• Meet Robert Montano of 'Two Degrees'

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

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


    MEET ROBERT MONTANO

    Jeffrey, Eric and Malik in Two Degrees

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • 'Two Degrees': Opening night photos

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

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


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

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

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

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

     

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

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

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

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

     

  • Meet the cast: Kim Staunton of 'Two Degrees'

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2017
    Kim Staunton Quote. Two Degrees


    MEET KIM STAUNTON

    Senator Louise Allen in Two Degrees

    At the Theatre Company: black odyssey, Fences, To Kill A Mockingbird, Ruined, A Raisin in the Sun, Radio Golf, Doubt, Gem of the Ocean, A Selfish Sacrifice, The Madwoman, Streetcar Named Desire, King Hedley II, Pork Pie, many more. Other theatres: Indiana Rep, Milwaukee Rep, Arizona Theater Company, South Coast Rep, Seattle Rep, Lake Dillon Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Berkeley Rep, Colorado Shakespeare. TV/Film: First Sunday, Changing Lanes, Heat, Holy Man, “Army Wives,Kim Staunton Ruined. ” “The Nine,” “Bones,” “Law and Order,” “New York Undercover.” Awards include Denver Post Ovation Awards, Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award, Westword’s Best of Denver.

    • Hometown: Washington, DC
    • Home now: Encino, Calif.
    • Training: The Juilliard School Also trained as a Ten Chimneys Lunt-Fontanne Fellow
    • What was the role that changed your life? Playing Mama Nadi in Ruined, by Lynn Nottage, for the DCPA Theatre Company in 2011. (Photo at right. Click here to read the Denver Post review.) It was a tour-de-force, modern-day Mother Courage role that allowed me to be a conduit for important and profound storytelling. I got to tap into a character's passion, toughness, rage, vulnerability and tenderness.
    • Why are you an actor? I love the opportunity to be part of an ensemble and experience that allows me to communicate ideas and emotions through characters and imaginary circumstances that hopefully have an impact and make a difference to an audience. I also appreciate that I am able to use the theater, film and television as powerful mediums for great storytelling.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: I would be a grMeryl Streepade-school teacher. It was my dream for all my life up until ninth grade. I had to choose an elective, which ended up being drama.
    • Ideal scene partner: Meryl Streep. Besides being one of the greatest actresses on the planet, I appreciate her versatility, detail and transformation as an actress in her work.
    • Kim Staunton Quote. Two Degrees. Photo by Adams VisComWhy does Two Degrees matter? Because it's a timely story about science, grief, love, relationships, humanity, sexuality ... and women over 45! I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to this great storytelling that has such a big and important voice.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of this play? I hope they will be provoked to think, feel and hopefully be interested and open to learning more about climate science and climate change. This is a very serious issue that is important to our world, our lives and the future of our planet.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... a kind, inclusive, loving world."
    (Photo above and right: Kathleen McCall and Kim Staunton in 'Two Degrees.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Video Bonus: Our 2014 profile of Kim Staunton


    Ticket information: Two Degrees

    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    Through March 12

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

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

    More 2016-17 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Steven J. Burge, An Act of God
    Liam Craig, The Book of Will
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grundei, Frankenstein
    Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Jennifer Le Blanc, The Book of Will
    Rodney Lizcano, The Book of Will
    Wesley Mann, The Book of Will
    Robert Manning Jr., The Christians

    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein
    Erik Sandvold, An Act of God
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
    Caitlin Wise, The Christians

     

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

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

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

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

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


    Photo gallery: Two Degrees production images

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

    Ticket information: Two Degrees

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

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

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

    Two Degrees Jones Theatre'Two Degrees' is the first mainstage Theatre Company offering to be presented in The Jones Theatre since 2004. It is located on the corner of Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe streets. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'Two Degrees': A telling exchange at public conversation

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Photo gallery: The cast of 'Two Degrees' takes questions from the audience at Perspectives, a panel conversation held before the first public performance of every play. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    There was an exchange at Friday's public Perspectives discussion that both acknowledged the deep divide in America over climate science while also illustrating just what the DCPA Theatre Company’s new play Two Degrees aspires to do: Start a dialogue among not necessarily like-minded audience members.

    Two Degrees opens just three months after the Pew Research Institute released a major study that found only 48 percent of Americans understand the Earth to be warming because of human activity.

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

    Two Degrees quoteAnd the first chance for anyone to get together in a room and talk about it was at Friday’s Perspectives – an ongoing series of conversations between audiences and DCPA Theatre Company creative teams that is presented before every first public preview performance.

    “We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it,” Two Degrees director Christy Montour-Larson told those gathered at the Conservatory Theatre before last Friday’s first performance. Many in the audience surely took that as an environmental rallying cry. But at least one man in attendance took exception.

    Two Degrees cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research

    “That is an extremely alarming statement that really is not factual,” said the man, who said he does not consider himself a denier of climate science. “I think there is nothing more certain than that the climate is changing. The question I have is to what degree humanity is influencing the change. I don't consider this to be ‘settled’ science, and there are a lot of us out in the world who feel that way.”

    Playwright Tira Palmquist responded by pointing to research that suggests 97 percent of climate scientists around the world have endorsed the conclusion that humans have played a role in global warming since the Industrial Age. “There is scientific evidence to suggest that what we have done has made an impact,” she said.

    The man remained skeptical, but said he would keep an open mind when he saw the play later that night. Palmquist said the exchange is an example of the proactive role live theatre can contribute to any community. “For me, this is a play about the difficulty we have in having these kinds of conversations,” she said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Two Degrees Dramaturg Heather Helinsky said the exchange is what the play is all about.

    “For a play to be a good play, it has to give you characters with different points of view, and this play does that,” Helinsky said. “You don't want a play that just preaches one side. A successful play has to make you want to continue having that conversation after you leave.”

