• Abner Genece: An actor survives, and the son also rises

    by John Moore | Mar 18, 2018
    Abner Genece. Matthew Gale Photography. Arvada Center.

    When the actor took one small step onto the Arvada Center stage, it was one giant leap back from near-fatal tragedy

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    When actor Abner Genece woke up days after the accident with as many tubes in his body as broken bones, he wasn’t thinking of whether he might ever perform again. He was thinking of his son, Jayden, who had been airlifted from the highway carnage to a pediatric trauma center in another state.

    “I was confused and upset,” said Genece, whose body was being held together by nine permanent titanium plates — and held down by physical restraints.

    But then he remembered hearing Jayden’s voice cut through the cacophony of fear in those terrifying initial moments after impact: “I’m OK, Daddy. I love you, Daddy.”

    Abner Genece Selfie with Jayden“As soon as I was able to think more clearly, I was assured by the trauma staff and my brother and sister that Jayden was indeed alive,” Genece said this week, eight months after he and Jayden were struck from behind by a semi-truck traveling at nearly 70 mph. Days later, he said, “what could have happened to Jayden dawned on me in its full clarity.”

    Father and son were driving to Oregon to visit cousins for the holiday weekend. They were stopped on a Wyoming highway by police because of an accident ahead. Genece remembers stopping at a rest stop a few minutes before to fuel up and buy some snacks. “We even took a selfie,” he said (pictured above and right). Genece doesn’t remember getting back into the car. “I only remember waking up several days later in a Salt Lake City intensive-care unit.”

    Genece and his son both sustained multiple, life-threatening injuries. Abner required several surgeries on his ribs and spine. Jayden, who was 11 at the time, had to wear a neck brace for several months. Both needed dental surgery to repair their teeth.

    Genece’s spirits were high that day. He had been recently featured in Curious Theatre’s Water by the Spoonful, and just the day before had participated as a director and performer in Curious’ National Collective Festival, a week-long intensive for promising young playwrights. Genece was preparing to perform in a play that September in Jackson, Wyo. And he had just received word days before that he was one of 11 actors chosen as full members of the Arvada Center’s Black Box Theatre Company for the 2017-18 season. That not only meant he would be performing in three plays in repertory — he had guaranteed employment for a year. It is considered one of the best jobs any actor in Denver can get.   

    Lynne Collins, artistic director of the Arvada Center’s repertory company, chose Genece to play Sir John in Sense and Sensibility, Jim Bayless in All My Sons and Ambimbola in The Electric Baby. So when she got the call days later that Genece was now fighting for his life in a Utah hospital, Collins couldn’t wrap her head around the sadness of it all — and the heavy irony.

    Abner Genece Sense and Sensibility“Just a week before, Abner was auditioning to play a Nigerian man who spends 90 percent of the play in a hospital bed wondering if he will ever walk again,” Collins said of The Electric Baby. That’s a play about a woman who causes a car accident that kills a young man and brings together a group of fractured souls who connect around a mysterious dying baby who glows like the moon.

    “When I cast him in the role, Abner told me, ‘I understand this character’s background. I know I can do the dialect. But you know what? I have never spent any time in a hospital,’ ” Collins said. He thought maybe he should spend some time in a hospital to better prepare for the role. And a week later … “

    A week later, Genece was facing a long road toward recovery that would be difficult, painful, expensive and presumably quite slow. His new daily regimen would now include ongoing physical, occupational and mental therapies.

    But one thing he never had to worry about was whether he still had a job at the Arvada Center at the end of October. In fact, the Arvada Center sent bouquet of flowers to the I.C.U. the very next day.

    Photos: NewsCenter coverage of All My Sons opening night

    “It never occurred to me not to stick with Abner,” Collins said. “Just as a general rule, you should try very hard not to punish people on the heels of a very horrible tragedy in their lives. The idea of making Abner’s situation worse by abandoning him was simply not an option.”

    Genece said support from Collins and Arvada Center Executive Director Philip Sneed was steadfast and clear from the beginning. “What was unclear was whether I would be physically able to return by the time rehearsals for Sense and Sensibility began,” said Genece.

    “The decision would be mine,” he added. “I would return only if I felt that I could perform at the level that I had set for myself."

    (Story continues below the video.)

    Video: Abner Genece speaks at Miscast 2017:


    But Genece, needless to say, was highly motivated to recover both fast and fully. That job for the Wyoming theatre in September was out of the question. Instead, the goal became walking into rehearsals for Sense and Sensibility not quite three months after the accident.

    Back in July, the end of October seemed both just around the corner and a lifetime away. While Genece went to work on his recovery, an army of friends, relatives and strangers mobilized to help. The Denver Actors Fund provided Genece with more than $6,300 in medical relief as well as volunteers who provided meals, groceries, housekeeping and transportation.  

     “Simply put, I would not be here without the Denver Actors Fund,” Genece said. “During some of the toughest times, they helped provide food, shelter, financial aid, a caring ear and a diligent hand.”

    Abner Genece Electric BabyBut during that time Genece, who is divorced, still had basic living expenses and obligations to meet. His supplemental streams of income were impacted directly. “My work as a teaching artist, a workshop facilitator and a Lyft driver stopped immediately,” he said. His family started an online fund that raised naother $23,000. Genece singled out local directors Betty Hart and Robert Michael Sanders for their help in the months after the accident, as well as Pastor Brad Richardson of Crossroads Church Northglenn and Genece's brothers, Richard and Daryl. “I was both humbled and inspired,” he said.

    Collins was hopeful Genece would be able to handle the demands of The Electric Baby from his character’s hospital bed. But this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is a rollicking one, and very demanding on the actors. “It was scary for all of us in the rehearsal room because it is a very physical play, and on certain days we could really tell that Abner was hurting and pushing himself too hard, so we made him sit down and rest," Collins said. "But he did not want any special treatment, so whatever pain he was dealing with, he was keeping very private.”

