click on the image above to be taken to the full gallery. Photos by or compiled by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Linton attacked the problem swiftly, first by shaving the upcoming budget. She scrapped expensive plans to stage Peter Pan with wheelchairs flying over the DCPA’s Stage Theatre. A Shakespeare collaboration with a New York company was put off. And then, on March 28, Linton took a deep breath and released an uncommonly forthright public statement bluntly telling supporters that without an urgent cash infusion, Phamaly would be bankrupt by July 1. And that was just to make it to the summer. “We were really more like $250,000 in the hole,” she said.

    The most important thing to Linton was being open and honest about the situation. “If we were going to go down, then we were going to do it having been completely transparent with every one of our supporters,” she said.

    But, it turns out, It’s a Wonderful Life ain’t just a holiday movie.

    Phamaly’s “Sunny Tomorrow” campaign didn’t just raise $100,000. It raised $108,000, thanks to more than 325 individual donors. And that still takes Linton's breath away. “I feel like that wasn't just people saying, 'We love this theater company.’ It’s deeper than that. I feel like they were saying, ‘People with disabilities are valuable.’ And as a person who lives with a disability, that's really, powerfully meaningful to me.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Just a few weeks after the campaign ended, Phamaly netted an additional, record-obliterating $60,000 from its annual gala — up from $35,000 the year before. And then Annie, which Linton chose to present instead of Peter Pan, drew 6,700 to the Stage Theatre. That’s nearly 20 percent more than the previous Phamaly attendance record.

    Janice Sinden Regan Linton QuoteAll three of those things had to happen, Linton said, for Phamaly to fully climb out of the hole it was in. And all three did.

    But Phamaly didn’t get the backing it needed on sentiment alone. It got it because it was Linton who went out and asked for it, Denver Center President and CEO Janice Sinden said.

    “Regan is a determined, passionate woman who leads with her heart, but always with an outcome in mind,” Sinden said. “She was uniquely situated to lead this campaign because of who she is and what she means to the community. She leveraged smart relationships to drive this turnaround.”

    Boy, did she. The first call Linton made was to Sinden’s predecessor, Daniel L. Ritchie, a longtime Phamaly supporter who cut Linton a $10,000 check just 20 minutes after sitting down with her. The Harvey Family Foundation then agreed to match up to $35,000 in new donations, a goal that was reached in just 17 days.

    But Linton’s greatest fundraising achievement of 2017 came at the end of the year, after Sinden facilitated a visit with William Dean Singleton, retired chairman of The Denver Post and newly named Chairman of the Bonfils Foundation. They hit it off, Sinden said, because the two share a powerful commonality as former able-bodied persons now living with mobility challenges.

    Life changes in the ordinary instant

    Regan Linton HospitalLinton was a 20-year-old undergrad at the University of Southern California when her spine was wrecked in a fraction of an instant on a rainy Santa Monica Freeway. Linton was in the back seat of a car that was stopped for a vehicle that had been abandoned in the fast lane of the highway. The car behind Linton, filled with five sorority sisters, hit her at full speed.

    Linton no longer feels sensation below her chest. And yet, whenever she prepares to go on stage, she playfully says, “I can still feel butterflies.”

    Singleton is a newspaper magnate and cattle rancher who founded MediaNews Group, the fourth-largest newspaper company in the U.S. by circulation, with The Denver Post as its eventual flagship. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, which has slowly robbed him of his mobility, and today he gets around in a motorized chair.

    (Story continues after the video.)

    Video bonus: Regan Linton wins 2017 Spirit of Craig Award:

    The video above was played at the annual PUSH Gala for Craig Hospital in April with the announcement of Phamaly Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Regan Linton as its 2017 Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award winner. Video provided by Craig Hospital. To watch Linton’s acceptance speech, click here

    “They hit it off when they met,” Sinden said, "and Dean immediately saw an opportunity to help.”

    On Oct. 11, Singleton presented Linton with the Fourth Annual Dean Singleton Legacy Grant, a $50,000 gift made through the Denver Post Community Foundation. “It was very emotional for both of them,” Sinden said.

    A Regan Linton and Dean Singleton“I couldn’t be more proud of our grant recipient this year, for what Phamaly does to inspire people to re-envision disability through professional theatre,” said Singleton. “Phamaly provides such a benefit to the metro-Denver community.”

    Linton called the grant “an incredible honor for Phamaly.”

    In just six months, Linton implemented a campaign that moved Phamaly from the financial brink to something akin to stability. And that, said former Phamaly assistant stage manager Max Peterson, is an astonishing accomplishment.

    “I had both the pleasure and the anxiety of watching Regan and (Director of Production and Operations) Paul Behrhorst walk through that whole mess,” Peterson said. “It was inspiring to see their determination and persistence to bring that company all the way back. The blood, sweat and tears were real — and the stakes could not have been higher.”

    Meanwhile, back on the stage

    A Regan Linton Theatre Person of the Year Ytue West Awards Photo by John MooreLest we forget: While this was going on, Linton also had a company to run, both as Artistic and Executive Director.

    In February, Phamaly presented George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion at the Aurora Fox, followed by the record-breaking run of Annie at the Denver Center and, last month, Phamaly’s annual original sketch comedy called Vox Phamilia at Community College of Aurora.

    (Pictured at right: Regan Linton backstage with the cast of 'Annie' on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Linton pushed herself to her physical and mental limits in 2017, in part because she also chose to direct Annie on the largest stage in Phamaly history. Linton began to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all as preparations for Annie approached. “The stress of even thinking of Phamaly going away was emotionally taxing for me,” she said. "It all finally caught up to me. I was a mess.”

    One of Linton’s smartest moves of the year was calling on former longtime Phamaly Artistic Director Steve Wilson to co-direct Annie with her. “Wilson knows to his bones what directing disabled actors entails: The difficulties many face, the need to work without sentimentality or condescension, and to treat his actors as the artists they are,” wrote Westword’s Juliet Wittman, who called the resulting production “Ready, willing … and very able.”  

    MacGregor Arney and Regan Linton Curious Incident Mixed Blood Photo by Rich Ryan Linton kept her own acting skills sharp in 2017 by performing in two major productions for the Mixed Blood Theatre Company in Minneapolis. In February, she played the governor of California in a site-specific immigration play called Safe at Home that was set and performed at a local baseball stadium. And just last month, she returned in one of the first regional stagings of the big-buzz play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Star-Tribune theatre critic Chris Hewitt said Linton was excellent as an autistic boy’s calm, compassionate teacher.

    (Pictured at right: MacGregor Arney and Regan Linton in 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' for the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. Photo by Rich Ryan.)

    As Linton reflects back on her year now, she won’t say she saved Phamaly Theatre Company. But Behrhorst will.

    “I say it because it is true,” Behrhorst said. “Of course Regan didn't do it single-handedly. But from the start, she gave the community, the actors, the board and the staff something to believe in. Regan didn't back away from the problem. She gave us new life."

    Sinden sides with Behrhorst.

    John Moore’s 2005 Denver Post feature on Regan Linton

    “Regan came home and she brought both thought leaders and community leaders to the table who invested in the future of this organization," Sinden said. "Regan put Phamaly on a trajectory for long-term success. And only she could have done that.”

    All of which is only part of the reason Linton has been named the 17th annual Colorado Theatre Person of the Year. She not only saved a theatre company. She not only preserved future performance opportunities for persons with disabilities that do not exist elsewhere. She saved something that is part of the city's soul.

    Regan Linton. Craig Hospital PUSH Gala Photo by John Moore“There's a lot of great theater that happens in Denver,” Linton said. “However, one-fifth of the population of the United States identifies as having a disability. So if you don't have that identity prominently represented in your local theater, then you are missing out on a whole subset of what it means to be human. And that's what I think people would have missed out on if Phamaly had gone away. They would've missed out on this unique experience that opens your eyes to something you just don’t see anywhere else.”

    Linton’s 2017 odyssey has changed her career itinerary in ways that are not yet clear, even to her. Her initial one-year appointment is now entering its 15th month. She says she is very close to hiring the company’s next Executive Director. So what does that mean for Linton, who officially lives in Montana now, while maintaining a second artistic home in Minneapolis?

    “It means I will be around for the near future, at least,” she said. “I feel committed to Phamaly, and I want to see Phamaly succeed. To me, that means following through with my commitment to make sure the company is in a good place if and when I move away. And I don't think that work is done yet.”

    Asked to assess where she is at as 2018 begins, compared to the start of the year, Linton laughs. “Well, I'm not nearly as much of a mess as I was,” she said. “But most of all, I will say I am proud to be part of Phamaly living on, and I'm proud to be part of leading Phamaly into its next chapter.”

    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 

    Regan Linton: 2017
    •  Artistic and Executive Director for Phamaly Theatre Company
    •  Winner, 2017 Spirit of Craig Award READ MORE
    •  Played the Governor of California in Mixed Blood Theatre's Safe at Home in Minneapolis
    •  Co-Directed Phamaly's mainstage production of Annie at the DCPA's Stage Theatre
    •  Played Siobhan in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nght-Time for Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis


    The True West Awards' Theatre Person of the Year / A look back

    • 2016: Billie McBride: Actor and director
    • 2015: Donald R. Seawell: Denver Center for the Performing Arts founder
    • 2014: Steve Wilson: Phamaly Theatre Company and Mizel Center for Arts and Culture
    • 2013: Shelly Bordas: Actor, teacher, director and cancer warrior
    • 2012: Stephen Weitz: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company co-founder
    • 2011: Maurice LaMee: Creede Repertory Theatre artistic director
    • 2010: Anthony Garcia: Su Teatro artistic director
    • 2009: Kathleen M. Brady: DCPA Theatre Company actor
    • 2008: Wendy Ishii: Bas Bleu Theatre co-founder
    • 2007: Ed Baierlein: Germinal Stage-Denver founder
    • 2006: Bonnie Metzgar: Curious Theatre associate artistic director
    • 2005: Chip Walton, Curious Theatre founder
    • 2004: Michael R. Duran: Actor, set designer, director and playwright
    • 2003: Nagle Jackson, DCPA Theatre Company director and playwright
    • 2002: Chris Tabb: Actor and director

    Phamaly Theatre Company: Coming in 2018
    • April 14-22: Romeo & Juliet, at the Dairy Arts Center
    • July 12-Aug. 5: Into the Woods, at the DCPA's Space Theatre
    • Oct. 18-Nov. 11: Harvey, at the The Olin Hotel Apartment, in partnership with Senior Housing Options
    Information: 303-575-0005 or phamaly.org

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    Photos: Phamaly Theatre Company's amazing opening-night tradition
    The triumph of Phamaly's not-so-horrible Hannigan
    Pop-culture Annie, from comics to Broadway to Jay-Z
    Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

    About The True West Awards: '30 Days, 30 Bouquets'

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • Henry Awards spreads love from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins

    by John Moore | Jul 17, 2017
    29 Outstanding Season



    Openstage, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, TheatreWorks and The Book of Will leave indelible marks

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Colorado Theatre Guild’s 2017 Henry Awards was a night of open arms and poignant remembrance, culminating with OpenStage Theatre and Company winning the Guild’s highest honor for the first time, for Outstanding Season. The 44-year-old Fort Collins tradition also swept both outstanding actor and actress awards: Sydney Parks Smith for August: Osage County and Steven P. Sickles for Le Bête,

    Henry Awards by YearUntil 2013, theatre companies outside the metro area were not eligible for Henry Awards, but on Monday night at the PACE Center in Parker, the Henrys rolled out the welcome mat for statewide companies.

    Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ The Game of Love and Chance was named Outstanding Play. That was the final play directed by company founder Murray Ross, who died in January. Drew Martorella, Executive Director of UCCS Presents, dedicated the award to Ross' considerable legacy.

    The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, in its final year before merging with Colorado College, tied with the DCPA Theatre Company for most wins for the evening with five, all for The Man of La Mancha. The DCPA won Outstanding New Play and four other awards for its world premiere of The Book of Will. DCPA CEO Janice Sinden announced to the crowd that the play, written by Lauren Gunderson about the creation of Shakespeare's First Folio, already has four major stagings scheduled around the country. "Lauren Gunderson will be the first female playwright with an original play on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Stage in its 83-year history," Sinden said to raucous cheers.

    Thunder River Theatre Company of Carbondale won the first two Henrys in its history, both for four-time 2017 nominee Sean Jeffries. Carbondale is a mountain hamlet of 5,200 residents located between Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Jeffries won for both sound (The Tempest) and scenic (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) awards among Tier II companies.

    Just in: Check out all of our photos from the awards

    The Lone Tree Arts Center, which won its first Henry Award just last year, broke through with three wins on Monday for its production of Evita. The show, which re-cast the guerilla Che as more of a tormenting artist, was the surprise winner of the Outstanding Musical award. Even the Backstage Breckenridge Theatre got in on the act with its irreverent Toxic Avenger musical winning both the Outstanding Actress (Colby Dunn) and Supporting Actress (Megan Van De Hey) awards.

    Perhaps the emotional highlight of the evening was Tad Baierlein presenting the Life Achievement Award to his parents, Germinal Stage co-founders Ed Bairelein and Sallie Diamond Baierlein.

