• 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

  • Study: There's a lot of Denver in Denver Center casts this fall

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2017

    Fall Casting 800 Photos by Adams Viscom

    Survey of DCPA cast lists shows 56 percent of all available jobs this fall have gone to actors who live in Denver area 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    There has been a lot of Denver at the Denver Center this fall. An analysis of cast lists for the eight shows presented since the start of September shows that 56 percent of all actors who have taken to a DCPA stage also call Denver home.

    That doesn’t even include the eight child actors who currently populate the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol. And when you add in all the actors who grew up in Colorado but are now based elsewhere, the number of actors with local connections jumps to 67 percent.  

    “The Colorado acting community is such a multi-talented group, and that is evident in all the amazing work featured across the entire state and on every one of our stages at the DCPA this fall,” said DCPA Director of Casting Grady Soapes.

    The survey includes all homegrown programming offered by the DCPA, totaling 73 adult actor slots. Much of the local infusion this year can be traced to Off-Center’s immersive musical The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, as well as DCPA Cabaret’s newly launched musical First Date at the Galleria Theatre, both of which cast entirely local actors.

    First Date Fall Casting Photo by Emily LozowFirst Date director Ray Roderick, who is based out of New York, is responsible for the longest-running musical in Colorado Theatre history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, also at the Galleria, as well as The Taffetas, Five Course Love and many others. And while he is always empowered to cast actors based anywhere around the country, he almost always fills his Denver cast lists with Denver actors. Why? Because he can, he says.

    (Pictured above and right: Local actors Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson will be taking their 'First Date' through April 22. Photo by Emily Lozow.)

    “There is no question that there is a wealth of talent here in Denver,” Roderick said. “When I work at other regional theatre centers and I choose my cast, I’m often told, 'Well what have they done on Broadway?’ I never get that here at the Denver Center. The fact is, when you are casting a show, what matters is the story, period. And we have beautiful storytellers in Denver. That they happen to live in Denver has nothing to do with their level of talent.”

    It was the Denver Center’s Jeff Hovorka who convinced then-DCPA President Randy Weeks that the first staging of the Galleria Theatre’s Always…Patsy Cline back in 1997 could be effectively cast with local actors. Melissa Swift-Sawyer and Beth Flynn made Denver musical-theatre history when their show ran for three and a half years, only to be surpassed by I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, another all-local show that opened in 2000 and became Denver’s longest-running musical by 2004.

    “The three biggest successes in the Galleria Theatre history, including Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women, all have had local casts,” said Hovorka, now the DCPA’s Director of Sales and Marketing for Broadway and Cabaret. “Denver always has had an incredibly strong talent base, and we are always proud to celebrate the homegrown talent we have in this city.”

    Check out the all-local cast of DCPA's First Date

    The Wild Party Director Amada Berg Wilson, also the founder of a Boulder theatre company called The Catamounts, put 15 local actors to work on Off-Center’s risky plunge into immersive musical theatre, which was attended each night by 200 live party guests.

    “Having an all-local cast is evidence that we really do have the talent right here to pull off a show like this,” said Wilson. “And I think it is great that as the Denver Center continues to experiment with immersive theatre, we are developing a base of talent right here who have the tools and the vocabulary to make this specific kind of work. We are discovering that audiences are really hungry for more of it, and now we have the people here to do it.”

    michael-fitzpatrick-leslie-ocarroll-photo-credit-adamsviscom_24874516748_oThe list of local actors working for the Denver Center this fall spans beloved veterans such as Leslie O’Carroll, who is again playing Mrs. Fezziwig in the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol, to first-timers such as longtime BDT Stage favorite Wayne Kennedy and Adriane Leigh Robinson, who just played Sally Bowles for the Miners Alley Playhouse’s Cabaret.

    (Leslie O'Carroll, right with 'A Christmas Carol' castmate Michael Fitzpatrick, is now the longest-tenured actor in the DCPA Theatre Company.)

    Longtime Galleria Theatre favorites Jordan Leigh and Lauren Shealy, now appearing in First Date, have built sustainable acting careers around steady work at the DCPA, including occasional crossover roles in Theatre Company productions. Shealy, headlined the Lone Tree Arts Center’s summer production of Evita that was nominated for Outstanding Musical by the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards.

    Colorado theatre favorite Steven J. Burge, who joined the Denver Center earlier this year to play none other than God in the long-running Galleria Theatre hit An Act of God, is back in First Date, which runs through April 22. This is a job, Burge says, “that I would not quit even if I won the lottery, because I love it so much.”

    Each May, the Denver Center holds three days of “general auditions” that are open to local actors to sign up for. This year a record 100 union and 275 non-union actors participated, directly resulting in many of the fall hirings.

    Many of the Denver Center’s current crop of actors have tentacles that reach throughout the Colorado theatre community from Creede Repertory Theatre (Diana Dresser and Emily Van Fleet) to Phamaly Theatre Company (Leonard E. Barrett), which exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

    Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge, the two actors playing David in Off-Center’s The SantaLand Diaries, are both company members with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which was co-founded by occasional DCPA Theatre Company actor and Director Stephen Weitz.  

    The Theatre Company’s season-opening production of Macbeth included local playwright Steven Cole Hughes, also a longtime Teaching artist for DCPA Education and graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory. Robert O’Hara’s cast was a Denver Center reunion of sorts that also brought home Colorado natives Gareth Saxe, Erik Kochenberger and Skyler Gallun.

    Skyler GallunSaxe, a graduate of Colorado College and Denver East High School, played Scar for two years on Broadway in Disney’s The Lion King, but his DCPA Theatre Company roots go back to Cyrano de Bergerac in 2001. Kochenberger also graduated from East High School — but his was in Pueblo. Gallun, who previously appeared in Lord of the Flies, led a talkback with students from his alma mater, George Washington High School, after one Macbeth matinee (pictured at right by John Moore).

    DCPA Education head of acting Timothy McCracken, who has recently performed with both BETC (Outside Mullingar) and Local Theatre company (The Firestorm), landed this fall in both the Theatre Company’s Smart People and A Christmas Carol. His Smart People co-star Jason Veasey graduated from Coronado High School in Colorado Springs and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. His many past local credits include playing Jesus in Town Hall Arts Center’s Godspell.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This fall also has brought the launch of DCPA Education’s new Theatre for Young Audiences program. The three-person cast of The Snowy Day who performed Ezra Jack Keats’ beloved story for 19,000 pre-kindergarten through third-graders included longtime DCPA Teaching Artist Rachel Kae Taylor (also an NTC grad with three Theatre Company credits) and Robert Lee Hardy, who was recently seen in Vintage Theatre’s A Time to Kill In Aurora.  

    finalpdheadshots0005-web“This has been an exciting year not only for the local actors but for myself and the DCPA,” Soapes (pictured right) said of his local casting. “The dedication this organization has made to further highlighting the talent we have here in Denver has also deepened our appreciation for the artists who are working hard every day to entertain our audiences —  my hat goes off to them,” he said.

    Soapes said his top priority always will be to cast the best person for every role, regardless of ZIP code.

    “We here at the DCPA are excited to continue to tap further into the local talent pool, open our doors wider and show the entire industry why Denver is a destination for quality theatre,” Soapes said.

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

    Grady Soapes Quote


    Denver Center Fall 2017 Casting:

    Macbeth: 17 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Steven Cole Hughes as Doctor of the Psychic/Ensemble)

    Actors from Colorado:

    • Skyler Gallun as Donalbain/Ensemble
    • Erik Kochenberger as Hecate Two/Ensemble
    • Gareth Saxe as Duncan/Ensemble)


    'A Snowy Day. Rachel Kae Taylor, Robert Lee Hardy. Zak Reynolds. Photo by Adams Viscom.The Snowy Day:
    Three actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Rachel Kae Taylor as Archie, Amy, Mom and others
    • Robert Lee Hardy as Peter

    Smart People: Four actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Timothy McCracken
    Actors from Colorado:
    • Jason Veasey

    The Wild Party: 15 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Brett Ambler as Gold
    • Leonard Barrett Jr. as Oscar D’Armano
    • Allison Caw as Sally
    • Laurence Curry as Black
    • Diana Dresser as Miss Madelaine True
    • Katie Drinkard as Mae
    • Trent Hines as Phil D’Armano
    • Drew Horwitz as Burrs
    • Wayne Kennedy as Goldberg
    • Sheryl McCallum as Dolores
    • Jenna Moll Reyes as Nadine
    • Marco Robinson as Eddie Mackrel
    • Emily Van Fleet as Queenie
    • Aaron Vega as Jackie
    • Erin Willis as Kate

    Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women: Three actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Barbara Gehring
    • Linda Klein
    • Amie MacKenzie

    A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 24): 21 adult actor jobs; eight youth jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Sam Gregory as Ebenezer Scrooge
    • Chas Lederer as Swing
    • Kyra Lindsay as Martha Cratchit/Ensemble
    • Chloe McLeod as Swing
    • Timothy McCracken as Ebenezer Scrooge understudy
    • Leslie O’Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig/Ensemble
    • Jeffrey Roark as Jacob Marley/Ensemble
    • Shannan Steele as Ensemble
    • Marco Robinson as Ensemble

    A Michael Bouchard 800The SantaLand Diaries (through Dec. 24): Two actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Michael Bouchard as David
    • Luke Sorge as David understudy
    First Date (through April 22): Eight actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Adriane Leigh Robinson as Casey
    • Seth Dhonau as Aaron
    • Steven J. Burge as Man 1
    • Aaron Vega as Man 2 (Nov. 11-Dec. 3)
    • Jordan Leigh as Man 2 (Dec. 5-April 22)
    • Lauren Shealy as Woman 1
    • Barret Harper as Male Understudy
    • Cashelle Butler as Female Understudy
  • Photos: Phamaly Theatre Company's amazing Opening Night tradition

    by John Moore | Aug 01, 2017
    Phamaly: Opening Night of 'Annie' Photos from Opening Night of Phamaly Theatre Company's 'Annie,' playing through Aug. 6 at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The pre-show ritual is called 'Zap,' and it infuses the cast and crew with energy and focus.

    By John Moore
    Senor Arts Journalist

    In the minutes before the opening performance of Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie, actor and founding company member Mark Dissette gathers the cast of 36 actors, each with widely varying disabilities, along with crew and volunteers, for one of the most electrifying pre-show rituals in the local theatre community.

    They form a circle. Those who can stand, stand. Those who cannot roll up in their wheelchairs. Those who can clasp hands, clasp hands. Those with missing or disfigured hands make contact with their neighbors as best they can. They all close their eyes in reverence as Dissette calls out from memory the agonizingly long list of company members who have passed away during the 28 years that this unique company has been creating performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Dissette then begins the ritual they call "Zap." As if there weren't enough energy in the air already, the group begins to buzz. Literally. "This is our dream - get a little louder," Dissette orders. And they do. "Bzzz." "This is our vision - get a little louder." And they do. "BZZZ." After more exhortation, the vibration builds to a deafening climax.

    "1-2-3 ..." Dissette shouts, and all voices scream in unison, "ZAP!"

    Now there is nothing but sudden, solemn silence. The next spoken word is not to be uttered until the actors hit the stage. For a company whose actors are blind and deaf, with disabilities ranging from stroke to spina bifida to multiple sclerosis to AIDS, it is both the beginning and the culmination of an extraordinary opening-night journey. 

    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.

    Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie: Ticket information
    • Through Aug. 6
    • Stage Theatre Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets: $20-$37
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Accessible performance: Aug. 3

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    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

    Phamaly
  • The triumph of Phamaly's not-so-horrible Hannigan

    by John Moore | Jul 14, 2017
    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by Michael Ensminger


    Despite physical challenges, Phamaly's Ashley Kelashian says the girls of Annie just wanna have sun.

    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    It was the first day of rehearsal for a highly anticipated new production of Annie, and one overwhelmed young actor in a wheelchair began to panic. The girl was one of the many novices who will play orphans in Phamaly Theatre Company’s upcoming staging on the DCPA Theatre Company’s biggest stage.

    For 28 years, Phamaly has made performance opportunities available for actors with disabilities, culminating in a big Broadway musical every summer at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For actors with mental and physical challenges, adjusting to the move from the rehearsal room to the vaunted stage with dozens of fast-moving cast and crew swirling about can be too much.

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by John MooreBut veteran Phamaly actor Ashley Kelashian spotted the girl and took action. Within seconds, she managed to maneuver her own wheelchair to the girl’s side and comforted her, despite the enormous pain she was in herself. That’s the way it goes at Phamaly, where there is always an army of special people standing by to help those with special needs.

    At Phamaly, everyone is different - which is what makes everyone the same.

    “We are aptly named Phamaly because it is a family too,” said Kelashian, who, ironically, will be scaring the bejeebers out of the orphans in the iconic role of the mean Mrs. Hannigan when Annie opens on Saturday.

    Kelashian and the girl she helped have more in common than wheelchairs: She has been acting since she was old enough to play an orphan herself. She knew performing was her calling when she was 13 and a teacher told her forcefully, ‘That is what you are supposed to do with your life.’ ”

    Kelashian grew up in Texas and attended the University of Texas at Arlington, where she received the R.L. Frasier Scholarship for Artistic Excellence. It was there, while playing a witch in Macbeth, she discovered something was going wrong with her body.

    “There was a point in the play when we had to run up over this hill because it was an outdoor theatre,” she said. “But I had a breakdown and all these lumps popped up over me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.” When she admitted to her director that she could no longer accommodate the physical demands of the blocking because she was in such pain - she was cut from the show.

