• John Ahlin of 'Native Gardens' on what theatre can learn from Comic-Con

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2018
    mariana-fernandez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_o
    Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Broadway veteran's garden grew out of a dream to be a forest ranger. Now he's tilling the soil in the Space Theatre.  

    MEET JOHN AHLIN
    John-Ahlin-Jefferson-Mays-in-the-2007-Broadway-revival-of-Journeys-End-at-the-Belasco-Theatre.-Photo-by-Paul-Kolnik.John Ahlin, who plays gardening fan Frank Butley in Native Gardens, has appeared on Broadway in seven productions including Waiting for Godot with Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin, 2007 Tony Award-winning Best Revival Journey’s End (alongside DCPA master's graduate John Behlmann), The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Macbeth, and others. Other New York credits include Orson Welles in Orson’s Shadow (Barrow Street Theatre), Gray Area (Barrow Group), ChipandGus (Soho Playhouse) and others. TV and film credits include: “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Coen Brothers), “Law & Order: SVU,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “As the World Turns” and many more. (Pictured above: John Ahlin and Jefferson Mays in Journey's End.' Photo by Paul Kolnik.)

    • Hometown: Aurora
    • Home now: New York
    • Training: BFA from Syracuse University Go Orange
    • Website: JohnAhlin.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Actor, playwright, thinker: Lives 36 floors above New York City: Works hard: Plays nice: Likes all people and distant train whistles
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? Out of high school, I wanted to be a forest ranger, and I was sidetracked by theatre in college and never looked back. I still have the “what if” pangs whenever I look up at forested mountains, and as I type this I can look out to see some snowy Rockies. There is where I’d most likely be if not for acting.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Not a prideful fellow I, but I feel I’m able to perform myriad roles somewhat effectively, and am not pigeonholed into a type. For example, I’ve appeared on Broadway in a splashy musical, a whodunit, a contemporary Irish black comedy, an all-black musical revue, a Shakespeare, an absurdist classic and a Tony Award-winning revival of a World War I drama. I did, however, once get mis-booked on a radio show where I thought I was going to promote a play I had written, and they instead thought I was a bright young comedian. Luckily I was quick-witted enough to survive that interview, but I wouldn’t want to do that again.
    • John+Ahlin+as+FalstaffBucket-list role: If I were forced to list my all-time bucket-list role, it would be Lear. A small portion of the rest of the list: Willie Loman, Big Daddy, Sheridan Whiteside, Walter Burns, Estragon and Mama Rose. (Note: I included Mama Rose because, in theory, after you complete your bucket list, don’t you kick the bucket? If I have one un-played role on my list, I hope to stave off the inevitable end.)
    • What's playing on your Spotify? "Levon" by Elton John, "Everybody’s Talkin’ " by Harry Nilsson, "Elusive Butterfly of Love" by Bob Lind, "Gentle on My Mind" by Glen Campbell and "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat and Tears — my favorite band. I would call these my top-five favorite songs, and it wasn’t until this little exercise that I realized what was alike about them all: Scope. The expansive reflection on one’s life, both past and future and its echoing through time.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I have done Falstaff 11 times — and I’d be happy to do him 11 more times. (Pictured above right.)
    • 200 Mark Rylance. jerusalem. (Photo by Simon Annand)One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Watching Mark Rylance in Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth was the happy confluence of seeing both the greatest performance and the greatest play I had ever witnessed, at the same time. And to see such a marvel, after my nearly four decades in show business, was more than an inspiring glimpse of what theatre can be. It was a rejuvenating experience, fueling me to go on, to keep wondering, and seeking the surprises that lurk around every corner of life. (Pictured at right: Mark Rylance in 'Jerusalem.' Photo by Simon Annand.)
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? This is a bit wacky, but I think everyone who makes or markets theatre should go to a Comic-Con and see the enthusiasm of the crowds of young people lining up around the outside of the convention center, and then just ponder what it is that drives these joyous fans to surrender themselves completely to the stories, characters and ambience. There are probably many revelations that can come just by thinking and wondering how to nurture, increase, reciprocate and reward fandom for theatre — and not just the young, but all theatregoers.
    • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
    • Why does Native Gardens matter? Native Gardens is what all good theatre should be: the lifting out of ideas and concepts intrinsic to life, to be examined in a focused and palatable way. The themes, characters, plot and style blend beautifully so that the play makes its points through behavior and not comment. This play wonderfully fulfills theatre’s purpose, where we humans gather in one big room and debate life through our stories.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? Someone once said “the audience is the only genius in theatre,” so what they get out of it is all that really matters. I have a feeling they will get a wonderful and funny night of theatre, but more, they will see a play that shakes preconceived notions and will cause the audience to look at something afresh, as if for the first time. And hint at avenues of hope.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I think too many people are getting things off their chests. I’m far more interested in common ground and common pursuits.  There are an awful lot of good things to be done without all the complaints and recriminations dividing people.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
  • Video: A tree grows ... and grows ... in 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 19, 2018

    Video: DCPA Theatre Company Charge Scenic Artist Jana Mitchell talks about the creative challenges that came with building a massive 30-foot indoor tree. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    How the DCPA's team of scenic artists built a 30-foot indoor tree for a play in the round without blocking audience views

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The set for the DCPA Theatre Company’s new comedy Native Gardens is dominated by a large and meaningful oak tree that grows tall and encompasses the entire space above and below the stage.

    But the Space Theatre is in-the-round, which means the indoor tree posed a significant creative challenge for Scenic Designer Lisa M. Orzolek and her team of artists for this first-ever staging of Karen Zacarías' celebrated comedy in a theatre where the audience is seated in a circle all around the stage.

    The play centers on two neighboring couples at odds over the location of their property line — and the presence of a massive backyard oak tree that one couple loves but aggravates the other when it drops its leaves, acorns and branches on the other side of the fence.

    How did she pull it off? “That's the magic of theatre," Orzolek teased.

    Jana Mitchell On the page, it would seem that the tree should be located between the two houses, just on one side of the property line closest to the fence. But that would be the middle of the Space Theatre, and you can't put a big tree in the middle of a round stage because of the sightline problems that would create for audiences. So Orzolek put the tree in one of the theatre’s five “voms” (or actor entranceways). And then built it to such a massive size that its branches still create all kinds of havoc for the neighboring couple.

    “In order for the tree to reach all the way across the theatre into the neighbor’s yard, it just kept getting taller and longer and wider,” Orzolek said. "It goes up and then comes back down. In the end, it was 24 feet tall and 30 feet wide.”

    The tree began as a tiny clay model. Then came wood, steel, chicken wire and muslin. “The bark structure is actually carpet padding,” Orzolek said. “Our amazing scenic-artist team just ripped carpet padding into strips to make bark and then they spray-painted it with drywall texture." It's a technique former DCPA Scenic Artist Brian Proud invented for The Secret Graden. 

    The tree plays a major part in the story, and not just because it represents a physical point of contention. It reveals differences in the way the two couples look at the world.

    “The oak tree is very important in any native garden,” Zacarías said. “They have the most biodiversity of any tree species.”

    And that's relevant to one of the couples, and hogwash to the other.

    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.

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


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Blues queen Erica Brown on taking care of our veterans

    by John Moore | Apr 18, 2018
    Quote Honorable Disorder Erica Brown Theo Wilson  Celia HerreraURBN Brands

    Erica Brown and Theo Wilson in 'Honorable Disorder.' Photo by Celia Herrera/URBN Brands.

    The new Emancipation Theater tackles the difficult issue of how we support our veterans when they return from war

    MEET ERICA BROWN
    Erica Brown, who has been called "Colorado's Queen of the Blues," plays Nancy Foster, mother of a Denver military veteran struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the new play Honorable Disorder. This is the inaugural production by the new Emancipation Theater Company, and is being hosted at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre. Brown, namesake of the former Erica Brown Band, has worked with some of the finest artists in the world, including B.B. King, Al Green, Delbert McClinton, Tab Benoit, Kenny Neal and, most recently, Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters

    • Dan-Treanor-Erica-Brown-Steve-Mack-Photo-01-02-2013-International-Blues-Challenge-Finals-Orpheum-Theatre-Memphis-TNHometown: Sikeston, Mo.
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: Degree in Management from the University of Phoenix
    • What's your handle? @ericabrownenter on Twitter and @ericabrownentertainment on Instagram
    • Website: ericabrownentertainment.com (photo at right by Steve Mack)
    • Twitter-sized bio: Nerdy girl who loves the blues, history, reading, African-American science fiction and romance — and her family.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Hasn't happened yet. I've been uniquely suited to every role I've played so far. 
    • Bucket-list role: It doesn't exist: I'd love to play a lead role as a magical teacher-mentor — who also just happens to be a witch or a sorceress —  -n a Harry Potter-style stage play with black characters fighting the forces of evil in America. Black women are not heralded enough for their lives as wise women, crones, witches and Curandera in American theatre and film, and such a production has never been put on, as far as I know.   
    • Big Mama ThorntonWhat's playing on your Spotify? Any old guard blues woman such as Koko Taylor, Big Mama Thornton (pictured right), Memphis Minnie (or Erica Brown 😊 )
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? One of my original passions in life was to be a librarian, because I so love history. I would have made a great museum curator. I love old things.
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: When my truly stage-frightened daughter stepped up to the musical plate and slayed an audience of 6,000 people singing at her first real gig — at the Telluride Blues Festival!
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? Let's engage them in difficult conversations through theatre. Our play Honorable Disorder has strong language and situations, but we should not necessarily shelter our youth from the realities of life. One of our attendees last weekend was a young teenager, and she absolutely loved and understood everything about our play.
    • What is Honorable Disorder all about? Honorable Disorder, written by pioneering local hip-hop and spoken-word artist Jeff Campbell, tells the story of DeShawn Foster, a native of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood and a veteran of  Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following the loss of his commanding officer and father figure, DeShawn struggles to hold on to his “Soldier’s Creed” back home in Denver.
    • Why does Honorable Disorder matter? Because we are tackling the difficult issue of how we support our veterans when they return from war. It also explores the difficulties the families of returning servicemen and women face, and the scarcity of support they receive. We also talk about and portray homelessness, drug addiction and poverty. These are important conversations that should be at the forefront of how we care for and about ourselves as a nation.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Honorable Disorder? A sincere desire to go back into their communities and make real change happen for our vets and their families and support systems. The conversations and help must be real and ongoing. They've been there for us, now it's time for us to step up and care for them.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Let's all just try to love each other without anger, rancor and violence, please.  We can do it!

    April theatre listings: Don't pass on Fox's Passing Strange

     Honorable Disorder Erica Brown Devon James Photo by Celia HerreraURBN BrandsDenver Center Teaching Artist Devon James, left, and Erica Brown in 'Honorable Disorder.' Photo by Celia Herrera/URBN Brands.