     

    2017 Henry Award nominations make way for the new

    While the annual Henry Awards often turn into landslides, 2017 will go down as the most widely spread in the 12-year history of the awards. The 25 competitive awards were distributed among 10 member companies.

    That still left a number of the metro area's most prestigious companies on the sidelines this year, including Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Buntport Theater, Phamaly Theatre Company and the Town Hall Arts Center.

    The Catamounts, which earned nine nominations for its punk musical take on Beowulf, won none. The Aurora Fox, despite five nominations for a Porgy and Bess that in performance Monday brought the capacity crowd to its screaming feet, also went away empty-handed. Last year the Henry Awards' darlings were Theatre Aspen and Vintage Theatre, winners of 12 awards. This year? None.

    Despite 16 nominations, the Arvada Center, a perennial Henrys favorite, won only one award - and it was perhaps the most surprising of the night. Matt LaFontaine, who took on the role of Judas in the Arvada Center's Jesus Christ Superstar just days before opening, was named Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical. A grateful and humble LaFontaine dedicated the award to actor Napoleon Kaufman, who was originally cast as Judas but had to drop out due to illness, and Daniel Langhoff, who is continuing to battle cancer.

    "I shouldn’t be up here," LaFontaine told the crowd. 

    Curious Theatre Company, second only to the DCPA and Arvada Center in total Henry Awards received since 2006, pulled out of consideration last July after the company was shut out of the Henry Awards for the second straight year. Managing Director Katie Maltais cited what she called the judges' “limited knowledge of the theatre craft, especially with regard to technical design,” as well as the lack of diversity among last year’s winners. That complaint only stands to grow louder after last night, which produced only three apparent winners of color.

    Given the political climate, the evening was  remarkably civil in tone. Hosts Steven J.  Burge and GerRee Hinshaw teased the crowd at the top of the show to expect no holds barred political commentary throughout the evening, but it was all a ruse for keeping things light. The only variance came when Stephen Day accepted the Henry Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. Day, who plays the delusionally hopeful knight Cervantes in The Man of LaMancha, said, "I want to thank the current administration in Washington for giving me my subtext every night."  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Henry Awards honor outstanding achievements by member companies, and the event serves as the Colorado Theatre Guild’s annual fundraiser. The awards are named for longtime local theatre producer Henry Lowenstein. Nominations are determined through a judging process conducted by more than 45 theatre journalists, blogger critics and adjudicators from the community.

    The Henry Awards split the four design categories into two tiers determined by member companies' annual overall operating budgets. Only six companies have annual budgets above the $1.2 million threshold and therefore are considered Tier I: The DCPA, Arvada Center, Creede Repertory Theatre, Theatre Aspen, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and Colorado Springs TheatreWorks. The rest all compete in Tier II.

    The Guild made great strides in expanding the eligible pool this year to a record 190 productions. But it also reduced the number of judges required to make each show eligible from six to five, which likely accounts for some of the pronounced clustering of nominations around certain shows.

    It was announced at the show that Gloria Shanstrom, who has served the Colorado Theatre Guild for more than 20 years and has administered the Henry Awards since their inception, is retiring at the end of the month. Monday's ceremony, which has been directed for the past 11 years by Jim Hunt, were led this year by Jonathan D. Allsup.

    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.



    2017 Henry Awards video:


    Video by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    2016-17 HENRY AWARDS

    Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company

    • OpenStage Theatre and Company, Fort Collins

    Also nominated:

    • Arvada Center
    • OpenStage Theatre and Company
    • Colorado Springs TheatreWorks
    • DCPA Theatre Company
    • Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
    • Thunder River Theatre Company


    Outstanding Production of a Play

    16 GameLoveChanceGame of Love and Chance
    TheatreWorks
    Murray Ross, Director

    Also nominated:

    • "August: Osage County," OpenStage Theatre & Company, Dulcie Willis, Director
    • "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company, Davis McCallum, Director
    • "Constellations," TheatreWorks, Joye Cook-Levy, Director
    • "Don’t Dress for Dinner," OpenStage Theatre & Company, Wendy S. Moore, Director"
    • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Thunder River Theatre Company, Corey Simpson, Director
    • "Tartuffe," Arvada Center, Lynne Collins, Director


    Outstanding Musical

    28 EVITA BM at the Lone Tree Arts Center credit Danny LamEvita

    Lone Tree Arts Center
    Gina Rattan, Director; Max Mamon, Musical Director

    Also nominated:

    • "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts, Meridith C. Grundei, Director; Gary Grundei, Musical Direction                         
    • "Man of La Mancha," Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company, Scott RC Levy, Director; Sharon Skidgel, Musical Direction
    • "Monty Python’s Spamalot," PACE Center & Inspire Creative, Kelly McAllister, Director; Tanner Kelly, Musical Direction                                
    • "Motones vs. Jerseys," Midtown Arts Center, Kenny Moten, Director; Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Musical Direction
    • “Muscle Shoals: I'll Take You There," Lone Tree Arts Center, Randal Myler, Director; Dan Wheetman, Musical Direction
    • "Porgy and Bess," Aurora Fox Arts Center, donnie l. betts, Director; Jodel Charles, Musical Direction


    Outstanding New Play

    10 New Play or Musical DCPA Theatre Company The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson Directed by Davis McCallum The Book of Will

    DCPA Theatre Company
    Written by Lauren Gunderson
    Directed by Davis McCallum

    Also nominated:

    • “The Firestorm,” by Meridith Friedman
    • "Full Code," by David Valdes Greenwood
    • "The History Room," by Charlie Thurston           
    • "I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Music and Lyrics by David Nehls, Book by Kenn McLaughlin
    • "Lost Creatures," by Melissa Lucero McCarl
    • “Muscle Shoals: I'll Take You There,” by Randal Myler

    Direction of a Play
    23 Direction - Dulcie  Willis - August Osage CountyDulcie Willis
    August: Osage County

    OpenStage Theatre & Company

    Also nominated:

    • Lynne Collins, "The Drowning Girls," Arvada Center
    • Joye Cook-Levy, "Constellations," TheatreWorks
    • Davis McCallum, "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Matt Radcliffe, "The Elephant Man," Springs Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Murray Ross, "The Game of Love and Chance," TheatreWorks
    • Corey Simpson, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Thunder River Theatre Company

    Direction of a Musical
    27 Direction - Man of La ManchaScott RC Levy
    Man of La Mancha

    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • donnie l. betts, "Porgy and Bess," Aurora Fox Arts Center
    • Meridith C. Grundei, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts
    • Kelly McAllister, "Monty Python’s Spamalot," PACE Center & Inspire Creative
    • Randal Myler, “Muscle Shoals: I'll Take You There," Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Gina Rattan, "Evita," Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Nick Sugar, “First Date,” Lake Dillon Theatre Company

    Outstanding Musical Direction
    25 Musical Direction EVITA at the Lone Tree Arts Center credit Danny LamMax Mamon
    Evita

    Lone Tree Arts Center

    Also nominated:

    • Neal Dunfee, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” BDT Stage
    • Gary Grundei, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts
    • Sharon Skidgel, "Man of La Mancha," Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company
    • Jason Tyler Vaughn, “Murder Ballad,” The Edge Theater Company
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb, "Motones vs. Jerseys," Midtown Arts Center
    • Dan Wheetman, “Muscle Shoals: I'll Take You There," Lone Tree Arts Center


    Outstanding Actress in a Musical
    20 Toxic Avenger Colby DunnColby Dunn
    The Toxic Avenger

    Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Also nominated:

    • Jacquie Jo Billings, "Little Shop of Horrors," Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Sarah Groeke, "Cabaret," Lake Dillon Theatre Company
    • Cecilia Iole, "The Little Mermaid," Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
    • Marissa Rudd, "Sister Act," Midtown Arts Center
    • Tracy Warren, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” BDT Stage
    • Danielle Hermon Wood, "Monty Python’s Spamalot," PACE Center and Inspire Creative




    Outstanding Actor in a Musical

    21 Actor - Man of La ManchaStephen Day
    Man of La Mancha

    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company 

    Also nominated:

    • Leonard E. Barrett Jr. , "Porgy and Bess," Aurora Fox Arts Center
    • Joshua Blanchard, "Cabaret," Lake Dillon Theatre Company
    • Miles Jacoby, "Evita," Lone Tree Arts Center
    • August Stoten, "Monty Python’s Spamalot," PACE Center and Inspire Creative
    • Colin Summers, "Million Dollar Quartet," Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
    • Joe Von Bokern, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts

    Outstanding Actress in a Play
    14 Actress - Sydney Parks Smith - August Osage CountySydney Parks Smith
    August: Osage County

    OpenStage Theatre & Company

    Also nominated:   

    • LuAnn Buckstein, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Carley Cornelius, "Constellations," TheatreWorks
    • Denise Burson Freestone, "August: Osage County," OpenStage Theatre & Company      
    • Kathleen McCall, "The Glass Menagerie," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Emma Messenger, "Misery," The Edge Theater Company
    • Caitlin Wise, "The Game of Love and Chance," TheatreWorks

    Outstanding Actor in a Play
    15 Actor - Steven P. Sickles - La BeteSteven P. Sickles
    Le Bête

    OpenStage Theatre & Company

    Also nominated:

    • William Hahn, "Burn This," The Edge Theater Company 
    • Kevin Hart, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Sammie Joe Kinnett, "The Game of Love and Chance," TheatreWorks
    • Micah Speirs, "The Elephant Man," Springs Ensemble Theatre Company               
    • Dan Tschirhart, "The Flick," OpenStage Theatre & Company        
    • Adam Verner, "Don’t Dress for Dinner," OpenStage Theatre & Company                                                                                                         


    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

    03 Supporting Actress in a Play Miriam A. LaubeMiriam A. Laube
    The Book of Will

    DCPA Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • Miriam A. Laube, "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Carolyn Lohr, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Breckenridge Backstage Theatre              
    • Leslie O’Carroll, "Silent Sky," Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Amelia Pedlow, "The Glass Menagerie," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Christina Sajous, "Disgraced," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Linda Suttle, "A Time to Kill," Vintage Theatre Productions
    • Edith Weiss, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Breckenridge Backstage Theatre



    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play

    04 Supporting Actor in a Play Triney SandovalTriney Sandoval
    The Book of Will

    DCPA Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • Nathan Cox, “The Tempest,” Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Rodney Lizcano, "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Wesley Mann, "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Owen O’Farrell, “The Tempest,” Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Hunter Ringsmith, "Equivocaton," Colorado Shakespeare Festival            
    • Corey Simpson, “The Tempest,” Thunder River Theatre Company



    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

    07 Toxic Avenger MEGAN VAN DE HEYMegan Van De Hay
    The Toxic Avenger

    Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Also nominated:

    • Jenna Bainbridge, "Jesus Christ Superstar," Arvada Center
    • Joan Bruemmer-Holden, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts
    • Charlotte Campbell, “A Christmas Story,” Midtown Arts Center
    • Anna High, “Porgy and Bess,” Aurora Fox Arts Center
    • Rebecca Hoodwin, "Cabaret," Lake Dillon Theatre Company
    • Carol Rose, "The Little Mermaid," Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre


    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

    08 Supporting Actor in a Musical - Matt LaFontaine - Jesus Christ Superstar - Arvada CenterMatt LaFontaine
    Jesus Christ Superstar

    Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

    Also nominated:

    • Brandon Bill, "Monty Python’s Spamalot," PACE Center and Inspire Creative
    • Ben Hilzer, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts
    • John Jankow, "A Christmas Story," Midtown Arts Center
    • Bob Moore, "Cabaret," Lake Dillon Theatre Company
    • Nicholas Park, “First Date,” Lake Dillon Theatre Company
    • Kyle Ashe Wilkinson, "Titanic," Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre



    09 EnsembleOutstanding Ensemble Performance

    The Book of Will

    DCPA Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • "August: Osage County," OpenStage Theatre & Company
    • "The Drowning Girls," Arvada Center, Lynne Collins, Director
    • "The Game of Love and Chance," TheatreWorks
    • "Motones vs. Jerseys," Midtown Arts Center
    • “Muscle Shoals: I'll Take You There," Lone Tree Arts Center
    • "Porgy and Bess," Aurora Fox Arts Center



    Outstanding Choreography

    24 josephMatthew D. Peters
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

    BDT Stage

    Also nominated:

    • Mary Ripper Baker, "Man of La Mancha," Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company
    • Joan Bruemmer-Holden & Amanda Berg Wilson, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts
    • Jeff Duke and Stephanie Hansen, "The Little Mermaid," Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
    • Kelly Kates, “The Robber Bridegroom,” Town Hall Arts Center
    • Michael Lasris, "A Christmas Story," Midtown Arts Center
    • Kate Vallee, "42nd Street," Candlelight Dinner Playhouse  


    DESIGN AWARDS

    Outstanding Sound Design Tier 1
    01 Sound Design - Man of La ManchaBenjamin Heston
    Man of La Mancha

    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • Jason Ducat, “Constellations,” TheatreWorks
    • Jason Ducat, "The Drowning Girls," Arvada Center
    • Morgan McCauley, "Tartuffe," Arvada Center
    • Stowe Nelson, "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company
    • David Thomas, "Jesus Christ Superstar," Arvada Center
    • Zach Williamson, “The Secret Garden, “ DCPA Theatre Company