    Genece describes the support he received from his fellow artists as both "thoughtful and proactive." Arrangements were made for his dressing room to be located as close to the stage as possible. He was ordered not to do any heavy lifting. “Costume fittings were scheduled and executed with special care,” he said. “The stage managers were especially attentive to my need for frequent breaks as my spine, shoulder blades and ribs were all very much still healing. These and other considerations made it so much easier for me to focus on the task at hand.”

    Another constant source of support was his son, Jayden. Professional theatre companies don’t typically allow the actors to bring their children to rehearsals because of the potential distraction. But for Genece, Jayden’s presence was another form of medicine.

    “It definitely helped Abner to have Jayden literally in his corner,” Collins said. “He’s a good theatre kid and he was so quiet. But you could tell that just having Jayden there made Abner feel better. The love they share is really palpable, and I imagine this has only bonded them even more.”

    Castmate Emma Messenger describes Genece as both a gentleman and a gentle man. "We are all very protective of him," actor Kate Gleason added. But perhaps none more so than Regina Fernandez, who remembers working with Genece on a schools touring production for Kaiser Permanente — and in particular one early morning drive to Greeley two years ago. 

    "We talked that day about how our ultimate goal was the same — to be hired into the Arvada Center's Black Box Theatre Company," Fernandez said. They achieved that goal together, but the triumph was nearly taken away from Genece as quickly as he got it. And that, Fernandez said, made seeing Genece walk onstage on opening night of Sense and Sensibility on Jan. 26 all the more of a miracle.

    "But no more so than any other night," Fernandez said, "because now I think that every night with Abner is a miracle."

    Genece says he has been blessed to work with many wonderful people over the years. "However, this repertory company holds a special place in my spirit," he said, "particularly when one considers the mountain I had to climb, and am still climbing. In so many ways, great and small, these talented artists made me feel welcomed, like a valued member of the team. And perhaps most of all, like I was being encouraged to bring my personal truth and creativity to the fore. That has had everything to do with the quality of my recovery.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Collins said she teared up when she saw Genece make his opening-night entrance. She said she saw an actor who was funny and adorable and, in her words, “a big ball of love" on the stage.

    Abner Genece All My Sons“Abner is a lovely and humble man,” she said. “I was just so grateful for him — and for us —  that we were all able to make this happen. Abner has earned a karma point.”

    Genece said Sense and Sensibility is such a physically robust production that on opening night, "I didn’t have much time to reflect during the show, thankfully,” he said. “But afterward, while celebrating with Jayden at the party, I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and triumph.”

    Gratitude for the opportunity to realize what Genece says every actor aspires to achieve: “Those brief onstage moments in the dark, when I can feel the audience gasp and my spirit expand,” he said. "When magic is possible — if only for an instant.”

    Now that all three plays are open (and will run through the first week of May), Genece has had an opportunity to reflect on his journey from being left broken on a Wyoming highway to whole and performing on the Arvada Center stage.

    “I’ve learned that we will be tested in our lives,” he said. “We will suffer. There will be pain. But it’s how we choose to deal with those events that ultimately determines the quality of our lives. It’s a long road. Trust that there are good people in the world; there are angels. And trust that you are enough.

    “And in those dark moments: Double down on yourself.”

    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. He is also the founder of the Denver Actors Fund.

    Abner Gence: My Three Characters

    • “In Sense and Sensibility, I play Sir John Middleton, a male gossip, a female gossip, an old servant, a furniture mover and the doctor. In Kate Hamill’s adaptation, the physical and vocal demands are considerable. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to play characters at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.”
    • “In The Electric Baby, I play Ambimbola, an immigrant from Nigeria who works as a cab driver. One of my challenges in this production was to embrace the irony of playing a man who spends the bulk of the play suffering in a hospital bed.”
    • In All My Sons, I play Dr. Jim Bayliss, a loyal friend of the Keller family who goes to great lengths to tend to their well-being. Among the challenges in this play was exploring the natures of loyalty and loss, two themes that I am familiar with in my own life.”

    Abner Genece: At a glance
    Abner Genece is making is Arvada Center debut. Other local credits: Water By The Spoonful (Curious Theatre Company); The Arabian Nights (Aurora Fox Center); Off Broadway: Othello, Hamlet, Tartuffe and Waiting For Godot (Jean Cocteau Repertory); Regional: The Bluest Eye (Moxie Theatre), The Meeting (Stella Adler Theatre), For The Love of Freedom (Greenway Arts Alliance), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum); Film and Television: Unrest, A-List, Harry’s Law, Zeke and Luther and Law & Order

    Arvada Center: Ticket information:

    Black Box Theatre Company repertory season:

    • All My Sons, written by Arthur Miller and directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 3
    • The Electric Baby, written by Stefanie Zadravec and directed By Rick Barbour, runs through May 4
    • Sense and Sensibility, adapted from the Jane Austen by Kate Hamill and directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 6
    • 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
    • 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org
    • The Arvada Center's 2017-18 Back Box Theatre Company ensemble members are 

      Zachary Andrews, Jessica Austgen, Regina Fernandez, Abner Genece, Kate Gleason, Geoffrey Kent, Emma Messenger, Emelie O'Hara, Lance Rasmussen, Jessica Robblee and Greg Ungar

    Abner Genece All My Sons. Matt Gale PhotographyThe cast of 'All My Sons.' Matt Gale Photography.
  • March openings: Athena rises as 'All My Sons' leaves American Dream in ruins

    by John Moore | Mar 02, 2018
    All My Sons. Emma Messenger. Sam Gregory. Matt Gale Photography

    Emma Messenger and DCPA Theatre Company favorite Sam Gregory (Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol') are currently starring in the Arvada Center's 'All My Sons.' Matt Gale Photography 2018.