    Honorable Disorder: Ticket information

    • Presented by Emancipation Theater Company
    • Written and directed by Jeff Campbell
    • Performances through April 29
    • At Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, 119 Park Avenue West
    • Tickets at EmancipationTheater.com
      or email emancipationtheaterco@gmail.com

    Remaining performances:

    • 8 p.m., Friday, April 20
    • 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21
    • 6 p.m., Sunday, April 22
    • 8 p.m., Friday, April 27
    • 8 p.m. Saturday, April 28
    • 6 p.m., Sunday, April 29

    Cast list:

    • Theo Wilson, Erica Brown, Chet W. Sisk, Corey Rhoads and Devon James

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    • Meet Elizabeth Bernhardt of Phamaly's Romeo and Juliet
    • Meet Sheryl McCallum of Aurora Fox's Passing Strange
    • Meet Brynn Tucker of Off-Center's This is Modern Art
    • Meet Gustavo Márquez of DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of Off-Center's This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Denver Children's Theatre's Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Lone Tree Arts Center's Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • Phamaly's Elizabeth Bernhardt on destroying the things we love most

    by John Moore | Apr 17, 2018
    Elizabeth Bernhardt Phamaly Romeo and Juliet Photo by Michael Ensminger

    Phamaly Theatre Company's Jacob Elledge and Elizabeth Bernhardt. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    Denver actors with disabilities explore the passion, poetry and tragedy of Romeo and Juliet as only Phamaly can.

    MEET ELIZABETH BERNHARDT
    Elizabeth Bernhardt is playing Juliet in Phamaly Theatre Company's Romeo and Juliet. Phamaly exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. This is a workshop production with minimal staging. All performances are open-captioned. 

    • Elizabeth Bernhardt Phamaly Romeo and Juliet Photo by Michael EnsmingerHometown: Pearland, Texas
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: B.A. in English and MA. in English Literature from Abilene Christian University
    • What's your handle? @lizbernhardt
      on Twitter and Instagram
    • Website: elizabethbernhardt.wordpress.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Library assistant who loves too many things: Books, games, movies, plays. They’re newly back to theater and will never stop learning. (They/them are preferred pronouns.)
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? By day, I’m a library assistant at Aurora Public Libraries, and I love the creativity of it: I get to sing songs with kids, teach Excel to adults, fix e-readers and fingerpaint, and hear so many different life stories. I’ve tried other dreams, too – teaching English, game development and writing – but the common thread in all of them is stories: How we shape them and how they shape us.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: A friend asked me to voice one of his characters in an animated short. He only gave me my lines to read — so I didn’t realize it was about eternal judgment and damnation. And this was just when I had stopped believing in God. I really should have asked more questions before reading. I didn’t have nearly enough fear of hell-fire in my reading — but he was very kind about it.
    • Romeo Bucket-list role: The Mexican poet and social activist Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. It will never, ever happen, and it should never happen, because I am whiter than untoasted bread. But I want Sor Juana to get the Hamilton treatment, because doesn’t this clever, visionary, sarcastic queer nun deserve that?
    • What's playing on your Spotify? I just saw Coco and it ripped my heart out in the best possible way, so I’ve been listening to the movie soundtrack.
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? My eyes are opposites! I have one near-sighted eye and one far-sighted eye.
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: In Oxford, I saw a performance of The Taming of the Shrew by the Globe Theatre on Tour with an all-female cast. I think I stopped breathing when Petruchio walked onstage, and I didn’t start again until the final bow. The beauty of Shakespeare is in the interpretation, especially in the problem plays. This performance took a play about gender roles, implicitly queered it by casting all women, and then played its comedic ending as a tragedy. There’s this moment where you watch Petruchio realize that he’s destroyed the best thing in his life, because he loved it, and because the world only provided him with broken ways to love and define people. I came to that play ready to hate it, and I left replaying those final moments over and over for more than a year. That, to me, is the power of live theatre. 
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? We need as many stories as possible about every gender and race and sexuality and class and lifestyle. Kids should look at a stage and see the entire world.
    • What is this reading of Romeo and Juliet all about? Shakespeare's timeless love story is about putting aside differences to pursue love above all else. And we are exploring the passion, beauty, poetry and tragedy of that story as only Phamaly can. This is a workshop presentation with minimal staging.
    • Why does Romeo and Juliet matter? Imagine waking up every morning to find out that three new tragedies occurred overnight. (Maybe you don’t have to imagine that.) Every tragedy leads to more fighting and heartbreak, but nothing changes, and maybe people have stopped believing things can ever change. Romeo and Juliet is “that play where the kids fall in love and die,” yes, but it’s also about hope in the middle of a cycle of violence and hate. It asks if a better world is possible. And it makes a lot of sex jokes, because it’s Shakespeare. What’s not to love?
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Romeo and Juliet? I hope they laugh more than they expect and remember the last time they fell in love with possibility. I hope they forgive themselves and someone else. And I hope they have fun.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Being in this production with Phamaly has been more fun and fulfilling than I could have imagined. I’ve learned so much. Thank you so much for the opportunity!

    Regan Linton named Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    Phamaly Romeo and Juliet Photo by Michael EnsmingerThe cast of Phamaly Theatre Company's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    Romeo and Juliet: Ticket information

    • Presented by Phamaly Theatre Company
    • Performances through April 22
    • Directed by 2017 True West Awards Theatre Person of the Year Regan Linton
    • At the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
    • 303-575-0005 or thedairy.org

    Remaining performances:

    • 2 p.m., Saturday, April 21 (with talkback)
    • 7 p.m., Saturday, April 21
    • 2 p.m., Sunday, April 22 (with talkback)

    Cast list:

    • Romeo: Jacob Elledge
    • Juliet: Elizabeth Bernhardt
    • Mercutio: Marcus Cannello
    • Benvolio: Apollo Blue Norton
    • Tybalt: James Vegliante
    • Nurse: Lucy Roucis
    • Friar Laurence: Kevin Pettit
    • Prince Escalus: Rich Brunker
    • Paris: Connor Long
    • Montague: Gregg Vigil
    • Capulet: David Wright
    • Lady Capulet: MaryAnne Migliorelli
    • Lady Montague: Dale Rose
    • Friar John: Melissa Ottke
    • Apothecary: Tammy Davidson

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    • Meet Sheryl McCallum of Aurora Fox's Passing Strange
    • Meet Brynn Tucker of Off-Center's This is Modern Art
    • Meet Gustavo Márquez of DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of Off-Center's This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Denver Children's Theatre's Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Lone Tree Arts Center's Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • Sheryl McCallum on the search for something more real than real

    by John Moore | Apr 17, 2018
    Sheryl McCallum. Passing Strange

    Sheryl McCallum passes from The Lion King to The Wild Party to the unusual odyssey of Passing Strange

    MEET SHERYL McCALLUM
    Sheryl McCallum, who played Delores last year in Off-Center's The Wild Party, appeared on Broadway in Disney's The Lion King. Denver credits include Marcus: Or the Secret Of Sweet for Curious Theatre; and Jesus Christ Superstar and I'll Be Home for Christmas at the Arvada Center. She was a featured singer in the first European tour of Blackbirds of Broadway. TV credits include "Law & Order" and "Golden Boy."

    • Sheryl McCallum. Photo by Christine Fisk. Hometown: New York
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: B.S. in Telecommunications from Texas Southern University
    • Website: None — shame on me!
    • Twitter-sized bio: Denver native, best Auntie, wanna find my beach, ZPhiB💙. Creator and host of The Source Theatre's monthly Monday!Monday!Monday! cabaret at Su Teatro. ❤Spain, 13.1 coming soon.
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would pursue sports reporting or TV travel hosting. I have always enjoyed sports of all kinds. My take would be more commenting than reporting. You should hear me in my living room! For travel, my focus would be on best lounge chairs and beach or pool bar service.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Sister Hubert in a particular production of Nunsense 2. Who knew?
    • Bucket-list role: At one time, I wanted to be an opera singer. So I guess my bucket list-role would be to sing "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" at the Metropolitan Opera.
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Kid Astronaut and Bruno Mars. I also recommend Air Dubai. They are a local band and they don’t perform live as often as they used to.
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I direct my church choir.
    • viola-davis-fencesOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I had a chance to witness Viola Davis (pictured right) perform on Broadway in Fences and King Hedley II. Enough said!
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? One simple thing would be to expose them to theatre early. Not just expose them to acting or singing, but expose them to set and lighting design, to playwriting, to music composition, to stage management and to front-of-house operations. The elementary-school play or musical goes a long way toward fostering future theatregoers.
    • What is Passing Strange all about? It opens as a concert with a rousing funk band led by a showman named Stew who takes us back to the tumultuous 1970s where we retrace young Stew’s epic journey from the suburban comforts of Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin in search of “something more real than real." It’s a tough and meaningful odyssey about cultural identity and family that culminates as young Stew comes face-to-face with present-day Stew — and to terms with the cost his youthful narcissism has exacted on those he left behind.
    • What does the title mean? The phrase "Passing Strange" was coined by William Shakespeare in Othello when he says, "My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs. She swore in faith 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;     'Twas pitiful." Stew once said in an interview that the quote reminds him of a rock musician who tries to attract a girl with his on-the-road stories. "Passing" also refers to the history of African-Americans passing as white, as well as to the passage of time.
    • Why does Passing Strange matter? It offers another perspective of a black man's journey to find himself. Before I saw this show, I never would have thought of a black man writing a rock musical about moving to Amsterdam and Berlin to find himself. It’s an amazing story that everyone can see a little of themselves in.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Passing Strange? I hope they  feel challenged to find what is real in your life. I love this line in the show: ”The only truth of youth is grown-up consequences.” Also, to look at those places where you may be “passing."
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Denver, please find your civility again. When I lived in New York, I would brag about how nice the people in Denver were. When I moved back about four years ago, I was shocked at the rudeness. Of course, the natives blame all the other people who moved here. It doesn’t matter. We all live here now. Please be nice.

    John Moore's 2008 review of Broadway's Passing Strange

    Sheryl McCallum. The Wild Party. Photo by Adams ViscomSheryl McCallum in Off-Center's 'The Wild Party' last year at the Stanley Marketplace. Photo by Adams Viscom.


    Passing Strange: Ticket information

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    • Meet Brynn Tucker of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Gustavo Márquez of Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • 'Tommy': How The Who went from smashing guitars to blowing people's minds

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2018
    Sam Buntrock. Photo by John Moore
    Performances of the DCPA Theatre Company's staging of 'The Who's Tommy' begin Saturday. Photo of Director Sam Buntrock by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Director Sam Buntrock says 50 years on, Tommy's true wizardry remains its emotionally authentic storytelling

    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Remember The Who’s Tommy? Remember when it played Denver’s Buell Theatre in 1994? Maybe you were too young.

