• Community conversation on theatre criticism Monday at Denver Center

    by John Moore | Jun 17, 2017
    Rick Yaconis, Juliet Wittman and Michael J. Duran

    From left: Rick Yaconis, Juliet Wittman and Michael J. Duran.

    Everyone's a Critic ... Literally, will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, June 19, in the DCPA's Conservatory Theatre

    By Gloria Shanstrom
    Colorado Theatre Guild

    The Colorado Theatre Guild will launch its new series, called Community Conversations, this Monday night with a candid and constructive conversation about the changing face of arts journalism today. First up is Everyone’s a Critic: Literally.

    With the decline of full-time jobs at traditional media outlets throughout the country, there is growing concern among arts organizations about the future of theatrical criticism. This panel will discuss the state of criticism today, what the future might hold and offer proactive strategies arts groups might consider to get their own stories told.

    The conversation takes place at 7 p.m. Monday, June 19, at the Denver Center's Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education, located at 13th and Arapahoe streets.

    John MooreThe panel will be moderated by John Moore, former longtime theatre critic at The Denver Post and now editor of a 4-year-old media outlet launched by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts as a shared asset for the entire Colorado theatre community. 

    Current panelists include Westword theatre critic Juliet Wittman, longtime blogger critic Patrick Dorn, The Edge Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Rick Yaconis and BDT Stage Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Duran. (Panel subject to change.)

    This Colorado Theatre Guild's new workshop and panel-discussion series, initiated by new CTG President Deb Flomberg, is aimed at Colorado theater producers, actors, designers, patrons and anyone wishing to get better insight into the process of creating and producing live theatre in Colorado. Attendees are asked to come with questions for this lively discussion.

    "Community Conversations are about one thing: Opening up the discussion to bring together the theatrical community in Colorado," Flomberg said.

    Everyone’s a Critic: Literally
    Newman Building

    • 7 p.m. Monday, June 19
    • At the Denver Center's Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education
    • 13th and Arapahoe streets
    • 1101 13th Street, Denver, CO 80204
    • Free to Colorado Theatre Guild members, and $5 at the door for non-members

    Panelist bios
    John Moore
    is an award-winning arts journalist who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the United States by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. His online innovations for The Denver Post prompted the Chicago Tribune to suggest that The Denver Post‘s online theater coverage was the best in the nation. In 2013, he took a groundbreaking new position as an in-house journalist for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. His ongoing coverage of the entire Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org. He also started the Denver Actors Fund as a way of organizing community-wide responsive efforts when members of the local theatre community find themselves in immediate medical need. In just more than three years, the Denver Actors Fund has distributed more than $100,000 in direct financial relief to members of the Colorado theatre community. Last year John's full-length play Waiting for Obama was performed by an all-Colorado cast at the New York International Fringe Festival.

    Juliet Wittman studied acting while growing up in London (where she was privileged to see such greats as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft onstage), and with Milton Katselas in New York. She has also worked in radio, off-off Broadway, summer-stock and repertory. As a graduate student in Colorado, she appeared at CU and the Nomad Playhouse and she also founded a feminist theatre company. For two years, she taught theater at the Colorado Women’s Correctional Facility: The inmates were allowed out of the prison several times to show their plays in Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver’s Changing Scene, where Al Brooks served them cappuccino in tiny, elegant cups. As a writer, she has had essays and short stories published in literary magazines and won several journalism awards. Her memoir, Breast Cancer Journal: A Century of Petals, received the Colorado Book Award and was named a finalist for the National Book Award. She has been reviewing theatre for Westword for more than 15 years, during which time she’s learned more about the art form than she can begin to express.

    Patrick DornPatrick Dorn abandoned his Actor’s Equity card and fled Los Angeles in 1980. He moved to Denver, where he earned a master’s degree in theatre from the University of Denver, with emphases in theatre history, dramatic theory and criticism, playwriting and children’s theatre. As an associate professor, he taught these subjects and more at Colorado Christian University for several years. Before becoming a critic, he was first reader and editor at Pioneer Drama Service, where he read and wrote rejection letters for thousands of play submissions. He served on the faculty and board of Colorado ACTS drama school, directing dozens of plays with children and teens, and a few shows for grownups. Patrick has more than 40 of his own plays published in the children’s and youth theatre market. Patrick has written play reviews for the Denver Catholic Register and the Intermountain Jewish News, and for seven years was the theatre critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, attending approximately 120 plays annually. He remembers liking more than 700 of them. After leaving the Daily Camera to become an Anglican priest and later a full-time chaplain, he is posting his reviews on various blogs.

    Michael J. Duran has been the Producing Artistic Director at BDT Stage (formerly Boulder’s Dinner Theatre) since 2003, following a successful 23-year career in NYC. His credits include: Broadway: The Music Man, Crazy For You, Me and My Girl, Into the Light, Annie 2 (Pre Broadway). London and National Tours: Damn Yankees with Jerry Lewis, Sunset Boulevard with Petula Clark, Bye Bye Birdie with Tommy Tune and Anne Reinking, Hello Dolly! with Carol Channing and On Your Toes directed by George Abbott. Television: Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, Irving Berlin’s 100th Birthday Celebration at Carnegie Hall (CBS), and An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner for PBS Great Performances. He has worjed with Susan Stroman, Kathleen Marshall, Jack O’Brian, Jerry Mitchell, Mike Okrent, Gene Saks, George Abbott. During his tenure at BDT Stage, Michael has produced more than 53 shows and directed 17. He has received Denver Drama Critics Circle Awards, Top of the Rocky in 2005, Ovation and Henry Awards and was a 2015 recipient of The Dairy Center Honors for his contribution to the cultural life of Boulder through the arts.

    Rick Yaconis is the Executive and Artistic Director of The Edge Theater, which he founded seven years ago with his wife, Patty. Since then, he has produced nearly 50 shows and three new-play festivals. He has also directed 12 productions including The Nance and Murder Ballad in this past year and last year's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for which he was nominated for a CTG Henry award. Rick has acted in more than 10 Edge Theatre productions, most recently Misery and A View From the Bridge.

  • 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.

  • Authentic voices: 2017 student playwriting winners announced

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2017
    Video: We talked with the four 2017 student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Two student writers will have their one-act plays
    fully staged in public performances in June.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The mission of DCPA Education’s annual year-long student playwriting competition is to help high-school writers find and cultivate their authentic voices. And this year, for the first time, it has ultimately chosen to celebrate two.

    The winning plays of the fourth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition are Dear Boy on the Tree, written by Jasmin Hernandez Lozano of Vista Peak Preparatory Academy in Aurora, and Spilt Lava, written by Ryan McCormick of Fort Collins High School. Both plays will be given full productions in June, performed by DCPA Education’s summer teen company.

    Teen Playwriting QuoteBoth plays feature young couples exploring connection in unusual places. In Spilt Lava, a boy and girl float across each other on doors in a world where the floor is made of burning lava. Dear Boy on the Tree is a gender-reversed take on Rapunzel, featuring a boy hiding in a tree who is trapped by his fear until a girl named Willow happens along.

    “At the DCPA, we know it is so important to cultivate young playwrights,” said Director of Education Allison Watrous. “That's what this program is all about.”

    Each fall, DCPA Teaching Artists go out into schools statewide, deliver playwriting workshops and encourage students to write and submit one-act plays for the competition. This year, those Teaching Artists went to 46 high schools and delivered 138 workshops for more than 2,800 students. “We really want to encourage teenagers to tell amazing stories and put their plays out in the world,” Watrous said.  

    This year, 132 one-act plays were received and judged blindly. In January, 10 were named as finalists. Of those, four were chosen to have a workshop and staged reading by DCPA actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit in February. The process mirrors exactly what happens to the four new plays featured by the DCPA Theatre Company at each Summit. “It's really the first time these students have an opportunity to hear the play on its feet with a cast of actors,” Watrous said. “That gives the playwright the opportunity to really fine-tune the play as it moves to its next stage of development.”  

    IStudent Playwriting Ryan McCormickn previous years, one play has been ultimately chosen for a full summer production. This year, competition officials chose to advance both Lozano and McCormick’s scripts to full stagings.

    Lozano, a first-generation American whose parents do not speak English, asked her brothers if she was hallucinating when she read the email telling her she had been named a finalist.

    “I started crying right then and there because it was so emotional,” said Lozano. “Then my mom heard me crying and she said, 'What's happening? What's happening?' I explained everything to her in Spanish and then we all started crying, because we're a family of criers.

    Teen Playwriting Jasmin Hernandez LozanoLozano, who wrote her play in English, was born in a neighborhood “where I had a lot of limits,” she said, “so I would never assume I could win something like this. I don't have a family that has won a lot of awards. So winning this is one step toward getting out of that stereotype that Hispanic people can’t achieve as much as other people.”

    McCormick, now a senior, also was a top-10 finalist his sophomore year. He wrote Spilt Lava in part “because there was a girl I was trying to convince to date me, and she was reluctant,” he said. He credits the DCPA and his teachers for giving him the creative confidence to set his unlikely play on a floor of lava.

    “I've been working on it for a while, so it went through different phases,” he said. “As I got to higher English classes in high school, we started learning about postmodernism and the idea that if everyone believes something, then that is its own reality - and the lava floor is a perfect example of that. I wrote a love story where the floor happens to be lava.”

    Student Playwriting Allison WatrousThe winning plays will be performed back-to-back twice at 1:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 16, in the DCPA’s Conservatory Theatre. Admission is free, and the public is welcome. Both will be directed by actor and published playwright Steven Cole Hughes.

    The other finalists were Parker Bennett of Fossil Ridge High School (Counting in Clay and Jessica Wood of Denver Christian School (Chill Winds). Wood is the first student in the competition's history to advance to the Colorado New Play Summit twice.

    “It was such an amazing experience last year to be able to see my play go through the workshop process and then have a staged reading,” said Wood. “I was so excited to come back and to experience that again. Programs like this just don't exist in very many places.”

    The four finalists each received personal mentoring from a professional playwright at the Summit, culminating in public readings that were attended by their families and friends alongside theatre professionals from all around the country. Last year, Wood was mentored by Lauren Yee, whose play Manford at the Line was developed at the 2017 Summit and will be fully staged as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s next mainstage season.

    “It was so amazing to be able to meet with someone who actually makes a living from playwriting,” Wood said of Yee. “Just to hear her say, 'Your play was really good' was an incredible feeling for me.”

    Student Playwriting Allison WatrousMcCormick said advancing as far as the Summit was all he could have hoped for. “To come here and just be able to rub shoulders with professionals and just be a part of this whole Summit has been crazy,” he said.

