• Summit Spotlight: Barbara Seyda's collision with voices of the dead

    by John Moore | Feb 23, 2018

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


    In this daily four-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 13 years, 29 plays introduced at the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Today: Barbara Seyda, author of Celia, A Slave.

    By listening to the voices of history, playwright brings the voice of hanged slave to Colorado New Play Summit stage.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Barbara Seyda attended a backyard barbecue in Arizona eight years ago that not only changed the course of her life, it raised the voices of the dead.

    Seyda met a historian and scholar at the University of Arizona named John Wess Grant. “And instead of making cocktail party chatter, he began telling me stories of freed and enslaved women of color from the 19th century — for three hours,” she said. “I went home that night and had a dream, which I think was a subconscious affirmation of the play.”

    A Barbara Seyda Celia 800 Adams Viscom The play is Celia, A Slave, which recalls a 19-year-old African-American slave who was convicted of killing her master in 1855 and hanged. It is one of four featured plays at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit that begins today. It was the first play written by Seyda, who was an Arizona-based writer, editor, photographer and designer until the voices of history spoke to her.

    “I think about that moment a lot because I never studied slave litigation, and I wouldn't have discovered this trial on my own,” she said. “So that was definitely an alchemic moment.” (Rehearsal photo above by Adams VisCom.)

    Seyda does not know why she had that life-changing dream that night. But she accepted the muse freely.

    “I think stories arrive on their own, like love and forgiveness,” she said, “and then we have to be brave and surrender to them. I also think writing is an irrational act. I think a lot of writing comes from the subconscious. It comes from ancestral spirits. It comes from our bodies and the silences that we hold within our families or within our communities and cultures.”

    Seyda pays attention to her dreams. “And that was a significant dream,” she said.

    2018 Summit: Quick look at all four featured plays

    Here's more of our conversation with Seyda:

    Barbara Seyda Quote. Photo by John Moore
    Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    John Moore: What happens in your play?

    Barbara Seyda: My play is based Celia’s trial. It's told from the perspective of 24 characters, so it's kaleidoscopic in structure and fragmented. It deals with systemic racism, slave litigation, rape and the execution of a juvenile.

    John Moore: Tell us about your journey as a playwright.

    Barbara Seyda: I don't have an MFA from Yale in playwriting. I've never studied writing or theater. Celia, A Slave is my debut play. But I've been working backstage for 38 years, so that's been my drama school. I learned about theater working backstage, on the loading docks, in the pipe tunnels, the badly lit stairwells and the dressing rooms. After my dream, I began writing Celia as a screenplay. During that process, I saw Katori Hall's play The Mountaintop, directed by Lou Bellamy (DCPA Theatre Company's Fences) at the Arizona Theatre Company, and it was astounding and inspiring. I went straight home and reframed the play for stage because I was just so invigorated by what Katori Hall did. She took a historical moment — the eve of Martin Luther King's assassination — and created this amazing, expansive, panoramic platform to explore: Two people are meeting at a hotel room: King and Camae, the maid, in a motel room. That’s the entire play. The other play I've always loved is Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith in 1991. She wrote in response to an incident in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where a Hasidic rabbi's motorcade went up on a sidewalk and hit a Haitian boy who died, and riots ensued. And Anna Deavere Smith interviewed all these folks and there are 31 voices in that play. It's a brilliant intersection of journalism and performance and public ritual. And I really studied that piece structurally when I was writing Celia, A Slave.

    John Moore: But Anna Deavere Smith had the benefit of being able to go back and interview the actual participants. You're exploring something happened in 1855. So how did you approach your research when there's nobody to interview?

    Barbara Seyda: I did a lot of archival research. I looked at the actual trial transcripts and court records. I looked at genealogical records and diaries and letters and legal papers. But I was also hearing voices at night. So I kept a notebook by the bed and I recorded the voices. I didn't know who was speaking or in what context. I just listened. I also scheduled interviews with midwives and hog farmers and death-penalty attorneys and the descendants of slaves and the descendants of slave owners, and basically anyone I could find who grew up in Missouri. And along with all of that, I started doing random street interviews with people I didn't know and then braided all of that material into the text.

    John Moore: What was driving you to wrote this story? Was it anger when you heard about what happened to Celia? A need to put this into the historical record?

    Barbara Seyda: It wasn't anger, but anger can be a catalyst and a motivating force. As a journalist, I was always interested in foregrounding the voices of those silenced by the mainstream. So this felt very much a continuation of what I've always done, except that I was doing it for stage instead of for the press.

    John Moore: So what are we actually seeing in your play? Is it a courtroom trial?

    A Barbara Seyda Celia Jacob Gibson. Adams Viscom Barbara Seyda: It's not a courtroom drama. It's a collision of voices of the dead. At one point in my writing I thought, ‘If I could somehow just gather all these characters in a room and interview them, this would make my job a lot easier.’ So I envisioned myself as a journalist interviewing the dead. The play kind of takes you through that process and that journey.

    John Moore: So why is now perhaps the right time for us to be looking back at what happened in 1855 to better understand better what's going on in America in 2018?

    Barbara Seyda: When I initially started working on the play, I asked myself, ‘Who is going to be interested in this obscure female slave trial from 1855 in pre-Civil War Missouri?’ I really didn't know if it would resonate with anyone. But now I think that the racists' consciousness that existed in 1855, and the rape culture that existed then is what created the foundation for American capitalism that continues today. We see it manifesting all the time. We see it manifesting in the White House.

    (Pictured at right: Cast member Jacob Gibson. Photo by John Moore.)

    John Moore: You've already been through the first weekend of the Summit, so can you talk bit about what you learned in the first week and the first public reading?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Barbara Seyda: The first week was amazing and intense and horrifying because I came with an original script and I didn't really know what was going to happen with that. And then (DCPA Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director) Nataki Garrett — my brilliant, genius, iconoclast director — she jackhammered the script, and we blew it up into 20,000 moving pieces. And just last weekend, I wrote six new scenes. So we had the original script, we had these fragments and then we had the new material. So the artistic team started to panic a bit. That’s when I realized that the writer's like a quarterback. You're calling the plays and everyone's looking to you. And the writer doesn't always know the answer. And so I said, ‘Have faith in me and have faith in the play and in this process.’ So we kind of moved through a slot canyon at night and through a 30-mile boulder field, and now we're coming out on the other end of it. And basically, we’ve given birth to a whole new script.

    John Moore: And just to clarify the history of this work: You won the national Yale Drama Prize for this play in 2015. So how is it still considered a new play?

    Celia Erin Willis. Photo by John MooreBarbara Seyda: We had a reading at Lincoln Center in New York, directed by Nigel Smith. And then the Rogue Theater in Tucson opened their season with it in September. But yes, the play continues to go through a transformation — and it's gone through the most radical transformation here in Denver.

    (Pictured at right: Cast member Erin Willis. Photo by John Moore.)

    John Moore: Is that transformation essentially taking a script that was primarily direct address and making it more of a tapestry?

    Barbara Seyda: I think it's becoming more of a tapestry play but I don't know because I don't have a cohesive vision of the new whole yet. I mean, there are sections that feel like stained glass to me. There are sections that feel like broken nails. There are pieces that feel highly orchestrated, tight, and precise. There are other sections that still feel kind of organic. And maybe there are still some potholes.

    John Moore: I know you are right in the middle of it, but how do you feel now that the Colorado New Play Summit exists and that this two-week development process is available to you?

    Barbara Seyda: I am so grateful for this Summit. I mean, it's pretty rigorous and challenging and intense. But because of all that intensity and rigor, something amazing, I think, is going to emerge.

    John Moore: Tell us about this particular collection of actors you’ve been given to work with here in Denver.

    Cajardo LindseyBarbara Seyda: I will just say I would crawl miles on my knees to see these actors perform. They are astounding. I'm humbled by their talent, by their ability, by the gifts that they bring to the table and to the stage. For example, Jingo is the hog farmer who starts the play. And he now has a significantly expanded role in the story that didn't exist before I arrived — and that’s because of the actor who’s playing him, Cajardo Lindsey (pictured right). There's something about him, about his presence, just being able to conjure and express this character. It just seemed to require and demand that I write more for him.

    John Moore: And what about your dramaturg?

    Barbara Seyda: Sydne Mahone is legendary. She has been my friend for 38 years, and a huge inspiration through my whole life. We met at Rutgers and after she graduated, she became the Literary Director and dramaturg at Crossroads Theatre Company in New Jersey, which was one of the pioneering African-American theatre companies in the U.S. She also created the annual Genesis playwriting festival. Folks like George C. Wolfe and Anna Deavere Smith and Suzan-Lori Parks and Robbie McCauley were all unknown until she brought them to Crossroads and produced their work. Then they went to New York and became mega superstars. She also was the editor of Moon Marked and Touched by Sun, which was the first anthology of African-American women playwrights. And so to have Sydne next to me on one side and Nataki on the other? Wow, what a team.

    John Moore: And finally: What do you think Celia would say if she knew this play existed?

    Barbara Seyda: God, what would Celia say? Well, she's finally had the opportunity to tell her own story.

    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.

    Celia Summit. Photo by John Moore
    From left: Cast members Tihun Hann, Celeste M. Cooper and Owen Zitek. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)


    Celia, A Slave: Cast list
    A Nataki Garrett Barbara Seyda 400 2 Adams VisComWritten by Barbara Seyda
    Directed by Nataki Garrett (pictured right)
    Dramaturgy by Sydne Mahone
    Stage Manager: Heidi Echtenkamp
    Stage Management Apprentice: Molly Becerra

    • Jingo: Cajardo Lindsey
    • Ulysses a.k.a. Uncle Pee Wee: donnie l. betts
    • George: Jacob Gibson
    • Justice Abiel Leonard / John Jameson: Gareth Saxe
    • Polly Newsom / Virginia Waynescot: Emily Van Fleet
    • David Newsom / Dr. Hockley Yong / Benjamin Sheets / Felix Bartey: Jake Horowitz
    • Viola / Solace: Nija Okoro
    • William Powell / Judge William Augustus Hall / Higgler: Steven Cole Hughes
    • Mildred Louisa Rollins: Billie McBride
    • Bethena / Euphrates: Jada Dixon
    • Celia: Celeste M. Cooper
    • Vine: Tihun Hann
    • Matt: Owen Zitek
    • Coffee Waynescot: Tristan Champion Regini
    • Aunt Winnie / Stage Directions: Erin Willis

    2018 Colorado New Play Summit: Ticket information
    Friday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 25
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit

    Summit Spotlight: Kemp Powers on a matter that's black and white
    Summit Spotlight: David Jacobi on affluenza, the rich man's plague
    Summit Spotlight, Sigrid Gilmer: 'What makes you laugh will make you cry'
    Summit prep begins at the intersection of Eugene O'Neill and Metallica
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced
    Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 student playwriting finalists

  • Summit prep begins at the intersection of Eugene O'Neill and Metallica

    by John Moore | Feb 13, 2018
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit Photos from the first day of the DCPA Theatre Company's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit, which features readings of new works by Sigrid Gilmer, David Jacobi, Kemp Powers and Barbara Seyda. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of downloadable photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    DCPA's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit is underway as dozens of artists begin work on four new plays 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Preparations for the DCPA Theatre Company's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit officially got underway today with the first gathering of dozens of professional actors, playwrights, directors and other creative artists who will help to develop four promising new plays over the next two weeks.

    They will take on developing works that address systemic racism and hypocrisy in the criminal-justice system, that revisit the Challenger space disaster and an 1855 slave trial. One — no joke — explores the intersection of Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and the heavy-metal band Metallica

    A Summit 400"We're in this rocky time in this country, in our lives and in our history," Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett (pictured right) said at the welcome gathering. "As a nation, we are trying to figure who we are and who we are going to be — and in these moments, I feel like it is so important to listen to playwrights."

    The Colorado New Play Summit, which has one public weekend of readings Feb. 17-18, followed by a second weekend attended mostly industry professionals Feb. 23-25, is the DCPA’s signature festival dedicated to supporting playwrights and developing new work for the American theatre. Garrett made a point of thanking former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson for founding the celebration of playwrights back in 2006. The Summit comes at a time when Denver Center-born new plays are proliferating on national stages like never before. And just yesterday, it was announced that  Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, which was born at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit, will be made into a film starring Jim Parsons.

    Summit PlaywrightsThe 2018 Summit will feature readings of new works by (clockwise from top left) David Jacobi, Kemp Powers, Barbara Seyda and Sigrid Gilmer, alongside world-premiere productions by José Cruz González, Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee.

    The playwrights, some commissioned by the Theatre Company, are given two weeks with professional directors, actors and dramaturgs to workshop their new plays.

    "We get to hear from the mouth and the body and the heart and the soul of these vessels who bring forth their incredible ideas to remind us how much better we can be in the world," Garrett said.

    The pool of more than 35 actors is a mix of familiar names in the Colorado theatre community, returning Denver Center, visiting actors and several who currently performing in Theatre Company world premieres.

    The roster includes Colorado Theatre Guild Lifetime Achievement winner Billie McBride, legendary film and stage director donnie l. betts; Denver Center veterans Steven Cole Hughes, Emily Van Fleet, Gareth Saxe, Erin Willis, Nick LaMedica and Aspen Rader; DPCA Teaching Artists Joelle Montoya, Quinn Marchman and Robert Lee Hardy; and nearly the entire cast of Curious Theatre's current offering of Detroit '67: Jada Dixon, Cajardo Lindsey and Anastasia Davidson. She and Alaina Beth Reel recently appeared in The Catamounts’ You on the Moors Now.

    The Summit casts also include Linden Tailor from the DCPA Theatre Company's The Great Leap; Natalie Camunas from American Mariachi; and Nija Okoro, Grayson DeJesus and Nick Ducassi from Zoey's Perfect Wedding.
     