    The show was very young then too, known mostly by hearsay or from the 1969 rock concept album on which it is based. It had made waves by elevating the life of a deaf, mute and blind boy whose prodigious talent at pinball makes him a celebrity. By applying what was then a lot of new technology to his fertile imagination, director Des McAnuff’s 1992 transfer of that iconic album to the La Jolla Playhouse stage in San Diego took musical theatre to a whole new level of innovation.

    At the time, The Who was a British rock group seeking broader recognition, so the album’s breakthrough in London — and the rock opera created in La Jolla — became sensations. Rock operas were still uncommon. There had been Hair (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), both huge, to say nothing of The Rocky Horror Show that exploded on several London stages in 1973 before spreading across the globe with its enduring popularity.

    Rommy Sam Buntrock Andy Mientus. Photo by John MooreTommy was different. Its La Jolla opening with its flashy tech effects, its combination of heartbreaking story and unrestrained flamboyance, was a big surprise. The tools were the same, but watching the astonishing fall and rise of a traumatized child on stage offered a deeper and deeply thrilling experience. The subsequent 1993 Broadway run set box-office records, and the show traveled to Denver the following year on the wings of great press and five Tony Awards.

    (Pictured: Sam Buntrock with Andy Mientus (Tommy) on the first day of rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Today’s DCPA Theatre Company revival is a homegrown incarnation, with a live band and reinvented staging by director Sam Buntrock, whose Frankenstein at the DCPA and whose West End direction of Sunday In the Park With George scored high marks.

    “I’ve never directed Tommy before,” he said by email earlier this spring. “In the ’60s, Townsend wrote the score to be performed in concert. In the ’90s he worked with Des McAnuff to transform it into a big and brilliant stage musical. I suspect mine will be a more emotionally driven, intimate version of the show. I’m approaching that version through the lens of contemporary theatrical conventions.

    “Audiences have become accustomed to simpler, more distilled storytelling, the sort whose thrills are precise and unexpected. With Tommy, I’m excited to stage a fantastical show that has, at its heart, a rich and emotionally authentic story.”

    Video: Andy Mientus, Lulu Fall sing for Denver Actors Fund

    Among the new ideas Buntrock brings to his staging is younger casting, including that of Andy Mientus (of TV’s “Smash” and Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening) as Tommy.

    “Of course, there are children written into the fabric of the show — 4-year-old and 10-year-old Tommy,” Buntrock said. “These two are givens, though our 4-year-old may play a larger part than people expect.

    Sam Buntock Tommy“The only other child is a teenaged Kevin. The story spans some 20 years, and Kevin is one of the characters who features through most of the timeline. So if he interacts with 10-year-old Tommy, and then adult Tommy, it’s powerful to see him grow up too. How that doubling works and what the payoff is, are both things conceived in service of creating a credible family on stage.” 

    (Right: 'Tommy' artwork by DCPA Theatre Company Director Sam Buntrock.)

    Pete Townshend, The Who’s lead guitarist, composed most of the score for Tommy. He told Applause magazine in 1994 “that story is, in a sense, my life brought up-to-date. I didn’t quite realize how autobiographical it was. Not just of me, but of the people around me at the time … everybody in the group. Not only was it an important step for us artistically, it also was the critical financial breakthrough for a group that, up to that point, had been known for wearing funny clothes and pop-art outfits and smashing guitars.”   

    Almost 50 years on, the Tommy story, and especially its score, still resonate.

    Four-year-old Tommy is thrown into a catatonic state after he witnesses a traumatic family event reflected in a mirror. It makes him instantly deaf, dumb and blind. This triple whammy brings him the wrong kinds of attention; he struggles through childhood, badgered and abused — until he discovers he has a freakish talent for winning at pinball. 

    In late adolescence, when he’s accidentally present as his mother, in a moment of despair, smashes the same mirror that caused his catatonia, Tommy is magically healed. The revitalized pinball wizard becomes an international star before evolving into a sentient, responsive and compassionate human being. All this melodrama, married to its stunning musical score, results in a rock opera whose alchemy is practically addictive.

    When asked if he agrees that what continues to make the show so gripping
    is this melding of music, magic, mystery, mysticism and melodrama,
    Buntrock demurred.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Yes. In part. It remains so gripping because it is one of the greatest musical scores ever written,” he said. “It’s not faux musical theatre rock and roll, it’s … rock and roll. All those ‘m’s are intrinsic to what Townshend was exploring when he wrote it.

    “Ultimately,” he added, “it’s a deeply honest exploration of Townshend’s own childhood. With Tommy, with his prone passivity, we have a hero we can all project ourselves upon. Yes, it’s magnified and melodramatic, but it’s rock and roll, so what do you expect? And despite this, I think it has something profound to say about our relationship to our childhood selves.”

    Theatre, being a primary champion of human understanding, often takes the lead in reversing secretive old-fashioned attitudes. Tommy is an example of art shining a light into the darkness and, in former theatre critic Frank Rich’s words, “spreading catharsis like wildfire through the cheering house.

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

    Tommy cast Photo by John MooreThe cast of 'The Who's Tommy' at its first rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances April 21-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Brynn Tucker of 'This is Modern Art': What are we willing to risk?

    by John Moore | Apr 15, 2018
    T This is Modern Art Brynn Tucker. Photo by Adams VisCom
    Rhonda (Brynn Tucker) argues that graffiti belongs outside and not inside on museum walls in Idris Goodwin's 'This is Modern Art,' closing today (April 15) at the Jones Theatre. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    The actor loves anime, stop-motion and now a more controversial variation on the art form: Graffiti, and its history

    MEET BRYNN TUCKER
    05+cut+-+Brynn+Tucker+in+The+Rape+of+the+Sabine+Women+by+Grace+B.+Matthias.+Photo+by+George+LangeBrynn Tucker, who plays Rhonda and other roles in Off-Center's This is Modern Art, made her DCPA Theatre company last year in Frankenstein. Other local credits include the True West Award-winning Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias for Local Theatre Company; Robert Schenkkan's Building the Wall for Curious Theatre and the Aspen Ideas Festival; and  Marcus: The Secret of Sweet for Curious Theatre. Regional credits include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Folger Theatre), The Widow Lincoln, Our Town (Ford's Theatre), A Guide to Dancing Naked* (DC Capital Fringe Festival). 

    • Brynn Tucker QUOTEHometown: Germantown, Maryland
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Rangeview
    • Training: Spelman College and The British American Drama Academy
    • What's your handle? @BrynnPossible on Twitter and Instagram
    • Website: brynnpossible.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Actress and dancer living in the Mile High City. Lover of anime and Adventure Time. Spirit animal is Lumpy Space Princess. Can bust out some black moguls on the ski mountain like a champ. #sostylee!
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be a travel vlogger. Traveling for extended periods of time, where most people don’t know me. Learning new languages is an aspiration of mine. Getting paid for it would be living the dream.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Benjamin Franklin
    • Bucket-list role: I don’t seek out specific roles, they reveal themselves to me and if I’m meant to have them, I take them on.
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Enrique Inglesias. (Baby I STILL like it!)
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I worked on an organic farm in Thailand with no air conditioning or electricity in a bamboo hut. I realized I didn’t know how to grow anything, and I wanted to learn Howa.
    • This Is Modern Art. Brynn Tucker 400.Photo by John MooreOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I’ve always been enamored by Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. The music, story and songs make it a must-watch during the holidays. The darkness, the beauty and the lifelike art of stop-motion animation really catered to my imagination as a child, and still does now as an adult.
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? Evolving theater to be more interactive and engaging than ever before. I think the next generation would appreciate a revolution of some kind. Especially when it comes to their entertainment.
    • What is This is Modern Art about? Idris Goodwin's play recounts the true story of one of the biggest graffiti bombs in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes in a 2010 snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago, raising big questions, including: What is art? Where does it go? And who gets to say so?
    • Why does This is Modern Art matter? It really resonates because it shows a group of young people who were willing to risk everything for something they believe in, something greater than themselves. The right to share your ideas, art, beliefs and even opinions is now under constant scrutiny. You can get into serious trouble if you say the wrong thing. I pose the question: “What are we willing to risk to say or do what we believe is right?”
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing This is Modern Art? I hope they  begin to notice graffiti in their neighborhoods. And that they understand the history and culture so they can make an informed decision for themselves, rather than a one-sided one.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I’ve been thinking about freedom for a while now. I’ve found it’s less about access to what we think we want or deserve. It’s more about your own hero’s journey: Taking up your sword and having the courage to go through life. Love and dragons, you take them all on. I think the ability and the choice to do this is the greatest freedom. Choose your own adventure book EVER!

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Meet Gustavo Márquez of Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

    This is Modern Art at Native Gardens opening

    Some members of the 'This is Modern Art' team attended Friday's opening of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens' on Friday. From left: Chloe McLeod, Brynn Tucker, John Jurcheck, Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller and Jake Mendes. 

  • Backyard border dispute: How does your garden grumble?

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018

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

     

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


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read more: Five things we learned at first rehearsal

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Native Gardens: Production photos

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


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    Native Gardens Opening Night. Photo by John Moore. Cast and creatives on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • New Denver Center plays take center stage in Seattle, San Diego

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018
    Our video report from the openings of the Denver Center-born plays 'The Great Leap' and 'American Mariachi' in Seattle and San Diego. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Theatre Company's first co-productions in a decade open for West Coast audiences on back-to-back nights 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    It was an hour before the opening performance of the Denver-born play American Mariachi at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and something wasn't quite right. A large backstage table was filled with floating balloons, sweets and several bouquets of fresh congratulatory flowers, including one from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    But then there was the incongruous vase on Bobby Plasencia’s dressing-room table. Its water was discolored, its flowers tired and wilting. But to the actor, they were surely the most vibrant flowers in the room.

    American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by John Moore“They’ve been here ever since our final dress rehearsal,” said Plasencia, who plays an old-school mariachi player whose wife dies in the story. After that performance almost a week before, the actor got word that a 12-year-old boy in the audience wanted to meet him. Plasencia walked to the stage door and was greeted by “this super-cool little dude,” he said, wearing a tie and perfectly gelled hair. The boy took one look at Plasencia, fell into his arms and burst into tears. “And he just couldn’t stop,” Plasencia said.  

