• Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

    by John Moore | Jul 02, 2017

    Lauren Yee. The Great Leap
    Lauren Yee’s 'The Great Leap,' which was introduced as a reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, will premiere at the Denver Center next February, then re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Companies are now jumping on new Denver Center works before they have even been fully staged here.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver Center is taking a major step forward in its development of new work for the American theatre in 2017. And one major reason is a hip new term in the theatrical lexicon: “Co-Pro.”

    For the first time, the DCPA Theatre Company will stage two new plays next season that will immediately transfer to major theatres around the country as essentially continuing world premieres. They will quickly re-open in their second cities with their Denver Center directors and casts intact.

    American Mariachi. Summit The Theatre Company opens José Cruz González’s American Mariachi on Jan. 26, 2018. Less than a month after it closes in Denver, the production will re-open at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, which bows in Denver on Feb. 2, will re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here.

    By virtue of these unique partnerships, both stagings are considered “co-productions.” Or, as the kids say, “Co-Pros.” Coincidentally, the re-opening nights in San Diego and Seattle will both take place on March 23.

    (Pictured above right: 'American Mariachi' was introduced as a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    For 12 years, artistic leaders from around the country have come to the Denver Center’s Colorado New Play Summit each February to see readings of developing new works, then come back the next year to see the subsequent fully staged world-premiere productions before scheduling some of the plays themselves. Among the popular titles that have expanded through this slow growth plan have been Jason Grote’s 1001 and Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale.

    But now companies are coming here to see readings and committing to scheduling them even before they are fully staged at the Denver Center for the first time.

    Matt McGrath in 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. All this comes at a time when Denver Center-born works are proliferating on national stages like never before. In 2017, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride will become the most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. Ten companies this year are presenting the story of a straight man who explores the world of drag to feed his family in cities stretching from Los Angeles to Key West, Fla., with four more already slated for 2018. Lopez’s newest work, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, will debut at the DCPA’s Space Theatre next Jan. 19.

    (Pictured above right: Matt McGrath in the Denver Center's 2014 world premiere of 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.) 

    How Georgia McBride has evolved since Denver

    Since former Artistic Director Kent Thompson launched the Colorado New Play Summit in 2006, the DCPA has given 27 new plays their world-premiere stagings. At least 32 productions of 13 DCPA-born works are being presented around the country this year and next, most notably a high-profile return of the reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which plays from July 21-27 at The Muny in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, star Beth Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    LEAD MOLLY"That is absolutely the intention of putting it up at The Muny,” Malone said. “There is no other reason than for it go to Broadway. Everyone involved with it feels very strongly that we are completely on track.”

    (Pictured at right: The cast of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Last week, two recent Colorado New Play Summit readings landed on The Kilroys, a curated list of the 31 most promising new plays by women: Yee's The Great Leap and Donnetta Lavinia Grays' Last Night and the Night Before.

    NATAKI GARRETT 3Even older new plays like Octavio Solis' Lydia (2008) are still making an impact. “Lydia is a blast-furnace drama now in its Seattle debut in a blistering, urgent staging from Strawberry Theatre Workshop," Misha Berson of the Seattle Times wrote last month of a "forcefully directed ensemble of visceral power." Last year, the Aurora Fox became the first company to stage the Denver Center’s Native American premiere of Black Elk Speaks since 1996.

    All of this proliferation is not only changing the way the nation looks at the Denver Center, said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. It is changing how the Denver Center looks at itself.

    “The Colorado New Play Summit is a nationally renowned place where theatre companies from all over the United States come to see those playwrights who are moving up in the ranks and becoming the clarions for the future of playwriting,” she said.  “But I think this is where it was always heading. The most important part of the work we do as theatre artists is to foster and develop new work, and I think this is that idea coming to full fruition.”

    (Story continues after the video)

    Video spotlight: American Mariachi



    What makes for a successful Co-Pro, Garrett said, is the continuation of the Denver Center’s commitment to the playwright once the new play reaches its immediate second destination.

    “What I am really focused on with these companies is, 'Are you willing to make space for that writer to keep writing?’ ” Garrett said. “The whole point is to for them to be able to keep evolving their piece after they leave Denver, if that’s what the piece needs.”