    Outstanding Sound Design Tier 2
    02 Sound-Tier2-Tempest-TRTCSean Jeffries
    The Tempest

    Thunder River Theatre Company 

    Also nominated:

    • Travis Duncan and Jeremiah Walter, "The Elephant Man," Springs Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Carlos Flores, "Misery," The Edge Theater Company
    • Allen Noftall, “Evita," Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Allen Noftall, “Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You Theatre," Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Jon Northridge, "Million Dollar Quartet," Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
    • Tom Quinn and Kenny Storms, "Murder Ballad," The Edge Theater Company

    Outstanding Lighting Design Tier 1
    05 LightingDesign-Man of La ManchaHolly Anne Rawls
    Man of La Mancha

    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • Charles R. MacLeod, "The Glass Menagerie," DCPA Theatre Company  
    • Shannon McKinney, "Jesus Christ Superstar," Arvada Center
    • Jon Olson, “The Drowning Girls,” Arvada Center
    • Paul Toben, "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Brian Tovar, "Frankenstein," DCPA Theatre Company   
    • Mike Wood, “Constellations,” TheatreWorks


    Outstanding Lighting Design Tier 2

    06 Lighting Evita Danny LamJen Kiser
    Evita

    Lone Tree Arts Center

    Also nominated 

  • Seth Alison, "Monty Python’s Spamalot," PACE Center & Inspire Creative
  • Brandon Ingold, "August: Osage County," OpenStage Theatre & Company
  • Sean Jeffries, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Thunder River Theatre Company
  • Sean Jeffries, “The Last Romance,” Thunder River Theatre Company
  • Sean Mallary, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts
  • Brett Maughan, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," BDT Stage

  •  

    Outstanding Costume Design Tier 1
    12 Camille_AssafCamille Assaf
    The Book of Will

    DCPA Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • Stephanie Bradley, "Game of Love and Chance," TheatreWorks
    • Janson J. Fangio, "Enchanted April," Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company
    • Sydney Gallas, "Man of La Mancha," Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company
    • Clare Henkel, "Jesus Christ Superstar," Arvada Center
    • Clare Henkel, "Tartuffe," Arvada Center
    • Lex Liang, “Shrek,” Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company



    Outstanding Costume Design Tier 2

    13 Little Mermaid- RMRTJesus Perez
    The Little Mermaid

    Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre

    Also nominated:

    • Kari Armstrong, "The Snow Queen," Bas Bleu Theatre Company
    • Buntport Theater, "The Crud," Buntport Theater
    • Pamela Clifton, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Breckenridge Backstage Theatre         
    • Judith Ernst, "The Wizard of Oz," Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
    • Tricia Music, "Monty Python’s Spamalot," PACE Center & Inspire Creative
    • Annabel Reader, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," The Catamounts


    Outstanding Scenic Design Tier 1

    18 Scenic Design - Man of La ManchaChristopher L. Sheley
    Man of La Mancha

    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • Lisa Orzolek, "Disgraced," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Brian Mallgrave, "The Drowning Girls," Arvada Center
    • Brian Mallgrave, "Jesus Christ Superstar," Arvada Center
    • Sandra Goldmark, "The Book of Will," DCPA Theatre Company
    • Paul Black, "Mamma Mia," Theatre Aspen
    • Jason Sherwood, "Frankenstein," DCPA Theatre Company


    Outstanding Scenic Design Tier 2

    19 Scenic-Tier2-Jekyll-and-Hyde-TRTCSean Jeffries
    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    Thunder River Theatre Company

    Also nominated:

    • Shaun Albrechtson, "Steel Magnolias," PACE Center & Inspire Creative
    • James Brookman, “August: Osage County,” OpenStage Theatre & Company
    • M. Curtis Grittner, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    • Sean Jeffries, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Sean Jeffries, “The Last Romance,” Thunder River Theatre Company
    • Lori Rosedahl, "The Flick," OpenStage Theatre & Company
    • Kyle Scoggins, "Little Shop of Horrors," Miners Alley Playhouse


    SPECIAL AWARDS:

    Specials collage


    LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THEATRE
    Ed Baierlein and Sallie Diamond Baierlein, Germinal Stage Denver

    EXCELLENCE IN SPECIAL MAKEUP EFFECTS
    Todd Debreceni

    OUTSTANDING IMPROVISATIONAL THEATRE
    ScriptProv

    OUTSTANDING THEATRE BENEFACTORS
    Les Crispelle
    Glenn Tiedt

  • Colorado Shakes comes to bury Caesar ... not Trump

    by John Moore | Jul 06, 2017

    Colorado Shakespeare Festival Anthony Powell


    Colorado Shakespeare Festival opens a Julius Caesar that director Anthony Powell hopes will speak for itself

    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    When Julius Caesar is assassinated in Shakespeare’s famous play of the same name, it sends shock waves through the audience. But when a Caesar who uncannily resembled President Donald Trump was assassinated in a recent New York production of the play, it sent shock waves through the entire country.

    Julius Caesar has been a hot topic since the Public Theatre played up similarities between the title character and Donald Trump. The murder of a Caesar who was played by a white actor wearing a business suit and a long, red tie, struck some as too close to home. Sponsors Delta and Bank of America pulled their support of the production. After word of the controversy quickly spread, pro-Trump protesters stormed the stage and halted a performance, to the derision of the crowd.

    Robert SicularDelta said the production did not reflect its values and that the "artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste." Bank of America felt the production "intended to provoke or offend."

    The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund was quick to condemn Delta and Bank of America for their decision.

    “Good taste is a matter of opinion, and an ‘intention to provoke’ may be an integral part of a play's mission,” President John Weidman and Executive Director Ralph Sevush said in a combined statement. “Delta doesn't appear to have had a problem with the ‘values’ or ‘taste’ of such depictions before.”

    In 2012, The Guthrie Theater’s production portrayed Caesar as then-President Obama. Delta sponsored that production in Minneapolis, but did not pull its support.

    Now, amid the still-swirling discourse about the rights and responsibilities of both artists and sponsors, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is set to open its own take on Julius Caesar on Saturday at the Mary Rippon outdoor amphitheatre in Boulder. And the company is already receiving calls from curious patrons wanting to know just how political this staging might be.

    All over the country, from New York to Oklahoma to Oregon, theaters are staging Julius Caesar this year, the New York Times opined, “as a way to chew over politics, power, democracy and authoritarianism at a moment when a populist leader with a fondness for executive power has moved into the White House.”

    Actress explores Hamlet's feminine side for Colorado Shakes

    Shakespeare’s play has always been about far more than the death of Julius Caesar, who is killed in the middle of the play — bloodily — by Brutus and his band of co-conspirators. In this familiar world, Caesar is an increasingly powerful leader who is killed in the name of saving the republic. But be careful what you wish for, Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt told the Times, noting the chaos and bloodshed the assassination unleashes. “The very thing that you think you’re doing to protect the republic can lead to the end of the republic,” Greenblatt said.

    The Public’s Oskar Eustis, one of the most influential directors in the American theatre, said he decided immediately after the election that his title character would be a provocative stand-in for President Trump. “When we hold the mirror up to nature,” Eustis said in his opening-night speech, “often what we reveal are disturbing, upsetting, provoking things. That’s our job.”

    Public Theatre Julius CaesarIn his program notes, Eustis added, “Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means.”

    Shana Cooper, who is directing Julius Caesar for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this summer, believes that although there is an assassination scene in Julius Caesar, the play is not encouraging the death of the president or anyone else.

    “Julius Caesar in no way condones assassination,” Cooper wrote in a letter to audiences. “In fact, it is actually a story about the relentless cycle of violence that is set in motion by that singular act. It is a story about a group of citizens who allow their civic love to be contorted by the conclusion that the only way to oppose a world of tyranny is with the world’s weapons. And that choice to continue the cycle of violence costs them everything: family, friends, and the very republic they sought to protect.”

    (Pictured above right: The Public Theatre's staging of a Trump-like 'Julius Caesar.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

    Why Julius Caesar speaks to politics today. With or without Trump.

    The Public Theatre received threats because of the controversy. The New York Classical Theatre, Shakespeare and Company, and Shakespeare Theatre Company have as well - even though none of them are producing Julius Caesar this year.

    Colorado Shakespeare Festival Director Anthony Powell hopes the controversy ends up being much ado about nothing in Boulder. He says his production will be staged as written, set in Shakespeare's time.

    “It is super radical that we are setting it in Ancient Rome,” Powell joked. “It seems like that was the right decision.”

    Powell has been a longtime director for the DCPA Theatre Company (most recently Lord of the Flies and All the Way), but Julius Caesar is his first production with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He said the New York controversy is in no way impacting what he is doing in Boulder. In fact, “I wish people would stop talking about it,” he said, though he expects the subject to be a popular topic in post-show talkbacks.

    (Story continues below the photo.)



    Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Robert Sicular, who is playing Julius Caesar in Powell's production, said the controversy has not even come up for discussion in rehearsals.

    “We are just doing the show and trying to make it work, tell the story, have the characters believable and speak the language well,” Sicular said. “This is probably my 85th to 90th Shakespeare play, and I have found that the more outlandish the concept, the less accessible the production.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Sicular is well-known to DCPA Theatre Company audiences, having performed in 11 plays since 1994, most recently Heartbreak House, The Liar and The Taming of the Shrew.

    “I understand how theatre can be used for political aims,” Sicular said. “But I think it is actually more powerful when the play can speak for itself.”

    Powell said Shakespeare can be presented  in any form as long as the creative team and actors do their part.

    “I don’t think Shakespeare needs to be done in tights or togas,” Powell said. “But it makes a strong statement about how timeless Shakespeare’s themes are. You can set it in Rome; you can set it on the moon. It doesn’t matter. As long as we do our job right, the audience will make their own connections between then and now.”


    Julius Caesar: Ticket information

    • Performance July 8 through Aug. 12
    • Performance dates and times vary
    • Mary Rippon Outdoor Amphitheatre
    • Tickets $20-$70
    • Call 303-492-8008 or go to cupresents.org


    About the author
    Avery-Anderson Avery Anderson is interning with the DCPA NewsCenter for the summer. He is the General Manager and producer of Met TV at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He was won two Heartland Student Emmy Awards for his work on The Met Report. He has a passion for local arts and culture and enjoys covering theatres across the Denver area and the state. Follow him on Twitter and @a_anderson64.

  • 2017 Summit goes global while hitting close to home

    by John Moore | Feb 27, 2017

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

    Colorado New Play Summit goes global
    with stories that hit close to home

    The 2017 Colorado New Play Summit went global in its storytelling while also serving as an intimate and heartfelt celebration of departing founder Kent Thompson.

    Thompson resigned as Producing Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company effective March 3, leaving a legacy that includes starting the Summit in 2006 and the Women's Voices Fund, a $1.4 million endowment that supports new plays by women and female creative team members.

    Summit. Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore“Kent Thompson is such a champion of new plays. He is such a champion of new and different voices,” said Lauren Yee, author of the featured Summit play Manford at the Line, Or The Great Leap. “He always makes sure that the world we live in is reflected on the stage.”

    This year’s expanded Summit featured readings of five plays that spanned in time from 1931 to present day and traveled the world from Brooklyn to Berlin to Beijing to Geneva to Georgia to a suburban Ohio fertility clinic. 

    Every year, two or more readings from the previous Summit go on to become fully staged plays on the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. This year’s featured productions were Tira Palmquist’s Two Degrees and Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, which both started as readings from the 2016 Summit. (Story continues below).


    Photo gallery: A look back at the Colorado New Play Summit

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Photos from the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above. All photos can be downloaded and shared. Just click. Photos by John Moore and Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The Colorado New Play Summit has grown into one of the nation’s premier showcases of new plays. Under Thompson, the Summit has workshopped 50 new plays, leading to 29 fully produced world premieres as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. Thompson has commissioned 44 new plays, almost half written by women.

    “I feel like for the past 12 years, I've had a great opportunity tSummit. Last Night. Adams Viscomo present many different windows on the world, from many different peoples' viewpoints,” Thompson said.

    To understand the impact the Summit has had on the development of new works for the American theatre, one need look no further than Skokie Ill., home of the Northlight Theatre. Recently the DCPA learned that Northlight will be fully producing two Summit plays next season: Gunderson's The Book of Will and The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez.

    Kent Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    The Summit allows for two weeks of development, each culminating in a round of public readings. Playwrights take what they learn from the first public weekend back into rehearsal before a second round of readings for industry professionals.

    Summit. Donnetta Lavinia Grays. John Moore"That second week of work is absolutely unique," said featured playwright Robert Schenkkan (Hanussen). "I don't know any other theatre festival in the United States that does anything like that. And it's a really critical for the writer because so often, you are just beginning to get your arms around it just as you near the end of that first week. You are just beginning to say, 'Now I see what I need to do.' … And then it's over. Well, that's not true here. You get to take the things that you learned at the first reading and really thrash it out and take all of that complexity and nuance and additional richness back into the text, culminating in a second public reading."