    Month-long Athena Project Festival turns March theatre spotlight to women in fields of theatre, music and dance

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company's newly completed Colorado New Play Summit serves as something of a kickoff to a series of Colorado festivals celebrating new work for the American Theatre. Throughout March, the spotlight shifts to the 6th annual Athena Project Arts Festival, which has grown into a massive, citywide celebration of women's voices in theatre, dance, music, comedy and fashion.

    Athena Project 2013The festival's signature program is its Plays In Progress series. Organizers have selected three promising scripts from among 150 submissions for development during the festival: The Buddha’s Wife by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin, Mama’s Eggnog by Angela Stern, and The Golden Hour by Elizabeth Nelson. Each script will get two public workshop readings between March 22 and March 31. In addition, Claire Caviglia's The Inside Child will receive a table read on March 22, and Philana Omorotionmwan's Strong Face will have a concert reading on March 29. Most theatre events will be held at the University of Denver.

    Music highlights will include an open-mic night for female singers on March 8 at the Swallow Hill Music Hall; and a concert headlined by Megan Burtt and emerging artist Nina de Freitas on March 10. New this year is Cross Pollinations, in which artists from different disciplines are paired together to create a live, original work of art to be presented March 9. Dance events will be held March 17 and 18.

    Tickets range from free to a $35 series pass that gets you into to all three plays, panel discussions and more. Full schedule and more information at AthenaProjectArts.org.

    The Athena Festival, founded by Angela Astle, will be followed by Local Theater Company's Local Lab new-play festival from April 20-22 in Boulder.

    Here are a few more highlights for the coming month in Colorado theatre, followed by a comprehensive list of all your statewide theatregoing options for March. 

    Ten intriguing titles for March:

    NUMBER 1All My Sons. It not only won the first-ever Best Play Tony Award, All My Sons may be Arthur Miller's best play, period. This classic tale is based on the true story of an Ohio manufacturer who sold faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Joe Keller, played by DCPA Theatre Company favorite Sam Gregory, is made to face the true cost of his business choices and their devastating impact on his family. This is the last opening of the Arvada Center's second Black Box Theatre Company season. The big-name cast also includes Emma Messenger, Geoffrey Kent, Kate Gleason, Regina Fernandez, Abner Genece, Zachary Andrews, Jessica Austgen, Lance Rasmussen and youngsters Harrison Hauptman and August Reichert. Runs through May 3 in repertory with Sense and Sensibility and The Electric Baby at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    NUMBER 2Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. Monday, March 5, promises to be an emotional night when Mary Louise Lee revisits her signature role as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the Galleria Theatre. Lee's performing career began in the Galleria (then called StageWest) when she appeared in Beehive at only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee first portrayed the jazz legend with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit — for Shadow Theatre in 2002. She returned to the role in January for this unique co-production with Vintage Theatre that now transfers to the Denver Center. This new production, directed by Betty Hart, will perform on Monday nights only through April 23. Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    NUMBER 3Wisdom from Everything. The latest provocative offering from Boulder's Local Theater Company asks: What you would sacrifice to escape a war? Chicago playwright Mia McCullough's story presents a 19-year-old Syrian who finds herself educating girls in the largest refugee camp in the world — until an older Jordanian doctor offers her an education in exchange for marriage. The primo cast includes Amy Carle (known for her work on "Chicago MED" and for the Goodman and Steppenwolf theatres) and Mehry Eslaminia, who performed in the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere play Appoggiatura. March 4-26 at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    NUMBER 4The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. With his trademark mix of soaring intellect and searing emotion, legendary playwright Tony Kushner unfurls an epic tale of love, family, sex, money and politics — all set under the hard-earned roof of an Italian family in Brooklyn. When former longshoreman and Marxist union activist Gus decides to die, his kids come home with a raucous parade of lovers and spouses to find that even the house keeps secrets. Curious Theatre presents the regional premiere of Kushner's 2009 opus with an all-star cast including the return of former DCPA Head of Acting Larry Hecht alongside Dee Covington, Karen Slack, Desirée Mee Jung, Kirkaldy Myers, Anne Oberbroeckling, Emily Paton Davies, Matthew Schneck, Luke Sorge and Brian Landis Folkins. March 17-April 14 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    NUMBER 5 Idris Goodwin 160This is Modern Art. Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval recount the true story of the biggest graffiti bomb in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes, and in a snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. The tagging began with the words “modern art” and ended with the phrase “made you look.” The work was sandblasted off the next day, but because the artists had chosen such a high-profile target, the consequences got serious. “They were putting out a challenge,” Goodwin said. “What is modern art? Who gets to decide who a real artist is? And where does art belong?” The all-local cast includes John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Robert Lee Hardy, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson/ Presented by Off-Center from March 22-April 15 at the Jones Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    NUMBER 6Ugly Lies the Bone. When a newly discharged veteran returns to her native Florida hometown after a disabling third tour in Afghanistan, she discovers that readjusting can be painful and disorienting. Through virtual reality video-game therapy, Lindsey Ferrentino's brave and bracing drama, featuring Missy Moore, examines the restoration of one soldier’s life, relationships and self. Through March 18 at the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    NUMBER 7Totally Awesome '80s Ski Town, USA. It's rare to see a fully staged, locally written and produced musical, and this silly new party tuner spoofs goofball ski movies of the '80s and early '90s. The story follows Billy Tanner, a hilariously tortured drifter who wanders into a seemingly quiet ski burg and gets mixed up in saving the town from a greedy oil tycoon while slaloming his way through house parties, Norse gods and strange foreign-exchange students. Writers Charlie Schmidt and Cory Wendling draw from films such as Ski Patrol, Better Off Dead, Hot Dog The Movie and even Footloose. Through March 31 at Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, 121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    NUMBER 8Company. On his 35th birthday, perpetual bachelor Bobby contemplates his unmarried state. Through a series of comical outings with pals and an especially anxious wedding, his friends explain the pros and cons of marriage and relationships. Bobby is forced to examine his adamant retention of bachelorhood during these hilarious arrays of social interactions. The humor is sharp and the music is legendary, written by Stephen Sondheim. Presented by the Evergreen Chorale through March 11 at 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen. 303-674-4002 or EvergreenChorale.org. A portion of ticket sales for the weekend of March 2-4 will benefit the Denver Actors Fund.