    In addition, each teacher of the four finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. And as an added bonus, the DCPA will publish all four of the finalists’ plays.

    “We do that so we can continue to create a volume of the plays each year and to really commemorate this work,” Watrous said. “Now these writers are now all published playwrights, which is very exciting.”

    Some of the 132 participating students may become professional playwrights someday. But the greater goal, Watrous said, is to advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication, which are skills that can help them in all aspects of their adult lives.

    Photo gallery: 2016-17 Student Playwriting

    2017 Student Playwriting

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable for free and may be used for personal and social purposes with credit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition Sponsors:
    Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of all 10 of the 2017 semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School
  • Video: A talk with 'Disgraced' Costume Designer Lex Liang

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2017

    Video above by Video Producer David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. Interview by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    Ayad Akhtar’s celebrated play Disgraced is a controversial cultural study of an American, Muslim-raised corporate lawyer who has rejected Islam and embraced capitalism. What's not controversial is the work of Costume Designer Lex Liang, who helps bring out core character traits with clothing choices that reveal backgrounds, income and interests at a glance.

    "Amir is an individual who is desperately trying to fit into a world where society does not feel he belongs," says Liang, who works with LDC Design. You should be able to see that, he believes, just by looking at the suit worn by actor Dorien Makhloghi.

    The DCPA Theatre Company presents Disgraced through May 7 in the Ricketson Theatre. The Director is Carl Cofield, and the cast includes Benjamin Pelteson, Olivia Gilliatt, Dorien Makhloghi, Christina Sajous and Vandit Bhatt.

    Lex Liang
    'Disgraced' Costume Designer Lex Liang. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    : Ticket information
    DisgracedIn this raw new play, Amir has built the perfect life. But as a high-profile case and his wife’s art show reveal how little his culture is understood, their misconceptions become too much to bear.
    Through May 7
    Ricketson Theatre

    ASL and audio-described performance: 1:30 p.m. April 30

    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Disgraced:
    Perspectives: Disgraced is about starting, not finishing, conversations
    Video, photos: Your first look at Theatre Company's Disgraced
    Video: A talk with Disgraced Costume Designer Lex Liang
    Disgraced has been known to leave audiences gasping
    Disgraced Director promises to push your (empathy) button
    TED Talk: On the danger of a 'single story'
    Meet the cast: Dorien Makhloghi, who plays Amir

  • America: Hal Holbrook would like to have a little talk

    by John Moore | Mar 21, 2017
    Hal Holbrook. Photo by John Moore.

    Note: The following interview was first published in 2015. Holbrook returns to Denver for a 12th time to perform his signature show, 'Mark Twain Tonight,' on April 1. The story and ticket information below have been updated to reflect that.

    America: Hal Holbrook would like to have a little talk

    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    What we have here in America, the enduring actor Hal Holbrook believes, is a failure to communicate.

    It’s not that we’re not talking. It’s that we’re not talking to each other. Unless it’s to our own kind.

    “People are afraid to talk openly about politics today,” Holbrook told the DCPA NewsCenter. “We have become so nervous about offending anyone’s opinion. Plus, we have so many ridiculous opinions circulating on the cyber-circuits that to deal with political opinion today is not only chancy; you are just going to turn people off and scare them.” 

    But Holbrook, as the world has well-known these past 92 years, is not afraid to talk. Either as himself, or as the alter ego he has lived with for seven decades now. Holbrook returns to Denver on April 1 to perform for the 12th time Mark Twain Tonight, the second-most presented show in DCPA history (Sorry, Hal: You can’t touch A Christmas Carol. Yet.)

    Holbrook is talking, all right. Just as Twain might if he had not had the bad form to die as a whippersnapper of just 75. He’s talking about the gun culture. About religious hypocrisy. About racism. About abuse of power by police. (He’s experienced it, too, he says.) He’s even talking about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

    “What is going on in the world today is dangerous,” he says. And not just in Syria and France and Africa. Right here at home. But what’s most dangerous, says America’s modern-day Will Rogers, is what will surely come to pass if we don’t start talking about it openly. Forget congress. (They’re beyond hope, he says.) Forget the “yacky, yacky yack” televangical opinion-makers on Fox or MSNBC. (They are all talking so fast, you can’t follow them anyway,” he says.)

    No, the onus is on the real and regular people of America to start talking to one another again, Holbrook says. At the dinner table, in churches and at taverns. More important, we have to learn all over again how to listen.  Hal Holbrook Quote

    “We are living in a world where there is a terrible religious war underway, and it has been brewing for a long time,” Holbrook said. “And if we aren't able to talk about it without taking partisan sides, we're in deep trouble. Because we have something really golden in this country, which is the tradition of being able to have your own idea about something. And being able to express it. And if we go hiding that in the closet, and suppress it, you can just imagine what kind of world we are heading into.” 

    But into this culture of animosity and hostility and division, we still have, through Holbrook, an immortalized Mark Twain going out into every corner of America talking about who we were and what we were thinking 100 years ago. And in doing so, he is in some strange way touching on who we are and what we are thinking now.

    When Holbrook walks out on stage sporting Twain’s trademark white suit, wild white hair and indelible witticisms, it’s like being sat down by your grandfather’s grandfather for a good talking to. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “I am so grateful that I still have this Mark Twain show; that I never gave it up; that I never got tired of it,” said Holbrook, who has performed Mark Twain Tonight nearly 2,600 times in all 50 states, 20 countries and behind the Iron Curtain. “It gives me a tremendous feeling of moving forward. It gives me energy. I love doing the show, and I love the challenge of trying to talk to people today about what is going on in our world.”

    Although the show is always 100 percent Twain, it is always changing. Holbrook promises Denver audiences will see some new material since his last visit here in 2015. For his 2013 visit, he added a new number from Huckleberry Finn that recounts the comic family feud between the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons, who have been fighting for so long, no one can remember why it began in the first place. “Strangely enough,” Holbrook says, "it has something powerful to say about the gun culture today and our love affair with guns.

    Hal Holbrook“I have another new piece that I think was pretty chancy to add in, and that has to do with Mark Twain's thoughts on the Christian Bible. It’s about how people use the Bible without even understanding what Jesus is saying in it. And I am telling you, it is right on the nose. As a religious nation, we have a tremendous lack of understanding of what Jesus Christ is telling us. We turn it into something else and make a mess of it. That's what happens when you marry politics to religion. That’s what we’ve done, and it is creating a big problem in this country. Politics and religion do not go well together.”

    These are dicey, controversial topics of conversation. But no matter your politics, the dialogue somehow flows more easily when America’s most beloved, cigar-chomping humorist is leading it. Holbrook has voted for both Democrat and Republican presidents – and he’s been alive for every one of them since Calvin Coolidge. Growing up, his family was conservative. “But I was born with a question mark on my head, so I can't be a Republican,” he says. Like Twain, he hails from the party of common sense.

    And right now, his common sense is telling him that America will live in shame for decades for the way it has treated [now former] President Barack Obama. And he doesn’t exonerate the left in that assessment.

    “My thoughts begin with this powerful realization that Barack Obama was elected in 2008 with the largest number of popular votes ever given to any U.S. president (69.5 million). It was as close to a landslide as you can get,” he said. “The very next day, the opposing party announced very clearly and very prominently that their one goal in the next four years would be to get rid of the man we had just elected by the largest number of votes ever given to any president in U.S. history. That, to me, was unforgivable. Obama has been under a bombardment like no president I have ever seen. No one has ever been shot at and attacked the way he has.”

    What’s more important than Obama being picked on is the underlying reason Holbrook believes he is being picked on -- and how that unmasks the greatest problem facing America today.

    Hal Holbrook Quote“Obama has accomplished an amazing amount in the past six years – and nobody is talking about it," Holbrook said in 2015. "Not even the Democrats are standing up for him. And why is that? If this guy is achieving all this good stuff against such tremendous odds, why aren't the people in his own party standing up for him? There is one element that comes into this whole picture, which all of us try to put out of our minds, and that is racism. And the fact that President Obama is black.

    “There is such a powerful tide of racism in this country today, and I don't think we can blind ourselves to that fact.”

    It’s that kind of blood-pumping talk that keeps Holbrook getting up in the morning. That keeps him thinking about how to change and improve Mark Twain Tonight when he lies in bed at night. When he swims in the pool. 

    “I'm working hard, but when you are 90 years old, there all kinds of thoughts in your head that you'd really like to chase away,” he said. “You can’t sit there and linger on how old you are and worry about dying. You just have to pick up and go.”

    In the meantime, he is keeping the conversation going. He and Mark Twain.

    “I was writing my son the other day, who is very intelligent and very hard to argue with. He has very strong opinions. I was trying to tell him, 'David, I think what I have been trying to do with Mark Twain all my life is to make people say to themselves, 'Wait a minute. Let's not be too sure about that …’ " 

    The night before Holbrooks last appearance in Denver in  2015, he presented a documentary titled Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey at the Sie Film Center. The film shows performance excerpts from Mark Twain Live and includes interviews with Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Emile Hirsch, Cherry Jones and others.

    “It's really good, I have to say,” he said.

    Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!: Ticket information
    Saturday, April 1
    7 p.m.
    Buell Theatre
    Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More words of wisdom from Hal Holbrook

    Here are a few excerpts of Holbrook talking about other important subjects:

    “We are watching the whole racial thing happen again, over and over. We have done a great deal to try to solve it since the beginning 300 years ago ... but it ain't solved yet.

    I think there is as much racism in Missouri as in any state in the union. I know what it's like when you give some guy a uniform and a gun. I was totally humiliated by a young police officer in Springfield, Mo., just so he can be big stud making an old man go though a whole routine. He followed me because I took a wrong turn on a totally dark road around 11 at night. There was nobody on the road. No traffic. Nothing. He was accusing me of DUI. I hadn't been drinking for 20 years, and he made me do all kinds of stuff. It was really insulting. Now, if you happen to live in a state where there is a lot of racism when you were growing up, I think it would be childish to dream that a fellow who’s got a uniform on has not carried some of that racism into his adulthood.  We know that now from the actual facts that have come out of the city government in Ferguson. It's all proved now.

    Hal Holbrook QuoteON OBAMACARE
    He introduced a health-insurance program that was long overdue. Every civilized country in the world has had one for their people except the wealthiest country in the world. And then congress got a hold of this bill - and the lobbyists - and I  won't say they mutilated it, but they certainly made it a lot more complex than it originally was going to be. All that being said, yes, it's been a terrible mess. I have friends who hate it. But the upside of it is this: Eleven million people now have health insurance because of it. So you cannot dismiss the accomplishment. I think it’s quite extraordinary.