    This year’s Summit drew more local audiences and national industry leaders than ever before, with 44 playwrights and 36 theatre organizations attending from at least 16 states. Visitors represented companies ranging from the Public Theatre in New York to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the Banff Centre in Ontario to the Dorset Theatre Festival in Vermont. Closer to home, guest included the Creede Repertory Theatre, Curious Theatre, The Catmounts, Athena Festival Project, Lake Dillon Theatre Company and others. More than 920 attended at least one reading, with an overall attendance of nearly 2,900.

    Summit stands in thanks to departing Kent Thompson

    The third annual Local Playwrights Slam was held a week earlier, curated by Josh Hartwell from the Colorado chapter of the Dramatists Guild, which exists to protect playwrights and their copywritten material. Readers this year included Curious Theatre founding member Dee Covington, National Theatre Conservatory alum Jeff Carey and Tami Canaday, whose new play Uncle Rooster will be performed in Brooklyn this summer.

    Summit. High School Playwrights. Photo by John Moore. For the fourth year, winners of DCPA Education’s Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition had their plays presented at the Summit. This year a record four writers were showcased, two from Fort Collins.

    The annual late-night Playwrights Slam drew an eclectic group of writers sampling their developing works in a fun and supportive atmosphere. This year’s crowd was treated to Gunderson singing to a ukulele from her new play Storm Still, and Two Degrees actor Robert Montano performing an excerpt from his one-man play Small, which recounts his growing up as a jockey at the famed Belmont race track in New York.

    The five featured Summit readings:

    Click play to see short videos spotlighting all five 2017 Colorado New Play Summit plays.

    • Donnetta Lavinia Grays’ Last Night and the Night Before opens with a Georgia woman on her sister’s doorstep in Brooklyn, with her 10-year-old daughter in tow. The mystery for both the characters and the audience to solve is what trauma took place in Georgia that brought them here.
    • Rogelio Martinez’s Blind Date centers on Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's first meeting at the Geneva Summit in 1985 to try to open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
    • In Eric Pfeffinger’s comedy Human Error, a couple goes to what they think is a routine appointment at their fertility clinic only to discover that their fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted into another couple. And it turns out they are polar opposites.
    • Robert Schenkkan’s Hanussen is set in 1931 Berlin and introduces us to the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen, captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolf Hitler, who does not realize he is a Jew.
    • Lauren Yee’s Manford at the Line, or The Great Leap follows an American college basketball team as it travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game during the politically charged Cultural Revolution in 1989.

    After Albee: America’s 10 leading, living playwriting voices

    Photos, from top: 'Two Degrees' Director Christy Montour-Larson with retiring DCPA Producing Director Kent Thompson; Jasmine Hughes and Veleka J. Holt in 'Last Night and the Night Before'; Playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays performs in the annual Playwrights Slam; Grace Anolin and Wyatt DeShong perform from 'Dear Boy on the Tree,' part of the Regional High-School Playwriting readings. Below: Student playwrights, from left, Jasmin A. Hernandez-Lozano, Jessica Wood, Parker Bennett and Ryan McCormick. (Photos by John Moore and Adams VisCom). 

    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.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    After Albee: America’s 10 leading, living playwrights
    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
    Summit stands in thanks to departing founder Kent Thompson
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Summit. High School Playwriting. John Moore
  • NewsCenter: Our 10 most popular articles of 2016

    by John Moore | Jan 08, 2017

    Hamilton in Denver. Broadway Nothing got readers more excited last year than the news that the hit Broadway musical 'Hamilton' will be coming to Denver as part of the 2017-18 Broadway season.


    The DCPA NewsCenter was launched in October 2014 as an unprecedented new media outlet covering theatre at the Denver Center and throughout the state and nation telling stories with words, videos, podcasts and photos. It is a service made possible by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts as a shared resource for the Colorado theatre community as a whole. Here are the 10 most-clicked stories on the NewsCenter in 2016 from among the nearly 430 posted. Thanks to our readers for making it a record-breaking year:

    NUMBER 1HamiltonBroadway’s Hamilton is heading to Denver: The national tour of the Broadway musical Hamilton will play the Buell Theatre as part of the Denver Center's 2017-18 Broadway subscription series. Information regarding engagement dates and how to purchase single tickets will be announced at a later time. READ IT

    NUMBER 2Brenda Billings 1Brenda Billings: 'A warrior of acceptance':  Brenda Billings died while doing what she loves most – conducting auditions for an upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors. She was the co-Artistic Director of Miners Alley Playhouse and  President of the Denver Actors Fund, and she was only 57. “Her passion for storytelling and art is carried on through all of us who were lucky enough to call her friend,” said Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford. READ IT

    NUMBER 3Fun Home. Joan Marcus2016-17 Broadway season: Frozen, Fun Home, Finding Neverland and more: The DCPA announced a landmark 2016-17 season lineup that includes both of the most recent Tony Award-winners as well as the pre-Broadway debut of the highly anticipated stage adaptation of Disney’s record-breaking hit Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film in history. It was later announced that the Denver dates for Frozen will be Aug. 17 through Oct. 1, 2017. READ IT 

    NUMBER 4Terry DoddTerry Dodd: a playwright, director who bled empathy: Terry Dodd will be remembered as one of the most prolific local directors in the Colorado theatre community, as well as an accomplished playwright and screenwriter who was known for exploring deeply personal family issues. Dodd died of a heart attack at age 64. READ IT 

    NUMBER 5osg-christiana-clark2In Ashland, converting rage into action: In many ways Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, seems to be an insular, harmonious bubble immune to outside social realities. But on June 24, the bubble burst when an African-American company member had an ugly encounter with a white supremacist. Now the local and national theatre communities are asking difficult questions about race. READ IT

    NUMBER 6Finalists for the 2015-16 Bobby G Awards announced: The annual Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre in Colorado. The year-long program culminates in a Tony Awards-style ceremony at the Buell Theatre. Here’s who was nominated from among the 40 participating schools. READ IT

    NUMBER 7Tom SutherlandFormer hostage Thomas Sutherland is freed a second time: Former Colorado State University professor Thomas Sutherland was held hostage in Beirut for more than six years - or 2,353 agonizing days. The genial Scotsman made his first foray into acting at age 72, and later donated $500,000 to Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s new performance space. He drew it from the $35 million he was awarded in frozen Iranian assets. Sutherland died July 23 at age 85. READ IT http://dcpa.today/EX6aBY

    NUMBER 8David Bowie Elephant ManDavid Bowie's acting career began in Denver: David Bowie’s death had the world mourning the loss of one of rock’s most chameleonic performers. But he was also a versatile stage and screen actor whose legit theatre career began in Denver starring as the ultimate “Broken Man,” John Merrick, in a 1980 touring production of The Elephant Man. "Judging from his sensitive projection of this part, Bowie has the chance to achieve legit stardom,” one critic wrote. READ IT 

    NUMBER 9Buell TheatrePhantom return will mark Buell Theatre’s 25th anniversary: The Buell Theatre was built, in large part, to host the national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera in 1991. It was, Denver Post critic Jeff Bradley wrote at the time, “the most successful theatrical event in Denver history.” We take a look back at the Buell’s first 25 years. READ IT 

    NUMBER 10Theresa Rebeck quoteRebeck's The Nest flies in face of national gender trends: Theresa Rebeck, author of the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere play The Nest, says the need to level the gender playing field in the American theatre is urgent. “Women's voices have been marginalized in the theatre, and in film and television,” said Rebeck. But the Denver Center, she said, is bucking the trend. “Kent Thompson and everyone at the Denver Center have always been way ahead of the curve on this issue.” READ IT


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

    by John Moore | Oct 15, 2016
    2016 Statera National ConferenceTo see more images from the opening day of the 2016 Statera Conference at the Denver Center, press the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The American theatre has a big, systemic problem. And those attending the 2016 Statera Conference for gender equity in the American theatre have a simple, systemic solution:

    More women. On stage. Off stage. Writing. Directing. And, perhaps most important: In leadership positions.

    It is not new information that while females make up 68 percent of the average theatre audience, fewer than 25 percent of the stories they see are written by women. But Friday’s opening keynote address at the Denver Center laid bare some deeper statistical atrocities. For example:

    In 2013-14, 73 percent of the Artistic Directors and 62 percent of Executive Directors at leading U.S. theatres were white men. That’s unsurprising. But tellingly - and some might say “damningly” - 65 percent of those working in jobs just below leadership positions were women or persons of color. That means a majority of women already are in place for executive advancement - they just aren’t being rewarded for their experience when leadership jobs become available.

    In other words, said one woman in the conference crowd: “Women do all the work – and men get promoted.”


    A video look at Tira Palmquist's upcoming world premiere of 'Two Degrees' in Denver.



    Tira Palmquist, writer of the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere production of Two Degrees, acknowledged there are employment opportunities out there for women. “But it would be better to have better employment opportunities for women,” she said.

    “There is a clear glass ceiling,” said Sumru Erkut, Senior Research Scientist for the Wellesley Centers for Women. “And it’s not getting better. We have come to the conclusion that for a woman to lead a theatre, she has to start one. That's how she gets to be a leader.”

    Statera ConferenceBut Friday’s featured speaker Carey Elizabeth Perloff, who has been the artistic director of the esteemed American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for 24 years, dared to imagine another kind of future for women in the American theatre.  

    “If we could change the gender balance across the board in the theatre from leadership to playwrights to directors to what is happening backstage, I truly think we would be telling more inclusive, more complex and more richly imagined stories,” Perloff said via Skype. “Therefore we would start to cast our net much wider in terms of audiences who are passionate about the theatre.”

    Perloff addressed more than 200 women (and a few men) who have gathered in Denver this weekend to strategize, commune, commiserate, network, workshop and rally for the cause of gender equity. Guests include playwrights, directors, actors, teachers, students and administrators from organizations as varied as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Playwright’s Festival, Shakespeare Detroit, the Arvada Center, Athena Project, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Center Group of Los Angeles.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “We believe the answer to gender parity in the American theatre lies in the philosophy of ‘top-down and bottom-up,’ ” said Statera Foundation co-founder Shelly Gaza of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Yes, we work to affect change at the top tiers of American theatres. But we are also working from the bottom up so that we, in a sense, meet in the middle to achieve parity.”

    Statera, by the way, is a Latin word for “balance.”

    Statera quoteThe DCPA makes a perfect host for Statera’s second national conference, Gaza said, because the Denver Center not only acknowledges the prevailing gender disparity in the American theatre, it is actively working to eradicate it.

    DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson drew applause when he announced that the Denver Center has recently changed one of its stated core company values to equity, diversity and inclusion. “I feel my most profound job as an Artistic Director is to offer windows on the world to audiences - and those windows have to reflect women in our society,” Thompson said.

    He introduced to conference attendees the now 11-year-old Women's Voices Fund, the Denver Center's $1 million endowment that makes directing and playwriting opportunities available to women.  Thompson pointed out that only about 15 of the company’s first 250 productions over 26 seasons were directed by women - and fewer than a dozen had been written by women. But in the 11 years since Thompson’s arrival, the Theatre Company has presented 26 plays by women - nine of them world premieres.


    Here are more key findings and killer quotes from Day 1 of the 2016 Statera Conference, which runs through Sunday at the DCPA:

    • “Until gender parity and gender equity are the norm, there will be a need for all of our passion and purpose and action,” said Statera CEO Melinda Vaughn, who is working for the day “when equal space and equal pay and equal opportunity are not ideals for which you have to fight or create - they are the expectation. That shift in expectation is powerful.”
    • Lucy Roucis, a longtime actor with Denver’s acclaimed Phamaly Theatre Company, which exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, acknowledged the loss just the day before of prominent Denver director and playwright Terry Dodd. “I saw Terry just last week, and we were talking about this very subject,” Roucis said. “Terry he told me, ‘Lucy, there will be equality in the theatre when there are more women producers. Women have to do it themselves.’ ”       
    • Jane Page, an original member of the DCPA Theatre Company in 1979 and most recently director of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer here in 2011, flew to Denver from Cairo to attend the conference, she said, ”because I feel very strongly about the issue of parity for women in theatre.” Page was accompanied by a college student from Yale she is mentoring at the conference. “After 40 years in the business, I think it's important for me to be a part of this conversation,” said Page. “But I also think it's important to hear from those young women who are just entering into the profession.” Page had been in Cairo directing a contemporary version of Tartuffe set in modern-day Orange County.
    • Carey Perloff tried to do everything right when she arrived at ACT in 1992, “but I did everything wrong instead," she said. She was convinced she would be fired after her first season in San Francisco - which makes her not uncommon among women, she said. “I felt how I think every woman leader feels, which is, 'When you fail, you fail for all women – and that when we succeed, it's luck,’ ” Perloff said. ”People told me, 'You have to stop saying that.' Because women always say they got lucky when they get a job. But men never do that. The fact is, men are hired on their potential, and women are hired on their resumes. And that makes our challenge that much greater.”
    • The beauty of being a leader in the American theatre, Perloff said, “is you get to choose the kind of plays you want to promote. I always said, 'It’s such a hard job, but at least you don't have to do Sylvia - that play where the woman plays a dog. When it's your own theatre, you get to say no. We are not going to do plays where women are tangential all the time. We're not going to do plays where women are demeaned. We are not going to do plays where women are two-dimensional. We are going to choose plays where there are women directors involved. And there are vigorous roles for women. And we are going to make sure that the backstage life has women.”
    • A priority of the Statera Foundation, Perloff said, is embracing the role of motherhood that often goes with artistic leadership. “Being a parent is like being in perpetual tech rehearsal,” Perloff said. “But you have to remember that while the days are long – the years are short. If you are a leader, you have more control over your own time and destiny, so it's all the more important for women to claim these leadership positions."
    • Sumru Erkut, the research scientist, said no woman needs to be told how difficult it is to maintain a work-life balance – especially in the arts. “I have to tell you - there is no conversation going on about the work-life balance in the American theatre,” Erkut said. “But it's a reality we have to confront. This is not just a women's issue. It's a human-being issue. We have to make it possible for the next generation to both work and be a parent.“
    • Among the more than 50 speakers and workshop leaders presenting this weekend are Actor’s Equity Association Executive Director Mary McColl and American social justice activist Chris Crass. Locally, speakers include DCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson; Directors Christy Montour-Larson (Two Degrees), Ina Marlowe (The Glass Menagerie) and Geoffrey Kent (An Act of God); Actors Meridith C. Grundei (Frankenstein), Lucy Roucis and Lisa Young; and Educators Allison Watrous, Jessica Austgen and Gillian McNally.