    Since its founding, the Summit has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit world premieres include Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’ Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    2018 FEATURED NEW-PLAY READINGS:

    2018 New Play Summit 2018 Gilmer Mama Metallica
    By Sigrid Gilmer

    Directed by Jaki Bradley
    Dramaturgy by Ricardo A. Bracho
    Stage Manager: Dana Reiland
    Stage Management Apprentice: Molly Langeberg

    Budding playwright Sterling Milburn has always been overshadowed by her fabulous mother, Louise. Even when she’s holed up in a care facility with Parkinson’s, Louise finds a way to steal the spotlight. But with the overly critical eyes of Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams to fuel her rebellion and the frenetic energy of Metallica to help find her voice, Sterling sets out to write a story that is finally her own. As unfortunate histories mesh with hilarious interludes, Sterling must face the truth: her pain, her joys and her life will forever be shaped by and linked to the woman who raised her. Sigrid Gilmer’s joyfully irreverent black comedy entwines issues of identity with pop-culture icons for a truly unique — and head-banging experience.

    Says the playwright: "The two big influences on my life have been my mom and the heavy-metal band Metallica. My play is about how those two things collide. The play is also a love letter to theatre and the tradition of those big, sweeping autobiographical mid-20th century plays by Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams."

    • Sterling Milburn: Courtney Sauls
    • Louise Bell Milburn: Lee Sherman
    • James Hetfeld: Nick Ducassi
    • Lars Ulrich: Grayson DeJesus
    • Kirk Hammett: Linden Tailor
    • Cliff Burton: Adam Haas Hunter
    • Blue Orchid: Robert Lee Hardy
    • Pink Orchid: Luis Quintero
    • Stage Directions: Aspen Rader

    2018 New Play Summit 2018 David JacobiThe Couches
    By David Jacobi

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    Directed by Caitlin Ryan O’Connell
    Dramaturgy by Doug Langworthy
    Stage Manager: Corin Ferris
    Stage Management Apprentice: Amy LeGore

    Ethan Couch has lived in a bubble of pampered privilege for his entire life, so when he’s convicted of killing four people while driving drunk, he and his mother take $40,000 and flee to a resort in Mexico rather than face the consequences. In this self-imposed state of limbo, Ethan pays hotel clerk Daniel $1,000 to be his friend and help maintain the facade of his prior life. But as the unlikely pair drink, sing, and stumble through the night, delusions of how the world works melt away as quickly as their cash flow. Playwright David Jacobi draws from the infamous real-life 2013 “affluenza” court case to weave a surreal story of personal and legal recklessness.

    Says the playwright: "Ethan Couch came from a rich family and he a had a great lawyer who argued that Ethan was too rich to know right from wrong. I was enraged when he went on the run, but when he was caught, I felt like this was a really interesting idea of late-stage capitalism: These people hiding out in this antiseptic place waiting for justice. And the play devolves into this Lynchian nightmare. ... I think it's funny." 

    • Ethan Couch: Nick LaMedica
    • Tonya Couch: Tasha Lawrence
    • Daniel: Cesar J. Rosado
    • Stage Directions: Alaina Beth Reel



    2018 New Play Summit 2018 Kemp PowersChrista McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue
    By Kemp Powers
    A DCPA Theatre Company Commission

    Directed by Nicholas C. Avila
    Dramaturgy by Jerry Patch
    Stage Manager: Rick Mireles
    Stage Management Apprentice: Mariah Brown

    Even though they share the same DNA, twins Steven and Bernard have lived drastically different lives. The big reason? One is plagued by racism because of his dark skin while the other passes as white. Steven spent his childhood fitting in with fellow classmates and is now a successful attorney. Though he was an extraordinarily bright student who had his eyes on outer space, Bernard’s future is as dismal as the Challenger Space Shuttle that once inspired him. As he prepares for trial and potential jail time, Bernard must face his childhood bully behind the judge’s bench and confront his brother’s advantages. Following his DCPA audience favorite One Night in Miami…, playwright Kemp Powers’ piercing meditation on race and privilege targets the circumstances that can change a child’s destiny.

    Says the playwright: "This really happens through a wonder of genetics where one twin comes out looking completely black and the other comes out looking completely white. And in the days leading up to the Challenger disaster in 1986, these two brothers had a massive falling out. I wanted to explore how family so often manages to let each other down — with a racial context added. When the Challenger exploded, every schoolkid in America was watching live on television because Christa McAuliffe was the first schoolteacher to go into space, and that launch was supposed to symbolize where we were going as a society. Ultimately, this is a play about bullying and the issue of nature vs. nurture."   
    • Bernard “Bear” Gentry: Tobie Windham
    • Steven “Sevvy” Gentry: Allen E. Read
    • Joseph “Joey” Martinelli: Bradley Fleischer
    • Mr. B: Brian Shea
    • Migdalia: Natalie Camunas
    • Rich: Quinn Marchman
    • Summer: Anastasia Davidson
    • Stage Directions: Joelle Montoya


    2018 New Play Summit 2018 Barbara SeydaCelia, A Slave
    By Barbara Seyda

    Directed by Nataki Garrett
    Dramaturgy by Sydne Mahone
    Stage Manager: Heidi Echtenkamp
    Stage Management Apprentice: Molly Becerra

    In 1855, 19-year-old African-American slave Celia was convicted of killing her master and hanged. Her story became known as a notorious failure of justice in American history, but to truly understand its significance, look to the people of Calloway County who experienced it all. Using oral histories and official records as her guide, playwright Barbara Seyda investigates the event with a tapestry of interviews with the dead. This stunningly evocative play illuminates the brutal realities of female slave life in the pre-Civil War South as it resurrects a panorama of real people on stage. The piece won the Yale Drama Series playwriting competition.

    Says the playwright: "One of my structural prototypes was Fires in the Mirror, which was Anna Deavere Smith's response to the Crown Heights riot that took place in Brooklyn in 1991. She does this amazing integration of performance and public ritual and journalism, using the stage as a portal of truth. My themes include systemic racism and slave litigation."

    • Jingo: Cajardo Lindsey
    • Ulysses a.k.a. Uncle Pee Wee: donnie l. betts
    • George : Jacob Gibson
    • Justice Abiel Leonard / John Jameson: Gareth Saxe
    • Polly Newsom / Virginia Waynescot: Emily Van Fleet
    • David Newsom / Dr. Hockley Yong / Benjamin Sheets / Felix Bartey: Jake Horowitz
    • Viola / Solace: Nija Okoro
    • William Powell / Judge William Augustus Hall / Higgler: Steven Cole Hughes
    • Mildred Louisa Rollins: Billie McBride
    • Bethena / Euphrates: Jada Dixon
    • Celia: Celeste M. Cooper
    • Vine: Tihun Hann
    • Matt: Owen Zitek
    • Coffee Waynescot: Tristan Champion Regini
    • Aunt Winnie / Stage Directions: Erin Willis

    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.


    The 13th Annual Colorado New Play Summit

    Launch Weekend: Feb. 17-18
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 23-25
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit
    2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced
    Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 student playwriting finalists


  • 2017 True West Awards: Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Awards The Breakouts  Jeremy Rill Steven J. Burge

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 30: The Breakouts

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill are very different performers. Think Sean Hayes and Frank Sinatra. Burge will shock you into gut-busting laughter, while Rill will make you swoon. If Burge is the flamboyant life of the party, then Rill is more, say … sunset on the beach.

    “If there is a spectrum,” said director and actor Robert Michael Sanders, "those two are on the opposite ends of it.”

    The comedian and the crooner.

    Steven J Burge and Jeremy Rill But these two emerging actors have far more in common than you might think. Both had big-time breakout years on Denver stages in 2017 — and both were separately described as “the nicest guy in Denver theatre” in interviews for this very story.

    Something's gotta give.

    Steven Cole Hughes, Burge’s castmate in the Denver Center’s extended hit comedy An Act of God, goes so far as to declare with dead-on eye contact that “Steven Burge is the nicest guy working in the American theatre today. Period.”

    Even Hughes’ 2-year-old daughter, Birdie, backed her father up.

    “Hey Birdie, who is this?” Hughes said, pointing to a poster for An Act of God. The child’s face immediately lit up. She pointed to a photo of Burge playing no less than God Himself, and she declared enthusiastically: “Steven!”

    “She’s 2,” Hughes reiterated. “Even the 2-year-olds love Steve Burge.”

    That’s high praise (or short praise, come to think of it) for Burge, who has been working his way up to this moment with one joyful performance after another since moving from Iowa in 2003, most often in extroverted comic roles. Highlights have included playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and conquering the epic challenge of playing 40 roles in the one-man comedy Fully Committed. In 2012, Westword’s Juliet Wittman flatly declared, “Steve Burge is one of the funniest actors anywhere.”

    Says his friend and fellow actor Shannan Steele: “I love watching him delight in making others happy.”

    But Burge’s body of work has revealed far greater range and uncommon emotional honesty in stagings such as Dog Sees God at The Avenue Theater (I called him "triumphant" in The Denver Post) and Curious Theatre’s Speech and Debate. No matter how big the character Burge is called upon to play, “you always know there's a real and very interesting person underneath," Wittman wrote.

    (Story continues after the photo.)

    Steven J. Burge United in Love Photo by John Moore
    Steven J. Burge co-hosted the 'United in Love' benefit concert with Eden Lane that raised $40,000 for The Denver Actors Fund.  Photo by John Moore.


    But Burge’s steady career trajectory took a turn for the skyward late last year when he was hired by Director Geoffrey Kent to be the understudy for An Act of God, a pointed social comedy in which God comes down to Earth in human form to set the record straight about the misguided ways in which we sometimes act in God’s name. When Broadway and TV star Wesley Taylor’s contract expired, the Denver Center did not seek out a similarly big-named national replacement. It already had Burge, who smoothly ascended to Almighty status for what turned into an extended run at the Galleria Theatre. The role called on all of Burge’s comic skills, as well as his uncommon gift to make people listen and laugh, even when they might not like what he is telling them. Burge had An Act of God audiences eating out of his holy goblet.

    To say that Burge made an impression in his Denver Center debut would be an understatement.

    “Steven has spot-on comic timing, a fantastic voice and the best rehearsal attitude and esprit de corps I know of,” said Kent. “He improves the quality of everything he touches.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A few months later, Director Ray Roderick punched Burge's ticket for an immediate return trip to the Galleria Theatre in the musical comedy First Date. Gigs at the Galleria are considered jackpot jobs among local actors because they generally come with a minimum six-month contract.

    Burge plays many characters in First Date, most notably the quintessential gay best friend of a young woman who’s just starting to brave the dating pool. The reason Burge succeeds at taking such a stock character and making him meaningfully connect with an audience, says Steele, is his willingness to bring his authentic self to all his roles.

    “The thing you need to know about Steven is that just beneath his hilarious and charming exterior is a beautifully tender, vulnerable, compassionate and generous person,” she said.

    “Steven is the opposite of an old soul. He is brand new to his world ... and his childlike wonder and joy are palpable.”

    800 Red Hot and Cole Cherry Creek Theatre Jeremy Rill Phot by Olga LopezHe’s now being rewarded for paying his many dues, and everyone agrees — it could not be happening to a nicer guy. For years, Burge has been known for saying yes to anyone who asks for his time and talents. This year, he co-hosted a benefit concert at the Lone Tree Arts Center that netted $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund, and Miscast 2017 at the Town Hall Arts Center, which raised $7,000 more. He also has kept the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards buzzing along since 2012 with his unpredictable comic energy as co-host with GerRee Hinshaw.

    "To me, Burge encapsulates the heart and soul of the Denver theatre community,” Kent said. “He volunteers for almost every arts organization I can list. If Denver were to elect a ‘Theatre Ambassador,’ he would have my vote.”

    Also receiving votes for Nicest Guy in Denver Theatre would be Jeremy Rill, an Arkansas native who already was a big deal in the lofty Chicago theatre scene when he moved to Colorado for love. And it didn’t take long for people to notice.

    “It's that voice,” said his frequent director, Kelly Van Oosbree. “The richness and his absolute control of it is remarkable. The first time I heard Jeremy open his mouth, I said, ‘This guy is going to be big.’ You just can’t deny that voice.”

    Coming Sunday: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    The Performance Now Theatre Company in Lakewood was the first Colorado company to catch wise, casting Rill in the regional premiere of Jane Eyre (Edward Rochester), Guys and Dolls (Sky Masterson) and Ragtime (Younger Brother). By then it was becoming pretty obvious to anyone within earshot that Rill was going to be a man in demand this year.

    Jeremy Rill Miscast Photo by John MooreA lot more people know “that voice” after it opened up and sang for the first time on four different metro stages this year. Rill started out playing no less than Cole Porter himself in the Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s Red, Hot and Cole at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, landing quite cozily among a star-filled cast that included Steele alongside local big-shots Seth Dhonau and Lauren Shealy (both now co-starring with Burge in First Date), Damon Guerasio, Stephen Day, Matt LaFontaine, Sharon Kay White and several others.

    Rill then earned karma points for life when he was asked to join the ensemble of the Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar after the actor playing Judas had to leave the show for medical reasons. That set off casting dominoes that ended with Rill stepping onto one of the biggest theatre stages in the state a mere four hours before the first performance in front of an audience.

    There’s a reason Arvada Center director Rod Lansberry turned to Rill, whom he had never before cast, when the chips were down, Van Oosbree said. It’s that Sinatra cool.

    “If someone ever asked me to do something like that, I would have said, ‘No, thanks,’ ” Van Oosbree said. “But Rod knew Jeremy could handle the pressure. And he did.”

    That may be one reason karma has smiled back on Rill, who will return to Performance Now to play Cinderella’s prince in Into the Woods opening Jan. 5 at the Lakewood Cultural Center. He then joins the cast of the Arvada Center’s Sunday in the Park with George — and on the first day of rehearsal this time. Rill will play Louis, fiancé of the model who attracts the eye of an artist based on Georges Seurat.

    Superstar led to the 2017 performance that will put Rill on every director’s radar – and wish list — for years to come. Van Oosbree tapped Rill to head another dauntingly loaded ensemble in Stephen Sondheim’s Company for the Aurora Fox that included Shealy, Heather Lacy, Lindsey Falduto, Carolyn Lohr, Rebekah Ortiz, Heather Doris and many others.

    (Story continues below the video.)


    Video bonus: Jeremy Rill performs 'Everybody's Girl' at Miscast 2017:




    You knew going in that Rill would bring any production of Company to a thunderous finish with his take on the forceful ballad “Being Alive.” But what separates a good Company from a great one is an actor who understands that Bobby’s journey is a serious rumination on the relative pros and cons of choosing a married or solitary life. Rill allowed himself to get fully lost in his journey — which at times meant going inside and checking out from the Aurora Fox audience altogether.