    These are basically very dumb people. They would sell their mother for a dollar, and they do it every day down there.

    I have voted Republican several times in my life. But they have taken this party and they have twisted it in ways that do not help us at all. Did you see the picture of the guy from Arkansas (Tom Cotton) who wrote the letter to the Ayatollah in Iran? Have you seen his picture? He looks like a 28-year-old kid. This guy is a thinker? This is somebody we are supposed to admire?

    People are not going to like hearing me say this, but it doesn't make sense to me to think that somebody who is smoking marijuana is not going to have his judgment affected somewhat - maybe a lot - while driving. I don't want to be killed, and I don't want my grandson who is just turning 18 in April and is going to be driving all the way across this country to live in California - to be killed. I want to tell you, the people in California are driving more and more crazy every day. They are doing things I have never seen done before. I'm not kidding. Now I don't know whether they are on some drugs or what, but they have no respect for the rules of the road anymore. I smoked pot a couple of times in my life, OK? I didn't like it. I was doing a show once when my second marriage was breaking up, and I was having an affair with this sexy girl who was on the show. She was much younger and she was into all kinds of things like EST. So another friend wanted us to come over and smoke marijuana, and I said, "I don't want to smoke marijuana.” They said, “Oh, Hal, you've gotta loosen up. We want you to take a few puffs of marijuana.” So I said, ‘Oh hell, all right, all right, all right, c'mon...” And I smoked a couple puffs. Now (my girlfriend) says to me, "I want us to tell the truth about what we feel about each other. Tell the truth about what you think of me, Hal!" And I said, "OK: I think you're a nut!" And she got mad and left the room.  So, that's what I think about marijuana: It'll free you up, all right. But it's not safe!”

    He’s such a remarkable gentleman in the true sense of the word. He is powerful in his positive feeling about his ability to keep going. That is the best medicine you possibly can have when you start to get into your 90s.

    I think of her every minute of the day. I can constantly hear her talking to me. And it's rearranging my idea of where heaven is. I think it's right around here. Her presence is constantly here in this house. And so, it’s very, very hard for me to make peace. Not only with losing someone you love. But it's very hard for me to make peace with how you justify taking someone away who was not only so full of life, but also all that talent and kindness and good feeling for people. But at the same time, I have to remember that Dixie was a very sincere Christian. She did not preach it. She just lived it. She respected everybody. That, to me, is the kind of Christian I like.     

    Hal Holbrook at the Sie Film Center in 2015. Hal Holbrook at the Sie Film Center in 2015. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video: Tap master Savion Glover on America's call to arts

    by John Moore | Mar 14, 2017

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Interview by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Savion Glover on the importance of arts education, listening to your elders and 'the best show ever in Denver'

    Virtuosic tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover simply wasn't like other kids. He started dancing at 7 and was cast as Broadway's Tap Dance Kid at the tender age of 12. "But I was never braggadocios about it,” he says now, 31 years later. “I don't ever walk around saying, 'Oh I have a special gift.’ ” Glover sees his ability to dance as a gift that was given to him, much like a pair of socks on Christmas. But simply having a gift doesn’t make you special, he insists. Because every kid has his own pair of socks. It’s what you do with those socks that's your responsibility.

    "We all have a talent, and no matter what it is or where we are, whether it's on Broadway or the inner city ... it's our duty to continue to express that talent,” Glover told the DCPA NewsCenter just before his headlining performance before 800 helped raised a record $1 million for DCPA Education programs at the annual Saturday Night Alive benefit on March 4 at the Stage Theatre.

    Savion Glover. Photo by John Moore“I believe that once we learn how to express ourselves, whether through dance, art, writing, painting, construction or whatever … we find our voice. And once we are heard through our artistic expression, we are better understood,” he said. “Someone might be able to draw a painting that might express who they really are better than one might be able to articulate with words.”

    Glover is best known for works like Jelly's Last Jam and Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk, which won him a Tony Award for Best Choreography. He was nominated again last summer for his work on Shuffle Along . He has been featured on the TV dance shows So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars.

    Arts education is a continuing passion for both Glover and the Denver Center. The DCPA’s extensive educational programs reached more than 105,000 students last year. Glover, 42, established the HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap, and regularly visits schools across the country to spread his enthusiasm for dance and arts education. He was known to millions of Sesame Street fans for his appearances from 1990–95.

    Glover, who was born in New Jersey, was taught by tap legend Gregory Hines, who once said, "Savion is possibly the best tap dancer who ever lived." Glover calls his style "young and funk." When asked to describe what funk is, he says in his biography: "Funk is anything that gets one's head on beat. It is riding with the rhythm. It is a pulse that keeps one rolling with the beat."

    Here’s more of Glover’s conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore: (Story continues below photos.)

    Photo gallery: Savion Glover's Busy Day in Denver:

    Savion Glover in Denver The photo gallery above includes highlights from Savion Glover's performance and master class. To see more, just click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    John Moore: Your performance is going to help raise $1 million for education programs here at the DCPA. Why was it important for you to be here?

    Savion Glover: Once the schools started to eliminate arts funding, I made it a part of my journey to advocate for the arts. In many states, they are quickly eliminating arts programs. That's unfortunate because, in my opinion, the arts fuel the entire education system. The more kids are able to express themselves, the more we adults, educators and teachers are able to see what the future will hold.

    John Moore: How important then is it that there are places like the Denver Center to help fill the gap?

    Savion Glover QuoteSavion Glover: I honor and applaud organizations like this one, as well as individual educators who have stepped up because we do have a void to fill. Establishments like the Denver Center realize there is a need for arts in education to continue. I look forward to coming to venues like this where they realize the importance of self-expression and the importance of allowing children to know that it's still OK to express yourself in an artistic way.

    John Moore: This morning you taught a master class for wide range of dance students. Why was it important for you to fit that into your limited schedule here in Denver?

    Savion Glover: I love teaching the kids because when I teach, I learn myself. I look at the kids as the teachers. Little do they know ….

    John Moore: What was it like for you growing up in New Jersey?

    Savion Glover: I grew up in a house where you could taste the love in the food. Then you go somewhere else and you go, "There is no love in this food."

    John Moore: You aren’t like, well, many other kids. You were already on Broadway at age 12. So how do you relate to kids today who don't yet know what they want to be?

    Savion Glover: To be on Broadway was not a part of my plan. I started dancing when I was 7 years old and one thing led to another. I was playing in a band, and then my mom signed up myself and my two older brothers for tap classes. It was just something to do. After a year or so of classes, I got an audition. Once I got cast, my life began to change. Then I began to travel, and I met many wonderful men and women like Jimmy Slyde, Lon Chaney, Gregory Hines, all of these great contributors who later would become my mentors and educators and great friends. I have dedicated my life to them and their contributions to the art, and to humanity.

    John Moore: How important is it for young dancers to have mentors?

    Savion Glover: It is very important to have what I would call a human resource. We live in an era of technology. You need someone to confide in who will give you honest criticism. I have turned to older people. My mentors were 70 and 80 years old, and I just dug them so much as people. If there is someone available to tell you a story about what happened in the 1950s, and you hear it right from that person’s mouth, and you can feel that energy and their emotion, that might better allow you to express that story yourself. I am happy with the progress of technology, but there is nothing like hearing a story from someone who was there.     

    John Moore: You told your students today, “If you can imagine it, you can express it.” How do you teach a kid to do that?

    Savion Glover: I think there is a muscle that allows us to express what we see - we just have to be able to communicate what that is. My son is 12 years old, and he can draw these pictures through animation. I'm no artist in that way, but he just sees it in his mind, and he brings it to life. I believe we all have that ability. We can't all draw, but we all should be able to articulate what we can imagine in our own way, whether that is through dance, music, writing or other art forms.  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: Congratulations on your latest Tony Award, for Shuffle Along. What was that experience like for you?

    Savion Glover: My time in Shuffle Along was one of my greatest experiences. (Director) George C. Wolfe is a genius. I respect him as a man and as an artist. He is one of the smartest human beings I know. He knows everything, and I am the type of person where if there is an opportunity to learn, I am going to take full advantage of that. I also had a ball just being a choreographer, and bringing the stories of these men and women to life who you would never know about if not for our version of Shuffle Along.  

    John Moore: So what’s next for you?

    Savion Glover: I continue to search and hone in on my craft. I have a mission. I am on a journey to continue what I do, and I am thankful for that.

    John Moore: Your show here at the Denver Center has been sold out for weeks. So for those people who can't get in, what kind of a show will you be putting on tonight?

    Savion Glover: For those of you who can't get in tonight, well, this is unfortunate. Because this is going to be the best show ever in Denver. You're just going to have to read about it, ask about it and wish that you were here. I can’t tell you how it’s going to start. I can't tell you how it's going to end. But when you hear about it, you are just going to say, "Oh, man."  

    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.

    Savion Glover. Photo by John Moore
    Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Saturday Night Alive:
    Savion Glover to headline DCPA's Saturday Night Alive
    Photos: Saturday Night Alive 2017

    The Presenting Sponsor of the 2017 Saturday Night Alive was BMW of Downtown Denver. Platinum Sponsors were the Salah Foundation and United Airlines. Emerald Sponsors were the Colorado Oil and Gas Industry, HealthOne, The Westin Hotel Denver. Gold Sponsors were Always Best Care Senior Services, Epicurean Catering, Kathie and Keith Finger, u.s. bank, Colorado State Bank and Trust, The Tuchman Family Foundation and Triptyk Studios. The Surprise Box Sponsor was Kendra Scott. The 2017 Event Chairs were L. Roger and Meredith Hutson.
  • 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.

  • Barton Cowperthwaite: A Denverite in 'Paris' returns to alma mater

    by John Moore | Mar 11, 2017

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Denver native Barton Cowperthwaite, a featured ensemble member in the national touring production of An American in Paris, visited his Denver School of the Arts alma mater on March 8.

    Barton Cowperthwaite. Photo by John MooreCowperthwaite, son of Curious Theatre co-founder Laura Cowperthwaite, conducted a master class for dance and musical-theatre majors at the school, where he is a member of the Class of 2010. "It's cool to impart on them the wisdom that I wish I could have told myself when I was that age," he told DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    Interviews also include DSA Director of Dance Alicia Karczewski and Director of Theatre Shawn Hann. Cowperthwaite, already a member of several major dance companies and Denver's Black Actors Guild, is making his musical-theatre debut in An American in Paris, playing several roles and understudying the lead role of Jerry Mulligan.

    "As a dancer, it’s exciting that there is a show that gets to employ really well-trained dancers in this musical format," Cowperthwaite said.

