• 2017 True West Award: The Difference-Makers

    by John Moore | Dec 25, 2017

    25 2017 True West Award Combined

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 25: The Difference-Makers 

    Leading organizers of 2017 fundraisers on behalf of Denver Actors Fund:
    Ebner-Page Productions’ United in Love concert, $40,083
    The Mothers of 13 the Musical, $13,188
    Dr. Brian Kelly DDS, $10,300 in in-kind services
    Robert Michael Sanders’ Miscast 2017, $7,040
    BDT Stage’s Thoroughly Modern Millie and Annie, $6,147
    Dixie Longate standup comedy benefit, $4,804

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    In 2017, The Denver Actors Fund has made $128,000 available to Colorado theatre artists in situational medical need, compared to $42,000 in all of 2016. And there is just one reason the rapidly growing grassroots nonprofit had that much money to give back in only its fourth year of existence: A boggling array of self-starting individuals, theatre companies and schools from all over the metro area organized their own fundraising efforts that generated $112,000 in unplannable revenue for the Denver Actors Fund.

    They are The Difference-Makers.

    2017 True West Award Eugene EbnerThe biggest chunk by far came from one remarkable sold-out concert at the Lone Tree Arts Center featuring Colorado-connected Broadway stars Annaleigh Ashford, Beth Malone and Mara Davi alongside Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee and more than 20 local performers. The event, called United in Love, was conceived and carried off by Ebner-Page Productions, aka Eugene Ebner and Paul Page. Their concert raised more than $40,000 for the non-profit in part because nearly everyone volunteered their time and talents — and because they went out and secured sponsorships totaling $20,000 from Delta Dental, Kaiser Permanente, Skyline Properties and Alliance Insurance.

    It was a night that changed the trajectory of the Denver Actors Fund forever. But it was just the start of a remarkable year during which school-age kids, for example, accounted for more than $25,000 in donations to the Denver Actors Fund all by themselves.

    The most astonishing of those efforts was a fully staged production of Jason Robert Brown’s 13 the Musical, which in 2008 became the first Broadway musical to feature a cast made up entirely of teenagers.

    2017 True West Award 13 the MusicalThe parents of 13 young metro-area actors banded together to self-produce the first-ever Colorado staging of 13 the Musical, which is the story of a New York-savvy teen whose parents’ divorce lands him in Indiana. The parents absorbed nearly all production costs as their own personal donations so that all proceeds from ticket sales and other revenue sources would go fully to the Denver Actors Fund. As a result, 13 the Musical generated more than $13,000 for The Denver Actors Fund in just two performances at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture. And it was a good production, because the young actors were supported by a dream creative team that included Robert Michael Sanders, Paul Dwyer, Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Shannan Steele and more (full list below).

    Sanders also again directed and produced Miscast, an annual evening of silly songs and games at the Town Hall Arts Center that raised another $7,000, bringing Sanders’ four-year Miscast efforts past the $20,000 mark.

    The Denver Actors Fund was also the designated beneficiary when tart-talking Dixie Longate returned to the Galleria Theatre for the Denver Center’s fourth staging of Dixie’s Tupperware Party. While in Denver, Dixie creator Kris Andersson wanted to try out Dixie’s new standup comedy routine, and the evening turned into a $4,804 windfall for the DAF.

    True West Award Robert Michael Sanders0Also this year, the Denver Actors Fund entered into a unique partnership with Thornton dentist (and former Broadway dancer) Brian Kelly, who accepted emergency dental cases referred through the Denver Actors Fund. Kelly helped four DAF patients in need of everything from root canals to full teeth replacement to complex bridge work. In all, Kelly donated more than $10,000 worth of his services to uninsured area artists.

    Area companies regularly designate certain performances for the benefit of the Denver Actors Fund, and this year, two remarkable evenings at BDT Stage organized by Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Duran raised a combined $6,147 for the DAF.

    All done on their own.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “I think the truest mark of a community is how much people will do to help each other without even being asked,” said Denver Actors Fund President Will Barnette. “These dollar figures brilliantly show the depth of love and caring and camaraderie we have in this Colorado theatre community.”

    Here’s a small sampling of additional efforts large and small that benefited more than 40 individual artists facing situational medical needs in 2017 alone:

    • 2017 True West Award BDT StageThe young people in the cast of Town Hall Arts Center kid-centric’s stage adaptation of A Christmas Story created a group they called The Lollipop Kids, and they sold $3,405 worth of suckers in the theatre lobby.
    • For the second straight year, the Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden designated one performance of A Christmas Carol for the DAF, including all ticket revenue and bar sales. The evening sold out, and the Christmas miners raised $3,664 — or about $40 per person.
    • Denver School of the Arts was the very first school to take collections for the Denver Actors Fund in 2014, and the $2,117 the theatre students raised this year at performances of The Producers brought the troupe’s three-year total to a record $6,230. Other school-age groups that raised money for the DAF in 2017 included Front Range Theatre Company in Highlands Ranch ($2,041), Cherry Creek High School ($1,614) Summit Middle School in Boulder ($938.35), Parker Performing Arts School ($475) and CenterStage Theatre Company in Louisville ($406).
    • The journalism students at Metropolitan State University hosted an original Christmas special just last week that raised $2,000. The evening, donated by the city of Northglenn, was co-hosted by student Avery Anderson of The Nightly Met and popular area actor Annie Dwyer (currently Miss Hannigan in BDT Stage’s Annie). The program included appearances by Anna Maria High (Aurora Fox’s Hi-Hat Hattie), Abigail Kochevar (Miners Alley Playhouse’s upcoming Fun Home), casts from Town Hall’s Seussical and BDT Stage’s Annie, bands and combos such as Mister Tim and The Denver Dolls, Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts and many more.
    • 2017 True West Award Dixie Longate The Denver Actors Fund hosts a monthly film series at the Alamo Drafthouse in partnership with a rotating local theatre company, next featuring 500 Days of Summer on Jan. 22 with live entertainment from cast members from DCPA Cabaret’s First Date. Half of all ticket proceeds go to the DAF, and the series generated $5,400 in 2017.
    • The Jerseys, made up of area musical-theatre veterans Brian Smith, Paul Dwyer, Klint Rudolph and Randy St. Pierre, designated one February performance at the Clocktower Cabaret to the DAF and raised $2,208.
    • The caustic puppet musical comedy Avenue Q includes a cynical panhandling number called The Money Song, and this year TWO companies used the opportunity to raise real-time money for the DAF during the actual show. The StageDoor Theatre in Conifer raised $1,589 that way, and the Town Hall Arts Center brought in $1,361.
    • The Edge Theatre hosted a staged reading of DAF founder John Moore’s play Waiting for Obama, which had been recently staged in New York, and the evening raised $1,173 for the DAF.

    More information on The Denver Actors Fund

    • Some of the most creative fundraisers were purely personal initiatives. Patty Kingsbaker, who founded Radical Artists talent agency, urged guests at her retirement party to give to the DAF, raising $743. Teenager Willow Samu turned her senior recital into a fundraiser for the DAF and collected $350 at the Clocktower cabaret. Actor Billie McBride, a Colorado Theatre Guild Lifetime Achievement Award-winner, used Facebook to auction off an album she owned that was signed by the original Broadway cast of A Chorus Line, raising $250. Local journalist and In Focus host Eden Lane, who this year made her Denver directorial debut with the Priscilla Queen of the Desert, raised $206 selling custom-made Priscilla coffee cups in the Aurora Fox lobby. Actor Sue Leiser sold hats she made inspired by the Women’s March on Denver, resulting in a $140 donation.
    • The DAF encourages every company in the state to designate one performance per run for a spare-change collection. It’s called Tap Shoe Initiative, which brings in modest amounts that have added up to more than $17,000 over the past four years. This year’s leading Tap Shoe participant was one of the state’s smallest companies: Firehouse Theatre Company raised $937 for the DAF over four collection nights.

    2017 True West Award Brian KellySeparately, the local theatre community was spurred to action last month by the wrenching death of 42-year-old actor Daniel Langhoff from cancer just 10 days after the birth of his second daughter. Over the next six weeks, donations and special events generated $53,000 in targeted donations through the DAF that will help Langhoff’s wife plan for the long-term needs of their children. Among the special efforts:

    • Vintage Theatre’s designated performance of Honeymoon in Vegas raised $2,094.
    • Choreographer and fitness trainer Adrianne Hampton hosted a special class featuring Broadway songs and raised $250.
    • The boards of the Town Hall Arts Center, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre and Performance Now each donated $1,000 to the Langhoffs. Performance Now also pledged to donate 2 percent of all profits for the next year to the DAF (about $365 per show), and challenged all other Colorado theatre companies to do the same.
    • Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company closed out 2017, appropriately enough, by raising exactly $2,017 on opening night of its Every Christmas Story Ever Told.

    “The number of people who planned, participated or attended all of these efforts on behalf of the Denver Actors Fund numbers into the thousands,” the DAF’s Will Barnette said. “Every one of those people is a difference-maker. Their efforts not only sustain us, they galvanize us as we enter 2018. We simply could not do what we do without the continuing efforts of the Colorado theatre community to keep us funded.”

    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.


    Video bonus: Highlights from the United in Love concert:


    Video by The Met Report's Avery Anderson.