    Turns out, as Van Oosbree plainly puts it: Jeremy Rill is not just another pretty voice.

    “He’s also a really good actor,” she said. “He found the vulnerable in Bobby and the underlying pain that I think sometimes goes missing in other performances. The easy thing would be to make Bobby a fun, jovial bachelor, but that’s just not who this man is. Jeremy was clever and he was sexy and he was charming and he was cynical and he was sad. He was all the things. He just killed it.”

    Wrote Ramsey Scott for the Aurora Sentinel: “Jeremy Rill nails the mix of aloofness and emotional despair that plagues his character throughout the show and matches it with a voice that deserves to be the center of attention.”  Added Wittman for Westword: "Jeremy Rill has a richly melodious and supple voice that’s sheer pleasure to listen to."

    Norell Moore by Jeremy RillAnd Rill’s artistry, by the way, is not limited to the stage. He’s also a disarmingly effective portrait photographer who is known for bringing out an astonishing clarity of character in a single frame. Look no further than his revealing portrait of fellow actor Norrell Moore (right) soon after she started chemotherapy for breast cancer.

    “I mean this as no disrespect to any other photographer,” said Sanders. “But if you put 100 random actor headshots in a pile in front of me, I could easily pick out the ones taken by Jeremy because he has such a distinctive style behind the camera. He just has a way of making actors look their best. Maybe it’s because he’s one of them. But somehow he manages to put a sparkle in the eye of every single person he photographs.”

    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 

    Steven J. Burge: 2017
    • The Almighty in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    • Co-Host, United in Love benefit concert
    • Co-Host, Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards
    • Co-Host, Miscast 2017
    • Multiple roles in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date

    Jeremy Rill: 2017
    • Man 1 (Cole Porter) in Cherry Creek Theatre’s Red, Hot and Cole
    • Ensemble in Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar
    • Aurora Fox’s Company
    • Emile de Becque in Platte Valley Players' South Pacific (concert version)
    • Performed in Miscast 2017 for the Denver Actors Fund

    Steven J Burge GerRee Hinshaw 2017 Henry Awards BLF Photography
    Steven J. Burge and GerRee Hinshaw co-hosting the 2017 Henry Awards. BLF Photography.


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

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

     

  • Guns and broses: Tattoos, video and opening-night 'Macbeth' photos

    by John Moore | Sep 28, 2017
    Macbeth: Opening-night photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

     

    The photos above are from Opening Night of the DCPA Theatre Company's production of Macbeth on Sept. 22. To see more photos in the gallery above, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears.

    The evening marked the official reopening of the renovated Space Theatre and was capped by a party in the Seawell Ballroom. Backstage and party photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Photo-booth photos by Bamboo Booth.

    Making of Macbeth video: Actor Skyler Gallun's tattoo application:


    This short, fun time-lapse video shows DCPA Theatre Company makeup artists Taylor Malott and Robin Appleton applying opening-night tattoos to actor Skyler Gallun, who plays poor Donalbain, the hunted son of murdered King Duncan, in Shakespeare's bloody tragedy.

    Some of the 17 actors are naturally tattooed, but the artists say those who are having theirs applied can have them last anywhere from a day to almost a week. Gallun says he has been having his reapplied about every three days. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Macbeth. Nataki Garrett

    Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett addresses those gathered after the Opening Night performance of 'Macbeth,' with some cast members behind her. Photo by John Moore.


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Video, photos: Your first look at Macbeth
    Perspectives: Macbeth director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Video: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's Macbeth:



    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

  • Video, photos: Your first look at DCPA's 'Macbeth'

    by John Moore | Sep 20, 2017



    Without changing a word of Shakespeare's text, DCPA Theatre Company Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into his raw reimagining of Macbeth, which will mark the grand reopening of the in-the-round Space Theatre. Video above by DCPA
    Video Producer David Lenk. 

    Production photos:

    Macbeth
    To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by Adams VisCom.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Macbeth: Ticket information
    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    DCPA Macbeth. Adams Viscom. Scenie Design by Jason Sherwood.
    DCPA Theatre Company's 'Macbeth.' Scenic Design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams Viscom.

    Macbeth
    : Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage

    Perspectives: Macbeth director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    Making of Macbeth: Backstage photo gallery

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Perspectives: 'Macbeth' director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'

    by John Moore | Sep 19, 2017
    Perspectives Macbeth. Robert O'Hara. Steven Cole Hughes'Perspectives' is a series of free panel discussions held just before the first public performance of each DCPA Theatre Company staging. The 'Macbeth' panel included director Robert O'Hara and actor Steven Cole Hughes, above, as well as actors Alec Hynes and Kim Fischer (pictured below right). The moderator was Literary Director Doug Langworthy. The next 'Perspectives' will be held before the first preview of 'Smart People' at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, in the Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    'The Curse,' the costumes and the king obsessed with witches are all fair game at season's first Perspectives

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Macbeth An audience member before Friday’s first performance of Macbeth wanted to know: Is “The Curse” real?

    He was talking about the most famous – and famously respected – superstition in all of theatre: Say the word "Macbeth" inside a theatre, and you invite disaster. Better to say “The Scottish Play” or “Mackers.” Shakespeare’s play gets its evil reputation in part because of the witches in the story, and of course the legendary tales of misfortune that have been associated with hundreds of Macbeth stagings going back to 1606.

    Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore. Robert O’Hara, who is directing Macbeth for the DCPA Theatre Company, says so far – knock on wood! – there have been no incidents attributable to black magic lurking under the brand-new Space Theatre floorboards. But he said things got super weird before rehearsals even began.

    O'Hara invited the actors playing Macbeth and Lady M (Ariel Shafir and Adam Poss) to his home a few months ago to talk about the play. As they were diving into the play, O’Hara looked outside and noticed an inexplicable pack of wild kittens loitering underneath his tree. He says they didn’t live in the neighborhood, and they all disappeared by the next morning. But that day, Poss’ simple plane trip home from Cincinnati to Chicago ended up taking nearly 24 hours to complete.

    Weird, sisters.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Here are five more things we learned about 'Macbeth at Perspactives:

    Macbeth set design by Jason SherwoodTrue blue: NUMBER 1 Macbeth is O’Hara’s first Shakespeare production as a director. And while he brings a different sensibility to this staging that is evident from costumes to clothing to music to movement, he’s not rewriting a word of Shakespeare’s language. “Nothing you see will defame Shakespeare,” O'Hara said. “I didn't come here to do Shakespeare in order to not do Shakespeare. I am a playwright, too, so if I wanted to do an adaptation of Shakespeare, I would have just written my own play. But at the same time, I don't want the audience to see a museum piece. I want them to see something that shows how elastic Shakespeare is. I am not interested in how Shakespeare is ‘supposed’ to be done. I am interested in how I meet Shakespeare’s language today.”

    (Pictured above and right: A look at the 'Macbeth' set design by Jason Sherwood.)

    NUMBER 2About those costumes: "We don't wear many. You're welcome,” actor Steven Cole Hughes said to laughs. O’Hara said it makes perfect sense for warlocks to live their lives more unencumbered by inhibition (and clothing) than humans. “Our show is essentially warlocks putting on a play, and these warlocks have a different sense of their bodies. They have a different sense of nakedness,” O’Hara said. "But when it comes time for the warlocks to put on Shakespeare’s play, they add some Jacobean clothing. They’re costumes. But underneath, they are still who they are.”

    NUMBER 3 What the Hecate? There is a character in the play who usually gets cut in contemporary stagings. Her name is Hecate, queen of the witches. Hecate says: 'Bring Macbeth to the Pit of Acheron,” and that’s where O’Hara has chosen to set this production. It’s years after the real-life story of Macbeth, the witches are all male warlocks, and they are performing the play as a kind of historical ritual. And here, we will meet Hecate. “Robert did some research that said Hecate is a three-headed witch, so there are three of us actors paying her,” said Hughes. “We had the freedom to create both how we move and talk as a trio. Hecate has a monologue, and we split it up between the three of us." 

    NUMBER 4And as for the music: “It's going to start loud, and get louder,” says Hughes. O’Hara only asks of his audience what he asked of his cast on the first day of rehearsal: "Invest in yes," he said. And if you do, he added, "you will be rewarded at the end.” The play is performed as a ritual not unlike the Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross. And each ritual is accompanied its own music, movement and lighting scheme. These are transitions that act as a bridge between the scenes that Shakespeare wrote, and the hybrid world these warlocks inhabit at the Pit of Acheron.

    NUMBER 5Back to those those witches: Scotland’s King James I – yes, namesake of the King James Bible – was obsessed with the subject of witchcraft. There were 247 witch trials during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and King James, and he was a frequent instigator of them. Belief in witches was common at the time. James, who became the first king of both England and Scotland in 1603, even wrote a book on supernatural creatures and demons. James was also a big fan of live theatre, and he hired Shakespeare to write plays for him. The Bard wrote Macbeth specifically to please King James. In the play, quintessential good-guy Banquo is meant to represent James. And to please His Majesty, Shakespeare inserted more biblical imagery than in any of his other plays.

    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.

    Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore.

    Actors Steven Cole Hughes and Kim Fischer demonstrate some of the choreography in 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore.


    Macbeth: Ticket information
    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • The masculinity of 'Macbeth'

    by John Moore | Sep 05, 2017

    Macbeth. Thaddeus Fitzpatrick. Photo by John Moore.


    'You should be women. And yet your beards forbid me to
    interpret that you are so.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The words above come out the mouth of Banquo, Macbeth’s power-hungry frenemy. And the first time Director Robert O’Hara came across them, they stuck in his head like courage to a sticking post.

    “That line is Banquo telling the witches they don’t look like women because they have beards,” said O’Hara, “And right then I was like, ‘Well maybe they're not women. Maybe they are men'!”

    That inherent gender contradiction fueled O’Hara’s vision for the DCPA Theatre Company’s season-opening production of Macbeth, which promises to confront audiences with a sexy, physical vision of Shakespeare the likes of which they likely have never seen before. 

    “This is a world where you can roll up on some witches, and it doesn’t send you off running for the hills screaming at the top of your lungs?” O’Hara said. “Not only that, but they tell you you’re going to be king, and you just go right off and start killing folks. That, to me, is crazy. The witches don’t tell Macbeth to go kill Duncan. They just tell Macbeth he will be king someday. But he couldn’t wait a few days to start killing? Who knows, Macbeth? Maybe the king will choke to death on a chicken bone or something.” 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    O’Hara is presenting Macbeth just as Shakespeare did — with an all-male cast. Not that anyone will mistake O’Hara’s staging with anything resembling Shakespeare as it was presented in Jacobean times. 

    “The reason Shakespeare did not use women in his plays wasn’t because it was illegal for women to be on stage,” O’Hara said. “He did it because England was a sexist and misogynistic society that devalued the female.” That’s why, O’Hara says, the bloodthirsty Lady Macbeth must be viewed through the male perspective that created her.  

    “Can you imagine what women must have felt hearing about all these stories with female characters that were written and performed by men? The very nature of the Jacobean patriarchal society would color how characters like Lady Macbeth came about and were presented on the stage.” 

    Masculinity pervades Shakespeare’s text without any help from O’Hara. With the exception of the witches, Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff are the only significant female characters in the entire story to begin with. “Lady Macbeth says all this stuff about ‘Unsex me,’ and, ‘If you were a man you’d be more of a man’ by killing the king, as she’s egging her husband on,” O’Hara said.

    (Story continues after the photo.)

    Macbeth Robert O'Hara


    O’Hara was interested by what he calls the locker-room mentality, then and now. “I thought, ‘What happens when a bunch of men get together and decide to present this story?' And so O’Hara’s tale takes place in a world where it is warlocks, not witches, who “double, double, toil and trouble.”  

    In O’Hara’s world, getting together and performing the story of Macbeth as a kind of passion play is a ritual of these warlocks that has gone on for centuries. 

    In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, The Pit of Acheron is a swamp near Macbeth's castle where the witches are ordered to bring Macbeth. In O’Hara’s production, this pit becomes the setting of his entire play.

    “As someone living in New York City, it’s interesting to me that millions of people come to pay their respect to the fallen of 9/11 at the World Trade Center. They have built a performance complex right there, and inevitably there will be performances there that deal with 9/11. And that made me think, ‘What if my production in some odd way was the warlocks paying their respect to the fallen in the Macbeth story, which is a real story that took place hundreds of years before?’

    “These warlocks are forever linked to their ancestors, and not in a good way. They have been blamed for the actions of Macbeth for centuries. So, what if this is them giving those ancient witches a renewed voice, through this ritual?”

    This concept not only gives the audience the opportunity to see women characters played by men just as they were in Shakespeare’s time, but also to consider the inevitable patriarchal consequences. 

    What will an all-male Macbeth do to the story?

    “I hope it will do exactly what it probably did when it was first performed,” O’Hara said. “I hope it gives some insight into the world we are living in today.”


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.
    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Macbeth at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined 'Macbeth'

    by John Moore | Aug 28, 2017

    Rehearsal for Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore. Rehearsal for Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore.


    Robert O'Hara's story is told from the point of view of a warlock coven that gathers to recreate the tale of Macbeth.

    The DCPA Theatre Company has announced the full cast and creative team for Robert O’Hara’s raw and reimagined take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which opens the company's 38th season with an all-male cast on Sept. 22.

    In preparing for the production, the director was struck by Banquo’s line referencing the witches: “You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so.”

    “That inherent contradiction stuck in my head,” O’Hara said. “And right then I was like, ‘Well maybe they're not women. Maybe they are men.’ ” That opened the door for a concept told from the point of view of the supernatural: Specifically, a warlock coven that gathers to recreate the tale of Macbeth.

    “People have asked me, ‘What will an all-male Macbeth do to the story?’” O'Hara said. “I tell them, ‘I hope it will do exactly what Shakespeare’s work should always do – give some insight into the world in which we are living today.’ ”

    Macbeth castFrom left: Colorado natives Skyler Gallun (Donalbain) and Gareth Saxe (Duncan), with Lady M (Adam Poss) and Macbeth (Ariel Shafir).