    And here are five more things we learned about 'Two Degrees' at Perspectives:

    NUMBER 1Two Degrees PerspectivesEvery DCPA Theatre Company production has a week of “preview performances” before it officially opens. And Montour-Larson was asked, well, what exactly is the point of these preview performances? Once a production opens, it’s pretty much locked down. But during preview week, the work continues. The designers continue to hone staging details. If it’s a new play like Two Degrees, the cast continues to rehearse line changes by day and perform the play before live audiences by night. “During a preview performance, we add the most important element, which is the audience,” Montour-Larson said. “All of us (on the creative team) are watching the play along with all of you, but I see less of what is happening onstage because I am watching you guys.”

    (Pictured above right: Two Degrees actor Kim Staunton at Perspectives. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)


    NUMBER 2Two Degrees is a ghost story. Emma, the scientist, is grieving the death of her husband. “And anyone who has ever grieved a loved one knows that process takes a while,” Palmquist said. “In Washington, Emma finds herself confronted by a gentleman who reminds her of her husband. And then we go back in time and find another person who reminds her of her husband. And then there is a guy in a bar who reminds her of her husband. For me, that is very much a metaphor for seeing the person you love as always with you, whether it is literal or figurative or metamorphic – or a ghost. Emma is being haunted constantly. And that ghost is not going to go away until that ghost is done with you.”

    NUMBER 3Two Degrees has changed since it was presented as a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit last February. And it has changed more since the election in November. “After the Summit readings last year, we were given this big packet of responses from the Denver audience members,” said Palmquist. “But as I was gearing up to make my revisions, I thought, ‘I don’t think I can re-write this until I know the outcome of the election.’ ” So she waited. Because the energy in the room would be quite different depending on whether audiences would be attending Two Degrees at the start of a Clinton Presidency compared to the start of a Trump Presidency. After Trump’s victory, she said, “We now have a White House that has said it is going to dismantle some of the things the Obama administration did in terms of climate-change legislation. And so for me, the engine of the play became a little more ratcheted-up. The environment in Washington (for a person like Emma) is not so friendly."

    NUMBER 4Two Degrees Jones TheatreTwo Degrees is the first mainstage offering to be held in the Jones Theatre (the DCPA Theatre Company’s smallest venue) since A Boston Marriage in 2004. That posed some unique challenges for Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan - not the least of which is that the story has 11 scenes in 10 different locations. “The Jones is a three-sided ‘thrust’ stage, so it’s a little like Florida,” Morgan said. “And it’s just a different show if you are watching from the sides than if you are watching from the front, so it's a tricky thing for us to make sure the entire audience gets the same story.”

    NUMBER 5From the start of the rehearsal process, the cast and crew have adopted what they call a two-pronged “daily action plan.” Helinsy and Stage Manager Karen Federing provide the team with a link to relevant reading on climate change, and suggest a proactive daily step each person can take to make a positivel impact in their daily lives. Over the past month, the cast has studied the work of the League of Conservation Voters, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, EarthJustice.Org and Denver’s own Snowriders International, among others. “The idea is to infuse our storytelling with a sense of urgency,” Montour-Larson said.

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


    Video bonus: Your first look at Two Degrees


    Ticket information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Two Degrees Field Trip. John MooreSeriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Two Degrees Field TripBut politicians are another challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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


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

    Two Degrees Field Trip
    Photo by John Moore.


    Video bonus: Playwright Tira Palmquist talking about Two Degrees


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

     

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

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

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

  • 'Two Degrees' heats up conversation on global warming

    by John Moore | Jan 26, 2017
    Two Degrees. Christy Montour-Larson. Photo by John Moore.  'Two Degrees' director Christy Montour-Larson. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Two Degrees
    , the provocative title of Tira Palmquist’s new world-premiere play, is meant to both set up her story … and sound an alarm.

    “There has been an effort to describe where we need to cap the escalating temperature of the Earth in order to forestall a whole host of problems including melting ice caps and rising ocean levels,” Palmquist said. “Two degrees Celsius was the number given. And that number resonated for me. It’s a number that can help people understand this palpably thin margin we are fighting for. Two degrees (or 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Two Degrees. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenterTwo Degrees, Palmquist says, is a proudly political play. But it’s also a human play about a woman in crisis. That’s why, she said, it’s no accident that her story begins with two people engaging in, well…their own kind of global warming.

    “For me, this is a play about climate change, but it’s also about what it means to be a woman over 40,” Palmquist said. “And you know what? Women over 40 have sex.”

    “Not only that,” added Two Degrees director Christy Montour-Larson with a laugh, “but we like it. And we’re good at it.”

    (Above and right: Christy Montour-Larson, left, and Tira Palmquist. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Two Degrees began as a challenge from a friend who encouraged Palmquist to write a play for a female protagonist over 45 — something as rare as uncooked steak. It became all the more personal when Palmquist chose to make the story about climate change and grief. Grief for a loved one. And grief for the planet.

    “When I read about climate change, I actually feel a physical grief in the pit of my stomach,” Palmquist said. “I despair of what will happen if we don’t act. And that became an important catalyst for the play. How do we make this clear to people that climate change is real? And then, what can we do about it?”

    Two Degrees introduces us to a scientist named Emma who has been called to Washington to testify before a congressional committee on climate legislation. This is a particularly difficult moment for her because it also happens to be the anniversary of her late husband’s death.

    Montour-Larson calls it “a beautiful, thought-provoking and witty play of today about an important human issue.” And did we mention? “I think it’s a pretty funny play,” Palmquist added.

    What Two Degrees is not is the same play it was when it was introduced to DCPA audiences last February as a featured reading of the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Neither is it the same play it was on Nov. 7, the day before Donald Trump won the presidential election.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Palmquist already was planning to make changes to her script based on the victor because the outcome of this particular election would have a drastic impact on what Emma would be doing in Washington — helping to pass a possibly unpopular legislation, or trying to fight a perhaps scientifically unwise legislation, depending on which party controlled Congress. And in November, Americans elected a president whose firmly stated beliefs on climate change are, at best, highly oppositional to Emma’s.

