• Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

    by John Moore | Jul 02, 2017

    Lauren Yee. The Great Leap
    Lauren Yee’s 'The Great Leap,' which was introduced as a reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, will premiere at the Denver Center next February, then re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Companies are now jumping on new Denver Center works before they have even been fully staged here.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver Center is taking a major step forward in its development of new work for the American theatre in 2017. And one major reason is a hip new term in the theatrical lexicon: “Co-Pro.”

    For the first time, the DCPA Theatre Company will stage two new plays next season that will immediately transfer to major theatres around the country as essentially continuing world premieres. They will quickly re-open in their second cities with their Denver Center directors and casts intact.

    American Mariachi. Summit The Theatre Company opens José Cruz González’s American Mariachi on Jan. 26, 2018. Less than a month after it closes in Denver, the production will re-open at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, which bows in Denver on Feb. 2, will re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here.

    By virtue of these unique partnerships, both stagings are considered “co-productions.” Or, as the kids say, “Co-Pros.” Coincidentally, the re-opening nights in San Diego and Seattle will both take place on March 23.

    (Pictured above right: 'American Mariachi' was introduced as a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    For 12 years, artistic leaders from around the country have come to the Denver Center’s Colorado New Play Summit each February to see readings of developing new works, then come back the next year to see the subsequent fully staged world-premiere productions before scheduling some of the plays themselves. Among the popular titles that have expanded through this slow growth plan have been Jason Grote’s 1001 and Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale.

    But now companies are coming here to see readings and committing to scheduling them even before they are fully staged at the Denver Center for the first time.

    Matt McGrath in 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. All this comes at a time when Denver Center-born works are proliferating on national stages like never before. In 2017, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride will become the most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. Ten companies this year are presenting the story of a straight man who explores the world of drag to feed his family in cities stretching from Los Angeles to Key West, Fla., with four more already slated for 2018. Lopez’s newest work, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, will debut at the DCPA’s Space Theatre next Jan. 19.

    (Pictured above right: Matt McGrath in the Denver Center's 2014 world premiere of 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.) 

    How Georgia McBride has evolved since Denver

    Since former Artistic Director Kent Thompson launched the Colorado New Play Summit in 2006, the DCPA has given 27 new plays their world-premiere stagings. At least 32 productions of 13 DCPA-born works are being presented around the country this year and next, most notably a high-profile return of the reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which plays from July 21-27 at The Muny in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, star Beth Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    LEAD MOLLY"That is absolutely the intention of putting it up at The Muny,” Malone said. “There is no other reason than for it go to Broadway. Everyone involved with it feels very strongly that we are completely on track.”

    (Pictured at right: The cast of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Last week, two recent Colorado New Play Summit readings landed on The Kilroys, a curated list of the 31 most promising new plays by women: Yee's The Great Leap and Donnetta Lavinia Grays' Last Night and the Night Before.

    NATAKI GARRETT 3Even older new plays like Octavio Solis' Lydia (2008) are still making an impact. “Lydia is a blast-furnace drama now in its Seattle debut in a blistering, urgent staging from Strawberry Theatre Workshop," Misha Berson of the Seattle Times wrote last month of a "forcefully directed ensemble of visceral power." Last year, the Aurora Fox became the first company to stage the Denver Center’s Native American premiere of Black Elk Speaks since 1996.

    All of this proliferation is not only changing the way the nation looks at the Denver Center, said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. It is changing how the Denver Center looks at itself.

    “The Colorado New Play Summit is a nationally renowned place where theatre companies from all over the United States come to see those playwrights who are moving up in the ranks and becoming the clarions for the future of playwriting,” she said.  “But I think this is where it was always heading. The most important part of the work we do as theatre artists is to foster and develop new work, and I think this is that idea coming to full fruition.”

    (Story continues after the video)

    Video spotlight: American Mariachi



    What makes for a successful Co-Pro, Garrett said, is the continuation of the Denver Center’s commitment to the playwright once the new play reaches its immediate second destination.

    “What I am really focused on with these companies is, 'Are you willing to make space for that writer to keep writing?’ ” Garrett said. “The whole point is to for them to be able to keep evolving their piece after they leave Denver, if that’s what the piece needs.”

    The Theatre Company’s commissioning program is one reason the pipeline stays stocked. At any given time, the company has a number of renowned and emerging playwrights under commissions. That essentially binds the playwright to write a new work of his or her choice, and the DCPA Theatre Company then has the right of first refusal to stage it. The playwrights with commissions in progress are:

    • Kemp Powers
    • Anne Garcia-Romero
    • Aleshea Harris
    • Mary Kathryn Nagle
    • Tony Meneses
    • David Jacobi
    • Regina Taylor

    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.


