• DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller steps down

    by NewsCenter Staff | May 27, 2016
    By Suzanne Yoe
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ President and CEO Scott Shiller and Chairman Daniel L. Ritchie announced Mr. Shiller’s resignation today, Friday, May 27.

    Scott Shiller (President and Chief Executive Officer)Mr. Shiller joined the DCPA 12 months ago as its second Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Mr. Ritchie. Over the course of his time, he was committed to expanding the DCPA’s reach into the community and reflecting the region’s growing diversity on stage. Most notably, he established the Fund for Innovation that provides resources to expand the scope of theatre to ensure that it remains relevant and reflective of new audiences; expanded the DCPA’s role in education to become a co-presenter of the DPS Shakespeare Festival, and was instrumental in developing programming to entice Denver’s booming millennial generation.

     “The Denver Center takes great pride in the substantial progress the organization has made under Scott’s leadership,” said Chairman Ritchie. “He has led an exemplary team of theatre professionals during his time at the DCPA and we will work to expand his vision to reach into the community to reflect the growing diversity of the Denver metro area.”

    “I am pleased to have led the organization to a series of programmatic, financial and operational achievements over the last twelve months,” said Shiller, which includes a record-setting Broadway season, the critically acclaimed production of Sweeney Todd and the establishment of the Fund for Innovation, which will ensure theatre remains relevant and reflective of new audiences. “Because of the DCPA’s dedicated staff, Denver just wouldn’t be Denver without the DCPA.”

    Chairman Dan Ritchie will resume the role of CEO. He will work with the Board and Executive Staff to conduct a search for a leader who will continue to move the DCPA forward as a key player in Denver’s vibrant cultural community.

  • DCPA CEO Scott Shiller: Whose stories belong on our stages?

    by Scott Shiller | May 16, 2016

    Scott Shiller National Western. Photo by Olivia Jansen.
    The parade that opened the annual National Western Stock Show in January. Photo by Olivia Jansen for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    I recently heard someone refer to Denver as a “cow town.” As a somewhat recent transplant (one of the more than 100,000 who have moved here over the past five years), I was confused.

    Scott Shiller QuoteGranted, I’ve seen the livestock parade that opens the Western Stock Show. And I know ranching is an essential part of Colorado. But I look around and I don’t see a cow town. I see a vibrant American city, growing by leaps and bounds, with one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country. I see the country’s most-attended arts and culture scene. To borrow a term from our successful start-up scene, I see Denver 2.0.

    None of this suggests our past needs to be left in the past. In fact, it’s more important than ever that we honor our heritage and keep our stories alive in the present. It’s just that our story gets richer and more expansive as we grow. America is a land of reinvention. Right now, Denver is living that promise out in a very real and exciting way.

    So if our past is (debatably) bovine, what is our present? Or more to the point, who is our present? We transplants consider Colorado home now, along with all of you who have been here for years, decades or even generations before us. Thank you for welcoming us. We may be strangers but we love living here just as much as you do. We love the stories we hear about Denver’s past. And we appreciate the opportunity to add our tales to the mix.

    I believe live theatre is a crucial piece of our shared storytelling experience. It’s always been a place to see both time-tested stories and fresh new perspectives. Seems like now is the time to ask ourselves whose stories belong on our stages. So what do you think, natives and newcomers? Whose stories do you want to see? Which voices from our past still resonate and which new voices deserve to be heard? How can our theatres amplify the voices that honor the cow and the now?

    Let us know your thoughts by commenting at the bottom of this story.



    About our Guest Columnist:
    Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).



    Previous conversations with Scott Shiller:
    Previously, Scott Shiller posed these questions for NewsCenter readers:

    *We are going to shake things up: What do you think the future of live theatre should be? Should we tear up the rulebook and see what happens? To read his essay - and reader responses, visit our NewsCenter here

    *Where the wild thoughts are: What’s important to you and your family in a cultural facility? To read his essay - and reader responses, visit our NewsCenter here

    *Making Cents of Arts Funding:
     "Should the federal government allocate more funding to the National Endowment for the Arts?" To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Declining arts coverage:
    How to respond to declining arts coverage? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Social media in the theatre:
    How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

  • Soggy skies can't shake 5,000 students' Shakespeare spirit

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2016
    2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos may be downloaded and recirculated with source attribution. Click on any photo to download.

    "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

    Michael Berger grew up with a stutter. On Friday, the high-school senior stood ebulliently in the rain and welcomed thousands to the 32nd annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    A DPS Shakespeare 160"This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my theatre career,” said Berger, a senior at Denver School of the Arts who was chosen from hundreds of DPS students to perform as none other than the Bard himself at the festival’s opening ceremonies in Skyline Park.

    “My first performance as an actor was here. It was in the fourth grade, I was 8 or 9, and I performed Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1,” he said definitively. “Because of that, I was inspired to continue in the theatre. And it was through Shakespeare that I learned how to speak clearly. So this is very much full circle for me.”

    The rain-snow mix didn’t dampen the students’ spirits, but the chill surely put the shake in the Shakespeare as nearly 5,000 chilly students from 80 schools in grades kindergarten through high school braved the cold to perform more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex while bundled in an array of colorful costumes that were often covered in parkas.

    DPS Shakespeare Fetsival opening ceremonies: Micael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    DPS Shakespeare Festival opening ceremonies: Michael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Denver Center or the Performing Arts CEO Scott Shiller served as Grand Marshall for the three-block opening parade alongside Berger and George Washington High School senior Vicky Serdyuk, who won the annual honor of playing Queen Elizabeth I at the oldest and largest student Shakespeare festival in the country.

    “Shakespeare was the first live performance I ever saw – and I was in daycare,” Serdyuk said with a laugh. “I remember that the actors talked funny, but that they made it sound so good.”

    Shiller told the students that by participating in arts-education programs like the Shakespeare Festival, studies indicate they will be more likely to graduate, enroll in college, contribute meaningfully to civic life and volunteer. “Plus, children who are exposed to live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree,” he said.

    Gillian McNally, who served as a festival adjudicator and general encourager, was undaunted by the cold. Despite the gloomy weather, she declared Friday to be the most beautiful day of the year.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote “This might be the only time most of these students ever perform on a stage in their whole lives – and we celebrate that,” said McNally, an Associate Professor of Theatre Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Just look at these wonderful, handmade costumes,” she added, indicating young students from the DaVinci Academy dressed as a human forest. “That tells me teachers collaborated with students and their parents, and they made something together. That’s what this is all about: We are making something together.”

    More than half of all students enrolled in Denver Public Schools speak English as a second language. Serdyuk says it makes sense that many DPS English teachers use Shakespeare as a language-learning tool in the classroom. “Shakespeare’s English follows a lot of the same rules as many of these students’ first languages,” she said. 

    Berger serves as student teacher for Denison Montessori School’s Shakespeare program.  He says Shakespeare is less intimidating for students whose native language isn’t English because they are already learning one foreign language – so what’s another? “It’s neat seeing kids learn to speak Shakespeare while they are learning English at the same time,” Berger said.

    Christine Gonzalez, who teaches kindergarten through 6th grade students at Denison, said Berger has been a big help to her students. “He keeps it light and fun and inspirational,” she said. “It’s easier to learn when you make it fun.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Mary Louise Lee, an accomplished performer and also the First Lady of Denver, addressed the crowd about the importance of arts education. “I am a proud product of the Denver Public Schools,” said the graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee, wife of Mayor Michael B. Hancock, has made restoring arts-education programs in schools her top priority since founding her nonprofit, Bringing Back the Arts.

    The DPS Shakespeare Festival draws students of all ages and experience levels. While hundreds were performing for the first time Friday, Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger was performing in his seventh DPS Festival.

    “I remember feeling nervous my first year because I was performing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Bruenger, who was born in Mexico. “But I looked around and I saw younger kids who were only 6 or 7 years old and they were completely into it. That gave me confidence that I could do it, too.”

    Seven years later, Bruenger is not only a recent winner of a True West Award and Denver Mayor's Award for the Arts, but also a full scholarship to the University of Oklahoma from the Daniels Fund. After he performed in his final Shakespeare Festival on Friday, he was off to star in the opening of a world premiere musical about the Armenian genocide called I Am Alive.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. This is the first year the DCPA served as a full producing partner in the DPS Festival. The DCPA’s Education Department offered up its Teaching Artists to assist all 80 participating schools in their preparations for Friday.

    “We are proud to partner alongside the largest school district in the state,” Shiller said. “Colorado’s commitment to arts integration outpaces the national average in nearly every category. In fact, 64 percent of our high schools offer theatre education, just like our own Shakespeare Festival.”

    Friday’s crowd was peppered with prominent figures in the local theatre community. Susan Lyles, founder of the city’s only company dedicated to female playwrights (And Toto Too) was on hand to root on her son, Harrison Lyles-Smith, who played a shepherd with a wicked death scene in As You Like It.

    Lyles said Harrison and his 5th-grade classmates at Steck Elementary School have been practicing for two hours every Friday since February. “It has given him self-confidence and a fearlessness when it comes to Shakespeare that a lot of adults don’t have,” she said.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sara McPherson Horle, Executive Producer of The Catamounts Theatre Company of Boulder, happened to have a nephew in that same class at Steck. For her, one of the great rewards young Samuel Davis has gotten out of the experience is the lost art of listening.

    “You have to be self-disciplined to be an actor at any age,” Horle said. “Learning to listen is a huge thing, but especially at this age.”

    McNally said the emphasis of the festival is not on producing professional-quality performances – although many of the older students come awfully close. What the judges want more to encourage is passion, which leads to the development of useful life skills such as public speaking and boosted self-esteem.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But occasionally there are performances that make even the Shakespeare purists turn their heads. DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken was particularly impressed with the 3rd through 5th graders from Isabella Bird, a “heart-centered” community school where teacher Rebecca Sage says students are all made to feel valued for their own specific, individual talents.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote 2“The general clarity of their storytelling was astounding, and their delivery were astounding,” McCracken said after watching Sage’s students perform a Cinco de Mayo-informed take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Ricketson Theatre. “That was an amazing throughline for elementary-school actors." 

