• 2017 True West Award: Colorado Theatre Person of the Year Regan Linton

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Award Regan Linton



    Regan Linton

    Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    We’ll never know whether Phamaly Theatre Company would have survived 2017 had Regan Linton not been here. She was here. And one of the nation's signature theatre companies is still here. And that's why Linton is the True West Awards' 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year.

    For 28 years, one of Denver’s crown jewels has produced professional plays and musicals exclusively for actors with disabilities. But at this time a year ago, it was in catastrophic financial trouble.

    Regan Linton True West Award Quote Photo by John MooreLinton, a former core company member who went on to become a shining national example of what begets opportunity, had just been named Phamaly’s interim Artistic and Executive Director to fill a short-term leadership vacuum.

    Linton’s appointment was a cause for celebration. Not only had the Denver East High School graduate helped elevate Phamaly’s game as an actor with wrenching performances in musicals such as Side Show and Man of La Mancha, she came home with serious cred. In 2012, she became the first paralyzed student ever to be enrolled into one of the nation's top master’s conservatory programs when she was accepted at the University of California San Diego. And in 2015, Linton became the first actor in a wheelchair ever to be hired into the venerable Oregon Shakespeare Festival's year-round repertory company since it was founded in 1935.

    Today, Linton is a highly respected actor, educator and prominent voice for disability inclusion in the national theatre community. And when she accepted the one-year Phamaly assignment last year at age 34, Linton became the first person in a wheelchair ever to lead a major U.S. theatre company as Artistic Director, according to Theatre Communications Group.

    Then came the sticker shock.

    “I immediately became aware that the company was not in as healthy a financial position as I had thought,” Linton said. Phamaly's annual operating budget had more than doubled over the previous seven years, to $850,000. But revenue had not grown proportionally. Just two months into the job, Linton realized Phamaly was facing an immediate $100,000 shortfall.

    (Story continues after the photo gallery below.)

    Photo gallery: A look back at Regan Linton's year (and years) with Phamaly:

    Regan Linton: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year
    Photos from Regan Linton's first year as interim Artistic and Executive Director of Phamaly Theatre Company, followed by additional photos from years past. To see more images, just click on the image above to be taken to the full gallery. Photos by or compiled by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Linton attacked the problem swiftly, first by shaving the upcoming budget. She scrapped expensive plans to stage Peter Pan with wheelchairs flying over the DCPA’s Stage Theatre. A Shakespeare collaboration with a New York company was put off. And then, on March 28, Linton took a deep breath and released an uncommonly forthright public statement bluntly telling supporters that without an urgent cash infusion, Phamaly would be bankrupt by July 1. And that was just to make it to the summer. “We were really more like $250,000 in the hole,” she said.

    The most important thing to Linton was being open and honest about the situation. “If we were going to go down, then we were going to do it having been completely transparent with every one of our supporters,” she said.

    But, it turns out, It’s a Wonderful Life ain’t just a holiday movie.

    Phamaly’s “Sunny Tomorrow” campaign didn’t just raise $100,000. It raised $108,000, thanks to more than 325 individual donors. And that still takes Linton's breath away. “I feel like that wasn't just people saying, 'We love this theater company.’ It’s deeper than that. I feel like they were saying, ‘People with disabilities are valuable.’ And as a person who lives with a disability, that's really, powerfully meaningful to me.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Just a few weeks after the campaign ended, Phamaly netted an additional, record-obliterating $60,000 from its annual gala — up from $35,000 the year before. And then Annie, which Linton chose to present instead of Peter Pan, drew 6,700 to the Stage Theatre. That’s nearly 20 percent more than the previous Phamaly attendance record.

    Janice Sinden Regan Linton QuoteAll three of those things had to happen, Linton said, for Phamaly to fully climb out of the hole it was in. And all three did.

    But Phamaly didn’t get the backing it needed on sentiment alone. It got it because it was Linton who went out and asked for it, Denver Center President and CEO Janice Sinden said.

    “Regan is a determined, passionate woman who leads with her heart, but always with an outcome in mind,” Sinden said. “She was uniquely situated to lead this campaign because of who she is and what she means to the community. She leveraged smart relationships to drive this turnaround.”

    Boy, did she. The first call Linton made was to Sinden’s predecessor, Daniel L. Ritchie, a longtime Phamaly supporter who cut Linton a $10,000 check just 20 minutes after sitting down with her. The Harvey Family Foundation then agreed to match up to $35,000 in new donations, a goal that was reached in just 17 days.