    Phamaly campaign raises $200K, 'saves the company'

    “Everyone was like, ‘You need to handle this. You shouldn't be on stage if you aren’t in shape to run down the hill,’ ” Kelashian said. “Instead of just changing things around so I wouldn’t have to run down the hill, they let me go.”

    A life-changing diagnosis

    Kelashian was diagnosed with Dercum’s disease, a rare condition that caused tumors to grow over her body and under her skin. The result is extreme and constant pain.

    Her peers just didn’t get it, and Kelashian dropped out of college. She says the next couple of years were a dark time. She was depressed because she could no longer act out her passion for theatre - and scared because of the uncertainty this little-known disease brought.

    “That was a rough experience,” she said. “I really don’t talk to anyone from that time of my life, just because it was such a strange thing to go through at a young age.”

    Kelashian enrolled at a local community college where she studied Speech and Debate - “or what I call ‘Competitive Theatre,’ she quipped. It was during a competition she met the man she would marry and start a family with.

    The couple moved to Denver with son Edric, she said, because of the city’s reputation for providing services that allow the disability community to live full and independent lives. “Denver is the the disability mecca,” she said with a laugh. The subsequent legalization of medical marijuana has been a godsend, she says, because it eases her chronic pain.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by John Moore


    The only thing that was missing from her life here was theatre. That changed in 2012. One day while scanning the audition notices in The Denver Post, one upcoming production caught Kelashian’s eye: Phamaly was looking for disabled actors to perform in Little Shop of Horrors.

    “I fell to pieces,” Kelashian said. “I didn't know anything except that whatever this was, it was for me. I just cried and cried. I auditioned, I got in - and that is what I have been doing ever since.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kelashian instantly felt she could be herself again in the company of Phamaly. Subsequent roles with the company have included Yente in Fiddler on the Roof and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Her son, Edric Kelashian, joined his mother in the ensemble of Fiddler.

    Ashley Kelashian_Quote 2Through it all, Kelashian has tried not to let her disease change her instinct to always put others first.

    “You have to be humble,” she said. “You have to be patient through your own pain, so you have to be patient with other people's pain. Any opportunity you have to make someone feel good is a good chance for me.”

    As Phamaly's official Literary Manager, Kelashian maintains a script library to help her fellow actors prepare for auditions. She has resisted the frequent suggestion that she should charge for the service.

    “My motto is, ‘Kind is the most important thing you can be,’ ” Kelashian said. “I hope people would say I am kind and helpful whenever I can be.”

    She seems by all accounts, completely miscast to play the role Carol Burnett made famous on film. Mrs. Hannigan is the booze-sodden, kid-hating caretaker of the ratty New York orphanage where she makes her girls scrub the floor till it shines like the Chrysler Building. But while Kelashian might not be wicked, she is known for her wicked sense of humor.

    “Sometimes she just channels Hannigan," said castmate Jenna Bainbridge, who plays good-girl Grace. “Last night one of the kids were driving us crazy and she said, ‘Oh, God, I feel like Hannigan today. I need a drink, you guys.' "

    The sun will come out in Texas

    The Kelashian family moved back to Texas a year ago so Edric could attend his freshman year of high school with his friends there. Ashley has been traveling to and from Denver for the past year to continue her work for Phamaly.  

    For this run of Annie, Kelashian is living in an apartment with a roommate, and she admitted there are times when she needs to ask for help.

    “I don't want to say I overestimated myself before I came back here for this - but I did,” Kelashian said. “I have gotten to the point where when I do the dishes, the repetitive motion tears the tissue in my arm. And at rehearsal, I need to wave the kids all about, and that is more painful than normal.”

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by Avery AndersonBut all Kelashian had to do was say the word, and "within 30 minutes," she said, help was on the way. The Denver Center, which not only makes its theatres available for Phamaly productions but also assists with production, marketing and logistical support, had made one of the apartments it owns in nearby Brooks Tower building available to another out-of-town Annie performer. And that convenience has made her available to help Kelashian at a moment's notice.

    "I got a phone call saying she could come over and help me with things and take me to the emergency room if I ever needed it,” Kelashian said. “I was just crying. Nowhere else in the world would I get this kind of accommodation to do what I love doing.”

    And when Edric graduates from high school in 2020, Kelashian and her husband plan to come home to Colorado for good.

    “Phamaly is the end-game of my life,” Kelashian said. 

    Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie: Ticket information
    • July 15 through Aug. 6
    • Stage Theatre Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Directed by Regan Linton and Steve Wilson. Musical Direction by Trent Hines
    • Tickets: $20-$37
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Accessible performances: July 23, Aug. 3

    Video: View Phamaly's official Annie trailer


    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:

    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 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 at @a_anderson64.

  • Pop-culture 'Annie,' from comics to Broadway to Jay-Z

    by John Moore | Jul 03, 2017

    A sneak video peek at Phamaly Theatre Company's 'Annie,' opening July 15 at the Denver Center.


    Today, tomorrow and forever, the red-headed orphan is part of our pop-culture fabric.

    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Denver's Phamaly Theatre Company has provided performance opportunities for actors with disabilities for 28 years. The company stages a big, annual Broadway musical every summer at the Denver Center, and the upcoming Annie will be its first to be presented in the larger Stage Theatre.

    Over the years, America's favorite red-headed orphan has appeared several different forms from the big screen to the newspaper. And the Annie you see on stage this month at the Denver Center "will be unlike any production of Annie you've ever seen," promises co-director Regan Linton.

    Here are 10 different versions of Annie we have met throughout nearly a century of American pop-culture history:


    NUMBER 1In the newspaper: Annie was introduced to the world in 1924 as a comic strip called Little Orphan Annie in the New York Daily News. In this version created by Harold Gray, Annie often battled her archenemy: The mean-spirited and cold-hearted Mrs. Warbucks, if you can believe it. The comic strip attracted adult readers with political commentary that targeted organized labor, the New Deal and communism. The comics ran in several different papers and as different versions until 2010.

    annie comic book




    NUMBER 2On the radio:
    Running from 1931-42 on NBC’s Blue Network, Little Orphan Annie closely followed the comic-book storylines. America’s favorite redhead drew  6 million listeners a week. The radio show even made a cameo in the movie A Christmas Story, prompting the famous Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine scene.




     

    NUMBER 3Early movies: Long before Annie could be seen singing “Tomorrow” on the bring scree, she had two film premieres in 1932 and 1938. The 1932 version (below) followed the traditional adoption story, while the sequel saw her head to Hollywood to work for low wages as a stunt double.





    NUMBER 4Broadway musical: The world was introduced to the iconic Annie stage musical 40 years ago, in 1977. Opening just days after the Watergate scandal, Annie was welcomed as a breath of optimism and hope. The original Broadway production won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and ran for almost six years.




    NUMBER 5AnnieLater movies:
    There have been three movie musical versions of Annie. The 1982 version starred Aileen Quinn and Carol Burnett and differed from the stage show substantially by adding and removing several songs. At the time, it was the most expensive film musical ever made, at about $40 million to produce. Nearly $10 million of that went to buying the rights to the 1977 Broadway source musical. There were more than 500 product tie-ins ranging from umbrellas to lunch boxes. Annie was brought back to the screen in 1999 for a TV movie, followed by a 2014 remake produced by Will Smith and Jay-Z and featuring an African-American Annie, Quvenzhané Wallis.

     



    NUMBER 6Hard Knock-Life
    Jay-Z
    : In 1998, Jay-Z released his version of Hard Knock Life. Originally, he did not have the rights to use the song. So he wrote a letter explaining that he had seen the show on Broadway on a field trip and that it had touched him so much that he cried. That was all it took for him to get the green light for the rights. He later revealed in his autobiography that he actually never saw the show and made up the whole story. 




    NUMBER 7Stage sequels:
    Annie almost returned to the New York stage with a 1989 sequel called Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge. Even with Dorothy Loudon reprising her role as Miss Hannigan, the production was a disaster and closed during its pre-Broadway run in Washington. Another off-Broadway sequel in 1992 called Annie Warbucks fared better. It starred Harve Presnell and featured Denver's Michael E. Gold - but it never made it to Broadway.

    annie stage



    NUMBER 8Forbidden Broadway: Young Annie found herself in a different kind of role in 1982 when Forbidden Broadway added her to its annual satiric musical revue. In this version Annie is a 30-year-old smoking adult who sings a parody of her iconic "Tomorrow" song.




    NUMBER 9Actress AnnieActress who have played Annie:
    Over the years, many actresses have played the title role of Annie including Andrea McArdle, Alicia Morton, Quevenzhané Wallis and Sarah Jessica Parker.






    NUMBER 10Coming up in Colorado:
    Little Orphan Annie will be no stranger to area stages in the coming months. In addition to Phamaly Theatre Company's upcoming staging at the Denver Center from July 15- Aug. 6, BDT Stage will be staging Annie from Nov. 18- Feb. 24. Pictured below: The cast of Phamaly's Annie at a recent promotional benefit appearance for the Denver Actors Fund at the Alamo Drafthouse. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Annie Phamaly

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie: Ticket information
    • July 15 through Aug. 6
    • Stage Theatre Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets: $20-$37
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Accessible performances: July 23, Aug. 3

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    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 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.

  • Photos: Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’

    by John Moore | Jun 12, 2017
    Phamaly 2017 gala
    Photos from Phamaly Theatre Company's annual gala on June 3 hosted by Kyle Dyer of Channel 9 and former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers (pictured below and right with Phamaly's Regan Linton). To see more photos, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewCenter.

    Phamaly's mission to transform the public perception of disability will continue with Annie at the Denver Center

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Phamaly Theatre Company's emergency "Sunny Tomorrow" fundraising campaign has reached its $100,000 goal, and the company's subsequent annual company gala at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum on June 3 raised a record $101,000 in addition, company officials announced. 

    "We are still blown away by the overwhelming energy that we felt in the room," said Phamaly Development and Marketing Manager Tamara Arrenado. "Phamaly has so much momentum and enthusiasm moving forward."

    Annie gala PhamalyPhamaly, a rare and internationally acclaimed theatre company that exclusively provides performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, faced the real prospect of bankruptcy before the fundraising initiatives were launched by Acting Executive Director Regan Linton. The company had undergone unprecedented recent expansion, "and this level of operation has unpredictably strained our organization," Linton wrote in an open letter to Phamaly supporters.

    At the gala, a moment was taken to thank Linton for her efforts. "You saved the company," Production Manager Paul Behrhorst said bluntly. 

    For 27 years, Phamaly's mission has been to produce professional plays and musicals that empower its performers and transforms the public's perception of disability.

    Phamaly's annual summer Broadway musical presentation will be Annie, opening July 15 at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre. Members of the cast performed at the gala. See the photos above.

    Annie: Ticket information
    annieAt a glance: You may know the story of Annie, but Phamaly's approach to this familiar story will be more raw and humanistic. "These are hardened orphans who have faced a lot of adversity in their lives, just like the actual young actors in our cast who are going to be playing these roles,” said co-director co-Director Regan Linton.

    Presented by Phamaly Theatre Company
    July 15-Aug. 6
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Directed by Regan Linton and Steve Wilson
    Call 303-575-0005 or go to the Denver Center's web page

    Phamaly, Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of Annie film
    Glance: The Denver Actors Fund hosts a monthly film series at Alamo Drafthouse Denver showing a movie both inspired by a Broadway musical and is also currently  being presented by a local theatre company somewhere in the area. This month:  Get a sneak peek at Phamaly's upcoming production of Annie with a live performance by members of the cast before the classic 1982 Carol Burnett film is shown in TWO Alamo theatres simultaneously. All tickets $10. 

    Presented at Alamo Drafthouse Sloans Lake
    4255 W. Colfax Ave.
    6:30 p.m. live entertainment, 7 p.m. film
    Choose your preferred seating here.

    Note: Choose 6:30 start time to be in a fully accessible Theatre 4: The Phamaly performance will be interpreted, and the movie will be captioned on screen. This performance is also designated as public singalong. Choose the 6:35 p.m. screening if you want listen to the movie in quiet adulation in Theater 5. You won't miss the live performance by Phamaly. We will livestream the performance next door right onto the screen in Theater 5. This will be the screen with NO captions.

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment
  • Charles Packard leaving Aurora Fox after 19 years

    by John Moore | May 23, 2017
    Charles Packard Charles Packard was nominated for a Denver Post Ovation Award for designing this set for the ice-climbing drama 'K2' in the Aurora Fox studio theatre in 2012. 
     

    Longtime Executive Producer cited budget cutbacks, exhaustion and personal hurdles as ongoing difficulties

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Charles Packard, Executive Producer for the Aurora Fox Arts Center since 2009, has resigned, both he and city officials confirmed today in joint statements. 

    Packard is resigning "to pursue other opportunities," said Abraham Morales, Senior Public Information Officer for the city of Aurora. In his own statement, Packard cited fatigue. "I have grown tired, then exhausted, and it has come time to close," he said.

    Associates close to Packard, who was placed on administrative leave May 8, say his sometimes competing role as both an artist and arts administrator for Charles Packard Quotea city-owned performing-arts facility had become increasingly more difficult to navigate. Reached at home 10 days ago, Packard said he was looking forward to visiting family in Michigan, and that "I am really thrilled for what's coming next in my life."