    The production will feature, in alphabetical order:

    • Rob Fenton (Malcolm/Ensemble)
    • Kim Fischer (Second Warlock/Ensemble)
    • Thaddeus Fitzpatrick (Third Warlock/Ensemble)
    • Keith D. Gallagher (Seyton/Ensemble)
    • Skyler Gallun (Donalbain/Ensemble)
    • Joel Reuben Ganz (Macduff/Ensemble)
    • Joe Goldammer (First Warlock/Ensemble)
    • Steven Cole Hughes (Doctor of the Psychic/Ensemble)
    • Alec Hynes (Banquo/Ensemble)
    • Erik Kochenberger (Hecate Two/Ensemble)
    • Daniel Kyri (Lady Macduff/Ensemble)
    • Jesse Pennington (Rosse/Ensemble)
    • Adam Poss (Lady Macbeth/Ensemble)
    • Gareth Saxe (Duncan/Ensemble)
    • Ariel Shafir (Macbeth/Ensemble)
    • Travis Turner (Lennox/Ensemble)
    • Danny Zuhlke (Fleance/Ensemble)

    Several cast members have appeared in previous DCPA productions or have longstanding Colorado ties. Hughes is a graduate of the Denver Center's masters program and has appeared in 14 Theatre Company productions. Most recently he was seen in DCPA Cabaret's production of An Act of God in the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    Saxe is a graduate of Denver East High School and Colorado College who has appeared in Theatre Company productions of The Homecoming and Heartbreak House. He was most recently seen as Scar in the national touring production of The Lion King. (Watch our video interview here.)

    Gallun is a graduate of Denver's George Washington High School who previously appeared here in Lord of the Flies. Kochenberger is a graduate of East High School in Pueblo. Fitzpatrick was last seen in The Book off Will.   

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The creative team includes:

    • Robert O'Hara (Director)
    • Jason Sherwood (Scenic Designer)
    • Dede M. Ayite (Costume Designer)
    • Alex Jainchill (Lighting Designer)
    • Lindsay Jones (Original Music and Sound Designer)
    • Douglas Langworthy (Dramaturgy)
    • Kathryn G. Maes (vocal and dialect coaching)
    • Kurt Van Raden (Stage Manager)
    • D. Lynn Reiland (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Macbeth also marks the reopening of the newly renovated Space Theatre. The nearly 40-year-old venue has been completely rebuilt to enhance the world-class experience for audiences and artists alike.


    Macbeth
    : Ticket information

    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.
    • Presented bythe DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Macbeth at a time when everything is shifting
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening


    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the first day of rehearsal for Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company, along with behind-the-scenes process shots. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Winning DCPA student playwrights' plays performed

    by John Moore | Jul 13, 2017
    Video above: We talk with the two student playwrights whose works were fully staged by DCPA Education actors on June 11. 



    DCPA Education's fourth annual Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition is a one-act playwriting competition designed for Colorado high schools. Its mission is to help high-school writers find and cultivate their authentic voices.

    Each fall, local playwrights and DCPA Teaching Artists go out into schools statewide, conduct writing workshops and encourage students to submit one-act plays for the competition. This past year, 138 playwriting workshops were held in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state.

    Student playwriting A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly. Ten were named as finalists. Four of those were chosen to be workshopped and have a staged reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit in February. In previous years, one play has then been chosen for a full summer production by DCPA Education’s summer teen company. But this year, competition officials chose to advance two scripts to full stagings. The winning plays were Dear Boy on the Tree, written by Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano of Vista Peak High School (pictured above), and Spilt Lava, written by Ryan McCormick of Fort Collins High School. Each play had two public performances on June 11 in the Conservatory Theatre.

    Video: Our report from the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit

    This video above includes interviews with the playwrights, Director Steven Cole Hughes and student actors Nathaniel Pagibigan, Madeleine Kee and Jacob Maki.

    For information on next year's competition, starting with school workshops in the fall of 2017, go to denvercenter.org/education.

    Video by David Lenk and Avery Anderson for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     


    Photo gallery: 2016-17 Student Playwriting

    2017 Student Playwriting

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable for free and may be used for personal and social purposes with credit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
     

    2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition Sponsors:
    Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 10 of the 2017 semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Authentic voices: 2017 student playwriting winners announced

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2017
    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Two student writers will have their one-act plays
    fully staged in public performances in June.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The mission of DCPA Education’s annual year-long student playwriting competition is to help high-school writers find and cultivate their authentic voices. And this year, for the first time, it has ultimately chosen to celebrate two.

    The winning plays of the fourth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition are Dear Boy on the Tree, written by Jasmin Hernandez Lozano of Vista Peak Preparatory Academy in Aurora, and Spilt Lava, written by Ryan McCormick of Fort Collins High School. Both plays will be given full productions in June, performed by DCPA Education’s summer teen company.

    Teen Playwriting QuoteBoth plays feature young couples exploring connection in unusual places. In Spilt Lava, a boy and girl float across each other on doors in a world where the floor is made of burning lava. Dear Boy on the Tree is a gender-reversed take on Rapunzel, featuring a boy hiding in a tree who is trapped by his fear until a girl named Willow happens along.

    “At the DCPA, we know it is so important to cultivate young playwrights,” said Director of Education Allison Watrous. “That's what this program is all about.”

    Each fall, DCPA Teaching Artists go out into schools statewide, deliver playwriting workshops and encourage students to write and submit one-act plays for the competition. This year, those Teaching Artists went to 46 high schools and delivered 138 workshops for more than 2,800 students. “We really want to encourage teenagers to tell amazing stories and put their plays out in the world,” Watrous said.  

    This year, 132 one-act plays were received and judged blindly. In January, 10 were named as finalists. Of those, four were chosen to have a workshop and staged reading by DCPA actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit in February. The process mirrors exactly what happens to the four new plays featured by the DCPA Theatre Company at each Summit. “It's really the first time these students have an opportunity to hear the play on its feet with a cast of actors,” Watrous said. “That gives the playwright the opportunity to really fine-tune the play as it moves to its next stage of development.”  

    IStudent Playwriting Ryan McCormickn previous years, one play has been ultimately chosen for a full summer production. This year, competition officials chose to advance both Lozano and McCormick’s scripts to full stagings.

    Lozano, a first-generation American whose parents do not speak English, asked her brothers if she was hallucinating when she read the email telling her she had been named a finalist.

    “I started crying right then and there because it was so emotional,” said Lozano. “Then my mom heard me crying and she said, 'What's happening? What's happening?' I explained everything to her in Spanish and then we all started crying, because we're a family of criers.

    Teen Playwriting Jasmin Hernandez LozanoLozano, who wrote her play in English, was born in a neighborhood “where I had a lot of limits,” she said, “so I would never assume I could win something like this. I don't have a family that has won a lot of awards. So winning this is one step toward getting out of that stereotype that Hispanic people can’t achieve as much as other people.”

    McCormick, now a senior, also was a top-10 finalist his sophomore year. He wrote Spilt Lava in part “because there was a girl I was trying to convince to date me, and she was reluctant,” he said. He credits the DCPA and his teachers for giving him the creative confidence to set his unlikely play on a floor of lava.

    “I've been working on it for a while, so it went through different phases,” he said. “As I got to higher English classes in high school, we started learning about postmodernism and the idea that if everyone believes something, then that is its own reality - and the lava floor is a perfect example of that. I wrote a love story where the floor happens to be lava.”

    Student Playwriting Allison WatrousThe winning plays will be performed back-to-back twice at 1:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 16, in the DCPA’s Conservatory Theatre. Admission is free, and the public is welcome. Both will be directed by actor and published playwright Steven Cole Hughes.

    The other finalists were Parker Bennett of Fossil Ridge High School (Counting in Clay and Jessica Wood of Denver Christian School (Chill Winds). Wood is the first student in the competition's history to advance to the Colorado New Play Summit twice.

    “It was such an amazing experience last year to be able to see my play go through the workshop process and then have a staged reading,” said Wood. “I was so excited to come back and to experience that again. Programs like this just don't exist in very many places.”

    The four finalists each received personal mentoring from a professional playwright at the Summit, culminating in public readings that were attended by their families and friends alongside theatre professionals from all around the country. Last year, Wood was mentored by Lauren Yee, whose play Manford at the Line was developed at the 2017 Summit and will be fully staged as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s next mainstage season.

    “It was so amazing to be able to meet with someone who actually makes a living from playwriting,” Wood said of Yee. “Just to hear her say, 'Your play was really good' was an incredible feeling for me.”

    Student Playwriting Allison WatrousMcCormick said advancing as far as the Summit was all he could have hoped for. “To come here and just be able to rub shoulders with professionals and just be a part of this whole Summit has been crazy,” he said.

    In addition, each teacher of the four finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. And as an added bonus, the DCPA will publish all four of the finalists’ plays.

    “We do that so we can continue to create a volume of the plays each year and to really commemorate this work,” Watrous said. “Now these writers are now all published playwrights, which is very exciting.”

    Some of the 132 participating students may become professional playwrights someday. But the greater goal, Watrous said, is to advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication, which are skills that can help them in all aspects of their adult lives.


    Photo gallery: 2016-17 Student Playwriting

    2017 Student Playwriting

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable for free and may be used for personal and social purposes with credit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
     

    2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition Sponsors:
    Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 10 of the 2017 semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School
  • 'An Act of God' extends; Burge ascends to Almighty status

    by John Moore | Jan 24, 2017
    Steven J. Burge An Act of God
    Steven J. Burge in the title role of the hit comedy An Act of God. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Steven J. Burge will assume the role of God in An Act of God starting tonight, and today the Denver Center for the Performing Arts announced that the hit comedy is being extended through April 8 at the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    An Act of God is directed by Geoffrey Kent and also includes Steven Cole Hughes as Michael and Erik Sandvold as Gabriel. Jamie Grayson joins the cast as understudy for God and Michael. 

    A Steven J. BurgeGod takes human form in An Act of God, the acclaimed new play direct from Broadway that opens with the Almighty tackling His greatest challenge yet: The Mile High City. He’s finally arrived to set the record straight about the commandments and other quotes that have been attributed to Him over time ... and He’s not holding back. The script is based on the critically acclaimed book written by God (otherwise known as "The Bible") and transcribed by David Javerbaum, a 13-time Emmy Award-winner for his work as a head writer and executive producer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    The play premiered on Broadway on May 7, 2015, and ran for a limited run with God occupying the body of Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"). The play returned to Broadway June 6, 2016, for another limited engagement starring Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace"). This production in Denver is one of the first regional productions of the hit comedy.

    Since making his Colorado debut in 2003 as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Burge has appeared on stages throughout the Denver metro area including the Denver Center, Curious Theatre, Arvada Center, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret and many others. He is also the co-host of the Colorado Theatre Guild's annual Henry Awards.

    The role of God was was originated by Broadway star Wesley Taylor, whose contract ran through Jan. 22. Burge has been serving as understudy in the roles of God and Michael.

    The Denver creative team includes the DCPA's Lisa M. Orzolek (scenic design), Meghan Anderson Doyle (costume design) and Charles R. MacLeod (lighting design). Making his DCPA Broadway/Cabaret sound design debut is Anson Nicholson.

    Steven J. Burge, Erik Sandvold, Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God. Photo by John Moore.
    From left: Erik Sandvold, Steven J. Burge and Steven Cole Hughes in 'An Act of God.' Photo by John Moore.


    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    An Act of GodThe story: God takes human form in this critically acclaimed new comedy direct from Broadway. He's finally arrived to set the record straight.
    • Through April 8, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets start at $47: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Steven J. Burge is following in God's footsteps
    Meet the cast: Steven J. Burge
    Meet the cast: Erik Sandvold
    Meet the cast: Steven Cole Hughes
    Video, photos: DCPA, Macy's help 'Make-A-Wish' come true
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    A day in the busy life of Director Geoffrey Kent
    Interview: Geoffrey Kent on a laugh-a-minute God
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award
  • Murray Ross: 'He put true beauty and goodness out into this world'

    by John Moore | Jan 03, 2017
    Murray Ross: A retrospective Photo gallery: A retrospective of plays performed at Colorado Springs TheatreWorks under founder Murray Ross. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    'Now all is done, save what shall have no end.'

    By John Moore
    For the DCPA NewsCenter  

    Talking about theatre was Murray Ross’ absolute favorite thing to do.

    I once asked him to describe his directing philosophy in one sentence. His response: “Don’t just do something: Stand there!”  (He was quoting George S. Kaufman, which he could cite as deftly as he could Shakespeare.)

    I asked his advice for an aspiring director. His answer: “Break down the door. You start in the basement shoveling coal if you have to.”

    I asked him to name the single most important personal attribute any good director should have. His answer: Love.

    A Murray Ross 800Murray Ross had an abundance love for theatre. He lived and died believing that there is simply never enough good theater in the world.

    Ross, who started TheatreWorks from nothing on the campus of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in 1975 and built it into a fertile incubator of young hearts and minds over 42 years, died today of complications from chronic lung disease. He was 74. And yet ... he was ageless. 

    “I was never sure how old he was, frankly,” actor Steven Cole Hughes said. “To look at him, one might say he was Doc Brown from Back to the Future. I always thought he was the perfect blend of smart and serious and crazy.”

    (Pictured above and right: Murray Ross and Betty Ross. Photo by John Moore.) 

    Ross was the Pied Piper of Colorado theatre. He drew hundreds of serious theatre students to his program and he took in kids off the street who needed an artistic home. No one was immune from his passionate web. He was just so childlike in the enthusiastic way he talked about theatre,” Hughes said.  

    Ross is believed be one of the three longest-tenured artistic directors in Colorado theatre, behind only Ed Baierlein of Germinal Stage Denver and Anthony J. Garcia of Su Teatro.

    But no one expected Ross to ever retire, much less die. Actor Sammie Joe Kinnett sat by Ross in his hospital bed just a few days before he died preparing for their upcoming production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape.


    Once a bohemian, always a bohemian

    Ross was born Feb. 12, 1942, and grew up in Pasadena, Calif. He was a quintessential, wild-haired hippie from Cal-Berkeley when he came to Colorado Springs in 1975 to teach English. The university was just getting started then, so anyone could pretty much do anything they wanted to in those days. Ross wanted to start a theatre company where university students would work in tandem with the Colorado Springs artistic community at large. TheatreWorks was born.