    A Two Degrees quote“The election has absolutely changed the urgency of the play,” Palmquist said. “It also has changed the villain of the piece. One of the villains I see are those legislators who are not educated on what the science is saying. I also think apathy and fear are villains. I worry that people will give in to despair. Or worse, that they won’t understand that this is an actual pressing problem. Either eventually will mean that we are dooming future generations.”

    But Palmquist promises that her play is not unwelcoming of contrary points of view. “One of the main characters in the play, Clay, works in the mineral-exploration industry, and Clay has a point of view,” she said. “It is not necessarily my point of view, but I feel certain that we could get past that to find common ground. It’s true that someone who does not believe in climate science may find their point of view challenged. But I welcome them to come, and then maybe we can have a conversation.”

    There is a sacred place in theatre for comedies, musicals, romances and adventures. Montour-Larson believes plays that are political in nature are just as essential.

    “I think it’s important to remember artists are cultural architects,” she said. “The world needs people with reckless imaginations like Tira. We have a passion for the possible, and we have a commitment to creativity, because to create is to be fully human. And we are healers. Through our work, we can heal and give hope.”  

    It has long been said that theatre is supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. “And if that is true, then I think that it’s also important to try to find the hopefulness in this play,” Palmquist said. “This play ends up not being a tragedy. This is a play about what it means to start having conversations.”

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


    Video bonus: Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees


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

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

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

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

    Two Degrees. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenterThe cast of 'Two Degrees' at first rehearsal. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Harvy Blanks: 'Wilsonian Warrior' makes Broadway debut in 'Jitney'

    by John Moore | Jan 20, 2017
    Photo gallery: A look back at Harvy Blanks at the Denver Center:
    Harvy Blanks at the Denver Center

    Harvy Blanks, a veteran of 37 productions with the DCPA Theatre Company, including eight of the 10 August Wilson plays, made his Broadway debut on Thursday (Jan. 19) in Wilson's 'Jitney.' Here is a look back at some of his productions with the Denver Center.To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    First the popular actor made theatre history in Denver. Now he is helping to make history on Broadway.

    By John Moore
    For The DCPA NewsCenter

    In 2009, Harvy Blanks made history as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s Radio Golf, which made Israel Hicks the first director in the world to have completed the entire August Wilson Century Cycle for the same theatre company.

    Blanks made history again Thursday night, when he not only made his Broadway debut, he did it in Jitney, the 10th and final story in Wilson’s legendary series to be told on Broadway. 

    Blanks is a veteran of 37 DCPA Theatre Company productions over 25 years, including eight of the 10 Wilson plays that chronicle the African-American experience in Pittsburgh’s Hill District throughout each decade of the 20th Century. Jitney takes place in the 1970s and tells the story of gentrification as the city tries to shut down a gypsy cab station whose drivers are struggling to survive. The New York Times is already calling the production glorious, “acted by an impeccably tuned ensemble.”

     “The coupling of my doing any August Wilson play, and being on Broadway for the first time, is just too much,” Blanks said this week. “I sit backstage sometimes and I say to myself, 'Man, I'm on Broadway. And I am rubbing elbows with some of the greatest actors in the world.' ’’

    Some of Blanks’ fellow actors would say they are the ones doing the elbow-rubbing. Kim Staunton, who is back at the Denver Center to appear in the upcoming world premiere of the play Two Degrees, appeared in six August Wilson plays alongside Blanks at the Denver Center, which beat Broadway to the August Wilson finish line by seven years. Staunton says Blanks is part of a tribe she calls “The Wilsonian Warriors.”

    “Harvy is one of America's theater treasures, and a kind, gentle, amazing man,” said Staunton. “He so deserves to be on Broadway, and that his debut is the last August Wilson play in the canon to be produced there, couldn't be more perfect and wonderful.”

    Harvy Blanks JITNEY. Photo by Kareem Black.Blanks admits it was hard for him to accept a role in another Wilson play after Israel Hicks died in 2010. “I've seen a whole lot of August Wilson, but not a lot of good August Wilson,” he said, “and if it's not good, it's going to be bad.”

    Blanks wants to do August Wilson anytime he can do it with a good director, he said, and Jitney director Ruben Santiago-Hudson is Wilson royalty.

    (Photo above and right: Cast of Broadway's 'Jitney.' Photo by Kareem Black.)

    “Ruben is a direct descendent of Israel Hicks and Lloyd Richards and that whole circle of August Wilson’s friends,” Blanks said. Many of his Broadway castmates were part of Wilson’s original productions. Santiago first cast Blanks in a staging of Jitney at Two River Theatre in New Jersey back in 2012. And he not only brought most of that cast with him to Broadway - he insisted on it. Including Blanks, who despite all of his regional experience, was an unknown Broadway entity. As is the case with most every high-stakes Broadway production, there was pressure to bring in bigger names from TV or film for Jitney. But Santiago didn’t flinch.

    Harvy Blanks Quote“He is loyal to a fault,” Blanks said, “and I’ll tell you what, man, this production almost did not get done because of that fact. But Ruben was willing to stand up and say, 'Hey, it has to be this way because these are August Wilson's kind of actors, and I can't do it with anything less than these people. Just to have a big name up there is not going to work for me.’ So he fights for his people, and he fights for the right to put the best play on stage that he can. Ruben reminds me of Israel so much. He's an actor's director, and he is a friend.”