    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.
  • Colorado actors take center stage in Oregon

    by John Moore | Feb 25, 2016
    Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero.

    Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero in Ashland, Ore.


    Jamie Ann Romero and Benjamin Bonenfant, two rising Colorado actors whose rockets have been propelled by fuel from the Colorado theatre community, are opening in major new world premieres at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this weekend.

    On Saturday, Bonenfant stars as Pip in a massive new look at Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations. The next day, Romero introduces Belmira in Marisela Treviño Orta’s new ensemble drama The River Bride.

    While Pip is of course the iconic orphan who becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor, Romero plays a Brazilian fiancée named Belmira whose wedding plans are disrupted three days before the ceremony when fishermen pull a mysterious stranger out of a river.

    While they won’t appear together in Ashland, the actors have 13 seasons between them at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder, starring together as the star-crossed lovers in 2011’s Romeo and Juliet. Bonenfant is fresh off starring roles in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Henry V and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s 4000 Miles, and most recently appeared at the Denver Center in the Theatre Company’s Benediction and A Christmas Carol. He’s a graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

    Romero’s Denver Center credits include Romeo & Juliet, Sunsets and Margaritas, The Three Musketeers and a breakout, gender-bending turn in the 2014 world premiere of The Legend of Georgia McBride, which led to a high-profile run in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. She is a graduate of Chatfield High School and the University of Northern Colorado (UNC).

    “A large chunk of my heart is still in Colorado, and I miss it every day,” Romero said this week on the eve of her opening. “From high school through UNC through the things I learned working with brilliant actors at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Denver Center, I think every single thing has led me to being here. To being anywhere, really. That just goes back to Denver being an incredible community that supports and lifts up everybody.”

    They now find themselves reunited at the oldest Shakespeare festival in the nation.

    “When I look around in the rehearsal room and I see the interactions of the company members here and the rapport that they have, it makes me miss home,” Bonenfant said. “Because I found those kind of relationships in a great rotation of theatre companies all over Colorado – but specifically, for me, at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.”

    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is considered a dream job among the nation’s actors because the company presents an 11-show repertory season that lasts 10 months, employing perhaps the last true resident acting company in the nation. So while most actors scramble from one job to the next every month or two, Bonenfant has signed a 40-week contract with the OSF, which equates to the first real professional and financial stability of his young adult life. He also will play two roles in Hamlet (Osric and Reynaldo) while understudying the princely title role.

    Romero, who now lives in New York City and has other upcoming commitments there, chose a one-show, six-month contract that runs through July 7.

    Jamie Ann Romero. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
    Jamie Ann Romero with Armando McClain in 'The River Bride' for The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jenny Graham.


    One reason the OSF is considered “the granddaddy of American theatres” has been its ability to adapt with the times. Its wildly varying 11-show 2016 season includes five Shakespeare titles as well as The Wiz, Gilbert & Sullivan, and edgy new works like The River Bride, Roe and, if the publicity materials are to be believed, "a brash new comedy about three young Vietnamese immigrants making their way through the bewildering landscape of 1970s America," called Vietgone.

    “It's an interesting mix,” Bonenfant said. “The legacy of the company certainly has been built for decades on producing Shakespeare. And it’s that history of producing Shakespeare that has gotten it to the place where it has become a powerhouse when it comes to developing all kinds of works.”

    The authors of the two new plays the OSF is launching this weekend are familiar to Colorado theatre audiences. Penny Metropulos and Linda Alper, who have created this new version of Great Expectations, also adapted The Three Musketeers for the DCPA Theatre Company. Metropulos, who is directing Great Expectations, also directed Quilters, You Can’t Take it With You and The Trip to Bountiful for the Denver Center.

    “I think this new production might bring a lot of people into contact with this classic novel, and this great Dickens language, for the first time,” said Bonenfant. “The focus of the narration is just one person telling the story to another person, so it seems to be saying something about the simplicity of storytelling.”

    And, he added, about the generosity of shared storytelling.

    “OSF is very straightforward about the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Bonenfant said. “In this particular telling of Great Expectations, you have an ensemble that is extremely diverse. You have people from all different walks of life, and all different social strata, sharing in the telling of this same story together.” 

    Benjamin Bonenfant. Jamie Ann Romero. Romeo and Juliet. Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of ColoradoMarisela Treviño Orta is a young playwright from Texas, but Denver’s Su Teatro was onto her talents eight years ago when it staged the world premiere of her play Braided Sorrow, a devastating look at the very real plight of thousands of young women who commonly disappear from their jobs at American factories in the border city of Juárez, Mexico, and are later found mutilated in the nearby desert.

    The River Bride, winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award, is set in Brazil and is inspired by Amazonian folklore. “It’s called a 'grim' Latino fairy tale,” said Romero, “and that's exactly what it is.” The story is the first in Orta’s planned trilogy inspired by the Brothers Grimm.

    “It does have humor and tragedy and pathos in it, but the play is really about love,” Romero said. “Being brave in love and what happens when you are … and what happens when you aren’t.”

    (PIctured above right: Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2011 'Romeo and Juliet.' Photo by Glenn Asakawa.)

    Bonenfant and Romero now join a longstanding Colorado pipeline to Ashland that dates back to James Sandoe, a seminal figure in the development of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and a regular director in Oregon from 1948-68. Over the years, the OSF family has included Colorado natives including Phamaly Theatre Company’s remarkable Regan Linton, James Newcomb (son of the legendary Bev Newcomb-Madden and currently starring as Hubert Humphrey in the DCPA’s All the Way), and Sandoe’s daughter, Anne, who is a mainstay at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and played a central role in Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s award-winning Ghost-Writer. The connection has grown so strong that, for the first time, casting directors from Ashland took advantage of their time here in Denver for the Colorado New Play Summit last week to audition many of the area’s most accomplished actors for consideration in Oregon’s 2017 season.

    Benjamin Bonenfant. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
    Benjamin Bonenfant with Nemuna Ceesay in 'Great Expectations' for The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jenny Graham.


    Bonenfant learned he would headline Great Expectations while visiting the Creede Repertory Theatre in August. He closed the DCPA’s A Christmas Carol on Dec. 27 and was in Ashland for his first Great Expectations rehearsal less than 48 hours later.

    “My last couple of months in Denver, I was really keenly aware that I was going to be leaving, and just how large and how vibrant and wonderful the theatre community in Colorado is,” he said. “On the one hand, it’s a joyful experience getting to join a new community here completely fresh. But I think that only adds more appreciation for what you've left behind and how it's afforded you your opportunities to grow.”

    For as long as Romero has loved Shakespeare, “which is a very long time,” she said, “I've always wanted to work for the OSF. And to actually be here is wonderful and kind of indescribable. I've felt so comfortable and so supported in every way. But to echo what Ben said, the community here does remind me a lot of the community in Denver and Boulder and Colorado in general. Everyone is so supportive and loving of each other there, and that's very much the way it is here too.”

    More about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

    • Founded in 1935
    • Located in Southern Oregon
    • Season runs from February through early November
    • Three theatres: The flagship outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, and the indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre and Thomas Theatre
    • Summertime visitors can see up to nine plays in one week
    • More information
     

    2016 Oregon Shakespeare Festival season:

    • Twelfth Night
    • Great Expectations
    • The River Bride
    • The Yeomen of the Guard
    • Vietgone
    • Roe
    • Hamlet
    • The Wiz
    • The Winter’s Tale
    • Richard II
    • Timon of Athens
     

    More about Benjamin Bonenfant:

    Benjamin Bonenfant True West AwardRonald Dean in Benediction, Fortinbras, Hamlet (understudy) in Hamlet, Ensemble in A Christmas Carol, Gerald Forbes in When We Are Married (DCPA Theatre Company); Prince Hal in Henry IV, Parts One and Two, Henry V in Henry V, Dauphin in Henry VI, Part One, Ferdinand in The Tempest, Hamlet in Wittenberg, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew, Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Philip II in The Lion in Winter (The Arvada Center); Ken in Red (Curious Theatre Company); Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Herod in Salome, Treplev in The Seagull, Dionysus in The Bacchae, George Gibbs in Our Town, Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Silvius in As You Like It (TheatreWorks); Leo in 4000 Miles (Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center); Joey/Jim in Ambition Facing West, Rheticus in And the Sun Stood Still (Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company); Elijah in Elijah: An Adventure (Local Theater Company). 

     

    More about Jamie Ann Romero:

    Jamie Ann Romero. The Legend of Georgia McBride. Photo by Gabe Koskinen. Nina in Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike (Paper Mill Playhouse); Jo in The Legend of Georgia McBride, Kitty in The Three Musketeers, Bianca in Sunsets and Margaritas (DCPA Theatre Company); Silvia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lucy in Dracula (Utah Shakespeare Festival); Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Queen in Richard II, Lady Percy in Henry IV, Part One, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Ophelia in Hamlet (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Sylvia in Sylvia, Audrey in Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Lone Tree Arts Center); Celia in As You Like It (Modern Muse Theatre Company); Nina in The Seagull (TheatreWorks); International: Brooke in Noises Off (Maxim Gorky Theatre in Vladivostok, Russia).

    Photos: Benjamin Bonenfant won a 2015 True West Award for his performance in the title role of Henry V for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Jamie Ann Romero appearing in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Gabe Koskinen

  • Langworthy on translating Shakespeare: First do no harm

    by John Moore | Feb 23, 2016
    Henry VI Colorado Shakespeare Festival Sam Gregory

    Sam Gregory in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's "Original Practices" presentation of 'Henry VI, Part 1' in 2015. DCPA Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy has been tasked with translating all three parts of 'Henry VI' for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


    Editor's note:
    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival – the grandfather of all Shakespeare Festivals in the United States – ignited a firestorm of controversy last year when it announced it is commissioning 36 playwrights to translate 39 plays widely attributed to Shakespeare into contemporary modern English between now and December 31, 2018. The hope is to create 39 unique, side-by-side companion translations of Shakespeare’s plays that are both performable and useful reference texts for both classrooms and productions. The national conversation that followed was polarizing. Writing for the New York Times, Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro called the effort “a dangerous precedent,” saying, “the only thing Shakespearean about his plays IS the language.” Others are hailing the project as a vibrant new way of introducing Shakespeare to audiences who are 400 years behind The Bard’s times.

    Denver Center Literary Manager and resident Dramaturg Douglas Langworthy, who worked for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for seven years, has been tasked with adapting no less than all three parts of Henry VI, making him the largest single contributor to the project, called “Play On.” We asked Langworthy to pen the following essay with his thoughts on the project.


    By Douglas Langworthy
    DCPA Literary Manager

    Douglas LangworthyI’ll never forget the first German-language production of Shakespeare I saw – Troilus and Cressida at the Berliner Ensemble in then East Berlin. And while I can’t tell you that much about the design or the actors, I was struck by how clear the language was. You see, in Germany, Shakespeare gets translated once or twice each generation into contemporary language that sits comfortably in the listener’s ear. Sure, there are famous old-fashioned translations from the Romantic period, but in general, German directors prefer to stage more modern versions of the plays. As a fluent speaker of German, I found in this production that I didn’t have to struggle with archaic language to get through to the meaning of the text, a feeling that was surprisingly liberating.

    So when I was approached to take part in the Play On! project, sponsored by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the whole idea of translating Shakespeare into modern English made perfect sense to me. Could I translate away some of the four centuries of syntactical shifts and evolving vocabulary?  I was initially daunted by the scope of my particular assignment — to translate the three parts of Henry VI, three full-length plays that are connected narratively beginning with the English occupation of France in the 15th Century and ending with the War of the Roses. These are plays I had seen them performed once, although I’d never really studied them closely. But one clear advantage I had over the other translators was that there is really only one famous line in all three of the plays: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” I wouldn’t have to be tackling cherished passages like “To be or not to be.”

    Douglas Langworthy quoteWhen I started digging into the texts, I found out that these are some of Shakespeare’s earliest plays. You can feel that Shakespeare is just starting to flex his playwriting muscles — the verse has flow and vigor, but the language is more plainspoken and not as poetic as in his later plays. My first decision was to maintain Henry VI’s galloping iambic pentameter.  I soon found there were many lines — perhaps 40 percent – that were perfectly understandable to a contemporary ear, and I wouldn’t touch those lines. (“First do no harm” as Lue Douthit, the project’s director, would say to me.)