    Murray Ross Quote. Sammie Joe KinnettRoss and wife Betty produced more than 100 shows together while building TheatreWorks into an essential, $1.7 million annual program that in 2018 is scheduled to move into the state-of-the-art new Ent Center for the Arts. That only happens, says UCCS Associate Professor Kevin Landis, because of Ross. “He had a clarity of vision of what he wanted and how he wanted to do it,” Landis said. “There are few industries that are as indebted to a single person as theatre in Colorado Springs is indebted to Murray Ross.”

    Ross “made a successful little theatre in the most improbable of places while creating the most improbable of work,” added Drew Martorella, Executive Director of UCCS Presents. “There was never a more potent and dedicated and exacting artist who was always trying to achieve great work in the community where he lived.”  

    Ross’ first love was Shakespeare, followed closely by Chekhov, Ibsen and a host of other literary suitors. But Ross also adored “devised theatre” – original and often challenging work created by an ensemble through collaboration.

    A Murray Ross 600Ross caused tremors that were felt all the way to Greeley when he wrote and staged Dar al-Harb, a play that imagines the six months Egyptian revolutionary Sayyid Qutb spent studying at the University of Northern Colorado as a young man in 1949. Qutb is considered the founder of modern Islamic radicalism. Ross won a 2014 True West Award for Ludlow 1914, developed by his students in partnership with Denver’s LIDA Project. It explored the massacre that took place about 100 miles south of Colorado Springs when the National Guard opened fire on striking miners.

    But Ross never strayed far from his first love. One of Colorado Springs’ great summer traditions is TheatreWorks’ annual Shakespeare offering in a tent on Rock Ledge Ranch near the base of Garden of the Gods.


    Quotable, loquacious, talkative and eloquent

    Murray Ross was a teaser. He was opinionated. And he didn’t pull any punches. His idea of a compliment was to say to you, “You can do better.” But at least he’d call you sweetheart.

    “He could be blunt,” Kinnett said. “But he was blunt to the point of hystericalness.”

    Murray Ross was funny. Case in point: Ross was invited to be part of an expert panel to evaluate the 2011 movie Anonymous, which makes the case that not only did Shakespeare not write one word that has been attributed to him, he’s also a fraud, a drunk, an extortionist, a blackmailer — and quite probably the murderer of his contemporary, Christopher Marlowe.

     “It’s kind of entertaining rubbish,” Ross said after screening the film. “If I worked hard enough at it, I could probably make the case that Shakespeare was actually written by a cross-dressing Peruvian dwarf.”

    Ross was a voracious blogger who loved to spar with critics, audiences and students alike about all things Shakespeare. But little got his dander up like the modern trend of updating Shakespeare’s words into a more contemporary idiom. Or as he put it, “dumbing it down to a bubble-gum wrapper.” It's all wrong, he said. “That actually erases the Shakespeare experience, cutting to the chase and removing the organism. Shakespeare should explode in your brain.”

    And for generations, Ross exploded Shakespeare into thousands of brains.

    Read Murray Ross' theatre blog

    He is also is responsible for launching dozens of Colorado Springs actors including Kinnett, Jane Fromme and Benjamin Bonenfant. And Ross created a huge pipeline that brought Denver-based actors and directors to Colorado Springs including Billie McBride, Jessica Austgen, Geoffrey Kent, Leslie O’Carroll, Josh Robinson, Laurence Curry, Steven Cole Hughes, Jamie Ann Romero, Mare Trevathan, Shannan Steele, Kyle Steffen and Regina Fernandez.

    When Ross met Kinnett, he didn’t see a teenage community-college dropout. He saw his next Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He saw his future co-writer on an original play called I Am Nikola Tesla. “He was able to see when there was something special in someone,” said Kinnett, "and he was able to bring it out in them just by sheer belief.”

    To Kinnett, Ross was his teacher. His mentor. His friend. And much more than that.

    “Until recently, I had not really understood the powerful relationship that can happen between a student and a teacher,” Kinnett said. “I didn’t grow up knowing my father, and in many ways Murray was a father to me.”

    Ross was hospitalized with pancreatitis shortly before Christmas. Just yesterday, he told his son, Orion, "I lived 20 years longer than Shakespeare and directed more plays."

    On the day he died, Ross was scheduled to leave on his favorite annual excursion: TheatreWorks’ London Theatre Tour. For years, Ross has led a group of theatrelovers to the banks of the Thames. On the docket this year is seeing the great Mark Rylance in a new play he co-authored called Nice Fish, George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan with Gemma Arterton, and Matthew Bourne’s new version of The Red Shoes, for starters. The real fun for Ross is always leading the morning-after conversations at breakfast. Over the years, Ross has somehow cajoled the likes of Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, Janet McTeer and even Rylance himself into joining them for oatcakes and sausages.

    Martorella honored Ross’ memory this afternoon by boarding a plane for London with this year’s tour group, just a few hours after Ross died. “Murray was in every sense of the word my best friend," he said. “He was an artist of the highest regard, an extraordinary academic and a bold leader in the arts. In his 42 years at UCCS, he made wonderful and seemingly impossible things happen — he built a professional theatre company, he produced classic and contemporary plays in classrooms, buses, warehouses, basements and, of course, the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, and he put true beauty and goodness out into this world.”

    Survivors include his wife, Betty, his sisters Susanna, Christina and Kit, and his sons Felix, James, Orion and Matthew.

    A memorial service is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater on the campus of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Murray Ross/At a glance

    • Born Feb. 12, 1942
    • Graduated from Williams College (Williamstown, Mass.) and earned his masters degree from the University of California-Berkeley
    • Served in the National Guard from 1963-69
    • TheatreWorks Artistic Director since 1986
    • Teaches theatre history and directing at Universty of Colorado-Colorado Springs
    • Original stage plays include Monkey Business, The Last Night of Don Juan, The Lady of the Camellias, Dar-al-Harb and I Am Nikola Tesla
    • Stage adaptations include Huckleberry Finn, The Odyssey, Plato's Symposium, Treasure Island, Venus and Adonis and several versions of A Christmas Carol
    • Directed original theatre projects (Peer Gynt, The Tempest, The Bourgeois Gentleman) with orchestras in Colorado Springs, New York, San Antonio, Phoenix and Cincinnati.


  • 'Messiah of movement' Bob Davidson passes away

    by John Moore | Dec 22, 2016

    Above: A video close-up at Bob Davidson's work with the National Theatre Conservatory.

    Though he grew up in rural Minnesota, renowned dancer and movement coach Bob Davidson lived a life of adventure Hemingway would have envied. Just last summer, he was training a group of European movement teachers in Istanbul “when we were rudely interrupted by a coup,” he said with typical panache.

    Bob Davidson Quote His global world view was shaped early in his life. He toured Central and South America with his college a cappella choir, followed by a summer studying indigenous music and dance in rural Uganda and Uzbekistan. He later received his advanced degree from the University of Washington in Ethnomusicology, the study of non-Western cultures.

    Davidson was found dead at his home earlier today, his family confirmed. He was 70. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

    Davidson was a teacher to the core. He started teaching Sunday school at the tender age of 13 and took charge of his church choir at 15. But if anything, he was a messiah for movement. Davidson fundamentally believed that the way we think and move influences what we say and do.

    Davidson was born July 20, 1946. He joined the Denver Center’s former National Theatre Conservatory faculty as Head of Movement in 1997 through its closure in 2012 and was largely responsible for the DCPA’s reputation as the national leader in teaching students how to incorporate the art of trapeze into theatrical productions. The NTC was the only graduate school in the country where studying trapeze for three years was not only an option, but a requirement.

    “He could help turn an MFA actor into a cowboy from Texas, and then into a 17th century aristocrat,” DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson told The Denver Post. “A lot of people don’t fully understand that isn’t simply clothing or dialect, but a physical process.”

    Davidson celebration
    To RSVP your attendance at Bob Davidson's life celebration on April 9, click here.


    His influence on the NTC's students was profound. A group of alumni led by Steven Cole Hughes (currently appearing in the DCPA's An Act of God), John Behlman and Eileen Little created a trapeze-based theatre company in New York called Fight or Flight, comprised almost entirely of NTC graduates. The troupe produces original works and aerial adaptations of classic stories.

    Davidson "changed a lot of tangible things about my life," Behlman wrote in tribute. "He's the reason I was ever introduced to the trapeze, and the source of a lot of joy and strange stories in my life. The world is significantly less interesting without Bob."

    Matt Zambrano, a member of the final graduating NTC class, called Davidson a brilliant teacher and student. "He was the man who taught me to fly, how to hold my head high with invisible strings and how to appreciate the space between things," Zambrano said.

    Bob Davidson. Photo courtesy DCPA EducationDavidson has collaborated with many directors on productions of Ibsen, Chekhov, Brecht and Shakespeare. He frequently choreographed productions for the DCPA Theatre Company, most recently a fully immersive movement adventure called Perception, which played out simultaneously as the audience toured several DCPA Education studios. The show was described as “a walk through a mind-bending, fantastical excursion where nothing is what it seems, and where every twist of your journey toys with your senses.”

    Read our recent faculty spotlight on Bob Davidson

    Davidson began exploring aerial dance on the triangular low-flying trapeze in 1986 and established his own aerial dance company in 1988. His epic, signature works were considered to be Rapture: Rumi and Airborne: Meister Eckhart, which have toured throughout the U.S., Europe and the former Soviet Union. He also choreographed successful aerial versions of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for Seattle’s Intiman Theatre as well as Portland Center Stage.

    (Story continues below)

    Video bonus: Masters students fly to poetry of Byron:

    Video highlights from the National Theatre Conservatory class of 2011's movement project inspired by the poetry of Lord Byron. Performed April 23, 2009.


    He was still teaching public classes as a faculty member for DCPA Education as recently as November. Asked what makes him a good teacher in a recent interview with the DCPA NewsCenter, he said, “Possibly because my education was so multi-disciplinary. And possibly because I’ve been doing it for almost 60 years!”

    Bob Davidson. Perception. Photo by Adams VisCom. DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous is a graduate of the NTC, and she considered being trained by Davidson on the trapeze to be an esteemed pleasure.

    “After my first year of graduate school at the NTC, everyone told me, ‘You seem taller’ - and it was true,” she said. “My already tall self had grown an inch because of trapeze and movement work with Bob. But I not only grew taller physically, I grew in artistry, passion, presence, creativity and love of the world because I met him.” 

    Davidson took particular pride in becoming certified in teaching the Skinner Releasing Technique way back in 1969, “making me the oldest living certified teacher of this technique in the world,” he said. SRT, he explained, “is a form of kinesthetic training that is essentially non-intellectual, yet image-oriented. So when SRT precedes an actor’s monologue work, the monologues generally improve greatly. It seems less strain, fear and ego are involved in the presentation — and more clarity, dynamics and confidence are the result.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Davidson remained founder Joan Skinner’s primary assistant at the University of Washington throughout the 1970s, becoming the director of the Skinner Releasing School in the 1974. He was a leading dancer in her American Contemporary Dance Company as well as the Music and Dance Ensemble.

    Bob Davidson. 1Davidson trained more than 65 teachers to be certified in SRT all over the world. “I am so passionate about it, I sometimes do it for free,” he said, “and it is a rigorous, challenging, sometimes painful 12-week commitment.”

    Watrous called Davidson "an extraordinary teacher who had a superpower to help actors find the power of connecting to their bodies,” she said. "He inspired so many artists and actors to carve space and take on the world - and he will forever inspire me.”

    Davidson is survived by his sister, Peggy Nield.

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


    Photo gallery: Off-Center's Perception in 2015:

    PERCEPTION- Off-Center at the JonesPhotos from 'Perception,' choreographed by Bob Davidson for the DCPA's Off-Center. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Adams VisCom.

    Additional testimonials

    Steve Jones, NTC, DCPA Theatre Company's 'As You Like It': "Bob taught me how to lift my skull to the heavens, plunge my feet down to the core of the Earth and how to fly with all of my heart."

    Geoffrey Kent, DCPA Fight Director: "If anyone deserves flights of angels, it's Bob."

    Alaina Beth Reel, student: "This man unleashed something in me, and made me surprised by how my own body could move. He was an incredible teacher I was lucky to have met and to have practiced under. Bob, thank you for all the lessons I practice daily and long to share with others. The Denver theatre community has another dark hole in its heart today."

    Curtiss Johns, student: Bob, you changed my life. You changed the way I looked at art and for that I am grateful. You changed the way I thought about theater and for that I am grateful. But most of all, you changed the way I move though this world and for that sir, I am forever in your debt. I, like so many of us who danced the dance of gossamer threads, will miss you terribly. But we will have you and the gifts you gave us in our bodies, minds and souls."

    Susanna Florence Risser, student: "This wild, mild, giant of a man shaped my artistic life as deeply as anyone I've known."

    Linnea Scott, student: Bob's spirit, grace, and suppleness are qualities that cannot be easily forgotten. His teachings were such a special gift, and I am so immensely grateful to have come in contact with his wisdom at such a young age.

    A Bob Davidson 800 1
    Photo below courtesy of DCPA Education.
  • Meet the cast: Steven Cole Hughes of 'An Act of God'

    by John Moore | Oct 31, 2016

    Steven Cole Hughes, left, with Wesley Taylor in 'An Act of God.' Photo by Adams VisCom.


    MEET STEVEN COLE HUGHES

    The archangel Michael in An Act of God

    Steven Cole Hughes QuoteSteven Cole Hughes is a playwright, actor, director and educator. He has spent 11 seasons as an actor with the DCPA Theatre Company, with credits including Just Like Us, All My Sons, Blue/Orange, The Lonesome West, The Three Sisters, The Misanthrope, Hamlet and Tantalus. He has spent six seasons with Creede Repertory Theatre and three seasons with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He teaches playwriting for DCPA Education, and is a Resident Playwright at Creede Rep. His full-length plays include The Bad Man, Billy Hell (Denver Post Ovation Award for Best New Work), Slabtown, cowboyily, Arabia, Battleground State, Dogs by Seven, and Poor Devils.  Productions and commissions have come from Bloomington Playwrights Project, The Coterie Theatre, Curious Theatre Company, DCPA Theatre Company and the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. He is the co-artistic director of Fight or Flight, a New York City-based theatre company for whom he has adapted and directed Shakespeare’s Richard II and Henry V, and Melville’s Moby Dick. He won the 2011 Denver Post Ovation Award for Special Achievement for his trilogy of plays The Billy Trilogy.