    Photo gallery: Barton Cowperthwaite at Denver School of the Arts

    Barton Cowperthwaite

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

    An American in Paris
    : Ticket information
    An American In ParisAn American in Paris brings the magic and romance of Paris into harmony with unforgettable works from George and Ira Gershwin. This new hit musical about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war, earned more awards than any other musical in the 2014-15 Broadway season.
    Through March 19
    Buell Theatre
    ASL, audio-described and open-captioned performance 2 p.m. March 19
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of An American in Paris
    An American Paris dances from beginning to end
    Meet Sara Esty, who plays Lise
    Meet Garen Scribner, who plays Jerry

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 2017 Summit goes global while hitting close to home

    by John Moore | Feb 27, 2017

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Colorado New Play Summit goes global
    with stories that hit close to home

    The 2017 Colorado New Play Summit went global in its storytelling while also serving as an intimate and heartfelt celebration of departing founder Kent Thompson.

    Thompson resigned as Producing Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company effective March 3, leaving a legacy that includes starting the Summit in 2006 and the Women's Voices Fund, a $1.4 million endowment that supports new plays by women and female creative team members.

    Summit. Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore“Kent Thompson is such a champion of new plays. He is such a champion of new and different voices,” said Lauren Yee, author of the featured Summit play Manford at the Line, Or The Great Leap. “He always makes sure that the world we live in is reflected on the stage.”

    This year’s expanded Summit featured readings of five plays that spanned in time from 1931 to present day and traveled the world from Brooklyn to Berlin to Beijing to Geneva to Georgia to a suburban Ohio fertility clinic. 

    Every year, two or more readings from the previous Summit go on to become fully staged plays on the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. This year’s featured productions were Tira Palmquist’s Two Degrees and Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, which both started as readings from the 2016 Summit. (Story continues below).

    Photo gallery: A look back at the Colorado New Play Summit

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Photos from the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above. All photos can be downloaded and shared. Just click. Photos by John Moore and Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The Colorado New Play Summit has grown into one of the nation’s premier showcases of new plays. Under Thompson, the Summit has workshopped 50 new plays, leading to 29 fully produced world premieres as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. Thompson has commissioned 44 new plays, almost half written by women.

    “I feel like for the past 12 years, I've had a great opportunity tSummit. Last Night. Adams Viscomo present many different windows on the world, from many different peoples' viewpoints,” Thompson said.

    To understand the impact the Summit has had on the development of new works for the American theatre, one need look no further than Skokie Ill., home of the Northlight Theatre. Recently the DCPA learned that Northlight will be fully producing two Summit plays next season: Gunderson's The Book of Will and The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez.

    Kent Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    The Summit allows for two weeks of development, each culminating in a round of public readings. Playwrights take what they learn from the first public weekend back into rehearsal before a second round of readings for industry professionals.

    Summit. Donnetta Lavinia Grays. John Moore"That second week of work is absolutely unique," said featured playwright Robert Schenkkan (Hanussen). "I don't know any other theatre festival in the United States that does anything like that. And it's a really critical for the writer because so often, you are just beginning to get your arms around it just as you near the end of that first week. You are just beginning to say, 'Now I see what I need to do.' … And then it's over. Well, that's not true here. You get to take the things that you learned at the first reading and really thrash it out and take all of that complexity and nuance and additional richness back into the text, culminating in a second public reading."

    This year’s Summit drew more local audiences and national industry leaders than ever before, with 44 playwrights and 36 theatre organizations attending from at least 16 states. Visitors represented companies ranging from the Public Theatre in New York to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the Banff Centre in Ontario to the Dorset Theatre Festival in Vermont. Closer to home, guest included the Creede Repertory Theatre, Curious Theatre, The Catmounts, Athena Festival Project, Lake Dillon Theatre Company and others. More than 920 attended at least one reading, with an overall attendance of nearly 2,900.

    Summit stands in thanks to departing Kent Thompson

    The third annual Local Playwrights Slam was held a week earlier, curated by Josh Hartwell from the Colorado chapter of the Dramatists Guild, which exists to protect playwrights and their copywritten material. Readers this year included Curious Theatre founding member Dee Covington, National Theatre Conservatory alum Jeff Carey and Tami Canaday, whose new play Uncle Rooster will be performed in Brooklyn this summer.

    Summit. High School Playwrights. Photo by John Moore. For the fourth year, winners of DCPA Education’s Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition had their plays presented at the Summit. This year a record four writers were showcased, two from Fort Collins.

    The annual late-night Playwrights Slam drew an eclectic group of writers sampling their developing works in a fun and supportive atmosphere. This year’s crowd was treated to Gunderson singing to a ukulele from her new play Storm Still, and Two Degrees actor Robert Montano performing an excerpt from his one-man play Small, which recounts his growing up as a jockey at the famed Belmont race track in New York.

    The five featured Summit readings:

    Click play to see short videos spotlighting all five 2017 Colorado New Play Summit plays.

    • Donnetta Lavinia Grays’ Last Night and the Night Before opens with a Georgia woman on her sister’s doorstep in Brooklyn, with her 10-year-old daughter in tow. The mystery for both the characters and the audience to solve is what trauma took place in Georgia that brought them here.
    • Rogelio Martinez’s Blind Date centers on Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's first meeting at the Geneva Summit in 1985 to try to open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
    • In Eric Pfeffinger’s comedy Human Error, a couple goes to what they think is a routine appointment at their fertility clinic only to discover that their fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted into another couple. And it turns out they are polar opposites.
    • Robert Schenkkan’s Hanussen is set in 1931 Berlin and introduces us to the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen, captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolf Hitler, who does not realize he is a Jew.
    • Lauren Yee’s Manford at the Line, or The Great Leap follows an American college basketball team as it travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game during the politically charged Cultural Revolution in 1989.

    After Albee: America’s 10 leading, living playwriting voices

    Photos, from top: 'Two Degrees' Director Christy Montour-Larson with retiring DCPA Producing Director Kent Thompson; Jasmine Hughes and Veleka J. Holt in 'Last Night and the Night Before'; Playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays performs in the annual Playwrights Slam; Grace Anolin and Wyatt DeShong perform from 'Dear Boy on the Tree,' part of the Regional High-School Playwriting readings. Below: Student playwrights, from left, Jasmin A. Hernandez-Lozano, Jessica Wood, Parker Bennett and Ryan McCormick. (Photos by John Moore and Adams VisCom). 

    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.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    After Albee: America’s 10 leading, living playwrights
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Summit stands in thanks to departing founder Kent Thompson
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Summit. High School Playwriting. John Moore
  • Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide

    by John Moore | Feb 22, 2017

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    In this daily, five-part series for the DCPA NewsCenter, we will introduce you to the plays and playwrights featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Over the past 12 years, 27 plays introduced to the Summit have gone to be premiered on the DCPA Theatre Company mainstage season. Next up: Rogelio Martinez, author of the political thriller Blind Date.

    Playwright Rogelio Martinez on watching
    Ronald Reagan transform on a global stage

    Blind Date centers on Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's first meeting at the  Geneva Summit in 1985 to try to open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. And while the odd couple chip away at the mistrust between their countries, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev play out a passive-aggressive tango that mirrors their husbands’ negotiations.

    John Moore: You have been to the Colorado New Play Summit many times as a commissioned playwright, mainstage playwright and audience member. What has the Denver Center come to mean to you?

    Rogelio Martinez: It's one of the few theatres I can call home. It's a special place for me, and I am always happy to be here. Great energy. Great writers.

    John Moore: How did your history with the Colorado New Play Summit begin?

    Rogelio Martinez: It started in 2008 when they asked me to bring in 10 pages of something I was working on, and I brought in the first 10 pages of When Tang Met Laika. There was a very positive response. We then workshopped it at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp in Steamboat Springs. That is a beautiful place to get away from the world, and get inside the world of your play. It was then read at the 2009 Colorado New Play Summit, and then it had its world premiere on the DCPA Theatre Company's mainstage season in 2010. It was an amazing production.   

    Rogelio Martinez. Photo by John Moore.

    John Moore: Tell people who weren't here in 2010 about When Tang Met Laika.

    Rogelio Martinez: It is a play set on the International Space Station during the Cold War. It’s about former adversaries working together. The Russians got to space first, and they created the first space station, Zarya. So we had a lot to learn from them. I was just fascinated by the idea of people who were enemies on this planet suddenly being friends up there in the universe.

    Rogelio Martinez. Blind DateJohn Moore: That’s perfect segue into the play you are writing now as a commission for the DCPA Theatre Company, Blind Date. Tell us about it.  

    Rogelio Martinez: Blind Date is about the Geneva in 1985 where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev first met. Reagan was 74 at the time and Gorbachev was much younger, 54. But at that Summit, they both did a pivot. They changed. Yes, you can still change at (that age). Up to that point, Reagan was anti-Communist. He did terrible damage as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was not a great governor of California. But suddenly he had this naiveté. He said, "You know what? Let's abolish nuclear weapons. Let's just get rid of them.” And he saw across the room from him this man he thought could do this with him. It's fascinating to see somebody change before your very eyes.  

    (Photo above: Victor Slezak as Ronald Reagan and Triney Sandavol as Mikhail Gorbachev in 'Blind Date.')

    John Moore: So what did you learn about Reagan in your research?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Rogelio Martinez: One thing is that Reagan worked in narratives. You couldn't talk statistics to Reagan. You had to tell him a story. He saw the ending of the Cold War as a story, and he was one of the main actors in it.

    John Moore: Blind Date is the conclusion to your Cold War Trilogy. And when you look at it alongside some of your other works, such as Ping Pong, about Nixon and Mao, it's clear you have a continuing fascination with opposites attracting on a global scale.

    Rogelio Martinez: I love the idea of worlds colliding. I was born in Cuba and I came here when I was 9.

    John Moore: You didn’t just come here when you were 9. You came here during the Mariel boatlift in 1980.

    Rogelio Martinez. Photo by Adams VisCom Rogelio Martinez: Yes. And until then, I had been taught one way of life, because there was no expectation that I was ever going to leave the country. And then suddenly, here I am. I remember going to Sears for the first time. My aunt said, “vamos a cia,” or, "Let's go." But she dropped the r and the s so it literally sounded like she was saying, "Let’s go to the C.I.A." There was this sudden culture shock. But I am able to see the world from two points of view, because I have lived from two points of view. So I love it when leaders crash into one another. But it’s not so much personalities colliding that excites me as it is people behaving unlike how we know them to be. Take Nixon: Warmonger. Nasty man. But he is able to reach out and start this friendship with China. I love contradiction. That is the most exciting thing to me: People who contradict themselves.