    DCPA AROUND THE COUNTRY: 2017-18

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown, by Dick Scanlan and Meredith Willson: The 1960 musical that tells the rags-to-riches tale of Colorado's greatest heroine is infused with new songs and a new script.

    • The Muny, St. Louis, July 21-27, 2017

    The Book of Will, By Lauren Gunderson:  The untold story of the race to publish Shakespeare's First Folio before half his canon was lost to history.

    • Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, June 9-July 28, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Nov. 9-Dec. 17, 2017
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 2017
    • Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Ore., June-October, 2018

    The Great Leap, by Lauren Yee: An American college basketball team travels to Beijing in 1989.

    • American Conservatory Theatre New Strands Festival, San Francisco (reading), May 19, 2017
    • DCPA Theatre Company, Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    • Seattle Rep, March 23-April 22, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    The Legend of Georgia McBride, by Matthew Lopez: A young Elvis impersonator turns to drag to feed his growing family.

    • Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, April 4-May 14, 2017
    • GableStage, Coral Gables, Fla., May 27-June 25, 2017
    • Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco, June 8-July 9, 2017
    • ACT Theatre, Seattle, June 9-July 2, 2017
    • Theatre Nova, Detroit, June 9- July 9, 2017
    • Dorset Theatre Festival, Vermont, Aug. 3-19, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Sept. 14-Oct. 22, 2017
    • Hippodrome State Theatre, Gainesville, Fla., Oct. 13-Nov. 5, 2017
    • B Street Theatre, Sacramento, Calif.,Nov. 6-Dec. 9, 2017
    • Uptown Players, Dallas, Dec. 1-17, 2017
    • Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, March 23-April 22, 2018
    • Key West Players, Key West, Fla., May 2-19, 2018
    • Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham Mass., May 3-20, 2018
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., June 8-July 1, 2018

    American Mariachi, by Jose Cruz Gonzalez: The musical tale of an all-female mariachi band in the 1970s.

    • DCPA Theatre Company, Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    • Old Globe (San Diego), March 23-April 29, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    Just Like Us, by Karen Zacarías: Documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver - two are documented, two are not.

    • Visión Latino Theatre Company, Feb. 24-March 12, 2017

    Dusty and the Big Bad World, by Cusi Cram: When a popular children’s TV  show spotlights a family with two daddies, it sparks a conservative outcry.

    • Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, July 6-19, 2017

    Appoggiatura, by James Still: A trip to Venice brings love, loss, pain and joy to three weary travelers in search of healing and happiness in a magical story filled with music and amore.
    • Indiana Repertory Theatre, March 7-31, 2018

    FADE, by Tanya Saracho: When Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character, she finds an unexpected muse in the Latino studio custodian.
    • Cherry Lane Theatre, New York, Feb. 8-March 5, 2017
    • TheatreWorks, Hartford, June 1-30, 2017

    Lydia, by Octavio Solis: A maid cares for a border family's near-vegetative teenage daughter who was left in a coma after a mysterious accident. 

    • Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Seattle, June 1-24, 2017

    Almost Heaven: The Songs and Stories of John Denver: The songwriter's life story is told through anecdotes and 21 songs.

    • Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, Grand Lake, Sept. 1-30, 2017

    The Whale, by Samuel D. Hunter: An oversized, homebound and dying man struggles to reconcile with his estranged teenage daughter before it’s too late.
    • Verge Theatre Company, Nashville, June 2-14, 2017

    black odyssey, by Marcus Gardley: An imagination of Homer’s epic lens through the lens of the black American experience.
    • California Shakespeare Theatre, Orinda, Calif., Aug. 9-Sept. 3, 2017

    Quilters, by Molly Newman: A series of vignettes performed in song and spoken word that chart the joys and sorrows of the frontier journey West.

    • Ferndale (Calif.) Repertory Theatre, March 9-April 2, 2017

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Video spotlight: The Great Leap

  • Search process for new DCPA Artistic Director unveiled

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2017

    Book of Will. AdamsViscom
    'The Book of Will,' which debuted in January, is poised to become one of the most successful new plays in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA Theatre Company. Photo by Adams VisCom.


    Denver Center President and CEO Janice Sinden has announced the process by which a replacement will be chosen for Kent Thompson, whose 12-year tenure as Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company ended in March. 

    A 16-member team of DCPA Trustees, Theatre Company employees and DCPA staff has been created to lead the search for Thompson's successor. "This group participated in several listening sessions with Theatre Company staff to assess the characteristics and qualities that are necessary in its next leader. Their input helped establish the organization’s priorities in filling this key position," Sinden said.

