• Meet Robert Montano of 'Two Degrees'

    by John Moore | Mar 10, 2017
    Robert Montano Adams VisCom

    Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano in the world premiere of Tira Palmquist's 'Two Degrees,' playing through March 12. Photo by Adams VisCom.


    MEET ROBERT MONTANO

    Jeffrey, Eric and Malik in Two Degrees

    At the Theatre Company: Debut. Broadway: Kiss of the Spiderwoman, On The Town, Cats, Chita + 2, Legs Diamond. Regional: Barcelona, Fallow, Cloud Tectonics, References to Salvador Dali Makes Me Hot, One Shot One Kill  (all world premieres), Diosa, Marty (opposite John C. Reilly). Television: Shades of Blue, Elementary, Blue Bloods, Army Wives, Without a Trace, Sex in The City, Law & Order: SVU, Undefeated. Film: Shame, The Yards, Chicago, Center Stage, Hustling, The Strike, Passionada.

    • Robert Montano. Photo by Jimmy ReedHometown: Bayside, Queens
    • Web site: RobertMontano.Com
    • What was the role that changed your life? It was a play written by Richard Vetere called One Shot, One Kill." I played Sgt. Nick Harris, a Marine sniper at the top of his class. This was May of 2002, not long after 9/11 when I was glued for days watching CNN and wondering what our next step was going to be after the attack. I spent weeks in my apartment watching the news, not eating, losing weight and feeling sick and nervous. I thought to myself, "I have to get up and do something ... something meaningful." So I went to the recruiting station in Times Square to sign up for the Marines. When the recruiting officer told me I was too old to be recruited, I nearly fell over. I felt helpless. So in January of 2002, I was offered the role of the sniper. I read up on all these sniper gods within the Marine Corps. But that wasn't enough for me. I needed to know what the brotherhood was all about. I asked my director, Joe Brancato, if he could set up a trip to Quantico for me to train with Marine snipers. It was there I learned the realities of what our selfless men and women do for our country - the discipline, the honor, the brotherhood and willing sacrifice. I wanted to get it right, and bring that into my work. This play, this story and this character changed my life.
    • Why are you an actor? I like wearing other people's shoes.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: I would go back to being a professional racehorse jockey in a minute. Plain and simple, I love horses. I love the competition. I love the adrenaline rush. It's just unfortunate that I became too physically big to continue on. While some men want to be tall, dark and handsome, I just wanted to be small.
    • Robert MontanoIdeal scene partner: Sean Penn, hands down. He's unpredictable, diverse and constantly surprises you by his choices. He is a creative force to be reckon with. One of the greatest actors of our time.
    • Why does Two Degrees matter? I was given the Two Degrees script in January 2016 for the Colorado New Play Summit. Before I got halfway through, I called my manager and told him this was an important script, a story that has to be told - and that I wanted in. I watch a lot of news and political shows and whenever I'd hear them talking about climate change, I'd go, "A-huh." But I was never really invested because of the climatological jargon. I didn't really know how fossil fuel impacted climate change. When having read this play I saw clearly how important climate change mattered, especially through the eyes and struggle of our leading character, Dr. Emma Phelps. I saw how imperative it is for us to have scientists, advocates and the politically powerful fighting for this serious cause. Two Degrees makes it plain why we must combat the deniers, and the clowns who are only out to protect their own interests. We need to put a stop to it, because this is real. And this is now.  
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of this play? I can only hope the subject matter will stir up a conversation about how serious climate change really is. And more important, I hope audiences read up on it, act on it and help in any small way to prevent further destruction.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... calm and understanding." It's not a lot in the grand scheme of things.

    Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore.'Two Degrees' actor Robert Montano performed an excerpt from his one-man play 'Small,' which recounts his growing up as a jockey at the famed Belmont race track in New York, at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    • Through March 12
    • Jones Theatre
    • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Video: How do they make that ice, ice, baby?
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Meet the cast: Kim Staunton
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Opening night photo coverage
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    More 2016-17 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Steven J. Burge, An Act of God
    Liam Craig, The Book of Will
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grundei, Frankenstein
    Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Jennifer Le Blanc, The Book of Will
    Cajardo Lindsey, The Christians
    Rodney Lizcano, The Book of Will
    Wesley Mann, The Book of Will
    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein
    Erik Sandvold, An Act of God
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
    Kim Staunton, Two Degrees

     

  • Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the danger of denial

    by John Moore | Feb 24, 2017

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Next up: Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle), author of the new history play Hanussen.