    John Moore: You obviously wrote this before the recent presidential election, but you are here now at the Colorado New Play Summit doing major rewrites. Does your play in any way acknowledge the new Reagan?

    Rogelio Martinez. Blind Date
    The cast of Rogelio Martinez's' 'Blind Date." Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Rogelio Martinez: Absolutely. As I was writing the play, I was aware of the coming election. And as I was rewriting it, the election was happening. So I was aware that the play would have to somehow echo what is going on in the world right now. We're Tweeting now. Things get lost in the translation. In the time I am writing about, people were extremely articulate. Gorbachev is an extremely articulate man, so there was a chance for a conversation then that is not happening today. But I hope it does at some point.

    John Moore: This might seem like an obvious question when we are talking about leaders from Russia and the United States meeting for the first time at a tense time in history, as they do in your play. But your story is set in 1985. So why is this the right play at the right time?

    Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays the aftermath of trauma

    Rogelio Martinez: The world was a scary place in the 1980s, and you never thought it was going to get scarier. But then there were about 20 years there where the younger generation never lived under the fear of nuclear annihilation. They don't understand it. So when they watch this play, they will begin to understand that there is this longer narrative that has been going on for a long while now. But it can be solved. It just needs the kind of leadership where people go beyond the character they have shown so far. So Blind Date is actually a hopeful piece. And hope is not a bad thing to have.

    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.

    Blind Date

    Written by Rogelio Martinez
    Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
    Dramaturgy by Douglas Langworthy
    George Shultz: Liam Craig
    Eduard Shevardnadze: Steve Brady
    Mikhail Gorbachev: Triney Sandavol
    Ronald Reagan: Victor Slezak
    Edmund Morris: Kurt Rhoads
    Raisa Gorbachev: Kathleen McCall
    Nancy Reagan: Nance Williamson
    Peter, Politburo Member, Dimitri Zarechnak: Rodney Lizcano
    Stage Directions: Mehry Eslaminia

    Blind Date. Adams VisCom

    Liam Craig, left, as George Shultz, and Steve Brady as Eduard Shevardnadze in Rogelio Martinez's 'Blind Date.' Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

  • 'The Christians' video: How do you know Kevin Kilner?

    by John Moore | Feb 12, 2017


    You might know veteran actor Kevin Kilner from dozens of stage and screen credits. In the first part of our two-part video, we asked Kilner to talk about a few of our favorites: House of Cards, Home Alone 3 and the film that still gets him recognized around the globe, Disney's Smart House.

    We also talk about one of his crowning stage achievements: Playing the Gentleman Caller in the 50th anniversary Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie in 1994 opposite Julie Harris, Calista Flockhart and Zeljko Ivanek. Kilner talks about a radical character choice he made for the production that some might find heretic. Wrote the New York Times: “Kilner is the real discovery of this production. Touched by Laura’s timidity, he draws her out of her shell, just as her worshipful manner reawakens the golden boy he was back in senior class.”

    Kilner says when he got to the line each night where he tells Laura he can't call on her again, he wanted it to feel to the audience "as if I was pulling barbed wire out of my stomach."

    Now through Feb. 26, Kilner is playing Pastor Paul in DCPA Theatre Company's The Christians, Lucas Hnath's new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church. In Part 2, Kilner will speak more directly about the play.

    Video by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    The Christians: Ticket information
    270x270-the-christians-art-ttA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Plays through Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Playwright: The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    Behind the scenes video: Making stained glass for The Christians
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Video: What audiences are saying about The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    Meet the cast: Krystel Lucas
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics</copy.>

  • Last Man Out: Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore remembered

    by John Moore | Feb 12, 2017
    Harold G. Moore Quote

    NOTE: In tribute to Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore of Crested Butte, who died late Friday night in Auburn, Ala., we are re-posting John Moore’s 2001 interview for The Denver Post. Hal Moore's book about his experience in Vietnam was made into the movie "We Were Soldiers." He would have turned 95 years old on Monday.

    Hal Moore told his men: “I’m going to be the first man on the ground in any big battle we go into, and I am going to be the last one out.”

    By John Moore
    Originally published March 18, 2001

    For three days in 1965, Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore fought and won the first great battle of the Vietnam War and changed the course of history. Outnumbered 10 to 1, the first battalion of the 7th Air Cavalry not only survived but managed to send the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into a temporary retreat.

    But when a relief battalion arrived, the commander refused to leave. The officer he had put in charge of tracking the 79 dead and 121 wounded as they were being airlifted out had unsettling news. Somewhere out there, amid the knife-like elephant grass where more than 1,000 enemy dead had been left to rot in the 110-degree heat, was Thomas C. Pizzino of Hopedale, Ohio.

    Moore would not leave him there. Three months earlier at Fort Benning, Ga., he had promised his men that none would be left behind on a jungle battlefield. Later, helicopters were so full of dead and wounded men that blood drained out of the cracks in the fuselages.

    "I've always been a strong believer that you bring home your men. If they are dead, you go get them. You bring them back," Moore said in an interview at his home in Crested Butte. "I had told my men that I'm going to be the first man on the ground in any big battle we go into, and I am going to be the last one out. I'm going to bring you all home, and if I go down, I hope you'll bring me home."

    Moore and a company of about 50 men, feeling relief from the imminent possibility of death for the first time in 72 hours, went back out, crawling on hands and knees to the spot where Pizzino had been fighting, and recovered his body.

    "No one thought twice about doing that," said Moore.

    The next day, the battalion that replaced Moore's was ambushed, and 70 percent of the Americans were killed or wounded. The four-day death toll rose to 234 Americans and 3,561 North Vietnamese.

    Harold G. Moore"Hi. I'm Hal Moore."

    That's how the retired three-star general modestly greets strangers at the Queen of All Saints Catholic Church potluck dinner in Crested Butte. Not that there are many in the town of 1,085 who don't already know Moore and his wife of 51 years, Julie, who have blended into the fabric of the community since moving here in 1977 at the urging of former Secretary of the Army Howard "Bo" Callaway. The same cannot be said of the bright yellow 1976 International Scout they use to get around town.

    Moore is 79, has had two hip replacements, a broken back and wears two hearing aids. But just try keeping up with him. He skis cross-country three times a week, hikes, fishes and quotes Aeschylus. Everyone here knows him as an avid outdoorsman and devout parishioner. Not everyone knows him as a true American hero.

    News report: American hero Harold G. Moore dies in Alabama

    His home sits halfway up the side of Mount Crested Butte amid condos and ski chalets, but it's easy to spot from the bottom by the gigantic American flag he flies from his back deck each day. Dwarfed by the red, white, and blue are three much smaller flags, tattered and gray. Outside an impeccably maintained home with military memorabilia and more than 1,500 books, the withering little rags are the only things that seem less than perfect.

    Life here could not be more unlike the battlefield he left 14,000 miles behind 36 years ago, but has never left his mind.

    "I don't think a day passes that I don't think about that battle," said Moore.

    On Nov. 14, 1965, Moore's mission in Vietnam was a lot more clear than the overall objective of his nation. "My instructions that day were to find the enemy and kill them," Moore said.

    In July, President Lyndon B. Johnson had ordered the Air Mobile Division to Vietnam, thus introducing to warfare the transport of military troops by helicopter. Johnson would do little else, in Moore's opinion, to ensure the success of the U.S. soldiers, and many of the men who went to their deaths there died understanding only one cause.

    "Troops in battle don't fight for what some president says on TV," Moore said. "They don't fight for mom, the flag or for apple pie. They fight for one another. They fight to stay alive. And they become brothers for life."

    Moore's first job in the  Ia Drang River Valley was to secure a tiny helicopter landing zone so that the enemy could be engaged. The area was called LZ X-Ray. Moore had no idea that when he touched down at the jungle base of the Chu Pong mountain that he was being dropped into the center of hell.

    "I had very little information about how many enemy were in the area," Moore said. They were everywhere. Moore's men captured two unarmed North Vietnamese who told him the dense mountain was filled with soldiers who wanted very much to kill Americans, but couldn't find any.

    X-Ray was so small, helicopters could only drop 80 of Moore's 429 men at a time, once every 35 minutes. The PAVN had 2,000 veteran soldiers on the ground and in the trees, and 6,000 more were just a half-day's march away.

    Within 30 minutes of Moore's arrival, long before all of his men could mass, one of the most savage battles in military annals began. The 29 men who would come to be known as the Lost Platoon were tricked into advancing 200 yards from X-Ray and were cut off by the PAVN. All but seven of the Americans were dead or wounded before they could be rescued the next day. "I ordered my men to eliminate that platoon, but they met with fierce resistance," PAVN Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huu An later said. "I suppose that when they had to choose between life and death, the Americans chose life."

    On Day 2, X-Ray was dangerously close to being overrun. "You could hear the screams of men calling for medics, calling for their mothers, wounded men screaming in three languages," Moore said. "When you are in a situation like that, surrounded by noise, smoke, dust, screams, explosions, machine guns, hand grenades, people dropping all around and bullets whizzing around you like a swarm of bees, you have to remain cool and calm. If you ever think you might lose, you've already lost."

    Moore yelled "Broken Arrow" into his radio, a command ordering every available fighter bomber in South Vietnam to come to his aid, and the sky soon turned into a sea of fire. But two U.S. planes were given the wrong coordinates, and the fiery napalm bombs they dropped burned some of Moore's men alive.

    Joseph Galloway was a 23-year-old UPI reporter who managed to get himself dropped by helicopter into X-Ray holding a camera in one hand and a rifle in the other. He could see three American soldiers in the flames. He voluntarily raised up under fire to help drag in one of the soldiers, but the flesh of the ankle came off in his hands. The other two survived.

    The air power gave the PAVN nowhere to hide, and it turned the battle around. By the next day, the enemy had retreated to the other side of the Chu Pong mountain in Cambodia, knowing U.S. policy would keep them from crossing the border. "When that battle ended, I knew we had accomplished something historic," Moore said. "I knew it would be cause for critical decisions to be made in Saigon and in Washington and in Hanoi."

    The slaughter of the relief battalion the next day was precipitated by a decision not to chopper the soldiers out of X-Ray but to make them walk 3 miles through enemy territory toward another U.S. landing zone called Albany.

    But the U.S. government proclaimed total victory, ignoring the casualties at Albany. The U.S. was convinced its helicopters and other air support were unbeatable, even though 6,000 choppers would be downed in the war. The PAVN learned the strategy for combatting air power was mass and constant movement, and they were prepared to accept any human cost. Ultimately, the battle at X-Ray guaranteed a long, bloody, unwinnable war.