    So my goal became to take the lines that did have outdated syntax or archaic terms and translate those to match stylistically the 40 percent of the lines that could stand as is. I guess you could say I would be translating archaic Shakespeare to match contemporary Shakespeare. Hopefully, in the end, a listener won’t be able to tell where Shakespeare ends and I begin.

    Whenever you translate, it’s helpful to have in mind the audience you are translating for. While talking with my stepfather, Phil, about this project — and he’s an avid theatregoer who’s seen many Shakespeare plays — he confided to me that it always takes him 20 or 30 minutes of struggling to get on-board with the language in a Shakespeare production. And I think there are many Phils out there — cultured, educated folks who nevertheless find Shakespearean language a bit of a barrier to fully engaging with the play. So in my mind, I’m translating for those audience members.

    Much has been said and written about Play On! and here is my bottom line. First of all, it’s a fascinating and worthy experiment. By hiring a diverse array of playwrights to translate the plays, the results are going to be surprising and varied. Some will work, and some won’t. But no harm, no foul. These translations will not replace the originals, which will continue to exist and be produced for time immemorial. Will these translations be produced? Despite the fact that theatres will have to pay royalties to the translators, some of them already have received full productions.  

    From left: Douglas Langworthy, choreographer Sylvia Hernandez-Distasi and director David Catlin at the 'Lookingglass Alice' Perspectives. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Douglas Langworthy, far left, hosts the DCPA Theatre Company's "Persepctives," a public conversation about each new production, on the evening of its first preview performance. Next up: 6 p.m. on April 8 for "Sweeney Todd" in tthe Jones Theatre.  Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. 


    In my mind, if these translations can open up Shakespeare to audiences who may have felt put off by the outdated Elizabethan language, that will have justified the time, effort and money expended.

    I’m almost finished with my three translations. I’ve even had a reading of Part 1 here at the Denver Center. I’ll be very interested to see how my “do no harm” approach measures up alongside the work of the other translators. I have found the work slow, exacting but very satisfying. It’s hard not to view the Henry VI plays as a testing ground for what we know will come: the first draft of Richard III, his first strong woman in Queen Margaret, his first English history play. But the plays work on their own as rousing, action-packed historical dramas with clear-cut characters and that accessible language. In fact, in these plays Shakespeare seems to have put a high value on the accessibility of the language, and so have I with my translations. As I said, I hope that my hand disappears beneath Shakespeare’s.

    It’s his voice we want to hear.

    About our Guest Columnist
    Douglas Langworthy is the Literary Manager and Dramaturg at the DCPA Theatre Company, where he helps manage the theatre’s new-play development program. Prior to Denver, Douglas served as Dramaturg and Director of Play Development at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J. for two years and Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for seven. While there, he developed a new adaptation of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers with Linda Alper and Penny Metropulos, and a new translation of Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechuan, both for the 1999 season. In the 2004 season, he collaborated with director Ken Albers on a new adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit. In 2007 he collaborated with Metropulos and Linda Alper to write lyrics and book for the new musical Tracy’s Tiger, based on the novella by William Saroyan, with music by Sterling Tinsley. He has translated 15 plays from German, which include Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, Medea by Hans Henny Jahnn and The Prince of Homburg, Penthesilea and Amphitryon (National Theatre Translation Fund Award). He was for many years the Dramaturg for Target Margin Theater in New York, which produced his translation of Goethe’s Faust in 2006, directed by David Herskovits. With David Herskovits and Thomas Cabiniss, he also co-wrote the libretto for The Sandman, a new opera with music by Thomas Cabaniss.


    Editor's Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers a regular guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

    Selected previous Guest Columns:
    Scott Shiller: Making Cents of Arts Funding
    David Nehls: Live theatre returns to Elitch Gardens after 24 years
    Gillian McNally: Colorado's oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
    Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn't add up
    Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
    Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver
  • Kaptain Ka-Boom: Paul Stone lived life as if shot out of a cannon

    by John Moore | Jan 28, 2016

    Paul_Stone_ALS_1
    Paul Stone, a k a "The Cannon Guy," was the DCPA Theatre Company's first shop foreman. Photo by John Moore.


    Paul Stone was not an actor, but he certainly knew how to put on a show.

    Stone was a pyro-technician, fireworks aficionado and the original shop foreman for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company. More than 35 years later, he  is still spoken of in reverential tones as the founder of the DCPA’s Power Tool Olympics.

    The what?

    The Power Tool Olympics. You know: Boxing matches with power drills as the pugilists. High-diving competitions with saws making death-defying leaps into pools of water. A toaster triathlon.

    Stone was the rare backstage theatre technician who could steal the spotlight in a snap - while donning a Lilly Pulitzer print. But he never chose acting for his own career, said lifelong friend Adrian Egolf, "because he was too smart for that. There were too many other things he wanted to do with his life."    

    Stone died Monday night in Lansing, Kan., of ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 65. 

    "I cannot imagine another human soul who embodied so much playfulness and silliness," said Egolf, a Creede native, DCPA actor (Benediction) and sidekick in any number of ridiculous Paul Stone productions from the age of 7. "He was a true original."

    Stone worked at theatres across the country as a carpenter and props director before settling in the tiny town of Creede, which is nestled in the San Juan Mountains 250 miles southwest of Denver. 

    Paul Stone Quote
    Photo courtesy John Gary Brown.


    In Creede, Stone is known simply as "The Cannon Guy." Kaptain Ka-Boom. He would amuse himself by firing bowling balls off the mountainside next to the town. He even applied to shoot Hunter S. Thompson's ashes out of a cannon -- and reportedly made it into the top five.

    “He liked to blow things up,” said Egolf. “Toilets, turkeys, TVs, flourescent lightbulbs. ... He called it ‘explosion therapy.’ "

    Stone also made perfect ham sandwiches by shooting the tasty luncheon meat through a series of blades he constructed. It was an elaborate cannon accessory that produced sandwiches in a manner David Letterman would have applauded as the stupidest of human tricks.

    "A lot of people think Americans are just a bunch of gun nuts — but a lot of us are into artillery too," Stone said in a 2010 interview with The Denver Post.

    Stone lived his life, friends said, always in danger of growing up. His story, they say, is a lesson in living the life you imagine.

    Each May, when Creede Rep's 70 or so seasonal company members arrive for the summer, Stone would lead them into the Rio Grande National Forest on a cannon-shoot pilgrimage. A typical bowling ball travels a half-mile up in the air and lands about a mile away.

    "People get scared when they hear the sound of cannon fire in town," Stone said. "But I've gotten pretty good at not endangering people's lives."

    The tradition started 25 years ago as a promotion for a now-defunct local bowling alley. People would drop a ball off a cliff, aiming it at a tiny bowling pin placed all the way at the bottom. "It would bounce like God's Superball — we're talking 1,200 feet in the air," said Stone. He built his cannon as a ball return, "because we got tired of carrying them back up the hill."

    Stone called his cannon shenanigans performance art. "It's the best street theater you'll ever see — without the street," he said. "Or the theater."

    His friends chronicled all of their crazy Stone stories in a video documentary by Allie Quiller titled Paul Freakin' Stone: That’s Who.


    The trailer introducing Allie Quiller's documentary, “Paul Freakin' Stone: That’s Who.”


    "Paul is a fixture in Creede and the theatre world in general," said Kate Berry, a former actor with the Creede Repertory Theatre. "He's kind of a technical theatre god. And his life has been pretty incredible."

    That life began Nov. 3, 1950, in Casper, Wyo. He attended high school in Kansas City and attended the University of Kansas, where he once hosted a stand-up show that included him performing open-heart surgery on a Cabbage Patch Doll — with a chainsaw. While washing (and blow-drying) his hair. While doing his taxes (long form, natch). While shooting his foot out of a cannon. 

    Stone first visited Creede after his freshman year of college in 1972. “As with many, he was sucked into the magic of Creede and couldn’t get away,” said actor Christy Brandt, who just completed her 41st season with the Creede Repertory Theatre.

    Stone moved to Creede the next year to be the company’s full-time shop foreman. Although his budding romance with Brandt fizzled, Stone would be the best man in her wedding to John Gary Brown in 1981.

    Stone always wanted to work for the movies, so he left Creede for Los Angeles in 1974. He built sets for a string of Hollywood blockbusters including “Jaws,” “Marathon Man” and “The Towering Inferno.”

    “But I think L.A. was too crazy for him,” Brandt said. “He was crazy enough on his own.”

    Stone worked for some of the nation’s top regional theatre companies, including the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Alaska Repertory Theatre.

    He returned to Creede and bought a piece of land for $50. He built his own house out of salvage from two dilapidated houses. The new place included a greenhouse on the first floor. “He put in a drip system and grew tomatoes and marijuana,” Brandt said with a laugh. “He may have been Colorado’s first grower.”

    Stone was widely loved in Creede, in part because he was a handyman and could fix anything in a town where the winter population drops to 500 and the average annual snowfall is 47 inches. Oh, and he was a stripper.

    “It’s true,” Brandt said. “If you were having a bachelor party, you called Paul. He would dress as a woman … or not.” In 2007, Egolf surprised her mother for her birthday by hiring Stone. He came as a fisherman. "I remember fishing waders ... and a very large pole," said Christina Egolf.

    Stone worked in various capacities at the theatre in Creede, including designing scenery and props. At the meet-and-greet each May, Stone would always introduce himself as the company psychiatrist. “If any of you girls have any problems, come to me,” he would say.

    Though Stone never married, “Paul was very successful with the ladies,” Brandt said. He built a hot tub on his property that was affectionately referred to as “The Babe Crock Pot.” "Whenever you wanted to find the most beautiful young women in the company,” Brandt said, “the first place you would check was the Crock Pot.”

    They were drawn, she said, by Stone’s singular sense of humor.

    When asked why a man who loved noise and constant visual stimulation chose to make Creede his home headquarters for more than 40 years, Stone said, “I like the peace and quiet.” (Seriously.)

    In June 2013, Stone was diagnosed with ALS, an insidious, progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. ALS robs patients of voluntary muscle action, leading to paralysis and eventual death. The disease left Stone and his family with more than $100,000 in medical expenses. Using an online fundraising page, friends have paid the tab down to about $56,000.

    Stone rarely spoke about his disease. “When he was diagnosed, all he said was, ‘I am going to get the fastest electric wheelchair ever made,' ” Brandt said. “And he did. I raced him in it.”

    The disease progressively robbed Stone of his ability to walk and talk. “But his sense of humor was the last thing to disappear,” Brandt said.

    Stone was the youngest of five brothers. He is survived by brothers Tim, Ted and Jay, and their mother, Edna Stone. He was preceded in death by brother Mike.

    Stone insisted there be no memorial service, but today (Jan. 28), the town of Creede is observing Paul Stone Day at the Creede Historical Museum, where Stone’s cannon is now on permanent display.

    He has donated his body to scientists for ALS research. After a period of time, his ashes will be returned to his family. “And I am sure he will want his ashes blown out of a cannon,” Brandt said.

    Adrian Egolf said Stone's life was essentially an ongoing, entertaining mashup of vaudeville and burlesque.

    "What I love most about Paul is that he has never apologized for anything he has ever done," she said. And why would he?

    "He never found anything that he did to be strange or out of the ordinary."

    Simply put, Brandt said: "He was one of the wittiest, most entertaining, most imaginative people the world has ever seen."



    Paul Stone riding on motorcycle in Creede's Fourth of July parade, raising money for his annual fireworks display. Photo by John Gary Brown.


    Social media comments:
    Cassaundra Rene Seamster Honeycutt: "The world, and especially Creede, was a better place for having him in it. He was one-of-a-kind, and a kind one to boot."

    Mig Lillig: "If not for Paul, my children would not know that you can fry a pickle; that  trophies can be works of art; that vacuums can suck up just about everything; that fireworks can rise from mountains, or that you can live your life exactly how you want."

    Deb Stavin: "Paul is one of the funniest and most original, creative people I've been lucky to meet in my life. Thanks for the many fabulous, blow-milk-out-my-nose, hilarious moments."

    Paul Stone Creede. Photo by John Gary Brown.
    Paul Stone riding with Scott Lamb in Creede's 2015 Fourth of July parade, above. Below: the final canon shoot at the rifle range near Creede in 2014. Photos by John Gary Brown.


    Paul Stone Creede. Photo by John Gary Brown.

  • 2015 True West Award: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant

    by John Moore | Dec 12, 2015
    True West Awards Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
    Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    ​Today’s recipients: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
    Colorado Shakespeare Festival


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


    It’s a rare thing to be watching any live performance and just know that you are witnessing a moment of culmination and ascendancy. Last summer in Boulder, it happened twice.

    For blood brothers Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant, the summer of 2015 was a rite of passage. As the evil Iago in Othello and the titular warrior king in Henry V, Kent and Bonenfant came of age before our eyes in breakout, breathtaking performances for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.  