    In the Denver Center’s 2002 production of Jitney, Blanks played Turnbo, a gossiping, gun-pulling livery driver. On Broadway, Blanks is playing Shealy, a smooth, well-dressed numbers man. Blanks describes Shealy as “the spice of life” in the play, a comic role he equates to the mechanical characters in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

    “When Shealy comes on, he brings all of the energy and all the hopes and desires and passions that exist on the streets of the Hill District,” Blanks said. “He comes in and he tells stories and he elicits conversation with everyone and by the time he makes his exit, I hope you are wondering, ‘What kind of adventure is he going to bring with him next?’ He's a whirlwind, and he's a storyteller, very much like August himself.”

    In order of each decade in the Wilson cycle, Blanks has played:

    • Eli in Gem of the Ocean (DCPA Theatre Company)
    • Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (DCPA Theatre Company)
    • Slow Drag in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Two River Theater)
    • Harvy Blank DCPA Radio GolfBoy Willie in The Piano Lesson (DCPA Theatre Company)
    • Canewell in Seven Guitars (DCPA Theatre Company)
    • Gabe in Fences (DCPA Theatre Company)
    • West in Two Trains Running (Two River Theater)
    • Turnbo and Shealy in Jitney (DCPA Theatre Company/Broadway)
    • Stool Pigeon in King Hedley II (DCPA Theatre Company)
    • Sterling Johnson in Radio Golf (DCPA Theatre Company, pictured above)

    And so he was inevitably asked if he has a favorite. And like most actors, Blanks’ favorite character is the character he’s working on now.

    Harvy Blanks JITNEY. Photo by Joan Marcus“Shealy is always in this very fashionable 1970s attire,” he said. “These are the clothes my dad's generation used to wear. I looked in the mirror in the dressing room the other day, and I just saw my dad in that suit, man. You can't know how meaningful that was to me. It took me right back to those days with my dad and my mom getting dressed to go out, and he’s putting on this suit that looks exactly like the one I wear in this play. It warms me. So I'm in love with this guy right now.  And I have to thank August Wilson for that, because the turns of phrases that my dad and my uncles used to use all the time are now pouring out of my mouth.”

    (Pictured right: Harvy Blanks in Broadway's 2017 production of 'Jitney.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

    Wilsonian Warriors have that in common, Staunton said.

     “We recognize these people from our own families,” she said. “Having done so many shows with Harvy, I've had the pleasure of hearing his stories of the wonderful community who helped raise him. Like always, I know he has pulled from that extraordinary pool to create Shealy.”

    Blanks last appeared at the Denver Center in a seminal 2011 production of Ruined, a Mother Courage-like story set in a brothel in war-torn Africa. Blanks’ DCPA resume includes roles in many African-American stories, such as Purlie and A Raisin in the Sun. But it’s remarkably varied slate, including August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace and nine seasonal productions of A Christmas Carol.

    “I miss it, man,” he said. That’s where I cut my teeth.”

    He knew the Denver Center would be his artistic home, he said, when then-Artistic Director Donovan Marley told him, “We don't have 'color' around here,’ ” Blanks said. “He told me, 'You are going to be a full part of the company, and that means you will be expected to do what Jamie Horton does, or Kathy Brady does, or John Hutton does.’ The biggies. These people were so gifted, and so just by sitting there and watching them work, I became far more disciplined as an actor than I was before I got there. So my time in Denver was huge to me.”

    the-mountaintop_lake-dillon-theatreBlanks returns to Colorado whenever possible. He performed in Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s The Mountaintop opposite Staunton in 2014 (pictured right), and last year he was back in Denver performing in the world premiere of the musical Uncle Jed’s Barbershop at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre.

    Here’s more of our conversation with Blanks, including his take on the new movie version of Fences:

    John Moore: What does it mean to you to be making your Broadway debut at this stage of your career?

    Harvy Blanks: I have certainly wanted to do Broadway, but it wasn't on my bucket list.

    John Moore: How is that possible?

    Harvy Blanks: Because after you have done theatre for a while, you lose that romantic view. And when you let something go, it frees you from your angst. But a lot of times, it comes back to you in strange and magical forms. Once you let something go free, you find yourself meeting up with it again down the road - and that's the way this happened.  

    John Moore: What was your first encounter with August Wilson’s work?

    Harvy Blanks: The first August Wilson experience I ever had was a production of Fences in Chicago with James Earl Jones, and I walked out of there in a daze. It was a nice summer night, and I must have walked forever. I was just completely in my head about what I had just witnessed.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: I was thinking about you and Kim Staunton when I saw the movie version of Fences a few weeks ago. What did you think of the film?

    Harvy Blanks: We were invited by (director and star Denzel Washington) to attend a screening here in New York, and we got to party with him. I was just bowled over ... and I am going to tell you the truth. I was thinking to myself: 'There are no chase scenes, there are no blood spatters, there are no sex scenes. I just don't know if America is ready for this.' But, man. That movie took me on a journey. How Denzel shot it reminded me of A Streetcar Named Desire in a lot of ways. Directors often have a problem turning plays into movies, but this was put on the screen in such an artistic fashion. I think it’s going to change cinema. I got into an argument after the film with a person who said, 'Yeah but they talked so much.’ And I said, 'Yeah, that's what it’s about: People talking. It’s not about helicopter crashes and missiles. It’s a story, and if you listen, you might pick some things.’

    Harvy Blanks quoteJohn Moore: How about Viola Davis and her willingness to get messy? I mean, in that one key scene, she has bodily fluids coming out of three orifices of her face at the same time. There are actors I'm sure who would have said to the director, “Let's cut, because I know I'm not going to look good on camera.” But with Viola Davis, it seems to be the messier the better.

    Harvy Blanks: That was just amazing. And just to be frank: I didn't know how to take it at first. At one point I was just thinking, “Please, Viola, just wipe your nose.” But the more I thought about it, I said, “Yes! When people are in that state - everything flies.” I have been there. I think what she did is going to be a conversation piece for the ages among actors: “To wipe, or not to wipe? That is the question!”

    John Moore: I say don't wipe.

    Harvy Blanks: You say don't wipe.