    Fun Home: Third staging to open in Colorado Springs

    NUMBER 9Jessica Robblee. Waiting for Obama. Waiting for Obama. Heeding the call from Florida high-school students for a national day of dialogue, marches and protest, the Bas Bleu Theatre will present a community conversation on the prevalence of gun violence in America, followed by a reading of John Moore's play Waiting for Obama about one Colorado family that, like so many others, is deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs. Waiting for Obama was praised at the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival as “a powerful and timely play that depicts the problem of gun violence in the United States in an emotional but often humorous light.” The cast will include Laurence Curry, Chris Kendall, Leslie O’Carroll, Drew Horwitz, Maggy Stacy, John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes. Panel at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, with the reading to follow at 7:30. p.m. Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St. in Fort Collins, CO 80524. Admission is free but donations to the Denver Actors Fund will be accepted. Reservations are strongly encouraged by calling 970-498-8949 or emailing basbleu@basbleu.org.

    NUMBER 10The River Bride. The northern Brazilian locals say the river dolphin found in the Amazon River can transform into human beings in search of their destined life mate. Surely you don't believe that, but ... what if it were true? In this folk tale set alongside the mightiest river in the world, Marisela Treviño Orta's heartrending storytelling blends love, grudges and transformation. Directed Hugo Jon Sayles. March 8-25 at the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

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


    DCPA March Mary Louise Lee. Lady Day. Photo by Adams VisComMarch 1-31: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Totally Awesome 80's Ski Town USA
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    March 2-May 3: Arvada Center's All My Sons
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    March 2-18: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Ugly Lies the Bone
    At the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    March 2-11: Evergreen Chorale's Company
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4002 or evergreenchorale.org

    March 3-31: Athena Project Arts Festival
    Various locations, 303-219-0882 or athenaprojectfestival.org

    March 2-11: Vintage Theatre's Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    March 3-26: BDT Stage's Always … Patsy Cline
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    March 4-24: Local Theatre Company's Wisdom From Everything
    The Carsen Theater at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    March 5-April 23: DCPA Cabaret's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
    Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    March 8-25: Su Teatro's The River Bride
    721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    March 8-25: Millibo Art Theatre's The Blow Up
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, themat.org

    Briar-Rose-Ilasiea-L.-Gray-pricks-her-finger-with-Prince-Owain-Austin-Lazek-SLEEPING-BEAUTY-MACC-2018-RDG-Photography-1440x810March 8-May 4: Denver Children's Theatre's Sleeping Beauty
    Public performances 1 p.m. Sundays
    Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6360 www.maccjcc.org

    March 9-April 1: Theatre Esprit Asia's Coping With America
    At ACAD Gallery, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-492-9479, or theatre-esprit-asia.org

    March 9-24: Theatrix USA's The Baptism
    At Blanc, 3150 Walnut St., wellattended.com

    March 16-April 8: Evergreen Players’ Love/Sick
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

    March 16-25: Inspire Creative's Laughter on the 23rd Floor
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, 303-805-6800 or inspirecreative.org

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    March 16-25: Longmont Theatre Company's Leaving Iowa
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    March 17-April 14: Curious Theatre's The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    Benjamin Cowhick RDG PhotographyMarch 20-April 1: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Androcles and the Lion (children's)
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    March 22-April 15: Off-Center's This Is Modern Art
    Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 22-25: Magic Moments' In the Same Boat
    Anschutz Family Theatre at Kent Denver School, 4000 East Quincy Ave, Englewood, 303-575-1005 or magicmomentsinc.org

    March 23-April 8: Performance Now's The Producers
    Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or performancenow.org

    March 23-April 29: Miners Alley Playhouse's The 39 Steps
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    March 23-May 26: Midtown Arts Center's Ragtime
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    March 29-April 22: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Fun Home
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org READ MORE

    March 29-April 8: The Upstart Crow's Playboy of the Western World
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or theupstartcrow.org

    March 30-May 13: Vintage Theatre's The Audience
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    March 31-April 28: Lowry's Spotlight Theatre's The Diary of Anne Frank
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    March 31-April 28: OpenStage's And Then There Were None
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Local Theater. Mehry Eslaminia. Naseem Etemad. Photo by Michael Ensminger
    Naseem Etemad and Regis Jesuit High School graduate Mehry Eslaminia (DCPA Theatre Company's 'Appoggiatura') in Local Theatre's upcoming 'Wisdom from Everything.' Photo by Michael Ensminger.