    Pulitzer-winning playwright speaks bluntly
    on the danger of denial in a time of authoritarianism

    In 1930s Berlin, the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolf Hitler.

    John Moore: Let’s first review your recent history here at the Denver Center.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well here in Denver, you would know The 12, the musical that Neil Berg and I created a year and a half ago, which won the (Colorado Theatre Guild) Henry Award for best new work. Great production. It was very successful.

    John Moore: Well, there have been quite a few more awards since the Henrys. Emmys, most recently I believe a $10,000 Humanitas Prize for writing Hacksaw Ridge. (Note: Shenkkan donated his share of the prize to Doctors Without Borders). You are not exactly a late bloomer, but the last few years have been extraordinary for you, really starting with the 2014 Tony Award for All the Way.

    Robert Schenkkan: I have had a great run. On stage with All the Way and The Great Society, and then the HBO film version of All the Way starring Bryan Cranston that Steven Spielberg and I co-executive produced. Also here in Denver with The 12, and now Hanussen. And then with the movie Hacksaw Ridge, which I co-wrote with Andrew Knight that Mel Gibson directed and Andrew Garfield starred in, which is currently nominated for six Academy Awards. … Stay tuned!

    John Moore: We have gotten happily accustomed to seeing you on the awards circuit: The Emmys. Writers Guild of America. Screen Actors Guild. And coming Sunday:

    Robert Schenkkan: I have eaten a lot of rubber chicken lately, yes.

    Robert Schenkkan. Photo by John Moore

    John Moore: The Academy Awards are Sunday night, so let's talk briefly about Hacksaw Ridge, which manages to be a remarkable story of warfare and pacifism at once.

    Robert Schenkkan: It's an extraordinary story, and it has taken 10 years to get it on screen. It is the true story of the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, Desmond Doss. A country boy from Virginia whose faith and principles insisted that he go to war, and that same faith and principles also insisted that he not take a life. He became a medic, and in one extraordinary engagement in the battle of Okinawa, he saved upward of 75 or more American and Japanese lives.  It's a mind-boggling story, really.

    John Moore: That's an fascinating transition into the war story you are writing here for the DCPA Theatre Company. Can you introduce us to the story of Hanussen?

    Robert Schenkkan: Hanussen is based on the true story of Erik Jan Hanussen, who was the leading headliner in 1931 in the last days of the Weimar Republic in Berlin. Hanussen was a mentalist. He had a mental act. He could red your mind. He had psychic powers. He could hypnotize and he claimed he could predict the future. He's fascinating character. Very contradictory in many ways. Kind of Shakespearean in his size. It is always hard to parse the truth here, but it is said that Hanussen coached Hitler on how to be a more effective public speaker, and that he cast Hitler's horoscope, that he was his astrologer, and that he had something to do with the Reichstag fire. Hanussen was also Jewish.

    Hanussen. Jamison Jones. Photo by John Moore


    John Moore: How does his religion play into the story?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's something that he keeps on the down-low while he plays this extremely dangerous game with the Nazis. The play is very much about the human condition, in particular our tendency to avoid that which is unpleasant, or that which we don't want to see. It's about denial, and the dangers of denial.

    You have said very forebodingly that this is not the worst time for us to be revisiting the Weimar Republic. Why is this play that goes so far back into history the right play at the right time for what is going on in the world right now?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's pretty fascinating. The playbook for authoritarianism is an old one. It's pretty well understood. I think one could make a very good claim that we are seeing that play out right now in American politics in this last election. JuRobert Schenkkan Quotest as in the Weimar Republic in Berlin, in the United States in 2017, I think it will be increasingly important for individuals to look to their own conscience and be careful in their decisions. This is not a time to stay silent. This is not a time for denial or avoidance. This is a time for action. 

    John Moore: Who are some of the other historical figures we meet in your play?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, part of the pleasure of Hanussen is that it is a so-called history play; that it is set with events that actually happened and people we know, and in this case there are some very prominent people that we know. Count Wolfe Von Heldorf, Joseph Goebbles and, of course, Adolf Hitler. It's not often that you see these characters on stage, and of course there is so much baggage that they carry; it presents a unique challenge to the writer I think. What can you do with this that we haven't seen before? Or how can you play with our expectations - what we expect that we will see with this? I have had a lot of fun with this. I think I've gotten it right. I think it will be extremely entertaining and very thought-provoking.

    Robert Schenkkan. Richard Thieriot.John Moore: I don't know how much you have to do with casting, but we here at the Denver Center find it enjoyable that the actor who is playing Hitler (Richard Thieriot) we remember as a masters student who played the Jimmy Stewart role in Harvey (pictured at right by John Moore).