    One of the grown-ups in the entourage pulled Plasencia aside and whispered that the boy had recently lost someone very close to him, and that the play had moved him immensely. The boy collected himself and presented Plasencia with flowers as a gift for the entire cast. “And they are going to stay right here until our very last day here on April 29,” Plasencia promised.  

    Those kinds of powerful audience responses to José Cruz González’s family drama have been steady since the play premiered back in Denver on Feb. 2. And because of several unique partnerships the DCPA Theatre Company has forged this season, they are continuing to happen in multiple cities.

    American Mariachi is one of two world-premiere plays the Denver Center has recently launched as co-productions with other leading national theatre organizations. The other was Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap in partnership with the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Both plays tell culturally specific stories that bring underrepresented voices to the stage while also telling uncommonly universal family stories.

    Jose Cruz Gonzalez quoteA co-production, or “co-pro,” as they say in the biz, is a collaboration between two companies that have a shared investment in launching a new play, both artistically and financially. They work together on the development of the piece, share certain expenses and then present the play in both cities back-to-back, with the original casts intact.

    When both plays closed in Denver last month, all key creative personnel packed up along with the sets, props and costumes and set forth to either Seattle or San Diego for their immediate transfers. By great calendrical coincidence, both plays opened in their second cities on back-to-back nights: March 28 and 29.

    Despite the modest financial benefit that comes with partnering with other companies, large-scale co-productions are rare in the American theatre. In its nearly 40-year history, the DCPA Theatre Company has only participated in three previous co-pros — Pure Confidence with Cincinnati Playhouse in 2007; and the world premieres of The Laramie Project with the Tectonic Theatre Project in 1999-2000 and Tantalus with the Royal Shakespeare Company the following year.

    The partnerships with Seattle Rep and the Old Globe involved dozens of people but were primarily negotiated by first-year DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. The goal, she said, was simple: To make better, more finished plays — thereby giving them better chances for a continued life in the American theatre.  

    “The main reason I wanted to push for these co-productions is because I wanted to look for opportunities for the writers to continue to work on developing their plays,” Garrett said.

    Both productions shared key creative personnel from both companies, including American Mariachi director James Vásquez, who considers the Old Globe to be his artistic home; and Seattle Rep Director of New Works Kristen Leahey, who has served as Dramaturg for The Great Leap since its first draft. That almost all of the Latinx artists Vazquez has brought home with him to the Old Globe are now working there for the first time, Artistic Director Barry Edelstein said, “is a special happiness for all of us.” His Seattle counterpart, Braden Abraham, called The Great Leap "an irresistible opportunity to showcase a rising Chinese-American playwright in the Pacific Northwest," and said working with Garrett and the whole team in Denver was "a pure joy."   

    (Story continues below the photo gallery.)

    Our complete photo gallery from Seattle and San Diego:

    Denver Center in Seattle and San Diego

    Photos from the openings of 'The Great Leap' and 'American Mariachi' in Seattle and San Diego. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Both plays were begun as commissions by former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson. A commission is when a company pays a playwright a stipend to write a new work for its right of first refusal to produce. González began writing American Mariachi in 2014, and it was first presented as a featured reading at the Denver Center’s 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Back then it was a sprawling, 150-page script. By the time of its world premiere in Denver in February, it was down to 95 pages. “So it's now very lean, and it moves like gangbusters,” said González, who continued to hone the script all the way up to opening night in San Diego on March 29.

    “Having the opportunity to have a play done in two places is a tremendous gift to a playwright,” González said. “First, to be able to premiere it in Denver and work out all the things that still needed to happen in terms of casting, storytelling and design. We left Denver feeling very satisfied, and yet that whole time we were still watching our audiences take in the play. We were learning from them and thinking about how we could improve it. And then there is the gift of that second production.”

    the-company-of-american-mariachi-photo-by-adamsviscom_39989611081_oAmerican Mariachi, set in the early 1970s, follows the journey of a young woman named Lucha who has become the caretaker for a mother with dementia. When she finds an old mariachi record that briefly brings her mother back to life, Lucha becomes determined to learn how to play the song for her with live musicians before it is too late. Although being a female mariachi player was unheard of at that time, Lucha defies her grumpy father, assembles a group of women and makes her dream come true.

    (Pictured above, from left: Amanda Robles, Jennifer Paredes, Natalie Camunas, Crissy Guerrero and Heather Velazquez. Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    American Mariachi played in the Denver Center’s largest theatre (750 seats) and exceeded box-office projections. The play is enjoying the same kind of crossover appeal in San Diego, where it is playing in a slightly more intimate, 600-seat space. None of which surprises the women in the cast.

    “This play is doing much more than filling a Latino slot on the season,” said actor Crissy Guerrero. “It has touched anyone from any background.” It is also the right time to be telling this story in the current cultural zeitgeist, said castmate Natalie Camunas. “It is important to show strong women on the stage doing what they do best right now, which is encouraging and supporting each other and shining,” she said.

    Video spotlight: Our interview with Lauren Yee

    All theatre companies, to an extent, program according to their censuses. In Denver, the Latino population is 31.8 percent, compared to 31.6 percent in San Diego. While the Denver Center has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to presenting plays with Latinx voices (most recently Native Gardens, Just Like Us, Fade and Lydia), The Great Leap, meanwhile, is only the second play by an Asian-American playwright the Denver Center has ever presented. But in Denver, the Asian-American population is just 3.4 percent, compared to 13.7 in Seattle.

    linden-tailor-photo-by-adamsviscom_39272674395_oYee’s The Great Leap, set in the late 1980s, follows a scrappy Asian-American kid who talks his way onto a college basketball team that embarks on a series of “friendship” games in a China in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution. Yee grew up in basketball-mad San Francisco, and her story was inspired by events from her father’s real experiences. Much of the play revolves around the intersecting lives of the two coaches — the compliant Chinese and the (really) ugly American.

    "This is a play that I never would have written in quite the way I did without Denver." Yee said. "Wherever it goes, there is something embedded in its DNA what Denver is all about." Added Director Eric Ting: "What a gift to have two pre-eminent theatre companies working together to make this play happen."

    Actors Keiko Green and Linden Tailor say Seattle audiences, which are made up of many more Asian-Americans than in Denver, are reacting to the story very differently, specifically as it pertains to the American coach who spews comic racial epithets throughout.

    “In Seattle, the audiences are way tougher on the coach, absolutely,” Green said. “The race comments that he makes are definitely felt more. You can see people be slightly offended and then remember, ‘Oh yeah, this is written by a Chinese-American woman.’ ”

    That, said Tailor, “is the great thing about Lauren's writing. She wants to push the envelope and ride that fine line of making you uncomfortable and making you think. I feel like here in Seattle, we are more making them think.”

    Vásquez says the same is true of American Mariachi in San Diego. “It was a raucous comedy in Denver,” he said. “I think people are leaning in and really listening to the story a little closer here.”

    American Mariachi in San DiegoThat, to Seattle Rep’s Kristin Leahey, was the whole fun of The Great Leap. “It was a really exciting thing to be sharing this work with the Denver audience as well as the Seattle audience, and to see how it engages with each of them differently,” said Leahey.

    Making the money work

    DCPA Managing Director Charles Varin said the unusual creative arrangement of a co-pro calls for an unusual financial arrangement as well. As the instigating company, he said the Denver Center assumed the cost of producing each initial staging as it would for any other show on its season. But in the case of The Great Leap, Seattle Rep contributed about $40,000 toward the $350,000 budget and the Old Globe contributed about $75,000 of a $650,000 budget.

    Varin estimated that having a producing partner ultimately represented about a 10 percent improvement to the Denver Center’s bottom line. While that is significant, he said, it is not enough to be a motivating reason to enter into a co-pro. “This was all very much artistically motivated,” said Varin, who attended both out-of-town openings. “Having a second staging helps the playwright immensely, and I think both productions were measurably improved in their second cities.”

    Video spotlight: Our interview with José Cruz González

    A similar model of play development has been employed by the National New Play Network since 1998. That’s a group of 30 core companies that select a number of new plays each year to be fully staged by a minimum of three member companies successively. It’s called a “rolling world premiere,” and the script isn’t sealed and published until after the third staging. The major difference from a co-pro is that the chosen playwright works with completely different casts and creative teams in all three cities.

    LAUREN YEE QUOTESo what happens now?

    The extended initial birth journeys for both plays end soon — The Great Leap closes April 22 and American Mariachi on April 29. But both already have their immediate futures laid out for them: The Great Leap will be staged off-Broadway this June at The Atlantic Theatre starring Tony Award-winner BD Wong. It also will be staged by the prestigious Guthrie Theatre next January in Minneapolis. American Mariachi will be presented by the Arizona Theatre Company next March.

    American Mariachi resonates in myriad ways with the kaleidoscope of our community,” said Arizona Theatre Company Artistic Director David Ivers, a former longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor. “The writing, the gift of mariachi music, the celebration and empowerment of women, and the struggle of loss in the face of hope are powerful and meaningful messages to explore in the communities we have the honor of serving.”

    This all comes in a year when Denver Center-born works are proliferating on national stages like never before. Last year, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride became the Denver Center’s most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. Not only is it getting its own upcoming staging at The Guthrie, it is also being made into a film starring Jim Parsons. Last week, Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will won the American Theatre Critics Association’s Steinberg Award as the best new play of the year produced outside of New York. It opens this summer on one of the nation’s largest stages, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 

    Read more: Denver Center's new place on national stage

    “I think all of that continues to advance the idea that the Denver Center is at the forefront of new-play development,” said Garrett. “As we are moving through the 21st century, one thing I lament about how we develop plays is that we all seem to be looking only for opportunities for playwrights to write something that is going to be a hit right now. There is a need for immediate success, as opposed to providing a space for something to unfold and be given life over time.”

    The benefit for actors  

    One of the ancillary windfalls that comes with any co-production benefits the actors themselves. The casts of both The Great Leap and American Mariachi were signed to four-month contracts. In a business where actors are most often signed to smaller contracts ranging from just four to eight weeks, an extended co-pro is about the best job they can get outside of a long run in New York.

    American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by John Moore“I feel very lucky, and I think everyone else who is involved with this play feels very lucky to be a part of it,” said Plasencia.

    But the biggest benefit, says Rodney Lizcano and others, is the familia that takes shape when a creative team spends that much more time together. The American Mariachi team performs six days a week, he said. And yet, he said, they have almost to a person spent nearly every day off together as well.

    “There has been a consistently positive camaraderie since Day 1,” he said. “We share or lives both onstage and offstage — and I think the performances have deepened because of that.”

    Which makes ultimate benefit of a co-pro to the play itself and, by extension, to its expanded audiences.