    The next day, Julie Moore was gathered back at Fort Benning with other 7th Cavalry wives watching ABC News. She knew something in the celebratory report was amiss. "I was so stunned at seeing my husband with tears in his eyes that I could hardly speak," she said. "But those sergeants who died were his brothers and the privates his sons. No man can lose that many family members and not weep."


    That's how Moore feels today, 36 years after he won the battle of X-Ray. "When your men die and you don't, you feel guilty," he said. "You are their leader."

    Moore never has stopped caring about the men who lived and died at Ia Drang, and he vowed then they would not be forgotten. "In the end, when we walked across the enemy dead and picked up his weapons," Moore said, "I knew that I had to write the story of these great soldiers who fought against such odds."

    For a decade, Moore and Galloway interviewed soldiers and family members and traveled to Vietnam to talk with leaders of the PAVN.

    The result was the 1992 best seller, "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," which is being made into a film by Randall Wallace ("Braveheart'') starring Mel Gibson.

    "Hal Moore has a combination of toughness and warmth that I haven't experienced in anybody before," Wallace said. "And he has enormous enthusiasm and a tremendous love of life that I found extraordinary in a general. However you cut it, the Army is an institution about developing efficient ways to kill other people. It's ultimately intended to save lives, but it's still a weapon of destruction. To find a man in it who has such reverence for life is extraordinary. I think General Moore has more reverence for life than many ministers I've met."

    Moore's book is required reading at West Point. It celebrates the heroism of his men, but not the war itself. "I like to think that Hal and I have written one of the great anti-war books of our century," said Galloway. Moore believes passionately the Vietnam War was a mistake, as is any military effort where America's vital interests are not at stake. The price in American lives is simply too high.

    "In my view, the two great tragedies of the 20th century are the decline of morality and the Vietnam War," Moore said, pondering the imponderable. "Think about it: Ten years. 58,000 names on that wall. All those hearts broken, families shattered ..."

    Galloway said the ultimate lesson is that "war is unimaginably horrible. Be careful where you send your sons and daughters, because there are people out there ready to kill your children."

    Moore has been back to Vietnam seven times, and in 1991 he met with An, his enemy counterpart commander at Ia Drang. It was the start of an unusual friendship that would last until An's death in 1995.

    "General An and I just hit it off," Moore said. "He was very straightforward. Soldiers don't create the wars, politicians do. Soldiers are the ones who have to fight the wars."

    When Moore returned again in 1993, this time bringing with him a dozen of his men for a tour of the battlefield, he slipped off his wristwatch and gave it to An, calling it a gift "from one soldier to another."

    An was speechless, and 45 minutes later gave Moore his Army helmet.

    "We corresponded after that, and when I found out he died in March of 1995, I faxed his widow a letter of sympathy," Moore said. "And then in October of 1999, Joe Galloway and I received permission to make a courtesy call to his widow. We went to her home, and she's a little old Oriental lady, 5-feet-1, dressed in a long, black dress. She had two strapping sons who greeted us in suits and neckties. Their daughter, a doctor in the Army with the rank of major, was there in uniform. We had brought flowers and incense, because I knew being a Buddhist home that they would have made a shrine.

    "They had a huge display of all his medals and uniforms, the watch I gave him, the fax I sent her ... and over here in the middle of this wall was a huge framed picture of him, with flowers, fruits and bottled water, which the Buddhists believe that the spirits consume. And I lit the incense.

    Harold G. Moore"He was a soldier, just like me. Thirty-six years ago, we were trying to kill each other, but that was over when I met him."

    Moore will return to Vietnam once more, this time bringing with him An's helmet. "I'm going to return it to the widow," Moore said. "Now that he's gone, it would mean more to her.''

    (Photo at right from Lt. Col. Harold G. Moore's Wikipedia page.)

    When the sun sets in Crested Butte, Moore walks onto his deck to bring down his American flag. As darkness descends on the town perched at an altitude of 9,000 feet, the stars are so close you'd swear you were sitting inside a planetarium. The three small, gray tattered flags continue to flap in the wind. You want to know why he keeps them.

    "They are Tibetan prayer flags," said Moore, who hung his four years ago, when they were green, blue and white. "The Buddhists keep their flags out until they disintegrate. They believe that as every little shred falls off, the wind carries their prayers with them."

    As each piece of Moore's flags wither away, they take with them to heaven not only his love and prayers for every man who has served under him, but for his old enemy as well.

    Note: Harold G. Moore is survived by three sons, two daughters, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist and former Denver Post staff writer John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He is no relation to Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.

  • 'The Book of Will': Our video tour of the set

    by John Moore | Jan 24, 2017

    Video tour:
    Check out our two-part video tour of The Book of Will set with Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark. In the newest installment, Goldmark talks about many subtle, intentional anachronisms tucked throughout her playful set in the Ricketson Theatre.

    Why is there a red model car on that shelf, when the story is set in 1623? Why is there a sign that explains how to call the local poison-center help line? Why is there a photo of longtime former DCPA Theatre Company member John Hutton on the wall? Why does the printer, named Crane (played by Rodney Lizcano), have a ticket to the Ice Capades tacked to his bulletin board? Why does he have an electric light, a pencil shaver ... and a New York Mets bobble-head doll?


    "We are trying to create a very rich world that has a link from today all the way back to Shakespeare's time," said Goldmark. "None of it is real. It's all fake. It's all a story - and that's the fun. We are creating our own version of 'real,' and our version of real has bobble-head dolls." To read more on this fun subject, click here.

    In the first part of our series, Goldmark explains why she consistently brings her personal interest in climate change and sustainability into her her work across the country. So her sets are almost entirely made up of reclaimed and recycled materials, or in the case of the DCPA, pulled from storage. “I hope that adds a richness and history and integrity to the objects and the materials that are on stage,” Goldmark said.

    Watch the videos to learn how the Ricketson Theatre floor, for example, is now made up of old wooden bleacher boards that came from an old school gymnasium. The beams and railings that denote the Globe Theatre come from trees that were cut down to make room for the expansion of a local ski resort.

    Videos by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More reading: Wait, why is there a bobble-head on that set?

    'The Book of Will' in Denver

    Photo gallery
    : The photos above are from the opening performance of the DCPA Theatre Company's The Book of Will include backstage preparations, opening-night gifts, the opening afterparty and a personal tour of the set. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos are downloadable from our Flickr site above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The Book of Will: Ticket information
    The Book of WillWithout William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without two of his friends, we would have lost Shakespeare’s plays forever. A comic and heartfelt story of the characters behind the stories we know so well.

    Through Feb. 26
    Ricketson Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described Matinee 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Production photo gallery:

    The Book of Will- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season Production photos by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    Video: Your first look at The Book of Will
    Perspectives: Why is there a bobble-head on that set?
    Guest columnist Lauren Gunderson: How one word can change a play
    Five things we learned at 'The Book of Will' opening rehearsal
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Meet the cast: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Meet the cast: Wesley Mann
    Meet the cast: Rodney Lizcano
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    Video: Our look back at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Summit Spotlight: Playwright Lauren Gunderson
    Lauren Gunderson wins Lanford Wilson Award from Dramatists Guild of America
    Just who were all the king's men, anyway?
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    Video: Your first look at
    The Book of Will:

    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Ghost Light Project: Theatres gather Jan. 19 'to be a light'

    by John Moore | Jan 13, 2017

    Ghost Light Project

    On Thursday, Jan. 19, theatres around the nation are leaving a light on for anyone who is feeling disenfranchised on the eve of the presidential inauguration. And while organizers say The Ghost Light Project is not a direct response to the recent election, it is specifically timed to coincide with the final night of the Obama administration.

    Theaters from Broadway to community theatres to high schools are scheduling short, symbolic and simultaneous gatherings across the country to 'create light' and support vulnerable communities through what organizers are calling “the challenging times ahead." As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of Ghost Light events have been scheduled in 43 states.

    Inspired by the tradition of leaving a “ghost light” on in a darkened theatre, artists and communities will make or renew a pledge "to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation."

    Ghost Light Project“January 19th is a moment of gathering within a larger resistance to intolerance at all levels,” national organizers said in a statement. “We aim to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. We aim to activate a network of people across the country working to support vulnerable communities. This is not a substitution for protests or direct action, but rather a pledge for continued vigilance and increased advocacy.”

    Organizers define a safe space as "a place where diverse opinions, dissent and arguments are not only tolerated, but invited."

    Most (but not all) events will take place at 5:30 p.m. regardless of time zone. Attendees are encouraged to bring flashlights.

    The primary Denver community gathering will take place at the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park. Organizer Meghan Anderson Doyle hopes Denver’s theatre community will always strive to create brave spaces that will serve as lights in the coming years. "Bring a light, be a light," she said.

    Curious Theatre Company is encouraging supporters to gather at 5:15 p.m. outside its theatre at 1080 Acoma St. for a short ceremony. “Curious Theatre has long been committed to diversity, inclusion and conversation about important issues,” said organizer Jeannene Bragg.  “We're proud to be part of The Ghost Light Project to celebrate and reaffirm our commitment to equity and spaces for brave art-making.” Neighbors, artists and audiences alike are welcome.

    Those who have work or family commitments at that time are asked to light a light wherever they are at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19.

    A Ghost Light 800 3The Edge Theatre had previously scheduled a one-night-only reading of John Moore’s recent New York International Fringe Festival play Waiting for Obama for Jan. 19 as a fundraiser for the Denver Actors Fund. The play (pictured right) attempts to offer a humanistic and evenly represented look at the issue of gun safety and its ongoing impact on American families.

    But after the recent election, the creative team decided to gather one last time to read the play specifically on Jan. 19 because, they said in announcing the event, “in all likelihood, all meaningful dialogue on the issue of guns led by anyone in a position of real power ends on Jan. 20, at least for the next four years. But the mass shootings, in equal likelihood, will not.”

    Organizers are now aligning the event with the larger Ghost Light Project initiative by incorporating the basic message into pre-show activities. Social hour is at 6, and the reading starts at 7 at 1560 Teller St. Free. No advance ticketing. Just show up.

    Here is a roundup of other events being organized in Colorado:

    • Community College of Aurora, 16000 E. Centretech Parkway. Organizer: Stacey Ryfun D'Angelo
    • The Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia, Fort Collins, 5 p.m. Organizer: Kate Austin-Groen

    Any other local schools and theatre companies that still want to organize a Ghost Light event are asked to email state coordinator Gavin Lodge, a Broadway veteran and graduate of Green Mountain High School and CU Boulder, at gavin.k.lodge@gmail.com.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Saheem Ali, one of the national organizers, says he has been asked about the need for (and value of) such an inherently symbolic evening. “To that I say it is not merely necessary, but essential,” he wrote today in an essay for HowlRound. “The act of expressing something out loud has significance. Protests and public proclamations are important because they demonstrate solidarity and a firmness of belief. … On Jan. 19, the theatre community will reiterate and reaffirm, to ourselves and the world, our humanistic stance in the face of hateful and divisive rhetoric: All are welcome.”