    But Linton’s greatest fundraising achievement of 2017 came at the end of the year, after Sinden facilitated a visit with William Dean Singleton, retired chairman of The Denver Post and newly named Chairman of the Bonfils Foundation. They hit it off, Sinden said, because the two share a powerful commonality as former able-bodied persons now living with mobility challenges.

    Life changes in the ordinary instant

    Regan Linton HospitalLinton was a 20-year-old undergrad at the University of Southern California when her spine was wrecked in a fraction of an instant on a rainy Santa Monica Freeway. Linton was in the back seat of a car that was stopped for a vehicle that had been abandoned in the fast lane of the highway. The car behind Linton, filled with five sorority sisters, hit her at full speed.

    Linton no longer feels sensation below her chest. And yet, whenever she prepares to go on stage, she playfully says, “I can still feel butterflies.”

    Singleton is a newspaper magnate and cattle rancher who founded MediaNews Group, the fourth-largest newspaper company in the U.S. by circulation, with The Denver Post as its eventual flagship. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, which has slowly robbed him of his mobility, and today he gets around in a motorized chair.

    (Story continues after the video.)

    Video bonus: Regan Linton wins 2017 Spirit of Craig Award:

    The video above was played at the annual PUSH Gala for Craig Hospital in April with the announcement of Phamaly Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Regan Linton as its 2017 Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award winner. Video provided by Craig Hospital. To watch Linton’s acceptance speech, click here

    “They hit it off when they met,” Sinden said, "and Dean immediately saw an opportunity to help.”

    On Oct. 11, Singleton presented Linton with the Fourth Annual Dean Singleton Legacy Grant, a $50,000 gift made through the Denver Post Community Foundation. “It was very emotional for both of them,” Sinden said.

    A Regan Linton and Dean Singleton“I couldn’t be more proud of our grant recipient this year, for what Phamaly does to inspire people to re-envision disability through professional theatre,” said Singleton. “Phamaly provides such a benefit to the metro-Denver community.”

    Linton called the grant “an incredible honor for Phamaly.”

    In just six months, Linton implemented a campaign that moved Phamaly from the financial brink to something akin to stability. And that, said former Phamaly assistant stage manager Max Peterson, is an astonishing accomplishment.

    “I had both the pleasure and the anxiety of watching Regan and (Director of Production and Operations) Paul Behrhorst walk through that whole mess,” Peterson said. “It was inspiring to see their determination and persistence to bring that company all the way back. The blood, sweat and tears were real — and the stakes could not have been higher.”

    Meanwhile, back on the stage

    A Regan Linton Theatre Person of the Year Ytue West Awards Photo by John MooreLest we forget: While this was going on, Linton also had a company to run, both as Artistic and Executive Director.

    In February, Phamaly presented George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion at the Aurora Fox, followed by the record-breaking run of Annie at the Denver Center and, last month, Phamaly’s annual original sketch comedy called Vox Phamilia at Community College of Aurora.

    (Pictured at right: Regan Linton backstage with the cast of 'Annie' on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Linton pushed herself to her physical and mental limits in 2017, in part because she also chose to direct Annie on the largest stage in Phamaly history. Linton began to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all as preparations for Annie approached. “The stress of even thinking of Phamaly going away was emotionally taxing for me,” she said. "It all finally caught up to me. I was a mess.”

    One of Linton’s smartest moves of the year was calling on former longtime Phamaly Artistic Director Steve Wilson to co-direct Annie with her. “Wilson knows to his bones what directing disabled actors entails: The difficulties many face, the need to work without sentimentality or condescension, and to treat his actors as the artists they are,” wrote Westword’s Juliet Wittman, who called the resulting production “Ready, willing … and very able.”  

    MacGregor Arney and Regan Linton Curious Incident Mixed Blood Photo by Rich Ryan Linton kept her own acting skills sharp in 2017 by performing in two major productions for the Mixed Blood Theatre Company in Minneapolis. In February, she played the governor of California in a site-specific immigration play called Safe at Home that was set and performed at a local baseball stadium. And just last month, she returned in one of the first regional stagings of the big-buzz play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Star-Tribune theatre critic Chris Hewitt said Linton was excellent as an autistic boy’s calm, compassionate teacher.

    (Pictured at right: MacGregor Arney and Regan Linton in 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' for the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. Photo by Rich Ryan.)