    John Haynes Quote Today, Sinden announced that John Haynes, President of Bard Arts Consulting, will lead the search for the new Artistic Director. Haynes is something of a rarity in the field of performing-arts search consultants: He has actually run performing-arts organizations himself. He has been the CEO of Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE) in Bellevue, Wash., and the California Center for the Arts in San Diego. He was also the Executive Director of the University of Notre Dame Performing Arts, and the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis. And he was President of the Western Arts Alliance for eight years.

    Haynes is a native of nearby Santa Fe, N.M. That is relevant to this assignment, he said, "because I think there is much to be said for having an organic understanding of the cultures and traditions of the region. ... I am attuned to the land and the people and the rich cultural tapestry of our cultural life."

    Haynes said he fully understands the significance of the DCPA opening. "This is a humbling process," said Haynes, whose previous careers have included a stint as an executive for CBS Television. "I am personally and fully invested in the process, and wholly accountable for the outcome."   

    Sinden said she was announcing the search process and the Haynes appointment in the interest of inclusiveness and transparency.

    "With a 25-year background as head of prominent performing-arts organizations, including a producing theatre company, John brings a keen insight into the requirements of this position," Sinden said. "He will combine the input of the search committee with additional on-site interviews to develop a position description that clearly identifies the skills, experience, education and leadership style needed to continue the Theatre Company’s success and identify exciting opportunities for its future." 

    Once Haynes completes the position description, he will disseminate it widely; recruit and interview the most highly qualified candidates, and propose a short list of finalists, Sinden said. 

    Sinden said she expects Haynes' search process to take several months, but she said there is no target date for having a new Artistic Director in place because of the likelihood that the final selection may have contractual obligations to honor.

    "We are committed to finding the right person to fulfill the qualities that our team has determined are crucial to the role," Sinden said. "Therefore, we will not rush to select a candidate if he or she does not meet our criteria.

    "We are excited to take the next step in our search and are eagerly awaiting the next act in our company’s future."

    Applications are now being accepted for the DCPA Artistic Director. Interested applicants should review the full job description and submit their materials to info@BardArtsConsulting.com.

  • 'Disgraced': Director promises to push your (empathy) button

    by John Moore | Mar 01, 2017
    'Disgraced' in Denver Photos from the making of Ayad Akhtar’s play 'Disgraced.' To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.



    The DCPA Theatre Company has been asking some very big questions this month ranging from climate change to the foundations of our faith. And those questions only get tougher with the start of rehearsal for Ayad Akhtar’s celebrated play Disgraced, a controversial look at assimilation in contemporary America.

    Disgraced is the turbulent cultural study of an American, Muslim-raised corporate lawyer who has rejected Islam and embraced capitalism while his white wife — an up-and-coming New York painter — sees the beauty and wisdom in the Islamic tradition. Steve Dow, writing for The Guardian, says the Pulitzer Prize-winning play broadly asks whether Americans must renounce their “other” cultural identities to gain mainstream acceptance.

    “It will be both provocative and conversational - and that is just one of the beauties of this play,” Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson told the actors, artists, staff and guests who gathered for Tuesday’s first day of rehearsal. “What I really love about Disgraced is that it questions some of our deepest assumptions and beliefs about identity and culture and tolerance and intolerance and faith and religion.”

    Disgraced opens March 31 and runs through May 7 in the DCPA’s 230-seat Ricketson Theatre.

    Cast of Disgraced
    From left: Director Carl Cofield with Benjamin Pelteson, Olivia Gilliatt, Dorien Makhloghi, Christina Sajous and Vandit Bhatt. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Carl Cofield, who last directed One Night in Miami for the Theatre Company two seasons ago, promises that Akhtar’s celebrated play will push your button: Your empathy button. That’s something he thinks is sorely missing in the national dialogue now.

    Disgraced quote“We are living in an age where we have social media to spew out on, but we no longer have conversations with people from different walks of life who might have different points of view," he said. "Hopefully this play is an opportunity for us to go on this ride together and have a dialogue afterward.”

    He admits the play is asking a lot of its audience. “It is asking us to really look into ourselves and investigate our own prejudice and our own moral compass.”

    And where better to do that than in a theatre?

    “Theatre is becoming that rare place where we don't go into ourselves and into screens, and into our gated communities,” Cofield said. “At the theatre, you are surrounding yourself around different people for 90 minutes. And unlike a film, you are an active spectator in the theatre.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Cofield says he and the DCPA have invited the Muslim and other local communities “to partner with us in how to tell this story so that it's not a cultural appropriation story. We're not coming in dictating the story. To me, theatre is at its best when the community has agency about what is happening on their stages.”