    Sage said her approach to the project was not unlike the approach of any director who takes on a full-fledged theatrical production: “It all starts with table work,” she said. That means working through the script with the students line-by-line, making sure they understand the meaning, the innuendo and most important, the comedy of the words they speak.

    Sage’s students fully bought into the project, she said, in part because Friday’s festival was only the start of their reward. Next week, the students will perform the full story back at the school for parents and friends. Sage said her students have been putting in half-mornings two days a week since January.

    “It was hugely gratifying for them to put in the work, both at home and at school, and then to get that kind of validation and respect once they got here today,” she said. “This whole experience is a huge incentive for them to continue doing things that challenge them and take them to their edge.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's Romeo and Juliet

    DCPA Teaching Artists John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes starred in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Also new this year was the evening Shakespeare After-Fest program, when arts organizations from across Denver came together to continue the celebration of the Bard. The program included music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY. DCPA Education also performed its hour-long production of Romeo and Juliet from its outreach program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.

    The First Lady of Denver left the kids with a Shakespeare quote whose authorship has been disputed over time – but its meaning was indubitably apropos for Friday’s occasion:

    “The meaning of your life is to find your gift,” Lee told the gathered crowd. “The purpose of your life is to give it away.”

    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.

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Sweet & Lucky: Casting announced; tickets onsale

    by NewsCenter Staff | Apr 13, 2016
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    By Hope Grandon

    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The DCPA's Off-Center has announced full casting for its upcoming off-site immersive experience Sweet & Lucky, a commission by Brooklyn-based Third Rail Projects. The show is scheduled to begin previews May 17.

    Sweet & Lucky’s ensemble will include the following Denver-based performers:

    • Diana Dresser
    • Colby Foss
    • Ondine Geary
    • Meridith C. Grundei
    • Leigh Miller
    • Patrick Mueller
    • Tara Rynders
    • Mackenzie Sherburne
    • Justin Walvoord
    • Edith Weiss
    • Ryan Wuestewald
    • Amanda Berg Wilson

    They will be joined by Lia Bonfilio of Third Rail Projects.

    Sweet & Lucky continues Off-Center’s tradition of creating inventive and engaging programming that upends tradition,” said Scott Shiller, DCPA President and CEO "We are honored to be collaborating with Third Rail Projects and Williams & Graham, both innovators in their fields, to bring the world premiere of this truly unique experience to Denver.”

    Read our interview with co-creator and Denver native Zach Morris

    This two-hour performance takes place in a sprawling 16,000-square-foot warehouse owned by Westfield Company on Brighton Boulevard. Audiences will step into a mysterious antique store where nothing is for sale, follow performers through intricately designed environments, into intimate engagements, and witness a series of seductive and haunting flashbacks. It's a 360-degree experience that uses all five senses to evoke the power and fragility of memories. Dive deeper into the story by exploring the props and scenery firsthand, and enjoy specialty cocktails before and after the show crafted by award-winning mixologist Sean Kenyon at a pop up version of Kenyon’s Williams & Graham.

    Tickets are now available. BUY ONLINE 

    Please note that each performance is limited to 72 audience members.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweet & Lucky:

    Zach Morris is home to seize the cultural moment
    DCPA to create new immersive theatre piece with Third Rail Projects
    Kickstarter campaign allows audience to dive deeper
    Kickstarter home page
  • DCPA expands partnership with DPS Shakespeare Festival

    by John Moore | Apr 12, 2016

    The 2015 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival drew more than 5,000 students from 70 schools in grades kindergarten through high school who performed more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Check out these video highlights from DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    By Suzanne Yoe
    For the DCPA Newscenter

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is expanding its involvement in the 2016 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival. Held Friday, April 29, at the downtown Denver Performing Arts Complex, the 32-year-old festival now will be a co-production of the DCPA, Denver Public Schools and the Denver Public Schools Foundation.

    To complement the day, the DCPA invites students, parents, educators, residents and the downtown Denver business community to its all-new “Shakespeare After-Fest.” The community is invited to sample a variety of Shakespearean acts, scenes and vignettes accompanied by live music and on-site painting — all for free.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival Under the leadership of President & CEO Scott Shiller, the DCPA’s expanded role will serve teachers and students in all 80 participating schools through in-school workshops, professional development, audition adjudication, and financial support — both in-kind and through fundraising — to produce the event. Under the leadership of Acting Superintendent Susana Cordova, DPS’ Arts and Physical Education Department will align all activities with the Colorado State Standards, provide professional development opportunities to participating educators, solicit school participation and manage logistical coordination of both the audition process and the Festival itself.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival“The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is delighted to be a co-producer of the nation’s largest youth Shakespeare Festival,” said Shiller. “We know that children who are exposed to a live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree, so we are more than tripling our in-school workshops in order to ignite a passion for theatre in as many students as possible.”

    “The DPS Shakespeare Festival is an opportunity for 5,000 K-12 students to perform scenes from the works of William Shakespeare,” said Karen Radman, Interim President and CEO of the DPS Foundation. “These students will fill every inch of the Arts Complex with dance, singing and music of Shakespeare’s time. We’re delighted to welcome the community to this free celebration.”

    “The DPS Shakespeare Festival has been a centerpiece of our commitment to arts integration throughout the District,” said Susana Cordova, Acting Superintendent of Denver Public Schools. “The event is open to children of all backgrounds and uses literacy and the creative arts to boost student achievement and develop critical thinking. Plus, it’s just fun!”

    2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos from the 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival. To see more, click the arrow on the photo above to page through the full gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    DCPA SHAKESPEARE AFTER-FEST

    In an effort to encourage connections between downtown businesses and residents with the Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is launching an all-new Shakespeare After-Fest.

    Held from 4-7pm throughout the open-air Galleria at the Arts Complex, this free event will include a string quartet featuring Tom Hagerman (DeVotchKa, DCPA Theatre Company’s Sweeney Todd); live, on-site canvas painting of Shakespearean-inspired art; scenes from Romeo and Juliet by the DCPA’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, and performances by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Cult Following, The Catamounts, Stories on Stage, Black Actors’ Guild and Phamaly Theatre Company, among other arts groups. Shakespeare After-Fest is supported by the Downtown Theatre District.


    TIMELINE FOR FRIDAY, APRIL 29

    10 a.m.: Opening Ceremonies in Skyline Park at 15th & Arapahoe streets

    10:15 a.m.: Elizabethan Parade down 16th Street and Curtis streets

    10:45 a.m.: Student Performances begin on more than 18 stages at the Arts Complex

    Noon: Challenge Bowl school competition begins and student performances continue

    4-7 p.m.: Shakespeare After-Fest, open-air Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex

    • 4 p.m.: Quartet performance (Tom Hagerman of DeVotchka) outside The Ellie
    • 4:15 p.m.: Shakespearean-inspired painting begins throughout the Galleria
    • 5 p.m.: Scenes from Shakespeare are performed outside the Bonfils Theatre Complex
    • 7 p.m.: Festival concludes

    For information on the DPS Shakespeare Festival, visit shakespeare.dpsk12.org
    For information about the Shakespeare After-Fest, visit denvercenter.org/after-fest

    NewsCenter coverage of the DPS Shakespeare Festival:

    DPS Shakespeare Festival returns with DCPA as new partner
    Photos: 2014 Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival

     

  • The rebel CEO: 'We’re going to shake things up'

    by Scott Shiller | Mar 18, 2016
    CEO Scott Shiller applauds the DCPA students who performed at the recent 'Saturday Night Alive' gala. Amanda Tipton Photography.

    CEO Scott Shiller applauds the DCPA students who performed at the recent 'Saturday Night Alive' gala. Amanda Tipton Photography.  


    Since the start of this theatre season, I’ve been asking questions in this column: Are we welcoming enough to tech-savvy audience members? Where do you get your arts and entertainment news? What’s important to you in a cultural facility? As a recent transplant to Denver, I have my share of observations. And I definitely have opinions on the questions I’ve posed. But I want to know what you think. You are my partners and, together, we’re going to shake things up.

    Scott Shiller quoteNow, you may not think of yourself as a rebel. Few rebels do. The reality, though, is that simply by expecting a modern theatregoing experience, you’re shaking things up every time you attend a live event. Live theatre is an art form that has been around for over 2,000 years.

    Over that time, it has continuously evolved and reconsidered its potential. There has never been a time like this, though. Personal (and professional) technology is upending everything about the theatrical experience, from your first search for tickets on your smart phone to the last selfie you post before heading home. There’s something new seemingly every day, and the DCPA wants to lead the way.

    That said, it’s not all new. We still have stages, actors, sets, props and wardrobe. We still have playwrights and directors and stage managers and crew. Mix well and you have theatre. But then again, now we have “immersive” theatre like our upcoming summer production called Sweet & Lucky that forgoes seats and stages for wandering through theatrical spaces. We have jukebox musicals, dance mash-ups, cirque and other forms traditionalists might not even recognize. Here at the DCPA, we’re even updating some of our theatres (currently The Space Theatre in the Bonfils Complex) to accommodate the new, high-tech, demands of modern theatre making. But here’s the big question — should live theatre stay the same or become something new?

    As we move forward, what do you think the future of live theatre should be? What kind of programming should we embrace? Should we stay rooted in the past with traditional stagings and scripts? Should we tear up the rulebook and see what happens?

    If we do either, will you attend more or less? Because whatever we do, you complete it. You are the reason we’re here and we want to hear from you. The revolution will not be televised — but it may be staged.

    Let us know your thoughts by commenting at the bottom of this story.



    About our Guest Columnist:
    Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).