    As Linton reflects back on her year now, she won’t say she saved Phamaly Theatre Company. But Behrhorst will.

    “I say it because it is true,” Behrhorst said. “Of course Regan didn't do it single-handedly. But from the start, she gave the community, the actors, the board and the staff something to believe in. Regan didn't back away from the problem. She gave us new life."

    Sinden sides with Behrhorst.

    John Moore’s 2005 Denver Post feature on Regan Linton

    “Regan came home and she brought both thought leaders and community leaders to the table who invested in the future of this organization," Sinden said. "Regan put Phamaly on a trajectory for long-term success. And only she could have done that.”

    All of which is only part of the reason Linton has been named the 17th annual Colorado Theatre Person of the Year. She not only saved a theatre company. She not only preserved future performance opportunities for persons with disabilities that do not exist elsewhere. She saved something that is part of the city's soul.

    Regan Linton. Craig Hospital PUSH Gala Photo by John Moore“There's a lot of great theater that happens in Denver,” Linton said. “However, one-fifth of the population of the United States identifies as having a disability. So if you don't have that identity prominently represented in your local theater, then you are missing out on a whole subset of what it means to be human. And that's what I think people would have missed out on if Phamaly had gone away. They would've missed out on this unique experience that opens your eyes to something you just don’t see anywhere else.”

    Linton’s 2017 odyssey has changed her career itinerary in ways that are not yet clear, even to her. Her initial one-year appointment is now entering its 15th month. She says she is very close to hiring the company’s next Executive Director. So what does that mean for Linton, who officially lives in Montana now, while maintaining a second artistic home in Minneapolis?

    “It means I will be around for the near future, at least,” she said. “I feel committed to Phamaly, and I want to see Phamaly succeed. To me, that means following through with my commitment to make sure the company is in a good place if and when I move away. And I don't think that work is done yet.”

    Asked to assess where she is at as 2018 begins, compared to the start of the year, Linton laughs. “Well, I'm not nearly as much of a mess as I was,” she said. “But most of all, I will say I am proud to be part of Phamaly living on, and I'm proud to be part of leading Phamaly into its next chapter.”

    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 

    Regan Linton: 2017
    •  Artistic and Executive Director for Phamaly Theatre Company
    •  Winner, 2017 Spirit of Craig Award READ MORE
    •  Played the Governor of California in Mixed Blood Theatre's Safe at Home in Minneapolis
    •  Co-Directed Phamaly's mainstage production of Annie at the DCPA's Stage Theatre
    •  Played Siobhan in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nght-Time for Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis

    The True West Awards' Theatre Person of the Year / A look back

    • 2016: Billie McBride: Actor and director
    • 2015: Donald R. Seawell: Denver Center for the Performing Arts founder
    • 2014: Steve Wilson: Phamaly Theatre Company and Mizel Center for Arts and Culture
    • 2013: Shelly Bordas: Actor, teacher, director and cancer warrior
    • 2012: Stephen Weitz: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company co-founder
    • 2011: Maurice LaMee: Creede Repertory Theatre artistic director
    • 2010: Anthony Garcia: Su Teatro artistic director
    • 2009: Kathleen M. Brady: DCPA Theatre Company actor
    • 2008: Wendy Ishii: Bas Bleu Theatre co-founder
    • 2007: Ed Baierlein: Germinal Stage-Denver founder
    • 2006: Bonnie Metzgar: Curious Theatre associate artistic director
    • 2005: Chip Walton, Curious Theatre founder
    • 2004: Michael R. Duran: Actor, set designer, director and playwright
    • 2003: Nagle Jackson, DCPA Theatre Company director and playwright
    • 2002: Chris Tabb: Actor and director

    Phamaly Theatre Company: Coming in 2018
    • April 14-22: Romeo & Juliet, at the Dairy Arts Center
    • July 12-Aug. 5: Into the Woods, at the DCPA's Space Theatre
    • Oct. 18-Nov. 11: Harvey, at the The Olin Hotel Apartment, in partnership with Senior Housing Options
    Information: 303-575-0005 or phamaly.org

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    Photos: Phamaly Theatre Company's amazing opening-night tradition
    The triumph of Phamaly's not-so-horrible Hannigan
    Pop-culture Annie, from comics to Broadway to Jay-Z
    Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

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

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • The triumph of Phamaly's not-so-horrible Hannigan

    by John Moore | Jul 14, 2017
    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by Michael Ensminger

    Despite physical challenges, Phamaly's Ashley Kelashian says the girls of Annie just wanna have sun.