    • Twitter-sized bio: I’m a new father and an actor. In that order.
    • Hometown: Born in Syracuse (New York), grew up in Indiana, lived in Chicago and New York City, but Denver is my hometown now. 
    • Training: I have a B.A. in Theatre from Indiana University, and I am a proud graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory
    • What was the role that changed your life? When I was younger and living in Chicago, I was in one of my favorite plays by one of my favorite playwrights – A Lie of the Mind by Sam Shepard – and I realized that I wasn’t very good. That’s when I decided to come to Denver to go to grad school.
    • Steven Cole Hughes. Teen playwriting. Photo by John Moore. Why are you an actor? I hated running, so professional soccer player wasn’t going to happen.
    • Ideal scene partner: First choice is Meryl Streep, always. Second choice is David Tennant. (The nerds know what I’m talkin’ about!)
    • Why does An Act of God matter? This play does what good theatre should: It delivers a serious message while still being super funny and entertaining.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of seeing it? I hope they laugh - a lot - but also listen to what is being said.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "...Heather and Birdie (my wife and daughter)."
    (Pictured above right: Steven Cole Hughes has been involved in DCPA's year-round teen playwriting program for the past three years. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Steven Cole Hughes. The Lying Kind. TheatreWorks
    Steven Cole Hughes appeared with Sammie Joe Kinnett in 'The Lying Kind,' also directed by Geoffrey Kent, for Colorado Springs TheatreWorks in 2014.

    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    • The story: God takes human form in this critically acclaimed new comedy direct from Broadway. He's finally arrived to set the record straight.
    • Through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Wesley Taylor, An Act of God
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    A day in the busy life of Director Geoffrey Kent
    Interview: Geoffrey Kent on a laugh-a-minute God
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award

    More 2016-17 DCPA Theatre Company 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grindei, Frankenstein
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein and Siren Song http://dcpa.today/4bn1Sq
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
  • DCPA announces casting for 'An Act of God'

    by John Moore | Aug 15, 2016

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has announced that Broadway's Wesley Taylor, star and fan favorite in the NBC TV show Smash, will play God in the new comedy An Act of God making its Denver debut at the Garner Galleria Theatre starting Oct. 15.

    The King of the Universe is tackling His greatest challenge yet: the Mile High City. God takes the form of Wesley Taylor in An Act of God, a 90-minute comedy where the Almighty and His devoted Angels answer some of the deepest questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. He’s finally arrived to set the record straight … and He’s not holding back!

    Act of God 600Directed by Geoffrey Kent, An Act of God also includes Steven Cole Hughes as Michael and Erik Sandvold as Gabriel with Steven J. Burge (understudy God/Michael). The entire cast and director make their DCPA Broadway/Cabaret debut with An Act of God.

    An Act of God creative team features DCPA Broadway/Cabaret veterans, Lisa M. Orzolek (scenic design), Meghan Anderson Doyle (costume design) and Charles R. MacLeod (lighting design). Making his DCPA Broadway/Cabaret sound design debut is Anson Nicholson.

    An Act of God is based on the critically acclaimed book written by God and transcribed by David Javerbaum. Javerbaum is a 13-time Emmy Award® winner for his work as a head writer and executive producer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    The play premiered on Broadway on May 7, 2015 and ran in an acclaimed, limited run through Aug. 2, 2015, starring God in the body of Jim Parsons. It was the first Broadway production of the 2015-16 season to recoup its initial investment. The play is currently playing a return engagement on Broadway starring Sean Hayes. This production in Denver is one of the first regional productions of the hit comedy.

    Tickets start at $35 and are on sale now at denvercenter.org. Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – and denvercenter.org – is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of An Act of God.


    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    • Oct. 15 through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    BIOGRAPHIES

    WESLEY TAYLOR (God) most recently starred as 'the Emcee' in Signature Theatre's acclaimed production of Cabaret. On Broadway, he created the roles of "Lucas Beineke" in the original cast of The Addams Family and "Franz" in the original company of Rock of Ages, which garnered him a Theatre World Award (Outstanding Broadway Debut) and an Outer Critics Circle Nomination (Best Featured Actor). He has performed internationally and all over the United States, with extensive credits in Off-Broadway and Regional theatre. On Television, he's been seen on "The Good Wife" (CBS), "Looking" (HBO), "The Tomorrow People" (CW), "One Life to Live" (ABC), "The Tony Awards" (CBS) and 26 episodes as 'Bobby' on "Smash" (NBC). 

    As a writer, Taylor has created countless sketch comedy for the web (including the YouTube series, "Billy Green") and is the Co-creator/Writer/Star of "It Could Be Worse," which was sold to Participant Media and acquired by Hulu (and is now available on Vimeo on Demand). After his play "Cuckold" became runner-up in Manhattan Repertory Theatre's one act competition, The Actor's Fund produced a sold-out evening of six of his short plays last October, featuring Stockard Channing, Nathan Lane, and Debra Messing. In November of 2016, they will produce seven new shorts by Taylor. Anonymous Content is developing his series "Basics" for digital platforms. Twitter: @WesTayTay IG: @sirwestaytay

    GEOFFREY KENT (Director) is an actor, director and fight director based out of Denver Colorado. Recent directing work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, 39 Steps, Grapes of Wrath, The Lying Kind and You Can’t Take it With You for Theatreworks, Metamorphoses and She Kills Monsters for the Aurora Fox. Geoffrey has worked as the resident fight director for CSF and the DCPA for 15 years and stages action across the U.S., including the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. As an actor Geoffrey has appeared with the DCPA Theatre Company (Hamlet, Richard III, Othello, Eventide, Superior Donuts), CSF (Mercutio, Iago, Benedick, Achilles) and numerous professional Colorado theatres. He teaches for the University of Denver and is a former instructor for the National Theatre Conservatory. 

    GOD (Playwright) is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. His previous novels, The Old Testament, The New Testament, and The Koran, have sold an impressive five billion copies, with the first two in particular coming to be collectively regarded as something of a bible of their field. An Act Of God will be his first work written directly for the stage, although his 1827 comic romp The Book of Mormon was recently adapted into a successful Broadway musical. God lives in heaven with his wife, Ruth, and their children, Zach, Jesus, and Kathy.

    DAVID JAVERBAUM (Playwright) is a 13-time Emmy-winning former head writer and executive producer of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” He is the co-author of that show’s bestsellers America: The Book and Earth: The Book, and the sole author of An Act of God: A Memoir and What to Expect When You’re Expected: A Fetus’s Guide to the First Three Trimesters. His recently retired Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod has more than 2.3 million followers. He is also a Tony-nominated lyricist whose collaborations with songwriter Adam Schlesinger include the Broadway musical Cry-Baby, the Grammy-winning songs for Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special The Greatest Gift of All and Neil Patrick Harris’ opening number for the 2011 Tony Awards, “Broadway Is Not Just for Gays Anymore.” He created the talk show “No, You Shut Up!” with Henson Studios for Fusion. He served as a writer-producer for “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” writing the opening to this year’s Tony’s. He is the co-creator with Chuck Lorre of “Disjointed,” an upcoming pot-themed television show for Netflix.

    STEVEN COLE HUGHES (Michael/understudy Gabriel) has spent eleven seasons as an actor with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company, appearing in Just Like Us, Pride and Prejudice, All My Sons, Blue/Orange, The Lonesome West, The Three Sisters, The Misanthrope, Scapin, Measure for Measure, Love’s Labor’s Lost, Hamlet and Tantalus. He has spent six seasons with Creede Repertory Theatre and three seasons with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Other theatres include Curious Theatre Company, Arvada Center, Theatreworks, Theatre Aspen, Gulfshore Playhouse, Baltimore Centerstage, Portland Center Stage and Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has appeared on television in “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”  He has an MFA in Acting from the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory. 

    ERIK SANDVOLD (Gabriel) is an honors graduate of Northwestern University, Erik Sandvold has frequently performed major roles with the leading theatre companies in Colorado, including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company, the Arvada Center, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and Curious Theatre Company, where he’s an Artistic Council Member.  Notable roles include:  the title roles in Nicholas Nickleby and the world-premiere musical Ichabod!; Lloyd Crowder in the world-premiere of Plainsong; and Mason Marzac in Take Me Out, for which he was named Top Actor by the Rocky Mountain News and awarded The Denver Post’s Ovation Award for Best Comic Performance.  He also won Ovation Awards for Best Solo Performance for playing all 36 characters in I Am My Own Wife and for the world premiere of Bubs: A One Man Musical, which he also performed at Fringe NYC in 2009. Erik has narrated more than 1000 books for the Library of Congress, including the Harry Potter series. 

    STEVEN J. BURGE (understudy God/Michael), a multi-award winning character actor, landed in Denver following national tours of …And Then They Came for Me and A Christmas Carol. Since making his Colorado debut in 2003 as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Steven has appeared on stages throughout the Denver-Metro area including the Denver Center, Curious Theatre, the Arvada Center, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, and many others. He was the recipient of The Denver Post Ovation Award for Best Solo Performance in Fully Committed (Aurora Fox), a one-man show in which Steven portrayed more than 30, different characters. The piece also earned him a Henry Award nomination, Westword’s Best of Denver Award and an Out Front Colorado Marlow Award. Steven has also been recognized for his work in Contrived Ending (Buntport Theatre) and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Avenue Theatre).

  • Colorado Shakes pumping up the pulp this summer

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016
    2016 Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Selected production photos from the 2016 Colorado Shakespeare Festival. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen and Gabriel Koskinen.

    The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is bringing a little pulp fiction (not the movie) and a lot of Mad Max (the movie) to Boulder this summer. You know: Love, laughs, guts and gore – only often in the very same plays.

    In an era when many Shakespeare festival purveyors around the country are playing it safe by relying on an ever-dwindling list of about 10 sure-fire Bard box-office titles, Colorado Shakes is bucking the trend by offering up one of its most adventurous slates in years.  

    “We don't want a Top-10 list of plays to explore,” fourth-year artistic director Timothy Orr said. “We want a Top-37 list.”

    2015 was the biggest-selling season in the CSF’s now 59-year history, thanks to reliable attractions including Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V. This year is considerably more risky with the mythic Cymbeline and a feral, fever-pitched (and almost never produced) Troilus and Cressida. Even its safest title, The Comedy of Errors, is being presented with a major, gender-bending twist: The two romantic couples have been cast by actors of the opposite gender.

    Orr says the gamble is working. Nearing the halfway point of the season, he said, “This season could very well pass last year” in ticket revenue.

    “The season is pretty risky, not only in the titles we chose, but in where we chose to stage them,” added Orr, whose outdoor slate includes Troilus and Cressida in the 1,000-seat Mary Rippon Amphitheatre – stories that are more challenging to market because they don’t fit neatly into the traditional Shakespeare categories of tragedy, comedy or history.

    colorado-shakespeare-festival-timothy-orr

    Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. 


    “There's a little bit of everything in these plays,” Orr said. “No one does them anymore, but they are still highly entertaining and enlightening plays. They just need to be stirred back up to the top of the list.”

    Take for example, Troilus and Cressida, which scholars describe as a definite problem play but Orr calls instead "a dark, funny and sexy satire" — with a Mad Max feel to it.

    “There’s violence and comedy and a steamy love story,” Orr said. “But what makes it so entertaining is when you take all three of those things to their extremes, then it becomes almost like pulp fiction.”

    Colorado Shakes actors with local ties

    He means pulp fiction with the lower case, not the upper-case Tarantino film of “Royale with cheese” fame. The term refers to the fantastic, escapist fiction magazines of the 1930s and '40s known for larger-than-life heroes, pretty girls, exotic locales and mysterious villains. You know — like Shakespeare.

    a-csf-quote-geoffrey-kent-3“We would be laughing so hard in rehearsal — and then all of a sudden, these epic battles come out of nowhere that are really quite shocking,” Orr said. “It's just as funny as The Comedy of Errors, but then you get intense violence, a love scene and a song right in a row. It’s a blast.”

    Geoffrey Kent, who is directing The Comedy of Errors and Henry VI, Part 2, as well as portraying Achilles in a Troilus and Cressida that fully embraces his same-sex affair with Patroclus (Spencer Althoff), says he adores Shakespeare chestnuts like A Midsummer Night's Dream. But  Colorado Shakes “is out to prove Shakespeare wrote more than 10 great plays," he said. And for an actor, getting to work on a Shakespeare title for the first time is like working on a brand new play.

    “It's wonderfully challenging to work on a Shakespeare play you have never seen or performed,” said Kent, also the DCPA’s longtime Fight Director. “Troilus and Cressida was a new road for almost the entire cast, and it made for a pretty thrilling rehearsal process.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    At age 59, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is targeting 2017 for a major milestone. When it stages Henry VI, Part 3 on the University of Colorado campus, the CSF will become the second American Shakespeare festival to have presented the Bard’s entire canon twice. (This year, the 81-year-old Oregon Shakespeare Festival is completing its fourth trip around the Shakespeare sun.)

    “As part of a big research university, I feel it's our mission to explore the whole canon,” Orr said. “And it’s a perfect way to celebrate our 60th season.”

    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.

    Oregon Shakes turning rage of hate crime into action

     a-csf-coe-800

    Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'Troilus and Cressida.' Photo by Gabriel Koskinen.


    Timothy Orr on the 2016 plays:


    The Comedy of Errors
    (outdoors)
    Directed by Geoffrey Kent
    a-csf-comedy-of-errors-600 The story*: Shakespeare’s purest comedy — with a twist. Set in jazzy, sexy 1930s Paris, this new production bends the classic adventure of mistaken identities in a different direction that puts the women in charge ... and the men in their places.
    Orr: “Since this play comes around at most Shakespeare festivals every five or six years, your core audience has seen it at least three or four times. But reversing genders makes it a whole new play. A lot of the jokes are funnier because the language is heightened in your ear when you hear it come out of the opposite gender's mouth. And putting it in Paris makes it even more fun. It's not some sort of bizarre, unknowable setting that you have to adjust to. You can walk right in the front door.”