    Previous conversations with Scott Shiller:
    Previously, DCPA CEO Scott Shiller posed these questions for NewsCenter readers:

    *Where the wild thoughts are:
    Dream a little bigger about the future of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. To read this essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Making Cents of Arts Funding:
     "Should the federal government allocate more funding to the National Endowment for the Arts?" To read this essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Declining arts coverage:
    How to respond to declining arts coverage? To read this essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Social media in the theatre:
    How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres? To read this essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

  • Mayor unveils bold vision for new Denver Performing Arts Complex

    by John Moore | Mar 10, 2016
    Nest Stage: The New Denver Performing Arts Complex

    Our complete gallery of photos from the city's press event today, including a look at artist renderings and live entertainment that was spread throughout the Denver Performing Arts Complex. To see more photos, simply click the forward arrow on the photo above. To download for free, click on the photo. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    The city’s grand vision for a new downtown Denver Performing Arts Complex is for now, just that. But when the mayor orders you to dream big … you dream big.

    On Thursday, Mayor Michael B. Hancock unveiled “Next Stage,” a bold proposal for what a transformed arts center might look like at a public press event held under the iconic arches of the 38-year-old Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    Scott ShillerIf realized, the 12-acre site that is already the largest arts complex in the country by attendance will undergo a makeover that aims to go much further than simply transforming the city’s Theatre District.

    “We are here to transform a city,” Hancock said.

    When you combine the Performing Arts Complex with the Colorado Convention Center next door, Hancock said, more than 2 million people visit Denver’s arts corridor each year. “But what I love about Denver is that that even though we are No. 1, we are saying that’s simply not good enough,” he added. “This project has the potential to change our city's cultural life in untold ways.

    “I want Denver  to be known for its commitment to arts and culture.”

    The ambitious – and as of now unfunded - plan calls for expanding Sculpture Park, which runs along Speer Boulevard between Arapahoe and Stout streets, into an entertainment destination that would be anchored by an amphitheater that would rival Chicago’s Millennium Park. It calls for moving Denver School of the Arts from its east Denver campus to the Boettcher Concert Hall property. It calls for three 40-story residential towers that would include new hotels, restaurants, office and retail space where the city’s public parking garage is currently located. It imagines a new 1,200-seat music hall at 14th and Arapahoe streets that would, among other things, serve as a new home to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It calls for a new parking facility under Sculpture Park that would raise the current number of available parking spots from 1,700 to more than 2,600. And it calls for dedicating at least $250,000 to introduce new public art projects in and around the Performing Arts Complex over the next two years.

    For starters.

    A look at what the new Denver Performing Arts Complex might look like from the entranceway at 13th and Curtis streets.A look at what the new Denver Performing Arts Complex might look like from the entranceway at 13th and Curtis streets.


    The goal is to make the Denver Performing Arts Complex a place that will be buzzing with activity for 18 hours every day. And remaining right at the heart of it all would be the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which presently draws about 800,000 to the Denver Performing Arts Complex with its theatre programming and educational opportunities. DCPA CEO Scott Shiller was present on Thursday to lend his full support for the plan.

    Go to the city’s ‘Next Stage’ web page

    “The city has made arts and culture one of the pillars of what is going to make Denver a global arts center,” said Shiller, who was backed by more than 200 DCPA employees wearing matching black DCPA jackets. “Mayor Hancock has been supportive of us, and we want to be supportive of him.”

    Mayor Michael B. Hancock: 'What I love about Denver is that that even though we are No. 1, we are saying that's simply not good enoughAccording to city officials, the new DPAC will be “an enlivened, vibrant, thriving, public regional center of cultural activity in the heart of downtown. It will attract diverse audiences, celebrate a variety of art forms, contribute to the city's economic vitality, enhance Denver's urban fabric, integrate with neighboring amenities and serve as an innovative model for sustainable cultural and civic investment.”

    And despite the radical proposed new looks, all early architectural renderings call for maintaining the signature arch that connects the two sides of the Complex at Curtis Street, and provides patrons protection from the weather.

    The plan unveiled Thursday was developed by an Executive Leadership Team appointed by Hancock (pictured above right) that received input from more than 4,200 Denver residents, as well as arts patrons, performers and presenters. Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks, who served on that Leadership Team, said its charge from the mayor was to simply reimagine what the new Performing Arts Complex might look like in the future, without limits.

    "It is rare to announce something that can change the face of a city and in a way that we are doing today,” said Brooks.  

    Added Hancock: “I asked the Leadership Team to be bold, to think outside the box and to not acknowledge limitations. I asked them to make this Complex into something that will take Denver to the next level."

    Colorado Ballet. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  Among those representing the DCPA on that Executive Leadership Team were Shiller, Broadway Division Executive Director John Ekeberg and board member Tina Walls.

    “As the largest non-profit theatre company in America and the primary programmer of the Performing Arts Complex,” Shiller said, “we appreciate Mayor Hancock's challenge to look beyond what the Complex is today and to focus on what we can become tomorrow. The cornerstone elements that comprise Next Stage align with our own vision to be the most engaging theatre organization in the nation.”

    A key component of the plan is tearing down the 2,600-seat Boettcher Concert Hall to create a new home for Denver School of the Arts, currently located at East Montview Boulevard and Quebec Street. Denver Public Schools Acting Superintendent Susana Cordova hailed the Hancock plan as “revolutionary.” She said moving DSA to the downtown corridor would not only infuse the new Performing Arts Complex with “adolescent energy,” but, being centrally located near many public transportation hubs would solve many existing transportation problems for low-income students who come from all over the city.

    “We are so excited to be a part of all this newness coming here to downtown Denver,” Cordova said. “We know that as the Performing Arts Complex grows, so will grow the opportunities for our students, both on the stage and as supporters of the amazing arts community here in Denver.”

    Read the city’s Executive Summary

    There has been no attempt at attaching a price tag or a timeline to the project yet. And as for how Hancock will pay for it all, he said bluntly, “I don’t know.” He has appointed a funding and governance committee that has been tasked with delivering a financing plan by the end of the year.

    The unveiling event included entertainment from Colorado Ballet, the Colorado Symphony, Denver Brass, Black Actors Guild, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, Opera Colorado, Gift of Jazz, Denver Young Artists Orchestra, students from Denver School of the Arts and former Bobby G Awards winner (for outstanding high-school achievement in musical theatre) Abby Noble.

    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.

    Frequent Flyers. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  A member of the Frequent Flyers performs from a makeshift trapeze outside the Bonfils Theatre Complex at the heart of the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Thursday. Above right: A member of the Colorado Ballet. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    A video prepared by the city's Department of Arts and Venues about its plans for a new Performing Arts Complex.

  • 2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices

    by John Moore | Feb 22, 2016
    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Photos from the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, just click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are downloadable for free by clicking on a photo. You will be taken to the DCPA Flickr account for downloading.


    Many numbers were bandied about at the 11th and largest Colorado New Play Summit, among the most telling: Only 20 percent of all plays produced in this country last year were written by women, and half of all developing new works featured at the DCPA Theatre Company’s signature annual event have returned as fully staged productions.

    But perhaps the most remarkable stat is one that went almost unnoticed. And if it had not occurred to playwright José Cruz González, author of the 2016 Summit offering American Mariachi, it might have gone completely overlooked.

    “I realized that two of the four directors here at the Summit are Latino – and they are both directing non-Latino plays,” González said. “When I reflected on that, I thought, ‘Wow. That’s huge.’ And nothing is being said about it.”

    And the fact that it’s not a big deal “is why it’s a big deal,” said González, whose magical realism piece September Shoes was fully staged by Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson in his first season back in 2005, followed by the comedy Sunsets and Margaritas in 2008.

    “I have to take my hat off to Kent for his commitment to new work and to the different voices that need to be reflected in this country,” González said. “We don’t see that in a whole lot of places yet. I think what he’s doing here is important, and I hope our colleagues around the country will pick up the ball and do what needs to be done. We need variety, and we need to hear those hidden voices. I think that’s what Kent is doing.”

    This 11th Colorado New Play Summit was just the second since expanding to two weeks. Now, four creative teams gather in Denver for a full week of development before a first weekend of public readings. In the past, the playwrights then returned to their elsewhere lives, and that was that. Now, each team takes a breather while the playwrights turn lessons learned into actual new script pages. After a second week of intensive rewriting and rehearsal time, there is another round of weekend readings, with many of the industry’s most prominent national figures in attendance. And that plants seeds for a possible future life for these developing new works.

    Four short videos spotlighting each of the featured plays at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Videos by John Moore and David Lenk.


    “Time really is the key thing for new-play development, and so the luxury of having that second week is huge,” González said. On a very practical level, the extra time helped him to focus on two unsolved issues.

    “One of my major questions coming in was, ‘Is American Mariachi a play with music, or should it just be a full-on musical?’” González said. “Now I’m leaning more and more toward the idea that this is a play with music. Another question I had was about two characters who really don’t ever speak through the course of the play. Having these great actors play those roles has really fleshed out those characters. “

    We asked all four featured playwrights to comment on the Summit’s expanded two-week time frame. Here’s what else they told us:

    • Lauren Gunderson (The Book of Will): “Having two weekends of readings is incredibly valuable. You never know a play until there’s an audience. And we learned so much from our first reading. To then be able to really sink in and do the hard thinking and the collaborative work a new play requires …  that’s really what this process allows for, and I am incredibly grateful for that.”
    • Tira Palmquist (Two Degrees): “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. And you can answer questions you didn’t really get to answer during the first week.” 
    • Mat Smart (Midwinter): “The second week has made all the difference for me. I took a good first step with the play during the first week, but I would say that I really discovered what the play is and who the characters are and what the big moments are just in the past couple of days. So I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have another week to take a crack at it.

    And what of Denver’s growing reputation an incubator of new works for the American theatre?

    • Lauren Gunderson: “Everyone who knows new plays knows about the Colorado New Play Summit now. It’s a place to gather to see new plays. It’s a place for community. It’s a place to just do the work – the real work. Everyone knows about the commitment to new plays here. And I’m excited that the community of people who know it gets bigger every year.”
    • Tira Palmquist: “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.”
    • Mat Smart: “The Denver Center’s national reputation is that it has a great passion for new plays, and an audience for them, and the resources to back them up and support them the way they need to be supported.”