    In today's statement, he elaborated: "I will be spending the next few months 'in the sandwich,' " he said. "My parents are aging, and my kids are growing fast. I will be with them while my artistic and public-servant batteries recharge.

    "In the 19 years I've been at the Fox we have had a few failures, many successes and tremendous growth. The audience has changed and the neighborhood has changed. I have grown as an artist." (Read the full statement here.)
     
    On the blog Packard regularly kept on the Aurora Fox web site, Packard wrote openly about the theatre's many artistic achievements, but also "unprecedented challenges including staff changes, budget crises, weather and other assaults, as well as intense personal hurdles."

    The change comes at a tenuous time for the Fox, which has not yet announced its 33rd season beginning in September. Cultural Services Manager Gary Margolis, Packard's boss, will handle administrative duties while a national job search is conducted to find Packard's replacement. Margolis joined the city a year ago. When he moved to Aurora from San Diego, Packard described him as "Aurora’s No. 1 arts advocate."

    Packard's resignation also comes as the Fox has been enjoying a steady stream of artistic and box-office successes. Last July, the Fox received six Henry Award nominations, including Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company.

    Local actor, director and former Aurora Fox employee Robert Michael Sanders said Packard has been one of the most impactful people in the local theatre community over the past two decades.

    "In his years at the Fox, Charlie set himself and the theatre apart with a simple premise: 'Why not?' " said Sanders. "He set the bar high and brought people up around him."

    Packard, a former president of the Colorado Theatre Guild, joined the Aurora Fox in 1999 as Production Manager and Associate Producer. He is also a multiple award-winning Scenic Designer known for elaborate sets including The Wedding Singer, Xanadu, Something Wicked this This Way Comes, Arabian Nights, K2 and Big Fish. He won the 2014 Henry Award for his design of the water-themed Metamorphoses in the Aurora Fox studio theatre.

    Packard has long been known for openly sharing his talents with theatre companies throughout the metro area including Curious Theatre, Magic Moments and more. His scenic work is currently on display in Curious' The Luckiest People. His boxing-ring design for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, a co-production between Curious and Colorado Springs TheatreWorks, was nominated for 2013 True West and Henry awards. He is also an accomplished lighting designer, winning the 2006 Denver Post Ovation Award with Jennifer Orf for Phamaly Theatre Company's The Wiz.

    Read the Aurora Sentinel's 2012 profile on Charles Packard

    Sanders said Packard has been one of the theatre community's strongest advocates for actors' rights. "He has always fought behind the scenes for actors to be paid a decent wage and have health insurance," Sanders said.

    The Aurora Fox was built for $10,000 as an art-deco neighborhood movie theater in 1946. It was renovated in the 1980s as a community arts center with two performing spaces and has become an anchor of the Aurora Cultural Arts District, which stretches along East Colfax Avenue from Clinton Street to Geneva Street. That includes the nearby Vintage Theatre, which also sports two performing spaces less than a half-mile away. For years, city leaders have hoped to turn this iconic stretch of East Colfax Avenue into a cultural destination that might grow surrounding businesses, but the results have been mixed.

    "Charles Packard has been the anchor of the Aurora Cultural Arts District for the better part of a decade," said Vintage Theatre Executive Director Craig Bond. "At the helm of the Aurora Fox he has directed, produced, supported and encouraged various groups of artists to achieve amazing theatrical successes within Aurora. His leadership will be missed within Aurora, but I am sure his amazing staff will continue to support great work within the 80010 zip code."

    Charles Packard The Wedding SingerIn his role at the Fox, Packard has overseen both the 245-seat mainstage theatre and the transformable studio theatre that seats about 90. The Aurora Fox typically produces five shows per year while making its theatres available for many other local theatres to rent. In recent years, Packard has blown open the Fox’s doors to underserved voices and audiences with productions including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics, The Color Purple, Black Elk Speaks, Porgy & Bess and the current Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

    Packard has also steered the Fox through several small controversies over the years. The Fox’s partnership with Ignite Theatre, which staged 31 productions at the Fox, hit a hiccup in 2015 when Aurora city officials said the Fox could no longer present simultaneous shows in its two spaces until the backstage dressing-room space was expanded. That forced Ignite to move or cancel three upcoming productions. And in January, Ignite ceased production

    Charles Packard  Consider the OysterThe Fox garnered much unwanted attention late last month when Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the finale of the current mainstage season, was beset with production problems, culminating with the last-minute decision to cancel the opening weekend of performances out of concern for the safety of the actors. 

    (Pictured above: Charles Packard's curtain speeches have been a staple at the Aurora Fox since 2009. Here: 'Consider the Oyster' in 2013. Photo by John Moore.)

    While numbers for the current season are not complete (Priscilla closes out the season on May 28), 2015-16 was a banner year for Packard and the Aurora Fox. In his blog, Packard reported records for fundraising, ticket revenue and season subscriptions (up an astounding 26 percent over the previous season). “My goal for the year was to be up 10 percent, which in itself was a pretty bold promise to make my board of directors,” Packard told the Aurora Sentinel. “But the increase probably just means that (Aurora Cultural Arts District Managing Director Tracy Weil’s) efforts of image control for the neighborhood have been successful.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Part of Packard’s job was “refining the theater’s financial model,” which proved to be an evolving and ongoing challenge with the city.

    Back on his blog, Packard wrote: “I am very proud of our results this year. We achieved high and quantifiable artistic successes (despite budget cutbacks.) We pushed ourselves as individual artists and stretched the very definition of what it means to be a collaborative arts center. And, we had unprecedented challenges. We’ve had staff changes, budget crises, weather and other assaults as well as intense personal hurdles."

    Beginnings in Michigan summer stock

    Charles Packard MiscastPackard, a Michigan native, said in a 2012 Aurora Sentinel profile that his first gig was working in “the creative chaos of summer-stock festivals after dropping out of Western Michigan University. Packard worked as a stage manager for a musical workshop in New Bedford, Mass., helping to create new works as creative egos clashed and backers pulled out.

    Packard arrived in Colorado in 1997 and quickly found work as a freelance stage manager and designer. His duties at the Fox evolved to season selection, design, administration and a long list of other small jobs necessary for running a theater. He stepped into the executive producer role in early 2009, just after the full effects of the economic collapse of 2008 started to hit the local theater community.

    (Photo at right: Charles Packard showed off his playful side by performing a number from 'La Cage Aux Folles' for Miscast, a 2007 benefit performance. Photo by John Moore.)

    “About every day, I was on the phone with my grandfather and my great aunt, begging for them to tell me stories about the Great Depression,” Packard said, laughing. “I wanted to know — how bad can this get?”

    Aurora Chamber of Commerce Vice President George Peck said of Packard’s hiring in 2009: “Charlie reaches out and creates networks. He understands that arts are not narrowly focused. We were very impressed with Charlie’s facility to wear both of those hats. He still has that very creative side that is necessary to be successful running a theater. But he understands the business aspects as well.”

    Packard's reach into the community often exceeded theater. In 2007, Packard helped with the defense in a gruesome federal death-penalty case. Rudy Sablan, an inmate in the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, was charged with murder for helping his cousin eviscerate a third man in the 7-by-14-foot cell the three shared. Packard was hired to meticulously re-create the jail cell in the U.S. District courtroom.

    “I don’t really care whether the person being defended is a good guy or a bad guy,” Packard said at the time. “I am proud to be part of giving him a rigorous defense.”

    For the Fox season that is ending May 28, Packard adopted the theme “Life on the Margins of Polite Society.” The intent of the season, he wrote on his Fox blog, “was to examine ourselves and the groups we form for safety and comfort. We have reflected on those tight-knit groups of like-minded people we hold dear. Our polite society. We have been introduced to others. To those left on our margins, the different, the foreign, the newcomer. We have seen that those individuals are at the center of their own hard spheres.”

    He signed off, as he often did, “ I will see you at the theater.”

    In today's closing statement, Packard wrote: "No arts organization should become dependent on the presence of any single mind. That is true of The Fox ... Dozens of artists are still here working hard on the 33rd season. Soon a new producer will emerge, and he or she will build on our accomplishments."

    Said Sanders: "Whether it was choosing shows, directing, designing or running the business of theatre, Charlie always asked the same question: 'Does it have heart?'

    "He does."

    An excerpt from Charles Packard’s blog:

    “As arts advocates and administrators we remove obstacles. We deflect worry and distraction from our artists whenever possible. We don’t want them to know how hard it can be. When you have gifted painters living in your community the last thing you want them to worry about is how to buy paint or where to hang their finished work. You want them to create art for all of our benefit. That is my job and the job of other administrators and advocates for The Fox.”

    Note: This report will continue to be updated throughout the day.

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.
  • Video: Phamaly's Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award

    by John Moore | May 09, 2017

    The video above was played at the annual PUSH Gala for Craig Hospital with the announcement of Phamaly Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Regan Linton as the 2017 Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award winner. Video provided by Craig Hospital.


    By John Moore

    Senior Arts Journalist

    Phamaly Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Regan Linton was honored at Craig Hospital's annual PUSH Gala as the winner of the 2017 Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award on April 29.

    Craig is a world-renowned, non-profit rehabilitation hospital that specializes in treating patients with spinal cord injury  and traumatic brain injury. The award recognizes a Craig graduate who, through community service, professional achievement, and personal support of Craig’s patients, graduates, and mission, significantly brings to life the spirit of Craig to others in the community.

    Linton is an actor, educator, and prominent voice for disability inclusion in the national theatre community. The Denver East graduate was paralyzed in a 2002 car accident and went on to the University of California at San Diego, where she become the first paralyzed student ever accepted into any of the nation’s top masters acting conservatory programs.

    Story continues below the video:


    Video: Regan Linton accepts the Craig Hospital Award:


    After performing around the country for prominent companies including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Linton returned to Denver in August to lead Phamaly out of an imminent financial crisis. She will co-direct Annie with a cast made up exclusively of actors with physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities, opening July 13 at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre.

    Regan Linton Kelli JohnsonThe PUSH dinner raised more than $1.8 million to support Craig’s programs and research.

    The other major award of the night was the Inspiration Award, which went to Craig graduate Kelli Johnson in recognition of her work to encourage skier and rider safety in memory of her daughter, Elise.

    Johnson (pictured at right with her family) sustained a traumatic brain injury in a ski accident when she and her daughter were struck by a snowboarder. Elise died in the accident. Johnson and her husband, Chauncy, are working with the National Ski Areas Association on a campaign to encourage safety in memory of their daughter. (See video below.)

    The emcee of the PUSH gala was Kyle Clark of KUSA Channel 9.

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Regan Linton:
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment
    Regan Linton works her magic in San Diego
    Video: Reagan Linton wins Colorado Rockies Inspiration Award
    Phamaly's historic goodwill tour to Japan
    The Regan Linton story: Performing for those who cannot


    Video: Kelli Johnson Inspiration Award:

    The video above was played at the annual Push Gala for Craig Hospital with the announcement of Kelli Johnson as the winner of the annual Inspiration Award. Video provided by Craig Hospital.


    Photos from the 2017 PUSH gala:

    Regan Linton accepts Craig Hospital Award

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.
  • Phamaly Theatre Company faces immediate $100,000 shortfall

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2017

    Phamaly. Regan Linton

     
    UPDATE June 2: Update: Phamaly Theatre Company reports that it has reached its $100,000 goal to off-set its immediate budget shortfall thanks to 325 donors. Artistic Director Regan Linton: "Challenge is no stranger to the company members of Phamaly. For 28 years, Phamaly has persevered and triumphed in its mission to produce extraordinary theatre and transform the lives of people with and without disabilities. We are able to continue doing this because of the amazing humans who are part of our Phamaly family. We hope you will join us for Annie this summer and share in the joy, camaraderie and artistry that Phamaly continues to foster."

    Rapid expansion has put the acclaimed company that creates opportunities for actors with disabilities in danger.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The posters for Phamaly Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Annie don’t say “The sun will come out tomorrow,” as you might expect. Instead, they ask a far more ominous question: “Will tomorrow ever come?” It’s a reference to the original comic-book source. And that's the very question hanging over the internationally acclaimed Denver theatre company that has been providing performance opportunities for actors with disabilities for 27 years.

    Phamaly has launched an emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign to stay in operation past the summer. The deadline is July 1.  

    Phamaly quote“Phamaly is in a rough spot right now – maybe rougher than it has ever been in before,” said Artistic Director and actor Regan Linton, who rejoined Phamaly last August only to discover that the company was facing a potentially catastrophic revenue shortfall. The culprit: Too much expansion, much too fast.

    Phamaly now performs a full year-round season, offers a statewide children’s tour and stages a big Broadway musical each summer at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    The first public sign of possible trouble at Phamaly was the successive departures of both new Artistic Director Bryce Alexander and new Executive Director Maureen Ediger within four months last year. In January, the previously announced upcoming staging of Peter Pan was scratched because of rising costs associated with flying special-needs actors. Annie took its place. But the full extent of the problem only became known when the company released an uncommonly transparent public statement on March 28.

    "We need your support like we never have before," it reads.

    Phamaly’s annual operating budget has more than doubled in seven years, from $350,000 in 2008-09 to $850,000 last year. This year’s budget was cut to $750,000, but still - without an immediate cash infusion, “bankruptcy is a scary possibility,” Linton told the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Read the full Phamaly letter to its supporters

    “I'm an optimist, but Phamaly is facing that possibility more realistically right now than it ever has before,” said Linton. “I'm hesitant to use that word, bankruptcy, but yeah, it is important to give people a sense of the stakes.”