    Robert Schenkkan: That is kind of perfect. He's a wonderful actor, by the way.

    John Moore: This is your first Colorado New Play Summit as a featured playwright.

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I have been an observer at two Summits, and I am really very grateful to be here. The way Kent Thompson has structured this is really kind of brilliant. You have the first week of work, ending with a public reading, And then you get another week of work culminating in a second and final reading. That second week of work is absolutely unique. I don't know any other theatre festival in the United States that does anything like that. And it's a really critical for the writer because so often, you are just beginning to get your arms around it just as you near the end of that first week. You are just beginning to say, "Now I see what I need to do." … And then it's over. Well, that's not true here. You get to take the tings that you learned at the first reading and really thrash it out and take all of that complexity and nuance and additional richness back into the text, culminating in a second public reading.

    Sarah Schenkkan. Photo by Adams VisCom. John Moore: This is the first time you have ever gotten to work with your daughter, who is playing three roles in Hanussen (pictured at right by Adams Viscom).

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I am very proud to say that I will be working with my daughter, Sarah Schenkkan, who is a professional actress living in New York City. Obviously I have followed her career very closely, but this is the first opportunity we have had to work together. As proud as I am of my professional achievements, my greatest achievement is my children. So it's a real thrill to be here working side-by-side as a professional colleague with Sarah.

    John Moore: Total right turn here: Going back for a second to LBJ and All the Way, what did you think of the guy who played LBJ in the new Natalie Portman movie Jackie?

    Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line

    Robert Schenkkan: I thought he did a very credible job. I thought that he brought a certain gravitas to it. I thought he avoided cliché. And he did not give us any of the more sensationalized - and to my way of thinking less interesting - aspects of LBJ.  

    John Moore: I ask that because the actor is John Carroll Lynch, and he is from Denver.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, I thought it was a very dignified performance. It was very accurate.

    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.

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

    Leigh Miller and the cast of Hanussen. Photo by Adams VisComLeigh Miller and the cast of 'Hanussen' in rehearsal. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Building the Wall: A new Schenkkan play coming to Curious Theatre
    Note: Immediately after the presidential election, Robert Schenkkan wrote the play Building the Wall, which imagines the first six months of the Donald Trump presidency while invoking George Orwell’s 1984 and the Nazi regime. The play focuses on the frontman of the new administration, who loses his humanity amid chaos and martial law. It is, Schenkkan says, “a terrifying and gripping exploration of what happens if we let fear win.” The play, starring John Jurcheck and Brynn Tucker (who is appearing at the Colorado New Play Summit in Last Night and the Night Before) from April 4-19 at Curious Theatre, 1080 Acoma St., Call 303-623-0524.

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

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


    Hacksaw Ridge
    : The official trailer

  • Photos: 2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blind Date
    By Rogelio Martinez

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

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

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

    Human Error
    By Eric Pfeffinger

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Eric PfeffingerMadelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing a nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely friendships.

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

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

    Hanussen

    By Robert Schenkkan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'Two Degrees': Opening night photos

    by John Moore | Feb 11, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Above: Photos from opening night of Tira Palmquist's world-premiere play 'Two Degrees' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Director Christy Montour-Larson is on the right. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Video bonus: How do they make that ice, ice baby?

    Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan takes you backstage for a look at how he created the ever-changing world of Two Degrees for the DCPA Theatre Company. The set includes 56 Plexiglass panels that are treated to look like ice - but six of them actually are made of ice and melt throughout the show. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    • Through March 12
    • Jones Theatre
    • ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Video: How do they make that ice, ice, baby?
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Meet the cast: Kim Staunton
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

  • 'Two Degrees': How do they make that ice, ice, baby?

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2017


    Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan takes you backstage for a look at how he created the ever-changing world of Two Degrees for the DCPA Theatre Company.

    Tira Palmquist's world-premiere play introduces us to a scientist named Emma who is called to Washington to testify – reluctantly – before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation.

    Two DegreesCompounding her anxiety: It’s the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It’s meant to be a human story about both a woman and a planet in crisis.

    The play takes place in 11 scenes in 10 locations in the Jones Theatre. "We tried to create an abstract space that was evocative and had an arc like Emma's character that went from frozen to somewhat melting,' Morgan said. The set includes 56 Plexiglass panels that are treated to look like ice - and six of them are actual ice that will melt throughout the show.

