• In the Spotlife: Mark Collins of 'Lost Creatures'

    by John Moore | Nov 01, 2016
    Mark Collins. Lost Creatures
    Photo of Mark Collins by Sara Harris.

    (The DCPA NewsCenter regularly profiles actors performing in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)


    The former Boulder theatre critic is playing renowned theatre critic Kenneth Tynan in Melissa Lucero McCarl's 'Lost Creatures' for And Toto too Theatre Company

    • Lulu Mark Collins Lost CreaturesHometown: Reidsville, N.C.
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Boulder High School
    • College: I have a BFA in Acting from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and an MFA in Acting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    • What have you done for us lately? I played Michael in God of Carnage at Miners Alley Playhouse
    • What is Lost Creatures all about? In 1978, former British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan visited reclusive former silent-film star Louise Brooks in her dingy one-room apartment in Rochester, N.Y. Tynan, a fan of Brooks', was there to interview the 71-year-old for a profile he wrote that eventually ran in the New Yorker. Playwright Melissa Lucero McCarl imagines what happened when these two kindred spirits – two lost creatures – met and drank and talked and ...?
    • Tell us about your character: Kenneth Tynan was a foremost drama critic, and a notorious and purposefully provocative sexual deviant; he suffered from emphysema and had a life-long stammer. As an actor, though, the big stretch for me has been that Ken speaks in complete and often flourishing paragraphs. I, on the other hand, have trouble speaking in complete sentences. So that’s been a challenge.
    • Lost CreaturesWhat do you love most about this experience? First, to get to work with this dynamite team – the supportive and miracle-making duo of (producers) Susan Lyles and Darren Smith; our onion-peeler-of-a-director Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski, our smokin’ hot writer Melissa McCarl, clever stage manager Lauren Myer, and the lovely tandem of Billie McBride and Annabel Reader - is a real treat. Billie will break hearts as Louise, I guarantee it. But one of the things I’m most looking forward to is how the audience responds to the character of Lulu, played by Annabel. She, as Louise Brooks’ iconic film character from the 1929 pre-talkie Pandora’s Box (you’ll recognize the hairstyle she made famous), is a silent character. She is (mostly) unseen by others on stage, yet Lulu is ever present and ever mischievous, and Annabel has created this fully realized character without words wonderfully.
    • From 2012: Moore & Collins: Two ex-theater critics having coffee

    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I think many people in the local theater scene know I was a theater critic for the Boulder Camera for several years. Many don’t realize that was a freelance position, and my full-time work for much of that period was as a sports editor/writer for the (University of Colorado) Buffalo Sports News. Truth be told, I’m much more fluent on the history of the Colorado Buffaloes football than I am on, say, Bertolt Brecht.
    • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? Um, so, as an audience member, my pet peeve is those increasingly present, but frustratingly intrusive post-curtain marketing speeches. Please don’t tell me to like you on Facebook when I’m absorbing and processing and feeling what’s just happened on your stage. Oh, but that’s a downer note to end on. So, I want to get this off my chest, too: Theater is filled with lost creatures, and I’m so grateful to be among that tribe here in Colorado!


    Lost Creatures: Ticket information

    • By Melissa Lucero McCarl
    • Directed by Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    • Nov. 3-19
    • Presented by And Toto too Theatre Company at 1245 Champa St. (In the brand new performance space called The Commons.)
    • Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays 
    • Tickets $15-25
    • Info: 720-583-3975 or go to andtototoo.org 

    Cast List:
    • Mark Collins as Kenneth Tynan
    • Billie McBride as Louise Brooks
    • Annabel Reader as Lulu

    About the Next Stage NOW Project
    Lost Creatures is supported in part by Next Stage NOW, a public initiative with a mission to enliven and diversify the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Denver Arts & Venues in partnership with the Boettcher Foundation and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts has made $200,000 available to support public performances, programming and place making initiatives at the Arts Complex in 2016.

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • November: Colorado theatre openings

    by John Moore | Oct 27, 2016
    November openings DCPA

    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of all upcoming Colorado theatre openings. Companies are encouraged to submit listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.