    The Phamaly statement that also announced the launch of “The Campaign for a Sunny Tomorrow” was posted both to its website and sent out to the company’s full email list.

    Phamaly-Pygmalion“Phamaly significantly expanded programming a couple of years ago with the best intentions of serving more members of our community and making a greater impact,” it read. “This expansion included increasing the number of mainstage shows, offering educational classes, increasing outreach, moving into a new office with rehearsal space, and growing our staff. We expanded too much, too quickly." Added Linton: "I think at some point you have to be able to say, ‘No. There are certain things we can’t do,’ and be OK with that."

    (Pictured right: Phamaly's recent production of 'Pygmalion.') 

    Expansion also brought unexpected expenses, missed projections an overextended staff. And, Linton bluntly admits, that has had an inevitable impact on the quality of the company's productions over the past year.

    “Phamaly has not necessarily been producing the kind of theatre that I think we are capable of,” Linton said. “Our productions have not been optimally supported, and our ability to keep patrons fully engaged has been affected.”

    Phamaly’s closest supporters immediately responded to the company’s distress signal with $30,000 in pledges in the first 17 days of the drive.  The Harvey Family Foundation has agreed to match up to $35,000 of new donations for this campaign, although Linton said that money will not count against the overall goal "to raise $100,000 in new and different money from other fundraising activities,” Linton said, including the annual Phamaly gala, which is expected to raise a separate $35,000 on June 3.

    Click here to support the Phamaly fundraising campaign

    Hundreds of local theatre companies have come and gone since a group of disabled student actors, frustrated by the lack of opportunity to perform, began staging shows in 1989 in the basement of the Boettcher School. But there is much more at stake when the endangered company is the one and only company that presents professional plays and musicals cast entirely with performers who have physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.

     “Phamaly is a unique company. There’s no other like it in Colorado, and really no other company exactly like it in the entire United States,” Linton said.

    Phamaly Gala 2016 Phamaly has built its reputation for creating performances that transform the lives of both the actors onstage and the audiences watching. The company has produced a treasure trove of indelible stage memories, including a production about circus freaks called Side Show, and a Man of La Mancha starring Linton as an Aldonza who is beaten and tossed from her wheelchair, forcing Linton to sing her guttural battle song while crawling across the stage by her elbows. These and dozens of other moments sear themselves into the consciousness of anyone watching.

    “I think a good theatrical experience is about so much more than how high your chorus kicks. It's about: Are you moved by what you see? Does it transform your way of seeing the world?” said Linton, the only Artistic Director leading a major U.S. theatre company from a wheelchair, according to the Theatre Communications Group.

    “I think that is something Phamaly does unlike any theatre company, and it’s because you have these extraordinary human beings doing these shows that make you think about the human condition and the human experience in a completely different way.”

    (Pictured above and right: Rob Costigan and Hannah Balmer dance at the 2016 Phamaly gala, which is coming up again on June 3.)

    But in recent years, Linton said, “I feel like some of our productions have been trying to fit into a mold that other theatre companies already fit. I don't think that's what we should be doing. I think we should be creating our own mold.”

    That starts with Annie, which Linton is co-directing with Steve Wilson, the longtime Phamaly Artistic Director who resigned in 2014 to focus on his full-time job as Executive Director of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center. Because the Space Theatre is undergoing a year-long renovation, Annie, opening July 13, will be Phamaly’s first-ever production in the Stage Theatre, which is nearly twice as big as The Space Theatre. That creates both  artistic opportunities and the chance to introduce Phamaly to new audiences, and Linton plans to take full advantage of both. “This will be unlike any production of Annie you've ever seen," she promises.

    “I don't want to do the same old Annie,” she said. “I don't even want the red wig. I don't want any of the little girls in dresses. These are hardened orphans who have faced a lot of adversity in their lives, just like the actual young actors in our cast who are going to be playing these roles. We want to give the audience characters who are grounded in something real. And one thing our actors do better than anybody is present something authentic and real onstage.”

    So what happens if Phamaly does not raise $100,000 in new money by July 1?

    “Phamaly is definitely in danger of not being able to do our programming, at least for the near future,” Linton said. “But I'm an optimist, so I feel like even if Phamaly gets to the worst possible state where we would have to close our doors, Phamaly will continue to exist in some form because it is such an important part of the community.

    “My hope is that we would always find a way to make it work, especially in keeping with the Phamaly spirit. We find ways to make things work. That’s what we do.”

    A note on Phamaly Theatre Company funding

    Ticket sales account for only about 20 percent of Phamaly’s funding. About 60 percent comes from a combination of foundations, government support and individual contributions. The company received $150,00 this year from the metro-Denver taxing district known as the SCFD, and it has applied for $70,000 in the coming year from the National Endowment for the Arts. That the agency is imperiled by President Trump’s announced intention to de-fund the NEA only creates further financial uncertainty for Phamaly.

    “When you cut back government funding, then you are putting more pressure on communities and individual donors to support the organizations they care about,” Linton said. “If the NEA is eliminated, that would put more strain on individual contributors to support Phamaly.”


    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.

    annie phamaly

    Phamaly Theatre Company's upcoming offerings

    Staged reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream
    May 6-7
    At the Lone Tree Arts Center TICKETS

    Annie
    July 14-Aug. 6, 2017
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex TICKETS


    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Regan Linton and Phamaly:



    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment
    NEA Chair champions Colorado, and arts therapies for veterans
    Phamaly will send wheelchairs flying in Peter Pan
    February 2015: Phamaly names Bryce Alexander to replace Steve Wilson
    Wilson resigns from Phamaly after 14 years
    Regan Linton works her magic in San Diego
    PBS podcast: Denver theater featuring disabled cast gains popularity
    Phamaly's historic goodwill tour to Japan
    Regan Linton: Performing for those who cannot
  • Janice Sinden: Eliminating NEA would be bad for our economy

    by John Moore | Apr 05, 2017

    Janice Sinden. Photo by Adams VisCom



    When it passed The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, Congress declared that the arts belong to all people of the United States. That the encouragement of scholarship and progress in the arts is an appropriate matter of concern to the federal government. That an advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone, but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future.

    That was a noble American statement. A devout but perhaps expendable wish now that, 52 years later, the federal government faces an $18 trillion deficit.

    But a federal budget is more than a ledger of dollars and cents. It is an emphatic statement of a nation’s collective values and priorities. And the value President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society embraced in 1965 was the vital importance of the arts to the lifeblood of a healthy democracy.

    Janice Sinden Quote NEAThe arts are certainly a shared value in Colorado, which ranks No. 1 in the country in the percentage of adults who perform, attend or create artwork. The creative industries are the fifth-largest employment sector in Colorado. 

    But on March 16, the White House released a budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018 that would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  And that would be a value statement of its own. A chilling one that would be bad not only for our heads and hearts, but for our economy. These threatened organizations account for a negligible sliver of the federal budget, and yet they play a vital role in our national cultural economy. The NEA’s $148 million budget funds programming in more than 16,000 communities in every Congressional district in the United States. And it’s merely seed money. The NEA generates another 600 million in public and private matching funds each year that are invested in local communities, helping to shape a $730 billion arts and culture industry that represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP and supports 4.8 million jobs, according to Americans for the Arts.

    Denver metro arts, cultural and scientific organizations generated  $1.8 billion in annual economic activity in 2015, according to a biennial study conducted by the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts.

    The arts are not a subsidy. They are an economic engine.

    The elimination of federal funding would impact Colorado's cultural assets, our prosperity and our state identity.  Creative jobs in our state numbered 139,096 in 2015 and accounted for $7.2 billion in earnings, according to the Colorado Creative Industries, which operates largely on NEA funding. Our music industry alone creates more than 16,000 jobs and $658 million in earnings.

    If the NEA is eliminated, thousands of programs will be endangered in communities across the country:  A community orchestra performance, a new work from an emerging playwright, art therapy for returning war veterans, local library classes in Braille, free standardized-test preparation … not to mention Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

    The NEA has awarded 147,000 grants and $5 billion in its history.

    Dragon Boat Visit DenverColorado Creative Industries received about $1.5 million in NEA funding last year. It matches those funds and then sends them out all over the state. Last year, NEA funding supported 237 creative nonprofits, creative districts, individuals and businesses in Colorado. Recipients included Phamaly Theatre Company, which makes performance opportunities for actors with disabilities; Youth on Record, which exists to address the national dropout crisis (pictured below); ArtCorps, which provides art mentoring to homeless teens through RedLine in Five Points; Su Teatro, Denver’s only Chicano theatre company; the Denver Indigenous Film & Arts Festival; the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival (pictured above courtesy of Visit Denver), and the Crested Butte Music Festival.

    YOR NEA funding also provides general operating support for mountain and rural groups ranging from the Pueblo Symphony Association to Ridgway’s Sherbino Theater to the Crow Luther Cultural Events Center in Eads to the Creede Repertory Theatre to the M12 artist collective in Byers.

    The arts not only change lives. They repair them.

    Denver is blessed and unique among metropolitan centers because of the newly reauthorized, citizen-activated Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which generates $56.6 million a year for local arts and science organizations. But while programming supports residents statewide, it only is directly appropriated among organizations based in the seven-country metro area. If this budget is enacted, rural areas, low-income communities and schools would disproportionately suffer. In Colorado, 44 percent of NEA awards went to rural and small communities across the state and approximately 38 percent of the funds supplemented arts education programs in low-income areas.

    Right now in Washington, a significant and understandable movement is underway to reduce the federal government's role in American life. Even some who champion the arts also applaud the reduction of federal arts funding in the naïve belief that the gap will surely be made up through individual giving. That hope is a bit far-fetched because the proposed budget will leave many other worthy federal departments and agencies also fighting for their share. That will undoubtedly put increased strain on philanthropic funding for a large range of social services, including health care and education. Everyone will have a hand out.

    Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has said the NEA “allows an organization or an individual to do something that otherwise would be impossible.” We encourage residents of Colorado to tell members of Congress not to make art impossible again.


    Editor's Note: A shorter version of this editorial ran in The Denver Post on April 2. 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.


    What can you do to help?
    If you would like to voice your support for retaining the National Endowment for the Arts, visit the Americans for the Arts web site where you can sign a petition, contact your legislators and track legislation.

    National Endowment for the Arts: Colorado impact


    In collaboration with Colorado Creative Industries, the National Endowment for the Arts looks at the arts and culture of Colorado.


    About our Guest Columnist: Janice Sinden

    Janice Sinden. Photo by Adams VisComJanice Sinden is the President and CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the largest non-profit theatre organization in the nation. She is a fourth-generation Coloradan who was born and raised in Fort Collins. She graduated from Rocky Mountain High School, and then the University of Northern Colorado with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, after which, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work for then U.S. Senator Wayne Allard. Before coming to the DCPA, she served as Chief of Staff for Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock for five years. Before that, she served as the Executive Director of Colorado Concern; co-founded Pinnacle Public Affairs; served as the Manager of Community Relations, Corporate Communications for Sharp HealthCare; co-founded EPIC (Executives Partnering to Invest in Children); and co-led the effort to establish the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline. 

    Selected previous Guest Columns:

    Judy Craymer on the origins of Mamma Mia!
    Douglas Langworthy on 'translating' Shakespeare: First, do no harm
    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
  • Ignite Theatre to cease operations after 'The Wiz'

    by John Moore | Jan 07, 2017


    Keith Rabin Jr., Rob Riney and Lindsey Falduto in Ignite Theatre's 'tick…tick…BOOM!'  Photo by Olga Imaging.


    Denver’s Ignite Theatre somehow caught a spark during the worst economic nadir since the Great Depression – and still caught fire. But after seven years of brazen and unapologetically provocative fare, the torch is soon going out on the most unlikely success story in Denver theatre over the past decade.

    Co-founder Will Adams made the announcement at tonight’s opening performance of The Wiz that Ignite is ceasing operations after the show closes at the Aurora Fox on Jan. 29.

    “We’re not mourning; we’re celebrating 31 incredible productions,” Adams said.

    Ignite Keith Rabin QuoteIgnite was facing several significant challenges moving forward, including an overextended board, the impending departure of co-founder Keith Rabin Jr., and the increasing challenge of finding viable performance spaces in the metro area. But Adams said Friday there was no single tipping point. “It’s just time,” he said.

    Ignite was launched in 2009 as Gravity Defied Theatre Company by Rabin, Adams and Reace Daniel, with initial support from the Rocky Mountain Arts Association, home of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus and others. But the driving artistic force was always Rabin, who is co-directing the farewell production of The Wiz.

    “I am so lucky,” Rabin said. “I don’t really know how many people get to say, ‘I wanted to start something new and different and make an impact in my community.’ Well, I get to say that.”

    Ignite was started as a musicals-only company that would introduce regional premieres and revisit groundbreaking musicals of the past. And from its opening staging of bare: the musical, the story of two gay high-school students and their struggles at a Catholic boarding school, Ignite didn’t just push the envelope. It pushed the envelope over the edge and into the fire.

    “No, we were never afraid to be overtly sexual,” Adams said with a laugh. “And the further we pushed the sexuality, the more successful we were for our audience.”