    Denver Actors Fund Beneficiaries 2017
    With Name, 2017 Financial Aid and Medical Need

    1. A Daniel Langhoff 800 1Daniel Langhoff, actor, $52,918 ($66,938 overall), Cancer treatments
    2. Archie Valleda, actor, $8,457, Dental
    3. Abner Genece, actor, $6,471, Car accident
    4. Norrell Moore, actor, $4,685, Cancer treatments
    5. Sasha Fisher, actor, $4,522, Car accident
    6. Katherine Paynter, actor, $4,290, Knee surgery
    7. Mark Shonsey, actor, $4,095, Premature birth
    8. Nancy Warner, crew, $3,832, Two emergency surgeries
    9. Don Gabenski, actor, $3,529, Purchase wheelchair
    10. Paul Hartman, pit musician, $2,950, Car accident
    11. Traci J. Kern, actor, $2,693  ($3,243 overall), Cancer tests, Sliced hand
    12. Family of Christopher Tye, actor, $2,500, Funeral expenses
    13. Jaime Lujan, actor, $2,725 ($3,825 overall), Rotator-cuff surgery
    14. 800-DON-GABENSKI-FULL-600x452Patrick Sawyer, director, $2,150 ($5,167 overall), Heart surgery
    15. Anonymous, $2,019 ($2,519 overall), Dental
    16. Becky Toma, props designer,  $1,701 ($1,995 overall), Surgery   
    17. David Ballew, actor, $1,680, Dental
    18. Emily K. Harrison, producer/actor, $1,520, Emergency room
    19. Carol Kelly, hair designer, $1,499, Medical leave
    20. Anonymous, $1,190, Dental
    21. Keegan Flaugh, actor, $1,180, Dental emergency
    22. Meghan Ralph, stage manager/actor, $1,120 ($2,788 overall), Dental emergency
    23. Anonymous, $1,000, Emergency room
    24. Catherine Aasen Floyd, actor, $720, Cancer treatment
    25. Daniel Perkins, actor, $675, Seizures, back surgery            
    26. Joey Wishnia, actor, $600 ($1,597 overall), Eye injections
    27. Twanna Latrice Hill, actor, $540 ($922 overall), Medical
    28. Nick Thorne, actor, $500, Memorial gift
    29. Sheila Traister, actor, $500 ($2,800 ovverall), Bodily injury
    30. Maggie Sczekan, actor, $365, Dental
    31. Lara Maerz, stage manager $246, Diabetes treatments
    32. Faith Goins, actor, $175  ($4,375 overall), Infant’s death
    33. Note: List above does not include beneficiaries of rides, meals and other Action Team assistance
    Video bonus: 'The Cancer Warriors' at Miscast 2017
     

    Actors Jona Alonzo, Daniel Langhoff and Norrell Moore, all at various stages of their personal own cancer battles, performed an original variation of the song "Tonight," from 'West Side Story,' at Miscast 2017. Video by John Moore.


    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

    a-denver-actors-fund-800UNITED IN LOVE
    • Hosts: Steven J. Burge and Eden Lane
    • Musical Director: Mitch Samu
    • Performers: Annaleigh Ashford, Beth Malone, Mara Davi, Jodie Langel, Denise Gentilini, Jimmy Bruenger, Eugene Ebner, Becca Fletcher, Clarissa Fugazzotto, Robert Johnson, Daniel Langhoff, Susannah McLeod, Chloe McLeod, Sarah Rex, Jeremy Rill, Kristen Samu, Willow Samu and Thaddeus Valdez.  Also the casts of both The Jerseys (Klint Rudolph, Brian Smith, Paul Dwyer and Randy St. Pierre), and 13 the Musical (see below).
    • The band: Tag Worley, Steve Klein, Andy Sexton, Scott Handler and Jeremy Wendelin
    MISCAST 2017
    • Hosts: Steven J. Burge, Eric Mather and Shannan Steele
    • Performers: Robert Michael Sanders, Megan Van De Hey, Jackson Garske, Destiny Walsh, Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Rylee Vogel, Jeremy Rill, Reace Daniel, Jose David Reynoza, Randy Chalmers, Hope Grandon, Kenny Moten, Margie Lamb, Jona Alonzo, Daniel Langhoff, Norrell Moore, Evan Gibley, Kaden Hinkle, Hannah Katz, Darrow Klein, Hannah Meg Weinraub and Rylee Vogel

    Production team:

    • Director: Robert Michael Sanders
    • Assistant to the director: Jessica Swanson
    • Musical Direction and Live Keys: Donna Debreceni
    • Stage Manager: Maegan Burnell
    • Assistant Stage Manager: Haley Ivy Di Virgilio
    • Technical Director: Mike Haas
    • Lights: Alexis Bond
    • Sound: Curt Behm and Tom Quinn
    • Costumes: Nicole Harrison
    A DAF 1313 THE MUSICAL:
    Cast (moms in parentheses):
    • Joshua Cellar (Emily Cellar)
    • Conrad Eck (Kristin Eck)
    • Macy Friday (Megan Friday)
    • Evan Gibley (Michelle Gibley)
    • Lorenzo Giovanetti (Carmela Giovanetti)
    • Kaden Hinkle (Shannon Gaydos-Hinkle)
    • Hannah Katz (Erin Katz)
    • Darrow Klein (Jennifer Klein)
    • Michelle Lee (Huwon Lee)
    • Gabe Legg (Angela Legg)
    • Carter Novinger (Jennifer Novinger)
    • Rylee Vogel (Kristi Vogel)
    • Hannah Meg Weinraub (Michelle Weinraub)

    Creative:
    • Robert Michael Sanders: Producer and director
    • Paul Dwyer: Assistant director
    • Anna Smith: Assistant director
    • Jayln Courtenay Webb: Music director
    • Lauren Hergenreter: Stage manager
    • Sydney Eck: Assistant stage manager
    • Tom Quinn: Sound
    • Jennifer Orf: Lighting
    • Choreographer: Stephanie Hess, Shannan Steele, Matthew D. Peters, Jessica Hindsley, Abigail Kochevar
    Band:
    • Jason Tyler Vaughn: Guitar
    • Heather Holt Hall: Keyboards
    • S. Parker Goubert: Bass
    • Evan Jones: Drums
  • Banned Together: Theatres across country take stand against censorship

    by John Moore | Oct 11, 2017

    Video: Selections from "Banned Together." Caution: Some song lyrics contain profanity. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Local actors present censored pieces to raise awareness around the ongoing issue of free expression in live theatre.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    GOLDEN — Miners Alley Playhouse joined a national coalition of theatres on Sept. 28 in presenting an informal evening of censored theatre pieces to raise awareness around the ongoing issue of free expression in live theatre.

    “Censorship of theatrical work is not some medieval practice that we’ve left behind,” Ralph Sevush, Executive Director of the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement. “It continues to this day.”

    Banned Together. Photo by John MooreAn array of acclaimed local actors came together in Golden to present songs and scenes from controversial plays and musicals ranging from Cabaret to Fun Home to Rent to Spring Awakening to The Laramie Project to Angels in America to The Vagina Monologues. Seven of the nine featured titles have been banned from being performed in school and community theatres specifically because they address the issue of homosexuality.

    Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret was held in 16 cities from Seattle to Baltimore between Sept. 24-30, also known as Banned Books Week in America. Each city followed a 40-page script provided by the sponsoring Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization created by The Dramatists Guild to advocate for free expression in the dramatic arts. The script was compiled by the fund's president, John Weidman (Anything Goes, Assassins).

    “What is it that’s peculiar to a live performance onstage that drives reactionary, narrow-minded forces right around the bend, often at breakneck speed?” Weidman asks in his introduction. He quotes Edward Albee’s opinion that while movies are a passive theatregoing experience, live theatre is active, happening in the present tense — and that’s what makes it dangerous, depending on how people react to it.

    (Story continues below the photo gallery)

    Photo gallery: Banned Together in Golden

    Banned Together 2017

    Photos from 'Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret' Sept. 28 at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Downloadable photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Recent high-profile examples of theatrical censorship have included the election controversy in New York when Bank of America and Delta Airlines withdrew their funding to The Public Theatre for presenting a Julius Caesar who looked like Donald Trump. Soon after, 36 playwrights and other artists signed a petition demanding that the Lincoln Center cancel its production of To the End of the Land because the production received some funding from Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Lincoln Center refused to cancel the show.

    But by far, the most censorship of live theatre happens in schools across the country that try to tackle topics touching on sex, politics, race or religion.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Director and Emcee of the program in Golden was Colorado Theatre Guild Lifetime Achievement winner Jim Hunt, who introduced each cutting with anecdotes covering how each piece has been challenged in various ways. For example, a church group in Maiden, N.C., lobbied the local school board to keep its high school thespians from staging John Cariani’s vignette comedy Almost, Maine, because it comically shows two men (literally) falling in love. (The students raised money to produce the play themselves off school grounds.)

    The actors who performed the challenged and challenging scenes in Golden were Jimmy Bruenger, Sophie Dotson, Josh Hartwell, Steph Holmbo, Jim Hunt, Curtiss Johns, Abigail Kochevar, Len Matheo, Kristen Samu, Suzie Scott, Luke Sorge and Jim Walker. The Music Director was Mitch Samu. The local producer of the event was Hartwell, on behalf of the Dramatists Guild.

    The program included two songs from the 2015 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Fun Home, which was a copacetic coincidence for the host theatre. Miners Alley Playhouse is one of three Colorado theatre companies that will be the first to present homegrown stagings of Alison Bechdel’s coming-of-age story next year. Cabaret exists as a warning against the dangers of Nazi-era propaganda and the death of individual thought, and the program also brought back to Miners Alley the star of its recent production to perform the pointed allegory “If You Could See Her.” The finale was an audience singalong of the Rent anthem, "Seasons of Love."

    Admission was free, with donations accepted for the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund. About $500 was raised.

    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.

    Banned Together. Photo by John Moore



    Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret: Songs and Scenes

    • “Class” from Chicago, performed by Kristen Samu, Steph Holmbo and Mitch Samu
    • Scene from Almost, Maine, performed by Suzie Scott, Luke Sorge and Curtiss Johns
    • “Ring of Keys” from Fun Home, performed by Sophia Dotson and Mitch Samu
    • “Changing My Major” from Fun Home, performed by Abbey Kochevar and Mitch Samu
    • “Totally F*cked” from Spring Awakening, performed by Jimmy Bruenger and Mitch Samu
    • Scene from The Vagina Monologues, performed by Suzie Scott
    • Scene from The Laramie Project, performed by Luke Sorge and Josh Hartwell
    • “If You Could See Her” from Cabaret, performed by Jim Walker, Steph Holmbo and Mitch Samu
    • Scene from Angels in America, performed by Len Matheo and Josh Hartwell
    • “Seasons of Love” from Rent, performed by all
  • Video, photos: Denver Actors Fund's 'United in Love' concert

    by John Moore | May 04, 2017
    United in Love: Video highlights

    Video highlights from the 'United in Love' concert featuring, from left, Beth Malone, Annaleigh Ashford, Mara Davi and dozens more. Video edited by John Moore from footage provided courtesy of Eden Lane and Sleeping Dog Media.