    MGeoff Kent in 'Much Ado About Nothing' at Colorado Shakes. Photo by Jennifer M. KoskinenThese are no rookies. Kent has been acting, directing and staging fight choreography on stages all over Colorado and throughout the nation for nearly 20 years. In fact, he is tied with Sam Sandoe for the most current consecutive seasons with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, with 13. Bonenfant is still a pup, and yet he won his first Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award more than three years ago, and has worked for nearly every major theatre company from his hometown in Colorado Springs to Boulder.

    But Kent forged his solid stage rep as a thief, having stolen too many shows to count with his sword and rapier wit - sometimes going so far as to whip a tiny dog out of his – pouch – for a shameless laugh. Bonenfant is the iconic Romeo who has left audiences swooning playing lovers and princes and brooding romantic heroes. (Pictured above right: Geoff Kent in 'Much Ado About Nothing' in 2015. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    Then came the summer of 2015, when the two locked step and delivered the kind of transformational performances that have turned them into unequivocal leading men. Bonenfant was cast to play carousing King Henry V, who evolves from rowdy and rebellious teenager into a brilliant military leader who leads his outnumbered men into the breach and emerges with them as the surprise vanquishers in what many historians have come to think of an an unjust war. Bonenfant accepted the contradiction of his calling with a fervor and aplomb that resulted in a performance Westword reviewer Juliet Wittman called magnificent, enthralling and smart. “His Henry is so original, right, tough, supple and intelligent that the role becomes entirely new — and deserving of a place with the major interpretations of the past,” Wittman wrote. 

    Goodbye Romeo; hello, Henry.

    Carolyn Howarth quote“Playing Henry really launched Benjamin into another sphere of actor,” said his director, Carolyn Howarth. “He's certainly a leading man now. He is both warrior and king. The truth is, as silly as it may sound, I'd follow him into a breach any day."

    Likewise, casting directors might not have thought of the likable Kent as the type of actor who could plumb the moral bottom-feeding depths the consummate villain Iago requires. But Othello director Lisa Wolpe and Colorado Shakes Artistic Director Timothy Orr smartly recognized that Kent’s most affable qualities are exactly what make a winning Iago only that much more venomous.

    Wittman said Kent worked his lethal manipulation on poor Othello and his wife with crystal clarity and an infectious joy. “He operates with such charm that you find yourself shocked when you realize what he’s actually capable of,” Wittman wrote. “It’s like working on a suicide-prevention hotline, as volunteers in Seattle once did, and discovering that the nice, articulate man beside you is Ted Bundy.”

    Goodbye Grumio; hello, Iago.

    Benjamin Bonenfant in 'Wittenburg.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
    Benjamin Bonenfant as Hamlet in 'Wittenberg' for the 2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Orr thinks the secret to Kent’s success was simple: He left the dog at home.

    “He just played it so straight and natural,” Orr said. “There was no winking; no mustache-twirling. It was not performative. He really dug down and found something legitimately honest and scary in that role.”

    Timothy Orr quoteOrr, now in his third year leading Colorado Shakes, says he is forever indebted to Kent for what he has meant to the festival over the years. “He brings a wealth of experience and skill to our company, and he works like a demon,” Orr said. “He can direct or be a clown or play a leading role or serve as a fight director or help us to purchase weaponry. He is the full package. He’s a Swiss Army knife for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.”

    2015 was a very big year for both Bonenfant and Kent in Boulder and beyond. Bonenfant also appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere of Benediction; he played no less than Hamlet (yes, that Hamlet) in David Davalos’ new play Wittenberg for Colorado Shakes; and he starred in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s widely acclaimed Colorado premiere of 4000 Miles opposite Billie McBride. He is currently appearing in the DCPA Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol through Dec. 27.

    Kent played Don Pedro in Colorado Shakes’ Much Ado About Nothing and directed perhaps the surprise success of the year – the Aurora Fox’s poignant and playful She Kills Monsters, inspired by the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons. He also helmed the Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' current run of Born Yesterday. Kent is the Resident Fight Director for every show staged by the DCPA Theatre Company, and he recently played a lord in its recent production of As You Like It.

    As for the future - these cats are out of the bag, and things likely will never be the same for either of them. Most evidently for Bonenfant, who has landed the plum role of Pip in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's highly anticipated world premiere of Great Expectations. directed by Penny Metropulos, who directed the DCPA Theatre Company's You Can't Take It With You in 2007. Bonenfant begins rehearsal in Ashland just two days after A Christmas Carol closes in Denver on Dec. 27, and he will be under contract there for almost all of 2016. While there, he also will be understudying his dream role in Hamlet.

    Kent will appear at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival next summer as Achilles in Troilus and Cressida, and as Iacomo in Cymbeline. He also will direct The Comedy of Errors, with a gender-flipping twist: The four characters named Antipholus and Dromio (two each) will be played by women, and their “wives” will be played by men. “We’ve read it though, and all the jokes are funnier,” said Orr.

    LISTEN TO OUR RUNNING LINES PODCAST:


    Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant spoke with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore just before the start of the 2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival season. Click play.

    SEE THEIR WORK NOW

    Kent is the director of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Born Yesterday,
    playing through Dec. 23, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org. Bonenfant is appearing in the DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol through Dec. 27, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.

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

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

    by John Moore | Jul 12, 2015

    A selection of photos of the Sandoes, the First Family of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, whose lineage at the Mary Rippon Amphitheatre in Boulder goes back to 1944. To see caption information, click on any photo.



    Anne Sandoe may be the only actor in the world who has been cast to play age-appropriate Shakespearean roles from the time she was 6 and into her 60s.

    She is the daughter of James Sandoe, who directed the first-ever play on Boulder’s famed Mary Rippon Amphitheatre in 1944. James Sandoe became a legendary figure at both the Colorado and Oregon Shakespeare festivals - and he took his wife and four children along for the whole theatrical ride.

    Sam and Anne Sandoe, both familiar and familial members of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 acting company, now have 41 seasons between them. There are part of Boulder’s first family of theatre - a royal lineage that goes back 71 years.

    For Anne, it all began when her father, who was a regular director in Oregon from 1948-68, cast her to appear in Henry VI, Part Two. She was 6.

    “We used to get carted up to Ashland every summer starting in 1954,” she said. “And if they ever needed children in the shows, they would use us.”

    Anne SandoeThe first roles Anne really remembers playing were in Henry VI, Part Three, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when she was 8. “I got murdered on stage as Rutland (York's son), and then I played Mustard-seed (the littlest fairy) in Midsummer,” she said. “It was very exciting.” Her castmates included older sister Jill, who was 12, and brother John, who played a 14-year-old Puck. Sam was still swaddling.

    James Sandoe was a University of Colorado professor, librarian, bibliographer and Shakespearean scholar who founded the CU International Film Series in 1941. He also had an interesting side passion: He was a renowned reviewer of mystery novels for the Chicago Sun-Times and New York Herald Tribune.

    The Sandoe patriarch was asked to direct a play at CU in the summer of 1944, but because the Navy had taken over the University Theatre for the war effort back in 1939, Sandoe decided to try staging Romeo and Juliet in the newly built Mary Rippon. That began an annual tradition that became formalized when his friend, English professor Jack Crouch, officially founded the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 1958.

    James Sandoe (pictured below left) directed nine seasons for Colorado Shakes between 1961 and 1973. There were seasons when he would direct two shows in the same summer, while acting in others alongside his children.

    James Sandoe. “And while Jim Symons has directed the most Colorado Shakespeare Festival productions,” said Sam Sandoe, “no one has directed more productions of Shakespeare’s plays on the Mary Rippon stage than Dad. After 70 years, nobody has broken that record.”

    The Sandoes clearly have the Bard in their Boulder blood.

    “It's just the way we grew up,” Anne Sandoe said. “Instead of going to camp in the summer, we went to Shakespeare. There are lots of people who are more well-read about Shakespeare than I am. I have just been around it a lot more than most.”

    Those Sandoe veins share pumping space with the University of Colorado. Like their father, Sam and Anne are longtime employees of the school. Anne has headed the Leeds School of Business’ MBA program for the past 13 years. Sam has logged nearly 20 years in the Office of Strategic Media Relations.

    Sam SandoeThis summer, Anne is playing the Duchess of Venice, who dispatches Othello to war in Othello; and the Bishop of Winchester in Henry VI, Part One. Sam is playing Verges in Much Ado About Nothing; Gratiano in Othello; Bardolph in Henry V; and Edmund Mortimer (among others) in Henry VI, Part One

    Anne said everything she knows about theatre, she learned from her father. For example:

    “As an actor: Pick up your cues. Don't take a pause until you earn one,” she said. “As a director: The end of one scene is the beginning of the next scene. One of the things that would appall Dad about any play he might see today would be the amount of time put into scene shifts. That, and playing music that has nothing to do with the show.”

    Uncut on Broadway, Hamlet ran 4½ hours. Uncut in Boulder, James Sandoe’s Hamlet ran three hours flat.

    “It moved like a son of a bitch,” Anne said. 

    While Sam Sandoe has performed with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival fairly regularly since 1970, Anne became a mom and teacher and took a break from 1973 to 2007. Their father died in 1980 at age 68.

    With so much Boulder history intertwined with the Sandoe family tree, we sat down for a chat with Anne and Sam Sandoe. Here are more excerpts from our wide-ranging conversation:

    The Sandoe family appearing in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1955. Says Anne Sandoe: 'I’m the littlest fairly, kneeling on the ground. My sister, Jill, is second from the left. I was 8, she was 12.'

    The Sandoe family appearing in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1955. Says Anne Sandoe: "I’m the littlest fairly, kneeling on the ground. My sister, Jill, is second from the left. I was 8, she was 12." 


    John Moore: Anne, what was your first role for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival?

    Anne: The minute Dad came back here to direct in 1961, I started being in all the shows. They always needed young people. My first speaking role was playing the ghost of Prince Edward in Richard III in 1963. I was 16.

    John Moore: What was the first show you did together?

    Anne: That was Dad's production of All’s Well that Ends Well in 1970. I played Diana, and Sam was one of the soldiers.

    Anne and Sam Sandoe in Boulder. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sam: We were also together in Richard III that year.

    John Moore: So have you two felt tied to Shakespeare your entire lives?

    Sam: Oh, definitely.

    (Photo at right: Anne and Sam Sandoe in Boulder. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    John Moore: The program says this is Sam’s 26th season, and Anne’s 15th.

    Sam: Correct.

    John Moore: Anne, you started all the way back in 1961. But you had a gap between 1973 and 2008.

    Anne: Yep. Only 35 years. I left Boulder in 1973 to become a teacher, and I was gone until 2002. When I moved back, Sam said to me, ‘You know, you really ought to get back into theatre again.' And so in 2008 I auditioned for CSF, and I got cast. And I have been in it almost every year since.

    John Moore: Well, clearly you can always go home again. Sam, what’s your story?

    Sam: I haven't performed every year, but I've been on a roll. Geoff Kent (Iago in Othello) and I are tied currently for most consecutive seasons, with 13. I think we’re both eyeing each other a little bit.

    John Moore: You never took a significant break?

    Sam: No. But some years they just wouldn't hire me.

    John Moore: So you two are on a good long parallel stretch here at the Festival for the first time.

    Anne: Yes, we are.

    John Moore: What's that like for siblings of a certain age being able to spend that kind of extended quality time together?

    Sam: It's lovely.

    Anne: We still haven't been on stage together all that much. We are not often in the same shows, or on the stage at the same time.

    John Moore: Have you ever been cast together in really awkward roles, like, say, as lovers?

    Sam: No. I was one of her sons in Richard III, though.  

    Anne: Yes, he was Edward, and I was the mum.

    John Moore: So what do you get out of it now at this stage of your lives?

    Sam: We like the people.

    Peter Macon and Anne Sandoe in 'Othello,' 2015. Photo by Jennifer M. KoskinenAnne: The people are fantastic.

    Sam: And we like the magic of putting a show together - starting from those words on the page and then watching it grow into the full production. And they grow so fast now. Sometimes we cram these shows together in two weeks.

    Anne: It's just murder. Especially for the people who are doing multiple shows. I am only doing two shows this summer, so it's no big deal for me. But some people are doing four or five.

    John Moore: So why do you keep at it? 

    Anne: For me, it is about being involved with something that is a part of my heritage. Teaching is part of my training, and part of what I love to do. When I taught acting, Shakespeare was my specialty. I now teach a class for CSF Education on acting Shakespeare for Adults.

    John Moore: So I followed in my father's footsteps at The Denver Post, and I was always asked whether my Dad got me the job. Did you guys ever get that?

    Anne: Oh golly, yes. All the time.

    John Moore: What do you say to those people?

    Sam: Well, we used to get it more when he was alive. But in the early years, there were certainly some snide comments … usually jokingly. I remember one newspaper article on the festival. Someone wrote an anonymous comment online saying, "Sam Sandoe has only ever been hired because of his Dad." And I know who it was.

    John Moore: Anonymous is my least favorite writer.

    Anne: It's so cowardly. My answer to that always used to be, “If Dad cast me, it’s because he knows I can do the role. And I have to be twice as good as anybody else who auditions, because I am his kid.”

    John Moore: Was he tough on you?

    Anne: Very tough. Very.