    Moving forward, Ali said The Ghost Light Project will become a resource for theatres, arts communities and individuals to identify and create meaningful action steps, or to continue social justice work that is already underway.  Examples of future initiatives might include creating a volunteer team to do monthly community service projects, developing experts on key issues that affect vulnerable communities and becoming a resource hub for that issue, and more.

  • NewsCenter: Our 10 most popular articles of 2016

    by John Moore | Jan 08, 2017

    Hamilton in Denver. Broadway Nothing got readers more excited last year than the news that the hit Broadway musical 'Hamilton' will be coming to Denver as part of the 2017-18 Broadway season.

    The DCPA NewsCenter was launched in October 2014 as an unprecedented new media outlet covering theatre at the Denver Center and throughout the state and nation telling stories with words, videos, podcasts and photos. It is a service made possible by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts as a shared resource for the Colorado theatre community as a whole. Here are the 10 most-clicked stories on the NewsCenter in 2016 from among the nearly 430 posted. Thanks to our readers for making it a record-breaking year:

    NUMBER 1HamiltonBroadway’s Hamilton is heading to Denver: The national tour of the Broadway musical Hamilton will play the Buell Theatre as part of the Denver Center's 2017-18 Broadway subscription series. Information regarding engagement dates and how to purchase single tickets will be announced at a later time. READ IT

    NUMBER 2Brenda Billings 1Brenda Billings: 'A warrior of acceptance':  Brenda Billings died while doing what she loves most – conducting auditions for an upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors. She was the co-Artistic Director of Miners Alley Playhouse and  President of the Denver Actors Fund, and she was only 57. “Her passion for storytelling and art is carried on through all of us who were lucky enough to call her friend,” said Tony Award-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford. READ IT

    NUMBER 3Fun Home. Joan Marcus2016-17 Broadway season: Frozen, Fun Home, Finding Neverland and more: The DCPA announced a landmark 2016-17 season lineup that includes both of the most recent Tony Award-winners as well as the pre-Broadway debut of the highly anticipated stage adaptation of Disney’s record-breaking hit Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film in history. It was later announced that the Denver dates for Frozen will be Aug. 17 through Oct. 1, 2017. READ IT 

    NUMBER 4Terry DoddTerry Dodd: a playwright, director who bled empathy: Terry Dodd will be remembered as one of the most prolific local directors in the Colorado theatre community, as well as an accomplished playwright and screenwriter who was known for exploring deeply personal family issues. Dodd died of a heart attack at age 64. READ IT 

    NUMBER 5osg-christiana-clark2In Ashland, converting rage into action: In many ways Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, seems to be an insular, harmonious bubble immune to outside social realities. But on June 24, the bubble burst when an African-American company member had an ugly encounter with a white supremacist. Now the local and national theatre communities are asking difficult questions about race. READ IT

    NUMBER 6Finalists for the 2015-16 Bobby G Awards announced: The annual Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre in Colorado. The year-long program culminates in a Tony Awards-style ceremony at the Buell Theatre. Here’s who was nominated from among the 40 participating schools. READ IT

    NUMBER 7Tom SutherlandFormer hostage Thomas Sutherland is freed a second time: Former Colorado State University professor Thomas Sutherland was held hostage in Beirut for more than six years - or 2,353 agonizing days. The genial Scotsman made his first foray into acting at age 72, and later donated $500,000 to Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s new performance space. He drew it from the $35 million he was awarded in frozen Iranian assets. Sutherland died July 23 at age 85. READ IT http://dcpa.today/EX6aBY

    NUMBER 8David Bowie Elephant ManDavid Bowie's acting career began in Denver: David Bowie’s death had the world mourning the loss of one of rock’s most chameleonic performers. But he was also a versatile stage and screen actor whose legit theatre career began in Denver starring as the ultimate “Broken Man,” John Merrick, in a 1980 touring production of The Elephant Man. "Judging from his sensitive projection of this part, Bowie has the chance to achieve legit stardom,” one critic wrote. READ IT 

    NUMBER 9Buell TheatrePhantom return will mark Buell Theatre’s 25th anniversary: The Buell Theatre was built, in large part, to host the national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera in 1991. It was, Denver Post critic Jeff Bradley wrote at the time, “the most successful theatrical event in Denver history.” We take a look back at the Buell’s first 25 years. READ IT 

    NUMBER 10Theresa Rebeck quoteRebeck's The Nest flies in face of national gender trends: Theresa Rebeck, author of the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere play The Nest, says the need to level the gender playing field in the American theatre is urgent. “Women's voices have been marginalized in the theatre, and in film and television,” said Rebeck. But the Denver Center, she said, is bucking the trend. “Kent Thompson and everyone at the Denver Center have always been way ahead of the curve on this issue.” READ 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.
  • Photos: Opening night of 'A Christmas Carol' 2016

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2016
    Our click-through photo gallery:

    A Christmas Carol 2016 Photos from opening night of the DCPA Theatre Company's 24th staging of the holiday classic A Christmas Carol, starting backstage before the show and through the party afterward. You'll see the crew preparing the stage and actors in their dressing rooms, including the new Scrooge (Sam Gregory) having his wig applied. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    A Christmas Carol: Ticket information
    A Christmas CarolAt a glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations.

    Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    By Charles Dickens
    Adapted for the stage by Richard Hellesen
    Music by David de Berry
    Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    Through Dec. 24
    Stage Theatre
    ASL Interpreted and Audio-Described Performance: 1:30 p.m. Dec 11
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol
    Photos, video: Your first look at A Christmas Carol 2016
    Behind the Scenes video series: Making the costumes
    Costume Corner: What's new with A Christmas Carol?
    A Christmas Carol
    undergoes its own rebirth with new director, star
    Cast lists: A Christmas Carol, The SantaLand Diaries begin anew
    Video: Leslie O'Carroll performs A Christmas Carol in five minutes
    Photos, video: Philip Pleasants takes final bow as Scrooge

    A Christmas Carol Opening night 2016. Photo by John Moore.The younger cast members had plenty of energy after the opening performance of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'A Christmas Carol' for the after-party. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video series: Inside look at the making of 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 06, 2016

    For every Theatre Company production, the DCPA NewsCenter takes you backstage for an inside look at the making of the show. For Frankenstein, we have broken up our tour into four short videos:

    Part 1: Interviews with Director Sam Buntock and lead actors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek

    Part 2: Bringing the scenic design to life with Technical Director Eric Rouse and House Foreman Doug Taylor

    Part 3: Touring the backstage scene shop

    Part 4: Costumes with Kevin Copenhaver

    Play the video above, and all four videos will play in succession. Or click on each individual link above.

    Videos by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Through Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Five things we learned about Frankenstein at Perspectives
    Photos, video: Your first look at the making of Frankenstein
    : On the making of a two-headed monster
    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center

  • Video: Chris Mann speaks, 'Phantom' photos and fun facts

    by John Moore | Aug 31, 2016

    Video: Exclusive Chris Mann Interview

    Chris Mann, star of the national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera, talks with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about the appeal and longevity of the show; his time on TV's The Voice, and his castmate (and wife) Laura Mann's One Degree of Separation from Justin Timberlake and former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. (Watch that here.)  Filmed on Aug. 26, 2016. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Photo gallery: The Phantom of the Opera in Denver

    The Phantom of the Opera in Denver

    Opening night also included an up-close look at some of Maria Björnson’s award-winning costumes; a peek at crews installing the famous chandelier in the Buell Theatre; and a visit by cast member Kathryn McCreary (The Wild Woman) with members of the DCPA’s Best of Broadway Society. Also making an appearance was Popsicle the SCFD Bear, who is “popping” up all over town in support of Referendum 4B, which if passed in November will extend the metro area’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District for another 12 years. The penny-per-$10 sales tax generates about $53 million a year that is shared between 300 arts and science organizations. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    To see more of our photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    The Phantom of the Opera
    : Fun facts

    • Worldwide, more than 65,000 performances have been seen by 140 million people in 30 countries and 151 cities in 14 languages.
    • This production travels in 20 trucks with a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest touring productions of a Broadway musical.


    • The design incorporates not only original Maria Björnson designs from the original but also designs by Maria that were never used for The Phantom of the Opera  before.
    • There are a few pieces from the original production that are more than 25 years old used in this production.
    • More than 1,200 costume pieces used during the show.
    • Each ballet girl goes through a pair of ballet shoes every 2-3 weeks
    • Madame Giry has only one costume


    • More than 120 wigs travel with The Phantom of the Opera
    • About 50 wigs are used in the show every night
    • All wigs are made from human hair except for five
    • About 50 mustaches are kept in stock


    • The Phantom of the Opera uses more than 200 speakers 
    • Approximately 50 are used just for the surround sound package


    • More than 85 moving lights in the design that utilizes four different kinds of haze/smoke effects.


    • More than 6,000 beads are on the chandelier
    • Each strand has 632 beads
    • The chandelier weighs 1 ton
    • This new chandelier was designed by Howard Eaton (who designed the Olympic rings for the London ceremonies)


    • The main scenic wall weighs 10 tons and rotates around the stage
    • The 2 opera boxes scenic elements together take up a full truck to travel from city to city


    • 17 orchestra members plus a conductor perform Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score every performance

    The Phantom of the Opera: Ticket information

    Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.  He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.
    • Through Sept. 11
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. Sept. 11
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Phantom of the Opera
    Phantom return marks Buell Theatre’s 25th anniversary
    Download our Phantom of the Opera Crossword Puzzle
    Video montage: The show at a glance 

    Kathryn McCreary and Popsicle the SCFD Bear on opening night of 'The Phantom of the Opera' in Denver. Photo by John Moore.
  • First rehearsal: This will be no wimpy 'Menagerie'

    by John Moore | Aug 13, 2016
    'The Glass Menagerie' in Denver
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Glass Menagerie, playing Sept. 9-Oct. 16 at the Ricketson Theatre:

    1 PerspectivesFirst-time DCPA Director Ina Marlowe moved to Conifer in 2010, partly to be nearer to her grandchildren, and partly to serve as the first Associate Director in the (then) 37-year history of local legend Ed Baierlein’s Germinal Stage-Denver. Marlowe is a graduate of the Goodman School of Drama and founder of Chicago’s like-minded Touchstone Theatre. Marlowe had acted in Germinal’s production of Ionesco’s Macbett back in 1978, and in 2010 directed The Little Foxes there. In announcing Marlowe’s appointment, Baierlein said lovingly of her then, “She’s a real live wire.”