    John Moore: So to wrap this up, I want to ask you the big question about where we are as a nation and a people right now. In his final interview with American Theatre magazine in 2006, August Wilson expressed hope that with the completion of his cycle, “blacks might now move forward into the next century united, ditching the yoke of disenfranchisement without surrendering their cultural identity.” And then I thought about something you told me in a previous interview. You said we should look at the cycle as a metaphor for what blacks in this country have been struggliHarvy Blanks JITNEY. Joan Marcusng to do since slavery - and that’s trying to find family. But both of those quotes are a decade old now. When you look at them in the context of what has happened in America since, I wonder where you think we're at in terms of that pursuit.

    Harvy Blanks: Well, I think we are still pursuing it, quite frankly. This is what I have basically come to: There are forces out there that don't want you to get what you want, because they want what they want, and they will use whatever powers they can to keep that from happening.

    (Photo above and right: Harvy Blanks and Keith Randolph Smith in Broadway's 'Jitney.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

    John Moore: So, do you think we are heading in the right direction as a country?

    Harvy Blanks: Honestly, I never thought we were heading in the right direction. When Obama was elected, I said, “OK, this is a moment in time.” But this whole fantasy of a post-racial society? Are you kidding me? Who came up with that term? It's stupid to think that. Here’s what I think: The American Dream is always in flux. So you and me? We can differ. But I have a feeling, that you are going to basically be straight up with me, and that I can be straight up with you. And I think that in terms of human beings, that's the best that we can hope for: That we can have a dialogue. And that's what August Wilson has provided with his 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.


    Harvy Blanks' full chronology of plays at the Denver Center:


    Purlie

    Purlie

    1985-86

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Jim

    1989-90

    Fences

    Gabriel

    1989-90

    Three Men on a Horse

    Frankie

    1989-90

    White Paint

    Jake Rutledge

    1989-90

    Back to the Blanket

    Buffalo Soldier

    1990-91

    Joe Turner's Come and Gone

    Herald Loomis

    1990-91

    The Man Who Came to Dinner

    Banjo

    1990-91

    Miss Julie

    John

    1990-91

    They Shoot Horses Don't They?

    Rollo

    1990-91

    Arsenic and Old Lace

    Lieutenant Rooney

    1991-92

    Home

    Cephus Miles

    1991-92

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Tom Robinson

    1991-92

    The Piano Lesson

    Boy Willie

    1992-93

    Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

    Adam

    1994-95

    The Taming of the Shrew

    Curtis

    1994-95

    Seven Guitars

    Canewell

    1996-97

    Dream on Monkey Mountain

    Tigre

    1998-99

    A Christmas Carol (original version)

    Fezziwig/Businessman

    Four years**

    The Winter's Tale

    Cleomenes/Ensemble

    1999-00

    Jitney

    Turnbo

    2001-02

    King Hedley II

    Stool Pigeon

    2002-03

    A Streetcar Named Desire

    Mitch

    2003-04

    Madwoman

    Cop

    2004-05

    A Selfish Sacrifice

    Samuel Armstrong

    2004-05

    Gem of the Ocean

    Eli

    2005-06

    A Christmas Carol* (new version)

    Subscription Gent/Old Joe

    Five seasons*

    Radio Golf

    Sterling Johnson

    2008-09

    A Raisin in the Sun

    Bobo

    2009-10

    Ruined

    Christian

    2010-11

    *Blanks performed in the "new" version of A Christmas Carol in 2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12

    *Blanks performed in the "original" version of A Christmas Carol in 1994-95, 1995-96, 1998-99 and 1999-00

  • January 2017: Crossword puzzle and solution

    by John Moore | Jan 10, 2017
    With each new issue of Applause Magazine, we offer readers a crossword puzzle related to our current shows. Here is the most recent puzzle, covering Fun Home, The Book of Will, The Christians and Two Degrees. This should be fun - two of the four are world premieres, and Denver audiences have never before seen any of them!  

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


    Crossword 1

    Crossword 2

    Crossword 3
    Photo credit: Cast of 'Fun Home' by Joan Marcus.


    The solution:

    Crossword Answer January 2017
  • 'Two Degrees': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Christians

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

     

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


    Video bonus: Spotlight on Two Degrees



    Two Degrees
    : Cast list

    Written by Tira Palmquist
    Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

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

    • Kathleen McCall (The Glass Menagerie) as Emma Phelps

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

    • Kim Staunton (Fences) as Louise Allen


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

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


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

  • DCPA completes field of five New Play Summit playwrights

    by John Moore | Nov 03, 2016



    The DCPA Theatre Company has announced the five playwrights whose works will be featured at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit next Feb. 18-26. The 12th annual festival will feature readings of new works by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Rogelio Martinez, Eric Pfeffinger, Robert Schenkkan, and Lauren Yee.

    Summit PlaywrightsThe Colorado New Play Summit presents readings of new plays over two weeks as the playwrights continue to craft their developing works alongside a full creative team of actors and crew. Audiences also are offered the opportunity to see two fully staged world premiere productions that have emerged from the previous year's Summit. The featured full stagings in February will be The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson and Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist.

    (Pictured above, from left: Rogelio Martinez, Lauren Yee and Robert Schenkkan at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The Colorado New Play Summit has introduced 48 new plays  in its history, more than half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit world premieres have included Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride (which made its Off-Broadway debut at New York's MCC Theater), Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Eric Schmiedl’s adaptation of Kent Haruf’s Benediction, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s 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.

    2017 NEW-PLAY READINGS 

    Donnetta Lavinia GraysLast Night and the Night Before
    By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble, and her husband Reggie is nowhere to be seen. The family’s deep Southern roots have a long reach, and they grab hold of Rachel’s life stronger than she could have ever imagined. The play was featured in the 2015 National New Play Network's National Showcase of New Plays and won the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest the same year.