    “I always had a feeling that this was going to be a very special play for everyone who saw it, and it has come to pass because it tells a story that audiences are hungry for at this very moment in our history,” Plasencia said of American Mariachi. “This is a story about inclusion and seeing yourself represented onstage, and I feel like a lot of people have been longing for a play like this. I think there is an audience this play in every big city in the country.”

    And in every audience is the potential for another life-changing moment, like that 12-year-old boy at the final dress rehearsal of American Mariachi in San Diego.

    “It is such an honor to walk out into that theatre lobby each night and see crowds of Latino families. That doesn't happen a lot,” Vásquez said. “Just tonight, a young Latino friend came up to me and said the moment the lights came up and the music started and he saw Mexican people onstage, he just started crying — because he had never seen anything like it.

    “I think that's the biggest takeaway.”

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


    American Mariachi in San Diego. Photo by Douglas Gates
    'American Mariachi' in San Diego. Photo by Douglas Gates.


    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of American Mariachi:

    Behind the scenes video: Making the Great Wall of American Mariachi
    Tony Garcia: American Mariachi is an American beauty
    When Leonor Perez found mariachi, she found her true voice
    American Mariachi
    Perspectives: Music as a powerful memory trigger
    Photos, video: Your first look at American Mariachi
    American Mariachi
    's second community conversation: Food, music and tough issues
    Cast announced, and 5 things we learned at first rehearsal
    American Mariachi
    : Community conversation begins
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company season
    Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

     

    The Great Leap in Seattle'The Great Leap' in Seattle. Photo by John Moore.

    Selected previous coverage of The Great Leap:
    The Great Leap prepares for its big bound to Seattle
    Lauren Yee: “This play would not exist without the Denver Center'
    Video: First look at The Great Leap, and five things we learned at Perspectives
    For The Great Leap playwright Lauren Yee, family is a generation map
    Five pieces of fun hoops history to know, like: What's a pick and roll?
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal, with photos
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Vast and visceral: Theatre Company season will include The Great Leap

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Gustavo Márquez of 'Native Gardens': From the box office to the big time

    by John Moore | Apr 13, 2018
    Gustavo Marquez Quote

    He's been a janitor and a Denver Center ticket agent. And tonight he takes the stage in his Theatre Company debut.  

    MEET GUSTAVO MÁRQUEZ
    Lisa Portes quote Gustavo Márquez, a member of the Native Gardens ensemble, is making his DCPA Theatre Company debut. He recently played the crazed, bug-eating servant Renfield in Dracula for the Aurora Fox (and Westword's Juliet Wittman called him excellent at it). He played Cassius, Adriano and other roles (both in English and Spanish) in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's educational productions of The Comedy of Errors and Julius Caesar. He appeared in Local Lab's controversial reading of The Merchant of Venice, and in the Colorado-born production of I Am Alive that played at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Calif. Other stage credits include The Tempest, Metamorphoses, You Can't Take It With You, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Mozart's The Magic Flute.

    • Hometown: Aurora
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Rangeview
    • Training: BFA from Metropolitan State University of Denver
    • What's your handle? @gooosetee on Twitter and @goosetee on Instagram
    • Twitter-sized bio: Shall I compare me to a summer’s day? Yes, yes, I will: I’m like a summer’s day!
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? Many things! But a primatologist would be one. I’ve always been fascinated with apes, specifically chimpanzees, and how similar we are to them. And I find them to be adorable.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: I played Monostatos in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Monostatos is a treacherous villain, and he is written as a Moor. Also, I am a tenor, and that character was clearly meant to be a baritone. But I pulled it off. FKA_twigs
    • Bucket-list role: Usnavi from In the Heights
    • What's playing on your Spotify? FKA TWIGS (pictured right) and Princess Nokia do wonders to the soul.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I was a 19-year-old janitor in Antarctica.
    • What's one thing we already know about you, but other people probably don't: I have been working in the Denver Center's box office as a ticket agent since 2016. 
    • And what does Native Gardens Director Lisa Portes have to say about that? "I think it's going to be such a treat for those audiences who may have bought their ticket from Gustavo to then see him in the play, because he brings such beautiful life to the stage. And I will tell you a little secret: When we were looking for pre-show music in Spanish having to do with gardens, Gustavo emailed me a list of songs. So those are his." 
    • Phantom 2009 Photo by Christine Cudia MoldovanOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I saw The Phantom of the Opera at the Buell Theatre in Denver when I was in high school back in 2009. The Phantom was singing "Music of the Night," and right when he was about to sing his last note of the song, the sound went out. What happened after was nothing short of amazing. The actor, John Cudia, was able to fill the whole theatre with sound using just his unamplified voice. What I realized in that moment was pure, focused talent that I could attain as well, with hard work. (Photo: John Cudia and Trista Moldovan in the 2009 touring production of 'The Phantom of the Opera.' Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.)
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? The next generation of theatregoers will be the most diverse this country has ever seen. It is important that what is presented on stage is just as diverse as they are.
    • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
    • Why does Native Gardens matter? Because it teaches us that we can improve as a society despite our society's past actions. Even if we, or our past generations have transgressed against each other, we must learn from those past events and experiences and improve. Don’t feel guilty for what your ancestors did or how they behaved, just change the way you are living now.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? That we must forgive the past by improving the present to make the future better for all.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I enjoy American Chinese food more than Mexican food. And I feel so blasphemous saying that!

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    the-company-of-native-gardens-photo-by-adamsviscom_41396747291_o

    The company of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • Anna Morsett: Coastal singer finds her 'Still Tide' on Denver's dry land

    by John Moore | Apr 12, 2018
    The official video for The Still Tide's new single, "Give Me Time." 

    Anna Morsett came to Denver seeking calmness, but the tide is about to rise again with one bold step into the spotlight

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Anna Morsett spent most of her life on the coasts, but it wasn’t until she moved to landlocked Colorado in 2013 that the guitar-wielding songwriter discovered The Still Tide: Both her band, and the calm current she had been seeking in her own life.

    “I came here from the coast, noise and city tangled in my head,” she sings on the first single from The Still Tide’s fourth EP. “Found you like forgiveness, swept clean by years of mountain air.”

    Morsett is now firmly entrenched in the Colorado music community, having played with These United States, Ark Life, Porlolo, Brent Cowles and Natalie Tate. But she very much remains the undulating wave of The Still Tide, a seductive, shoegazey collective that marks a shifting tide with Each, After. The new EP, which will be introduced at a release party on Saturday (April 14) at Lost Lake, is essentially Morsett’s solo debut, while still fully supported by guitarist and co-founder Jacob Miller and a rotating ensemble that currently consists of drummer Joe Richmond (Churchill, Tennis) and bassist Nate Meese (Meese, The Centennial).

    “I always wanted the full band sound, Morsett said. “But I also wanted the freedom and the anonymity to kind of cruise around on my own.”

    Morsett is as enigmatic as her sound is alluring. She describes herself as both a shredder guitar chick and a nerdy loner. A frontwoman and an anonymous face in the crowd. She is seemingly always in transition, like a wave shapeshifting between low and high tide.

    Morsett grew up in Olympia, Wash., under a sister-infused musical foundation that included Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and Andy Aledort’s guitar lesson books. She dove head-first into the headwaters of New York and came up for air five years later, almost by accident, in Denver. That’s where she created The Still Tide, which was soon named 303 Magazine’s best up-and-coming local artist.

    But with Each, After, Morsett is stepping up to the mic and fully claiming The Still Tide as her own. “I think I was hiding behind the band, for whatever reason,” she said. “But now, I’m ready.”

    In its previous incarnation, The Still Tide was called Yet Cut Breath, a delicious morsel for theatre geeks who may recognize the phrase from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. It’s about a man who draws breath from a woman he believes to be a statue. It’s a celebration of any artist who manages to bring life from any kind of metaphorical stone.

    But when Morsett moved to Denver, it was time to cut bait from Yet Cut Breath, for two reasons: There are only so many Shakespeare nerds in the music community, and Morsett grew “aweary,” as The Bard might say, of explaining the meaning. But more so because The Still Tide was a more fitting way to describe an unlikely singer who prefers to perform in the protective bosom of a collective. Morsett is both first and last. A poet and a literalist.

    Morsett describes herself as human slackwater — that’s the exact moment when you are not quite sure if the tide is coming in or moving out.

    “I think I've been trying to seek stillness for so long,” she said. “I was at this point where I felt like everything was falling off the table and you keep trying to catch things — but you can never catch them fast enough.”

    Which is another way of saying: You can't please everyone. So she stopped the world. And before things change again, Morsett is intent on enjoying what she is calling “a beautiful pause” that started with her move to Denver in 2013.

    (Story continues below the photo.)
    The Stilll Tide quote. Photo by Anthony Isaac


    Within a year, Miller joined Morsett in Denver after a breakup of his own in New York. Morsett said it was being booked into the 2014 Denver Post Underground Music Showcase in her first year here that turned the tide for the evolution of her band. “We thought it was such a big deal that we got into the UMS,” she said. “And that was great entrance to Denver for Jake, too. He was so enchanted by the whole thing that he moved here a few months later.”

    Morsett calls dropping into a very welcoming Denver music community as akin to “plopping down under the wings and grace of these beautiful people,” she said. “They were like, ‘Hey, this kid's all right. She can shred.’ ”

    And within a few months, even she was shocked to realize that she had made a home here in Denver.

    The Still Tide Anna Morsett “I think in my mind, I was always going to move to the West Coast and back to family,” she said. “I thought this was a pit stop. But then I thought, ‘No, there's something really special here. I need to explore this for however long it lasts.' "

    It will last at least through Each, After. She calls the E.P., with its carefully placed comma and chill vibe, as “a sweet landing spot for these beautiful open guitar riffs that didn’t really fit the vibe of the last record,” she said. “I love the power of having that full band experience, but I also love the immediacy and intimacy of these tender little things. I’m trying to figure out how both of those vibes can fit in the same world.”

    Morsett tantalizingly describes the new E.P. as four true ruminations on past personal and artistic breakups. Tantalizing, because the fourth song is a reflection on a woman she hasn’t even met yet.

    She wrote the first song five years ago about someone she was falling in love with at the time. “It was so vulnerable that I tucked it away for years and I would only play it privately,” she said. “But then I changed the riff a little bit and I started to fall in love with the song all again, and now it’s one of my favorites. But it took five years for me to get there.” Another song is about a past songwriting collaborator. Each is a soft, reflective way, she said, of putting those past relationships to bed.

    And then there is the fourth song.

    “That last one, I guess, is for the next person, who I don't know yet,” she said. “It's the hope for someone, I guess.”

    When the time comes for her still tide to rise again.

    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. He is also the founder of The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (The UMS) and the Denver Actors Fund.