    Equivocation (indoors)
    Written by Bill Cain
    Directed by Wendy Franz

    a-csf-equivocation-600The story: This year’s non-Shakespeare title is "Shakespeare enough." Reluctant playwright and sleuth “Shag” — aka William Shakespeare — finds himself at the perilous crossroads between artistic integrity and survival when King James I commissions him to rewrite the history of England’s infamous Gunpowder Plot. Under the Orwellian gaze of a security state not far removed from today’s headlines, he must find a way to tell the truth without selling his soul. The cast features longtime DCPA Theatre Company favorite John Hutton
    Orr: “We thought this is a play that really celebrates Shakespeare, the man. It takes such a warm and passionate look at what it means to be part of a theatre company.”

    Troilus and Cressida (outdoors)
    Directed by Carolyn Howarth
    a-csf-troilus-600The story: God-like heroes, embattled kings, doomed love and a sinister, snarky clown mark Shakespeare’s dystopian epic of the Trojan War. Like grown-up versions of Romeo and Juliet all too familiar with life’s stark realities, the eponymous lovers face painful choices in this mythic mélange of drama, comedy and history, set in a world on the verge of apocalypse.
    Orr: It's set in a kind of 'futuristic ancient' Greece, as if these guys have been at war not for seven years — but for maybe 700,000 years. They just keep fighting and (having sex).”

    Cymbeline (indoors)
    Directed by Jim Helsinger
    The story: Cymbeline is a vassal king of the mighty Roman Empire, but Britain herself remains a wild and untamed land in this mythic, idyllic romance. When the king banishes Posthumus — his beautiful daughter’s illicit, low-born husband — Imogen flees into a Welsh forest that still rings with Britain’s legendary past. By turns comic, heroic and harrowing, this tale of gods and villains, lovers and warriors, brings the entire CSF company together onstage.
    Orr: "Like Troilus and Cressida, this is a kind of pulp-fiction experience where something bloody and violent is followed immediately with humor and jokes and a passionate love story. It is also wrapped in this incredible fairy tale."

    Henry VI, Part 2 (outdoors)
    Directed by Geoffrey Kent
    The story: CSF’s annual “Original Practices” presentation will be staged for one night only (July 31) and, for the first time, on the outdoor stage. Shakespeare’s exploration of England’s War of the Roses, which also inspired the hit cable series Game of Thrones, drives toward the conclusion of one of his greatest cycles. “Original Practices” productions replicate the practices of presenting theatre in Shakespeare’s time. Actors are not handed entire scripts. They work from “cue” scripts that are based on the First Folio printing of Shakespeare’s plays from 1623. That means they only know their own lines, as well as the cue lines that immediately precede theirs. There is minimal rehearsal time (15 hours in this case), as well as limited costumes, lighting and props. (Note: This performance is already sold out.)

    *Play descriptions provided by Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Ticket information
    The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2016 season runs through Aug. 7 in Boulder on the campus of the University of Colorado. Tickets are available by calling 303-492-8008 or going to www.coloradoshakes.org

  • Video, story: Stirring the passions of student writers ... and future engineers

    by John Moore | Jun 07, 2016

    In the video above, we interview the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and look at performance excerpts as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The DCPA's third annual year-long Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition will culminate Friday, June 17, with two free, fully staged performances of student playwright Kendra Knapp’s Sonder in the Denver Center's Conservatory Theatre.

    Last fall, DCPA Education staff conducted 145 classroom workshops for 3,100 Colorado students. That resulted in 212 one-act play submissions from young writers all over the state - up from 158 the year before. A team of professional adjudicators determined 10 semifinalists. Of those, three were selected to have their plays workshopped by the DCPA Education staff and read by professional actors at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit in February. They were:

    Knapp, a recent graduate of Valor Christian High School, was a top-10 finalist last year. This year, her newest play was singled out for full production. Sonder follows a community of young people who are seeking real connection, but from the safety and distance of the internet.


    Our complete Student Playwriting photo gallery:

    2016 Student Playwriting Competition
    Photos from rehearsal through performances of the three finalist readings at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click the 'forward' arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Knapp said it was “super exciting” to get into the top 10 last year, and decided it was worth doing again. “When I got in the top three, I figured there’s really no worst-case scenario for me," she said.

    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous said the purpose of the teen writing initiative is to advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    Teen playwriting quote“This program is all about inspiring the passion of playwriting in the next generation of writers,” she said. But playwriting promotes a variety of life skills, no matter what profession they one day choose. Knapp, for example, is headed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where she will study aerospace engineering. “But I will probably still be writing, too,” Knapp said.

    Submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and educational professionals. The three finalists each receive a cash scholarship of $250. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists receives a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms.

    Knapp’s play was then further selected for a full production this summer. The staging will be directed by DCPA Education Head of Acting Tim McCracken and performed by actors from the DCPA's summer education classes.

    At a time when much of the national theatre dialogue is focused on the lack of fair female representation among American playwrights, it was telling that all three of the student finalists are young women.

    I think that‘s great, especially because it was picked blind," said Wood, a rising senior at Denver Christian School. "We know we were not being picked just because we are women - we were picked because we have talent, and we have abilities, and it’s great that the DCPA is helping us realize this."

    Added Moore: "I really appreciate the DCPA for not feeling the need to fill a quota, and that we’re being appreciated for our talent, no matter what age or gender or background we come from."

    Another commonality the three finalists share is faith. Two of the writers attend faith-based schools - Valor Christian and Denver Christian - and the third writer (Moore) wrote her play about a young woman who goes on a meaningful search to understand how God’s fallen angel came to be known as the Devil.
    Student Playwrights Sonder

    From left: Student playwriting finalists Kendra Knapp, Jessica Wood and Gabrielle Moore. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The finalists found it refreshing that the adjudicators were clearly open to stories with a religious theme, which is not always the case in the theatre.

    “I think there are certain stigmas about both the theatre and the church,” said Wood. “On the surface, they seem opposed to each other, but I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think it’s really cool that you can be a member of the church and still be a writer in the theatre, which isn’t something a whole lot of people think you can do.”

    Moore was worried that making the Devil a central character in her play might be taken the wrong way. "Offending people was not the goal at all,” she said. “I wanted to tell a side of the story we typically don’t hear in church. I’ve heard pastors tell us that we need to avoid the Devil - but I’ve never really understood why."

    Reserve your free seat to see Sonder

    Knapp’s play has no religious overtones but she says she’s used to facing prejudice as a woman, a Hispanic, a person of faith and a theatre kid. “I’m used to people meeting me and then having this taste in their mouth where they go, “You’re from a Christian school? And you're into theatre?” I’m used to that attitude. But then I come here to the Denver Center and they just say, “OK, let’s get to work.” And I’m like, “Wait, you’re not going to ask me about my political views? Where’s the interrogation?”

    Each finalist was mentored during the Colorado New Play Summit in February by a commissioned playwright with the Denver Center Theatre Company: Rogelio Martinez (Knapp), Anne García-Romero (Moore) and Lauren Yee (Wood), all of whom are developing new plays for the DCPA’s right of first refusal.

    “Rogelio had some ideas and insights for the play that hadn’t been presented to me by any other voice,” said Knapp. "It’s just a really good feeling to get feedback from someone you know is established who says to you genuinely, 'This is good.' ”

    Student Playwrights Sonder
    The cast and creative teams from the three student playwriting readings at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The three finalists and their plays are featured in the video report at the top of this page. Here are additional excerpts from their conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:

    John Moore: What did you think when you found out you were in the top three?

    Gabrielle Moore: My mom told me I had to look at this email because it was really important. And I was like, “Mom you’re probably misinterpreting it. They’re probably just saying, ‘Thank you for your submission’ - not that I actually won. When I read it, I was genuinely amazed.

    Jessica Wood: When I found out I was in the top three, I was really excited, because I put quite a lot of work into it. To see my work realized and accepted meant a whole lot. It was really great.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kendra Knapp: I showed the email to my dad and he was like, “Wow, that’s super exciting!” And then I had this sudden moment of dread where I was like, “Oh gosh, I’m going to have to actually talk to people. No! I have to put on a dress! I can’t just sit in my pajamas all day!"

    John Moore: How did it help your writing to work with a director from the DCPA Education team?

    Jessica Wood: Shortly after I was selected, Mr. (Steven Cole) Hughes sent me some notes that said he liked my play, but there definitely were places where we can improve it. So I made some changes before I even went into rehearsal. Then I met my wonderful director (Allison Watrous), all of my actors, and they’re all great. We sat down and read the whole play through, and I said, “OK, I can definitely see some structural weaknesses.” So I changed my play - and then the next day, I changed it again. I think I had a rewrite every single day. And by the time we were done, I got to understand the whole feeling of the play. I got to learn how to best impact the ears of the audience, what sounds pleasing and what doesn’t, and really what makes for a good script.

    John Moore: What was it like to see a professional reading of your work?

    Gabrielle Moore: Starting out with an idea a year ago and getting to watch it develop into being on the stage was incredible. Even though there were some rewrites, my director Patrick (Elkins-Zeglarski) ensured me that I know what’s best for this play, that this is my authentic voice, and I could put in whatever I want, to an extent. It was nice to know that this is still my play, even though the DCPA has been nice enough to take care of it for me.

    John Moore: What was it like to hear audience responses for the first time?

    Jessica Wood: When the the lights went down for my play, I just felt this moment of sudden, sick dread because I was convinced that everyone would hate it. It’s really terrifying when you have a live audience because you don’t know how they’re going to react. You don’t know if they’re going to connect. You don’t know if they are going to be bored out of their minds. And if that happens, you’re to blame for that. But they were great. They were kind, they were polite, they laughed, and hopefully they cried a little bit.

    John Moore: How is this whole experience emboldening you?

    Gabrielle Moore: I learned a lot about myself through the writing process, especially through my character, Teresa. Because I’ve had trouble understanding everything I need to know about being a Catholic. And writing this play really helped because I did a lot of research on Mother Teresa. She said a lot of times when she prayed, she wasn’t sure if God was always there. But that didn’t stop her from doing good things and being a good person. I think she’s such an amazing woman to do that. I just want to keep being a good person and being a good writer and impact other people to do good through plays like this.

    Jessica Wood: I definitely think there’s a bit of a look that you get from adults when you tell them you write. They say, “Do you, really?” And then here comes this opportunity at the Denver Center where they say, “Yes, you are a writer. Now why don’t you give us some of your writing and let us help you make it better?”

    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.

    Sonder: Performance information
    1:30 and 7 p.m., Friday, June 17
    Conservatory Theatre in the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education 1101 13th St.
    This performance is free, but an RSVP is requested by clicking here 

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of the Student Playwriting Competition:
    2016 finalists named for Regional High School Playwriting Competition
    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Denver Center launches statewide high-school playwriting initiative
    Direct link to our Flickr photo gallery


    Our complete countdown of 2016 semifinalists:
    No. 1: Jafei Pollitt, Denver School of the Arts
    No. 2: Jessica Wood, Denver Christian High School
    No. 3: Kristine Guo, Peak to Peak Charter School
    No. 4: Gabrielle Moore, D'Evelyn High School
    No. 5: Ashley Wright and Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    No. 6: Kalina Gallardo, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    No. 7: Kiera Eriksen-McAuliffe, Denver School of the Arts
    No. 8: Stephanie Kiel and Mady McGraw, Chatfield Senior High School
    No. 9: Kendra R. Knapp, Valor Christian High School
    No. 10: Jacob Kendrick, Peak to Peak Charter School

     

  • Photos: LOCAL Theater's 2016 new-play festival

    by John Moore | Mar 14, 2016
    LOCAL Lab 2016
    Our complete photo gallery from LOCAL Theater Company's 2016 LOCAL Lab new-play festival. To see more, click the forward arrow on the photo above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Local Theatre Company's LOCAL Lab new-play festival returned for its fifth year over the weekend (March 11-13) at eTown Hall in Boulder. The three featured readings were:

    • Lottie in the Late Afternoon; by Amelia Roper, is a modern-day Chekhovian tale that follows a weekend excursion among friends and lovers where nothing you presume might happen actually ever ... happens.
    • The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias; by Michael Yates Crowley. Grace is a plain high-school girl who has accused her school's two football heroes of rape despite her ongoing affection for one of her accused attackers.
    • The History Room; by Charlie Thurston, takes an alternatingly dark and fanciful approach to dementia and the dubious integrity of memory. Twenty years ago, a woman made her best friend promise to kill her if she developed dementia. He thinks. Now that she has developed the disease, his duty is as foggy as her memory. The History Room will be fully staged this summer at the Creede Repertory Theatre. 
    Also: Local Theater Company's Mare Trevathan teamed with Jill Rafson of New York's  Roundabout Theatre Company to begin the development of a new devised theatrical piece called Tone. Using both actors and community members in sessions spread over three days, the workshop explored how we make ourselves understood - or not - in the digital age. It is hoped that Tone will be developed into a full theatrical piece that LOCAL Theater will stage in 2017 or 2018. Trevathan appeared as an actor in the DCPA Theatre Company's The Sweetest Swing in Baseball.

    Check out more of our Colorado theatre coverage

    The festival included several other actors and artisans from the Denver Center creative family, including:

    • Director Christy Montour-Larson (The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias) directedthe DCPA's Shadowlands, The Giver, Well and, just last month, the Two Degrees reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Actor Laurence Curry most recently appeared in All the Way, and a DCPA Teaching Artist)
    • Actor John DiAntonio received his MFA from the National DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory and has appeared in many Theatre Company productions.
    • Actor Mehry Eslaminia most recently appeared in Appoggiatura and A Christmas Carol, and in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit reading of Midwinter.
    • Actor Rachel Fowler appeared in All My Sons and The Miracle Worker. 
    • Actor Ilasiea Gray is a DCPA Teaching Artist.
    • Actor Steven Cole Hughes is a graduate of the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory, a DCPA Teaching Artist and has appeared in many Theatre Company productions.
    • Actor Luciann Lajoie's first play, Date*, was presented by and curated with DCPA’s Off-Center in 2012.
    • Actor Rodney Lizcano is a graduate of the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory and has appeared in has appeared in many Theatre Company productions, most recently A Christmas Carol.
    • Actor Eric Lockley appeared in black odyssey.
    • Actor Mackenzie Sherburne recently she took part in an immersive theatre workshop with Third Rail and the DCPA at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. She is also a DCPA Teaching Artist.
    • Actor Caitlin Wise is a graduate of the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory and has appeared in has appeared in many Theatre Company productions.
    Casting by Sylvia Gregory Casting.