    Said Marlowe: "What we tried to do when we approached this play was to re-envision it, and try to get closer to the heart of what Tennessee Williams was trying to create. In this play, he asks us to explore the nature of memory and escape. This is a family tangled together with love and unable to communicate."

    "We come to each other, gradually but with love. It is the short reach of my arms that hinders, not the length and multiplicity of theirs. With love and with honesty, the embrace is inevitable." - Tennessee Williams.

    2 PerspectivesThe set will float. Or, to be more specific, the playing area that represents the Wingfield living room will float. The Glass Menagerie is Tennessee Williams' famous "memory play," and we're told in the opening remarks that memory is murky and unreliable. So here the playing area designed by Joe Tilford really does float, just a bit out of the audience’s tactile reach. How? By removing the Ricketson Theatre stage floor, which is built about 3 feet above the theatre's true foundational floor. The playing area representing the Wingfield living room will be essentially a square floor that lights up from below and appears to be attached to nothing, floating in space. “So what that has done is created black void,” said DCPA Director of Design Lisa Orzolek.

    3 PerspectivesNo “wimpy” menagerie: Laura’s haunting glass figurines, says Scenic Designer Joe Tilford, are a metaphor not only for Laura hiding from reality but Amanda and even Tom as well. “The menagerie represents that place in our minds where we go to escape our circumstances.” Often when you see The Glass Menagerie staged, Laura produces her figurines on a little tabletop that can be hidden away on a shelf. “But that’s knick-knacks,” said Tilford. “Seems a bit too wimpy for a central image and metaphor." His solution: “First, making the menagerie of figurines something that Laura can escape into. Can she have an inner life inside a cloud of glass figurines? And when she is not within the menagerie, can it float in mid-air as in a memory, disconnected from the grounding reality of a table or a shelf?”

    4 PerspectivesDCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson decided to stage Williams’ first play now, he said, because it is one of the few American classics the DCPA Theatre Company has not taken on in its nearly 40-year history.

    “It's a play about a family and the way we sometimes break apart and come together,” he said. “But I also think it's about expectations and the American Dream. You have four characters in this play who all have different expectations about where their lives should be going, and the way the world should have treated them, and what they should be doing with their lives. And they can't seem to move to a place they can all agree upon. It's set in the late 1930s - a time of great poverty. A lot of people were struggling with what they perceived to be the American Dream. Life shouldn’t be this hard. I think it's perfect to have an American classic like The Glass Menagerie on one stage, alongside the classic Frankenstein on the other.

    The Glass Menagerie's 'Hamlet reunion, from left: Amelia Pedlow, Aubrey Deeker and Kathleen McCall. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    5 PerspectivesIt's a Hamlet reunion: Three of the four Glass Menagerie cast members were prominently featured in the DCPA Theatre Company's 2014 Shakespeare production of Hamlet. Aubrey Deeker, who played the titular role opposite Amelia Pedlow as the drowning Ophelia, is back to play the narrator, Tom. Deeker and Pedlow have gone from playing lovers then to siblings now. Pedlow plays Laura Wingfield, the "is-she-or-has-she-ever-been?" disfigured sister. And Kathleen McCall, who played Queen Gertrude in Hamlet, is now the delusional Wingfield matriarch Amanda. The newcomer to the group is John Skelley, who is making his DCPA debut as the kindly but tantalizingly unavailable Gentleman Caller.

    The Glass Menagerie
    : Ticket information

    • Sept. 9-Oct. 16
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829


    Glass Menagerie. Photo by John Moore
  • The guns come out in Moore's 'Waiting for Obama'

    by John Moore | Jul 29, 2016

    Waiting for Obama. Photo by John Moore
    From 'Waiting for Obama.' Photo by John Moore

    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, former longtime theatre critic at The Denver Post, has written a play called Waiting for Obama that is an official selection for the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival. After two weeks of “open rehearsal run-throughs” at Buntport Theatre in Denver through Aug. 7 (and one-night only at the Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins on Aug. 1), Waiting for Obama will be presented five times at the Fringe Festival between Aug. 12-15 at New York’s 14th Street Y Theatre.

    The following is a Q&A with the playwright conducted by New York theatre journalist David Kennerley:

    David Kennerley: The Fringe has a tradition of tackling prickly, topical subjects well ahead of mainstream theater. In the past, plays have addressed terrorism, marriage equality, transgender issues, and this year it’s blacks and whites and cops and guns. What is it about the Fringe that makes this possible?

    John Moore: I often wrote about this very subject while I was the theatre critic at The Denver Post. In the mainstream theatre, it typically takes even a sure-fire new play at least two years to get read, liked, scheduled, developed and finally staged. As a result, live theatre can often seem, well ... two years behind the times. The Fringe encourages a different kind of creative process where artists can explore what is happening in the moment, go with it, and have it seen much more quickly. With the Fringe, there are only six months between submission and staging. And in that short time, repulsively, the issue of gun violence in America has grown only more numbingly timely and topical. I keep hoping I’m done keeping my script up-to-date, but the daily headlines keep sending me back to the keyboard. 

    Waitig for Obama David Kennerley: Can you briefly summarize Waiting for Obama?

    John Moore: Waiting for Obama is the story of one Colorado family that is convinced the President is coming for their guns. And in the world of this play, they just might be right. But while the story is propelled by one of the most divisive issues of our time, it focuses on a recognizable family that, like so many others, is deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs.

    David Kennerley: What inspired you to write the piece?

    John Moore: Brian Freeland, the leading maker of avant-garde theatre in Denver for the past 20 years, initially challenged me to write a piece exploring the gun culture in America. I come from a large Catholic family of eight kids, and I wanted to better understand one of my five brothers' deeply held beliefs. He is a Christian conservative and steadfast proponent of the Second Amendment - a viewpoint not often taken seriously in the theatre. He's also my longest, closest friend. We just don't agree on much of anything anymore. As a journalist by trade, I was not interested in writing a one-sided screed. I wanted a fair fight. So I made him my protagonist. He’s the one who is “Waiting for Obama.” The title came to me pretty easily. It is inspired both by Waiting for Godot, naturally, as well as the NRA’s battlecry since the day he first took office that “Obama is coming for your guns.” I hear that over and over. And so I just thought, “Well then … what if he did?”

    David Kennerley: What are the central themes of the piece?

    Waiting for Obama quoteJohn Moore: The easy answer to that question is: “What are the themes of Thornton Wilder?” We have a simple framing device that acknowledges that everyone who enters the 14th Street Y Theatre to see this show, or perform in it, is part of a community of humans who recognize that gun violence is a seriously troubling issue in this country, and we have to start somewhere. And so for 90 minutes, we are all of us just people getting together in a room trying to come to a better understanding about it all.  Because that’s just not happening anywhere else right now. Not on the radio. Not in bars. Not in our living rooms. 

    We have never been more evenly ideologically divided over such an extended period of time as we have over these past 30 years. Just look at the closeness of every presidential election since 1988. Neither party has earned a mandate, and so no losing party has fallen far enough to even consider capitulation or compromise. And we are seeing the consequences of obstinance play out in millions of fractured families every day. We aren’t talking to each other about the important issues that divide us anymore. We’re either shouting at each other - or, worse, not talking to each other at all. Not about abortion. Not about the death penalty. Not about guns. We are turning away from our blood families and cocooning ourselves instead around our “chosen families” – those who adhere to our same moral, social and political beliefs. That's consequential. And that makes for some seriously tense holiday dinners.

    David Kennerley: The tragic loss of lives at the hands of gunmen has been covered extensively in the media. What does your piece add to the conversation?

    John Moore: None of these ongoing gun sprees appears to be changing minds on the gun issue. Not a one. Instead, it is making both sides dig in. And if Sandy Hook didn’t change people’s minds on little issues like background checks, then why even bother to talk about the big stuff, like limiting semi-automatic gun sales? You have your beliefs, and I have mine. You have your facts, and I have mine. I believe if we can’t talk about these polarizing issues in our own living rooms for fear of a fight breaking out, then we have to be able to talk about them in a theatre. That’s why theatre exists. There’s this very meta moment in the play when the sweet grandma says: “It’s easier to make an audience think about a political issue when you let them develop a human connection with the characters.” I am a lifelong journalist, and I love stats. But one thing is for sure: No one gives a damn about statistics in a theatre.

    David Kennerley: What message do you hope others will take away after seeing the piece?

    John Moore: My hopes are very modest – otherwise I would be a hypocrite. None of us expects to change a single mind about gun ownership through the course of our little play. Instead, I’ll settle for starting a dialogue. If audiences go for a pint afterward and just talk about the play for 10 minutes – even if only to say they hated it, and that it was a waste of time, I’ll be totally OK with that.

    David Kennerley is a New York-based journalist specializing in theater for more than a decade. His work has been seen in outlets such as Metro New York, BravoTV.com, AfterElton.com, Genre Magazine and Gay City News.

    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.

    Waiting for Obama Cast

    From left: Brett Aune, Amelia Corrada, Laurence Curry, Chris Kendall, Jessical Robblee, Leslie O'Carroll and Luke Sorge.

    Waiting for Obama: "Open Rehearsal" runthroughs

    Presented by Wild Blindness Productions in partnership with the Bas Bleu Theatre

    • July 29-30 (Friday through Saturday), 7:30 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver
    • July 31 (Sunday), 2 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver
    • Aug. 1 (Monday), 7:30 p.m. start, Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., Fort Collins
    • Aug. 4-6 (Thursday through Saturday), 7:30 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver
    • Aug. 7 (Sunday), 2 p.m. start, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan St., Denver

    Free. No reservation necessary ... but seating is limited.

    What are "Open Rehearsals"?

    Waiting for Obama is being developed in Denver for its opening at the New York Fringe on Aug. 12. In the meantime, the work is ongoing. But Denver audiences are welcome to drop in for free, scheduled runthroughs of the play. You should not expect polished, completed performances. Depending on which night you attend, actors may call for lines. Lights, sound and other technical elements may not yet be added. If necessary, the director may call for a stop to fix a problematic moment. Think of this as being let in on a window to the creative process.

    Waiting for Obama: New York Fringe Festival performances 

    • Friday, Aug. 12, 5 p.m.
    • Saturday, Aug. 13, 2 p.m.
    • Saturday, Aug. 13, 9:15 p.m.
    • Sunday, Aug. 14, 8:30 p.m.
    • Monday, Aug. 15, 6:45 p.m.

    All New York performances at the 14th Street Y Theatre.  TICKETS

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.