    Discraced Carl Cofield Kent ThompsonCofield also took a moment to acknowledge Thompson, who is resigning as Producing Artistic Director effective next week but will stay on in an advisory capacity for six months. “I am deeply indebted to Kent Thompson for his wonderful artistic leadership here at the Denver, and for welcoming me and this group of artists,” Cofield said.

    Here are three more things we learned at first rehearsal:

    NUMBER 1The story is set in a spacious and tastefully decorated Upper East Side New York apartment designed for the Ricketson Theatre stage by Lisa Orzolek. “We decided that Amir probably doesn’t live in the penthouse - but maybe just the floor below,” Orzolek said. Some of the architectural highlights will include a sunken living room, finely displayed art, hardwood floors and high-end furnishings. “It's uncluttered,” she said. “Everything is curated and it all goes well together.”

    NUMBER 2Costume Designer Lex Liang believes that with any play, costumes help round out the characters. And in this one, Amir is a very specific character. “He wears $700 Charvet shirts - the shirt-maker of kings and princes and Kennedys,” Liang said. “He is a stylish but very safe, polished individual who is creating a persona that is very much like armor. Every morning, he walks into this demographic of people at work who are completely unlike himself, and yet he is trying to assimilate visually. So he enjoys clothes that allow him to blend in. He is trying to fit a very specific ideal that he has created for himself.”

    NUMBER 3Actor Christina Sajous is back, having rattled the rafters with her powerful singing as Mary Magdalene in The 12. As an African-American woman in the law firm, she is, like Amir, “an other” in her work environment.


    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.


    Disgraced
    : 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.
    Plays through May 7
    Ricketson Theatre
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Cast list
    Amir: Dorien Makhloghi
    Emily: Olivia Gilliatt
    Jory: Christina Sajous
    Abe: Vandit Bhatt
    Isaac: Benjamin Pelteson

    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

  • 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 stands in thanks to departing founder Kent Thompson

    by John Moore | Feb 24, 2017
    Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore
    Kent Thompson drew a standing ovation tonight from attendees at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, his last as Producing Artistic Director. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    Colorado New Play Summit pauses to thank
    departing founder Kent Thompson

    To understand the impact the Colorado New Play 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.

    Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore"I just found out today that the Northlight Theatre will be doing two Colorado New Play Summit plays in its next season: The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez, and The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson," DCPA Director of New Play Development Douglas Langworthy said tonight during a tribute to departing DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson.

    Thompson is resigning after 12 years effective March 3, leaving a legacy that includes founding the Colorado New Play 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.

    Kent Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    “I feel like for the past 12 years, I've had a great opportunity to present many different windows on the world, from many different peoples' viewpoints,” Thompson said from the pulpit of the Seawell Grand Ballroom.

    Kent Thompson. 1001The Colorado New Play Summit, which is presenting readings of five featured new works through Sunday, 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.


    A video honoring Thompson was shown at the tribute, followed by a prolonged standing ovation. "I don't think there are words that can possibly do justice to the countless contributions that Kent Thompson has made to this organization," said DCPA CEO Janice Sinden.

    Thompson first thanked his predecessor, Donovan Marley, who grew the Theatre Company’s national reputation as a home for new works with premieres ranging from Quilters to Black Elk Speaks to The Laramie Project. He then thanked his family. Thompson’s late father was a well-known Southern Baptist preacher, and his mother a writer, publisher and editor. His brother is a psychiatrist. 

    “My mom once said we're kind of all in the same profession,” Thompson said. “We either listen to stories to make sense of our world around us, and our place in it; or we tell stories to make sense of our world, and our place in it. My dad was really upset by this - not because he was being compared to a theatre director, but because he was being compared to a psychiatrist.”

    Thompson’s father, he said, was not an evangelical preacher. "He was a human storyteller. And he’s who I learned theatre from.”

    Thanks pour in from around the country for Kent Thompson

    Reflecting on his time in Denver, Thompson said, “I think the opportunity to tell stories that reveal the world to us in a new way is a great privilege. We have accomplished so much in a short period of time. I want to thank everybody for their support and generosity. But most of all I want to thank the writers, the artists, the actors, the craftspeople, the managers the administrators, and everyone who has made this such a wonderful place for new plays in the American theatre.”  