    Five intriguing titles for November:

    Theatregoers have a dizzying array of options in November, with more special events and activities offered than in any other month. All told, you have 81 productions or events to choose from, including a whopping nine from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts alone. Statewide, you can choose between two stage adaptations of Night of the Living Dead, two musicalized versions of the holiday family film A Christmas Story, two It's a Wonderful Lifes, two The Crucibles and four variations of A Christmas Carol.

    At the Denver Center, you will find everything from three nights of David Sedaris to Jersey Boys to Hip Hop Nutcracker to the ongoing irreverent comedy An Act of God. And that doesn't even include two of Denver's most popular November activities: The Denver International Film Festival (Nov. 2-13) and the Denver Improv Festival (Nov. 10-12). Here are five (of many) intriguing titles or events to check out:

    1 PerspectivesJohn Hauser Young John Hauser is on a roll. His latest coup is landing the role of a troubled Texas teen named Jason in Hand to God, presented by Curious Theatre Company. Not to be confused with the DCPA's An Act of God, Robert Askins' ruthlessly profane comedy is about a God-fearing boy coping with his father’s recent death who is forced to join his mother’s Church-led puppet group. When Jason discovers that his foul-mouthed sock puppet has a demonic life all its own, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Hauser is part of the DCPA's Frankenstein company and stars as Romeo in the Education Department's traveling Shakespeare in the Parking Lot program. He also recently starred as Eugene in Miners Alley Playhouse's Biloxi Blues. Hand to God runs Nov. 5-Dec. 17 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    2 Perspectives

    The world premiere of Lost Creatures, written by Denver native Melissa Lucero McCarl, follows the evening British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan met his longtime cinematic obsession, actress Louise Brooks. It's May 1978 and she has sequestered herself for many years, but they discover they are kindred spirits. Starring local big-shots Billie McBride and Mark Collins, and directed by DCPA Education's Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski. Presented by And Toto Too Theatre Company from Nov. 3-19 at 1245 Champa St., 720-583-3975 or andtototoo.org 

    3 PerspectivesGerminal Stage-Denver is presenting a limited engagement of Dalton Trumbo's 1939 anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun. It's the story of a World War I soldier who wakes up in a hospital bed and gradually realizes he has lost his arms, legs and all of his face in an artillery blast. Now through Nov. 6 at the 73rd Avenue Playhouse, 7287 Lowell Blvd., 303-455-7108 or germinalstage.com.

    4 PerspectivesEquinox Theatre Company is launching a world-premiere comedy by local actor (and writer) Christian Munck called One Death, Please? It's about a young pop-star named Olive Warren who seems to have it all. But she doesn't, and now she's determined to to take her own life with the help of an assisted suicide clinic. This new play is said to "shine a harsh spotlight on the brutality of the popular media." Nov. 11-Dec. 3 at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    5 PerspectivesThe DCPA’s Tony-winning Theatre Company is helping the community celebrate Denver Arts Week with a special, free evening on Nov. 7 titled Magic of Theatre.
    Ever wonder how it rains on stage? Snows inside? Or how many recipes there are for fake blood? Come explore the secrets of the trade with expert craftspeople. Activities may range from a light show and multimedia display to painting through a bamboo shoot to an exercise in stage combat. Guests also will be treated to scenes from current productions. Details are still being finalized. 6:30 p.m. at the Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    And that's just the start of things. Here are all your options in one handy list:  


    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Oct. 28-30: DCPA's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
    JonesTheatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Oct. 28-Nov. 12: Coal Creek Theater of Louisville and Theater Company of Lafayette's Absurd Person Singular
    At the Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant Ave., Louisville, 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org 

    Oct. 28-Nov. 27: Vintage Theatre Productions' Stella and Lou
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Oct. 28-Nov. 6: Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun

    At the 73rd Avenue Playhouse, 7287 Lowell Blvd., 303-455-7108 or germinalstage.com

    Oct. 28-Nov. 12: Funky Little Theatre Company's The Bold, the Young & the Murdered
    2109 Templeton Gap Road, Colorado Springs, 719-425-9509 or funkylittletheater.org

    Nov. 3-19: And Toto too Theatre Company’s Lost Creatures
    At The Commons on Champa,1245 Champa St., 720-583-3975 or andtototoo.org 

    Nov. 3-13: Upstart Crow's The Crucible
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or upstart’s home page