    Local Lab 2016
  • Video: Exploring gender fluidity in Shakespeare, and in schools

    by John Moore | Nov 14, 2015

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

    Gender fluidity in Shakespeare's plays was not only a common plot device 400 years ago — it was a practical reality of the live theatregoing experience. Shakespeare wrote his final play in 1612, but the first female actor didn't appear on an English stage until 1629.

    That means every female — and every female pretending to be a male — was originally played by a male actor. Even Cleopatra. Even Juliet.

    Imagine, then, watching Twelfth Night when it was new in 1599. When Viola is found shipwrecked, she dresses like a man to get a job — and both a duke and a countess fall in love with her. In As You Like It, just staged by the DCPA Theatre Company, mighty Rosalind escapes her murderous uncle by bravely exiling herself to the forest, where  she not only manages as well as any man — by dressing like a man — she wins the man of her dreams. Now consider male actors playing those roles, and what that must have looked like to an audience.

    Rosalind and Viola are perfect characters for these gender-fluid contemporary times, when headlines have been dominated for much of the year by news of an Olympic decathlon champion undergoing a gender reassignment. Young people across the country are pushing back against gender categories, or the idea that anyone is 100 percent male or 100 percent female. 

    As a result, gender norms in schools are necessarily evolving. Education about transgendered people and gender identity is starting up  —  and earlier — in many schools. And while some have proclaimed these changes to be an assault on traditional family values, others say it is long overdue, given that 50 percent of all transgender youth commit or attempt suicide by the the time they are 20, according to national statistics.

    Mackenzie Sherburne leads a talkback after a performance of 'As You Like It.' Photo by John Moore.
    Mackenzie Sherburne leads a talkback after a performance of 'As You Like It' attended by many students who had already participated in her classroom workshop on gender fluidity in Shakespeare's plays. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.


    With the lone goal of starting a conversation, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Education Division has developed an interactive classroom workshop that uses Shakespeare's gender-bending as an entry into dialogue.

    "My job is not to bring an agenda in. It is just to start the conversation about gender roles," DCPA Teaching Artist Mackenzie Sherburne said. "We are talking about the difference between biological sex and gender — and that those definitions are literally expanding right now."

    Sherburne recently visited two high schools to perform I Am the Man – a 15-minute, one-woman adaptation of Twelfth Night written by DCPA commissioned playwright Steven Cole Hughes.

    Using three specially created puppets designed by DCPA Teaching Artist Rachel Kae Taylor to help tell the story, Sherburne performed I Am the Man at Aurora Central and Westminster high schools. Those students were then invited to see the DCPA Theatre Company's full staging of As You Like It.

    Video: 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot' brings Bard to schools

    The classroom performances, said DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous, allows the students "to dive into the workshop component that discusses, unpacks, and challenges gender roles and assumptions.
     
    The workshop was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts' Shakespeare in American Communities project, in partnership with Arts Midwest. "This has been an incredible collaboration for the NEA Shakespeare in Communities grant," Watrous said.

    'As You Like It' talkback.
    A student comments during a talkback after a recent DCPA Theatre Company performance of 'As You Like It' led by DCPA Teaching Artist Mackenzie Sherburne.  Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.
  • Live theatre returns to historic Elitch stage after 24 years

    by NewsCenter Staff | Aug 06, 2015
    Hop-A-Long Cassidy performe on the Elitch Theatre roof, but live theatre returns to the historic Elitch Theatre stage on Aug. 20.
    Hop-A-Long Cassidy may have preferred performing on the Elitch Theatre roof, but the upcoming New Works Festival brings theatre back to the indoor stage stage on Aug. 20.

    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.


    By David Nehls 
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    "Thus it came to pass in the 1890s that the theatre and the company at Elitch's Gardens began a career that has ever since placed this organization above any other as an outstanding example of what a resident dramatic stock company should be. I know of no other similar organization that has held so tenaciously to the highest standards of personal production. With all the changing conditions considered, credit for the maintenance of those standards is directly traceable to the source of their creation. The high purpose, the finely sensitive, spiritually guided, wholesomely honest ambition of Mary Elitch is the inspiration and foundation of that record." - Burns Mantle, March 1932

    These words were written by the famous theatre critic for the foreword to Mary Elitch's book, The Lady Of The Gardens. As a young boy growing up in Denver David Nehls during the time of Mary's ownership and management of "Elitch's Gardens and Theatre," he speaks with such reverence to the woman who began a legacy that stretches into the 21st century. The fact that this building, this temple to the genesis of what has become the entertainment industry we now know, still exists, is nothing short of a miracle.

    In a society where history is disposable and those who came before are easily forgotten, the historic Elitch Theatre, located in northwest Denver off 38th Avenue and Tennyson street, stands as a testament to weathering time and adversity to become relevant yet again.

    Sure, it is not in the best of shape, despite several construction projects that have brought the structure up to code. But with community support and love of theatergoers who stretch to both coasts of the U.S., things are looking up. Bathrooms, a new fly roof and an upgraded power supply are the only remaining issues that are keeping the theatre from becoming a full-time, operational venue again. With the proper fundraising and grant options, the doors may be open full-time within the next few years.

    In the meantime, the theatre has been operational this summer for the first time since 1991. Our programming has been limited, but we are utilizing the theatre in the best and safest way possible to give the public access to this historic gem and entertain at the same time. With the ongoing Outdoor Film Series, our upcoming New Works Festival opening Aug. 20, and a Classic Film Series launching Aug. 28, this has been the busiest summer for the Elitch Theatre in 24 years. 

    And why is this place so special? It starts with 100 years of history that might have ended with its closure in 1991. But when the Elitch Gardens amusement park moved to its present downtown location in 1995, the original property in northwest Denver was sold to Perry Affordable Housing with the condition that the theater never be demolished. Here are more fun facts:

    • Did you know the Elitch Theatre opened on May 1, 1890, as a "Theaterorium"? Weird name, for sure, but it was an open-air structure that was enclosed in 1891 to present light opera and Shakespeare, incorporating the Elitch Theatre Stock Company.
    • Did you know the first films shown west of Chicago were displayed in the Elitch Theatre in 1896? Thomas Edison contacted Mary Elitch himself to see if she was interested in exhibiting his Vitaphone.Grace Kelly
    • Did you know Sarah Bernhardt was re-routed during her 1906 tour to Elitch's because of the San Francisco earthquake? She would only play theaters that were not affiliated with the theatrical syndicate in New York and their devious ways. Mary shared the same ideals and hence Madame Bernhardt played the Elitch Theatre in two plays, supported by a stock company that included a young Douglas Fairbanks.
    • Did you know Florenz Ziegfeld's first great success played the Elitch Theatre? In 1896, the Great Sandow performed on Mary's stage with his manager, Ziegfeld, in tow. This was 20 years before his famous Follies debuted in 1916.
    • Did you know former Denver Post publisher Helen Bonfils, who founded the Bonfils Theatre and whose estate built the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, appeared on the Elitch stage as an actor from 1934-59, and for a decade helped run the theatre with her husband, George Somnes?
    • Did you know entertainment luminaries such as Harold Lloyd, Antoinette Perry, Edward G. Robinson, Frederic March, Robert Redford, Sylvia Sydney, Grace Kelly, Bernadette Peters, Douglas Fairbanks (Senior and Junior) and Cecil B. DeMille all got their starts at the Elitch Theatre?

    (Photo above: The house in North Denver where Grace Kelly lived in 1951. Yes, the future Princess of Monaco lived at 4020 Raleigh St. Read more about it at This Used to Be Denver.)

    I am just scratching the surface with the theatre's vast history, but it brings me to this summer's programming, and the importance of bringing new works and classic films to the Elitch Theatre. Mary Elitch was extremely nurturing of young and untried talent. When Cecil B. DeMille and his brother, William, were stock players at the theatre, Mary produced William's new plays as part of her season. This started him on a career as a successful Broadway playwright. Her students in the acting and dance school went on to become among the top performers in New York and Hollywood.  

    The New Works Festival will be held from Aug. 20-22, and it will mark the long-awaited return of live theatre to the actual Elitch Theatre stage. The goal of the festival is to discover strong stories and foster them from the beginning stages to an eventual mainstage production. The top two productions as chosen by audiences and an invited selection committee will continue to be workshopped. In the third year of the festival, one work will be presented as a fully produced world premiere as part of the Elitch Theatre's 2017 season programming.  

    We would like to think we are carrying on Mary's legacy of nurturing new ideas and creating a safe environment for these new ideas. Writers from across the United States and Europe submitted to our inaugural festival.

    With the indoor Classic Film Series, we have a rare opportunity to bring Elitch Theatre alumni back to the building where they worked in their heyday.  Each classic film will feature a star who worked at the Elitch Theatre. This a new tradition that could continue for years without ever having to repeat a single film, considering so many Hollywood actors worked here. The four inaugural films will include Spaceballs, featuring Elitch Theatre alumnus Dick Van Patten, and The Miracle Worker (Patty Duke). See the complete schedule below.

    The point of all this is the Elitch Theatre is coming back to life, and will bring audiences back through its doors to be moved by all forms of art once more. Yes, we need help with finances. (What theatre doesn't?) Anyone can easily go to the website to donate, or volunteer.  But the best way to support the Elitch Theatre is to go there, attend our upcoming events, and experience what Cecil B. DeMille called "The Cradle of American Theatre."

    About our Guest columnist:

    David Nehls is the award-winning resident Musical Director at the Arvada Center and the Vice President of the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Foundation. He is also a prolific writer of original music and lyrics  including The Great American Trailer Park Musical (2007 National Tour and regional productions), Broadway Bares 19 and 20, The Watercoolers (2002 Off-Broadway production), Breach (Evolution Theatre Company), Panto Sleeping Beauty (Stages Rep, Houston), It’s A Wonderful Life (1993 National Tour), Killer Wigs From Outer Space  (Animation Project, 2013 GenCon Selection) and many more.

    Remaining outdoor summer films at Elitch Theatre:
    • Aug. 7: Into the Woods, with music by Janine Gastineau
    • Aug. 14: Grease

    (All outdoor films show at dusk; gates open at 7 p.m.)


    The 2015 indoor New Works Festival:

    • Aug. 20: The Consul, The Tramp and America’s Sweetheart by John Morogiello; directed by former National Theatre Conservatory co-Head of Acting Jennifer McCray Rincon
    • Aug. 20: The Mess of Us by Moss Kaplan and Greg Ungar; directed by DCPA Teaching Artist Kate Marie Folkins
    • Aug. 21: A Good Indian by Denver Cenbter Teaching Artist Steven Cole Hughes; directed by Colorado Theatre Guild President Pat Payne
    • Aug. 21: In the Closet by Siegmund Fuchs; directed by Robert Brown
    • Aug. 22: Fifteen Men in a Smoke Filled Room by Colin Speer Crowley; directed by Bev Newcomb-Madden
    • Aug. 22: Lady by Tim Nevits; directed by Robert Michael Sanders

    To purchase tickets, click here


    The 2015 indoor Classic Film Series:

    • Aug. 28: Spaceballs, starring Elitch Theatre alumnus Dick Van Patten. (Note: There will  be a live radio broadcast with Radio Voodoo before the film and a talkback with Jim J. Bullock (Prince Valium) afterward.
    • Sept. 4: The Miracle Worker, starring Elitch Theatre alumna Patty Duke.
    • Sept. 11: Some Like It Hot, starring Elitch Theatre alumnus Joe E. Brown.
    • Sept. 18: The Best Years Of Our Lives, starring Elitch Theatre alumni Frederic March, Myrna Loy, and Theresa Wright
    For more information, click here



    Elitch Theatre Roll call of stars 1891-91

    (as compiled by John Moore)
    Steve Allen, 1974
    Morey Amsterdam, 1968
    John Astin, 1973-74
    Sarah Bernhardt, 1906
    Helen Bonfils, 1934-47
    Raymond Burr, 1944
    Sid Caesar, 1971, '74
    Kitty Carlisle, 1965, '70
    Cecil B. DeMille, 1905
    Patty Duke, 1973-74
    Douglas Fairbanks, 1905
    Douglas Fairbanks Jr., 1971-73
    Jose Ferrer, 1973
    Arlene Francis, 1964-65, '69
    Barbara Bel Geddes, 1964
    George Gobel, 1971
    Julie Harris, 1978
    Kim Hunter, 1975
    Gabe Kaplan, 1982-83
    Grace Kelly, 1951
    Cloris Leachman, 1982-83
    Harold Lloyd, 1914
    Myrna Loy, 1969
    Fredric March, 1926-28
    Jayne Meadows, 1974
    Patricia Neal, 1947
    Maureen O'Sullivan, 1972, '82-83
    Walter Pidgeon, 1964
    Antoinette Perry, 1904-05
    Vincent Price, 1979
    John Raitt, 1977, '79 (father of Bonnie Raitt)
    Lynn Redgrave, 1975
    Robert Redford, 1955
    Edward G. Robinson, 1922
    Ginger Rogers, 1975
    Cesar Romero, 1964
    Mickey Rooney, 1972-74
    William Shatner, 1975
    Gloria Swanson, 1967
    Lana Turner, 1977
    Joan Van Ark, 1960
    Dick Van Patten, 1968
    Nancy Walker, 1987
    Shelley Winters, 1973, '83
    Jane Wyatt, 1939

    Selected coverage of the Elitch Theatre, and previous attempts to revive it:

    2006: Famous, soon-to-be-famous crossed Elitch stage
    2007: Theater returns to old Elitch grounds with The Pavilion
    2007: Causey resigns as Elitch Theatre chief
    2010: Elitch Theatre may yet rise again
    2011: Friend of Mary Elitch helping with theater's restoration effort
    2011: Haila Stoddard: A force from Broadway to the Elitch Theatre
    2014: David Nehls wins True West Award for Elitch Theatre campaign

    Previous Guest Columns:

    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

    Be Our Guest (Columnist)
    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 proposed topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.


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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.