    Through March 3: Grapefruit Lab's JANE/EYRE
    The Bakery, 2132 Market St., eventbrite.com

    Through March 3: Miners Alley Children's Theatre’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through March 4: Miners Alley Playhouse's Fun Home
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com READ MORE

    Through March 4: Bas Bleu Theatre's Waiting for the Parade
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through March 4: Springs Ensemble Theatre's The Totalitarians
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 80909, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Through March 4: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Trouble in Tahiti
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through March 10: Coal Creek Theater of Louisville’s Becky Shaw
    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org

    Through March 10: Thunder River Theatre Company's The Price
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Through March 11: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Oklahoma
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through March 11: Vintage Theatre's Sleuth (with Lowry's Spotlight Theatre)
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through March 17: Midtown Arts Center's Fun Home
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com READ MORE

    Through March 17: Buntport Theater's The Book Handlers
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Through March 17: Firehouse Theatre's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com  

    Through March 18: DCPA Theatre Company’s The Great Leap
    Ricketson Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through March 18: Aurora Fox's Real Women Have Curves
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Through March 25: Benchmark Theatre's A Kid Like Jake
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, benchmarktheatre.com

    Through March 25: Town Hall Arts Center's Something’s Afoot
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Through March 25: Midtown Arts Center's Always ... Patsy Cline
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through March 26: Local Theater Company's Wisdom from Everything
    At The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    Through April 22: DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    Garner Galleria Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through April 1: National touring production of Hamilton
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through April 8: Jester’s Dinner Theatre’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Through April 8: The BiTSY Stage’s Jotunheim: A Legend of Thor and His Hammer
    1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com

    Through April 15: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Kiss Me Kate
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through May 4: Arvada Center's The Electric Baby
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through May 6: Arvada Center's Sense and Sensibility
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through May 25: Arvada Center Children's Theatre's Seussical
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through Aug. 11: Iron Springs Chateau’s A Precious Bit of the West, or: She Was Simply a Delight!
    444 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 719-685-5104 or ironspringschateau.com

    EVERGREEN CHORALE. Company. Photo by Michael Ensminger



  • Ongoing productions

  • Wednesday, March 14: The conflicted voices of America's World War I poets will spring to life in this performance written by Colorado Poet Laureate Joseph Hutchison and presented by members of the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Company. This event is part of “Where Do We Go From Here?” a multifaceted statewide event marking the 100th anniversary of World War I. 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $15.

  • Weekends: Comedy Sportz
  • leonard-barrett-jrAURORA FOX ARTS CENTER

    • March 23-24: True West Award-winning performer Leonard E. Barrett Jr. is the featured artist this month in the Aurora Fox's ongoing cabaret series in its studio theatre. Barrett will perform Unforgettable: The Songs of Nat King Cole, a tribute to Cole through story and song.

    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurora fox.org


    • March 5-6: The Glenn Miller Orchestra

    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    • Thursday, March 15: The Emerging Filmmakers Project, showcasing Denver's indie film scene on the third Thursday of every month.
    • Monday, March 26: Freak Train: Open-mic variety show hosted by GerRee Hinshaw on the final Monday of every month

    3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info


    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com


    • Sunday, March 4: Watch the biggest night of the year for movies on the big screen with Denver7 at Alamo Drafthouse Denver. Arrive around 5 p.m. in BarFly for your own red carpet, paparazzi, and more before for food, drinks and fun for everyone i the theatre. Your ticket includes a glass of champagne (or sparkling cider) and a donation to the Denver Actors Fund. Choose your preferred seating

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Sunday, March 11: Screening of the film The 39 Steps with live entertainment from Miners Alley Playhouse's s upcoming comical stage adaptation of the Hitchcock classic. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7. Choose your preferred seating

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Saturday, March 24: Waiting for Obama. Community conversation on the prevalence of gun violence in America, followed by a reading of John Moore's play about a Colorado family deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs. Panel at 6:30 p.m. with the reading to follow at 7:30. p.m. Admission is free but donations to the Denver Actors Fund will be accepted. 
    At Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., Fort Collins. Reservations are strongly encouraged by calling 970-498-8949 or emailing basbleu@basbleu.org

  • Tuesday, March 20: The Magic of Adam Trent
      At the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

  • Sunday, March 18: LocalREADS encourages a community-wide reading of a book with complementary themes to Local Theater Company's current production. First up: Helen Thorpe’s The Newcomers as a companion to Local's world premiere production of Wisdom From Everything. Read the book, see the play at 4 p.m. and stay for the conversation after the show.

    At the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or tickets.thedairy.org

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

    • Sunday, March 18: Wild Women. Stories on Stage has renowned actors bring stories to life by combining literature with theater. This month: Rhonda Lee Brown, Allison Watrous and Betty Hart perform stories by and about women - unconstrained, fun-loving and living large. 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive,  303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org
    (Program repeats on Saturday, March 24 at the Dairy Center in Boulder)
  • Rodney Lizcano leads 2018 Colorado Shakes lineup as Richard III

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2018
    American Mariachi Rodney Lizcano. Adams Viscom

    Rodney Lizcano, currently playing several roles in the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere of 'American Mariachi,' will headline the 2018 Colorado Shakespeare Festival season in the title role of 'Richard III.' Photo by Adams Viscom.

    A flood of familiar faces this summer will join what the festival is calling the most diverse lineup in its history

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Rodney Lizcano, an award-winning comic and dramatic actor now performing in the DCPA’s American Mariachi, is a character actor no more.

    Rodney LizcanoThe Colorado Shakespeare Festival announced today that Lizcano, a graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory long known for his supporting roles, will play Shakespeare’s most murderous and malicious king in Richard III  this summer.

    “Rodney can slip chameleon-like in and out of different roles with such skill and charisma,” said Colorado Shakes Producing Artistic Director Timothy Orr. “He is thrilling to watch on stage, and we can’t wait for him to sink his teeth into Richard III.”

    Lizcano was nominated for a 2016 Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for his comic portrayal of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, and again last year for playing a more somber Ralph Crane in the Denver Center’s world-premiere The Book of Will.

    As part of the Denver Center’s world-premiere cast of American Mariachi now performing in the Stage Theatre, Lizcano will travel with the production to San Diego for a run at the Old Globe Theatre opening March 28 before Colorado Shakespeare Festival rehearsals begin.