    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    It was the first day of rehearsal for a highly anticipated new production of Annie, and one overwhelmed young actor in a wheelchair began to panic. The girl was one of the many novices who will play orphans in Phamaly Theatre Company’s upcoming staging on the DCPA Theatre Company’s biggest stage.

    For 28 years, Phamaly has made performance opportunities available for actors with disabilities, culminating in a big Broadway musical every summer at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For actors with mental and physical challenges, adjusting to the move from the rehearsal room to the vaunted stage with dozens of fast-moving cast and crew swirling about can be too much.

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by John MooreBut veteran Phamaly actor Ashley Kelashian spotted the girl and took action. Within seconds, she managed to maneuver her own wheelchair to the girl’s side and comforted her, despite the enormous pain she was in herself. That’s the way it goes at Phamaly, where there is always an army of special people standing by to help those with special needs.

    At Phamaly, everyone is different - which is what makes everyone the same.

    “We are aptly named Phamaly because it is a family too,” said Kelashian, who, ironically, will be scaring the bejeebers out of the orphans in the iconic role of the mean Mrs. Hannigan when Annie opens on Saturday.

    Kelashian and the girl she helped have more in common than wheelchairs: She has been acting since she was old enough to play an orphan herself. She knew performing was her calling when she was 13 and a teacher told her forcefully, ‘That is what you are supposed to do with your life.’ ”

    Kelashian grew up in Texas and attended the University of Texas at Arlington, where she received the R.L. Frasier Scholarship for Artistic Excellence. It was there, while playing a witch in Macbeth, she discovered something was going wrong with her body.

    “There was a point in the play when we had to run up over this hill because it was an outdoor theatre,” she said. “But I had a breakdown and all these lumps popped up over me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.” When she admitted to her director that she could no longer accommodate the physical demands of the blocking because she was in such pain - she was cut from the show.

    Phamaly campaign raises $200K, 'saves the company'

    “Everyone was like, ‘You need to handle this. You shouldn't be on stage if you aren’t in shape to run down the hill,’ ” Kelashian said. “Instead of just changing things around so I wouldn’t have to run down the hill, they let me go.”

    A life-changing diagnosis

    Kelashian was diagnosed with Dercum’s disease, a rare condition that caused tumors to grow over her body and under her skin. The result is extreme and constant pain.

    Her peers just didn’t get it, and Kelashian dropped out of college. She says the next couple of years were a dark time. She was depressed because she could no longer act out her passion for theatre - and scared because of the uncertainty this little-known disease brought.

    “That was a rough experience,” she said. “I really don’t talk to anyone from that time of my life, just because it was such a strange thing to go through at a young age.”

    Kelashian enrolled at a local community college where she studied Speech and Debate - “or what I call ‘Competitive Theatre,’ she quipped. It was during a competition she met the man she would marry and start a family with.

    The couple moved to Denver with son Edric, she said, because of the city’s reputation for providing services that allow the disability community to live full and independent lives. “Denver is the the disability mecca,” she said with a laugh. The subsequent legalization of medical marijuana has been a godsend, she says, because it eases her chronic pain.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by John Moore

    The only thing that was missing from her life here was theatre. That changed in 2012. One day while scanning the audition notices in The Denver Post, one upcoming production caught Kelashian’s eye: Phamaly was looking for disabled actors to perform in Little Shop of Horrors.

    “I fell to pieces,” Kelashian said. “I didn't know anything except that whatever this was, it was for me. I just cried and cried. I auditioned, I got in - and that is what I have been doing ever since.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kelashian instantly felt she could be herself again in the company of Phamaly. Subsequent roles with the company have included Yente in Fiddler on the Roof and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Her son, Edric Kelashian, joined his mother in the ensemble of Fiddler.

    Ashley Kelashian_Quote 2Through it all, Kelashian has tried not to let her disease change her instinct to always put others first.

    “You have to be humble,” she said. “You have to be patient through your own pain, so you have to be patient with other people's pain. Any opportunity you have to make someone feel good is a good chance for me.”

    As Phamaly's official Literary Manager, Kelashian maintains a script library to help her fellow actors prepare for auditions. She has resisted the frequent suggestion that she should charge for the service.

    “My motto is, ‘Kind is the most important thing you can be,’ ” Kelashian said. “I hope people would say I am kind and helpful whenever I can be.”