    A Summit 600 2
    The cast of 'American Mariachi' at the closing party for the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Summarizing his Summit experience, González said: “I have to tell you, it is a rare thing in this country when you can feel like this is an artistic home, and you can take chances and create art.”

    Summit QuoteGunderson’s The Book of Will, which explores how Shakespeare’s friends rallied to have his complete works published for the first time following his death, is a commissioned piece through the Denver Center’s Women’s Voices Fund. That is a $1 million fund dedicated to making plays written and directed by women. “Just give women the agency, the encouragement, the support both financial and personal to write more plays,” she said. “Sometimes when you have a problem, you just have to fix it – like they have done here in Denver.”

    More than ever, the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit spotlighted playwrights who are currently working in the Theatre Company’s commissioning pipeline. Commissioned playwrights are those who have been contracted by the company to write a new play, and Thompson then gets first consideration whether to further develop those plays.

    Robert Schenkkan (All the Way, The 12), Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), Regina Taylor (Crowns, Drowning Crow), Rogelio Martinez (When Tang Met Laika), Anne Garcia-Romero (Earthquake ChicaLauren Yee (Ching Chong Chinaman), Eric Schmiedl (Benediction) and Andrew Hinderacker (Colossal) were among those who came to Denver for the full two weeks. In addition to giving the playwrights time to focus on their own developing works, most also participated in panel conversations and other activities.

    Read our Week 1 Summit re-cap

    One event, “Dialogue on Dialogue,” was a panel conversation that explored what makes for a great first scene. But rather than have the playwrights simply read from their own works, host (and Theatre Company Playwright in Residence) Matthew Lopez assigned them roles from both contemporary and classic plays such as The Glass Menagerie. Those in attendance who saw Regina Taylor and Robert Schenkkan read as George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf won’t soon forget it (photo below).

    summit Regina Taytlor Robert Schenkkan


    Kemp Powers, who was attending his first Colorado New Play Summit, said he “was completely humbled” by the experience. He was particularly impressed by the span of industry leaders visiting from theatrical nerve centers such New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and here in Denver.

    “Being a playwright is such a solitary endeavor that it's easy to forget how valuable it is to connect with your peers within the national community,” he said. “Getting some much-needed time to work on my commission was wonderful. Seeing the works of other playwrights at this early stage of development was nothing short of inspirational.”

    Summit Teen playwritingThe Saturday program culminated with a lively presentation of readings by three teenage Colorado writers. The one-acts were chosen from among 212 statewide submissions to DCPA Education’s third annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition. At the Summit, professional and student actors joined forces to read plays by Kendra Knapp of Valor Christian High School, Jessica Wood of Denver Christian High School and Gabrielle Moore of D’Evelyn High School (pictured above).

    The three finalists received mentorship from Rogelio Martinez, Anne Garcia-Gomez and Lauren Yee. Education staff will choose one of their three plays to be fully produced as part of its 2016 summer program.

    "This opportunity was a great help," said Wood. "Maybe we are not all going to be playwrights when we grow up. Maybe we are not even going to write. But this has certainly helped us improve our skills. We understand more about the theatre. We understand more about the massive process that goes into creating a play. And I think we understand a lot more about the power of words.”

    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

    DCPA commissioned playwrights. DCPA commissioned playwrights and staff. Clockwise from left: DCPA CEO Scott Shiller, Andrew Hinderacker, Lauren Yee, Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, Kemp Powers, Robert Schenkkan, Mat Smart, Regina Taylor, Anne Garcia-Romero, DCPA Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez and Rogelio Martinez.
  • DCPA CEO Scott Shiller: Where The Wild Thoughts Are

    by Scott Shiller | Jan 15, 2016
    Scott Shiller Denver Performing Arts Complex


    It’s a little too late to say “Happy New Year,” so I’ll just welcome you to the second half of our 2015-16 theatre season. Although the ball has dropped and we’ve all moved on, every new calendar is like a blank slate. What did I learn from the last year? Can I dream a little bigger this year? These are all probably questions we should ask ourselves more than once a year. But who’s counting?

    Scott Shiller (President and Chief Executive Officer)Our city has been dreaming bigger lately. Recently, Mayor Hancock asked for a pie-in-the-sky vision of what the Denver Performing Arts Complex could be. (Reminder: the City of Denver manages the physical Complex and we, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, present and produce the live theatre within it.) The mayor wanted to look past the current and short-term challenges the Complex faces and just dream. Not to dismiss today’s challenges but to reconsider the Complex’s place in our shared history — and in our shared future.

    So Denver’s Arts & Venues, in partnership with other city agencies and the community, launched a master planning process to generate a vision and plan for the 12-acre campus. Experts in the arts, urban planning and development have been working together ever since to imagine the “Next Stage” for the Complex. See the progress for yourself at artsandvenues.com/nextstage.
     
    Imagine a multi-level parking structure beneath the Complex and the current garage replaced with a completely new music hall. Imagine a School for the Arts on campus, where the next generation of artists and professionals can train and perform. Imagine a renewed galleria lined with stores and restaurants to make it feel as dynamic as any downtown street. Imagine a Bike House. To find out what that is, you’ll have to visit the link above.

    Along with the Mayor and the executive leadership team, I invite you to offer your ideas for the Complex. What’s important to you and your family in a cultural facility? What amenities and/or activities would you enjoy before and after a show? As the theatre organization with a lot riding on the success of the Complex, we have opinions. But you’re the reason we do what we do.

    So go wild and dream a little bigger about what’s all around you. We’re listening.

    Let us know your thoughts by commenting at the bottom of this story.



    About our Guest Columnist:
    Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).


    Previous conversations with Scott Shiller:
    Previously, Scott Shiller posed these questions for NewsCenter readers:

    *Making Cents of Arts Funding:
     "Should the federal government allocate more funding to the National Endowment for the Arts?" To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Declining arts coverage:
    How to respond to declining arts coverage? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Social media in the theatre:
    How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

  • 2015 True West Awards: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin

    by John Moore | Dec 21, 2015

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    ​Today’s recipients:
    Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
    DCPA's Off-Center


    Today’s award presenter: Mare Trevathan
    Local Theater Company Associate Artistic Director


    Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin have all the fun. As curators of the Denver Center's alternative programming series called Off-Center, they get to explore the DCPA’s wild side. And if you were not aware that the DCPA has one of those, then you haven’t yet checked out Off-Center. It’s truth in advertising.

    Every theatre company in America is chasing that elusive “younger audience,” and in May, new CEO Scott Shiller announced he is using a $410,000 grant from the Wallace Foundation to target millennials. Off-Center is a major way to do that. Now in its fifth season, Off-Center creates adventurous theatrical experiences through surprising creative collaborations with a variety of local artists. Off-Center is attempting to make theatre relevant to nontraditional audiences with immersive and entertaining outings that could be described as more “theatrical” than pure “theatre.”

    Halloween was a perfect example. “Carpe Nocte” – Latin for “Seize the Night” – was an intentional mystery outing. Ticket-buyers were told only where and when to report. "Your trials will take you on buses to the uncharted, to domains large and small, through a bedlam of loud music and bright lights," they were teased. And that’s it. Nearly 150 adventure-seekers were taken through an immersive journey in the National Western Complex that culminated in a live concert by the mesmerizing local avant-garde marching band called Itchy-O. It was an evening of pulsating percussion and visual spectacle - with a climactic twist.



    Here are a few more examples of recent or ongoing Off-Center programming:

    • Cult Following: Off-Center’s signature evenings of unrehearsed, unscripted theatre led by four of Denver’s best improv actor/comedians: Jessica Austgen, Sarah Kirwin, Nanna Thompson and Chris Woolf. (Next performances: Feb. 12-13.)
    • Off-Center quoteThe SantaLand Diaries: Off-Center does theatre, too: For the third straight holiday season, David Sedaris’ comic monologue recounting his experiences working as an elf in a Macy’s department store is being offered (through Dec. 27) in The Jones Theatre by Off-Center in collaboration with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company.
    • Perception: This massive interactive theatrical undertaking took audiences though several transformed studios in DCPA Education's Newman Building, led by illusionist Professor Phelyx. "It sent the audience on a journey to gain awareness around perception,” Miller said, using abstract concepts and evocative performance techniques such as trapeze. “It was almost like living in a video game.”
    • Kick-Off Cabaret: Off-Center has a social conscience, too. These evenings celebrate innovative do-gooder entrepreneurs who are using Kickstarter to fund their projects. Off-Center invites selected Kickstarters to strut their stuff and enlist the audience’s financial support.
    • Audio Kicks: Here photography meets audio meets dance: Ten original photographs inspired 10 different audio recordings that became the soundtrack for a live dance performance.
    • Drag Machine: Drag Queen Shirley Delta Blow took the audience on a journey through the history of drag and the gay-rights movement.
    • Lived/Relived: In partnership with local comedians who regularly host a program called The Narrators, three ordinary Denverites are chosen to tell their stories on stage with music, video, puppets and even aerial dance.

    If all that sounds like a ton of fun to put together, it is. But Mare Trevathan, today’s True West Awards Guest Picker, said she thinks Miller and Tarquin's jobs come with significant expectations – and no small pressure.

    “Charlie and Emily bring a sense of innovation and risk to the Denver Center,” said Trevathan, a founding member of Boulder’s LOCAL Theater Company. “But it’s one thing to take on risk and innovation from the periphery. When you do it at the most visible theatre in the region, I think that is real risk.”

    Trevathan is something of a hero to the DCPA Theatre Company. In 2007, she came to the rescue by taking over for an actor who was called away from The Sweetest Swing in Baseball by a family emergency. Trevathan was not an understudy. She took over the actor's two roles on just 24 hours notice, and continued on for the next 12 performances.