     


    Ashford, Malone, Davi help raise $40,000 for nonprofit
    that helps local theatre artists in situational medical need


    Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford (You Can't Take it With You) joined fellow Broadway veterans from Colorado Beth Malone (Fun Home) and Mara Davi (Dames at Sea) for United in Love, a sold-out concert event that raised $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund on April 30 at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

    Denver Actors FundThe three headliners were "back to give back." They were joined by powerhouse singer, actor and First Lady of Denver Mary Louise Lee; Broadway’s Jodie Langel (Les Misérables); composer Denise Gentilini (I Am Alive) and Denver performers Jimmy Bruenger, Eugene Ebner, Becca Fletcher, Clarissa Fugazzotto, Robert Johnson, Daniel Langhoff, Susannah McLeod, Chloe McLeod, Sarah Rex, Jeremy Rill, Kristen Samu, Willow Samu and Thaddeus Valdez.

    Also joining the lineup were the casts of both The Jerseys (Klint Rudolph, Brian Smith, Paul Dwyer and Randy St. Pierre), and the upcoming all-student 13 the Musical (Rylee Vogel, Josh Cellar,  Hannah Meg Weinraub, Hannah Katz, Lorenzo Giovannetti, Maddie Kee, Kaden Hinkle, Darrow Klein, Evan Gibley, Conrad Eck and Macy Friday).

    (Pictured above, clockwise from top left: Annaleigh Ashford, Beth Malone, Mary Louise Lee and Mara Davi.)

    The purpose of the evening was to spread a message of love and hope while raising funds for the Denver Actors Fund, which has made $90,000 available to local theatre artists facing situational medical need. The concert was presented by Ebner-Page Productions.

    (Story continues below the photo gallery)

    United in Love: Complete photo gallery

    Denver Actors Fund United in Love Concert

    Photos by RDG Photography, Gary Duff and John Moore. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded and redistributed with credit.


    One of the most poignant moments of the evening came when actor Daniel Langhoff addressed the crowd, telling the story of his continuing fight against cancer, with assistance from The Denver Actors Fund. Langhoff was first diagnosed weeks after the birth of his first daughter. His recent recurrence coincides with news that his wife will give birth to their second child in the fall. (How you can help Daniel Langhoff.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The emcees were local TV arts journalist Eden Lane (also director of the Aurora Fox's current Priscilla Queen of the Desert), and actor Steven J. Burge, who recently starred in the Denver Center's An Act of God at the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    The Music Director was Mitch Samu. The band included Tag Worley, Steve Klein, Andy Sexton, Scott Handler and Jeremy Wendelin.


    The photos above were provided by RDG Photography, Gary Duff and DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, who is also the founder of the Denver Actors Fund. That is a 501c3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax-deductible. For more information, or to apply for aid, go to www.denveractorsfund.org.

    The Presenting Sponsor of United in Love was Delta Dental of Colorado, which matched audience contributions at the end of the evening, turning about $2,200 in donations into more than $4,400. The Gold Sponsor was Kaiser-Permanente. Silver Sponsors were Billings Investments and the Alliance Insurance Group.

  • Tony nominee Beth Malone joins Denver Actors Fund concert lineup

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2017



    Beth Malone, who starred in the DCPA Theatre Company's reimagining of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and then was nominated for her work in Broadway's Fun Home, has joined the homegrown lineup for United in Love, a special concert event presented by Ebner-Page Productions and benefiting the Denver Actors Fund on Sunday, April 30, at the Lone Tree Arts Center. TICKETS HERE

    "It is important for me to be there with my friends because the Denver Actors Fund is an outreach program that helps people I love," Malone said. "I am connected to almost everybody in the Denver theatre community in a Kevin Bacon sort of way. And if any of those people ever needs anything, I know that the Denver Actors Fund is there for them. So when you get the opportunity to be a part of something so incredible, you have to just be grateful that you are the one who was chosen to be part of it." 

    Malone joins previously announced co-headliners Annaleigh Ashford, Andy Kelso and Mara Davi - all Colorado-born and raised performers who have gone on to Broadway success. Ashford won the Tony Award for her work opposite James Earl Jones in You Can’t Take it with You and is currently receiving rave reviews with Jake Gyllenhaal in a limited Broadway engagement of Sunday in the Park with George. She previously co-starred with Kelso in Kinky Boots. Davi (Dames at Sea, Smash, A Chorus Line) grew up in Highlands Ranch.

    Beth Malone QUOTEThese four powerhouse Broadway performers are coming home to unite with local performers and spread a message of love and hope while raising funds for the Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has made $82,000 available to local theatre artists facing situational medical need. 

    Ashford is a graduate of Wheat Ridge High School and also appeared on Broadway in Sylvia, Hair, Wicked and Legally Blonde. Next she will star as Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream this summer in New York's Central Park. Kelso, a graduate of Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, starred in Kinky Boots after a three-year run in Mamma Mia.

    Click here to choose your April 30 concert seats now

    Malone, Kelso and Ashford all regularly appeared the Country Dinner Playhouse (among many others) on their roads to New York. But Malone has never performed in a show with Ashford. They met when Ashford and her husband approached her outside of a theatre in New York.

    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore"She walked up to me and said, 'Are you Beth Malone from Denver?'" said Malone, who was star-struck herself. "I was like, 'Yes, girl from Masters of Sex who I am obsessed with. I am Beth Malone from Denver. Why?' I had no idea of our Country Dinner Playhouse connection because she was much younger than me. When I was coming up, I was obsessed with Kristie Welborn. Those years sitting next to Kristie and Maureen McHale and Alann Worley in the dressing room were the best years of my life." 

    Ashford and Malone soon got to know each other during the 2015 Tony Awards season, when they were both nominated for awards and frequently appeared together.   

    Photo above and right: Beth Malone last night at her DCPA concert with Steven J. Burge ('An Act of God') who is co-hosting the April 30 United in Love' concert with Eden Lane.)

    Malone's appearance at the United in Love concert is all the more remarkable because she is also committed to appearing in New York at an all-star tribute to Broadway's original Molly Brown, Tammy Grimes, on the day before the Denver concert. Grimes died in October.

    Malone presented two sold-out concerts yesterday at the Denver Center's Garner-Galleria Theatre. Next she will return to the role she re-created for the DCPA Theatre Company when The Unsinkable Molly Brown plays The Muny from July 21-27 in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    Read our full, new interview with Beth Malone here

    The United in Love concert also will feature longtime performer (and Denver First Lady) Mary Louise Lee, Broadway’s Jodie Langel (Les Misérables) and Denise Gentilini, composer of the Armenia genocide musical I Am Alive.

    Incidentally, Malone's first professional job was understudy to Lee when both performed in Beehive as teenagers at what is now the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    Additional appearances are scheduled from Denver favorites Jimmy Bruenger, Eugene Ebner, Becca Fletcher, Clarissa Fugazzotto, Robert Johnson, Daniel Langhoff, Susannah McLeod, Chloe McLeod, Sarah Rex, Jeremy Rill, Kristen Samu, Willow Samu, Thaddeus Valdez, and the casts of both The Jerseys (Brian Smith, Paul Dwyer, Klint Rudolph and Randy St. Pierre) and the upcoming 13 the Musical (featuring an all-student cast including Joshua Cellar, Conrad Eck, Macy Friday, Evan Gibley, Lorenzo Giovanetti, Kaden Hinkle, Hannah Katz, Darrow Klein, Rylee Vogel and Hannah Meg Weinraub).

    The lineup is subject to change.

    United in Love Lineup

    The emcees of the event will be performer and local TV arts journalist Eden Lane, also the director of the Aurora Fox's upcoming regional premiere of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and actor Steven J. Burge, who just starred in the Denver Center's An Act of God at the Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    The Denver Actors Fund was founded in 2013 by former Denver Post Theatre Critic John Moore and actor/attorney Christopher Boeckx. The Denver Actors Fund offers both financial assistance with medical bills, insurance, co-payments, supplies and more, as well as volunteer assistance ranging from meals to transportation to snow-shoveling. Recently the Denver Actors Fund has helped a young father undergoing chemotherapy, a director who had triple-bypass surgery, and the parents of a child who died with medical and burial expenses. An team of more than 60 volunteers have provided more than 250 hours of service.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Actors Fund is a 501c3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax-deductible. For more information, or to apply for aid, go to denveractorsfund.org.

    The Presenting Sponsor of United in Love is Delta Dental of Colorado. The Gold Sponsor is Kaiser Permanente.  Silver Sponsors are Billings Investments and the Alliance Insurance Group.

     

  • Broadway's Ashford, Kelso and more in Denver benefit concert April 30

    by John Moore | Mar 13, 2017



    Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford will reunite with her Kinky Boots co-star (and fellow Colorado native) Andy Kelso for United in Love, a special concert event presented by Ebner-Page Productions and benefiting the Denver Actors Fund on Sunday night, April 30, at the Lone Tree Arts Center. TICKETS HERE

    Joining the headliners will be Mara Davi (Dames at Sea, Smash, A Chorus Line), who grew up in Highlands Ranch. These three powerhouse Broadway performers are coming home to unite with local performers and spread a message of love and hope while raising funds for the Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has made $82,000 available to local theatre artists facing situational medical need. 

    Ashford, a graduate of Wheat Ridge High School, won the Tony Award for her work in You Can’t Take it with You and is currently receiving rave reviews with Jake Gyllenhaal in a limited Broadway engagement of Sunday in the Park with George. She also has appeared on Broadway in Sylvia, Hair, Wicked and Legally Blonde. Kelso, a graduate of Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, starred in Kinky Boots after a three-year run in Mamma Mia.

    Click here to choose your April 30 concert seats now

    The concert also will feature longtime Denver performer (and Denver First Lady) Mary Louise Lee, Broadway’s Jodie Langel (Les Misérables) and Denise Gentilini, composer of the Armenia genocide musical I Am Alive.

    “These stars are returning to their roots to support the theatre community they came from,” said Ebner, who conceived the United in Love concert with Paul Page. “They are examples to all of us for fulfilling their dreams while inspiring and encouraging others.”