    (Photo below right: Douglas Langworthy and new Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Praise from playwrights for Kent Thompson:

    Douglas Langworthy. Photo by John MooreLauren Yee, Manford at the Line, Or The Great Leap: Kent Thompson is such a champion of new plays. He is such a champion of new and different voices. He always puts his money where his mouth is, and makes sure that the world we live in is reflected on the stage. I feel like he has done so much for new plays, for new playwrights and for young playwrights over the years he has been here at the Denver Center. I can't imagine what it is going to be like without him.

    Rogelio Martinez, Blind Date: I am extremely sad because I have seen this Summit grow to this incredible stage where hundreds of people come in just to see our plays. There's heartbreak because I know this is Kent's vision. I love the fact that whenever we start a Summit, Kent says, 'This is my favorite time of the year.' I think he’s done an incredible job, and he has offered a lot of people a home. He offered me a home.       

    Robert Schenkkan, Hanussen: Kent Thompson is that complete theatre individual. He is a true Renaissance man. A creator in his own right, a director, at one time a performer, and an artistic director. That's a lot of hats to wear, and he wears them all with a great deal of grace and dignity and compassion. He has a quiet sense of humor, which I particularly enjoy, and a real spirit of generosity, which I think is at the heart of his success here at the Denver Center. I think that sense of generosity, that sense of family, is real, and that’s very much a reflection of Kent Thompson 's personality and his aesthetic. I think Denver has been extraordinarily fortunate to have had Kent Thompson for this time period.

    José Cruz González, September Shoes: When Kent Thompson first came to Denver, he called me out of the blue and he said he wanted to do the second production of my play September Shoes. And that play grew in such amazing ways. I found the play here. And then he had me back, first for Sunsets and Margaritas and again last year for American Mariachi. When I came to Denver, American Mariachi was 150 pages long. Then Kent gave it a second workshop last July in Los Angeles, and now it is down to 101 pages. Now, I feel like the play is ready, and that is all thanks to him. Kent has given opportunity to new writers, and given writers a place to do really great work in a great theatre. When you come here, you feel the spirit.

    960x430-two-degreesTira Palmquist, Two Degrees: Kent Thompson's leadership and vision for the DCPA Theater Company has opened a space for a greater diversity of voices on the stage - stories from a richer cross-section of our American experience - and we are all the richer for it. Theater holds a mirror up to us and to our society, and if theater only shows a selective or exclusive image, only tells the stories of a selective or exclusive population, then it necessarily impoverishes us all. More personally, Kent Thompson recognized something in Two Degrees at a time when I was not the most recognizable name in the room. He recognized something in the story, in the writing - not because I was the safest choice. His long history of making these kinds of choices has made the Denver Center an exciting and exhilarating place to make great theater. He's the model for us all to follow.

    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.

    Kent Thompson in Denver: A photo retrospective

    Kent Thompson: A retrospective

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

    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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the danger of denial

    by John Moore | Feb 24, 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: Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle), author of the new history play Hanussen.

    Pulitzer-winning playwright speaks bluntly
    on the danger of denial in a time of authoritarianism

    In 1930s Berlin, 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.

    John Moore: Let’s first review your recent history here at the Denver Center.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well here in Denver, you would know The 12, the musical that Neil Berg and I created a year and a half ago, which won the (Colorado Theatre Guild) Henry Award for best new work. Great production. It was very successful.

    John Moore: Well, there have been quite a few more awards since the Henrys. Emmys, most recently I believe a $10,000 Humanitas Prize for writing Hacksaw Ridge. (Note: Shenkkan donated his share of the prize to Doctors Without Borders). You are not exactly a late bloomer, but the last few years have been extraordinary for you, really starting with the 2014 Tony Award for All the Way.

    Robert Schenkkan: I have had a great run. On stage with All the Way and The Great Society, and then the HBO film version of All the Way starring Bryan Cranston that Steven Spielberg and I co-executive produced. Also here in Denver with The 12, and now Hanussen. And then with the movie Hacksaw Ridge, which I co-wrote with Andrew Knight that Mel Gibson directed and Andrew Garfield starred in, which is currently nominated for six Academy Awards. … Stay tuned!

    John Moore: We have gotten happily accustomed to seeing you on the awards circuit: The Emmys. Writers Guild of America. Screen Actors Guild. And coming Sunday:

    Robert Schenkkan: I have eaten a lot of rubber chicken lately, yes.

    Robert Schenkkan. Photo by John Moore

    John Moore: The Academy Awards are Sunday night, so let's talk briefly about Hacksaw Ridge, which manages to be a remarkable story of warfare and pacifism at once.