    She was excited to be asked by Miller and Tarquin to collaborate on a social experiment last May called Sweat. This was a fully improvised indoor biking adventure led by two performers and a musician who made up songs on the spot to accompany the action - on a tricked-out musical tricycle. BikeDenver provided a free bike valet for everyone who rode to the show – and audiences were the beneficiaries of a bike margarita blender.

    And yet Trevathan, who directed, would be the first to say, with all humility and discretion, “I don’t feel like the project we made was an entire artistic success.”

    And that was OK. Because Off-Center is a testing ground. 

    “Charlie and Emily still applauded the effort and the spirit of invention,” Trevathan said, "and that was really appreciated by all of us. They embrace the recipe that is Off-Center, and they stand by it.”

    So what if Sweat did not hit the absolute center of the bulls-eye? It is called “Off-Center,” after all.

    Miller, also the DCPA's full-time Multimedia Specialist, is a graduate of Colorado Academy who has been working at the DCPA since graduating from Harvard in 2008. Throughout high school, he was a member of the Phamaly family. That is the acclaimed local theatre company that provides performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. Tarquin, from Cazenovia, N.Y., is also the DCPA Theatre Company's Artistic Associate. She attended Point Park University in Pittsburgh and studied Media and Performing Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design.

    For more information on upcoming Off-Center programming, click here.

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



    A scene from Off-Center's Season 5 Launch Party. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.


    Our most recent Off-Center coverage in the DCPA NewsCenter:
    Photos: Off-Center's 2015-16 season launch party
    Meet launch party host Micah White
    Bar Choir brings songs with shameless heart to Off-Center season launch
    Perception promises to bend your mind and move your feet

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS

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

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

    by Scott Shiller | Dec 09, 2015
    Scott Shiller NEA

    Scott Shiller welcomed patrons to the Hard Rock Cafe last month for the DCPA Holiday Cabaret - a night of holiday hits, rock songs and showtunes featuring cast members from  four DCPA productions: Disney’s "The Lion King," "A Christmas Carol," "Murder for Two" and "The SantaLand Diaries."


    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts. Signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson (coincidentally, the central character of our upcoming Theatre Company production of All the Way), the NEA supports the arts in all 50 states through grants and fellowships. Since its inception, the NEA has awarded $5 billion to American creativity. It’s a huge accomplishment that you can celebrate at www.arts.gov/50th. But it’s not nearly enough. 

    Scott ShillerThe NEA’s 2015 budget was $146 million — a mere 0.004 percent of the federal budget. That equates to each American paying 46 cents per year to support the NEA. Contrast that with the metro Denver area, where we’ve been investing in arts, science and culture for more than 27 years, through the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and its one-cent sales tax on every $10 spent in a seven-county region. The SCFD distributes nearly $52 million per year throughout the taxing district.

    This means that just seven counties in a state that barely cracks the nation’s Top 25 by population contribute the equivalent of one-third the amount the federal government allocates to the arts in the entire country. It bears repeating: Seven Colorado counties fund the arts at a third of the strength of a national arts organization. Amazing and enviable. Be sure to show your support of our nationally recognized arts district at www.UnitedForScfd.com.

    So, what can our Congressional representatives learn from the citizens of the Denver metro community? First and foremost, we value arts and culture in ways many other states can’t begin to understand. Colorado ranks No. 1 in per-capita trips to theatres, concert halls and museums. Additionally, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts reports that our cultural sector generates more than $1.85 billion in economic activity, entertains 14.2 million people (of which more than one-third attend for free), employs 10,200 residents and educates 4.25 million students. Truly admirable.

    This is not to say that the NEA has not done wonderful things. To see a great example, watch In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of American Creativity scheduled this January on PBS. Some national funding is better than none, but Colorado has created an arts ecosystem that supports large regional cultural institutions like the DCPA; mid-size arts organizations like the Colorado Ballet and more than 200 small neighborhood art-makers. We have every reason to be proud — and every reason to expect that this level of cultural investment should be the rule, not the exception.

    Imagine what our national arts scene would look like if every major metropolitan area had its own version of the SCFD. What advice would you give to other cities and government officials about the effectiveness of the SCFD? Should funding the arts be left solely to regional districts, or should the federal government allocate more to the NEA to bolster the national arts landscape? Let us know by leaving your comments at the end of this story.

    Talk to us: What are your thoughts on arts funding?
    Let's keep the conversation going. Your feedback is important. Please leave your comments at the end of this story. Follow Scott Shiller on Twitter @ScottShiller and the DCPA @denvercenter.

    About our Guest Columnist:
    Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).


    Previous conversations with Scott Shiller:
    Previously, Scott Shiller posed these questions for NewsCenter readers:

    *Declining arts coverage:
    How to respond to declining arts coverage? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

    *Social media in the theatre:
    How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

  • Video: Mayor, Tiny Tim launch Mile High Holidays 2015

    by NewsCenter Staff | Nov 25, 2015
    The video above shows excerpts from remarks by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller at the 2015 "Denver Mile High Holidays" kickoff event from the stage of the DCPA Theatre Company's "A Christmas Carol."  


    "Denver Mile High Holidays" is an annual statewide effort to encourage visitors and locals alike to fully celebrate the season in and around the metro area. Denver holiday traditions include parades, performing arts, shopping and the largest holiday lights display in Colorado, among other events and activities.

    The kickoff event was held Monday on the set of the DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol, which performs for a 23rd holiday season in the Stage Theatre through Dec. 27.

    "I am so proud of the incredible work that is done on this stage here every single night, but I am even more proud of the more than 1,000 $10 tickets that we have sold to this beautiful production thanks to the Scientic and Cultural Facilities District," DCPA CEO President Scott Shiller said of the low-cost DCPAccess program.

    Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock rubbed elbows with actor Sam Gregory, who is understudying the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and young castmate Augie Reichert, who plays Tiny Tim.

    Click here to go to the 'Mile High Holidays' website

    Mile High Holidays 300"There is no better place to be than right here in the Mile High City during the holidays," said Hancock (pictured at right), who encouraged visitors and residents to not only to attend performances this holiday season but to shop locally "because those resources stay here and allow us to invest in our city."

    He encouraged shoppers to visit the one-of-a-kind galleries and shops that populate Denver's many neighborhoods before listing off nearly shopping district in the metro area from Denver Pavilions to Tennyson Street.    


    The "Mile High Holidays" marketing campaign is sponsored by Visit Denver, the City of Denver and more than two dozen partners including the DCPA. The host of the kickoff event was Jayne Buck, Vice President of Tourism for Visit Denver. Additional remarks were made by:

    Mile High Holidays 600 3 Above: Children at the 2015 "Denver Mile High Holidays" kickoff event join  DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller, back left, and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, back right. Front left is Auggie Reichert, who plays Tiny Tim in the DCPA Theatre Company's "A Christmas Carol." Below, actor Sam Gregory (Scrooge) has some humbuggery fun with Jayne Buck of Visit Denver. Photo by John Moore.   

    Mile High Holidays 600
  • DCPA CEO Scott Shiller: How to respond to declining arts coverage?

    by John Moore | Nov 04, 2015
    DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller, right with his wife, Kerry. Photo by John Moore.
    DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller, right, attended a recent performance of 'Oliver' at Denver School of the Arts with his wife, Kerry. Photo by John Moore.


    The definition of “news” is changing. That’s no secret, right? It used to be the time-honored Fourth Estate, printing and broadcasting the narrative of our collective experience. Now it can be an anonymous tweet, a viral video, a sound bite or a leaked document, all of which have steadily drawn our eyes away from traditional news sources and toward our personal circles of influence. A new study, conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, finds that 42 percent of the U.S. population now say Facebook and Twitter serve as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.

    John MooreOne of the biggest changes in news, especially for theatre, is the decline of dedicated arts coverage from the major print and broadcast sources. As established news organizations have struggled to balance modern profitability with journalistic tradition, they’ve had to make tough choices. I understand that’s not easy, and never will be. But I also don’t like it. We in the arts invest so much in telling stories that reflect the social issues facing our community that it hurts to know that fewer people are hearing about these plays and musicals from mainstream sources. Once we could rely on a minimum of coverage. Now we have to hope for it.

    I’m certainly not blaming the news organizations themselves or the wonderful people who work with us every day to keep us in the news. We have amazing fans in our news partners and appreciate everything they do for us. Truly. This isn’t about blame at all; it’s about behavior. People get their news differently now. So we have to do things differently, too, if we want the same level of attention.

    That’s why, in addition to our ongoing use of Twitter and Facebook, we’ve built our own online NewsCenter at MyDenverCenter.Org with former Denver Post theatre critic John Moore at the helm. (Pictured above right). Every day, we’re publishing theatre news from across the entire state with no agenda other than the news itself. Obviously, we hope it helps promote our work and Colorado’s theatre community as a whole. Eventually, though, we want it to be a resource for anyone interested in arts reporting, in our talented community and in Denver’s unique place in the national arts scene.

    Until then, where do you get your arts and entertainment news? Which matters more to you — a review by an established theatre critic, or a recommendation from a friend or family member?

    Scott Shiller quote

    ​ 
    Talk to us: What are your thoughts on the changing world of arts journalism?
    Let's keep the conversation going. Your feedback is important. Please leave your comments at the end of this story. Follow Scott Shiller on Twitter @ScottShiller and the DCPA @denvercenter

    About our Guest Columnist:
    Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).


    Our previous conversation: Social media in the theatre 

    Previously, Scott Shiller posed this question for NewsCenter readers: How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres? To read his essay - and reader responses, please visit our NewsCenter here

  • Don Seawell: A 'singular vision' to build the DCPA for Denver

    by John Moore | Sep 30, 2015


    A video retrospective on the remarkable life of DCPA founder Donald R. Seawell.

    Complete coverage of the public Seawell celebration


    By John Moore
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Donald R. Seawell had absolutely no fear of dying. He worried about his legacy not one bit.

    “What’s the point of worrying?” he was fond of saying.  “I'll be gone.”