    Nov. 5-Dec. 17: Curious Theatre's Hand to God
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    Nov. 5-Dec. 3: OpenStage Theatre & Company’s The Flick
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or www.openstagetheatre.org


    Nov. 5-Dec. 18: The Bitsy Stage's Sadko's Song: A Russian Tale
    1137 S. Huron St. Free, but reservations are required by calling 720-328-5294 or  emailing patti@BitsyStage.com

    Nov. 9-Nov. 13: DCPA Broadway's Jersey Boys
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Nov. 10-12: Control Group Productions' Alone with Todd
    At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., controlgroupproductions.org

    Nov. 11-Dec. 30: Town Hall Arts Center's A Christmas Story, The Musical
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Nov. 11-Dec. 31: Midtown Arts Center's A Christmas Story, The Musical
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Equinox One Death Please. Photo by Christine Fisk. Nov. 11-Dec. 3: Equinox Theatre Company's One Death, Please?
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Nov. 11-20: Inspire Creative's The Diary of Anne Frank
    19650 E. Mainstreet, Parker, 303-805-6800 or inspirecreative.org

    Nov. 17-Dec. 4: Maya Productions' Conviction
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-444-7328 or thedairy.org

    Nov. 18-Dec. 24: Arvada Center's I'll Be Home for Christmas
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org READ MORE

    Nov. 18-Dec. 18: Two live radio plays: It's A Wonderful Life in repertory with A Christmas Carol
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    Nov. 19-Feb. 25, 2017: BDT Stage's Thoroughly Modern Millie
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Nov. 19-Dec. 23: Bas Bleu Theatre Company's The Snow Queen
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Nov. 11-20: Longmont Theatre Company's Tuesdays with Morrie
    513 Main St., 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Nov 20: DCPA Broadway's The Hip Hop Nutcracker
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Nov. 25-Dec. 24: DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol, Stage Theatre
    At the Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Nov. 25-Dec. 24: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and Off-Center's The SantaLand Diaries
    At the Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Nov. 25-Dec. 23: Miners Alley Playhouse's A Christmas Carol
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Nov. 25-Jan. 8: Vintage Theatre Productions' Beauty and the Beast
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Nov. 25-Dec. 24, 2016: The Avenue Theater's Santa’s Big Red Sack
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page

    Nov. 25-Dec. 18: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Bad Jews
    At the Outlets at Silverthorne. Dillon, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 2016: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's She Loves Me
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Nov. 25-Dec. 31: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s A Wonderful Life
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Nov. 25-Dec. 31: Thin Air Theatre Company's A Cripple Creek Christmas Carol
    139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    Dec. 1-18: Boys Hair Club's A Krumpus Story
    Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St. TICKET INFO



    Bat Boy. Longmont Theatre. Through Oct. 29: Longmont Theatre Company's Bat Boy: The Musical
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Through Oct. 29, 2016: Naropa Universiity's Spill
    2130 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder MORE INFO

    Through Oct. 29: OpenStage Theatre Company’s Ultimate Beauty Bible
    At the Center for Fine Art Photography, 400 N. College Ave., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org


    Through Oct. 29: Bug Theatre's Night of the Living Dead, Live (with Paper Cat Films)
    3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info

    Through Oct. 30: DCPA Theatre Company's Frankenstein
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through Oct. 30: Cherry Creek Theatre's The Last Romance
    Shaver Ramsey Showroom, 2414 E. 3rd Ave., Denver, 303-800-6578 or cherrycreektheatre.org

    Through Oct. 30: Springs Ensemble Theatre’s The Elephant Man
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Through Oct. 30: Thingamajig Theatre Company's Grounded
    At the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org

    Through Oct. 30: Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre’s Sarah, Plain and Tall
    Famous Performing Arts Center, 131 W Main St., Trinidad, 719-846-4765 or scrtheatre.com

    Through Oct. 30: Vintage Theatre's Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, The Musical
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Oct. 30: 5280 Artists Coop's Colorism

    1400 Dallas Street, Aurora, 5280artistcoop.ticketspice.com

    Through Oct. 30: Star Bar Players' Night of the Living Dead, Live
    At the Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 E. Colorado. 719-520-1899 or starbarplayers.org

    Through Oct. 30: Thin Air Theatre Company's Cripple Creep Show
    139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    Through Oct. 30: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
    Second Stage, 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Through Nov. 5: Midtown Arts Center's Motones vs. Jerseys
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through Nov. 5: Firehouse's Theatre's The Crucible
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page READ MORE