    Lizcano’s extensive Denver Center credits include Frankenstein, Hamlet, American Night, The Merchant of Venice, Gross Indecency, The Rivals, A Christmas Carol and more. His Colorado Shakes titles have included Hamlet, Equivocation, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Henry V, Tempest, The Merry Wives of Windsor and both parts of Henry IV. He has also performed with Theatre Aspen and the Arvada Center, among others.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Orr said the Colorado Shakespeare’s 61st season will again consist of two separate repertory companies: One to perform Love’s Labour’s Lost and Cyrano de Bergerac on the Mary Rippon outdoor stage, and another to perform Richard III and You Can’t Take it With You on the indoor stage.

    Orr also said 2018 promises to be its most diverse season in company history, with one third of all roles going to actors of color.

    Berry HartAmong those making their Colorado Shakes debuts is Betty Hart (pictured right), a new Colorado Theatre Guild board member who is directing DCPA Cabaret’s upcoming presentation of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, starring Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee and playing Mondays at the Galleria Theatre from March 5-April 23. She will play Queen Elizabeth in Richard III and Mrs. Kirby in You Can’t Take it With You.

    Anthony Adu, from Off-Center’s Drag On, will play Moth in Love’s Labour’s Lost. And Brynn Tucker (DCPA’s Frankenstein and Last Night and the Night Before, will play Roxanne in Cyrano de Bergerac.

    Brynn Tucker Summit. Photo by John Moore“Historically, there haven’t been many opportunities for minority actors in classical theatre, and we’re committed to changing that,” Orr said. “Our aim is for the CSF stage to reflect the strengths and talents of the diverse communities in which we live.”

    Other returning Colorado Shakespeare Festival favorites include Sam Gregory and Leslie O’Carroll as Grandpa Vanderhof and Penelope Sycamore in You Can’t Take it With You, the classic 1930s screwball comedy about a young couple whose two very different families meet at a disastrous dinner.  

    Gregory, who plays Scrooge in the Theatre Company’s seasonal stagings of A Christmas Carol, appeared last summer in Colorado Shakes’ Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. He is about to star in All My Sons at the Arvada Center, opening March 2. O’Carroll’s history with the Theatre Company goes back nearly 30 years, most recently as Mrs. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol.

    Seth DhonauSeth Dhonau, currently starring in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date, and University of Northern Colorado alumna Desiree Mee Jung will play the quick-witted couple Rosaline and Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Marco Robinson, who just performed in Off-Center’s The Wild Party and is currently featured in Miners Alley Playhouse’s Fun Home, will star as King Ferdinand. DCPA Teaching Artist Chloe McLeod, who plays Joan in that same Fun Home, will play Essie Carmichael in You Can't Take it With You.

    Starring as Cyrano will be Scott Coopwood, who played Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew and Brutus in Julius Caesar last year. Anastasia Davidson, currently appearing in Curious Theatre’s Detroit ’67, will play Jaquenetta in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Young Augie Reichert, who has been appearing in the DCPA Theatre Company’s annual stagings of A Christmas Carol since 2014, will play Little Richard in Richard III.

    Returning favorites include Michael Bouchard, Off-Center’s longtime Crumpet in The SantaLand Diaries, along with Sean Scrutchins, with whom he won a 2017 a True West Award for last season’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Also: Sam Sandoe, Anne Sandoe, Bob Buckley, Benaiah Anderson, Matthew Schneck, Mare Trevathan, Casey Andree, Brian Kusic, Sam Sandoe, Jihad Milhem, Emelie O'Hara, Austin Terrell and more.

    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.

    LL_Image4Love's Labour's Lost

    • By William Shakespeare
    • Outdoor stage
    • June 8-Aug. 12
    • Directed by Brendon Fox

    In the bucolic Kingdom of Navarre, four attractive young men make a pact to swear off romance and focus on academia — just minutes before the four loves of their lives wander by. Shakespeare’s comedy about the struggle to balance heart and head is the perfect ode to the festival's academic surroundings.

    • Marco Robinson: King Ferdinand of Navarre
    • Desirée Mee Jung: Princess of France
    • Seth Dhonau: Berowne
    • Scott Coopwood: Boyet
    • Rafael Untalan: Don Adriano de Armado
    • Matthew Schneck: Holofernes
    • Michael Bouchard: Costard
    • Grant Bowman: Anthony Dull
    • Anthony Adu: Moth
    • Brynn Tucker: Rosaline
    • Benaiah Anderson: Forrester/Mercade
    • Aziza Gharib: Maria
    • Amber Scales: Katherine
    • Casey Andree: Sir Nathaniel
    • Anastasia Davidson: Jaquenetta
    • David Derringer: Dumaine
    • AJ Voliton: Longaville

    richard. III

    • By William Shakespeare
    • Indoor stage
    • June 22-Aug. 11
    • Directed by Wendy Franz

    Richard, Edward IV’s deformed and embittered younger brother, will do anything to take the crown for himself — but once he has the throne, everything falls apart. Four centuries later, the masterful conclusion of Shakespeare’s Henriad history cycle still speaks volumes about lies, honor and the dark side of ambition.(Pictured: Richard III in 2012.)