    Robert Schenkkan: It's an extraordinary story, and it has taken 10 years to get it on screen. It is the true story of the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, Desmond Doss. A country boy from Virginia whose faith and principles insisted that he go to war, and that same faith and principles also insisted that he not take a life. He became a medic, and in one extraordinary engagement in the battle of Okinawa, he saved upward of 75 or more American and Japanese lives.  It's a mind-boggling story, really.

    John Moore: That's an fascinating transition into the war story you are writing here for the DCPA Theatre Company. Can you introduce us to the story of Hanussen?

    Robert Schenkkan: Hanussen is based on the true story of Erik Jan Hanussen, who was the leading headliner in 1931 in the last days of the Weimar Republic in Berlin. Hanussen was a mentalist. He had a mental act. He could red your mind. He had psychic powers. He could hypnotize and he claimed he could predict the future. He's fascinating character. Very contradictory in many ways. Kind of Shakespearean in his size. It is always hard to parse the truth here, but it is said that Hanussen coached Hitler on how to be a more effective public speaker, and that he cast Hitler's horoscope, that he was his astrologer, and that he had something to do with the Reichstag fire. Hanussen was also Jewish.

    Hanussen. Jamison Jones. Photo by John Moore


    John Moore: How does his religion play into the story?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's something that he keeps on the down-low while he plays this extremely dangerous game with the Nazis. The play is very much about the human condition, in particular our tendency to avoid that which is unpleasant, or that which we don't want to see. It's about denial, and the dangers of denial.

    You have said very forebodingly that this is not the worst time for us to be revisiting the Weimar Republic. Why is this play that goes so far back into history the right play at the right time for what is going on in the world right now?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, it's pretty fascinating. The playbook for authoritarianism is an old one. It's pretty well understood. I think one could make a very good claim that we are seeing that play out right now in American politics in this last election. JuRobert Schenkkan Quotest as in the Weimar Republic in Berlin, in the United States in 2017, I think it will be increasingly important for individuals to look to their own conscience and be careful in their decisions. This is not a time to stay silent. This is not a time for denial or avoidance. This is a time for action. 

    John Moore: Who are some of the other historical figures we meet in your play?

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, part of the pleasure of Hanussen is that it is a so-called history play; that it is set with events that actually happened and people we know, and in this case there are some very prominent people that we know. Count Wolfe Von Heldorf, Joseph Goebbles and, of course, Adolf Hitler. It's not often that you see these characters on stage, and of course there is so much baggage that they carry; it presents a unique challenge to the writer I think. What can you do with this that we haven't seen before? Or how can you play with our expectations - what we expect that we will see with this? I have had a lot of fun with this. I think I've gotten it right. I think it will be extremely entertaining and very thought-provoking.

    Robert Schenkkan. Richard Thieriot.John Moore: I don't know how much you have to do with casting, but we here at the Denver Center find it enjoyable that the actor who is playing Hitler (Richard Thieriot) we remember as a masters student who played the Jimmy Stewart role in Harvey (pictured at right by John Moore).

    Robert Schenkkan: That is kind of perfect. He's a wonderful actor, by the way.

    John Moore: This is your first Colorado New Play Summit as a featured playwright.

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I have been an observer at two Summits, and I am really very grateful to be here. The way Kent Thompson has structured this is really kind of brilliant. You have the first week of work, ending with a public reading, And then you get another week of work culminating in a second and final reading. That second week of work is absolutely unique. 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 tings 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.

    Sarah Schenkkan. Photo by Adams VisCom. John Moore: This is the first time you have ever gotten to work with your daughter, who is playing three roles in Hanussen (pictured at right by Adams Viscom).

    Robert Schenkkan: Yes, I am very proud to say that I will be working with my daughter, Sarah Schenkkan, who is a professional actress living in New York City. Obviously I have followed her career very closely, but this is the first opportunity we have had to work together. As proud as I am of my professional achievements, my greatest achievement is my children. So it's a real thrill to be here working side-by-side as a professional colleague with Sarah.

    John Moore: Total right turn here: Going back for a second to LBJ and All the Way, what did you think of the guy who played LBJ in the new Natalie Portman movie Jackie?

    Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line

    Robert Schenkkan: I thought he did a very credible job. I thought that he brought a certain gravitas to it. I thought he avoided cliché. And he did not give us any of the more sensationalized - and to my way of thinking less interesting - aspects of LBJ.  

    John Moore: I ask that because the actor is John Carroll Lynch, and he is from Denver.

    Robert Schenkkan: Well, I thought it was a very dignified performance. It was very accurate.

    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.