    The Theatre Company’s commissioning program is one reason the pipeline stays stocked. At any given time, the company has a number of renowned and emerging playwrights under commissions. That essentially binds the playwright to write a new work of his or her choice, and the DCPA Theatre Company then has the right of first refusal to stage it. The playwrights with commissions in progress are:

    • Kemp Powers
    • Anne Garcia-Romero
    • Aleshea Harris
    • Mary Kathryn Nagle
    • Tony Meneses
    • David Jacobi
    • Regina Taylor

    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.


    DCPA AROUND THE COUNTRY: 2017-18

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown, by Dick Scanlan and Meredith Willson: The 1960 musical that tells the rags-to-riches tale of Colorado's greatest heroine is infused with new songs and a new script.

    • The Muny, St. Louis, July 21-27, 2017

    The Book of Will, By Lauren Gunderson:  The untold story of the race to publish Shakespeare's First Folio before half his canon was lost to history.

    • Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, June 9-July 28, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Nov. 9-Dec. 17, 2017
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 2017
    • Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Ore., June-October, 2018

    The Great Leap, by Lauren Yee: An American college basketball team travels to Beijing in 1989.

    • American Conservatory Theatre New Strands Festival, San Francisco (reading), May 19, 2017
    • DCPA Theatre Company, Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    • Seattle Rep, March 23-April 22, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    The Legend of Georgia McBride, by Matthew Lopez: A young Elvis impersonator turns to drag to feed his growing family.

    • Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, April 4-May 14, 2017
    • GableStage, Coral Gables, Fla., May 27-June 25, 2017
    • Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco, June 8-July 9, 2017
    • ACT Theatre, Seattle, June 9-July 2, 2017
    • Theatre Nova, Detroit, June 9- July 9, 2017
    • Dorset Theatre Festival, Vermont, Aug. 3-19, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Sept. 14-Oct. 22, 2017
    • Hippodrome State Theatre, Gainesville, Fla., Oct. 13-Nov. 5, 2017
    • B Street Theatre, Sacramento, Calif.,Nov. 6-Dec. 9, 2017
    • Uptown Players, Dallas, Dec. 1-17, 2017
    • Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, March 23-April 22, 2018
    • Key West Players, Key West, Fla., May 2-19, 2018
    • Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham Mass., May 3-20, 2018
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., June 8-July 1, 2018

    American Mariachi, by Jose Cruz Gonzalez: The musical tale of an all-female mariachi band in the 1970s.

    • DCPA Theatre Company, Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    • Old Globe (San Diego), March 23-April 29, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    Just Like Us, by Karen Zacarías: Documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver - two are documented, two are not.

    • Visión Latino Theatre Company, Feb. 24-March 12, 2017

    Dusty and the Big Bad World, by Cusi Cram: When a popular children’s TV  show spotlights a family with two daddies, it sparks a conservative outcry.

    • Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, July 6-19, 2017

    Appoggiatura, by James Still: A trip to Venice brings love, loss, pain and joy to three weary travelers in search of healing and happiness in a magical story filled with music and amore.
    • Indiana Repertory Theatre, March 7-31, 2018

    FADE, by Tanya Saracho: When Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character, she finds an unexpected muse in the Latino studio custodian.
    • Cherry Lane Theatre, New York, Feb. 8-March 5, 2017
    • TheatreWorks, Hartford, June 1-30, 2017

    Lydia, by Octavio Solis: A maid cares for a border family's near-vegetative teenage daughter who was left in a coma after a mysterious accident. 

    • Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Seattle, June 1-24, 2017

    Almost Heaven: The Songs and Stories of John Denver: The songwriter's life story is told through anecdotes and 21 songs.

    • Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, Grand Lake, Sept. 1-30, 2017

    The Whale, by Samuel D. Hunter: An oversized, homebound and dying man struggles to reconcile with his estranged teenage daughter before it’s too late.
    • Verge Theatre Company, Nashville, June 2-14, 2017

    black odyssey, by Marcus Gardley: An imagination of Homer’s epic lens through the lens of the black American experience.
    • California Shakespeare Theatre, Orinda, Calif., Aug. 9-Sept. 3, 2017

    Quilters, by Molly Newman: A series of vignettes performed in song and spoken word that chart the joys and sorrows of the frontier journey West.