    She seems by all accounts, completely miscast to play the role Carol Burnett made famous on film. Mrs. Hannigan is the booze-sodden, kid-hating caretaker of the ratty New York orphanage where she makes her girls scrub the floor till it shines like the Chrysler Building. But while Kelashian might not be wicked, she is known for her wicked sense of humor.

    “Sometimes she just channels Hannigan," said castmate Jenna Bainbridge, who plays good-girl Grace. “Last night one of the kids were driving us crazy and she said, ‘Oh, God, I feel like Hannigan today. I need a drink, you guys.' "

    The sun will come out in Texas

    The Kelashian family moved back to Texas a year ago so Edric could attend his freshman year of high school with his friends there. Ashley has been traveling to and from Denver for the past year to continue her work for Phamaly.  

    For this run of Annie, Kelashian is living in an apartment with a roommate, and she admitted there are times when she needs to ask for help.

    “I don't want to say I overestimated myself before I came back here for this - but I did,” Kelashian said. “I have gotten to the point where when I do the dishes, the repetitive motion tears the tissue in my arm. And at rehearsal, I need to wave the kids all about, and that is more painful than normal.”

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by Avery AndersonBut all Kelashian had to do was say the word, and "within 30 minutes," she said, help was on the way. The Denver Center, which not only makes its theatres available for Phamaly productions but also assists with production, marketing and logistical support, had made one of the apartments it owns in nearby Brooks Tower building available to another out-of-town Annie performer. And that convenience has made her available to help Kelashian at a moment's notice.

    "I got a phone call saying she could come over and help me with things and take me to the emergency room if I ever needed it,” Kelashian said. “I was just crying. Nowhere else in the world would I get this kind of accommodation to do what I love doing.”

    And when Edric graduates from high school in 2020, Kelashian and her husband plan to come home to Colorado for good.

    “Phamaly is the end-game of my life,” Kelashian said. 

    Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie: Ticket information
    • July 15 through Aug. 6
    • Stage Theatre Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Directed by Regan Linton and Steve Wilson. Musical Direction by Trent Hines
    • Tickets: $20-$37
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Accessible performances: July 23, Aug. 3

    Video: View Phamaly's official Annie trailer

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:

    Pop-culture Annie, from comics to Broadway to Jay-Z
    Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

    About the author:
    Avery-Anderson Avery Anderson is interning with the DCPA NewsCenter for the summer. He is the General Manager and producer of Met TV at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He was won two Heartland Student Emmy Awards for his work on The Met Report. He has a passion for local arts and culture and enjoys covering theatres across the Denver area and the state. Follow him on Twitter at @a_anderson64.

  • Photos: Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’

    by John Moore | Jun 12, 2017
    Phamaly 2017 gala
    Photos from Phamaly Theatre Company's annual gala on June 3 hosted by Kyle Dyer of Channel 9 and former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers (pictured below and right with Phamaly's Regan Linton). To see more photos, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewCenter.

    Phamaly's mission to transform the public perception of disability will continue with Annie at the Denver Center

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Phamaly Theatre Company's emergency "Sunny Tomorrow" fundraising campaign has reached its $100,000 goal, and the company's subsequent annual company gala at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum on June 3 raised a record $101,000 in addition, company officials announced. 

    "We are still blown away by the overwhelming energy that we felt in the room," said Phamaly Development and Marketing Manager Tamara Arrenado. "Phamaly has so much momentum and enthusiasm moving forward."

    Annie gala PhamalyPhamaly, a rare and internationally acclaimed theatre company that exclusively provides performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, faced the real prospect of bankruptcy before the fundraising initiatives were launched by Acting Executive Director Regan Linton. The company had undergone unprecedented recent expansion, "and this level of operation has unpredictably strained our organization," Linton wrote in an open letter to Phamaly supporters.

    At the gala, a moment was taken to thank Linton for her efforts. "You saved the company," Production Manager Paul Behrhorst said bluntly. 

    For 27 years, Phamaly's mission has been to produce professional plays and musicals that empower its performers and transforms the public's perception of disability.

    Phamaly's annual summer Broadway musical presentation will be Annie, opening July 15 at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre. Members of the cast performed at the gala. See the photos above.

    Annie: Ticket information
    annieAt a glance: You may know the story of Annie, but Phamaly's approach to this familiar story will be more raw and humanistic. "These are hardened orphans who have faced a lot of adversity in their lives, just like the actual young actors in our cast who are going to be playing these roles,” said co-director co-Director Regan Linton.