    • Sam Gregory: Hastings
    • Leslie O'Carroll: Duchess of York
    • Betty Hart: Queen Elizabeth
    • Brian Kusic: Richmond/Grey/Alderman
    • Coleman Zeigen: Stanley
    • Sam Sandoe: Catesby/First Murderer
    • Christian Ray: Dorset/Second Murderer/Messenger/Alderman/Soldier
    • Jihad Milhem: Clarence/Earl of Oxford/Mayor of London
    • Lindsay Ryan: Lady Anne
    • Rodney Lizcano: Richard III
    • Sean Scrutchins: Buckingham
    • Austin Terrell: Brackenbury/Ratcliffe
    • Leraldo Anzaldua: King Edward IV/Bishop of Ely/Alderman/Soldier/Faceless Ghost/Fight Choreographer
    • Anne Penner: Margaret
    • Mike Largent: Rivers/Soldier/Alderman/Faceless Ghost
    • Kyle Chesney: Ensemble/Alderman/Soldier
    • Elena Sayeedi: Ensemble/Lady in Waiting/Alderman/Soldier
    • Alex RosenthalEnsemble/Alderman/Soldier
    • Luka Teodoru: Prince Edward
    • Augie Reichert: Little Richard, Duke of York
    • Kaiyane Arabian: Little Lady

    Cyrano de Bergerac

    • By Edmond Rostand
    • Outdoor stage
    • July 6-Aug. 11
    • Directed by Christopher DuVal

    In Rostand’s timeless romantic comedy, Cyrano is witty and proud but crippled by insecurity. He secretly pines for Roxanne — but she has her eyes on handsome, empty-headed Christian.

    • Marco Robinson: Christian de Neuvillette
    • Desirée Mee Jung: Sister Claire/Lady/Lise/Precieuse/Ensemble
    • Seth Dhonau: Brissaille/Cavalryman/Capuchin/Another Actor/Cadet 2/Cook 2 and Apprentice/Nun/Ensemble
    • Scott Coopwood: Cyrano de Bergerac
    • Rafael Untalan: Comte de Guiche
    • Matthew Schneck: Le Bret
    • Michael Bouchard: Ragueneau
    • Janae Burris: Bellerose/Doorkeeper/Actress/Poet 2/Nun/Ensemble
    • Anthony Adu: Jodelet/Cadet 3/Poet 1/Guard/Actor/Nun/Ensemble
    • Brynn Tucker: Roxanne+Read Bio for Brynn Tucker
    • AJ Voliton: Musketeer/Spanish Officer/Cadet 5
    • Benaiah Anderson: Vicomte de Valvert/Cadet 1/Cadet 6/Ensemble
    • Aziza Gharib: Flower girl/Nun/Poet 3/Pickpocket/Foodseller/Ensemble
    • Amber Scales: Sister Marthe/Duenna/A Lady/Ensemble
    • Casey Andree: Cuigy/Citizen/Cooks 1 and 4/Cadet 8/Ensemble
    • David Derringer: Ligniere/Nun/Cadet 4/Ensemble
    • Anne Sandoe: Mother Marguerite de Jesus/1st Marquis/Poet 4/Ensemble
    • Bob Buckley: Montfleury/Carbon de Castel-Jaloux/Cadet 7/Ensemble
    • Robert Wester: Cook 3/Bertrandous/Cadet

    You Can't Take It With You

    • By Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
    • Indoor stage
    • July 20-Aug. 12
    • Directed by Carolyn Howarth

    When Alice brings her boyfriend’s traditional, straight-laced family to dine with her household of freethinking eccentrics, fights break out and fireworks erupt. Kaufman and Hart’s 1930s classic pays homage to those who march to the beat of their own drum and reminds us all to choose dreams over drudgery.

    • Sam Gregory: Martin (Grandpa) Vanderhof
    • Leslie O'Carroll: Penelope Vanderhof Sycamore
    • Betty Hart: Mrs. Kirby
    • Mare Trevathan: Olga/Gay
    • Coleman Zeigen: Mr. Kirby
    • Sam Sandoe: Mr. De Pinna
    • Lauren Dennis: Rheba
    • Christian Ray: Tony Kirby
    • Jihad Milhem: Ed Carmichael
    • Lindsay Ryan: Alice
    • Rodney Lizcano: Boris Kolenhkov
    • Sean Scrutchins: Henderson
    • Chloe McLeod: Essie Carmichael
    • Leraldo Anzaldua: Paul Sycamore/Fight Choreographer
    • Mike Largent: Donald
    • Kyle Chesney: The Man
    • Elena Sayeedi: G-man photographer

    Edward III

    • By William Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd
    • Outdoor stage
    • Aug. 5
    • Directed by Kevin Rich

    Colorado Shakes’ “Original Practices” tradition continues with a history play that’s been mired in mystery for hundreds of years. England’s king is out to capture the crown of France and the heart of a married countess. The cost of his lust? Personal humiliation and 150 years of English battle and bloodshed. This is a one-night-only performance, inspired by the stage practices of Shakespeare’s own time.

    • Michael Bouchard: Earl Douglas/Charles
    • Marco Robinson: Lorraine/Villers/Esquire 1/Calais Citizen 1
    • Desirée Mee Jung: Countess of Salisbury/Frenchman 2/Calais Citizen 2
    • Seth Dhonau: John of France
    • Scott Coopwood: Edward III
    • Benaiah Anderson: Prince Edward/Fight Choreographer
    • Aziza Gharib: Frenchman 4/French Herald 3/French Captain/Esquire 2/Herald
    • Emelie O'Hara: Lodwick/French Woman/Queen Phillipa
    • Leslie O'Carroll: Audley
    • Betty Hart: Artois
    • Sam Sandoe: Warwick/Frenchman 3/French Herald 1/Copland
    • Christian Ray: Messenger/Percy/Philip
    • Jihad Milhem: Mountague/French Mariner/Salisbury
    • Leraldo Anzaldua: David of Scotland/Gobin de Grey/Frenchman 1/Montford/French Herald 2
    • Kevin Rich: Derby

    *Play descriptions provided by Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Casting by Sylvia Gregory Casting

    Ticket information
    The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2018 season runs through June 8-1Aug. 12 in Boulder on the campus of the University of Colorado. Tickets are available by calling 303-492-8008 or going to www.coloradoshakes.org

    Video bonus: Rodney Lizcano's Old Joe transformation:

  • Vintage, Denver Center collaborate to bring 'Lady Day,' Mary Louise Lee, to stage

    by John Moore | Nov 20, 2017
    Lady Day Mary Louise Lee Adams Viscom Mary Louise Lee in the 2016 DCPA Theatre Company workshop of 'Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.' Photo by  AdamsVisCom.