    Rabin told Westword early on that Ignite intended to do shows that no other companies would want to touch because they might have too many f-bombs, or too much sex or drugs. “Those are the types of shows we like to do," Rabin said, “more risqué shows, definitely stuff that nobody has been beating the hell out of. “

    Gravity Defied distinguished itself from all other companies from the start by writing into its mission statement a commitment to donating a portion of its ticket revenues to a designated local charity. While the service commitment was ultimately unsustainable for a bare-bones non-profit, the company did raise $2,000 for Phamaly Theatre Company, which creates performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, and $1,500 for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, among others, before giving up the ghost. In 2011, the Rocky Mountain Arts Association ended its partnership with Rabin, which is what had made Gravity Defied eligible for public funding. So after five productions, Rabin and Adams created their own nonprofit called Lucent Performing Arts and changed the name of the theatre company to Ignite. Their new mantra: "Ignite the night." 

    Even with a new name, the theatre continued to live up to its original moniker by defying the odds, if not gravity. “This was always a very unlikely proposition,” Adams said. But Ignite slowly made its name and reputation presenting highly sought regional or Denver premieres like Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, Heathers and American Idiot alongside provocative classics like Pippin, A Chorus Line, Cabaret and Rent - with the occasional You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Into the Woods thrown into the mix to keep audiences off-balance. But Ignite’s bread and spicy butter was a regular stream of smaller cutting-edge titles for the Smash generation like bare, The Wild Party and [title of show]. Ignite's only non-musical title ever was 2011’s The Busy World is Hushed

    (Pictured above and right: Seph Hamilton as Edgar Allan Poe in 'Nevermore.' Photo by Olga Lopez.)

    Adams cites two seminal productions as Pippin (which was somehow accompanied by a 21-piece orchestra) and Green Day’s in-your-face American Idiot.

    “American Idiot was just bad,” Adams said, “And I mean that in the best possible way. It was a risky production, and I think it really sums up what Ignite Theatre can do.” (Story continues below.)

    Photo retrospective: A look back at Ignite Theatre Productions

    Ignite Theatre: A retrospective

    "bare: the musical" was Ignite Theatre's inaugural staging in 2009. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    Although Ignite was never a bricks-and-mortar company, it staged 30 of its 31 productions as a tenant of the Aurora Fox. Adams would like to believe Ignite made the Fox  a more energized and vital force in the growing Aurora Cultural Arts District, which includes the two stages at the Aurora Fox and two more at the nearby Vintage Theatre. And Aurora Fox Executive Producer Charles Packard could not agree more.

    "Ignite attracted people to the neighborhood I was not as focused on with their programming, so that is fantastic,” Packard said. "It’s been great to watch them grow and fill a niche we weren’t filling. That allowed me focus on other under-represented audience groups with mainstage shows like Black Elk Speaks and Porgy and Bess. The same is true with Vintage. When you have a variety of  different companies performing within a few blocks of each other, you are naturally going to attract a wider span of potential audiences." 

    But the partnership hit a hiccup last summer when Aurora city officials informed the Fox it could no longer present simultaneous shows on its mainstage and in its busy studio theatre next door if both were going to require dressing-room space for the actors. That's too many people in too small of spaces. That forced Ignite to move or cancel three upcoming productions. Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allen Poe became the first Ignite show ever hosted outside the Fox when it was staged instead at the Crossroads Theatre in Five Points.

    The job to expand the Aurora Fox dressing rooms went to bid just this week, Packard said, and he expects the work to be completed by the end of May. He said he is sad to see Ignite go, “but they have come to the end of a great run.”

    Adams emphasized that Ignite was not in financial straights, but acknowledged the board and artistic leadership could no longer dedicate the time and necessary resources to continue operating a semi-professional theatre company at its current pace. He said Lucent Performing Arts will remain in operation, “and that leaves us open to the possibility of future programming that would carry on in Ignite’s footsteps, such as educational workshops, guerilla theatre or remounts of past productions."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Adams said he can move on with his head held high knowing Ignite Theatre has made a difference in the Denver-area theatre community.

    “Ignite Theatre has positively impacted the lives of many thousands of audience members, as well as hundreds of the actors, directors, designers and musicians who have passed through our doors, many when they were just starting out and have moved on to much bigger things." Adams cited Denver Post Ovation Award winner Rebekah Ortiz, Norrell Moore, Anna High and Lindsey Falduto, among others.

    “This company began as Keith Rabin’s dream,” Adams said. “And I feel very proud that I helped make his dream happen. We made some amazing theatre as a result of that dream."

    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.



    A Ignite Theatre. Lysystrata Jones. Cast of Lysistrata Jones in 2013. Suzanne Simone Poshtography. 

    The Wiz: Ticket information

    • Through Jan. 29
    • Presented by Ignite Theatre at the Aurora Fox
    • 9900 E. Colfax Ave.
    • Performances 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Monday, Jan. 16.; 2:30 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets are $20-28
    • 866-811- 4111 or ignitetheatre.com

    Ignite Theatre: Production history
    2009
    bare: the musical*

    2010
    You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
    Totally Electric*
    The Wild Party*
    [title of show]*

    2011
    Seussical
    The Last 5 Years
    Pippin
    A Chorus Line

    2012
    The Busy World is Hushed*
    The Great American Trailer Park Musical
    Spring Awakening*
    Sweeney Todd
    Next to Normal

    2013
    Cabaret
    Lysistrata Jones*
    Avenue Q
    Aida

    2014
    See What I Wanna See*
    35MM*
    Rent
    Into the Woods

    2015
    Dreamgirls*
    tick … tick … BOOM!
    La Cage Aux Folles
    Dogfight*

    2016
    Green Day’s American Idiot*
    Heathers The Musical*
    The Wild Party (Aurora Fox and Brighton Armory)
    Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe*

    2017
    The Wiz

    *Regional premieres

     

  • 2016 True West Award: After Orlando

    by John Moore | Dec 03, 2016
    True West Awards After Orlando


    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 3:
    After Orlando, Benchmark Theatre

        Presented by Colorado Theatre Guild Life Achievement winner Billie McBride

     

    The worst gun massacre in U.S. history left the gay community feeling not just vulnerable.


    Hunted.

    The terrorist may have thought leaving 102 dead or injured, most gay and/or Latino, on the floor of the Pulse nightclub would send "others" of all kinds back into hiding. He knows not artists, who realize full well that it is never more urgent than in the wake of tragedy for the raging and waging of peace in the world through art. As the Russian actor Vsevolod Meyerhold once said: "I want to burn with the spirit of the times."

    The international theatre community continues to mark the Florida massacre with "After Orlando," an ongoing series of gatherings in cities around the world to remember the victims; to start a dialogue on how mass gun violence has become so commonplace America; and to prove yet again the enormous role that live theatre can play in communal grief and transformation. 

    More than 50 "After Orlando" events around the U.S. began on Sept. 12 and will continue through Jan. 31. Each consists of a series of short readings of plays from among more than 70 contributed by celebrated playwrights for the project. In most cities, one local theatre company has hosted an "After Orlando" event on behalf of that city's entire theatre community.

    Our NewsCenter report on Denver's 'After Orlando' event

    The Denver gathering on Nov. 14-15 was different. The new Benchmark Theatre Company, which doesn't even debut until next year, presented Denver's "After Orlando" event as an opportunity to collaborate with local companies from Boulder to Colorado Springs. Participating companies included the Athena Project, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Buntport Theater, Curious Theatre, Edge Theatre, Local Theatre Company, Phamaly Theatre Company, Funky Little Theatre Company (Colorado Springs) and Vintage, with a special appearance by The Denver Gay Men's Chorus. Dozens of local actors donated their time to participate in the readings.

    Benchmark not only gathered the community for a common cause on two sold-out nights at the Vintage Theatre, it raised $2,000 for the Human Rights Campaign. Benchmark is co-founded by Rachel Bouchard and Haley Johnson, and its "After Orlando" event was primarily organized by Denver School of the Arts Youth Facilitator Kate Folkins and playwright Jeffrey Neuman (Edge Theatre's Exit Strategies).
     

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    "We are humbled not only at the turnout of audiences who came to support this cause, but also the turnout of artists who volunteered their time and talents," said Johnson. "Because of them, we've contributed to an organization that fights for equality and human rights. That is what art is all about - coming together as one to raise each other up."

    The national curators of "After Orlando" are New York's Missing Bolts Productions artistic directors Blair Baker and Zac Kline; and NoPassport Theatre Alliance founder Caridad Svich, whose English translation of The House of the Spirits was premiered by the DCPA Theatre Company in 2010. The point of "After Orlando," Svich said, is "to make some healing art, some fiery art, and some work that just says we can rise up from and through collective mourning.”

    After Orlando Benchmark Theatre True West Awards

     

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
    The True West Awards, now in their 16th 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 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    THE 2016 TRUE WEST AWARDS
    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride

    After Orlando in Denver: Our photo gallery:

    After Orlando: Denver
    To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Photos in the award certificate at the top of this page by Susannah McLeod for McLeod9 Creative.

  • John Cameron Mitchell on the ageless appeal of Hedwig

    by John Moore | Nov 27, 2016

    John Cameron Mitchell Quote. Photo by Nick Vogelson.John Cameron Mitchell photo by Nick Vogelson.

    John Cameron Mitchell knows the impact his underground rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has had on a generation of misfits over the past 20 years. It's not overstating to say his musical has saved lives by giving those who have felt divided or separated a place to belong.

    But even now, after Hedwig’s long journey from a gay New York nightclub to off-Broadway to a cult-hit film and on to Broadway before now its first, Denver-bound national touring production, Mitchell thinks perhaps he’s perhaps not the best person to assess the show’s lasting cultural impact.

    “I feel wonderful when people say it has changed their lives - and I am assuming they mean that in a good way,” Mitchell said from San Francisco in advance of Hedwig’s Dec. 6 opening in Denver with Euan Morton (Taboo) starring as Hedwig.

    “I think the most common positive effect I hear is that the show is so specific about someone who is so unique that it creates space in people's lives to find themselves. I think that ‘s one of the important things about any good, fictional narrative piece: It's true enough that you can buy its logic. Obviously you have to care. And ideally you have metaphors and ideas that resonate in your life.”

    Stephen Trask: There are Thors all around us

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch has a big idea at its core: Co-written by Stephen Trask, the show is essentially a rock concert featuring a genderqueer singer who is following a rock star and former lover named Tommy Gnosis around the country. Between songs, Hedwig tells the harrowing details of her shocking life, including how she was born a boy in communist East Germany and underwent a botched sex-change operation to marry an American soldier who then abandoned her in a Kansas trailer park. Now Hedwig seems doomed to search (or stalk) the earth for her "other half,” who may or may not be Tommy Gnosis.

    There is an ambitious metaphor running underneath all of this as well: The story is steeped in "The Origin of Love,” a cautionary tale related by Aristophanes in “Plato's Symposium.” It's about about how the vengeful god Thor long ago split the three sexes of human beings down to two - damning all descendants of prehistoric man to an unending search for whatever is missing in us.

    “ ‘The Origin of Love’ is a myth that can be interpreted in a lot of ways,” Mitchell said. “What your ‘other half’ is can be many things. It was originally talked about in a romantic way, but it's flexible enough that you can think of it in a religious way, too. You can also think of it in a personal, internal way of seeking a certain wholeness. That idea is really strong for a lot of people.

    “Everyone is a misfit and a loser – or they have felt that way. Everyone is fighting a battle, and Hedwig’s battle is particularly hard. But she laughs at it, and that makes it a communal thing. That resonates, especially in this cyber, anti-empathy moment that the industrialized world is in right now.”

    How so?

    “Let's just say that looking at screens has not done much for people's compassion. When you can't see a face, you tend to not really hear what people are saying.”

    The video above shows John Cameron Mitchell singing 'Origin of Love' in the 2001 film version of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch.'

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch was inspired in large part by Mitchell’s visits to his parents’ home in 1980s Cold War Berlin. John’s father, Army Maj. Gen. John H. Mitchell, was in charge of all U.S. military forces in West Germany and stood behind Ronald Reagan in 1987 as the president famously demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The character of Hedwig was specifically inspired by a real woman who babysat Mitchell when he was a boy. She was an actual German, divorced U.S. Army wife who moonlighted as a prostitute from her trailer-park home in Junction City, Kansas.

    From 2005: Mitchell’s parents are tearing down a wall

    Although Mitchell created Hedwig onstage, Tommy is the character based on Mitchell himself. Both are gay, the sons of an army general and from deeply Roman Catholic homes. Hedwig became the story's protagonist when Trask encouraged Mitchell to showcase their earliest material in 1994 at a drag-punk nightclub called Squeezebox, where Trask headed the house band and Mitchell's longtime partner, Jack Steeb, played bass.

    It would be 20 years before Hedwig would make it to Broadway. And by then, at age 51, the right person to play Hedwig was no longer Mitchell, who instead happily handed the wig over to the man he calls “America’s sweetheart,” Neil Patrick Harris. He was followed by a steady stream of bankable stars including Michael C. Hall, Darren Criss, Taye Diggs, Andrew Rannells and, for three months … John Cameron Mitchell.

    Yes, after the show was an established hit on Broadway, Mitchell decided to step back into Hedwig’s heels and bring his personal journey full circle. He says he took on the challenge as a way to shake himself free from the complacency he felt stuck in following the deaths of Steeb in 2005 and his father, from Alzheimers disease, in 2012.

    “It was just like the old days, but somehow better because there was less at stake,” said Mitchell. "I was just having fun."

    Here are excerpts from more of John Cameron Mitchell’s wide-ranging conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore covering, among other things, Mitchell’s time in both the original Broadway cast of “The Secret Garden” and the DCPA Theatre Company’s “Peter Pan.” 