    Presented by Phamaly Theatre Company
    July 15-Aug. 6
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Directed by Regan Linton and Steve Wilson
    Call 303-575-0005 or go to the Denver Center's web page

    Phamaly, Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of Annie film
    Glance: The Denver Actors Fund hosts a monthly film series at Alamo Drafthouse Denver showing a movie both inspired by a Broadway musical and is also currently  being presented by a local theatre company somewhere in the area. This month:  Get a sneak peek at Phamaly's upcoming production of Annie with a live performance by members of the cast before the classic 1982 Carol Burnett film is shown in TWO Alamo theatres simultaneously. All tickets $10. 

    Presented at Alamo Drafthouse Sloans Lake
    4255 W. Colfax Ave.
    6:30 p.m. live entertainment, 7 p.m. film
    Choose your preferred seating here.

    Note: Choose 6:30 start time to be in a fully accessible Theatre 4: The Phamaly performance will be interpreted, and the movie will be captioned on screen. This performance is also designated as public singalong. Choose the 6:35 p.m. screening if you want listen to the movie in quiet adulation in Theater 5. You won't miss the live performance by Phamaly. We will livestream the performance next door right onto the screen in Theater 5. This will be the screen with NO captions.

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment
  • Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

    by John Moore | Aug 31, 2016

    Regan Linton

    Denver’s acclaimed Phamaly Theatre Company, which exists to provide performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, is saying goodbye – and hello – to two of its most familiar faces.

    Artistic Director Bryce Alexander has resigned to assume the same position with the Naples (Fla.) Players. Regan Linton, who performed with Phamaly for six years before becoming a leading advocate for the inclusion of actors with disabilities in the national theatre, will run the company for at least the next year.

    “We’re largely on the same page and have a shared vision for the company, so I anticipate a smooth transition,” Linton said Tuesday from her home in Bozeman, Mont. "Bryce has started a lot of great initiatives, and I get to pick up where he left off.”

    Bryce Alexander It is believed that Linton, 34, will become the only Artistic Director in a wheelchair to be leading a major U.S. theatre company, according to the Theatre Communications Group.

    Phamaly has produced professional plays and musicals since 1989, cast entirely with performers who have physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. While the company now performs a full year-round season, including a statewide children’s tour, its primary offering each year is a Broadway musical staged each summer at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Next up: Peter Pan in the Stage Theatre in July 2017.

    “Having a person with a disability in a leadership role is an important statement for any theatre company to make,” Linton said. “This gives me an opportunity to engage with Phamaly’s vision in a more proactive way, and to engage with actors with disabilities in a new way.”

    Linton, a graduate of Denver East High School, was paralyzed in a 2002 car accident while an undergraduate at the University of Southern California. After graduation, she won Denver Post Ovation Awards for her work in Phamaly’s productions of Side Show and The Man of LaMancha. Since then, her many “firsts” have included becoming the first paralyzed student ever accepted into one of the nation’s top masters acting conservatory programs (the University of California at San Diego), and Linton was the first actor in a wheelchair to be hired into the venerable Oregon Shakespeare Festival's year-round repertory company.

    “Regan brings a national artistic presence as a renowned professional actress, but she also brings her hometown knowledge of the actors, the company and the community,” Alexander said of his successor. “Anytime a prominent artist returns home to her roots, that can be a very powerful tool for the company. I think Regan will be able to take Phamaly to the next level as a major regional theatre in America.”

    Alexander has been with Phamaly since 2007 and became the company’s first full-time Artistic Director just 18 months ago. He said he would not be leaving now if he didn’t have full confidence in the company’s current course. He said he leaves Phamaly with a solid presence in the local national theatre communities, and solid relationships with the respective disability communities.

    Under Alexander, Phamaly has instituted year-round season programming, doubled its staff to six, significantly increased its funding from both the local Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and the National Endowment for the Arts, and made an international goodwill tour to Japan. In addition to directing The Glass Menagerie, Cabaret, Taking Leave and Evita, Alexander counts among notable accomplishments the introduction and implementation of sensory friendly performances.

    “All of that is clear proof that Phamaly is only on the way up,” Alexander said. “As bittersweet as it is for me to say, it is time for Phamaly to take the next step with someone who is living everyday with a disability and is able to truly connect with both the the disability community and the professional theatre community.”