    Seawell died today at age 103. And ironically, perhaps no one in Colorado history leaves behind a greater cultural legacy than the man who didn’t care about his legacy.

    He cared only about what he left behind: The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, today the largest non-profit theatre organization in America, last year attracting more than 800,000 visitors. 

    "Donald Seawell was a visionary whose dreams for the city of Denver, the state of Colorado and indeed the world will outlive generations to come," said DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller. "Mr. Seawell’s reputation as an industry leader inspired the creation of countless other performing arts centers throughout the country. Denver is the No. 1 arts city in the country because of the innovative path Mr. Seawell set us on 43 years ago. We will continue to honor his legacy in all we do."

    Seawell’s multifaceted career spanning more than seven decades included producing more than 65 Broadway plays, debating at Oxford Union against Winston Churchill, conducting World War II counterintelligence, publishing The Denver Post and founding the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 1974. Even after he stepped down as Chairman and CEO in 2006, Seawell continued to come to work in his emeritus position most every weekday until just a few months before his death.

    “The day I retire,” he once said, “is the day they take me out of here in a box."

    Instead, in true Seawell fashion, he was said to be entertaining international guests at his home in the hours before his death.

    Wellington Webb, Denver's mayor from 1991 to 2003, called Seawell "a pioneer with a clear vision and a singular focus on the expansion of the performing arts complex."

    Denver Center Trustee Margot Gilbert Frank called Seawell "a visionary who put Denver on the international map." Fellow Trustee Judi Wolf, who cared for Seawell in his later years, said Seawell will go down as the most important builder of culture in Colorado history, “hands down.”

    Daniel L. Ritchie

    Daniel L. Ritchie, the cable magnate and former University of Denver Chancellor who succeeded Seawell as Denver Center Chairman, said Seawell’s esteemed place in theatre history is most secure.

    "Nobody in the world could have done what he's done,” Ritchie said.

    Governor John Hickenlooper said in a Tweet late Tuesday: "Farewell, Donald Seawell. You were one of a kind. Thank you for all you did for the Denver community. Consider this a standing ovation."

    Donald R. Seawell. Photo by Mark Kiryluk. Seawell has counted among his friends Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Joseph Kennedy, Prince Charles, Noel Coward and a playbill full of star actors, including Tallulah Bankhead, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne and Howard Lindsay.

     In 2002, Queen Elizabeth II conferred upon Seawell the honorary award of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In 2006, the two-time Tony Award winner was given the Theatre Hall of Fame's Founder's Award in New York.

    But his permanent, singular legacy will be the arts complex he built out of a ghostly part of downtown Denver at a time when absolutely no one other than Seawell was calling for it. “But there was a great need for it, because downtown was dying at that time," he said. (Photo credit above: Mark Kiryluk.)

    "There was absolutely no demand for it at the time," said former Denver Center President Lester Ward. "But Don said, 'Denver will never be a great city unless you have a great performing arts complex.' And so he saw to it that Denver got one."

    Seawell set out to create what he called “the finest arts complex in the world.” Today the complex hosts more than 10,500 seats in 10 venues and is home to the Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado, Colorado Symphony, Broadway tours and his own beloved DCPA Theatre Company.

    Seawell's epiphany for creating the arts complex came in 1972, when he stopped at the intersection of 14th and Curtis streets. He looked up at the Auditorium Arena, then an aging eyesore from 1908, surrounded by "a mass of urban decay."

    He pulled an envelope from his coat and sketched a blueprint covering four blocks and 12 acres. Before the day was out, he had secured the approval of not only Mayor Bill McNichols but the Bonfils Foundation board, whose primary asset was control of The Denver Post.

    In 2006, Seawell celebrated his 90th birthday in style - with a black-tie gala in the $16 million ballroom that bears his name. And why not? "By the time you're 90, you've outlived most your enemies," he joked at the time. Seawell was beloved, reviled, respected and feared. And he would be first to admit he acquired -- and outlived  -- many enemies during his colorful and controversial life in the spotlight.

    Since the 1972 death of longtime Denver Post owner Helen G. Bonfils, his client and producing partner, Seawell has both enjoyed profuse praise for founding the center and weathered lingering resentment over his 1986 closing of the theater Bonfils built and ran for 40 years on East Colfax Avenue.

    “Some people perceived him as a little rough along the edges in terms of getting his way," Webb said, "but that charge can be made of all of us who are in positions of authority and have a mission to accomplish.”

    Seawell considered arm-twisting Ritchie into succeeding him as among his top accomplishments. But his greatest, he often said, was being married for 59 years to actress, playwright and poet Eugenia Rawls. He also took great pride in presiding over The Post from 1966-81 and founding the DCPA. He considered his 2002 honor from the queen "the icing on the cake," because "I have had a love affair with England since my misspent youth."

    Donald Seawell with wife Eugenia Rawls.
    Donald Seawell with his wife, Eugenia Rawls.

    Seawell spent a lifetime promoting the cross-pollination of British and American theater. In 1962, he became the first producer to bring the Royal Shakespeare Company to America. He directed the RSC's The Hollow Crown" on Broadway, and two years later, he brought King Lear and The Comedy of Errors to New York to mark the 400th birthday of Shakespeare. He was the first American named to the RSC's board of governors.

    One artistic endeavor ranks above all else: In 2000, Seawell brought the 10-play epic Trojan War cycle Tantalus to Denver at a cost of $8 million. The money came from donors and by reducing the number of plays presented by the Theatre Company that year.

    "It was the largest theater project in the 2,500-year history of the theater," Seawell said. "Nothing has come along like it, and it probably won't ever happen again.

    "It brought more attention to the Denver Center than anything else we have ever done. It brought critics from all over the world. It brought people from more than 40 countries."

    The cost, he said, "was more than repaid in terms of increased donations in the years that followed, as well as national and international recognition."

    Annette Bening

    Artistic Director Gregory Doran called Seawell one of the Royal Shakespeare Company's greatest friends. "​Tantalus was a heroic project that brought together international artists from the U.S., U.K., Japan, Greece and Ireland, and reflects the scale of Donald's vision and his extraordinary passion for theatre and the RSC," he said.

    Former RSC artistic director Adrian Noble called ​Tantalus "an extraordinary, landmark event in world culture that would never have happened without Donald Seawell."

    After RSC founder Peter Hall failed to woo European investors for Tantalus, Seawell not only came forward offering the services of the Denver Center, he insisted that no money from the Denver Center be put at risk.

    "I call him my deus ex-machina," Hall said at the time. "When I had failed to raise the money we needed, Donald came along with that rare mixture of madness and shrewdness which marks all good impresarios and said, 'I'll do it.' He allowed us to dream our dream."

    Prince Charles wrote to Seawell congratulating him on the queen's honor, stating: "Personally, I could not be more grateful, as a very proud president of the Royal Shakespeare Company, for all your support for this wonderful organization. I know the company has always been impressed and delighted by your active involvement with all that they do, most recently by making possible the ​Tantalus project."

    Denver Center Trustee Jim Steinberg praised Seawell as a giant. "He is a wonderful man,” Steinberg said, “and he has devoted everything to building the Denver Center.” Former Denver Center Director of Publications Sylvie Drake added, “He had boldness, and he had vision - no question about it."

    Oscar-winning actor Annette Bening was a member of the Theatre Company's resident acting company in the early days of the Denver Center, a time when regional performing-arts centers were starting up all over the country. "But when all of these other theaters were founded, the government was much more involved in supporting the live theater," Bening said, "and now a lot of those theaters are almost on their own in terms of trying to stay above water and trying to survive. In Denver, it was really the (Bonfils Foundation) endowment that got it on its feet. The fact that someone like Don Seawell was willing to put up the money ... that was an incredible act by a man who has been part of the theater for a long time."

    Seawell was born Aug. 1, 1912, in Jonesboro, N.C., where the young redhead developed a lifelong if inexplicable affinity for frogs. He grew up with no religion to speak of because, he said, "organized religion has been a barrier to progress from the word 'go."'

    He earned his law degree from the University of North Carolina, where in 1932 he saw fellow student Eugenia Rawls walking across the campus.

    "I went up to her and said, 'My name is Don Seawell, and I am going to marry you,' " he said. Nine years later, he did.

    In a 1936 radio debate, Seawell said of Joseph Kennedy, "It takes a thief to catch a thief." Kennedy, then head of the new Securities and Exchange Commission, was listening. He called Seawell and hired him upon graduation as an SEC staff member.

    On April 5, 1941, Seawell married Rawls, whose Broadway career spanned from 1934 (The Children's Hour) to 1976 (Sweet Bird of Youth). She died in Denver on Nov. 8, 2000. Over their 59 years together, Rawls wrote dozens of love poems to Seawell, each beginning with the line, "Over the hills of all the world, I would go with you." They had two children, Brook and Brockman.

    With the outbreak of World War II, Seawell was lent to the War Department to work in counterintelligence for Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower with a combined American and British team working on preparations for the invasion of Normandy.

    After the war, he entered private law practice in New York and became increasingly involved in theater. His career as a Broadway and London producer alongside legendary partner Roger Stevens included milestone productions of Showboat, Our Town and Harvey.

    "Roger and I once tried to count how many shows we had co-produced, and we came up with 65," Seawell said. "But that was after a bottle of champagne, so we may have missed a few and doubled some others."

    Seawell began to represent actors and writers including Bankhead, Coward, Ruth Draper and the famous married couple of Lunt and Fontanne, who often referred to Seawell as "the son they never had." Upon their deaths they left their memorabilia to Seawell, who since has turned it over to the Denver Center.

    Seawell also represented Bonfils, a legendary theater figure and an heiress to the dominant newspaper in Colorado. "Miss Helen" was a tireless philanthropist and theater champion who partnered with Seawell in producing Broadway productions. Back in Denver she built the Bonfils Theatre at East Colfax Avenue and Elizabeth Street in 1953. It was Denver's crown jewel through Bonfils' death in June 1972.