    John Cameron Mitchell Books


    John Moore: When we last talked in 2011, even though there had been talk, you thought there was no way Hedwig would make it all the way to Broadway. What changed?

    John Cameron Mitchell: The world changed. And Broadway changed. The idea of rock 'n roll on stage, the idea of drag and the idea of an unusual story became less frightening. It was just time, and we wanted to make sure we had the right person playing Hedwig, so we waited until Neil Patrick Harris was free to do it. That was the right move because he was America's sweetheart. That allowed people to not be afraid of it. It was just the right time. And now we are on a national tour, which seems crazy because back in the day, people weren't ready for it.

    John Moore: After so many years, what did it mean for you to finally be able to play Hedwig on Broadway?

    John Cameron Mitchell: It was very exciting. I hadn't really performed onstage in 15 years, so I was kind of nervous. I knew it would turn out right but it was physically really hard and I was sick during rehearsals, and my voice wasn't what it used to be. I had to lower some keys. So it was definitely hard. And then when I got in front of an audience, it was awesome.

    John Moore: How was the crowd response?

    John Cameron Mitchell: It was a very loving audience the whole time, so we could do anything. I tried to not be pandering. I don't want it to become a Rocky Horror, where you are winking at it too much. So it was wonderful - but it was hard. I was used to doing someone else's choreography, and I hurt my knee. I had to do a lot of it in a leg brace. But that was just an opportunity for more rewrites, which was fun, too.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: You created that character at such a specific time in your own young life that I can't help but wonder – has the character fundamentally changed with the passage of time?

    John Cameron Mitchell Quote 3John Cameron Mitchell: Yeah. We kept the story happening now, as in today, which means we pushed up when she met Tommy to the 2000s. And that meant instead of grunge jokes, we have Creed jokes. Because Creed was the horrifying progeny of grunge - the misshapen, deformed child of grunge. It was fun to rewrite some jokes but the structure of the show was still very solid, and it still works. But yes, the character can age. The story can be told at any time. It's a role you can do at any age.

    John Moore: So does the story hit you differently with 22 years under your boots?

    John Cameron Mitchell: Some of the things were just more important than others in terms of what the story is now. I felt more compassion for Hedwig's (bleeped)-up parents.

    John Moore: What has it been like for you seeing a steady stream of celebrities playing your signature character?

    John Cameron Mitchell: I don't feel possessive about it in any way. I love seeing other people do it. And every Hedwig has a different take on it. Darren Criss, who just did the role here in San Francisco, is quite young, so his performance was very ebullient and super-improvised. When someone is older and beat cancer like Michael C. Hall has, it has a different feeling. We will always tailor the role for the actor. 

    Euan Morton John Moore: When we talked about Hedwig's road to Broadway, it was a given that it would have to be star-driven, or it just wouldn't have happened. But the road is different. Euan Morton is a Tony Award-nominated actor, but he isn't a household name. How much does it matter that when it goes out on the road, people in Denver might not have heard of him?

    John Cameron Mitchell: The pressure on Broadway was harder because you had more seats to fill, and the ticket price was higher. You had to have some kind of name or you were going to close. On the tour, we are selling "the show." So there is a certain release in being able to cast the best, as opposed to someone who is really good that is also famous. I have to say that I am really, really excited about Euan. His audition was spectacular. It was the best that I have ever seen for Hedwig. I am going to be talking special care with him to give him the benefit of what I know and help him out along the way - because I have a sneaking suspicion that he could be spectacular. 

    John Moore: How much freedom does each actor playing Hedwig have to make the role their own? 

    John Cameron Mitchell: They are actually required to make the role their own. That's part of the process. I don't do that for them. Some people are more comfortable with improvising than others. And some might over-improvise. I am very clear with them that there are some sections where they might find it easier to improvise and it won't mess up the internal structure. Neil Patrick Harris came up some jokes that were so good I kept them in the script. And then there were some new things that I came up with. The script is a living document, like the Constitution, only with different Founding Fathers adding their lines to it. It’s the pursuit of unhappiness in our case. That's what I love about it.

    DSA students join 25th anniversary Secret Garden concert

    John Moore: A left turn before we go: The DCPA Theatre Company is about to stage a 25th anniversary production of The Secret Garden, and since you originated the role of Dickon on Broadway in 1991, I have to ask your thoughts on that show now.

    John Cameron Mitchell: I saw a concert performance in New York earlier this year and Daisy Eagan, who won the Tony Award playing Mary Lennox, played an adult role in it. She was great. But it's funny. It's interesting going back to things that you were in when you were young and look at what still resonates and what doesn't. I am still am very touched by it. There are some corny moments, but there are some gorgeous moments as well. I am a sucker for the orphan trying to find her way. I love Oliver. I love Annie. I love orphans - especially in British settings. I can't help it.  

    Peter Pan John Cameron Mitchell. DCPA Theatre CompanyJohn Moore: I also wanted to let you now that next summer, an acclaimed local theatre company called Phamaly, which makes performance opportunities available for actors with disabilities, will be staging Peter Pan in the very same Stage Theatre where you starred for the DCPA Theatre Company in 1996. What do you think?

    John Cameron Mitchell: Whoa. I think a sword fight with wheelchairs is something that I would fly to Denver to see. I am kind of dorky, physically, in real life, but when I am on stage, I suddenly gain superpowers. As Peter Pan, someone could throw a sword across the stage and I could always catch it at the hilt. Whereas in life, I throw like a girl and drop a ball like a little boy. So there could be some surprising physical things that happen when that adrenaline is flowing. I don't know if anyone in a wheelchair is going to be picking up a Toyota off a child, but let them know that if you believe, and you clap your hands, strange things are going to happen. It sounds like a beautiful idea. The idea of Lost Boys being all kids who are challenged is an amazing metaphor, isn't it?

    John Cameron Mitchell Quote 2(Photo above right: John Cameron Mitchell starring as Peter Pan for the DCPA Theatre Company in 1996.)

    John Moore: It is. Part of that company's whole philosophy is: We all have disabilities - only some of them, you can't see.

    John Cameron Mitchell: That is very true, and the mental and emotional disabilities that otherwise able-bodied people are experiencing can be much more destructive. You can see that happening in politics right now.

    (Note to readers: The Radical Faeries describe themselves a group that “tends to be gay men who are looking for a spiritual dimension to our sexuality; many of us are healers of one kind or another. Our shared values include feminism, respect for the Earth, and individual responsibility rather than hierarchy.”)

    John Moore: The last time we saw you in Denver, you were on theJohn Cameron Mitchell Nick Sugar road with the Radical Faeries. You stopped by Lost Lake on East Colfax to DJ a dance set and meet the cast of a local production of Hedwig. Do you still pop in and do that kind of thing?

    (Photo right: John Cameron Mitchell with one of Denver's past Hedwigs, Nick Sugar, at Lost Lake in 2011. Photo by John Moore.)

    John Cameron Mitchell: Yeah, we still do a party in New York once a month. We have about five different DJs. We did a party in Austin and we did Halloween at a place near San Francisco. Next, my new composer and I are going on a road trip for a month to write for my new musical.

    Mitchell and Trask: The two halves of Hedwig's whole

    John Moore: And how much can we know about your new musical?

    John Cameron Mitchell: Nothing. Because I am still figuring it out.

    John Moore: OK, so, last question: Have we seen the last of John Cameron Mitchell playing Hedwig?

    John Cameron Mitchell: I am sure I will do it one more time when I am in my 70s - in a chair. I'm just sure the keys will be very low.

    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.

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Denver: Ticket information
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the genre-bending, fourth-wall-smashing musical sensation, with a pulsing score and electrifying performances, that tells the story of one of the most unique characters to ever hit the stage.
    • Dec 6-11
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Dec. 10
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    Hedwig's Stephen Trask: There are Thors all around us
    Mitchell and Trask: The two halves of Hedwig's whole
    Casting: Euan Morton to don Hedwig's wig on national tour
    Hedwig named to Denver Center's 2016-17 Broadway season
    Hedwig creator’s parents are tearing down a wall
  • Steve Wilson now wearing the heels in the 'Tartuffe' family

    by John Moore | Oct 28, 2016
    Tartuffe Steve Wilson. Arvada Center. Leslie O'Carroll. Who's who in the Arvada Center's 'Tartuffe'? That's Steve Wilson as Madame Pernelle in the photo on the left, and his wife, Leslie O'Carroll, playing the same role in the two photos on the right. Photos by Jessica Austgen and P. Switzer Photography.


    The Arvada Center’s acclaimed production of Moliere’s classic farce Tartuffe has undergone a deliciously farcical casting twist. For the final two weekends, the role normally played by Leslie O'Carroll will be played by her real-life husband, Steve Wilson.

    O’Carroll played Orgon’s battle-axe of a mother, Madame Pernelle, through last weekend. She had to leave the show early to begin rehearsals for her 18th turn as Mrs. Fezziwig in the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming seasonal presentation of A Christmas Carol. It was Tartuffe director Lynne Collins’ idea to cast O'Carroll but split the role between husband and wife.

    Tartuffe. Steve Wilson. Leslie O'Carroll. O’Carroll and Wilson are both graduates of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. O’Carroll has appeared in dozens of DCPA Theatre productions over the past 25 years. Wilson was the longtime artistic director of Phamaly Theatre Company and is now Executive Artistic Director at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center.

    Madame Pernelle is completely under the spell of the hypocritical Tartuffe. In her big opening scene, she makes it clear that she has eaten up Tartuffe's every word – and she spits them back at anyone in spitting distance. But Wilson is not approaching his casting as a gimmick. Rather, he is taking the challenge very seriously.

    How seriously? “I memorized my lines four months ago because I was nervous that I might forget,” Wilson said.

    And then there is this: He shaved for the role.

    He shaved!

    "My goal is for people to not even realize that Madame Pernelle is being played by a guy," Wilson said.

    DCPA Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen conducts a 15-second interview with Leslie O'Carroll, her castmate in the Arvada Center's "Tartuffe," running through Nov. 6.


    Here are our rapid-fire questions for Steve Wilson:

    Are you pretty? Very.

    OK ... so how pretty are you? I’m extremely classy, graceful and pretty in a way that will be astonishing to all who know me.

    What was your biggest challenge in taking on this role? Living up to the genius of my wife.

    Tartuffe Steve Wilson QuoteWhat was your wife’s advice? She gave me tips on how to get into the costume quickly and how to deal with the wig.

    Whose boobs are bigger? Oh … mine are bigger by far.

    How much bigger?  Let’s just say three sizes bigger … and yet, I wear the same bra.

    Name one line that’s funnier coming from you: I have a great line where I say, “Appearances can deceive, my son. Dear me, we cannot always judge by what we see."

    How do you change the character of Madame Pernelle? It’s a heaver, harder and less feminine character with me.

    What’s one thing your wife does better than you? Leslie is of course a great physical comedian. Her comedy is lighter. More buoyant. She has a kind of Lucille Ball quality to her that I will never have.

    Christmas Carol Leslie O'Carroll. Photo by Adams VisCom.What’s one thing you do better than your wife? When this first came up, I thought of when the great actor Brian Bedford played Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest on Broadway. Moliere wrote Madame Pernelle to be this big, brassy matriarch. As played by a man, I think I bring maybe a bit more of an edge to her. But gender should have nothing to do with it.

    What have you learned about women? I have respect for all women - especially their wardrobe difficulties. My heels are relatively short, but wearing them is excruciatingly painful.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Best comment from a cast member: “I like the way Steve drops his voice in his old lady outfit. Hilarious!” – Jessica Austgen.

    Best insult from a cast member seeing you in costume: Actually, they have all been incredibly supportive. Even Michael Morgan, who plays Tartuffe. And Michael - how shall we say? - can be a biting wit.  

    What has your poor daughter said? She won’t see me in the costume until Saturday night. She’s preparing to be traumatized.

    (Pictured above right: Leslie O'Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig in the DCPA Theatre Company's 2015 production of 'A Christmas Carol.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)


    Arvada Center's Tartuffe: Ticket information
    • Written by Molière
    • Directed by Lynne Collins
    • Through Nov. 6
    • 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
    • Performances: 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets $45 at 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org


    DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol:
    Ticket information

    • Nov. 25-Dec. 24 in the Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Accessibility performance: 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1


    Just for fun: Leslie O'Carroll performs "A Christmas O'Carroll" ... in 5 minutes:

    A look back at veteran DCPA Theatre Company actor Leslie O'Carroll's DIY performance  of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' as a solo piece ... and in just five minutes. Video by John Moore.

    Meet Sam Gregory of Tartuffe and A Christmas Carol

  • After Orlando: Colorado theatre will respond Nov. 14-15

    by John Moore | Oct 24, 2016

    This video captures how Erin Rollman of Buntport Theater addressed the 'After Orlando audience on the first night.

    The international theatre community is marking the worst gun massacre in U.S. history with After Orlando, an ongoing series of gatherings in cities around the world to remember the 102 who died or were injured in the Pulse nightclub, and to reflect on how mass gun violence has become so commonplace America.

    After Orlando in DenverMore than 70 celebrated playwrights have contributed short plays for the project, and organizing theatre companies are each choosing 12 to present in their home cities. Participating writers include Neil Labute (Reasons to be Pretty), Caridad Svich (DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere of The House of Spirits), Israel Horovitz (Park Your Car in Harvard Yard), Deborah Zoe Laufer (Curious Theatre’s End Days, Local Theatre Company’s Informed Consent) and Brian Quijada, who as an actor appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Victory Jones and the Incredible One-Woman Band at the Colorado New Play Summit.