     

    The Still Tide's EP release:

    88-ogSaturday, April 14

    • Lost Lake, 3602 East Colfax Ave.
    • With Panther Martin and Bluebook
    • $10-$12
    • Call 303-296-1003 or ticketfly.com

    Other upcoming dates:

    Friday, April 20

    • Washington's, 132 Laporte Ave., Fort Collins
    • Opening for The Tallest Man on Earth
    • $35
    • Call 970-232-9525 or ticketfly.com

    Tuesday, June 12

    • Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.
    • Opening for Covenhoven
    • $12-15
    • 1-888-929-7849 or bluebirdtheater.net

    Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • More, more Mormon: 'The Book of Mormon' extended through July 7

    by John Moore | Apr 12, 2018
    Monica L. Patton, Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson 'The Book of Mormon.' Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

    From left: Monica L. Patton, Kevin Clay and Conner Peirson from 'The Book of Mormon,' returning to Denver June 13 and now staying a week longer. Photo by Julieta Cervantes. 


    Tickets start at $35 and there will be a lottery for a limited number of $25 tickets before every Denver performance

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has announced the addition of more seats for The Book of Mormon at The Ellie. Due to popular demand, performances for the fourth Denver engagement of the show, opening June 13, will now run for an additional week, through July 7. The added performances are on public sale now at denvercenter.org.

    The Book of Mormon has played three previous sold out runs in Denver starting, with the national tour launch in 2012 and return engagements in 2013 and 2015.

    Kevin Clay 'The Book of Mormon.' Photo by Julieta Cervantes.Tickets for the upcoming engagement start at $35. There will be a lottery for a limited number of tickets priced at $25 each for every performance. Lottery details will be announced closer to the engagement.

    Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the ONLY authorized ticket provider for The Book of Mormon in Denver. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party run the risk of overpaying, purchasing illegitimate tickets and should be aware that the DCPA is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance. Patrons found in violation of the DCPA Ticket Purchase and Sale Terms and Policies  may have all of their tickets canceled.

    (Pictured at right: Kevin Clay from 'The Book of Mormon.' Photo by Julieta Cervantes.)

    The Book of Mormon features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are the four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the landmark animated TV series South Park. Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy Avenue Q.  The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone) and is directed by Nicholaw and Parker. 

    The Book of Mormon is the winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Book (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman, Stephen Oremus); the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; five Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album; four Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best Musical, and the Drama League Award for Best Musical.

    The Book of Mormon features set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt and sound design by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations are by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus. Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Stephen Oremus.  

    The Original Broadway Cast Recording for The Book of Mormon, winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, is available on Ghostlight Records.

    Photo gallery: The Book of Mormon

    The Book of Mormon
    Production photos for the national touring production of 'The Book of Mormon' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to the full photo gallery. Photos by Julieta Cervantes.


    The Book of Mormon
    :
    Ticket informationBook of Mormon
    Back by popular demand, The Book of Mormon, the nine-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical returns to Denver. This outrageous musical comedy follows the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries, sent halfway across the world to spread the Good Word.

    • National touring production
    • Performances June 13-July 7
    • Ellie Caulkins Opera House
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More information:
    • Visit the official The Book of Mormon website at BookofMormonTheMusical.com
    • Follow The Book of Mormon on Twitter and on Facebook
    • Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center
  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2018
    Video:

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk the DCPA NewsCenter

    Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's production of Native Gardens, Karen Zacarías' celebrated comedy about a young Latino couple who move into a fixer-upper next to an older couple with a beautifully kept garden. All is is well until the young couple discover their property line actually extends about 2 feet over their neighbors' prized flowerbed. Performances run through May 6 in the Space Theatre. Directed by Lisa Portes and featuring John Ahlin, Jordan Baker, Mariana Fernández and Ryan Garbayo. Complete cast and creative team.


    Photo gallery: The official production photos

    Native GardensOfficial gallery of 'Native Gardens' production photos. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Meet Gia Valverde: Denver native finds a home in 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2018
    Gia Valverde QUOTE. Photo by John Moore
    Photo by John Moore.

    The first time the actor saw a play at Su Teatro, she knew she wanted to be an actor. Now she's at the Denver Center.  

    MEET GIA VALVERDE
    gia_valverde Gia Valverde is a born-and-raised Denver Northsider. She has been a company member for Su Teatro for more than 20 years. She originated roles in the world premieres of Enrique’s Journey, When Pigs Fly and Men Have Babies; El Louie and Other Post-Pachuco Dreams; and Dancing with the Spirits, all by Anthony J. Garcia. She has also been in plays by Chicano Teatro greats Luis Valdez , Rudolfo Anaya, Rodrigo Duarte Clark and Evelina Fernandez. She has done multiple film and commercial roles including "The Frame," "Love Pirates" and is the lead in the upcoming web series "One Moment Longer." She as also been seen in music videos for Molina Speaks and Kontrast & Fo Chief.

    • Hometown: Denver
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: The Art Institute of Colorado
    • What's your handle? @GiaValverde on Twitter
    • Website: eazymedia.biz
    • Twitter-sized bio: Multimedia designer, actor, mother, Denver Northsider and burrito connoisseur
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I also run a multimedia business specializing in video production, graphic and web design. I like to bounce back and forth between acting and multimedia because they allow me to tell stories in different mediums, and they are both just as much my passions as my professions.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: I played an executioner in Dancing with Spirits by Anthony J. Garcia.
    • Bucket-list role: Anita in West Side Story
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Smino’s 'blkswn' album
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? You will occasionally find me rolling burritos (mostly eating them) at Lucero’s & Sons on 52nd Avenue and Pecos Street.
    • Gia Valverde Su Teatro Native GardensOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: The first time I saw a play at Su Teatro, I knew I wanted to be an actor. Seeing Chicano representation on stage at a young age helped me take the leap from dream to do. I joined the Su Teatro company immediately after seeing a show at 11 years old. They became my second family. (Pictured from left: Sonia Justl, Marianna Chavez, Gia Valverde and Amy Luna in Su Teatro's 'The Lamented Last Dance at the Rainbow Ballroom.')
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? The Denver Center is putting out a lot of shows with diverse casts lately. The next generation of theatregoers are going to be brought in by diversity and representation.
    • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
    • Why does The Native Gardens matter? This is an important play right now because it represents the conversation a lot of Americans are having, and offers us a fresh perspective allowing us to see what is really important.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? I love that this play features a Latino couple that goes against stereotype, and I hope the audience finds that refreshing as well.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I’m passionate about self-love in all forms and practicing In Lak'Ech (The Living Code of the Heart).

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • The ‘Native Gardens’ set: ‘You can smell the dirt’

    by John Moore | Apr 10, 2018
    Making of 'Native Gardens'
    Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's "Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to the full photo gallery Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    'These are yards you have seen in your real life. And it feels like you are sitting in the garden with everybody else.'

    (Note: Perspectives is a series of free public panel discussions held just before the first preview  performance of each DCPA Theatre Company offering. Next up: The Who's Tommy: 6 p.m. Friday, April 20, Jones Theatre)

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Karen Zacarías' popular play Native Gardens, opening Friday in The Space Theatre, is a genial comedy about two neighboring couples “who have a lot in common … and who have nothing in common — at the same time,” Director of New Play Development Doug Langworthy says.

    They live side-by-side in an established suburb of Washington, D.C. One couple is older and white, the other younger and Latinx. Though these new neighbors have the best intentions, their budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. And it runs right through Frank Butley’s prized native garden.

    “What this play is trying to say is that whatever our differences are — sex, race or religion — we should still be able to live next door to each other in a loving way,” said veteran Broadway actor Jordan Baker.

    Here are five things we learned about the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming production at Perspectives:  

    NUMBER 1

    Sowing the seeds of history. Karen Zacarías now has the distinction of being the first female playwright in DCPA Theatre Company history to have had plays produced in all three of the company’s main theatres. Mariela in the Desert played in the Ricketson Theatre in 2010, Just Like Us played in the Stage Theatre in 2014 and now Native Gardens is set to open in The Space Theatre on Friday. "And all three plays are so very different,” she said. “Mariella was a drama, Just Like Us was a serio-documentary and Native Gardens is a full-throttle comedy." The only other playwright to have had plays performed in all of those same spaces was Nagle Jackson (1992-2003). "The Denver Center has been a home for me for so many years now," Zacarías  said, "I am so grateful that they have been willing to take a chance on new plays, and plays by Latina women."

    NUMBER 2NATIVE GARDENS Perspectives. Karen Zacarías. Photo by John Moore. So what is a native garden, anyway? It is defined as the use of plants, including trees, shrubs, groundcover and grasses that are indigenous to the geographic area of the garden. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. Native plant species provide nectar, pollen and seeds that serve as food for butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Unlike natives, common horticultural plants do not provide energetic rewards for their visitors and often require pest controls to survive. Native plants do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns. Native plants help reduce air pollution and can significantly reduce water runoff.

    NUMBER 3Smell that dirt. Zacarías encourages audiences to look closely at the set created by DCPA Scenic Designer Lisa Orzolek, because, she says, it is another character in the play. “There is real dirt. And you can smell it,” Zacarías said. “These are yards that you have seen in your real life. The grass is uneven. There are patches. Any because this play is being staged in the round, it feels like you are sitting in the garden with everybody else.” Orzolek said the garden consists of both real plants "and fake plants that look super-real.” Every night after the show, the stagehands remove the real plants from the stage and place them under backstage grow lights.

    Read more: Native Gardens draws its line in the soil

    NUMBER 4A tree grows in D.C. That set is dominated by a very large and meaningful oak tree that grows tall and encompasses the entire air space. “The oak tree is very important in any native garden,” Zacarías said. “They have the most biodiversity of any tree species.” The tree is a source of conflict between the couples because one of them loves the tree, while the other does not — and its branches are growing over into their yard. “On the page, it would seem that the tree is situated between the two houses, just on one side of the property line — but you can't put a big tree in the middle of a stage in the round because of the sightline problems that would create," Orzolek said. So she positioned the trunk in one of the Space Theatre’s five “voms” (or actor entranceways). “In order for the tree to reach all the way across the theatre, it just kept getting taller and longer and wider,” Orzolek said. "It goes up and then comes back down. It's 24 feet tall and 30 feet wide.” How did they do it? “That's the magic of theatre," she said. And we will show you some of that magic in the coming days with a special DCPA NewsCenter video devoted to the making of the tree. Stay tuned. 

    NUMBER 5Let's grow together. Zacarías wrote Native Gardens before the 2016 election, and it will be one of the 10 most performed plays in America this season. “I feel the reason this play is being done in so many cities right now is because it gives your community, whether you are on the left or the right, a chance to laugh at yourself and remember that we are all part of a bigger microcosm," she said. "This play doesn't solve all the world's problems, but it does allow us to analyze what we can do to be a better neighbor — which is a question I think a lot of us are wrestling with right now.”