    Additional appearances are scheduled from Denver favorites Jimmy Bruenger, Eugene Ebner, Becca Fletcher, Clarissa Fugazzotto, Robert Johnson, Daniel Langhoff, Susannah McLeod, Chloe McLeod, Sarah Rex, Jeremy Rill, Kristen Samu, Willow Samu, Thaddeus Valdez, and the casts of both The Jerseys and the upcoming 13 the Musical (featuring an all-student casts).

    The lineup is subject to change, and additional stars may be added.

    The emcees of the event will be performer and local TV arts journalist Eden Lane with actor Steven J. Burge, currently starring in the Denver Center's An Act of God at the Garner-Galleria Theatre.


    United in Love

    The Denver Actors Fund was founded in 2013 by former Denver Post Theatre Critic John Moore and actor/attorney Christopher Boeckx. The Denver Actors Fund  offers both financial assistance with medical bills, insurance, co-payments, supplies and more, as well as volunteer assistance ranging from meals to transportation to snow-shoveling. Recently the Denver Actors Fund has helped a young father undergoing chemotherapy, a director who had triple-bypass surgery, and the parents of a child who died with medical and burial expenses. An team of more than 60 volunteers have provided more than 250 hours of service.

    “We are a grassroots organization to the core, and we depend on the kindness of people like Eugene Ebner and Paul Page to organize events like United in Love on our behalf, and the incredible generosity of the performing community for pull nights like this off,” said Moore, the DAF’s Executive Director. “United in Love will be the biggest night in our history, and we are united in gratitude to everyone who is helping to make it possible.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Actors Fund is a 501c3 nonprofit, and all donations are tax-deductible. For more information, or to apply for aid, go to denveractorsfund.org.

    The audience is invited to mingle with the performers at a post-show reception for additional $25. (There are only 100 full show/reception tickets available.)

    The Presenting Sponsor of United in Love is Delta Dental of Colorado. Silver Sponsors are Skyline Property Management and the Alliance Insurance Group.


    DAF Contest Lone Tree


    Front-row student social-media contest:
    The 14 front-row seats for the United in Love concert will be made available for $25 to seven students (high school seniors or younger) who make a 15-second video promoting the April 30 contest by professing their fandom for one of the performers on the lineup. Make a video and send it by Google Drive to denveractordfund@gmail.com. Deadline to submit: April 1. You will be notified if you are a winner. Two $25 tickets (face value $84 each) will be made available to the seven winners, along with free access to the post-concert reception. Questions, email denveractorsfund@gmail.com.

    Video bonus: Our 2014 interview with Ashford and Kelso at Kinky Boots:

    Look back on our backstage visit with Tony nominee Annaleigh Ashford and Andy Kelso, Denver-area natives with leading roles in 'Kinky Boots' on Broadway. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • Video, story: Kinship and camaraderie at the 2016 Bobby G Awards

    by John Moore | Jun 08, 2016

    Acceptance speeches and interview comments before and after the 2016 Bobby G Awards. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Before newly graduated Ponderosa High School senior Charlotte Movizzo discovered the theatre, she said, “I was the quietest person you will ever meet. I was very shy.”

    How shy?

    “I was afraid to order at Qdoba,” she said. “It was terrifying.”

    Jimmy Miller Bobby G Awards But when Movizzo found the theatre, she found a second home. “I felt I could break out of my shell,” she said.

    Movizzo left any remaining fragments of her broken shell on the Buell Theatre stage last month when she was named Outstanding Actress at the 2016 Bobby G Awards, which honor achievements in Colorado high-school theatre. As the newly named Outstanding Actress and Actor, Movizzo and 15-year-old Durango High School sophomore Curtis Salinger earned a trip next week to New York City, where they will be immersed for 10 days of theatre training with Broadway professionals before performing in the Minskoff Theatre at the national Jimmy Awards.

    That’s how fast your life can change because of the Bobby G Awards, which were begun by late DCPA President Randy Weeks four years ago and named in honor of his late mentor, Denver theatre producer Robert Garner.

    When she heard her name called, Movizzo said, there were no words. “I almost started crying,” she said.

    Winning was nice, but the best part of her Bobby G Awards experience, she said, was working together with her nine fellow nominees for a week on a specially created medley they performed at the ceremony. “Working with all of the nominees has been amazing because they are all so talented,” she said. They became so close and supportive, she said, they formed a private Facebook group.

    But the Bobby G Awards are not all about churning out the next generation of Broadway performers. 2014 Outstanding Actor Conner Kingsley matriculated to Tulane University, where he had the cred to star as Jack in the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods as just a freshman. But his heart soon led him toward a Management Environmental Studies degree and, hopefully, next into law school. Kingsley said performing in high-school school theatre and the Bobby G Awards experience prepped him well for that transition.

    “That has really helped me to talk openly in front of people, and taught me how to share my ideas and opinions easily,” he said.

    In the lobby before the Bobby G Awards, it was clear this unique annual gathering is all about celebrating both theatre and camaraderie.

    Bobby G Awards Luccio Dellepiane “For my kids, high-school theatre is their life for four years, and the school musical becomes the epicenter of their entire year,” said Cherry Creek High School Drama Teacher Jimmy Miller, whose How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was nominated for eight Bobby G Awards. “But what my kids really enjoy about these awards is being around other high-school kids and sharing the energy, and sharing the love.”

    Another example of how much can change in a year was made plain when Cherry Creek student Luccio Dellepiane (pictured above) stepped onto the Buell Theatre stage as J. Pierpont Finch alongside his How to Succeed castmates to perform a medley from the show.

    Last year, Dellepiane was singled out as the Bobby G Awards’ Rising Star, an award that honors outstanding work by an underclassman for his work as The Herald in Creek’s Cinderella. This year, Dellepiane starred in the leading role of How to Succeed. Star risen.

    “That was really crazy,” said Dellepiane, who like many others, was surrounded by proud family and friends in the Buell lobby before the awards. “That was the greatest honor I have ever received.”

    Our 2016 Bobby G Awards photo gallery:

    2016 Bobby G Awards

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    One of the fringe benefits of winning the Rising Star Award is a year of free classes offered by the DCPA’s Education Department, and Dellepiane took full advantage by signing up for four summer classes ranging from improv comedy to audition tips.

    “I know I grew as a performer because of it,” he said. “It gave me confidence to go further.”

    The Bobby G Awards’ Outstanding Musical Award went to Mountain View High School’s tap-dance extravaganza, Anything Goes. Mountain View is a medium-sized school of 1,200 located in Loveland, about 45 miles north of Denver. 

    “It’s humbling,” leading actor Owen Whitham said of the honor. “We come from a smaller town and we pour our heart and soul into our work. Being recognized for that is something we never even thought of.” 

    The cast’s performance of the title song drew thunderous response from the Buell crowd of about 1,700.

    “Shockingly, only five of us had ever tapped before,” said cast member Kira Minter, who said the students went through a two-week tap-dancing boot camp before rehearsals even started. Their efforts paid off at the Bobby G Awards.

    “I think this program is amazing,” Minter said. “It’s one of those experiences that changes your life. Performing on a real, professional stage is a great opportunity, especially for kids who are new to theatre. It’s a chance for them to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is what I love to do.’ ”

    Denver School of the Arts was nominated for seven Bobby G Awards for its daring production of Spring Awakening, one of the first in the nation by any high school troupe. DSA is one of only two schools in the nation that have been invited to perform at the upcoming International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb. Actor Keely Kritz said performing Spring Awakening at the upcoming conference “is the fulfillment of a big dream.”

    Spring Awakening is a modern retelling of young 1880s German teens growing up in the complete absence of real information about sexuality or the human body.

    Bobby G Awards Mountain View High School
    Mountain View High School's cast of 'Anything Goes.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    “It was freeing to be able to do this show,” said cast member Beau Wilcox. “It’s great to be able to say, ‘This is our school, and we are going to take on a tough subject, and we are going to do a good job with it.”

    Added castmate Jimmy Bruenger: “We like to do shows that are impactful and share a human experience - and what a perfect show to that,” he said. “This is a show about growing up, and we’ve all done that in the past seven years.”

    Still, for many, the enduring moment of the 2016 Bobby G Awards was watching as Curtis Salinger of Durango High School was named Outstanding Actor one year after his brother, Evatt, won the same honor. And it was Evatt who had the honor of handing the trophy to his younger brother, who turns just 16 next week. Curtis called it a Zoolander moment. But he was was most happy for his parents.

    “We have amazing parents, and they have raised us well,” Curtis said. “I know I speak for Evatt when I say we are eternally grateful to them and for the opportunities they have given us.” 

    One of the giddiest attendees this year was 2014 Outstanding Actress Abby Noble, who was happy to be taking her seat in the Buell Theatre audience before the show. “I just ate at McDonalds, because I don’t have to sing,” she said with a smile as wide as her face.

    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.

     

    MORE QUOTES FROM THE BOBBY G AWARDS:

    2014 Outstanding Actress Abby Noble: “Theatre definitely helps me in every aspect of my life. Especially when it comes to working with other people at the work place. I am a tour guide at my school, and theatre has really helped with the presentational aspect of the job, abs being able to stand under pressure with a smile on your face and be genuine.”

    Shelly Cox-Robie, director of Boulder High School’s Beauty and the Beast and a 250-year performer at BDT Stage in Boulder: “I am so happy for these kids. We have to fight for funding and fight for any recognition for these kids, who work countless hours for months to make these shows.”

    Ronni Gallup, nominated for the third time at Cherry Creek High School and choreographer of Phamaly Theatre Company’s upcoming Evita: “It is so important that we give these kids a taste of what the real business is. I’m hard on them. I push them and I challenge them, year after year. And I think they are the better for it" 

    2015 Outstanding Actress Emma Buchanan: "Being back at the Bobby G Awards makes me nostalgic being back here at the Buell Theatre. You can feel the excitement of the event and how important it is for so many kids in the state."