    “We are making some healing art, some fiery art, and some work that just says we can rise up from and through collective mourning,” said Svich. She is also co-founder of the NoPassport Theatre Alliance, which is the national curator of the After Orlando project in partnership with New York’s Missing Bolts Productions

    More than 50 scheduled individual After Orlando events around the U.S. began on Sept. 12 and will continue through Jan. 31. The Denver collaboration is being headed by the new Benchmark Theatre Company and will be presented Nov. 14-15 at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora. After Orlando Rachel Bouchard Quote

    But unlike in other cities, Benchmark is organizing After Orlando as an opportunity to collaborate with local companies from Boulder to Colorado Springs. The list of participating companies includes Athena Project, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Buntport Theater, Curious Theatre, Edge Theatre Company, Local Theatre Company, Phamaly Theatre Company, Funky Little Theatre Company (Colorado Springs) and Vintage. There will include a special appearance by The Denver Gay Men's Chorus.  

    New Benchmark Theatre plans to have a deep bench 

    Benchmark won’t even present its first play until next March, so the company recently co-founded by Rachel Bouchard and Haley Johnson made for an unlikely local organizer. But After Orlando will make a perfect introduction to the community, she said, “because this event aligns so perfectly with our artistic mission, as well as our commitment to community collaborations.

    "Our mission is to bring the universal human experience to life and bring meaningful discussions to the table,” Bouchard said. "This particular event will bring a lot of different local companies under the same roof, which really only happens otherwise at the Henry Awards.”

    Photo gallery: First night of After Orlando in Denver:

    After Orlando: Denver
    To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click on any photo for free download instructions. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Benchmark has chosen the following 13 playwrights to be featured over the two days Nov. 14-15: 

    • After by Caridad Svich
    • After Orlando by Oliver Mayer
    • Orlando Monologue by Lindsey Ferrentino
    • The Human Traces by Anders Lustgarten
    • Gone Silent by Jennifer Maisel
    • Checkmate by Winter Miller
    • The 49 (Los 49) by Paul and Leesa Castaneda
    • Baby Sister: A Monologue Play by Jacqueline Goldfinger
    • Pistols (An Action in Six Parts) by Andy Field
    • These Wings are Meant to Fly by Zac Kline
    • Sauce by Sung Rno
    • Departure by Jordan Tannahill
    • Today is a Good Day by Katie Pearl

    Bouchard has read many of the submissions, “and many of these stories are so beautifully human,” she said. “They will really allow our community to experience them and discuss them in a safe and connected space.”

    Even though Benchmark is still growing its own seed money, it is presenting After Orlando as a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, which is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality.

    In the wake of the Orlando shootings, the HRC announced a change in its typical organization priorities by saying it would begin pushing for tighter controls on guns.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Forty-nine members of our community were murdered because of a toxic combination of two things: a deranged, unstable individual who had been conditioned to hate LGBTQ people, and easy access to military-style guns,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “It is imperative that we address both issues in order to mitigate safety risk to our community.”

    After Orlando, said the founders of Missing Bolts Productions, provides an opportunity for an artistic response as well.

    “As theatremakers, we have the ability to bring together many singular unique voices toward a common goal,” Blair Baker and Zac Kline said in a joint statement. “We have invited some of the most admired theatre artists worldwide to share our grief, our anger, our hope and our desire to combat the violence we are now living with on a daily basis.”

    After Orlando take place in its city of origin as well. The Orlando Shakespeare Theatre is hiosting an After Orlando event Nov. 5. Svich will give the keynote address.

    NoPassport, Daryl Roth Productions and Missing Bolts Productions are presenting  four benefit events in New York City on Nov. 13 and 20, and Dec. 4 and 11. MORE INFO

    Three After Orlando events will be held in the United Kingdom, including a special marathon event on Oct. 31 at Finborough Theatre in London.
     

    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.


    After Orlando
    : Denver

    • Nov. 14-15
    • Vintage Theatre, 1465 Dayton St., Aurora
    • Readings of 12 short plays
    • Includes reception and silent auction
    • BUY TICKETS

    More media coverage of After Orlando:
    American Theatre
    Howlround
    The Stage UK
    Orlando Sentinel

    Participating playwrights (subject to change):

    Oladipo Agboluaje
    Deborah Asiimwe
    Elaine Avila
    Mando Alvarado
    Jaisey Bates
    Rikki Beadle-Blair 
    Oana Cajal 
    Scottie Campbell
    Paul and Leesa Castenada
    Mia Chung
    J. Julian Christopher
    Cecilia Copeland
    Migdalia Cruz
    Nathan Davis
    Michael Dinwiddie
    Erik Ehn
    Georgina Escobar
    Andy Field
    Lindsey Ferrentino
    Eric Mayer-Garcia
    Mark Gerrard
    Dennis T. Giacino
    Ryan Gielen
    Leo Cabranes-Grant
    Jacqueline Goldfinger
    Garret Groenveld
    Dipika Guha
    Jeremy O. Harris
    Amina Henry
    Israel Horovitz
    Max Kolaru
    Zac Kline
    Alexander Kveton
    Neil Labute
    Deborah Zoe Laufer
    Jacqueline E. Lawton
    David Lee
    Andrea Lepcio
    EM Lewis
    Joan Lipkin
    Jessica Litwak
    Anders Lustgarten
    Jennifer Maisel
    Rohina Malik
    Oliver Mayer
    Tyler McCray
    David A. McElroy
    Jeff McMahon
    Chiori Miyagawa
    Winter Miller
    The House of the Spirits DCPAViet Nguyen
    Ryan Oliveira
    Matthew Paul Olmos
    Giovanni Ortega
    Solimar Otero
    Katie Pearl
    Monica Palacios
    Daryl Pickett
    Brian James Polak
    Brian Quijada
    Emilio Rodriguez
    Elaine Romero
    Ian Rowlands
    Sung Rno
    Anne Rumberger
    Rita Sachdeva
    Madeline Sayet
    Arturo Soria
    Saviana Stanescu
    Lisa Schlesinger
    Stephen Sewell
    Crystal Skillman
    David Solomon
    Caridad Svich (The DCPA's 'The House of the Spirits' pictured at right)
    Jordan Tannahill
    Aradhana Tiwari
    Korde Tuttle
    Ken Urban
    Leah Nanako Winker

  • Photos: 'Miscast' raises $7,000 for Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Oct 04, 2016
    Miscast 2016

    Photos from 'Miscast 2016,' which raised more than $7,000 for the Denver Actors Fund.  To see more, press the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are directly downloadable and may be freely used on social media. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Miscast, a popular annual community-wide benefit held Sept. 26 at the Town Hall Arts Center, raised $7,067 for the Denver Actors Fund, which provides financial and practical relief when members of the Colorado theatre community find themselves in situational medical need. In just three years, this grassroots nonprofit has distributed more than $50,000 in direct aid to help local artists.

    More than 30 local actors performed in roles they would never – ever – normally be cast to perform. The event was hosted by Eric Mather and Damon Guerrasio, and directed by Robert Michael Sanders. Many area merchants and theatre companies, including the Denver Center, contributed more than $1,200 in prizes for the event.

    All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. For more information on the Denver Actors Fund and its services, go to DenverActorsFund.Org.

    Video excerpt:


    The criminal kids in the video above deserve to be in jail, because they stole the show at 'Miscast 2016.' Sydney Fairbairn, Evan Gibley, Kaden Hinkle, Hanna Katz, Darrow Klein and Hannah Meg Weinraub performed a storybook version of 'Cell-Block Tango' from 'Chicago,' accompanied by Donna Debreceni and Larry Ziehl. In the week since the performance, this video has been viewed nearly 30,000 times and shared more than 370 times on Facebook.


    MISCAST 2016:

    Hosts:
    Damon Guerrasio
    Eric Mather

    Program:

    • Heather Lacy, Leslie O'Carroll and Shannan Steele, inspired by "Fugue for Tin Horns," from Guys and Dolls
    • Shane Delevan, Lindsey Falduto and Rob Riney, parody inspired by Rent
    • Donovan Arterburn III, Brock Benson, John Greene, Clint Heyn, T.J. Hogle, and Wade Livingston, inspired by "At the Ballet," from A Chorus Line
    • Steven J. Burge, Carter Novinger and Preston Novinger: "I Know It's Today" from Shrek
    • Kevin Ahl, Jacob Elledge, Stewart Caswell, Jill Leslie, Amber Marsh, Gregg Vigil and Lucy Roucis (Phamaly Theatre Company), what a  Wild West duel would be like between two disabled people.
    • Colby Dunn: Inspired by an audition for Dream Girls
    • Sydney Fairbairn, Evan Gibley, Kaden Hinkle, Hannah Katz, Darrow Klein, Hannah Meg Weinraub, inspired by "Cell-Block Tango," from Chicago
    • Barret Harper, Anna High, Tim Howard and Suzanne Nepi, inspired by "I Will Never Leave You," from Side Show
    • Rebecca Joseph, Chelley Canales, Daniel Langhoff and Arlene Rapal, inspired by "My Shot," from Hamilton
    • John Ashton, inspired by "Memories," from Cats
    • Emma C. Martin, Napoleon M. Douglas and company: "You Can't Stop the Beat," from Hairspray

    The hosts also engaged audiences in participatory games such as a "Family Feud" parody ("Name a Bad Boy of the Colorado Theatre Community") and "Carpool Karaoke."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Phamaly will send wheelchairs flying in historic 'Peter Pan'

    by John Moore | Jun 05, 2016
    Phamalys 2016 season announcementPhotos from Phamaly's annual gala on June 4, where it was announced that 'Peter Pan' will anchor the 2016-17 season at the DCPA's Stage Theatre. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    Phamaly Theatre Company promises to send wheelchairs flying in the summer of 2017 when it presents Peter Pan in the Denver Center's expansive Stage Theatre, making it the largest undertaking in Phamaly's 28-year history.

    Peter Pan John Cameron Mitchell Phamaly Phamaly will be following in the hallowed fairy dust of John Cameron Mitchell, internationally ignored song stylist and creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, who performed the titular role in Peter Pan in the same Stage Theatre in 1989 as a member of the Denver Center Theatre Company (pictured at right).  

    Phamaly produces professional-scale plays and musicals year-round, cast entirely of performers with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. For years, Phamaly has presented its annual summer musical at the Denver Center's Space Theatre, but because of year-long renovations that are presently underway, Phamaly will offer Evita next month at the University of Denver's Byron Theatre (July 16-Aug. 7).

    "Peter Pan is a wonderful story about aging, the fairness of life and the value of obstacle," Artistic Director Bryce Alexander (pictured below right) said when announcing Phamaly's 2016-17 season at its annual gala on Saturday night.

    Phamaly Bryce AlexanderThe lineup is at once a complete embrace of both classic stories and presentational innovation. Phamaly will present Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol at the King Center on the Auraria campus, directed by Paul Dwyer. That will be followed by George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion at the Aurora Fox, directed by Carolyn Howarth, who recently helmed Colorado Shakespeare Festival's award-winning production of Henry V. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Next will be a staged reading of a new adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream in collaboration with New York's disability-based Apothetae Theatre at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

    "While still in Shakespeare's language, Phamaly and Apothetae will work together to further develop a script called Spirits of Another Sort that highlights the themes of war, chaos and otherness - as well as the magic that exists in love, and in variation of body," said Alexander, whose goal is to eventually fully produce the new play both in Denver and New York.

    Phamaly Evita Hannah Ballmer Rob Costigan
    Rob Costigan and Hannah Balmer demonstrate how the tango will look with the added dimension of a wheelchair when 'Evita' opens next month at the University of Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The touring children's production will be Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, opening in October at the Lakewood Cultural Center before touring Colorado and Wyoming through May. Alexander said the story of a boy who feels like an outsider, learning to accept differences and overcoming obstacles, makes Dahl's classic the perfect vehicle for Phamaly's educational outreach.

    "With this new season, we are daring the community to reimagine these classic stories through a new lens," Alexander said.

    But all eyes will be on the sky when Phamaly takes on Peter Pan in the Stage Theatre, which has has a capacity of 778. That's more than 200 greater than the Space Theatre. And while Phamaly traditionally performs "in the round," the Stage has a thrust stage with an audience that wraps around in a semi-circle. DU's Byron Theatre, which is hosting Evita next month, seats about 350.

    Click here for more info on Phamaly Theatre Company

    Alexander also took a moment from his announcement to commend the company's ongoing relationship with the Denver Center, particularly its Education Division.

    "Phamaly already has a renowned partnership with Denver Center Education, where we collaborate to provide free professional-arts training specifically for adults with disabilities. But as we look to change the standards of accessibility, I am thrilled to announce that this fall, Phamaly will begin adding classes specifically for children with disabilities. Phamaly is raising the bar for education."

    Alexander's first year as Artistic Director included an on-site visit from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu, and a move to bring both trained audio describers on staff and equipment in-house, making Phamaly one of only a handful of theatre companies in the country that can accommodate those audience requests on demand.

    "It's easy to focus on the past - to look at where we've come from, at what we have accomplished and who we have touched," Alexander said. "But I want us to look forward."

    The gala was hosted by KUSA anchor Kyle Dyer and former Denver Broncos running back Reggie Rivers.


    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.