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NATIVE GARDENS Perspectives. Photo by John MooreFrom left: Actor John Ahlin,  Director of New Play Development Doug Langworthy, playwright Karen Zacarías, Scenic Designer Lisa Orzolek, Costume Designer Raquel Barreto and actors Mariana Fernández and Jordan Baker. Photo by John Moore.

    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Through May 6
    • SpaceTheatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    Photos, cast list: Native Gardens draws line in the soil
    Meet Jordan Baker: 'It’s hard to listen when the message is a brick'
  • Try our crossword puzzle: 'Tommy,' 'Aladdin' and 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 09, 2018
    With each new issue of Applause Magazine, we offer readers a puzzle related to our current shows. Here is the most recent crossword puzzle, covering The Who's Tommy, Disney's Aladdin and Native Gardens).

    The solution is posted below. Print and play! CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS PUZZLE, WITH THE SOLUTION!

    Crossword Puzzle Tommy Aladdin


    ACROSS clues:
    • 5 Native Gardens playwright Karen Zacarías previously adapted
      Helen Thorpe’s book ____(three words) for the DCPA Theatre Company
    • 9  The setting for Aladdin is the fantastical world of _____
    • 10  Benjamin Franklin said: “Don't throw stones at your neighbors if your own windows are _____.
    • 11  "The Who’s Tommy" is considered a _______ album
    • 12  Every rose has its ____
    • 13  A plant that completes its full life-cycle in two growing seasons
    • 14  Michael _______ was Broadway’s original Tommy in 1993. His brother recently performed in the DCPA Theatre Company’s All the Way.
    • 16  Aladdin’s master of ceremonies is named ______
    • 17  Tommy’s The Acid _____
    • 18  In The Fantasticks, conspiring neighbors plotted to build a ____ between them

    DOWN clues:
    • 1. The showstopping final musical number in Aladdin is called “_____Like Me”
    • 2 In Aladdin, nearly 110 of these changes happen in a backstage frenzy taking place in less than one minute
    • 3 What Tommy witnessed that sent him into catatonia
    • 4 In 1981, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd starred in this film about a quiet man whose life is upended when an obnoxious couple moves in next door.
    • 6 Pinball was banned from the early 1940s to mid-70s in many big American cities because it was considered a form of _________
    • 7 Terpsichorean is a term related to the art of _______, of which Aladdin features much
    • 8 Aladdin takes audiences on a magic ______ ride
    • 15 Tommy can’t hear those buzzers and bells. He plays by a sense of ____.
    Denver_Center_Disney's Aladdin_Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine) & Clinton Greenspan (Aladdin). Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Deen van Meer

    Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine) and Clinton Greenspan (Aladdin) in the touring production of Disney's 'Aladdin,' playing in Denver through April 28. Photo by Deen van Meer.

    Aladdin solution 2018


    Recent previous downloadable puzzles:


    The King & I, Stomp, Zoey's Perfect Wedding, American Mariachi and The Great Leap DOWNLOAD

    RENT, Chicago, Mannheim Steamroller, Elf, Waitress and A Christmas Carol DOWNLOAD

    Mamma Mia!, The Secret Garden, The Illusionists – Live From Broadway and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time DOWNLOAD

    An American in Paris, Kinky Boots, Hal Holbrook Tonight and Disgraced DOWNLOAD

    Fun Home, The Book of Will, The Christians and Two Degrees DOWNLOAD

    Jersey Boys, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Finding Neverland, A Christmas Carol and The Hip-Hop Nutcracker DOWNLOAD

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Sweat'

    by John Moore | Apr 09, 2018

    In the video above, playwright Lynn Nottage and Broadway director Kate Whoriskey talk about connecting to the human experience with 'Sweat.'


    Note: In this daily series, we have been taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today we finish with Sweat

    Sweat

    • Written by: Lynn Nottage
    • Year: 2015
    • Director: Nataki Garrett
    • Dates: April 26-May 26, 2019 (Opens May 3)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • Genre: Drama
    • Ruined. Photo by Terry Shapiro. About the author: Nottage is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter from Brooklyn. In a national survey conducted by the DCPA NewsCenter following the 2017 death of Edward Albee, Nottage placed third as the leading, living voice in American playwriting, behind only Tony Kushner and Sam Shepard (who has since passed away). "Lynn Nottage, like August Wilson before her, spotlights the marginalized without sentiment, sensationalism or a victim mentality," The Denver Post wrote in 2011. Sweat won the Pulitzer, an Obie Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was nominated for a Tony Award. Ruined, which also won a Pulitzer, is set amid civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, based on the playwright's interviews with Congolese women, exposing largely unknown radical and violent injustice that happening in Africa. That made for one of the most remarkable productions in DCPA Theatre Company history in 2011. Nottage's Intimate Apparel has been presented at the Arvada Center and, just last month, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Nottage is currently an artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Armory. (Pictured above: Kim Staunton in the DCPA's 'Ruined.' Photo by Terry Shapiro.)
    • lynn-nottage QUOTEThe play at a glance: For the people of poverty-stricken Reading, Pa., work is  much more than a paycheck – it’s the glue that has held the town together for generations. The floor of their central factory is where lifelong friendships are made, where love blossoms and where family members work side-by-side. But as layoffs become the new norm and a cheaper workforce threatens the viability of the local union, the threads that once kept the community together begin to fray. Using warm humor and deep empathy, Nottage paints a moving portrait of today’s working-class America in decline.
    • Says the playwright: "I very much wanted the play to be a conversation starter. I feel my role as an artist isn't to come up with solutions but to ask the right questions at the right moment.”
    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "One of the things I love the most about Lynn Nottage is the way she takes an idea and makes it human. Lynn is a significant voice in the American theatre, and I’m thrilled we get to experience her work again. We’re also incredibly lucky to have a powerhouse director like Nataki Garrett at the helm of this important drama, and I look forward to taking the questions this play asks and diving deeper into conversations with the Denver community.”

    The N.Y. Times article that inspired Nottage to write Sweat

    • The author's influence: Nottage began working on the play in 2011 by interviewing residents of Reading, which at the time was, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, officially one of the poorest cities in America, with a poverty rate of 41 percent. Nottage was particularly influenced by a New York Times article reporting on that city. "Reading is a city that’s sort of hopelessly fractured along racial and economic lines," Nottage told the Village Voice. "When you’re there, you feel it."
    • What the critics have said about Sweat: The New York Times called Sweat "an extraordinarily moving drama that powerfully contrasts life’s happiest highs with the heart-wrenching struggles of survival." The play's characters have  been described as the same kind of disenfranchised blue-collar workers who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Michael Schulman of The New Yorker called Sweat "the first theatrical landmark of the Trump Era —  a tough yet empathetic portrait of the America that came undone." He also said Nottage's play "harks back to the working-class naturalism of Clifford Odets." Wrote Jeremy Gerard of Deadline: “No play in recent memory has shed more light on the crises and tribulations of America’s great retrenched working middle class than Sweat."
    • Notes on the play: Sweat was first performed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015. It moved to to Broadway after a sold out off-Broadway run at The Public Theater. The Broadway cast included Carlo AlbanLydia5, who made an indelible turn in the DCPA Theatre Company's Lydia in 2008 (pictured right. ... The action takes place in a fictional bar. The story tells of two meetings: One between a parole officer and two ex-convictl the other three women who were childhood friends working in the same factory. Switching scenes from the present with eight years before, Nottage shows how events take these characters on divergent pathways ... Lower education generally means higher poverty.  Just 8 percent of Reading residents have a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 28 percent.

    TC-web-Season-Ann-800x3004
    Artwork by DCPA Senior Graphic Designer Kyle Malone.

    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

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

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'The Book of Will' wins national critics' Steinberg New Play Award

    by John Moore | Apr 08, 2018


    Highlights from he DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere staging of 'The Book of Will' in 2017. Videos by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Lauren Gunderson scores the nation's largest prize for new plays, which comes with a $25,000 cash award

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Lauren Gunderson’s celebrated play The Book of Will was named the winner of the American Theatre Critics Association's Steinberg New Play Award on Saturday night at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky.

    The award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, considers scripts that were premiered by professional theatre companies outside New York City during 2017.

    Lauren Gunderson Quote AwardThe Book of Will
    was commissioned by the DCPA Theatre Company, developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit and given its world premiere on the Ricketson Theatre last year. It has since been scheduled for productions around the country, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, opening June 6. The play already has been staged at theatres in New York, Illinois and Maryland.

    Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without his friends Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever. Gunderson's play tells what the two actors sacrificed when they endeavored to compile the First Folio and preserve Shakespeare's words after the death of their friend and mentor.

    “For a play about theatre-makers to garner this honor in this company is so meaningful,” Gunderson said. “Thank you to the Denver Center and Kent Thompson for commissioning and premiering the play, to Davis McCallum for his heartfelt direction and to  all the artists who worked on it to make it full of soul. Also to ATCA for all they do, and to Jim Steinberg, who is a generous visionary.”

    The play was commissioned under former Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who calls The Book of Will "a love letter to Shakespeare, to actors and to the theatre."

    Video: Our interview with playwright Lauren Gunderson

    The Book of Will fires on all cylinders” said one unnamed judge, according to an ACTA press release. Said others:

    • “The play wrestles with big questions: Why do we create, and how do we deal with death? What constitutes a legacy? And how a surpassing love for something bigger can make every sacrifice worth it.”
    • “This play is all the more impressive given that we know how the story will end."
    • “It’s funny — genuinely funny — in a way that feels contemporary and yet not cynical.” 

    Denver Center audience member Artis Roslyn Silverman said it was the play’s themes of friendship, love and devotion to craft that made the play memorable to her. “I still quote lines from the play,” she said.

    Denver Center's sudden impact on national theatre scene in 2017-18

    Two additional citations that come with $7,500 prizes were presented to Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry It Out and Ike Holter’s The Wolf at the End of the Block, which had their world premieres respectively at the Humana Festival and by Teatro Vista at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater. At $40,000, the Steinberg is the largest national new-play award program recognizing regional theaters as the crucible for new plays in the United States, according to the ATCA.

    Cry It Out 
    focuses on the bonds and barriers between two new mothers across a backyard and across class differences. It wrestles with issues of female friendship and class and privilege while still being a story about two people. The Wolf at the End of the Block is centered on a beating outside of a Chicago bar. Other finalists for the Steinberg/ATCA Award were Linda Vista and The Minutes, both by Tracy Letts; and Objects in the Mirror by Charles Smith.