    From First Lady to Lady Day: Billie Holiday musical to open at Vintage, then move to Denver Center's Galleria Theatre

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Mary Louise LeeWhen Mary Louise Lee revisited her signature role as Billie Holiday
    in a special workshop production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill last year, she dedicated the performance to Shadow Theatre Company founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Nickelson. Lee considers having played the jazz legend in 2002 to be the most meaningful performance of her storied career.

    It couldn't be more fitting, then, that when Vintage Theatre Productions brings the story to full stage life again this January with Lee in the title role, she will be be performing in the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. 

    Nickelson, who died in 2009, was a graduate of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. In 1997, he founded Shadow Theatre to present “stories from the heart of the African-American community,” as he liked to say. And the biggest hit in Shadow’s history was that 2002 production of Lady Day, with Nickelson directing and Lee starring as Holiday.

    Lady DayFor her haunting portrayal of a woman with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit  — Lee won a Westword Best of Denver Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The review said: “A stunning evening of theatre. Lee's singing is absolutely radiant. Her voice is smooth as glass. At times she sounds uncannily like Holiday, at others entirely like her full-throated self." She reprised the role for a special three-day workshop engagement in 2016 at the Denver Center's Jones Theatre. 

    After Nickelsen died of a heart attack in 2009, the theatre he opened at 1468 Dayton St. in Aurora was renamed the Jeffrey Nickelson Auditorium. Vintage took over operations there in 2011. 

    Berry HartToday, Vintage and the Denver Center announced an unprecedented collaboration. Vintage will introduce its new production of Lanie Robertson's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, starring Lee and directed by Betty Hart (pictured right), from Jan. 12 through Feb. 18. The production will then move to the Denver Center's Garner-Galleria Theatre on March 5 and perform there on Monday nights through April 23 — while the Denver Center's ongoing musical comedy First Date continues its run for the rest of the week.

    Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill tells Holiday's troubled life story through the songs that made her famous, including "God Bless the Child," "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Strange Fruit" and "Taint Nobody's Biz-ness." Set in Philadelphia in 1959, Holiday's performance at Emerson's Bar & Grill was one of her last, and Lady Day is not just a memorable tribute to the singer, but also a moving portrait of her struggles with addiction, racism, and loss.

    "We're thrilled, of course," said Vintage Theatre Artistic Director Bernie Cardell. "This is an exciting event for Vintage and for the theatre community overall. If we are to thrive, collaboration is the key. While we certainly can survive on our own, we can reach bigger heights together. My hope is this is just the start of a new way of producing quality theatre for our community."

     Lady Day Mary Louise Lee. 2002Lee's performing career began at the Denver Center when she appeared in Beehive at what is now the Garner Galleria Theatre while only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. In 2011, Lady Day also became the First Lady of Denver when her husband, Michael B. Hancock, was elected Mayor.

    (Pictured right: Mary Louise Lee in rehearsal for her award-winning turn in 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill' for Shadow Theatre in 2002.)

    Lee has performing at many high profile events over the past two decades, including the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions. She performed with the Colorado Symphony at the 911 Remembrance Ceremony, and in the First Ladies of Jazz concert. She has sung the national anthem before 78,000 Denver Broncos fans, was featured vocalist at the grand opening of Union Station was a Season 9 contestant on America's Got Talent.  She has toured internationally performing for the troops of the U.S. Department of Defense. She returned to the DCPA in 2014 to sing with the cast of the national touring production of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet onstage at the Buell Theatre. And last December, Lee won a 2015 True West Award for her performance in the new musical, Uncle Jed's Barbershop.  

    Read John Moore's Denver Post profile of Mary Louise Lee

    Mary Louise Lee The Wiz. AfterthoughtSome of Lee's other notable local theatre performances have included Vogue Theatre’s A Brief History of White Music, the Arvada Center’s The 1940s Radio Hour, Country Dinner Playhouse’s Ain’t Misbehavin', Denver Civic’s Menopause the Musical and Afterthought Theatre Company's The Wiz, as Glinda the Good Witch (pictured right). She took on that role just after Hancock was elected in 2011.

    From students to senior citizens, Lee is committed to being an ambassador for the arts to help expose and expand access to Denver’s vibrant arts and cultural communities. She is choir director at the New Hope Baptist Church and founder of “Bringin’ Back the Arts," a foundation that encourages arts education in the public schools.

    Betty Hart, the director, recently moved to Denver from Atlanta, where she was a Teaching Artist at the Alliance Theatre. She is the Special Projects Coordinator for Kaiser Permanente Arts Integrated Resources program and recently joined the board of directors for the Colorado Theatre Guild.

    The Music Director will be Trent Hines. He was most recently the conductor and pianist for The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, and he also performed in the show.

    A Lady Day Westword

    Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At Vintage Theatre

  • Jan. 12-Feb 18, 2018 (Note: The Feb. 3 show will be performed by Shandra Duncan)
  • 1468 Dayton St., Aurora
  • Tickets $15-$34
  • Call 303-856-7830 or BUY ONLINE

  • Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill: At the Garner-Galleria Theatre

  • March 5-April 23, 2018
  • Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Tickets start at $42
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • The show runs approximately 90 minutes without intermission
  • Adult language and content
  • Age Recommendation: 17 and over

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video: Mary Louise Lee sings with Million Dollar Quartet:

    Video: Watch Mary Louise Lee sing 'Fools Fall in Love' with the cast of  the national touring production of 'Million Dollar Quartet' at the Buell Theatre in 2014.

    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.