    Hanussen
    Directed by Kent Thompson
    Dramaturgy by Liz Engelman
    Hanussen: Jamison Jones
    Hitler: Richard Thieriot
    Wolfe: Kevin Kilner
    Ernerst Juhn, Bruno Frei and Stage Manager: Andy Nagraj
    Fred Marion, Joseph Goebbles, Young Man and Manager: Robert Montano
    Fritzi, Katrina and Maria Paudler: Sarah Schenkkan
    Servant, Rudolf Steinle and Nobleman: Leigh Miller
    Businessman and Kurt Egger: Jason Delane
    Stage Directions: Luke Sorge

    Leigh Miller and the cast of Hanussen. Photo by Adams VisComLeigh Miller and the cast of 'Hanussen' in rehearsal. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Building the Wall: A new Schenkkan play coming to Curious Theatre
    Note: Immediately after the presidential election, Robert Schenkkan wrote the play Building the Wall, which imagines the first six months of the Donald Trump presidency while invoking George Orwell’s 1984 and the Nazi regime. The play focuses on the frontman of the new administration, who loses his humanity amid chaos and martial law. It is, Schenkkan says, “a terrifying and gripping exploration of what happens if we let fear win.” The play, starring John Jurcheck and Brynn Tucker (who is appearing at the Colorado New Play Summit in Last Night and the Night Before) from April 4-19 at Curious Theatre, 1080 Acoma St., Call 303-623-0524.

    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


    Hacksaw Ridge
    : The official trailer

  • Kevin Kilner: 'The Christians' is for anyone who is on a path

    by John Moore | Feb 23, 2017

    How do you know veteran actor Kevin Kilner? Perhaps "House of Cards," Home Alone 3" or the film that still gets him recognized around the globe, Disney's "Smart House"? Maybe you saw him playing the Gentleman Caller in the 50th anniversary Broadway production of "The Glass Menagerie." In our video above, he talks about them all. Video by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    Kevin Kilner: The actor playing Pastor Paul says
    The Christians is a play for anyone who is on a path

    Through Sunday (Feb. 26), Kevin 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.

    John Moore: Oftentimes I notice that when a play talks about faith, it parodies or lampoons it. How is The Christians different?

    Kevin Kilner: I would not want to go to the theatre myself if I felt like my faith was being insulted. None of that happens in The Christians. This is an incredibly respectful and very nuanced study of one pastor's journey within a church that he founded that has grown to an enormous size. He's had a cathartic moment, and now he wants the original mission statement of his church to be opened up and broadened to be more welcoming to more people. This comes about because he has had deeper reading of the Bible than he’s ever had before.

    John Moore: What is the epiphany?

    Kevin Kilner. The Christians. Photo by John Moore


    Kevin Kilner: Reading the Bible in Greek, Pastor Paul discovers that the word 'hell' is never used. Instead, the word is Gehenna, which was the name of a trash dump outside of Jerusalem where in ancient times they would often throw the bodies of criminals to burn. And these were our original images of hell. So when you are translating from the ancient Hebrew to Greek to Latin, it gets very tricky. Pastor Paul wants to make this a more loving and expansive and open church, but he is quickly tested by his own members - including his Associate Pastor, who decides he can't stay. He can't abide this new interpretation of the Bible. And that sets off a whole ripple effect of questions that continue all the way into his own home.

    John Moore: Can you explain to audiences who come from more traditional religions like Catholicism how exactly these megachurches can change positions on major questions like the existence of hell simply by the declaration of a pastor? If you are a Catholic, this kind of question just isn’t up for debate at the parish level.

    Kevin Kilner: Regardless of what faith you were born into, every faith talks about being on the road to discovery - both self-discovery, as well as the discovery of deeper truths within your faith. I think everyone, regardless of your background or beliefs, is on a road of some kind trying to figure out what it is that you believe, and why you believe it. And I am including atheists, because choosing not to believe is a belief. If you have ever asked yourself, 'Do I stay in my job? Or is it time for me to go down a new and different path?' then this play will speak to you.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: So clarify the audience experience for me: Is this a church service? Or is this a play?

    Kevin Kilner: It’s a play. But when you walk into the theatre, the idea is that you are walking into a big, huge Christian church where we are having a sermon. Now, first of all, we have a rocking - and I mean rocking - gospel choir and band. We open with 10 minutes of songs, and I promise you, your foot will be tapping, your hands will be clapping and your heart will be beating. You are going to have a lot of fun. Now, you are not going to be asked to participate. You aren't going to be given a microphone and asked to testify. You are not going to be brought up onstage. This is a play. But in very short order, the play moves out of the service and into a series of very private scenes between Pastor Paul and church officials, with a confused church congregant, and with his wife. By then, an audience member might be thinking about the deeper questions the play is raising. But as a theatregoer, you might be asking the same kinds of question you would be asking as a theatregoer attending any other play: "Is Pastor Paul going to find his way back to his best friend? To his wife? To the church that he founded?” Those might be your questions.  
    John Moore: Has your own religious background informed how you have played Pastor Paul?