    How did he do it? Watch and learn. Two Degrees, directed by Christy Montour-Larson, features Kathleen McCall, Robert Montano, Kim Staunton and Jason Delane Lee, and plays through March 12. 

    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    • Through March 12
    • Jones Theatre
    • ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Meet the cast: Kim Staunton
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'Two Degrees'

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2017
    Video: Your first look at Two Degrees

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s world-premiere play Two Degrees introduces us to a scientist named Emma who is called to Washington to testify – reluctantly – before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation. Compounding her anxiety: It’s the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It’s meant to be a human story about both a woman and a planet in crisis. 

    "What we did in the past affects our present and will change our future,” Emma tells those in Washington. But is anyone listening?

    Two Degrees
    is written by Tira Palmquist, directed by Christy Montour-Larson and features Kathleen McCall, Robert Montano, Kim Staunton and Jason Delane Lee. It plays through March 12 in the Jones Theatre. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photo gallery: Two Degrees production images

    Two Degrees- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season Photos from 'Two Degrees' by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees

    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

    Through March 12
    Jones Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    Two Degrees Jones Theatre'Two Degrees' is the first mainstage Theatre Company offering to be presented in The Jones Theatre since 2004. It is located on the corner of Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe streets. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Photos: Opening night of 'The Christians'

    by John Moore | Feb 07, 2017
    'The Christians' in Denver

    Photos from opening night of Lucas Hnath's The Christians by the DCPA Theatre Company on Feb. 3. We joined cast and crew backstage in preparation for the performance, through the opening-night party. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    The Christians Opening Night. Robert Manning Jr. John Moore. In the play, the pastor of a growing congregation is thrown into tumult when he brings up unexpected questions during a sermon. Featuring live music at every performance. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    The Christians: Ticket information
    A new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Plays through Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    (Pictured at right: Robert Manning Jr., who plays Associate Pastor Joshua, and his daughter. Photo by John Moore.)

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    The Christians
    is 'a pathway to empathy
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

    Video bonus: Your first look at 'The Christians'

  • 'Two Degrees' cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research

    by John Moore | Feb 03, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Photos from the 'Two Degrees' field trip to the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at CU-Boulder (INSTAAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    The actors' visit to Boulder brought them face-to-face with the scientists - and the science - in their world-premiere play.

    By John Moore
    For the DCPA NewsCenter
     
    The cast and creative team from the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere play Two Degrees took a recent field trip to Boulder and learned about a whole lot more than climate change.

    Fun stuff like: Polar bears in the Arctic can smell you from 100 miles away. That the oldest discovered ice on Earth is more than 800,000 years old. And that disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong was busted by the same science used in ice cores.

    Two Degrees Field Trip. John MooreSeriously.

    The stripped Tour de France winner was caught blood-doping, and what nailed him was isotopes, said scientist Bruce Vaughn, who should know.  He’s got the most distinct business card from Boulder to Greenland: Stable Isotope Lab Manager at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at CU-Boulder. Or INSTAAR, for short.

    “The steroids they were using were synthetic, so they have a different carbon isotopic signature than the ones your body would produce,” said Vaughn, who could give Bill Nye a run for his isotopes when it comes to his enthusiasm for science.

    Isotopes, it turns out, are forensic smoking guns. They are unique atomic differences in water molecules that record past climate changes over hundreds of thousands of years in ice cores. It was a tool first conceived by the father of ice-core science, Willi Dansgaard. In the atmosphere, isotopes can act like a red dye tracer, revealing the sources of and sinks of greenhouse gases.

    “There is no problem so big it can't be solved with isotopes," said Vaughn, only half joking. He is convinced that ice buried 2 miles under the surface of the earth is telling us that we are on a path to ecological catastrophe.

    (Photo above and right: Director Christy Montour-Larson and cast feign being locked in a locker where 1,000-year-old ice is kept at minus-10 degrees. A photo of the cast touching the ice is shown below. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The cast’s Boulder tour covered INSTAAR and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR. They got a crash course in climate history, ice-core research and what that means for our changing atmosphere. “You may hate me by the end of the day," Vaughn joked. Instead, there were hugs all around. When Vaughn let his visitors touch a 1,000-year old ice-core sample, they immediately melted into awestruck 8-year-olds.

    Two Degrees Field Trip “To have the opportunity to touch something that is 1,000 years old is just extraordinary,” said actor Kathleen McCall.

    Vaughn says these precious samples prove the rise in global temperature since the Industrial Age is linked to the rise in manmade greenhouse gasses. “They are in lock-step,” he said. “No one can argue that.”