    Martinez, RogelioBlind Date
    By Rogelio Martinez

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    Before the advent of Match.com and eHarmony, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev try to build a relationship old school when they sit down to open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Though members of their cabinets try their hardest to keep them on track, the leaders steer the conversation to pop culture and films. While the men chip away at the mistrust between their countries, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev play out a passive-aggressive tango that mirrors their husbands’ negotiations in this conclusion to Martinez’s Cold War trilogy where “edgy comedy and sudden sorrow intertwine” (American Theatre).Martinez previously wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere of When Tang Met Laika.

    Human Error
    By Eric Pfeffinger

    Eric PfeffingerMadelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing an uproarious nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships. American Theatre has said, “Pfeffinger’s social conscience is matched by his amazing comic sensibilities” and his new play is no different.

    Schenkkan, RobertHanussen

    By Robert Schenkkan

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

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

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game in the post-Cultural Revolution 1980s, both countries try to tease out the politics behind this newly popular sport. Cultures clash as the Chinese coach tries to pick up moves from the Americans and Chinese American player Manford spies on his opponents. Inspired by events in her own father’s life, Yee “applies a devilishly keen satiric eye to…her generation (and its parents)” (San Francisco Chronicle).

    Check out our Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    2017 FULLY STAGED WORLD PREMIERES


    Lauren GundersonThe Book of Will
    B
    y Lauren Gunderson

    Developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever! After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the first Folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They’ll just have to borrow, beg and band together to get it done. Lauren Gunderson weaves a hilarious and heartfelt story inspired by the true story of Shakespeare’s First Folio.


     

     
    Tira PalmquistTwo Degrees
    By Tira Palmquist

    Developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    The smallest changes can lead to the biggest impact, and no one knows that better than Emma, a scientist studying climate change in Greenland. Still grappling with the unexpected death of her husband, she is invited to the nation’s capital to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough to make the difference in the world that she’s always wanted.

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit

    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-10, 2017
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26, 2017
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

  • Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jun 13, 2016
    Kyle Malone Season Artwork 2016-17

    EDITOR'S NOTE:
    DCPA Art Director Kyle Malone has been with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts for 16 years, and he has had a profound influence on how audiences have experienced every DCPA Theatre Company production since 2013. Malone owns the prestigious - and high-stakes - assignment of creating the art campaign that serves as theatregoers’ first exposure to the look, feel and content of every Theatre Company production. Here, Malone reveals his artwork for 2016-17 season, and explains a little about the process.

     

    By Kyle Malone
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The goal in creating the singular images you see before and throughout any DCPA Theatre Company theatre season is to bring raw, emotional characters to vivid life that will linger in the eye and mind of the beholder.

    These images are a vitally important first step in the creative process because, months in advance, they serve as our audiences’ first associations with the actual, eventual theatrical experience. So these images must serve as an effective, fair and visceral visual introduction to each of the plays. That’s a lot to ask of a single image.

    Kyle MaloneFor the second straight season, we have chosen to render each of these images by hand using charcoal and ink and combined with modern, colorful support elements. It’s a look that is unique to the Theatre Company, continuing a familiar visual identity we hope is equal in in professionalism and quality to the work that goes into the incredible shows on our stages.

    Much as a play best tells a story when all of its ingredients work together, the DCPA Design Team uses our own set of ingredients in our work. Of course, we cannot tell any entire story in a single image, so what we try to do is we boil each story down to its essence - hopefully by capturing one simple, moving moment.

    A look back at Kyle Malone's 2015-16 season artwork

    In terms of style, these images must engage and connect with people, using consistent unifying elements. We start with the hero of each piece and then focus on the emotion each of these characters evoke. We then depicted each one using rough charcoal and ink on illustration board – a choice we made to echo the hand-made work of the artists who work directly on the actual stage productions. The illustration is then rounded out with colorful and modern support elements to push the narrative of the story further. The final piece of the puzzle is designing a title treatment that uses lettering to both complement the overall story and add strength to the tone of the illustration.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Overall, each one is designed to be simple and bold and play well with surrounding messaging, and in many different sizes. Our team is constantly evaluating the images as they are used in everything from TV spots to mobile advertisements to posters, billboards and more.

    Today, these images are ready to be released to the wild.

    It is an honor to be a part of such a creative team in a creative organization. A big thank you to everyone who helped with this campaign, it wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of these talented individuals: Rob Silk, Carolyn Michaels, Adam Obendorf, Kim Conner, Brenda Elliott, Nathan Brunetti, Adam Lundeen, Brianne Firestone, Kent Thompson, Emily Kent and David Lenk.

    A look at the progression of The Secret Garden:

    SecretGarden-animated-800px[1]


    Editor's Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers a regular 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.


    About our Guest Columnist

    DCPA Art Director Kyle Malone is an Arvada native who graduated from Arvada West High School and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Colorado State University, majoring in drawing, painting, sculpting and graphics. His email is kmalone@dcpa.org.

    Selected previous Guest Columns:
    Students Aleksandra Kay and Alice Zelenko on The Secret Garden in NYC
    Student Nik Velimirovic on A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
    Douglas Langworthy: On translating Shakespeare for Oregon Shakes
    David Nehls: Live theatre returns to Elitch Gardens after 24 years
    Gillian McNally: Colorado's oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
    Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn't add up
    Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
    Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver

    A look at the progression of Frankenstein:

    Kyle Malone Progession Frankenstein
  • Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    by John Moore | Mar 16, 2016


    Our brief video look back at the DCPA Theatre Company's 2016 Colorado New Play Summit Feb. 12-21 in Denver.

    CNPS16 Regina TaylorIncludes interviews with featured playwrights Lauren Gunderson, Tira Palmquist, José Cruz González and Mat Smart.

    "I think everyone who knows new plays knows the Colorado New Play Summit," said Gunderson, whose play The Book of Will was later chosen for inclusion on the company's 2016-17 season, as was Palmquist's Two Degrees.