    Alexander worked tirelessly to eradicate any perception of his company as an “other,” preferring instead for Phamaly to be considered and compared by the same standards as any other Denver-area theatre company.

    “I’ll miss the people the most,” Alexander said, “especially the actors who sacrifice and love far beyond any standard degree. Who so excellently explore our craft. I will never forget the passion they’ve taught me.” 

    A Linton much-ado-aout-nothingIn the Naples Players, Alexander will lead a venerable, year-round community theatre founded in 1953 in southwestern Florida. It performs mostly family friendly plays and musicals such as the upcoming Coney Island Christmas, Outside Mullingar and My Fair Lady. Alexander said the company services many socioeconomic backgrounds, has a strong arts-education program and subsists largely on 50,000 volunteer hours per year.

    The move will represent a significant increase in scope for Alexander. The Naples Players operate on a $3 million annual operating budget, compared to Phamaly’s $850,000. He will have a full-time staff of 16 in Florida, while Phamaly has four. And while Phamaly performs before about 12,000 a year, the Naples Players draw about 60,000.

    “The model of the Naples Players is one that large, regional professional theatres will be looking at," said Alexander, "not only concerning how to engage their audiences on a significant level, but the community as well."

    Alexander graduated from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora and earned his graduate degree in Theatre Performance from the University of Colorado-Boulder. He was trained under the wing of DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, who hired Alexander as his Assistant Director for White Christmas in 2012 and Just Like Us in 2013. He worked summers at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
    “Bryce has raised the bar during his time with Phamaly Theatre Company," said Phamaly Executive Director Maureen Johnson Ediger. "His passion for including artists living with all disabilities, combined with his innate talent for nurturing thought-provoking theatre, made him a profound artistic leader for our company.”

    Alexander is married to local actor Katie Cross, who will be featured in the Avenue Theater's The Money Shot, opening Friday and running through Sept. 24. They will move to Florida in October.

    Linton’s interim position will be considered a part-time role while the executive staff defines  job roles moving into the future. That will allow Linton to continue her work as a national disability advocate, though she said there is a very good possibility that her role could transition into a full-time career change next year.

    “I'm thrilled, honored, and really excited to see how I can support the company to keep doing great things, but also move into new directions,” said Linton, who has recently acted with The Arson Theatre in Minneapolis and the Griot Theatre in Los Angeles. “I am still very passionate about performing and developing as an artist, so I am going to continue to perform when it is beneficial to the company as well."

    Ediger said Linton’s charge is to focus on actor development, season implementation and development, and to continue to build partnerships with the theatre and disability communities.

    “She is the ideal candidate to pick up the torch and seamlessly move the company forward with their mission to inspire people to re-envision disability through professional theatre,” Ediger said. 

    Phamaly is not currently accepting applications for the permanent position. 

    Photos above: Regan Linton appearing in Phamaly's 'The Man of La Mancha,' Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 'Much Ado about Nothing,' and Phamaly's 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Linton played a paralyzed Don Juan with Barret O'Brien in ' Much Ado,' - her understudy even had to learn to perform the role from a wheelchair. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    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.

    Phamaly Theatre Company' 2016-17 season
    Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach (touring)
    Opening Oct. 21-22, 2016, at the Lakewood Cultural Center

    Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol
    Dec. 1-18, 2016
    At the King Center on the Auraria campus

    By George Bernard Shaw
    Feb. 23-March 12, 2017
    At the Aurora Fox

    Staged reading of Spirits of Another Sort
    in collaboration with New York's Apothetae Theatre
    May 6-7, 2017
    At the Lone Tree Arts Center

    Peter Pan
    July 13-Aug. 6, 2017
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex

    For further information, click here

    Selected previous coverage of Regan Linton and Phamaly:

    Phamaly will send wheelchairs flying in Peter Pan
    February 2015: Phamaly names Bryce Alexander to replace Steve Wilson
    Wilson resigns from Phamaly after 14 years
    Regan Linton works her magic in San Diego
    PBS podcast: Denver theater featuring disabled cast gains popularity
    Phamaly's historic goodwill tour to Japan
    Regan Linton: Performing for those who cannot
  • Phamaly will send wheelchairs flying in historic 'Peter Pan'

    by John Moore | Jun 05, 2016
    Phamalys 2016 season announcementPhotos from Phamaly's annual gala on June 4, where it was announced that 'Peter Pan' will anchor the 2016-17 season at the DCPA's Stage Theatre. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Phamaly Theatre Company promises to send wheelchairs flying in the summer of 2017 when it presents Peter Pan in the Denver Center's expansive Stage Theatre, making it the largest undertaking in Phamaly's 28-year history.