    Through Nov. 5: The Avenue Theater's Wait Until Dark
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

    Through Nov. 6: Arvada Center’s Tartuffe
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org READ MORE

    Through Nov. 6: Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres, or The Sun That You Are
    At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org READ MORE

    Through Nov. 6: Aurora Fox's Dracula
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-739-1970 or aurorafoxartscenter.org

    Through Nov. 6: TheatreWorks' Game of Love and Chance
    3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through Nov. 6: Evergren Players' Stepping Out
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreen players’ home page

    Through Nov. 12: BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2! (#WhatDidIComeInHereFor)
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com READ MORE

    Through March 12, 2017: DCPA Cabaret's An Act of God
    Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through Nov. 13: The Edge Theatre's Marie Antoinette
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Through Nov. 13: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s Evita
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through Nov. 13: Local Theater Company’s The Firestorm
    Carsen Theater at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org READ MORE


    Through Nov. 13: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Full Code
    Grace Gamm Theater at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or betc.org

    Through Nov. 13: Ignite Theatre's Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
    2590 Washington St., 866-811-4111 or click here for tickets

    Through Nov. 19: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
    Second Stage, 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Through Nov. 27: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Godspell
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com



    Ongoing productions
    2406 Federal Blvd., Denver, 303-455-1848 or adamsmysteryplayhouse.com

    Nov. 19: Staged reading of Sheltered, a play by local playwright Catherine Wiley
    7 p.m.  $20 ticket includes donation to The Gathering Place.
    At Red Line Contemporary Art Gallery, 2350 Arapahoe St. or tickets


    Sept. 30: Untitled at the Denver Art Museum
    Nov. 12: Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey (Monthly theatre for young audiences at 1 and 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month, through May 13)
    Nov. 15: The Great Debate
    Nov. 16: The Narrators (a live storytelling show and podcast)
    Nov. 18-19: Stratus Chamber Orchestra with Buntport Theater at Augustana Lutheran Church
    Nov. 19: TRUNKS: a live comic book is back! (2-4 p.m.)
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Nov. 5-6: FEED: Los Muertos
    Celebrating stories and rituals honoring the departed, including a three-course meal, live music and performance.
    Firehouse Arts Center, 667 4th Ave., Longmont, 720-468-0487 or brownpapertickets.com


    (Monthly film series in partnership with local theatre companies)
    Nov. 15: A Christmas Story
    Pre-screening entertainment by cast of Town Hall Arts Center's current production.
    At the Alamo Drafthouse, Aspen Grove, 7301 S Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, 720-588-4107 or BUY TICKETS

    Nov. 2-4: DCPA Broadway's An Evening with David Sedaris
    At the Seawell Grand Ballroom, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org


    Nov. 10-12: The Denver Improv Festival features the top improv performers from across Colorado as well as teams from all over the country. BUY TICKETS
    The Bovine Metropolis Theater, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse and Backstage at Beryl's.

    Nov. 4-5: Tim and Ben
    The Outlets at Silverthorne. Dillon, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    Nov. 18: Aquila Theatre's Much Ado About Nothing
    Nov. 19: Aquila Theatre's Agatha Christie's Murder on the Nile
    470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or Lakewood.org

    Nov. 2: Drag Decades with Hostess Shirley Delta Blow
    Nov. 4 and 11: The Jerseys Sing the Four Seasons
    Nov. 5-26: Unforgettable, an R&B tribute starring Mary Louise Lee and Michael C

    Nov. 25: Revenge of the Misfit Toys, holiday improv comedy 
    D&F Clock Tower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or Clocktowercabaret.com

    November openings. Einstein Mizel. MIZEL ARTS AND CULTURE CENTER
    Nov. 20: Einstein!, a solo play by Jack Fry, 4 p.m.
    Elaine Wolf Theatre, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6360 or maccjcc.org

    Oct. 27: Rock the Presidents
    This high-energy musical revue spans 223 years of American presidents.
    20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, parkerarts.org


    Every third Monday: Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org


    Nov. 12: Born Funny
    1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-494-0523 or TICKETS
    Selections include:
    "Attempting Normal," by Marc Maron, performed by Drew Horwitz
    “Confessions of a Juggler,” by Tina Fey, performed by MareTrevathan
    “The Long Epiphany,” by George Carlin, performed by Bob Buckley

    November openings. Aquila Lakewood Cultural Center
  • 2015 True West Award: Susan Lyles

    by John Moore | Dec 06, 2015
    True West Awards Susan Lyles
    James O’Hagan Murphy and Kate Poling in 'Smoke,' by Kim Davies. Photo credit:  Meghan Ralph, Soular Radiant Photography.