    Interviewees also include local and high-school playwrights whose work was featured as part of Summit activities.

    Video by Topher Blair, footage by David Lenk and interviews by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Photo above: Commissioned DCPA playwright Regina Taylor reads at the Playwrights Slam.

    Check out more of our Colorado theatre coverage

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

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit Photo Gallery:

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Our complete photo gallery from the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click the forward arrow on the photo above. To download any photo for free, click on it and follow instructions. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    CNPS16 logo
  • 2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    by NewsCenter Staff | Mar 08, 2016

    Geoff Kent and Michelle Patrick of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts announce the Theatre Company's 2016-17 season, above.


    The DCPA Theatre Company's 38th season will include two world premiere productions fresh off the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit, the U.S. premiere of a new version of Frankenstein, two acclaimed contemporary dramas, Tennessee Williams' most popular  play, the company's silver-anniversary staging of A Christmas Carol and the popular musical The Secret Garden.

    The new season will feature eight mainstage productions, plus the national touring production of the 2015 Tony Award-winner for Best Play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

    A Book of Will Lauren Gunderson 300The two new plays chosen from the Summit are The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson and Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist. The Book of Will tackles the history right after Shakespeare died, when his  friends and fellow actors valiantly published the first folio of his works, essentially saving the greatest English-speaking playwright from oblivion.

    Palmquist describes Two Degrees as "a cheery story about climate change."  Actually, Palmquist loves science, and her main character is a woman of about 45 years old who is a climate scientist. "It's really a play about grief: Grief for the planet, grief at large, grief on a more personal scale." 

    “We are excited to dive deep into the Theatre Company’s 38th season,” said Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. “This season is full of powerful stories that range from American classics to new works that all get to the heart of the human condition. Whether you’re a scientist trying to convince the Senate that climate change is real, a band of brothers risking financial ruin to save the legacy of your friend William Shakespeare, or a young girl finding solace in a hidden garden, something remarkable happens when people are pushed to their breaking point.”

    The season will be spread out over four theatres, in part because the Space Theatre is undergoing a year-long renovation. Two Degrees will be staged in the Jones Theatre.

    (Photos above: 'The Book of Will' at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)


    THEATRE COMPANY 2016-17 SEASON/AT A GLANCE

    Sept. 9-Oct. 16: The Glass Menagerie, Ricketson Theatre
    Sept. 30-Oct. 30: Frankenstein, Stage Theatre
    Nov. 25-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol, Stage Theatre
    Jan. 13-Feb. 26, 2017: The Book of Will, Ricketson Theatre
    Jan. 27-Feb. 26, 2017: The Christians, Stage Theatre
    Feb. 3-March 12, 2017: Two Degrees, The Jones Theatre
    March 31-May 7, 2017: Disgraced, ​Ricketson Theatre
    Apr 21-May 28, 2017: The Secret Garden, Stage Theatre
    May 30-June 18, 2017: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Ellie

    THE SEASON/PLAY BY PLAY

    Glass_menagerie 275The Glass Menagerie
    By Tennessee Williams
    Sept. 9-Oct. 16
    Ricketson Theatre
    The Wingfield family is trapped in a cage of nostalgia in their drab 1930s apartment. They dream of lives they wished they had but never pursued, of opportunities drifting away with the passing of time. But when a long-awaited gentleman caller joins them for dinner, fantasy and reality collide as expectations shatter like glass. This will be the  DCPA’s first-ever production of Tennessee Williams’ autobiographical masterpiece.


    3_frankenstein_030716Frankenstein
    By Nick Dear
    Sept 30-Oct. 30
    Stage Theatre
    Given life by a man with a troubled heart, a creature assembled from corpses sets out into the unforgiving world to discover his humanity. As he uncovers both kindness and cruelty, he seeks out the doctor who created him to demand answers about his tormented existence. Frankenstein features two lead actors alternating performances in the roles as Victor Frankenstein and his creature, allowing man and monster to intersect with every chilling performance of this U.S. premiere.



    4_christmas_carol_030716A Christmas Carol
    (not part of subscription package)
    By Charles Dickens, adapted by Richard Hellesen, music by David de Berry
    Nov. 25-Dec 24
    Stage Theatre
    The 25th seasonal staging of A Christmas Carol will star longtime  Denver favorite Sam Gregory, replacing the legendary Philip Pleasants. The production is a joyous and opulent musical adaptation that traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations.



    5_book_of_will_030716The Book of Will

    By Lauren Gunderson (DCPA Theatre Company Commission)
    Jan. 13-Feb. 26, 2017
    Ricketson Theatre
    Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever. After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the first folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They’ll just have to borrow, beg and band together to get it done. Shakespeare-lover Lauren Gunderson weaves a comic and heartfelt story of the characters behind the collected stories we know so well.

    READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN GUNDERSON



    6_the_christians_030716The Christians
    By Lucas Hnath
    Jan. 27-Feb 26, 2017
    Stage Theatre
    Pastor Paul inspires faith in the members of his growing congregation through his preaching. But when he brings up unexpected questions during a sermon, his changing perspective may ask too much of his followers. Featuring a full choir at every performance, The Christians is an intimate look at the moments that define who we are and what we believe. This New York Times Critics’ Pick has been called “deeply affecting" and "emotionally devastating” by The New York Post.




    7_two_degrees_030716Two Degrees

    By Tira Palmquist
    Feb. 3-March 12, 2017
    Jones Theatre
    The smallest changes can lead to the biggest impact, and no one knows that better than Emma, a scientist studying climate change in Greenland. Still grappling with the unexpected death of her husband, she is invited to the nation’s capital to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough to make the difference in the world that she’s always wanted.

    READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH TIRA PALMQUIST


    8_disgraced_030616Disgraced
    By Ayad Akhtar
    March 31-May 7, 2017
    Ricketson Theatre
    Amir has spent his adult life downplaying his upbringing to build the perfect life. But a high-profile court case and his wife’s Islamic-inspired art show reveal just how little his culture is understood by the people around him. The expectation to be true to yourself and to fit into mainstream society collide in this 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The New York Times calls it “terrific and turbulent, with fresh currents of dramatic electricity.” The Associated Press calls the play "breathtaking, raw and blistering.”


    9_secret_garden_030716The Secret Garden
    Book and lyrics by Marsha Norman, music by Lucy Simon
    Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    April 21-May 28, 2017
    Stage Theatre
    When young Mary is sent to live with her uncle after the death of her parents, she finds herself surrounded by distant relatives who are overcome by grief and fear. But when she uncovers the key to her late aunt’s long-lost garden, she becomes determined to revive the beauty that once flourished. Surrounded by spirits of the past, she uses the magic of hope to help the world around her grow once again.



    Original Broadway Company of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo: Joan Marcus.The Curious Incident of the Dog
    in the Night-Time

    National touring production
    By Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon
    Directed by Tony winner Marianne Elliott
    May 30-June 18, 2017
    The Ellie
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, winner of five 2015 Tony Awards including Best Play, was hailed as “one of the most fully immersive works ever to wallop Broadway” by The New York Times. Fifteen-year-old Christopher has an extraordinary brain; he is exceptionally intelligent but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbor’s dog, he sets out to identify the true culprit, which leads to an earth-shattering discovery and a journey that will change his life forever.

    Tickets and Subscriptions

    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Tickets are available to subscribers online at denvercenter.org by calling 303-893-6030 or 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to Broadway and student shows, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed.

    A single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time.

    Note: Plans for the new season are subject to change.

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

    by John Moore | Feb 19, 2016


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John Moore: Tell us about your protagonist.

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

    John Moore: So you wrote about a scientist.

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

    Two Degrees Tira Palmquist quote Summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Two Degrees: Cast list

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

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit: Ticket information

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

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

  • Summit playwrights introduce 2016 featured works

    by John Moore | Feb 09, 2016
    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Photos from the welcoming reception for the 11th annual Colorado New Play Summit. Above, the cast of 'American Mariachi.' To see our full photo gallery, click the 'forward' button on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The Denver Center's 11th annual Colorado New Play Summit began in earnest today when the four featured playwrights and their creative teams arrived for two weeks of development, rehearsals and public readings.

    Colorado New Play Summit.The four featured playwrights will work through the week in preparation for the first weekend of public readings on Feb. 13-14. They will then take what they learn into another week of intensive development, culminating with a second weekend of readings that will be attended by industry leaders from throughout the country.

    (Pictured right: Actors Mehry Eslaminia, 'Midwinter,' and Mackenzie Sherburne, Third Rail Project. Photo by John Moore.)

    Typically, two or three of the featured readings at each Colorado New Play Summit go on to full productions by the DCPA Theatre Company. The Summit has grown into one of the nation’s premier showcases of new plays. In its first decade, 44 new plays were introduced at the Summit, and more than half have returned as fully staged Theatre Company productions. This year’s The Nest and FADE were featured readings at the 2015 Summit.

    At Tuesday’s welcoming breakfast, each of the four 2016 featured playwrights briefly introduced their developing works. Here is what they said, in their own words:

    José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Colorado New Play Summit. José Cruz González"American Mariachi is a piece inspired by women who started forming their own mariachi groups in the 1970s. Of course, they had many challenges trying to play such a male-dominated musical form. We interviewed a number of amazing women who were able to help us enter into that world, and we found an amazing group of artists who will play and sing in the piece." 

     Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Colorado New Play Summit. Lauren Gunderson“The Book of Will
    is a play that tackles the history right after Shakespeare died. His friends and fellow actors were the ones who found and collated and valiantly published - through kind of an amazing odds, actually - the first folio of his works. So our task is to really take this thing that's so epic and so universal, but make it into a story about friendships and communities and this personal stuff that was really the cause of this world-changing, beautiful poetry that has access to every language." 

    Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Colorado New Play Summit. Tira Palmquist."Two Degrees is a cheery story about climate change. Actually, it so happens I love science, and I'm really, really inspired by climate change - so my main character is a woman of about 45 years old who is a climate scientist. It's really a play about grief: Grief for the planet, grief at large, grief on a more personal scale."

    Mat Smart, Midwinter
    Colorado New Play Summit. Mat Smart. "I spent three months working in Antarctica as a janitor at the McMurdo Station research center, and I wrote a play about that called The Royal Society. This is sort of a companion piece. One thing that's interesting about the station is that the people there fall in and out of love and have these epic relationships for, like, two weeks - and it's very genuine. It's kind of like a petri dish. And in the wintertime, the big event is the Midwinter Dinner. That got me thinking about A Midsummer Night's Dream. So it's a little bit of a riff on that." 

    (Note: The McMurdo Station is a research center on the south tip of Ross Island, which is in the New Zealand-claimed Ross Dependency on the shore of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. It is operated by a branch of the United States' National Science Foundation. The station is the largest community in Antarctica, capable of supporting up to 1,258 residents. All personnel and cargo going to or coming from Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station first pass through McMurdo.)

    Colorado New Play Summit. Kemp Powers and Jason Delane.  The Colorado New Play Summit made for a 'One Night in Miami' reunion: Kemp Powers, now a commissioned DCPA Theatre playwright, and actor Jason Delane (Two Degrees'). Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    2016 Colorado New Play Summit: Ticket information

    First weekend (Launch Weekend): Saturday, Feb. 13, and Sunday, Feb. 14
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Second weekend (Festival Weekend): Friday, Feb. 19, through Sunday, Feb. 21

    Including an additional workshop presentation with Third Rail Projects
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Colorado New Play Summit (to date):
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
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.