    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    Video: 2016 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Photos: 2016 Bobby G Awards (Download for free)
    Mountain View scales Bobby G Awards' 2016 peak
    Meet your 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Finalists
    Meet your 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Finalists
    2015-16 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
  • Countdown to the Bobby G Awards: Denver School of the Arts

    by John Moore | May 21, 2016
    Denver School of the Arts. Spring Awakening. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Denver School of the Arts is the fourth of five schools nominated for Outstanding Musical we will be featuring here in the DCPA NewsCenter in the days leading up to the May 26 Bobby G Awards at the Buell Theatre. Denver School of the Arts. Spring Awakening is nominated for seven awards. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    DENVER SCHOOL OF THE ARTS

    Spring Awakening
    7111 Montview Blvd, Denver, CO 80220 MAP IT
    WEB SITE 

    Denver School of the Arts is a comprehensive secondary arts magnet school for grages 6 through 12. It is part of the Denver Public Schools District. In addition to a rigorous academic program, students engage in intensive studies in Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Stagecraft and Design, Theatre, Video Cinema Arts and Visual Arts. DSA is committed to fostering a lifelong love of the arts in a culturally diverse, academically challenging environment. The theatre program itself is made up of about 160 theatre students who auditioned to gain admittance. Its leader is Shawn Hann, who has been at the school for 15 years.

    Reserve your seat for the May 26 Bobby G Awards

    • Tell us a little about your school’s theatre tradition and history: DSA, as it is known for short, started as part of Cole Middle School. Arts classes were held in the Byers building fro the late 1990s until the school was opened in its present location 13 years ago. Our most notable graduate and Colorado thespian is probably Gabriel Ebert (pictured at right), who won the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work as Mr. Wormwood in Matilda. Most recently he appeared in the movie Ricky and the Flash with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. Gabe still comes back as an occasional guest artist, and he  meets up with DSA students in New York every year to talk about acting. Another notable grad is Justine Lupe (Schomp), who was on Harry's Law, Shameless (with William H. Macy), Younger (with Sutton Foster), and in the film Frances Ha. DSA Gabriel Ebertgrad Jesse JP Johnson is currently in SpongeBob the Musical on Broadway. Jesse has done seven national tours, as well as three years in the ensemble of Wicked on Broadway. New York playwright Max Posner (Judy) is also a DSA theater major, as well as his sister Jessica Odede Posner, who founded  Shining Hope for Communities in Kenya, Africa. Also five members of the class of 2010 created the Black Actors Guild in Denver, who take Shakespeare into elementary schools and create original work. 
    • Your program goals: Our school is slightly different than a traditional high school in that we are a DPS magnet school. Students audition for one of 11 arts majors and get the opportunity to be a part of that art every single day for 90 minutes. Many of our students travel between 25 minutes to an hour to get to our campus and are very dedicated to studying theatre. Our goal in our performances is to give as many kids mainstage opportunities as possible in any given year, to challenge them with difficult material, and to work together with dancers, musicians, vocalists, and stagecraft majors. Spring Awakening, however, is cast with only acting majors as it is a theatre major performance not an all-school musical.
    • What kind of general support do you get? We are a "do it yourself" organization.  The tickets for each show pay for each show. Most of the time we barely break even on any show that we put on our mainstage. Support live theatre! 👍.
    • What would you say to a younger student at your school who might be nervous or unsure about participating in the performing arts? Our department motto is this: Step into the fear and be brave. We talk a lot with our students about how taking risks and putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, is the only way that you will get rewards back from this art form. I would say have fun and go for it.
    • What does it mean to your school for your show to be nominated for Outstanding Musical by the Bobby G Awards? We are beyond thrilled to be nominated for Outstanding Musical. The students have worked so hard on this production and believe so strongly in the message this musical carries. When we performed the show at our own school, many audience members were so moved and touched by the story that they opened up to cast members and school counselors about problems they had been dealing with at our school. The whole point of Spring Awakening is to encourage that kind of communication.
    • What does this whole experience tell you about the value of arts education and extracurricular activities at your school? Theatre changes students' lives. It gives them skills that will transfer into any occupation after high school. From self-esteem to coping skills to organizational skills to working as a team and/or leading a group, stidents walk away with a massive skill set.  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Denver School of the Arts. Spring Awakening. Jimmy Bruenger. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Denver School of the Arts' is nominated as Oustanding Supporting Actor for 'Spring Awakening.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    Denver School of the Arts' 2016 Bobby G Award nominations

    • Overall Production of a Musical (Spring Awakening)
    • Outstanding Direction: Shawn Hann
    • Actor in a Leading Role: Michael Kosko, Moritz
    • Actor in a Supporting Role: Jimmy Bruenger, Hanschen
    • Hair and Makeup Design: Skylar Arterburn and Owen Nuss
    • Costume Design: Mary V Benoit and Lara Kirksey
    • Orchestra

    Previous 2016 Outstanding Musical Nominee profiles:
    Cherry Creek High School
    Fairview High School
    Mountain View High School

    Denver School of the Arts
    Arvada West High School

    Bobby G Awards
    : Ticket information

  • Thursday, May 26
  • Buell Theatre 
  • 7 p.m.
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    2016 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High School
    Video: Outstanding Actor Nominee Performances
    Video: Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Video: A look at Durango's Outstanding Musical, Les Misérables
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Andre' Rodriguez's stirring Bobby G Awards speech
    Video: See how we introduced all 30 participating schools
    Video: Page to Stage highlights with Bobby G Awards winners
    Meet your Bobby G Awards nominees, in their own words
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards: Complete list of nominations 

  • Soggy skies can't shake 5,000 students' Shakespeare spirit

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2016
    2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos may be downloaded and recirculated with source attribution. Click on any photo to download.

    "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

    Michael Berger grew up with a stutter. On Friday, the high-school senior stood ebulliently in the rain and welcomed thousands to the 32nd annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    A DPS Shakespeare 160"This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my theatre career,” said Berger, a senior at Denver School of the Arts who was chosen from hundreds of DPS students to perform as none other than the Bard himself at the festival’s opening ceremonies in Skyline Park.

    “My first performance as an actor was here. It was in the fourth grade, I was 8 or 9, and I performed Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1,” he said definitively. “Because of that, I was inspired to continue in the theatre. And it was through Shakespeare that I learned how to speak clearly. So this is very much full circle for me.”

    The rain-snow mix didn’t dampen the students’ spirits, but the chill surely put the shake in the Shakespeare as nearly 5,000 chilly students from 80 schools in grades kindergarten through high school braved the cold to perform more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex while bundled in an array of colorful costumes that were often covered in parkas.

    DPS Shakespeare Fetsival opening ceremonies: Micael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    DPS Shakespeare Festival opening ceremonies: Michael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Denver Center or the Performing Arts CEO Scott Shiller served as Grand Marshall for the three-block opening parade alongside Berger and George Washington High School senior Vicky Serdyuk, who won the annual honor of playing Queen Elizabeth I at the oldest and largest student Shakespeare festival in the country.

    “Shakespeare was the first live performance I ever saw – and I was in daycare,” Serdyuk said with a laugh. “I remember that the actors talked funny, but that they made it sound so good.”

    Shiller told the students that by participating in arts-education programs like the Shakespeare Festival, studies indicate they will be more likely to graduate, enroll in college, contribute meaningfully to civic life and volunteer. “Plus, children who are exposed to live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree,” he said.

    Gillian McNally, who served as a festival adjudicator and general encourager, was undaunted by the cold. Despite the gloomy weather, she declared Friday to be the most beautiful day of the year.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote “This might be the only time most of these students ever perform on a stage in their whole lives – and we celebrate that,” said McNally, an Associate Professor of Theatre Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Just look at these wonderful, handmade costumes,” she added, indicating young students from the DaVinci Academy dressed as a human forest. “That tells me teachers collaborated with students and their parents, and they made something together. That’s what this is all about: We are making something together.”

    More than half of all students enrolled in Denver Public Schools speak English as a second language. Serdyuk says it makes sense that many DPS English teachers use Shakespeare as a language-learning tool in the classroom. “Shakespeare’s English follows a lot of the same rules as many of these students’ first languages,” she said. 

    Berger serves as student teacher for Denison Montessori School’s Shakespeare program.  He says Shakespeare is less intimidating for students whose native language isn’t English because they are already learning one foreign language – so what’s another? “It’s neat seeing kids learn to speak Shakespeare while they are learning English at the same time,” Berger said.

    Christine Gonzalez, who teaches kindergarten through 6th grade students at Denison, said Berger has been a big help to her students. “He keeps it light and fun and inspirational,” she said. “It’s easier to learn when you make it fun.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Mary Louise Lee, an accomplished performer and also the First Lady of Denver, addressed the crowd about the importance of arts education. “I am a proud product of the Denver Public Schools,” said the graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee, wife of Mayor Michael B. Hancock, has made restoring arts-education programs in schools her top priority since founding her nonprofit, Bringing Back the Arts.

    The DPS Shakespeare Festival draws students of all ages and experience levels. While hundreds were performing for the first time Friday, Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger was performing in his seventh DPS Festival.

    “I remember feeling nervous my first year because I was performing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Bruenger, who was born in Mexico. “But I looked around and I saw younger kids who were only 6 or 7 years old and they were completely into it. That gave me confidence that I could do it, too.”

    Seven years later, Bruenger is not only a recent winner of a True West Award and Denver Mayor's Award for the Arts, but also a full scholarship to the University of Oklahoma from the Daniels Fund. After he performed in his final Shakespeare Festival on Friday, he was off to star in the opening of a world premiere musical about the Armenian genocide called I Am Alive.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. This is the first year the DCPA served as a full producing partner in the DPS Festival. The DCPA’s Education Department offered up its Teaching Artists to assist all 80 participating schools in their preparations for Friday.

    “We are proud to partner alongside the largest school district in the state,” Shiller said. “Colorado’s commitment to arts integration outpaces the national average in nearly every category. In fact, 64 percent of our high schools offer theatre education, just like our own Shakespeare Festival.”

    Friday’s crowd was peppered with prominent figures in the local theatre community. Susan Lyles, founder of the city’s only company dedicated to female playwrights (And Toto Too) was on hand to root on her son, Harrison Lyles-Smith, who played a shepherd with a wicked death scene in As You Like It.

    Lyles said Harrison and his 5th-grade classmates at Steck Elementary School have been practicing for two hours every Friday since February. “It has given him self-confidence and a fearlessness when it comes to Shakespeare that a lot of adults don’t have,” she said.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sara McPherson Horle, Executive Producer of The Catamounts Theatre Company of Boulder, happened to have a nephew in that same class at Steck. For her, one of the great rewards young Samuel Davis has gotten out of the experience is the lost art of listening.