    Bonfils' will, and the ownership of The Post, were involved in a long litigation battle that resulted in Seawell taking control of both. He opened the DCPA in 1974 with money from the Bonfils Foundation, which for years went toward operating The Post and funding Miss Helen's many cultural philanthropic projects.

    Some groused when he built the complex that Seawell was dipping into Bonfils' money to build what was called a monument to himself. The competing Rocky Mountain News led the fight to have him stopped.

    Where all those naysayers today? "They are now supporters," Seawell said.

    Webb's only reservation with Seawell was his inability to keep staging community theater at the Bonfils Theatre. It was closed in 1986, just six months after Seawell renamed it for producer Henry Lowenstein.

    Seawell said the Bonfils was losing $500,000 a year, but many suspected he had come to see Miss Helen's east-side jewel as competition for his downtown Denver Center. Shuttering it was seen by some as a show of disrespect to the woman whose money built both it and the Denver Center.

    Seawell admitted the vision for the Denver Center was solely his own.

    "Helen wanted very much to have a professional theater company at the old place, and I got Tyrone Guthrie to agree to come here as artistic director (in the 1960s)," Seawell said.

    "But he took one look at the old Bonfils Theatre and said it was fit only for Noel Coward drawing-room comedies - and he didn't do those. So we were going to build another theater by the old Bonfils, and we actually acquired land for it. But then Tyrone died before we could do anything."

    Two former DCPA CEOs: Daniel L. Ritchie, left and Donald R. Seawell.
    Two former DCPA CEOs: Daniel L. Ritchie, left and Donald R. Seawell. 


    However, the creation of the Denver Center required the adherence to The Tax Reform Act of 1969, which represented a significant change in the relationship between government and philanthropy. It established that no private foundation could control any corporation, so Seawell drafted the Bonfils Amendment, which provided that if the private foundation is a satellite of a public foundation, it would not have to give up control. Seawell then created the DCPA as a public foundation and designated the Bonfils Foundation as the satellite to act as a permanent endowment for the DCPA.

    The 2,700-seat Boettcher Concert Hall, (the nation's first concert hall in the round) opened first, in 1978. By 1979 the Auditorium Theatre had been renovated. Four new theaters made up the Helen G. Bonfils Theatre Complex. The 2,880-seat Buell Theatre opened in 1991, and the Seawell Ballroom followed in 1998.

    Seawell was particularly proud to have made the Denver Center home to the National Theatre Conservatory, a three-year MFA program that offered full scholarships to masters students from 1984 through 2012, when it was closed for financial reasons.

    Donald R. Seawell with DCPA Trustee Judi Wolf at Hattitude. Photo by John Moore.Seawell oversaw every aspect of the Denver Center’s growth, and perceptions of him gradually changed from "empire maker" to unparalleled visionary. His Denver Center Theater Company, now 37 years old, won a Tony Award as the nation's best in 1998.

    Today, it's is nearly impossible to imagine downtown without the Denver Center.

    "When I proposed an arts complex, people kept telling me of a study that said in 1974 there weren't 3,000 people in Colorado who had ever attended a professional theater production," Seawell said. "Well, millions of those 3,000 people have attended the theater now."

    (Photo above right: Donald R. Seawell with DCPA Trustee Judi Wolf at the 2015 Hattitude, a fundraiser for the DCPA Theatre Company's Women's Voices Fund. Photo by John Moore.)

    As chairman of the Denver Center's board of trustees, Seawell's contract called for him to make just $1 a year, even though he routinely reported to work up to seven days a week. "But somebody has been forgetting to pay me," he joked.

    Seawell became a Colorado resident in 1966, when Bonfils asked him to help her withstand a hostile takeover attempt of The Denver Post by the Newhouse newspaper chain, which owned 15 percent of Post stock. It was a 12-year battle that started in 1960 and did not end until just after her death.

    Bonfils had appointed Seawell as The Post's president and CEO, and later he became publisher.

    "Nothing that I have done in my entire life was more fun than running a newspaper," Seawell said. "I took a great deal of pride in keeping The Denver Post alive as an independent, objective voice - while still making money."

    But by 1980, the economy was sputtering and the paper was teetering on the brink of collapse. Critics accused Seawell of abandoning the paper while preoccupied with building up the Denver Center. With the paper rife for a takeover, Seawell sold The Post to Times Mirror of California for the fire-sale price of $95 million. Proceeds went to the Bonfils Foundation, securing the financial future of the Denver Center.

    Times Mirror was the first out-of-state owner in the then 88-year history of The Post. The paper switched to morning delivery, and circulation soon plunged by 200,000. Though The Post survived, many blamed Seawell for disposing of Miss Helen's treasured newspaper.

    "That criticism hurt Eugenia deeply, but I was never hurt by it because the people who were expressing that opinion never understood it," said Seawell. "I expect to make enemies because The Post was the dominant paper, and you're a target."

    Seawell is survived by his children, Brockman Seawell of New York City and Brook Ashley of Santa Barbara, Calif; granddaughter Brett Wilbur of Carmel, Calif., and three great-grandchildren.

    Of all his memorabilia, he considered his greatest treasures the poems his wife wrote to him.

    "Over the hills of all the world, I would go with you, that we might know each crest. And later on remembering how we stood, hands clasped above the cities and the smallest towns, find that we left our love in space, over the continents and seas, and thus retained our love."

    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.

    Key events in the life of Donald Seawell:

    Aug. 1, 1912: Born in Jonesboro, N.C.

    1932: Earns law degree from the University of North Carolina, where he meets his future wife, actress Eugenia Rawls.

    1940s: During World War II, he works in counterintelligence in preparation for the invasion of France.

    1956: Takes on Denver Post heiress Helen G. Bonfils as a client in New York, where his private practice already represents a stable of legendary actors and producers.

    1962: Becomes the first producer to bring the Royal Shakespeare Company to America. He is later named to the RSC's board of governors.

    1966: Seawell relocates to Colorado to help Bonfils withstand a hostile takeover attempt of The Denver Post.

    1972: Helen Bonfils dies, leaving a will that names Seawell president and chairman of the board of The Post. Within weeks of her death, two private Bonfils foundations run by Seawell are merged to fund the creation of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA).

    1977: Adds publisher to his other titles at The Post.

    1978: The 2,700-seat Boettcher Concert Hall opens at the DCPA at 14th and Curtis streets. The ensuing years witness the renovation of the Auditorium Theatre and construction of the Helen G. Bonfils Theatre Complex and the Buell Theatre.

    1980: Amid criticism that he abandoned his interest in The Post to pour his energies in the DCPA, Seawell sells the financially struggling paper for $95 million to Times Mirror, the first out-of-state owners in the paper's history.

    1986: The Bonfils Memorial Theatre on East Colfax Avenue is renamed for Henry Lowenstein and then abruptly closed by Seawell, who is criticized for closing Bonfils' favorite venue, built in memory of her parents in 1953. He says it is losing too much money.

    1998: The Denver Center Theater Company wins the Tony Award as the nation's best regional theatre

    1998: The $16 million Donald R. Seawell Grand Ballroom, situated atop the Denver Performing Arts Complex, is unveiled.

    2000: Eugenia Rawls, his wife of 59 years, dies.

    2001: Brings the 10-play Trojan War epic Tantalus to Denver.

    2002: On his 90th birthday, Queen Elizabeth II confers upon him the Honorary Award of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

    2015: Died at age 103. 

     

     

  • DCPA CEO Scott Shiller on social media: Sharing is caring

    by John Moore | Sep 20, 2015
    ADD YOUR COMMENT ON THIS TOPIC TO THE END OF THE STORY

    Scott Shiller Selfie

    On my first official day of work for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, I tweeted a selfie with our staff at the end of our company meeting (see for yourself above) For me, it felt natural to record such a big life event and share that moment with others in my extended network. Isn’t that why social media and mobile devices go hand-in-hand? Instant celebration.

    Recently, however, mobile devices and theatre seem to be at odds. A couple of remarkable incidents in New York City — actress Patti LuPone taking a phone out of an audience member’s hands during a performance and, separately, an audience member trying to use a false outlet on set to recharge a phone — have drawn widespread criticism. I’ve seen laments for etiquette, personal stories of bad behavior, name-calling and hand wringing. Following her incident, Patti LuPone herself published “5 Rules for Theater Etiquette” in the Wall Street Journal.

    I believe this is a test. How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres?

    I understand the impulse to record big life events (and smaller ones) in a social way. I also understand why it’s disruptive when the lights are down and the cast and crew are performing their magic. Naturally, our impulse as theatre professionals is to stop it. We’ve worked long and hard hours to bring you into our temporary world; the real one on your screen can wait.

    Or can it? If we believe we’re creating something utterly unique and unforgettable on our stage, is it fair to call it off limits? Isn’t it a natural occasion to capture, record or post about because it is so unique and unforgettable? To be clear: I’m not advocating rude or disruptive behavior. I just wonder if zero tolerance is the only long-term solution to mobile devices. It’s the easiest, certainly. But is it the end of the discussion?

    If we want to welcome all people to the theatre, we have to accept that some might not be familiar with its traditional etiquette. We have to understand that we’re wrestling with technology and behavior that theatre has never seen in its 2,000-year history. We have to honor the joy of instant celebration as well as the art of live performance. So if you see someone crossing the line, please be kind. Remember a time you were unsure of what to wear or how to act. Most important, remember your first show — and how you wanted to share it with everyone you knew.

    Talk to us: What are your thoughts on social media at the theatre?

    Let's keep the conversation going. Please leave your comments at the end of this story. Follow Scott Shiller on Twitter @ScottShiller and the Denver center @denvercenter

    About our Guest Columnist:
    Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).


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

    Previous Guest Columns:
    David Nehls: Live theatre returns to Elitch Gardens after 24 years
    Gillian McNally: Colorado's oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
    Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn't add up
    Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
    Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver
  • DCPA leadership welcomes ushers back for 2015-16

    by John Moore | Aug 25, 2015
    DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller greets volunteers at the 2015 'Usher Kick-Off' at The Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore.DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller greets volunteers at the 2015 "Usher Kick-Off" at The Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore.