    • Ferndale (Calif.) Repertory Theatre, March 9-April 2, 2017

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Video spotlight: The Great Leap

  • The evolving Beth Malone: So Far ... So Good

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2017
    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore

    Beth Malone returns to Denver for two intimate cabaret concerts on April 15 at the DCPA's Garner Galleria Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Beth Malone's journey from a gravel road in Castle Rock to Broadway's bright lights took a right turn at a mirror.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    It’s about 1,800 miles from Haystack Road to Broadway, but the funny and sad and twisted and ultimately triumphant journey Beth Malone took from Castle Rock to New York City was light years in the making.

    Malone starred in the DCPA Theatre Company’s 2014 reimagining of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in the groundbreaking musical Fun Home. She will tell her story in two uncommonly intimate cabaret concerts on April 15 at the Denver Center’s Garner Galleria Theatre.

    It’s called Beth Malone: So Far, and it covers Malone’s formative years in Colorado. She describes the family, friends and lovers she encountered on her way to starring in Broadway’s first musical with a lesbian protagonist.

    Audiences can expect a swath of recognizable pop songs and very funny anecdotes filled with local references. “I mention Country Dinner Playhouse, the Arvada Center and Boulder's Dinner Theatre (now BDT Stage) before the end of the opening number,” she says.

    But there is a beating and very vulnerable heart at the center of Malone’s story. It’s the crucial off-stage part that covers how she discovered her sexuality and came to own her true self — and the toll it took on her suburban, testosterone-fueled Castle Rock family. Her father, Bill, is a cowboy, and so naturally Malone was a cowboy, too. She is careful not to use the word "cowgirl."

    A Peggy Malone“No, I was a cowboy. I used to be my dad's little clone,” she said. Her mother, Peggy Malone, continues to be a popular country singer along the Western Slope, and she grew up alongside three typically competitive brothers.

    “So Far is about my redneck beginnings and how my parents ended up with such a wildly left-swinging daughter,” Malone said. “But more than anything, it’s really about my relationship with my dad, and what happened when I came out.”

    When Malone performed So Far two years ago at Joe's Pub in New York City, the show went over like gangbusters, she said. In part because cabaret concerts typically deliver upbeat songs and funny anecdotes — and Malone has plenty of those to tell. Like when she stumbled across the film Singin’ in the Rain on TV as a girl. “I didn’t know stuff like this existed,” she said. “I remember running down the hall and saying, ‘Mom, the most amazing thing is on TV!’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, that’s called a musical.’ And I said, ‘Well … that’s what I am doing with the rest of my life.”

    But cabaret concerts don’t typically also deliver a meaningful and sadly universal story of a father and daughter finding each other, breaking apart, and finding each another again  — in an entirely new and uncomfortable context.

    “It’s unexpectedly heart-wrenching,” said Malone. “You are laughing your butt off, and then you find yourself really invested in the love story between me and this heroic cowboy father-figure. When it gets hard for me, I think it gets hard for a lot of people in the audience, too.”

    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore
    Beth Malone in Leadville. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Malone’s first play was Annie for Castle Rock Junior High School in 1984. When she was just 16, she landed her (first) dream job — as a hostess at the Country Dinner Playhouse. Two years later, she starred there in Baby. She made her Denver Center debut that same year at age 18 as the understudy to Mary Louise Lee — now the First Lady of Denver — in Beehive at the very same theatre Malone will be performing So Far on April 15.

    Malone made her debut with the DCPA Theatre Company in 1993 in the world premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Bon Voyage, an adaptation of Noel Coward’s failed musical Sail Away. She went on to make her name performing on stages all over Colorado from the Crystal Palace to Theatre Aspen to the Arvada Center, where she played the narrator in holiday stagings of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for five years running.

    But all through those years, Malone felt like an “other,” she says, and she didn't yet know exactly why. “I have a number in the show about what it's like to be Mulan in a dressing room with Snow White, Belle and Arial. … Do you know what I mean?”

    For those who might not know what she means, Malone describes Mulan as the cross-dressing Disney heroine who looks like a boy. “She's the action figure that nobody wants,” she said with a laugh. “That’s pretty sad for Mulan — and Mulan is me.”

    Malone fully expected to get married — to a man — when she met Rochelle (Shelly)  Schoppert 25 years ago. She says feeling true love for the first time was so intense, it felt like being shot by a gun. And that she fell in love with a woman, she said, “ruined my family for many, many years.” And yet, in 2014, the then 23-year couple rode their bikes to New York's City Hall and legally married.