    “You have to be self-disciplined to be an actor at any age,” Horle said. “Learning to listen is a huge thing, but especially at this age.”

    McNally said the emphasis of the festival is not on producing professional-quality performances – although many of the older students come awfully close. What the judges want more to encourage is passion, which leads to the development of useful life skills such as public speaking and boosted self-esteem.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But occasionally there are performances that make even the Shakespeare purists turn their heads. DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken was particularly impressed with the 3rd through 5th graders from Isabella Bird, a “heart-centered” community school where teacher Rebecca Sage says students are all made to feel valued for their own specific, individual talents.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote 2“The general clarity of their storytelling was astounding, and their delivery were astounding,” McCracken said after watching Sage’s students perform a Cinco de Mayo-informed take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Ricketson Theatre. “That was an amazing throughline for elementary-school actors." 

    Sage said her approach to the project was not unlike the approach of any director who takes on a full-fledged theatrical production: “It all starts with table work,” she said. That means working through the script with the students line-by-line, making sure they understand the meaning, the innuendo and most important, the comedy of the words they speak.

    Sage’s students fully bought into the project, she said, in part because Friday’s festival was only the start of their reward. Next week, the students will perform the full story back at the school for parents and friends. Sage said her students have been putting in half-mornings two days a week since January.

    “It was hugely gratifying for them to put in the work, both at home and at school, and then to get that kind of validation and respect once they got here today,” she said. “This whole experience is a huge incentive for them to continue doing things that challenge them and take them to their edge.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's Romeo and Juliet

    DCPA Teaching Artists John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes starred in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Also new this year was the evening Shakespeare After-Fest program, when arts organizations from across Denver came together to continue the celebration of the Bard. The program included music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY. DCPA Education also performed its hour-long production of Romeo and Juliet from its outreach program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.

    The First Lady of Denver left the kids with a Shakespeare quote whose authorship has been disputed over time – but its meaning was indubitably apropos for Friday’s occasion:

    “The meaning of your life is to find your gift,” Lee told the gathered crowd. “The purpose of your life is to give it away.”

    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.

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • I Am Alive: 'Who today remembers the Armenians?'

    by John Moore | Apr 28, 2016



    AUTHOR'S NOTE: Fourteen years ago, I interviewed Denver actor Jacqueline Antaramian about her family's harrowing experience during the Armenian genocide a century and 6,000 miles from here. That was in relation to a Denver Center world premiere musical being staged at the time called The Immigrant.
    On Friday (April 29), writers Denise Gentilini and Lisa Nemzo present another developing new musical from the same period. It is called I Am Alive, and it will be presented for one night only at the Mile Hi Church in Lakewood.

    I am Alive This original dramatic musical follows the love story of Gentilini's grandparents (pictured right), who survived the Armenian massacre as children in 1915. I Am Alive is described as "a testament to the Armenian people who endured atrocities - yet their culture, faith and history survives"

    The cast includes veteran area actors, some of whom have performed with the Denver Center Theatre Company. The ensemble includes Erik Sandvold (A Flea in Her Ear), Mehry Eslaminia (Appoggiatura), Mare Trevathan (The Sweetest Swing in Baseball), Michael Morgan, Paul Page, Jennifer Burnett and Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger. The director is Christy Montour-Larson (Shadowlands).

    To mark the return in subject to the Armenian genocide, I am reposting excerpts from my 2002 interview with Antaramian, which underscores the magnitude of that man-made tragedy. The following story was originally published in The Denver Post in January 2002. Antaramian does not appear in I Am Alive.

     

    By John Moore
    For The Denver Post

    Antaramian quoteActor Jacqueline Antaramian's path from Armenia to America is rooted in the carnage of one of the most horrific tragedies of the 20th century. That she is now entertaining audiences here in the United States and not in, perhaps, Libya, is a story of genocide and pure chance.

    On April 24, 1915, 235 Armenian intellectuals were arrested in Istanbul, Turkey, sparking massacres that left an estimated 1.5 million Armenians dead. Thousands were marched into the Syrian desert and others, including Antaramian's four grandparents, escaped to other countries.

    In 1914, there were an estimated 5 million Christians in the Islamic nation of Turkey. Today that number is only 150,000.

    "The horror was that the massacre was denied for so long, and is still denied today by the Turkish government, so no one really knew what happened to the Armenians," said Antaramian. "Before Hitler killed all the Jews, he was quoted as saying, literally, 'Who today remembers the Armenians?' as a way of making the point that he could get it done," and get away with it.

    Every year, nearly 840,000 people become naturalized American citizens. And every one has a story to tell.

    All of Antaramian's grandparents eventually settled in Fresno, Calif., which before the collapse of the Soviet Union was home to the largest populace of Armenian Americans in the western United States. They got there via Ellis Island, New York, Ohio and Chicago, and there are as many twists in their stories as family trees have branches.

    Antaramian's own story began when she was born in 1962 in the Soviet-controlled Armenian capital of Yerevan. Her father, Paul, was born in Kenosha, Wis., but in 1946 was pulled back to a world where he never wanted to return.

    I Am Alive: Ticket information

    "After World War II, there was a repatriation. The communists were calling Armenians back to the homeland," Antaramian said of a three-year forced campaign that lured 100,000 home. "They said, 'Come back, it's so great here, things are free.' So a lot of people went back. My grandfather wanted his son to marry an Armenian, and so he took my father and his brothers. My father never wanted to go back to Armenia. He even ran away. He  was 17 and he wanted to go to school. He wanted to be a doctor."

    But Paul Antaramian followed his father's orders and returned to Armenia, where the family built a house made entirely from material they brought with them from America. As an "American Armenian" family, the Antaramians were considered better-off than  most. Paul met and married French-born Virginie Hekimian, who bore Hazel and Jacqueline.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    "At one time my mother's family had pianos and many other nice things, but my grandfather got sick and they had to sell everything," she said. "They became really, really poor. It came to a point where my mother had only one dress. It was devastating  and sad."

    Paul Antaramian's goal always was to return to America with his family, and he did so in 1966, when Hazel was 5 and Jacqueline 3.

    George Clooney marks Armenian anniversary

    "My parents were very anxious to get out of Armenia," she said. "They really, really wanted their girls to have the opportunities and education they could only get in America."

    Leaving Armenia in the 1960s, however, was no easier than leaving it in the 1910s. "But certain nationalities had more of an opportunity to get out under Khrushchev," she said. "The French minister had Armenian ties, and he made a deal with Khrushchev to get the French nationals out. We were only able to leave because my mother had French citizenship."

    Jacqueline's maternal aunt wanted the family to join her in Libya, but they chose to settle in Wisconsin, where they lived for seven years before moving to Fresno.

    Jacqueline became a U.S. citizen at age 14, when her mother was naturalized. Now 39 and with bloodlines that span three continents, she very much feels like a citizen of the world.

    "I am as proud to be an American citizen as I am to be Armenian," she said. "I have an Armenian history that I am very interested in remembering and maintaining. We can all only benefit  from knowing more about every part of the world and all its different cultures."

    "The Immigrant" gives her an opportunity to do that. The story shows how author Mark Harelik's Jewish grandfather's life is changed forever when he asks a Southern Baptist banker and his wife for a drink of water from their well.

    "This play deals with issues that are very important to me, especially people learning to live with things they are afraid of," she said. "Most of the time, that's strangers who have a  different religious background or have different customs. It's about how human beings on a basic level are all the same, but yet we get so frightened of one another when we come from different  places. It's about how beautifully we can come together if we let  go of our prejudices."

    What she hopes comes through most in the music  is a lesson that can be applied to our troubled world today.

    "The whole reason there is this hatred in the world is because everyone thinks God is on his side," said Antaramian, whose mother was raised by French Catholic nuns and whose father is an atheist, so she says she grew up "on equal parts faith and common sense."

     "What we really need to connect with is to humanity. We are all the same under one umbrella of God. I really believe in the beauty of science and the universe and a benevolent force. I would be very sad without it."

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

    I Am Alive: Ticket information
    I Am Alive

    Scene from a concert presentation of 'I Am Alive' in 2015.
  • Video: Highlights, interviews from Randy Weeks celebration

    by John Moore | Nov 12, 2014


    Friends, family and dozens of industry executives were among the 1,500 who attended a celebration of Randy Weeks' life at the Buell Theatre on Nov. 3.

    This video captures highlights, excerpts from musical performances and interviews afterward. Guests include David Turner (The Book of Mormon), Hal Luftig (Kinky Boots), Nancy Gibbs (Peter and the Starcatcher) and Anita Dloniak (Pippin The Musical) on why their entire national touring production has been dedicated to the late DCPA President.

    Also: Denver Post Chairman William Dean Singleton; Director Ray Roderick; actors Kris Andersson (Dixie Longate), Shannan Steele and Michael Gold; and Denver School of the Arts students Jimmy Bruenger and Madison Kitchen. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 12 minutes.

    To read our full report or access downloadable photos from the event, click here.


    To watch videos of complete, individual songs performed at the celebration:
    I Love a Piano
    Old Cape Cod
    Give My Regards to Broadway
    One (Singular Sensation)

    Our coverage of the death of Randy Weeks:

    Celebration draws 1,500 to recall a singular friend in story and song
    DCPA president Randy Weeks dies at London conference
    Video: Randy Weeks honored with dimmed lights, moments of silence
    Randy Weeks photo gallery
    DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life on Nov. 3
    A look back at Randy Weeks' 'It Gets Better' video
    'Pippin' dedicates entire tour to Randy Weeks

    Randy_Weeks_Celebration_Video_800
     
    Linda Klein, left, and Barbara Gehring of "Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women" left their current road stop in Rochester, N.Y., to attend the Nov. 3 celebration of DCPA president Randy Weeks, who was represented, in a way, by a Brooks Brothers mannequin stand-in. Photo by John Moore


    TO SEE OUR COMPLETE GALLERY OF DOWNLOADABLE PHOTOS FROM THE RANDY WEEKS CELEBRATION, CLICK HERE.