    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts held a welcome-back party on Aug. 19 for the more than 215 volunteer ushers who will service an estimated 140,000 audience members at the the Bonfils Theatre Complex during the Theatre Company's 2015-16 season.

    "It is vital that our ushers be well-trained, empowered and appreciated, because they are the face of the DCPA," said Theatre Services Manager Carol Krueger. "Generally, your  first in-person interaction as a DCPA patron is with the usher who greets you when you walk through the door."

    Krueger's volunteer army specifically services DCPA shows held in the Stage, Space, Jones, Ricketson and Garner-Galleria theatres. Because the City of Denver owns the Buell Theatre and Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the ushers at those venues are paid city-and-county employees. Krueger's 215 Theatre Company ushers will log more than 18,000 volunteer hours this coming season, in exchange for goodwill and complimentary tickets to Theatre Company shows.

    "They really do it because there is an inherent value in volunteering," Krueger said. "You are giving back to the community and, at the same time, you are helping arts and education in your community."

    The Aug. 19 "Usher Kick-Off" was an ice-cream social that featured guest speakers including DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller; Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson; and Theatre Company Director of Marketing Brianna Firestone. Shiller told the ushers the story of how he started his career as a volunteer usher at Boston's Colonial Theatre right out of college. Thompson took the ushers through what excites him most about each upcoming title on the Theatre Company schedule. 

    Those who are interested in ushering opportunities at the DCPA are encouraged to click this link for complete eligibility requirements.

    New ushers go through a two-hour orientation where they learn responsibilities and guidelines, tour the facilities and learn about accessibility services and emergency procedures. Each trainee then "shadows" a trained usher for two performances, "and then they are considered full and active ushers," Krueger said.

    Krueger took time at the Aug. 19 gathering to honor the eight ushers who will marking their 20th years of service when the 2015-16 season begins on Sept. 11 with Lookingglass Alice. They are:

    • Claudia Jones
    • David Rochlin
    • Judith Bruner
    • Karen Zeldin
    • Kim Barton
    • Maggie Headrick
    • Sharon Schwarz
    • Sherry Timm
    "We value all of our ushers, and we appreciate all the time and energy that they give," Krueger said.

    CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON VOLUNTEER USHERING

    DCPA Theatre Company's Longest-Serving Ushers:

    • Pat Frederiksen, 26 seasons
    • Carol Sellman, 24 seasons
    • Marty Jewell, 24 seasons
    • Ginny Schireson, 23 seasons
    • Barbara Pohlen, 23 seasons
    • June Clayton, 23 seasons
    • Bonnie Semple, 22 seasons
    • Patty Graner, 22 seasons
    • Mary Mauck, 22 seasons
    • Arlene Flannery, 21 seasons

    Photos from the 2015 "Usher Kick-Off" at The Jones Theatre. Photos by John Moore.
  • Video: 2015 Henry Award Acceptance Speeches

    by John Moore | Jul 28, 2015



    Here are short excerpts from acceptance speeches by recipients of the Colorado Theatre Guild's 2015 Henry Awards. The ceremony was held July 20 at the Arvada Center.

    It was a huge night for the DCPA's Billie McBride, who won three Henry Awards and presented another. She was honored for directing Vintage Theatre's 'Night Mother, which also won Outstanding Production of a Play. And she was named Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play for her work in the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere play, Benediction. "Kent Thompson is a gentle and loving director," she says, "and it's just a beautiful play."

    In accepting the DCPA Theatre Company's Outstanding Season by a Company Award, DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller told those attending the ceremony: "The work that you are creating day in and day out is the envy of the nation. The fact that the NEA has just said that 52 percent of everybody who lives in the state of Colorado comes to attend live theatrical events, compared to 36 or 38 percent everywhere else in the country, is remarkable. And it doesn't happen by accident. It happens because of the incredible storytellers who are here in this room. The DCPA is so honored to be a part of this theatrical community."

    You'll also see Beth Malone accept the Outstanding Actress in a Musical Award for her work in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Colin Hanlon accept The 12's award as Outstanding New Play or Musical. 

    To see performance highlights from the Henry Awards, click here.

    The director of the awards ceremony was Jim Hunt.

    Video by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller accepts the Theatre Company's Henry Award for Outstanding Season. Photo by John Moore.  DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller accepts the Theatre Company's Henry Award for Outstanding Season by a Company. Photo by John Moore. 


    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Henry Awards:
    Colorado Theatre Guild honors DCPA with 11 Henry Awards
    The Henry Awards: The complete list of nominations
    Video: 2015 Henry Award performance highlights
    Videos: Our memorial tributes to departed artists in 2014-15
    Duck and cover: Gloria Shanstrom takes your Henry Awards questions
    Beth Malone, Colin Hanlon will perform at Henry Awards
    Guest essay by Margie Lamb: Something about the Henry Award doesn't add up
  • Photos: Colorado Theatre Guild's 2015 Henry Awards

    by John Moore | Jul 24, 2015
    THE AWARDS CEREMONY:

    Here are our photos from the Colorado Theatre Guild's 2015 Henry Awards ceremony held July 20 at the Arvada Center. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo for free, click on "View original Flickr" image and choose from a variety of download sizes.




    PEOPLE AND FACES:

    Here are our photos of people and faces at the Henry Awards. Photos by Brian Landis Folkins and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo for free, click on "View original Flickr" image and choose from a variety of download sizes.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Henry Awards:
    Colorado Theatre Guild honors DCPA with 11 Henry Awards
    The Henry Awards: The complete list of nominations
    Video: Performances from the 2015 Henry Awards ceremony
    Videos: Our memorial tributes to departed artists in 2014-15
    Duck and cover: Gloria Shanstrom takes your Henry Awards questions
    Beth Malone, Colin Hanlon will perform at Henry Awards
    Guest essay by Margie Lamb: Something about the Henry Award doesn't add up

    They're actors! Haley Johnson and castmate Emma Messenger pretend to fight over the Henry Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama. Photo by John Moore.
    They're actors! Haley Johnson and castmate Emma Messenger pretend to fight over the Henry Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama. They were both nominated for ' 'Night, Mother.' Messenger won. The staging was named Outstanding Play of 2014-15. Photo by John Moore. 
  • Break a Leg video: Cheering on Bobby G Awards winners tonight

    by John Moore | Jun 29, 2015



    Evatt Salinger and Emma Buchanan of Durango High School, who last month were named Outstanding Actor and Actress at the 2015 Bobby G Awards at the Buell Dinger and Brady O'Neill of the Colorado Rockies. åTheatre, have represented Colorado this past weekend at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, which culminate tonight (June 29) with the announcement of national winners - and a performance by all participants on a Broadway stage in New York City.

    The DCPA NewsCenter collected video well-wishes from friends and family in Durango, as well as previous Bobby G Awards representatives, staff from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and even Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger.

    Watch as Salinger and Buchanan (we call them E&E for short) receive encouragement from grandparents, teachers and even DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. 

    Please check back at the DCPA NewsCenter tonight for competition results, which are colloquially known as The Jimmy Awards..

    Peter Salinger wishes his sin well at tonight's Jimmy Awards in New York City. To watch, play the video at the top of this page.

    Peter Salinger wishes his son well at tonight's Jimmy Awards in New York City. To watch, play the video at the top of this page.



    Our 2014-15 Bobby G Awards coverage to date:
    Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High School
    Bobby G Awards winners' daily video blog
    Video: Outstanding Actor Nominee Performances
    Video: Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Video: A look at Durango's Outstanding Musical, Les Misérables
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Video: The 2015 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Andre' Rodriguez's stirring Bobby G Awards speech
    Video: See how we introduced all 30 participating schools
    Video: Page to Stage highlights with Bobby G Awards winners
    Meet your Bobby G Awards nominees, in their own words Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards: Complete list of nominations 
    2015 Bobby G Awards announces list of participating schools
    Annaleigh Ashford raises $735 for new Bobby G Awards memorial fund
    Denver Center establishes Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for The Bobby G Awards


    For more information on the Bobby G Awards, which honor excellence in Colorado high-school theatre, click here.
  • New DCPA CEO's first day is opening night of 'Motown'

    by John Moore | Apr 01, 2015



    Scott Shiller, newly appointed as just the second CEO in Denver Center for the Performing Arts history, had his first day on the job March 31. After a whirlwind day of greetings and meetings, he attended the opening performance  of the national touring production of Motown, the Musical, playing at the Buell Theatre through April 19.

    Shiller talks about his whirlwind day, which included meeting Denver First Lady and accomplished performer Mary Louise Lee, who made her professional stage debut at the Garner Galleria Theatre (then called StageWest) at the DCPA when she was just 18, and Motown star Allison Semmes (Diana Ross). Shiller also will attend the DCPA Theatre Company's One Night in Miami as well as Friday's world premiere of the new rock musical The 12, which imagines what happened to the disciples during the three days following their leader's death. Shiller begins his full-time duties as CEO on May 1.

    For information on any DCPA show, call 303-893-4100.


    Motown the Musical: Ticket information
    Through April 19
    The Buell Theatre
    ASL, Open Caption and Audio Described performance: April 18, 2 p.m.
    Tickets: 303-893.4100 | Click here to order tickets in Denver online
    800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups (10+): 303-446-4829
    Click here to go to the show's official web site

    Previous coverage of the Scott Shiller hiring:
    Scott Shiller has theatre in his bones

    Previous coverage of Motown, The Musical:
    How Berry Gordy turned a slogan into The Supremes
    Official show page
    Video: Montage of scenes


    DCPA CEO Scott Shiller with 'Motown' star Allison Semmes and Denver First Lady (and performer) Mary Louise Lee. Photo by Emily Lozow.
    DCPA CEO Scott Shiller with 'Motown' star Allison Semmes and Denver First Lady (and performer) Mary Louise Lee. Photo by Emily Lozow.
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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.