    Sam: And he never gave us leads. The year I volunteered for the first time, I was carrying a banner and playing a peasant. I was offered some lines and I turned them down because I didn't want the responsibility.

    Anne: Dad gave me a couple of really good ingénue roles. But he wouldn't have done it if he thought I would embarrass him.

    John Moore: There has always seemed to be a steady stream of actors here who are either on their way to becoming recognizable names, or already are.

    Anne: Oh, yeah.

    Sam: Jimmy Smits was pretty fresh out of grad school when he got cast to play Othello in 1984.

    John Moore: I interviewed him about that. I remember the program bio innocuously noted that "Jim" can be seen in the upcoming NBC pilot, Miami Vice.

    Sam: Yes. So at that time, so he wasn't "Jimmy Smits" just yet.

    John Moore: And he had just had hernia surgery.

    Sam: I’ll never forget this: Here he was hired to play Othello, and when he got here, he volunteered to play the Sea Captain in Twelfth Night because they needed another actor. He said, "Well, I'm only doing one show. Can I help?"

    John Moore: Yeah, Jimmy, but that one role is … Othello.

    Sam: Exactly. He was a very nice guy. I was playing Gratiano, the same role I am playing this summer. He is one of the few actors who broke my heart every night in that final scene. I have only had a few actors do that with me onstage. He was the first.

    John Moore: Were you around for Val Kilmer’s Hamlet?
     
    Sam: Yeah, I was in that.

    John Moore: If the legend is to be believed, girls were climbing over the walls to get into the Mary Rippon.

    Sam: That's all true. We had to have special security. He rented a place that was kept very secret.

    John: Had Top Gun just come out?

    Sam: Actually that was already out. What came out that summer was Willow.

    Anne: So he was a very hot property.

    Sam: He was at the top of his career, I would say.
     
    John Moore: Was he a good Hamlet?

    Sam: He was a very good Hamlet. It was very punk rock-n-rolly. He drove the administrators and the PR people and the costumers crazy, but he was good with the acting company. He was very distant, but he didn't play much of a diva card.

    Anne: I remember Bill Sadler was here in the 1973 Hamlet. He's quite a name now (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Shawshank Redemption, Die Hard 2). But he was just out of the same grad school that Jimmy Smits (Cornell University) would graduate from 10 years later. Bill had never done a role as big as Hamlet before, and he was delightful. Such a nice guy.

    John Moore: What about a buddy of mine from Regis High School: John Carroll Lynch (American Horror Story, Fargo, Zodiac)?

    Sam: I did two seasons with John at CSF. Did you see his Frankenstein when it toured the country?

    John Moore: Yes. It played up here at Macky Auditorium.

    Sam: It did. Wonderful.

    Anne: I remember a young Michael Moriarty (Law & Order) from back in the 1960s. He was a little temperamental. Dad told the story that Michael was very upset when he wouldn't let him read for Othello.

    John Moore: I heard about this: He was said to have wept when he learned he would not be playing Othello here.

    Anne: Yeah, they still cast white guys to play Othello back then. But he was, what, 23? He was very upset. I also worked with Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure). He was very a very nice guy. Quiet. Very shy. He was just out of grad school, too. He only played small roles here. But I remember him well because I was 16 and … very impressionable.

    John Moore: Aha!

    My last show with Dad was Pericles in 1973. I played Marina, with Patricia Ryan as Thaisa. That was Dad’s last directing job at CSF. (pictured at right.) Anne: My last show with Dad was Pericles in 1973. I played Marina, with Patricia Ryan as Thaisa. That was Dad’s last directing job at CSF (pictured at right.)

    Sam: In 1979, public television did a really nice little documentary called Borrowed Faces, where they followed four actors from arrival through casting, and one of them was (Denver Center Theatre Company veteran) Annette Helde. She played Titania, Goneril and Mistress Quickly. She was just out of grad school at the University of Washington.


    John Moore: What about Annette Bening? I believe the year was 1980. She came back to Colorado five years later and joined the Denver Center Theatre Company.

    Anne: I wasn't here the year she was here.

    Sam: Nor was I.

    John Moore: Well, we won’t talk about her then. I'd like both of you pick out a favorite role from your time here at CSF.

    Anne: Well for me, it's very recent: Playing the Duchess of York in Richard III that Tina Packer directed in 2013. It was phenomenal for me. It was the right role at the right time, and it resonated with me very deeply. And because of the other women in it like Mare Trevathan and Bella Merlin. We had such a good time. And then last summer, getting to do I Hate Hamlet with that particular group of people. They were all-stars. I never get to do the contemporary pieces, so that was really fun for me.

    Sam: I would say in 2001 when we did Queen Margaret, which is a conflation of all three Henry VIs into one play. The playwright created a role of a chorus - very much like the one-man chorus in Henry V. It was a fabulous role, and it forged a real connection between the audience and the action on stage. And to my knowledge, I am the only person in the world who has ever gotten to do it.

    Anne: That's cool.

    Sam: The other show for me was Two Gentlemen of Verona. I had no lines. I played a clown with some others. We were little angels, and we actually had wings and wore diapers. So the balance of this wonderfully talky role and this absolutely silent role was a perfect combination for me.

    Anne: How fun.

    John Moore: I want to bring it back to your Dad. How does the Festival look today compared to when he left in 1974 in terms of size and scope?

    Sam: Well, there’s no grass, for one thing.

    Anne: Yes, there is no grass on the stage.

    John Moore: Are we talking about marijuana?

    A look at the grassy Mary Rippon satge in the 1960s. Anne: No! It really used to be a grass stage.

    Sam: There was no rake. It was an absolutely flat, grassy playing area with a grassy semicircle in front of it.

    Anne: Back then you tended to use the whole expanse instead of just the center. There was no set to speak of.

    Sam: No, the space was filled up with a lot of banners and things you could move around. You’d have thrones when you had to have them. But there were no background pieces. You know those two little stone alcoves on either side of the stage?

    John Moore: Yes.

    Sam: They would build platforms behind those alcoves, and that created additional acting spaces both above and below - in the alcove itself.

    Anne: In Romeo and Juliet, the balcony was above one of those alcoves.

    Sam: They began experimenting with building unit sets in the 1970s. I think they first created the raked disc that we perform on now in 1979. And the sets have just grown from there.

    Anne: It's obviously a more professional company now in terms of Equity (union) contracts. There were none back then. The first Equity contract was in 1983.

    Sam: The guy who played Richard III was the first.

    John Moore: What about performance spaces?

    Anne: We didn't used to use the indoor stage. Now they do both indoor and outdoor shows, which is a really nice thing - especially for audience members who don't like to sit outdoors anymore.

    Sam: And vice-versa. There are some people who absolutely scorn coming to the indoor shows.

    John Moore: How much time did a company have to rehearse under your Dad?

    Sam: At least four weeks.

    John Moore: As compared to … ?

    Sam: About 2 1/2 weeks now.

    Anne: But it was such a different season back then. You would be rehearsing more than one play at a time. And I don't think any of them opened until late June.

    Sam: Back then we had auditions to get into the company in February. Then the selected company members would arrive in early June, and then it was a pretty frantic two or three days because no one was pre-cast. Your entire summer was on the line in those first couple of days, and you were either delighted or reasonably pleased or devastated when the casting came out.

    John Moore: So when you came to those auditions in June, at least you knew you were in the company?

    Sam: Well, not always. Someone from the outside could show up and blow you away. In fact one of the most successful actors in CSF history was a guy named Barry Kraft. He just happened to hear about the auditions when he was up at Jones Drug on The Hill. He came in and auditioned and wound up playing Falstaff in Henry IV, Part Two, and the Bastard in King John. The next year, he played Hamlet.

    Anne: It is so much better now to know what you are playing in advance, especially because the rehearsal period is so short.

    John Moore: So if your Dad were to magically reappear in 2015, what do you think he would think of Colorado Shakespeare Festival, as an audience member?

    Anne: I think he would like certain elements of it very much. Although he would scorn the use of microphones.

    John Moore: I am guessing he would grouse that actors aren't adequately trained to reach the back of the house with their natural voices anymore.  

    Anne: He was used to working in 1,000-seat theatres. That’s what you deal with.

    Sam: My high voice has been my theatrical bane, but in some years it has gotten me hired at CSF because it carries - and I know how to handle the Rippon. There are other actors who have impressive sounding voices, but they can't get them past the fourth row.

    Anne: And I think Dad would scorn the fact that they are not using the whole stage anymore.

    Sam: Despite the fact that they have so much more lighting power now. Dad had about four big searchlights across the top of the stage.

    John Moore: But given the economy over the past decade, I imagine he would be tickled that the festival is still around.

    Sam: He had a great belief in the power of Shakespeare.

    John Moore: What's your take on the state of Shakespeare festival as an entertainment industry? The Institute of Outdoor Drama says attendance at Shakespeare festivals across the country has fallen more than 60 percent in the past 20 years.

    Anne: I believe that.

    John Moore: But the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has re-tooled itself after some tough years and, from outward appearances, appears to be bouncing back.

    Sam: It is, but as the culture changes, and as our iPhone consciousness takes over more and more, I don't know. The festival used to be one of the things you always did in the summer in Boulder. But now there are so many other things to do here. It can get lost in the entertainment shuffle.

    Anne: I went to see the Utah Shakespeare Festival a couple of years ago, and I could see why they do so very well: There is really nothing else to do at night in Cedar City, Utah. But if you come to Boulder, there are a gazillion other things to do. And so you can't quite sell it through the hotels and motels the way you can in Cedar City. You can't rely as much on tourism, so you have to build a culture that draws from your own state. I think we are doing a much better job of drawing from Denver than we used to, and I think a lot of that has to do with hiring more Denver-based actors instead of bringing in so many people from out of state. Now, I think it’s good to bring in people from out of state because that means fresh faces. But I think having a good base of Denver actors is also very important to building a broader audience base.

    John Moore: As we start to wrap up, I want you to channel your father one more time. This is about the nobility of the pursuit: Why is it important that we keep Shakespeare alive moving forward into the next generation?

    Anne: I think the peril we are in is that our audiences are aging out - those people who love and appreciate the live theatre experience. I am not sure the younger generation is being brought up that way. They are so focused on their devices.

    Sam: It parallels the problem that symphony orchestras are having. Audiences for classical music are aging out. How do you capture the young?    

    Anne: I think it takes careful training. I think we have to get schools involved in any way we can. The live anti-bullying tours that CSF does are a great way to get kids interested in what live theatre can be. You have to begin to develop that new generation of theatregoers.

    John Moore: Is part of the solution perhaps opening up the season a bit? Shakespeare is certainly the greatest playwright in the English language. But he's 400 years old.

    Anne: I understand that. But it's called the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, so I think you have to do at least a couple Shakespeares every year.

    John Moore: But the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is offering 10 titles this season – and Shakespeare only wrote three.

    Anne: Do they have to all be Shakespeare? Absolutely not. I think it is important to do other shows, and we are branching out here. But not all contemporary plays will play very well in the Mary Rippon Theatre. That's a thousand outdoor seats. That theatre is particularly well-adapted to Shakespeare.

    Sam: When you look at the non-Shakespeare plays that have done very well in the Mary Rippon, you are looking at Treasure Island ...

    Anne: The Three Musketeers ...

    John Moore: To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Anne: Mockingbird was great outside. But not all plays are going to adapt very well for outdoors.

    John Moore: Like, say, Our Town.

    Anne: No. So I think you have to pick your shows very carefully.

    John Moore: So as long as the Shakespeare Festival keeps going, do you both intend to keep doing it?

    Anne: Well, when they quit casting me … I'll quit.

    John Moore: What, it's not entirely up to you?

    Anne: Well, no, unfortunately. As long as I can remember lines and there is something they want me to do, I will do it.

    SANDOE FAMILY TREE

    • James Sandoe (1912-1980): Directed at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, ending with Pericles in 1973.

    • Julia Sandoe (1918-1992) Taught art in the Boulder Public Schools, retiring in 1978.

    • John Sandoe (1941-2014) joined the Navy and served as a medic with the Marines in Vietnam, where he was awarded a purple heart.

    • Jill Sandoe (1943-) gave up acting to teach taught arts, crafts and home economics in middle schools for almost 20 years. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.

    • Anne Sandoe (1947-) Earned her MFA from Florida State University. Began acting at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 1961. She has taught for more than 30 years and for the past 13 has been the director of MBA program at the University of Colorado’s Business School. She returned to acting at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 2008 and is currently performing in her 15th season.

    • Sam Sandoe (1954-) was in the first class of BFAs to graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder and received his MFA from UC-San Diego. He is now performing in his 26th season with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

    2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Now playing: Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Wittenberg, Henry V and Henry VI, Part One

    Dates: Through Aug. 9 in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre and University of Colorado Mainstage Theatre

    Tickets are available at coloradoshakes.org or by calling 303-492-8008.

    The box office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located in the University Club on the CU-Boulder campus.

    Previous coverage of the 2015 Colorado Shakespeare Festival:
    2015 Colorado Shakes: Tried and true; black and blue-blooded
    Our tragic, universal flaw: We are all Othello


    Anne Sandoe's contribution to The Denver Sonnets Project:

    For more on the Denver Sonnets Project, click here
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    ABOUT THE EDITOR
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

    DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.