    Memorial Contributions:
    Memorial gifts can be made to The Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for the Bobby G Awards, which supports the advancement of musical theatre for Colorado high school students. Please make checks payable to Denver Center for the Performing Arts and mail to: DCPA Development Office, 1101 13th Street, Denver, CO 80204.
  • Randy Weeks celebration draws 1,500 to recall a singular friend in story and song

    by John Moore | Nov 05, 2014



    A month before Randy Weeks died in a London hotel room, he mailed his godson a random greeting card that said: “Life is not measured by how many breaths we take, but in the number of moments that take our breath away.”

    That was but one of many poignant remembrances peppered between showstopping musical numbers at a bittersweet public celebration on Monday afternoon for the President of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, who died in his sleep Oct. 9 while attending a conference of theatre presenters. He was 59.

    It was delivered from the Buell Theatre stage by Jimmy Calano, who was Weeks’ pledge son 40 years ago at the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Later, Calano asked Weeks to be the godfather to his own son.

    “Although Randy was cheated out of his fair share of breaths, he took our breath away by the power of his friendship, by the way he made us feel special, and by how he flat-out took care of us,” Calano told a crowd that was estimated at 1,500 by the city of Denver.

    Video: Cast members from 'Kinky Boots' sing 'Give My Regards to Broadway' to honor the late Randy Weeks. To see our entire downloadable photo gallery from the Randy Weeks celebration, click here.

    Attendees included family and friends; DCPA employees past and present; theatre audiences; more than 100 fraternity brothers; and members of the local and national theatre communities including theatre owners, producers, presenters, booking agents, press agents and representatives from both The Broadway League and the Independent Presenters Network.

    Dean Singleton, chairman of The Denver Post and a member of the DCPA’s Board of Trustees, said, “We have lost one of the greatest minds in theatre. Not only did Randy bring Broadway to Denver, but he made Denver the first stop for some of the greatest productions leaving New York. Randy had the unique ability to convince people that Denver was the right place for a first stop -- and he delivered.”


    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_Quote_2

    In his 23 years as the Executive Director of the DCPA’s Broadway division, Weeks presented more than 400 shows that served 11.6 million patrons. In his tenure, Denver hosted the launches of 10 national touring productions, including The Lion King, The Book of Mormon and, most recently, Pippin. Representatives from those shows and more flew to Denver to attend Monday’s classy send-off. The program culminated with University of Northern Colorado freshman Abby Noble singing “One (Singular Sensation)” from A Chorus Line alongside nearly 30 members of the Denver School of the Arts’ recent production of Hairspray.

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_1

    Abby Noble of Grandview High School and the University of Northern Colorado, right, performing with students from Denver School of the Arts. Photo by John Moore. To see more photos, click here.

    In May, Noble was named Outstanding Actress in a Musical at the Bobby G Awards, which honor achievements in Colorado high school theatre. The program was spearheaded by Weeks in 2012 and quickly became his greatest professional joy. He also served on the Friends Foundation at Denver School of the Arts.

    Two of Monday’s performers were DSA students Jimmy Bruenger and Madison Kitchen, who fell in love with Broadway musicals by watching productions that Weeks brought to the Buell Theatre stage. Monday’s celebration afforded both the opportunity to perform on that same stage for the first time. Even in death, Bruenger said, Weeks was making dreams come true.

    “When I found out we were being asked to perform here, I started hyperventilating,” Kitchen added. “Both of us saw Kinky Boots here just last night. And so to be on that stage for the first time today? It’s incredible.”

    Video: Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Abby Noble sings "One" with students from Denver School of the Arts.


    The Pippin tour has recently bestowed upon Weeks what is believed to be an unprecedented honor: The entire tour has been dedicated to Weeks, who will now be acknowledged in programs in every city Pippin visits. The idea was suggested by Kathleen O’Brien, Weeks’ counterpart with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

    “This has been the best tour-opening experience in my 27 years out on the road, and Randy is the reason,” said Pippin national press rep Anita Dloniak, citing the camaraderie and professionalism he inspired in his staff. “And he throws the best parties,” she added. Honoring Weeks, she said, was one way for the Pippin family to grapple and cope with their grief over his sudden death. 

    “He is just a wonderful force to be reckoned with,” Dloniak said. “A giant ... but a gentle giant.”

    Nancy Gibbs attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver and has since produced many major theatricals including Wicked; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (the longest-running show in Denver theatre history); Traces; Next to Normal, and Peter and the Starcatcher, which launched its first national tour in Denver in August.

    “Randy was a leader,” Gibbs said. “Once he stepped up to the plate, he knocked it out of the ballpark.”

    David Turner, General Manager for The Book of Mormon, said it was Weeks who convinced producers that Denver was the only place for that tour to launch.

    “Randy was the one who knew that the writers (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) were from here, and he really wanted us to make that connection,” Turner said.

    The Book of Mormon launch in Denver sold all 51,000 available tickets in less than five hours. Turner called that an “extremely important” validation of the show.

    “For everybody who wasn’t sure how The Book of Mormon would be received outside of New York, that was an incredible vote of confidence,” Turner said. 

    Weeks was respected by his colleagues for his uncanny ability not only to maximize blockbuster, popular fare, but to predict the next big thing. One of the most poignant moments in Monday’s celebration came when seven members of the 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots took the stage to sing “Give My Regards to Broadway” in Weeks’ honor. The show is currently playing in Denver through Sunday (Nov. 9).

    “During a very early preview performance of Kinky Boots, Randy ran up to me at the intermission and said, ‘Promise me this show will play Denver,’ ” said Kinky Boots’ Hal Luftig. “To a producer with a show still in previews, that meant the world to me. And now, here we are in Denver, playing to packed houses every night.”

    Weeks also was credited for his willingness to take risks both large and small. Weeks could have responsibly passed on important, challenging musicals with questionable commercial road potential, like Next to Normal (about a mother’s suicidal depression) and Spring Awakening (about 1890s German teens experiencing puberty in the complete absence of information). But when Weeks came across shows that had the potential to change audiences’ lives, he felt a deep obligation to schedule them.

    “He was so clearly willing to take risks here,” said The Book of Mormon’s Turner, “and over time, he developed an audience that was willing to take risks with him. That combination is very rare.”

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_2
    Actor Shannan Steele and director Ray Roderick banter with an aptly dressed Randy Weeks stand-in at Monday's celebration. Photo by John Moore. To see more photos, click here. 

     

    Added Ray Roderick, who directed large world premieres like I Love a Piano in the Auditorium Theatre and small cabaret shows in the Garner Galleria: “Randy saw the Denver community as one that was going to embrace good work no matter what it was. Denver is a very big demographic, and a very smart demographic, and Randy managed to please a lot of different kinds of people.”

    Weeks was remembered on Monday for far more than just his many professional successes. He was remembered as an uncommonly compassionate friend … and a most decidedly uncommon dresser.

    Weeks was known for wearing argyle sweaters and golfing pants adorned with animal prints only Rodney Dangerfield could love. The sweaters were a tribute to his late mentor, Robert Garner. “But the pants were all Randy,” said his longtime assistant, Claudia Carson, who directed the musical portion of Monday's celebration. Family members confessed that Weeks left seven pair of Brooks Brothers animal-print pants behind in his closet at home.

    “We’re going to miss Randy because he was always there with outstretched arms and a sweater that looked like something out of 1962 Paris Vogue,” joked Kris Andersson, otherwise known as Dixie Longate, whose Dixie’s Tupperware Party has played in the Garner Galleria Theatre four times. “It was so vogue that you probably wouldn’t want to dress that way. You’d look at it and go, ‘Really?’ But Randy owned it.”

    Andersson’s longtime manager Michele Helberg credited Weeks for “reinvigorating the Dixie brand” five years ago when he first brought the Tupperware Party to Denver. And Andersson credited Weeks for green-lighting last summer’s mouthful of a sequel, Dixie’s Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull and 16 Other Things I Learned While I was Drinking Last Thursday.

    “He used his influence with other people in the industry to take a new artist and a new piece of work and move it forward further than if we had to do it on our own,” Helberg said. “If it hadn’t been for Randy and his Denver Center family, I don’t think we would be where we are right now.”

    "Randy used to say, 'It’s all about the fun,' ” Andersson added. “We get to have fun every day of our lives, and a really big part of that is because Randy looked at our show and said yes. And then, when the opportunity came along to do the new show, Randy put tickets on sale before I had even written it. He had that much faith in me.”

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_3

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_Quote_1



    Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein are two other performers whose lives were forever changed when Weeks decided to move their two-woman sleepover Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women from the Avenue Theatre to the DCPA.

    And here’s the thing: “He picked up our show without ever even seeing it,” Klein said. In those days, the title was truth in advertising: No men allowed.

    “He had heard about it, and he knew that women loved it, and so he just said, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ ” Klein said.  

     That came as no surprise to Ekeberg, Weeks' protege and successor.

     “Randy led with his heart, and he put his heart into everything,” Ekeberg said.

    Girls Only played at the Garner Galleria Theatre for two years and has now been seen by 250,0000 women … and a few men. “That’s not something Linda and I could have done on our own,” Gehring said.

    Girls Only is currently playing in Rochester, N.Y., but the Denver-based duo came home for Monday’s celebration.  “We had to,” said Klein. “We needed to grieve with our friends.”

    DCPA Chairman Daniel Ritchie welcomed Monday’s crowd, and the master of Ceremonies was CBS-4 Critic-At-Large Greg Moody. Speakers included all three of Weeks’ siblings -- Pam Weeks, Joel Weeks and Stephanie Gamble. Others included Al Nocciolino, representing the Broadway League and the Independent Presenters Network. He was with Weeks at the London conference. He told Monday’s crowd that Weeks spent his final day shopping, and bought a deck of cards adorned with vintage fighter planes for his history-buff dad. That night, Weeks attended a performance of the controversial new play King Charles III in London's West End. Afterward, Nocciolino said, “Randy was holding court and telling everyone he had just seen the best performance he had ever seen.” 

    Video: "I Love a Piano" performed by Shannan Steele, Lauren Shealy, Randy St. Pierre, Michael Gold, Sarah Rex and Jordan Leigh.

    The musical program included performers from some of Weeks’ favorite shows, including I Love a Piano and Forever Plaid. The first show Weeks ever presented in the Garner Galleria Theatre was Forever Plaid, and on closing night in 1992, cast members sang “Old Cape Cod” as a gift to him in honor of his New Hampshire roots. Michael Gold, Drew Frady, Randy St. Pierre and Scott Rathbun sang the song at Monday’s celebration.