    Two Degrees, written by Tira Palmquist and directed by Christy Montour-Larson, introduces us to a paleoclimatologist named Emma who is called to Washington to reluctantly testify before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation. At NCAR in Boulder, the cast was introduced to Marika Holland, a very Emma-like paleoclimatologist who is just as unenthusiastic when called upon to testify before politicians about her area of expertise.

    “That kind of thing makes me nervous, to be perfectly honest,” Holland said, “because it’s very confrontational – and I am not a terribly confrontational person.”

    Two Degrees Field Trip QuoteHolland has a PhD in ice-core research and has spent 25 years studying how and why the climate is changing so rapidly, and what that means for the Earth’s future.

    Holland and dozens of global collaborators have been charting rapid sea-ice loss, rising global temperatures and the impact that is having on plant and animal life around the world. Hundreds of species are going extinct every day, and dwindling ice sheets are profoundly affecting the survival of polar bears, seals, penguins and more.

    More dramatically Vaughn warned that future sea-level rise is a serious probability. Some projections show parts of Miami and other Florida areas under water in 2100. If that happens, an estimated 9,200 structures will be lost and 1 million homes will be below average high tide. That puts 26 hospitals, 213 schools and seven power plants at risk. Total value of the endangered property: $390 billion.

    “And it is human activity that is increasing greenhouse gas emissions. That is not for debate,” he said. “And the decisions we make today have irrevocable implications for the future, so we have to act now.”  

    There are few political issues as polarizing as climate change, which hurts the souls of climate scientists because, to them, this is a human issue, not a political issue. People in the insurance industry, oddly enough, are the ones who "totally get it," Vaughn said. “That’s because they have the most to lose.”

    Two Degrees Field TripBut politicians are another challenge.

    “It’s not that they are intimidated by the science,” said INSTAAR Research Scientist Anne Jennings, who specializes in the study of ocean sediments. “I just think they find it inconvenient, like Al Gore called it. This information gets in the way of commerce.”

    Telling someone you are a climate scientist in this heated political environment can certainly bring a dinner party to a halt, said Holland, a mother of two who would rather spend her time more peacefully on the ice or in her lab. When people discover Vaughn’s profession, he added, the inevitable, incredulous first question that tends to follow is something along the lines of: “Do you really believe in climate change?' Which makes him say: “Are we really having this conversation in 2017?” Just not out loud.

    “No, what I really say is, 'I don't believe in climate change any more than I believe in gravity. Because it’s not a belief system. It's physics,’” Vaughn said.

    “You can have your own opinion, but you can't have your own physics."

    Two Degrees Trump TweetMcCall asked Holland how she reacts when, say, then-candidate Donald Trump tweeted out his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

    “First I get angry, which isn't necessarily the most productive response,” Holland said. “When someone tells me, 'You lie; you are part of the hoax,’ it does feel very personal. Your integrity is being attacked.

    “I think of myself as a very honest person, and I am raising my children to be honest people. I love my work, and I try to educate people when I talk about it. The fact of the matter is, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what we do. For example, I would say we are 100 percent sure that sea-ice loss is occurring; that greenhouse gas emissions are causing dramatic changes in our climate, and that we humans are responsible for those emissions. That foundation of information is incredibly solid.

    Two Degrees Field Trip Quote“But if you want me to tell you whether humans are responsible for, say, 50 percent of the sea-ice loss, or 80 percent of the sea-ice loss, that is a much more complicated question, and that is where the uncertainty comes in.”

    Vaughn said the discussion now really should be directed toward children, “because it’s the next generation that is really going to have to deal with this,” he said. Holland most enjoys talking with school groups because, she said, “they are not deniers or skeptics. They’re curious.”

    Trump’s election has the local scientists worried, given his stated opinion on climate change, and that the Boulder institutes are funded by U.S. tax dollars.

    “There has been a lot of discussion about defunding climate science,” Holland said, “but we don’t know yet exactly how it will play out.” Senior Scientist Bette Otto-Bleisner, head of NCAR's Paleoclimate Modeling Program, is concerned about the larger distrust of science and medicine that seems to be growing among some Americans. “We are living in a very anti-science moment right now,” added Palmquist, the playwright. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Despite the gloomy ecological forecast, the cast and crew left their Boulder field trip eager to get back into the rehearsal room with a renewed focus. McCall said it was a gift to be playing a rare female paleoclimatologist and to have a real-life one just like her character living and working just 30 miles north.

    “The biggest thing I got out of watching Marika was how composed and still and confident she is in her science,” she said. “This is not a hunch to her. Having that base of knowledge gives her a solid center.”