    The six finalists were selected from eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. They were evaluated by a committee of theater critics, led by Lou Harry, who has written for theatrecriticism.com, The Sondheim Review, and many other publications.

    “Once again, the panel has bowled me over with its rigorous and passionate debate,” said Harry, “and once again playwrights and theaters from around the country have supplied us with plays worthy of those fierce discussions. Together, these six plays speak well of the American theatre today. Individually, they speak to the excitement and originality of some of our finest playwrights.”

    Other committee members were:

    • Misha Berson, Seattle Times (Seattle)
    • Bruce Burgun, The New Orleans Advocate (New Orleans)
    • Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times (Madison, Wis.)
    • Amanda Finn, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
    • Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, (Milwaukee)
    • Pam Harbaugh, floridatheatreonstage.com (Indialantic, Fla.)
    • Erin Keane, Salon (Louisville, Ky.)
    • Mark Lowry, theaterjones.com, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Dallas)
    • Jonathan Mandell, newyorktheater.me  (New York)
    • Julius Novick, freelance (New York)
    • Marjorie Oberlander, freelance (New York)
    • Kathryn Osenlund, freelance (Philadelphia)
    • Wendy Parker, freelance (Midlothian, Va.)
    • Wendy Rosenfield, broadstreetreview.com (Philadelphia)
    • David Sheward, artsinny.com, theaterlife.com (Jackson Heights, N.Y.)
    • Martha Wade Steketee, freelance (New York)
    • Perry Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing, (Charlotte)
    • Bob Verini, Variety (Boston)

    Denver Center's 'Georgia McBride' to be a film starring Jim Parsons

    In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many awards. Since 2000, the award has been funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

    Since its inception, ATCA’s New Play Award honorees have included Moisés Kaufman, Adrienne Kennedy, Craig Lucas, Donald Margulies, Arthur Miller, Marsha Norman, Robert Schenkkan, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, and Mac Wellman.

    Last year’s honoree was Man in the Ring by Michael Cristofer. 

    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.

    Photo gallery: The making of The Book of Will at the Denver Center

    'The Book of Will' in Denver

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable from our Flickr site above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Production photo gallery:

    The Book of Will- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season Production photos by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Selected previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    Video: Your first look at The Book of Will
    Perspectives: Why is there a bobble-head on that set?
    Guest columnist Lauren Gunderson: How one word can change a play
    Five things we learned at The Book of Will opening rehearsal
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Video: Take a tour of The Book of Will set
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    Video: Our look back at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Summit Spotlight: Playwright Lauren Gunderson
    Lauren Gunderson wins Lanford Wilson Award from Dramatists Guild of America
    Just who were all the king's men, anyway?
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics
    Meet the cast: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Meet the cast: Wesley Mann
    Meet the cast: Rodney Lizcano

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'The Whistleblower'

    by John Moore | Apr 08, 2018
    Itamar Moses QUOTE


    Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 season. Today: The Whistleblower

    The Whistleblower

    • Written by: Itamar Moses
    • Year: 2019 (world premiere)
    • Director: To be announced
    • Dates: Feb. 8-March 10, 2019 (Opens Feb. 15)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • Genre: Contemporary comic drama
    • About the author: Itamar Moses is the award-winning book writer of the musical The Band's Visit, one of the most acclaimed new musicals on Broadway this season. That's the story of a stranded Egyptian police band that is sent to a remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert and are taken in by the locals. He's also the author of seven plays, two other musicals and an evening of shorts.
    • The Whistleblower. Photo by Adams ViscomThe play at a glance: For screenwriter Eli, an offer to finally create his own TV show should be the ultimate culmination of his goals, but instead shocks him into wondering why he had those dreams in the first place. Armed with a new sense of spiritual clarity, he sets out on a quest to serve up some hard truths to his co-workers, family, exes and friends. What could possibly go wrong? The Whistleblower will be a lively world premiere about the lies we tell to protect ourselves  and how the tiniest gestures can have deep impact on those around us.
    • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "Itamar Moses is an absolutely brilliant playwright and an exciting voice to have on the season. This new play is hilarious, thought-provoking and really kind of a spiritual journey. When this man recognizes that there is a discord between his inner self and his authentic self, he begins telling the truth about the relationships in his life. And the people around him think he's lost his mind. He comes to a place that I think is very hopeful at the end. When I read it, I was absolutely knocked out. Itamar takes us on a humorous exploration of our purpose and whether our actions have the power to affect others. I’m incredibly honored to produce it as our second world premiere of the season."

    Read more: Los Angeles Times profile of Itamar Moses

    • From the author: "Any piece of writing needs to be getting at some truth, or excavating something unspoken, in order to have energy and hold our attention. So I got really interested in the idea of a character who, either because he's in a period of great clarity, or is maybe having some kind of psychological episode, or both, just starts channeling truth — or at least the truth as he sees it. I was compelled and amused by the idea of sort of firing this character out of a cannon at the beginning of the story and then watching as the sort of wind resistance of the rest of the world gradually brings him back down to earth."
    • THE WHISTLEBLOWER. South Coast Repertory. Photo by Debora RobinsonSmall world: Rob Nagle, who appeared in DCPA Theatre Company productions of The 39 Steps and Appoggiatura, was in the original cast of The Whistleblower as it was being developed at the South Coast Repertory's 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, Calif. It was his third Moses play. "One thing I love about The Whistleblower, and many of Itamar’s plays, as well as James Still’s Appoggiatura, is that it’s a modern Odyssey," Nagle told the DCPA NewsCenter. "Itamar takes characters through profound journeys of self discovery. And for me, that’s what great storytelling is all about.” (Pictured from left: Director Casey Stangl, Matthew Arkin and Rob Nagle in rehearsal for South Coast Repertory's 2015 reading of 'The Whitstleblower,' Photo by Debora Robinson. Note: The DCPA production has not yet been cast.)
    • What the critics have said about Itamar Moses' work: Ben Brantley of The New York Times called The Band's Visit "a Broadway rarity seldom found these days outside of the canon of Stephen Sondheim: An honest-to-God musical for grown-ups."
    • Fun facts: Moses, the child of Israeli immigrants, says seeing Tony Kushner's Angels in America as a high-school senior in Berkeley, Calif., is what inspired him to become a playwright ... Colorado theatre audiences got their first look at a Moses play in 2013 when the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company staged an extended run of Bach at Leipzig, a comic farce based on the true story of when Germany’s greatest organist dies, and the town city council invites a small number of scheming musicians to audition for the appointment — including a young Johann Sebastian Bach. ... The Band's Visit stars Tony Shalhoub (Monk), whose brother is Denver actor Michael Shalhoub. ... Coleman was onto Moses early. He staged the world premiere of his play Outrage at Portland Center Stage back in 2003, and the premiere of his play Celebrity Row in 2006, also at Portland ... The Whistleblower was first introduced as a 2014 staged reading at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Steamboat Springs (directed by Oliver Butler), and then was featured in South Coast Repertory's 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival alongside Qui Nguyen's Vietgone, which will open the DCPA Theatre Company's season in August. The tagline for the play then was: "Eli tries to rewrite the life he left behind — but the truth could ruin everything." ... Moses, who trained at New York University, was an Executive Story Editor for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

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

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Anna Karenina'

    by John Moore | Apr 07, 2018

    The video above shows highlights from Portland Center Stage's 2012 production of 'Anna Karenina,' directed by new Denver Center Artistic Director Chris Coleman.


    Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 mainstage season. Today: Anna Karenina.

    Anna Karenina

    • Written by: Kevin McKeon, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
    • Year: Original novel published in 1877; stage adaptation premiered in 2012
    • Director: Chris Coleman
    • Dates: Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Feb. 1)
    • Where: Space Theatre
    • ANNA KARENINAGenre: Modern adaptation of Tolstoy's classic story of love and marriage in Imperial Russia
    • About the authors: Tolstoy, born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, is widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He is best known for the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Seattle playwright Kevin McKeon has adapted many books for the stage, including Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars. His adaptation of Anna Karenina was commissioned by Portland Center Stage and was premiered there in 2012. "When you boil it down," he says of the spawrling source novel, "it’s just a story about people trying to get by and figure it out."
    • The play at a glance: Love holds the power to bind us together or tear us apart, and no one knows better than Countess Anna Karenina. As a noblewoman and socialite, her glamorous lifestyle shrouds her unhappy marriage. But everything changes when she meets the dashing army officer Count Vronsky. She risks her social status, marriage, friends and family for the thrill of forbidden love. Anna Karenina uses the romantic backdrop of Tsarist Russia to tell a turbulent tale of passion and betrayal, dreams chased and lost, and the consequences of getting swept off your feet. This lush adaptation of Tolstoy’s masterpiece brings the opulent setting and heart-wrenching story to life.

    2018-19 season: In with the old ... and the new

    • Says Artistic Director — and Director — Chris Coleman: “We’ve seen time and time again that Denver audiences have a deep love and appetite for pieces that bring works of literature to life on stage. I’m thrilled to direct this beautiful adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel about a woman who risks everything for love. Kevin McKeon’s highly theatrical adaptation provides us with gorgeous language that engages the imagination of the audience in a really vivid way, sweeping us alongside this strong female character across aristocratic Tsarist Russia through ballrooms, ice-skating rinks and horse races.”
    • Quotable: "Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
    • What the critics said about Anna Karenina's world premiere: "McKeon’s adaptation tells the sprawling tale in quick, economical strokes. Chris Coleman's direction deftly balances scale and intimacy, deploying a cast of 17 without the proceedings ever appearing hectic." — Marty Hughley, The Oregonian ... "McKeon manages to condense Tolstoy’s sprawling masterpiece about a woman whose love rattles the prison of her social situation into a brisk, ensemble-based production that captures the tragedy of the original, adds a slightly anachronistic humor, and—the gargantuan length of the original be damned—does it all with intermission in under three hours. Whew!"— Aaron Scott, Portland Monthly
    • Fun facts: This is the first time in its 40 years the DCPA Theatre Company is presenting a work by (or inspired by) Tolstoy ... Upon its initial release, Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared Anna Karenina  "flawless as a work of art" and William Faulkner called the novel "the best ever written." ... Anna Karenina was voted the greatest book ever written in a 2007 Time poll of 125 contemporary authors ... The novel was made into a 2012 movie adapted by Tom Stoppard and featuring Keira Knightley and Jude Law." ... The DCPA Theatre Company commissioned and premiered all three three chapters of Kent Haruf's Plainsoing Trilogy, by Eric Schmiedl. Anna Karenina playwright Kevin McKeon separately adapted Plainsong for the Book It Theatre in 2015. He also performed in the cast.

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    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

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

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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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.