    ​Today’s recipient:
    And Toto Too Theatre Company founder Susan Lyles

    Today’s presenter: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

    According to a recent sampling, just 22 percent of all plays produced on American stages between 2011-14 were written by women. Even though women historically average about 57 percent of the theatregoing audience.

    As the issue of gender disparity in American playwriting finally emerged as a major topic of national conversation in recent months, Denver’s only theatre company dedicated to exclusively presenting women’s voices was quietly celebrating its 10th anniversary.

    Susan Lyles QuoteAnd Toto Too Theatre Company came to life in 2005. Susan Lyles had given birth to her second son just five weeks before she went into rehearsals for her company's first production. As a longtime actor, costume designer and especially as both mother and role model to young boys, she said, enough was enough.

    “It was just time to take the leap,” said Lyles, who had moved to Colorado from Kansas with her husband, Darren Smith, in 1998. “I felt it was important for me to continue to be creative around my children. And as a woman, I realized how underrepresented we were, and how little control we had over our art form.

    “And also as a woman, I wanted to hear my own voice up there on the stage,” she added. And she wanted her boys to hear that voice as well.

    It has not been an easy or obvious go for Lyles. In the first 10 years, her not-for-profit company has fully staged 12 plays by women playwrights (all but one world premieres). The most recent was Kim Davies’ Smoke, a positively Mamet-like exploration of sexual power between a man and woman who hook up at a kink party in New York City.


    And Toto Too is perhaps best known for its annual play crawl that takes place amid the funky Tennyson Street Art District in northwest Denver. Each summer, Lyles commissions 12 women to write two-minute plays all presented environmentally by some of the area’s top actors in galleries and shops stretching between 38th and 44th avenues. The Play Crawl, the company’s major annual fundraiser, has introduced more than 50 short new works since it began in 2011. And Toto Too also has launched a reading series that introduced seven new full-length works by women in 2015 alone.  

    Like most any other small theatre company in the metro area, finding a permanent home has proven to be an elusive goal. And Toto Too has had four homes, having most recently settled into the black box at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

    The lack of a permanent home and the economics of producing live theatre have made it impossible and impractical for Lyles to plan full seasons like bigger companies. Instead she produces a fully staged show whenever she can afford to do it. It costs an average of about $7,000 to produce a new play, depending on varying factors including venue, whether a union (Equity) actor is involved, and the cost of building the set.

    And Toto Too. Photo by John Moore.

    Artistic director Susan Lyles, right, had a cheap but reliable labor force at her disposal in 2013, meaning her two young sons, before this performance of the Dorothy Parker drama 'Pardon My Dust' at the former LIDA Project space. Photo by John Moore.

    Another complication: "All of our funding comes from individual donors and ticket sales – not from grants,” she said. “So without people truly wanting to see plays by women, we would have folded a long time ago.”  

    Lyles’ goals heading into 2016 include finding a permanent home, developing local women playwrights, and encouraging the expansion of other underrepresented voices, including transgendered and Native American writers.

    She is impressed that at about the same time she started And Toto Too, new DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson created the Women’s Voices Fund, which has raised more than $1 million to create opportunities for female playwrights and directors. Next month, the DCPA will stage world premieres by Tanya Saracho and Theresa Rebeck.

    “I think it is great that they are actually putting their money where their mouth is,” Lyles said.

    This all comes at a time when the drumbeat for gender parity has been rising from across the nation, both at industry conferences and on the internet. Lyles is encouraged, but skeptical. “I am hopeful that something comes of it,” she said. “But I seriously wonder how long the conversation is going to last because it is a subject that comes and goes.

    "The fact of the matter is I shouldn’t have to form a company just to have women’s voices represented on the stage. It should just be a given.”​


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

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

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.

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