    Actor Jason Delane Lee was especially interested to learn more about the mindset of climate skeptics, because he plays a substantive contrarian in Two Degrees. Actor Robert Montano called the field trip “confirming.”

    “This has just made everything so much more clear,” Montano said. “Everything these scientists told us is written in Tira’s script. They match.”

    Added Lee: “You can argue about a lot of things. But you can’t argue the science.”


    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.

    Two Degrees Field Trip
    Photo by John Moore.


    Video bonus: Playwright Tira Palmquist talking about Two Degrees


    Our video with 'Two Degrees' playwright Tira Palmquist, at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    Two Degrees: Ticket information
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

    Feb. 3-March 12
    Jones Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Two Degrees heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

  • 'Two Degrees': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 06, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal of Tira Palmquist's play 'Two Degrees' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    When Director Christy Montour-Larson went looking for the key to unlock Tira Palmquist’s new play Two Degrees, she looked no further than her own pocket.

    “All I had to do is pull out my own house key, because when I read this play for the first time, I felt like I was home,” said Montour-Larson, who will direct the upcoming world premiere for the DCPA Theatre Company opening Feb. 3.

    Two Degrees. Director Christy Montour-Larson and Tira Palmquist. hoto by John Moore. Two Degrees is about a woman – and a planet – in crisis. Emma is scientist who has been called to Washington to testify to a congressional committee on climate legislation. And it’s the anniversary of her husband's death.

    “I love this play because it is about something,” Montour-Larson said on the first day of rehearsal. “Climate change isn't just another issue in a world proliferating with other issues. Climate change is the one issue that, left unchecked, will swamp all other issues.”

    New calculations from Scientific American magazine indicate that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, the average temperature of the Earth will rise 2 degrees Celsius by 2036, crossing a threshold that will devastate human civilization, Montour-Larson said.

    “We are the first generation in the history of humanity to feel the effects of climate change,” she said, “and we are the last generation who can do anything about it.”

    And if you are a playwright, the thing you do about it is you write a play about it.

    “For me, as a playwright, the personal is political, and the political is personal,” said Palmquist, who wrote Two Degrees as opportunity to write roles for women older than 45, and also as an opportunity to talk about climate change. For her, that’s as political – and as personal – as it gets.

    “Humans aren't the first species to alter the atmosphere,” added Two Degrees Dramaturg Heather Helinsky, quoting Elizabeth Kolbert’s book Field Notes from a Catastrophe. That distinction belongs to early bacteria, which invented photosynthesis 2 two billion years ago. “But we are the first species to be in a position to understand what we are doing.”

    And that’s why, Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod said, “This is a play we have to do. And not 20 years from now - we have to do it now.”

    (Pictured above and right: 'Two Degrees' Director Christy Montour-Larson and Playwright Tira Palmquist. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Here are five things we learned at that first rehearsal for Two Degrees, opening Feb. 3 in the Jones Theatre:

    NUMBER 1 It’s melting! That’s right. Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan has fashioned a series of hanging painted panels that will look like different forms of ice. But look closely, because about six of them are going to be literally made out of ice that will slowly melt throughout the performance. The idea: The world of the play is the world of our world. “Our hope is that maybe 50 percent of the audience will say afterward, ‘Hey, wasn't it really cool that part of the set melted?’ And the other 50 percent will say, 'I didn't see that,’ ” said Montour-Larson, adding to laughs: “And then you can say to that person: 'Yeah, and that's why you are part of the problem! You didn't notice!"  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Book of Will

    NUMBER 2Credit is due. A small local collective called The Athena Project is responsible for Two Degrees coming to the attention of DCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. Montour-Larson directed a reading of the play as part of the Athena Project’s 2015 new-play festival, then handed the script over to Thompson, who shouted out founder Angela Astle and her 3-year-old company at the first rehearsal. “Athena envisions a world where women's voices are powerfully expressed and recognized for their artistic merit in the community,” Thompson said.