    Shannan Steele credited Weeks for hiring local actors, citing the upcoming opening of Forbidden Broadway in the Garner Galleria Theatre, which has an all-local ensemble.

     “I think most of my career wouldn’t exist without his efforts and his vision for the local community,” Steele said. “If you ever got to work under Randy, it was always a huge employment opportunity – and a huge artistic opportunity.”

    Gold, who performed in Roderick’s I Love a Piano, has known Weeks since he joined the DCPA box-office team as a college student in 1978. “I remember seeing him run credit cards over carbon paper; it was that long ago,” Gold said.

    When Joel Weeks took to the podium at the Buell, he referenced Weeks’ eulogy to his mentor, Robert Garner. “In it, he said, ‘How can you know someone for such a long time and never fully comprehend how much they have become a part of your life?’ ” Joel Weeks said.

    “My journey will be an amazing one if I can just try to emulate a fraction of what my brother was.” 

    Ekeberg, the final speaker, said his boss’ true strength lay in one-on-one relationships. “He made you feel special; he made you feel heard, and he made you feel important,” Ekeberg said. To honor that spirit, he urged the crowd to heed the message of Pippin:

    “Find the simple joys,” Ekeberg said.

    Our coverage of the death of Randy Weeks:
    DCPA president Randy Weeks dies at London conference
    Video: Randy Weeks honored with dimmed lights, moments of silence
    Randy Weeks photo gallery
    DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life on Nov. 3
    A look back at Randy Weeks' 'It Gets Better' video
    'Pippin' dedicates entire tour to Randy Weeks



    Video: Randy St. Pierre, Michael Gold, Drew Frady and Scott Rathbun sing 'Old Cape Cod.'

    MORE PHOTOS:

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_3


    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_4

    TO SEE OUR COMPLETE GALLERY OF DOWNLOADABLE PHOTOS FROM THE RANDY WEEKS CELEBRATION, CLICK HERE.
          

    Memorial Contributions
    Memorial gifts can be made to The Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for the Bobby G Awards, which supports the advancement of musical theatre for Colorado high school students. Please make checks payable to Denver Center for the Performing Arts and mail to: DCPA Development Office, 1101 13th Street, Denver, CO 80204.

  • Photos, video: 'Miscast 2014' highlights for the Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Oct 05, 2014
    Video by John Moore for the DCPA.


    “Miscast 2014” was an opportunity for members of the local theatre community to sing songs and act out scenes they would never … ever! … get cast to perform on any legitimate stage. This popular tradition was brought back by the Aurora Fox Theatre as a fundraiser for the Denver Actors Fund on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014.

    To see our complete gallery of photos from the evening, which raised just more than $2,000 for The Denver Actors Fund, click here.

    The Denver Actors Fund provides financial and practical services to members of the local theatre community who find themselves in medical need. The hosts were Elvira Barcelona and Damon Guerrasio. The director was Robert Michael Sanders.

    Performers included Alisa Schmidt, Chris Boeckx, Damon Guerrasio, Daniel Traylor, Debbie Weinstein Minter, Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Jeremy Palmer, Josh Nelson, Lyndsay Giraldi-Palmer, Mark Pergola, Melinda Cary Smart, Nigel Huckle, Owen T. Niland, Patrick Brownson, Sam Wood, Arlene Rapal, Laura Chavez Slack, James Sherman, Jenna Bainbridge, Stewart Caswell, Mark Dissette and Lisa Young.

    In addition, four students from Denver School of the Arts performed a song from their recent production of Hairspray -- with actors Madison Kitchen, Jeremy Willis, Jimmy Bruenger and Amelia Corrada switching roles. Two weeks earlier, the Hairspray cast presented the Denver Actors Fund with the largest donation in the non-profit's existence: $2,411.

    The Denver Actors Fund, founded by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore in May 2013, provides financial and practical services to members of the local theatre community who find themselves in need from a medical situation.

    To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, click here.

    To see our complete gallery of photos from Miscast 2014, click here.

    To read stories of from artists who have benefited from Denver Actors Fund support, click here.


    Denver_Actors_Fund_Miscast_800_1

    The stormy love affair between "Miscast 2014" co-hosts Damon Guerrasio, left, and Elvira Barcelona kept audiences entertained all evening. Photo by John Moore.

    Denver_Actors_Fund_Miscast_800_2

    Denver's handicapped Phamaly Theare Company brought the house down with a climactic strip-tease, "Let It Go," from "The Full Monty. Photo by John Moore.


    Denver_Actors_Fund_Miscast_800_3

    Melinda Smart lives out many female actors' dream: She's playing the sadistic dentist from "Little Shop of Horrors." Photo by John Moore.
  • DSA students make remarkable, record donation to Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Sep 23, 2014
    IMG_3561From left: Amelia Corrada (Penny), Madison Kitchen (Tracy), Jeremy Willis (Seaweed), Claire Willcutt, John Moore and Jimmy Bruenger (Link Larkin).


    Twelve days before Denver School of the Arts was to open its fall all-school musical "Hairspray," cast members Jimmy Bruenger and his little sister, Damiana, learned their father, James, had died of a sudden heart attack. Jimmy, a junior who plays Link Larkin, and Damiana, who plays Youth Council member Madge, decided the best way to honor their father was to go on with the show.

    Denver_Actors_Fund_Jimmy_Bruenger_DSA_400"He was one of the kindest and loving men, and I am so blessed to have had him as my dad," said Jimmy. "He was honestly beyond supportive, and always told me to follow my heart."

    Not only did the Bruengers go on when the show opened on Sept. 12, Jimmy spearheaded the cast's philanthropic effort. Director Shawn Hann encourages her casts to designate a nonprofit organization for every production. The students chose Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In the first weekend of "Hairspray" alone, they had collected more than $2,000 for the nation's leading entertainment-based fundraising organization to fight HIV and AIDS.

    The next week, Denver actor Tom Borrillo was hired to teach two master classes at DSA as a guest artist. While there, he explained to the students that the reason he had limited mobility was because of recent emergency shoulder surgery. And he told them about the Denver Actors Fund, which had awarded him $1,000 to help off-set his nearly $15,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses. At that point, the cast decided to use all remaining performances of "Hairspray" to help raise money for the Denver Actors Fund.

    Following Saturday's closing performance, Jimmy and his 90 castmates surprised Denver Actors Fund founder John Moore with a check for $2,411.28. The donation is the largest in the short history of the Denver Actors Fund. The gift also brings to more than $20,000 the total raised by the organization to date.



    The Denver Actors Fund, founded by Moore and actor Christopher K. Boeckx in June 2013, offers financial and practical neighborly assistance including meals, transportation and child care to members of the local theatre community who find themselves in need resulting from sudden or ongoing medical situations. To date, the fund has helped actors, directors, artistic directors, stage managers and even props specialists facing a wide variety of crises. Moore is the former theatre critic at The Denver Post and is now the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist.

    "It is humbling when the youngest, healthiest members of our theatre community -- students who are clearly in the prime of their lives -- take the time and care to raise money for fellow members of the theatre community who are in far different stages of their lives," said Moore. "Fellow artists facing illness, loss or end of life." The Bruenger siblings, prove, however, that tragedy and unexpected need know no age boundaries. Jimmy Bruenger said he and his sister got the strength to keep going with "Hairspray" in part because of a massive show of support from friends and family, known and unknown. But Jimmy was particularly blown away to receive encouragement from none other than "Hairspray" composer Marc Shaiman:

    To Jimmy Bruenger: Hello, Jimmy. I've heard from my pal Gregg Sherman that the Denver School Of Arts is putting on a fantastic production of "HAIRSPRAY." I also heard you just lost your Dad. Jimmy, I'm sorry you've suffered this loss, and at such a young age. I was in my late 40s when my father died in 2007. I found, as I'm sure you are finding, that everything I did I would say to myself "This is the first time I am _______ without my father still alive." Whether it was walking down the street back in NY, or seeing a show, I kept keeping this list in my head. I was lucky that, when I got back to NY, I was able to go to The Neil Simon Theatre and feel the warmth of the HAIRSPRAY family (as the show was still running). Before the show, at the pre-show circle, I told them it would be the first time I was seeing the show since my Dad had died. That night I watched from the pit. During the curtain call, when Tracy says "Let's dance!" the actress said "for Bill Shaiman." Man, I lost it...sat there sobbing from both grief and for the feeling of love I was so lucky to be bathing in there with my HAIRSPRAY family. Jimmy, I hope you are having a similar situation there, being helped along by your newest family as you come to terms with the change in your own. I know I am, right now, re-experiencing it all just from writing you about it. Just let it all out and take it all in, both the pain and the joy. It's all there, as his spirit always will be too, right there within you. I hope you don't mind me writing you this letter out of the blue. And thank you for using your talent, heart and soul to lift the audience with our little show. All My Best, Marc
    "Marc is so kind," Bruenger said after receiving the note. "He honestly helped remind me why I love what I do."
     
    IMG_3547

    In response to the surprise donation from DSA, Moore has invited the cast of "Hairspray" to perform a number of its choice at "Miscast 2014," a benefit for the Denver Actors Fund that will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, at the Aurora Fox Theatre.

    Denver School of the Arts is a comprehensive secondary arts magnet school covering grades 6-12 the the Denver Public Schools district. In addition to a rigorous academic program, students engage in intensive studies in Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Stagecraft and Design, Theatre, Video Cinema Arts, and Visual Arts. DSA is committed to fostering a lifelong love of the arts in a culturally diverse, academically challenging environment.

    To learn more about the Denver Actors Fund, click here

    To read testimonials from artists who have benefited from the Denver Actors Fund, click here

    To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, click here

    To apply for aid from the Denver Actors Fund, fill out this brief online form

     
     IMG_3539Jimmy Bruenger announces the "Hairspray" cast's surprise donation to The Denver Actors Fund.  


    IMG_3487b "Hairspray" Director Shawn Hann, left, with Denver Center for the Performing Arts Teaching Artists Allison Watrous and Jessica Austgen.  

    IMG_3557Denver Actors Fund founder John Moore with Jimmy Bruenger and Damiana Bruenger.

  • POPULAR POSTS
     
    ABOUT THE EDITOR
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

    DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.