    Beth Malone. Denver Broncos. Photo by John MooreMalone and her father will never come to a mutual understanding about many things, including their feelings on the current president. But time has a way of morphing the once inconceivable into the more natural order of things. Into something resembling a family. And like many families, the Malones have more in common than not — their love for the Colorado outdoors, their cowboy ways and perhaps most important — their intense mutual love of the Denver Broncos. Bill and Peggy Malone have accompanied Beth and her wife both times she sang the national anthem at Mile High Stadium, in 2014 and '16. (Pictured above from left: Peggy Malone, Beth Malone, Bill Malone and Rochelle Schoppert by John Moore.) Beth recently took her father on a trip to Ireland.

    So Far is actually a really warm, fuzzy, feel-good story,” Malone says of the way her story plays out. “And by the end, you’ll just want to call your dad.”

    Malone’s song list leans more toward pop than showtunes, starting with an appropriately country slant. “The show opens with Happiest Girl in the Whole USA, recorded by Donna Fargo, and segues into a Barbara Mandrell medley, so ... you can see where I am going with this,” Malone said with a laugh. “No one was more obsessed with Barbara Mandrell than I was.” Just wait till you hear the story about the kiss an 11-year-old Malone got from none other than ... Barbara Mandrell. 

    Coming-of-age songs include Melissa Etheridge’s Bring Me Some Water and k.d. lang’s Constant Craving alongside Foreigner’s I've Been Waiting for a Girl Like You. Musical-theatre fans will get a taste of Spring Awakening and a Fun Home mash-up that somehow invokes John Mayer. It builds, she says, to a poignant LeAnn Rimes song called What I Cannot Change.

    Malone has been developing So Far for years with initial producer Peter Schneider, playwright Patricia Cotter (The Break Up Notebook: A Musical) and Beautiful: The Carole King Story Music Director Susan Draus (who will play the show in Denver). But it has necessarily changed in tone, Malone said, since she last performed it in 2015, when  the gay community was riding an unprecedented wave of acceptance and legal victories.

    “All of these amazing, progressive things had just happened,” she said. “Marriage equality had passed, health-care was happening and Fun Home had won the Tony Award for Best Musical. So back then, I ended the show by saying, ‘It's a really bad time to be an angry white guy in America.’ ”

    Well ... that was then.

    "Now I have to say that the pendulum has fully swung the other way, and angry white guys are having their day again,” Malone said. “It’s just a hate orgy out there right now. That's how it feels to me. So there is a different vibe now, and I have had to rewrite the ending of the show a little because of that.”

    Beyond Fun Home
    The success of Fun Home has brought new career opportunities for Malone. Notable TV credits have included Brain Dead and The Good Wife. She has an upcoming indie film called Laying Low. But the biggest break by far was appearing opposite Robert DeNiro in last year's star-studded film The Comedian. Malone has a nice, long scene where she plays a reality-TV producer who gives DeNiro the brush-off when he pitches her an idea for a new show.

    “Yes, I busted DeNiro’s (bleeps),” Malone says with evident glee. “It was pretty amazing.”

    Also amazing: Hanging out on the set with the likes of Edie Falco, Danny DeVito and Broadway legend Patti Lupone when Lupone figured out that Malone was the star of Fun Home.

    “I was like, 'Oh my God, is anybody hearing this? Patti Lupone is telling me how good I am right now!’ " Malone said. "And sure enough, Edie Falco came up to me and said, ‘Patti Lupone was just crazy about you.’ It was just the best.”

    A Beth Malone 800 5

    Still, the greatest impact Fun Home has had on Malone's life was not only giving her a voice, she said. “It also gave me an audience that wanted to hear that voice," she said.

    Fun Home helped me to define my own beliefs and to commit to them publicly,” she said. “As an actor, I was always sort of a politician. I wanted to be with my wife, Shelly, behind closed doors, but I never was political about it, and I never pushed it anyone's face. I never stood up for anyone besides myself.

    "I have lived in Aspen, L.A. and New York – and being gay there is pretty easy. I never really gave a thought to teenagers who were trying to come out in Tennessee and Kentucky and Alabama. Now, I think about those kids all the time. Now, I talk to them whenever I can. That is my gift from Fun Home: The awareness that just living my life openly can be a beacon for other people – if only I am strong enough to stand up and claim it.”