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Christians

    NUMBER 3Mr. Jones and you. Two Degrees will be the first play the DCPA Theatre Company presents in the Jones Theatre as a mainstage production since David Mamet’s A Boston Marriage in 2004. At 200 seats, The Jones is the Denver Center’s smallest theatre. “It's just perfect for Two Degrees because it’s so intimate, and the audience is going to be right there with us as we tell the story,” Montour-Larson said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4Two Degrees. Jason Ducat The sound of ice. Sound Designer Jason Ducat (right) promises to replicate the sound of real, cracking ice at key points of the story. He and fellow DCPA soundman Craig Breitenbach embedded microphones into real ice and then recorded the sound as it broke up. “We're going to have speakers underneath the seats so the audience will really be able to feel that rumble,” said Ducat, who grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, hometown of Olympic figure-skating champion Scott Hamilton. “For about 15 years of my life, I pretty much lived on a sheet of ice. It is one of the most peaceful things you can ever experience," Ducat said. But the sound ice cracking also can be terrifying. I know this because when I was young, I was really stupid and I would see how far out on the ice I could get before it started to crack - and then I would have to fly back in to try to beat it. But when I think of the character of Emma, I think she really wants to be on that ice. So I wanted to create that as the soundscape of the play."

    NUMBER 5Do I know you? Montour-Larson met Palmquist at the 2012 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, Idaho. They got to talking and soon learned they both grew up in Minnesota. Then they figured out that they both had performed in a summer repertory theatre program in Duluth, Minn., decades before. So Montour-Larson asked Palmquist what shows she was in, and Palmquist answered, “Oh a few, like, Dames at Sea and Play it Again Sam.” And Montour-Larson dead-panned: "I was in all those shows with you." Everyone talks about six degrees of separation, but in Palmquist’s play every character has, appropriately enough, just two degrees of separation. “And here we discovered that Tira and I had two degrees of separation, because we already knew each other through our younger selves,” said Montour-Larson.

    Bonus: There will be some Greenlandic spoken during the play. That is all.

     

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


    Video bonus: Spotlight on Two Degrees



    Two Degrees
    : Cast list

    Written by Tira Palmquist
    Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

    • Jason Delane (One Night in Miami) as Clay Simpson

    • Kathleen McCall (The Glass Menagerie) as Emma Phelps

    • Robert Montano (Colorado New Play Summit) as Jeffrey Phelps/Eric Wilson/Malik Peterson

    • Kim Staunton (Fences) as Louise Allen


    Two Degrees: Ticket information
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

    Feb. 3-March 12
    Jones Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Two Degrees. Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore.
    First rehearsal for the upcoming 'Two Degrees': Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

  • Video: Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, 'Two Degrees'

    by John Moore | Feb 19, 2016


    Our interview, in video and words, with Colorado New Play Summit featured playwright Tira Palmquist, author of Two Degrees. Palmquist describes her play as "a cheery story about climate change."


    Here are highlights from DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore's conversation with  'Two Degrees' playwright Tira Palmquist:

    John Moore: Do you remember your first encounter with the Denver Center?

    Tira Palmquist: Yes, my first encounter was as a spouse. My husband came here to coach dialect, voice, speech and text for the Theatre Company’s production of Richard III in 2009.

    John Moore: Tell us who your director is here at the Summit.

    Tira Palmquist: My director is Christy Montour-Larson (Curious Theatre's 'Sex With Strangers.') It turns out we did summer rep theatre together in Duluth (Minn.) when we were in college back in 1981 and ’82.

    Two Degrees Michelle Shupe Summit John Moore: Can you introduce us to the world of your play, Two Degrees?

    Tira Palmquist: I would say Two Degrees is a play about climate change, but it’s also a play about grief. That was really the entrance point for me to tell the story, because I feel the grief for the planet so palpably that it became the predominant metaphor of the play. Two Degrees is about a woman who’s doing her best to help people understand why climate change is an important issue. And at the same time, she’s coming to terms with her own personal grief. (Pictured: Michelle Shupe as Emma in 'Two Degrees.' Photo by John Moore.) 

    John Moore: Tell us about your protagonist.

    Tira Palmquist: The writing of the play really began with a challenge from an actor friend of mine who had just turned 45. We were having beers on her porch when she said, ‘You know what sucks is being 45 and being at the height of my abilities, and having all the opportunities dry up. So what for your next play, you need to write a part for a woman over 45.’ And I said, ‘OK. I will do that, Stacy.’ And then it really churned in my head for a long time because I thought, ‘Well, I know I don’t want to write a play about a woman who’s had a divorce, or an empty-nester or a woman going through menopause, because I feel like that’s low-hanging fruit. So what am I going to write about?

    John Moore: So you wrote about a scientist.

    Tira Palmquist: I really like science. I think science is important. It's an important issue for me because we see science being dismissed to a certain degree in this country. There’s a kind of anti-science sentiment running in our country. And I’m trying to do my best to put science on stage, because science is going to save us.

    Two Degrees Tira Palmquist quote Summit

    John Moore: And you’re a pastor’s kid?