    Phamaly Theatre Company' 2016-17 season
    Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach (touring)
    Opening Oct. 21-22, 2016, at the Lakewood Cultural Center
    Directed by Bryce Alexander

    Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol
    Dec. 1-18, 2016
    At the King Center on the Auraria campus
    Directed by Paul Dwyer

    Pygmalion
    By George Bernard Shaw
    Feb. 23-March 12, 2017
    At the Aurora Fox
    Directed by Carolyn Howarth
     
    Staged reading of Spirits of Another Sort
    in collaboration with New York's Apothetae Theatre
    May 6-7, 2017
    At the Lone Tree Arts Center

    Peter Pan
    July 13-Aug. 6, 2017
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Directed by Bryce Alexander


    Click here for more info on Phamaly Theatre Company

  • Super Bet: DCPA backing the right horse in Super Bowl 50

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jan 29, 2016



    By Hope Grandon

    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is excited to announce a friendly wager between two Denver theatres and two Charlotte theatres based on the outcome of Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.

    The "Super Bet" will pit the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Denver's Phamaly Theatre Company (Team Broncos) vs. Blumenthal Performing Arts and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte (Team Panthers).

    And while Forbes Magazine is estimating that $4.2 billion will be wagered on the game, this challenge comes with real consequences. The Denver Center is putting its loyalty where its art is:

    THE TERMS:

    • Losing city’s theatres must incorporate an element of the opposing team into the set of a future production. (For example: in the highly unlikely event of a Broncos loss, the DCPA Theatre Company will place a framed photo of Cam Newton on the set of its world premiere production of FADE).

    • Staff of losing city’s theatre companies must wear the opposing team’s colors to work on Monday, Feb. 8 and document it on social media.

    • Losing city’s theatres must buy a stuffed version of the opposing team’s mascot and prominently display it at their box offices from Feb. 8-14.


    THE TEAMS:

    About The Denver Center for the Performing Arts

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) is a not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. The DCPA is the largest non-profit theatre organization in the nation, offering more than 40 plays and musicals year-round that engage and inspire audiences of all ages and interests. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is a not-for-profit organization.

    About Blumenthal Performing Arts
    Blumenthal Performing Arts serves the Carolinas as a leading cultural, entertainment and education provider. For more information, call (704) 372-1000 or visit BlumenthalArts.org. Blumenthal Performing Arts receives operating support from the Arts & Science Council and North Carolina Arts Council. Blumenthal Performing Arts is also supported by PNC Bank, sponsor of the PNC Broadway Lights.

    About Phamaly Theatre Company
    Now in its 27th season, Phamaly is an award-winning Colorado based theatre company comprised entirely of performers with a wide variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. Phamaly’s mission is to inspire people to re-envision disability through professional theatre.

    About Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
    Children’s Theatre of Charlotte was established in 1948 by the Junior League of Charlotte. Sixty-eight years later, it has become one of the top professional theatre companies for young audiences and families. This year, 18 productions will offer approximately 600 performances - more than any other theatre company in the state. Called “the city’s leading professional troupe,” Children’s Theatre of Charlotte has been praised as “the most technically imaginative and resourceful theatre productions in the region.” The powerful productions are matched by an extraordinary range of Education programs. Each year the Theatre enrolls more than 2,300 young people in enrichment classes and summer camps, teaching confidence and self-esteem while encouraging creativity and self-expression. Children’s Theatre also offers programs for every grade of the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system, from residencies that enhance core curriculum using drama techniques, to productions and workshops addressing alcohol and substance abuse prevention. The Theatre is also proud of its Community Involvement Program, which encourages participation among non-traditional audiences in the region. Its home at ImaginOn was created through a partnership of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library which now serves as a national model for integrating literacy, education and the performing arts, and has been named #1 in Libibility.com’s list of the Top 10 Libraries for Children.

    MORE ACTION!
    There are other cultural institutions in both cities that are getting into the betting spirit. The Denver Zoo has agreed to a friendly wager with the North Carolina Zoo and the Western North Carolina Nature Center over Super Bowl 50.  If the Denver Broncos win, the directors of the North Carolina agencies will have to greet their guests at the main entrance holding a sign congratulating Denver on the win. Should Carolina win, Denver CEO Shannon Block will wear Newton’s jersey in the zoo’s main plaza while holding a sign congratulating Carolina.
  • Miscast 2015 helps Denver Actors Fund reach $50K milestone

    by John Moore | Sep 22, 2015

    Video highlights from Miscast 2015. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Miscast 2015, a community-wide benefit for the Denver Actors Fund,
    raised $4,102 for the non-profit organization that serves members of the local theatre community in need.

    This year's show, held Sept. 14 at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, featured 45 local performers, including an aging (male) Annie, a pair of female The Book of Mormon Elders, a hot-potato national anthem, and a high-heeled local TV personality who brought the house down.

    Miscast is an opportunity for members of the local theatre community to sing songs and act out scenes they would never … ever! … get cast to perform on any legitimate stage. The popular revue has been staged intermittently by various local theatre companies. But after a few years of dormancy, the Denver Actors Fund revived the tradition as its annual fundraiser last year.

    The Denver Actors Fund provides both financial and situational help to members of the local theatre community both on and off stage. Funds raised at Miscast 2015 brought the 2-year-old organization over the $50,000 mark in overall revenues raised.

    Under the guidance of director Robert Michael Sanders, Miscast took on more of a variety-show flavor in 2015. The bill included actors performing in miscast roles, as is the norm, but hosts Mark Pergola and Damon Guerrasio opened up the program to include fun audience-participation games that were chosen to capture the zeitgeist of the late-night TV wars, such as an homage to Jimmy Fallon's popular "Lip Sync Battles" on The Tonight Show.

    As guests entered the Town Hall lobby, they were asked if they wanted to be entered into a drawing to play in several on-stage games. Those who did paid $5 - sparing audience members with no desire to leave their seats. Several theatre companies and local merchants donated prizes.

    After two playful audience members took on the challenge of a cold lyp-sync assignment (including actor Margie Lamb, who starred in Town Hall's Next to Normal, syncing Sir Mix-A-Lot's "I Like Big Butts"), audiences were told the third contestant would be Eden Lane, host of the weekly arts TV showIn Focus with Eden Lane, airing on Fridays on Rocky Mountain PBS Channel 12. It was soon evident Lane, who has performed on Broadway, was a ringer.

    Lane emerged in the signature red boots from the hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots and lip-synced Lola's big song, "Sex Is in the Heel," joined by members of the cast of Ignite Theatre's recent La Cage Aux Folles: Peter Dearth, Carlos Jimenez, Jeffrey E. Parizotto, Keith Rabin Jr. and Eric Pung.

    For the second straight year, Miscast featured a comical appearance by M.U.T.T.: The satirical Multicutural Urban Theatre Troupe, which performed several short scenes from plays they are clearly miscast for, including this year scenes from Shakespeare's Othello and Romeo and Juliet. The actors included Arlene Rapal, Laura Slack and Sam Wood.

    "Miscast 2015" was attended by more than 200, including DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. Several of  the volunteer performers have appeared in DCPA productions, including Leslie O'Carroll (A Christmas Carol) and Sarah Rex (Forbidden Broadway).




    Photos from "Miscast 2015" held Sept. 14 at the Town Hall Arts Center. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are available for free downloading by clicking "View original Flickr image."


    'MISCAST' MUSICAL NUMBERS:
    • Taylor Nicole Young Cory Wendling, "Me, Beauty and the Beast
    • Reace Daniel and Matt LaFontaine, two numbers from Chicago
    • Steven Burge and Sarah Rex, "The National Anthem,' with appearance by Tim Howard
    • Phamaly Theatre Company, "When You're a Gimp," a West Side Story variation featuring: Brian Be, Don Gabenski, Adam Johnson, Harper Liles, Amber Marsh, Don Mauck, Lucy Roucis, Robert Michael Sanders, Rachel VanScoy, Daniel Wheeler, Leslie Wilburn, Linda Wirth and Lisa Young
    • Carter Edward Smith, "So Much Better," from Legally Blonde.
    • Jalyn Courtenay Webb, "Dead or Alive," from Rock of Ages, joined by members of Midtown Arts Center's cast from the same show:  Courtney Blackmun, Barret Harper, Jon Tyler Heath, Morgan Howard, Michael Lasris, Anne Terze Schwarz and Jason Tyler Vaughn
    • Maximillian Peterson, "Climb Every Mountain," from The Sound of Music
    • Megan Van De Hey and Leslie O’Carroll, "You and Me" from The Book of Mormon
    • John Ashton, "Tomorrow," from Annie
    • Mark Pergola and Damon Guerrasio, "This Little Light of Mine"
    PRODUCTION TEAM:
    • Robert Michael Sanders, director
    • Donna Debreceni, musical director
    • Jessica Swanson, assistant director
    • Ronni Gallup, Event coordinator
    • Jonathan D. Allsup, stage manager
    • Alexis Bond, lights
    • Cara Wallingford, sound
    • Clint Heyn, technician

    SPECIAL THANKS:

    • Anonymous donor who bought tickets for cast and crew
    • Brenda Billings
    • Tom Borrillo
    • Bree Davies, Westword
    • Kim Drennan
    • Becca Fletcher
    • Deb Flomberg
    • Nikki Harrison
    • Kevin Hart
    • Margie Lamb
    • Cheryl McNab
    • Debbie Minter
    • North End Sound Inc
    • Susan Ramsdorf
    • Leslie Rutherford
    • Lola Salazar
    • Gloria Shanstrom
    • Kent Thompson and Kathleen McCall-Thompson
    • Town Hall Arts Center
    DONOR THEATRES AND MERCHANTS:


    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the Denver Actors Fund:
    Miscast 2015 is coming to the Town Hall Arts Center
    Miscast 2014 photos, video highlights
    How Denver Actors Fund is helping the local theatre community
    DSA students make remarkable, record donation to Denver Actors Fund
    2014 True West Award: Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
    'Once, The Musical' cast members perform at Denver Actors Fundraiser


    EDITOR'S NOTE: The Denver Actors Fund was started in 2013 by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, who runs the DCPA's NewsCenter, and local actor and attorney  Christopher Boeckx. The current President is Brenda Billings of Miners Alley Playhouse.

  • Miscast 2015 announces stellar lineup for Sept. 14 at Town Hall

    by John Moore | Aug 20, 2015
    Denver Actors Fund Miscast 2015

    The lineup for "Miscast 2015," a community-wide benefit for the Denver Actors Fund to be held Sept. 14 at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, has just been announced - and the cast list is enough to make any local director envious.

    "Miscast 2015" is an opportunity for members of the local theatre community to sing songs and act out scenes they would never … ever! … get cast to perform on any legitimate stage. Tickets are $10 (plus fees if ordered online) and are available at 303-794-2787 or online at townhallartscenter.org.

    Scheduled performers include Megan Van De Hey, Leslie O’Carroll, Matt LaFontaine, Steven Burge, John Ashton, Jayln Courtenay Webb (the newly announced Managing Director of Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins) and members of the acclaimed handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company.

    The hosts are again Damon Guerrassio and Mark Pergola (better known in the local theatre community as Elvira Barcelona.)

    This year's event will include several special performance twists, such as a series of games a la Jimmy Fallon's lip-sync contest on "The Tonight Show." Eden Lane, host of Colorado Public Television's "In Focus with Eden Lane," is one of the local luminaries who has agreed to play along for one of the games.


    To see our complete gallery of photos from the evening, which raised just more than $2,000 for The Denver Actors Fund, click here.

    The Denver Actors Fund provides financial and practical services to members of the local theatre community who find themselves in medical need. In just two years, the grassroots nonprofit has raised more than $47,000 to help local artists.

    Each applicant submitted a proposed song and a 'Miscast concept' for judges to consider. Now just in its second year as a Denver Actors Fund benefit event, Director Robert Michael Sanders said he received far more submissions than he had performance slots.

    "This year's turnout was completely overwhelming," said Sanders. All applications were  considered by a special "Miscast" selection committee based on variety and cleverness, among other factors.

    "We made the choices we think best suit this year's show,," said Sanders, who called the resulting list "the best cross-section of talent from many different theaters, types and styles of performances."

    While the list of scheduled performers has been announced, their actual Miscast musical numbers will remain a secret until the night of the show on Sept. 15. Last year featured a Girl Scout singing "My Unfortunate Erection" (from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and members of Phamaly doing a Full Monty strip-tease. For starters.

    "It may be all wrong ... but it feels so right," said Sanders.

    Performers:
    Taylor Nicole Young and Cory Wendling
    Carter Edward Smith
    Matt LaFontaine and Reace Daniel
    Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Max Peterson
    Phamaly Theatre Company
    Steven Burge
    Megan Van De Hey and Leslie O’Carroll
    John Ashton
    Kaiser Educational Group "The Mutts"
    Special appearance by TV personality Eden Lane
    (More surprises to come)

    Crew
    ​Director: Robert Michael Sanders
    Event Coordinator: Ronni Gallup
    Musical Direction: Donna Debreceni
    Lights: Alexis Bond
    Stage Manager: Jonathan Allsup
    Special Thanks: Leslie Rutherford, Denise Kato and Cheryl McNab, Town Hall Arts Center

    MISCAST 2015:
    7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14
    Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St.
    A benefit for the Denver Actors Fund
    Tickets for “Miscast” are $10 (plus fees if ordered online) and are available now at townhallartscenter.org or call 303-794-2787

    To read more about last year's "Miscast," and see photos and video, click here

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA.

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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.