    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.

    Beth Malone: So Far
    Beth Malone About the show: Tony-nominated Beth Malone (DCPA Theatre Company’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown) brings her acclaimed solo show back to where it all happened. Follow this adorably insane little lesbian as she takes you on a journey from Castle Rock to the South Pacific. From little girl crushes to grown-woman heartbreak. Join us for comedy, tragedy, and a crush on Connie Chung.

    • April 15, 5 and 8 p.m.
    • Garner Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets start at $50
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    An update on The Unsinkable Molly Brown:

    Molly_Brown_Beth Malone_JK_800Beth Malone will return to the role she re-created for the DCPA Theatre Company this summer when The Unsinkable Molly Brown plays The Muny this coming July 21-27 in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    "That is absolutely the intention of putting it up at The Muny,” Malone said. “There is no other reason than for it go to Broadway," she said. And while there is not yet a producer attached for New York, “everyone involved with it feels very strongly that it we are completely on track to move it there.”

    (Photo above by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    The show has changed in some significant ways since its debut in Denver, Malone said. The song Don't Put Bananas on Bananas, originally written by Meredith Willson to be included in The Music Man, has been cut. And Molly Brown’s activism and commitment to social causes is given more dramatic importance in the new storyline.

    “Molly Brown was the head of the Survivors Committee of the RMS Titanic, and a big part of her work was making sure that all of those people in steerage weren't just immediately kicked out and sent back to the countries they came from because their paperwork was at the bottom of the ocean. Her commitment to the plight of the immigrant makes the story seem more relevant since our election in November.”

    There has been no announcement yet who will play opposite Malone as Leadville Johnny Brown.

     Selected previous Beth Malone coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter:



    Photo gallery: Beth Malone in Denver:

    Beth Malone in Denver

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' will belly up to the bar ... in St. Louis

    by John Moore | Nov 17, 2016

    Video above: The making of 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' in Denver. Photos below from the DCPA Theatre Company's 2014 production by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Colorado may be Molly Brown’s home, but her next residence will be in her birth state of Missouri.

    Two years ago, the DCPA Theatre Company launched a completely re-imagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown, directed by Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall and featuring both a new book by Dick Scanlan and a recalibrated Meredith Willson score that includes new songs from the Willson catalog. Marshall called the result "Americana at its best: Big, strong, open-hearted and optimistic.”

    The production was well-received at the DCPA but its creators were intent on incorporating lessons learned from Denver toward the eventual goal of a larger life on the national stage. The next step in that journey was announced today when The Unsinkable Molly Brown was included on the 2017 season for The Muny next July 21-27. Located in St. Louis, The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre.

    MollyBrown-billboardThe Unsinkable Molly Brown tells the story of perhaps the most colorful woman in Colorado history. The original 1960 Broadway musical was beloved by some but was also problematic. The musical tells the story of a Hannibal girl who went to Colorado and married a miner who became fabulously wealthy. But unlike others in her position, Brown opened a soup kitchen and fought for immigrants. Ultimately she boarded the Titanic but survived, rescuing others in the process.

    “It’s a classic American musical: beautiful and heartfelt,” said Mike Isaacson, the Muny’s artistic producer and executive producer. “And what Dick has done with it is extraordinary.”

    Scanlan, a three-time Tony Award nominee also wrote the book for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and other musicals.

    “Dick has kept the songs you love…and hopefully he’s gotten rid of the ones you don’t,” DCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson said.

    In Molly Brown’s 1932 obituary, The Denver Post’s Jack Carberry wrote: “She was a pot rustler who, shamed by her ignorance, mastered music, literature and the arts to storm the portals and pass the barriers of society.”

    But while Scanlan promises audiences will see a much deeper Molly Brown than they did in the 1960 original, The Unsinkable Molly Brown remains very much a musical. And a musical comedy at that.  

    LEAD MOLLY“This is not a documentary,” Marshall added. “This is a historical fiction. This is the journey of Molly Brown as a woman, and her marriage.”

    That means this is also a romance.

    “Oh it is very much a romance,” Scanlan said.

     

    Casting for St. Louis will be announced at a later date.

    Selected previous Molly Brown coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter:

     

POPULAR POSTS
 
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.