    Tira Palmquist: Yes, but science and religion were never in conflict in my family. My father was never anti-science. He was always a curious individual. I remember having a conversation with him when The Last Temptation of Christ came out about whether Christ could have been married. And he said, ‘Of course Christ would have been married. They called him Rabbi - and a Rabbi had to be married.’ And he was never upset about that. It didn’t diminish the story of what Christ. And I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, I just learned something about my father that I didn’t know before.’

    John Moore: Has being a pastor’s kid affected your voice as a playwright?

    Tira Palmquist: Oh, absolutely. I sat in church week after week listening to my father telling stories in the form of a sermon. But I feel like my life as a playwright has been about finding my own voice. All your life as a pastor’s kid, you’re trying your hardest not to be the pastor’s kid - to set yourself apart from the expectations people have of you. And I think to a certain degree that fuels my passion for telling stories, But at the same time, being a pastor’s kid means you spend a lot of time watching your father or mother attending to a congregation. It’s not just ‘theatre.’ It’s about your relationships with your congregation. If there’s anything I learned from that, it’s that your stories on stage need to have that kind of impact. If you’re not changing people’s lives; if you’re not changing people’s minds; then I don’t know why you’re doing it.

    Two Degrees. Michelle Shupe and Jason Delane. John Moore: So you have written a play that is about climate and grief and science. That sounds kind of mournful. Is it a sad play?

    Tira Palmquist: It’s actually a pretty funny play, oddly enough. There’s a lot of humor in it, and a lot of it comes not just from the fact that we are dealing with real people who have complicated and difficult and sometimes messed-up lives, but from seeing our protagonist struggle with these issues. If this were the story of a woman who can’t be a good scientist, and all we did was see her struggle, that would be kind of pathetic. But instead, this is the story of a scientist who’s actually a full, rich and complicated human being. (Pictured: Michelle Shupe and Jason Delane in 'Two Degrees.') 

    John Moore: Tell us how your play made its way to the Denver Center.

    Tira Palmquist: It got here because of Christie. I had sent my script to The Athena Project Festival in Aurora, which is helping to increase the exposure of female artists. They have a playwriting festival that focuses on female-driven stories. When Christie saw that I was coming to the Athena festival, she asked if she could direct. She loved the play, and she wanted to see it go forward. So she brought it to the Denver Center.

    John Moore: What are your thoughts about the Denver Center’s commitment to the woman’s voice?

    Tira Palmquist: I feel incredibly supported by that. And I don’t think that it’s just, ‘Oh we had to have x number of female playwrights.’ It seems to me there really is a genuine interest in telling a variety of stories here. And as I’ve been sitting in on different plays here, like FADE and the Summit reading of American Mariachi, I thought, 'Wow, this is really fantastic.' We're seeing a lot of different kinds of stories that I don’t think are always being told, and that feels very exciting and very genuine to me.

    John Moore: What are your thoughts on having the second week of development time here at the Summit?

    Tira Palmquist: The reading after the first week feels in a way like ‘proof of concept.’ Like, ‘OK, we did this first week, and we got it on its feet, and we got it in front of an audience.’ And then you get to hear how an audience responds - what lands and what doesn’t. One of the things that’s lovely about the second week is that now you have the opportunity to go through and fine-tune anything that you didn’t really get to polish, or answer questions that you didn’t really get to answer during the first week. 

    John Moore: What are people saying about Denver as a place for the development of new work for the American theatre?

    Tira Palmquist: First of all, people are jealous of me that I get to be here. And second, people are noticing that Denver is really interested not just in having a festival, but actually developing new plays. Not all festivals do both. I’ve been in a lot of festivals where it feels like the plays are sort of thrown up in front of an audience. But if you’re really interested in play development, then really taking the time to do it right and attend to the playwright’s needs, then this is the way it should be done.


    Two Degrees: Cast list

    Tira Palmquist, Playwright
    Christy Montour-Larson, Director
    Heather Helinsky, Dramaturg
    Michelle Shupe, Emma Phelps
    Jason Delane, Clay Simpson
    Lisa Bostnar, Louise Allen
    Robert Montano, Jeffrey Phelps/Eric Wilson/Malik Peterson
    Janet Noble, Stage Directions

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit: Ticket information

    Second weekend (Festival Weekend): Friday, Feb. 19, through Sunday, Feb. 21
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Summit (to date):
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
    DCPA rolls out the welcome mat: It's Summit weekend
    2016 Summit playwrights introduce their featured works
    Three major Summit events to be streamed live
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
    Audio: Colorado Public Radio on the 2016 New Play Summit

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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.