    Peter Pan John Cameron Mitchell Phamaly Phamaly will be following in the hallowed fairy dust of John Cameron Mitchell, internationally ignored song stylist and creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, who performed the titular role in Peter Pan in the same Stage Theatre in 1989 as a member of the Denver Center Theatre Company (pictured at right).  

    Phamaly produces professional-scale plays and musicals year-round, cast entirely of performers with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. For years, Phamaly has presented its annual summer musical at the Denver Center's Space Theatre, but because of year-long renovations that are presently underway, Phamaly will offer Evita next month at the University of Denver's Byron Theatre (July 16-Aug. 7).

    "Peter Pan is a wonderful story about aging, the fairness of life and the value of obstacle," Artistic Director Bryce Alexander (pictured below right) said when announcing Phamaly's 2016-17 season at its annual gala on Saturday night.

    Phamaly Bryce AlexanderThe lineup is at once a complete embrace of both classic stories and presentational innovation. Phamaly will present Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol at the King Center on the Auraria campus, directed by Paul Dwyer. That will be followed by George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion at the Aurora Fox, directed by Carolyn Howarth, who recently helmed Colorado Shakespeare Festival's award-winning production of Henry V. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Next will be a staged reading of a new adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream in collaboration with New York's disability-based Apothetae Theatre at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

    "While still in Shakespeare's language, Phamaly and Apothetae will work together to further develop a script called Spirits of Another Sort that highlights the themes of war, chaos and otherness - as well as the magic that exists in love, and in variation of body," said Alexander, whose goal is to eventually fully produce the new play both in Denver and New York.

    Phamaly Evita Hannah Ballmer Rob Costigan
    Rob Costigan and Hannah Balmer demonstrate how the tango will look with the added dimension of a wheelchair when 'Evita' opens next month at the University of Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The touring children's production will be Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, opening in October at the Lakewood Cultural Center before touring Colorado and Wyoming through May. Alexander said the story of a boy who feels like an outsider, learning to accept differences and overcoming obstacles, makes Dahl's classic the perfect vehicle for Phamaly's educational outreach.

    "With this new season, we are daring the community to reimagine these classic stories through a new lens," Alexander said.

    But all eyes will be on the sky when Phamaly takes on Peter Pan in the Stage Theatre, which has has a capacity of 778. That's more than 200 greater than the Space Theatre. And while Phamaly traditionally performs "in the round," the Stage has a thrust stage with an audience that wraps around in a semi-circle. DU's Byron Theatre, which is hosting Evita next month, seats about 350.

    Click here for more info on Phamaly Theatre Company

    Alexander also took a moment from his announcement to commend the company's ongoing relationship with the Denver Center, particularly its Education Division.

    "Phamaly already has a renowned partnership with Denver Center Education, where we collaborate to provide free professional-arts training specifically for adults with disabilities. But as we look to change the standards of accessibility, I am thrilled to announce that this fall, Phamaly will begin adding classes specifically for children with disabilities. Phamaly is raising the bar for education."

    Alexander's first year as Artistic Director included an on-site visit from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu, and a move to bring both trained audio describers on staff and equipment in-house, making Phamaly one of only a handful of theatre companies in the country that can accommodate those audience requests on demand.

    "It's easy to focus on the past - to look at where we've come from, at what we have accomplished and who we have touched," Alexander said. "But I want us to look forward."

    The gala was hosted by KUSA anchor Kyle Dyer and former Denver Broncos running back Reggie Rivers.

    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.

    Phamaly Theatre Company' 2016-17 season
    Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach (touring)
    Opening Oct. 21-22, 2016, at the Lakewood Cultural Center
    Directed by Bryce Alexander

    Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol
    Dec. 1-18, 2016
    At the King Center on the Auraria campus
    Directed by Paul Dwyer

    By George Bernard Shaw
    Feb. 23-March 12, 2017
    At the Aurora Fox
    Directed by Carolyn Howarth
    Staged reading of Spirits of Another Sort
    in collaboration with New York's Apothetae Theatre
    May 6-7, 2017
    At the Lone Tree Arts Center

    Peter Pan
    July 13-Aug. 6, 2017
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Directed by Bryce Alexander

    Click here for more info on Phamaly Theatre Company

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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