    The Christians. Kevin Kilner. Photo by Adams VisComKevin Kilner: I was born into the Catholic faith. I went to mass every Sunday and attended Sunday School all the way through high school. However, I went to an Episcopal day school that my mom taught at, so we attended the Episcopal service every Wednesday. So I grew up going to church twice a week. And I have cousins who went to Catholic service every morning before school. Coming here to Denver, our director, Kent Thompson, and our dramaturg, Heidi Schmidt, have introduced us to a variety of super-churches here in the Denver area on multiple Sundays. In particular, Pastor Mark Tidd at Highlands Church has been very helpful in giving his feedback. I have tried to encompass every priest or pastor or vicar I have ever had the pleasure and the honor of experiencing in my life into the role of Pastor Paul, as well as all the new pastors I have discovered here in the Denver area. I am telling you: Being a leader of one of these churches is so much more complex and nuanced than people realize. Even Pastor Mark Tidd told me, "I am still on my own road to self-discovery. It never ends."

    (Photo above and right: Kevin Kilner in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Christians.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)


    Bonus coverage: Pastor Paul is a three-time NCAA lacrosse champion!

    John Moore: You may be the first actor in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA who has been a member of an NCAA champion lacrosse team.

    Kevin Kilner: Ah, yes! I grew up in Maryland, and a cousin of mine had played lacrosse at the University of Maryland in the 1950s. So I was given a lacrosse stick back in the days when they were wooden. I was 3 or 4 years old and I literally used to sleep with that stick in my bed. When I was 12, I was very fortunate that my dad sat me down and said, "You seem to have some real passion for this, and you have some real talent. We don't have the money to send you to college, but you might get an athletic scholarship if you work hard at this." So I was a young boy on a mission from age 12 on. I was very fortunate to play on a state championship high-school team, and I was named an All-American. I was recruited by Johns Hopkins University, and I was fortunate to go there and play on arguably some of the school's greatest teams ever. We were the first team in the game's modern history to win three NCAA championships in a row - in 1978, '79 and '80. My final year, we lost 14-13 to the University of North Carolina, which was really heartbreaking. We had three goals called back, which I am still not quite over. I was an average player but I played with a half-dozen other players who are in the lacrosse Hall of Fame.

    John Moore: Did anything you learn carry over into your acting?

    Kevin Kilner: Lacrosse taught me a lot about being an actor. In any team sport, you are just one component making a complex piece of machinery work. And it’s the same in theatre. You have your job but you have to work in concert with your castmates to make it sing.

    John Moore: You are certainly in lacrosse country here with the No. 1 ranked University of Denver Pioneers so close by.

    Kevin Kilner: Yes, I am. (Coach) Bill Tierney was brought here to the University of Denver from the University of Princeton, where he coached the second modern team to win three NCAA championships in a row. He’s won at least half a dozen now. He has built a brilliant program here in Denver. I really tip my hat to Bill and his program here, because the game is a beautiful game, and it is a fast and high-scoring game, and it has an almost balletic artistry and beauty to it. And the University of Denver is the first team west of the Mississippi to ever win the national championship. I have another dear friend named Stephen Betz, who started the youth lacrosse program down in Telluride. I am telling you: Colorado high-school lacrosse athletes are being recruited by every Division I team in the U.S., including the big East Coast schools, because the game has really spread. And Bill Tierney is really responsible for that.

    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.


    The Christians: Audience Mythbusters:


    Video by 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
    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 
    Video: How do you know Kevin Kilner?
    Meet the cast: Krystel Lucas
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    Meet the cast: Cajardo Lindsey
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

  • Photos: 2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal

    by John Moore | Feb 14, 2017
    Colorado New Play Summit opening-day photo gallery:

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded simply free by clicking on them. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The DCPA Theatre Company today welcomed dozens of actors, playwrights, directors and crew for the first day of rehearsal for the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. The 12th annual festival will feature readings of new works by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Rogelio Martinez, Eric Pfeffinger, Robert Schenkkan and Lauren Yee.

    The Colorado New Play Summit presents readings of new plays over two weeks as the playwrights continue to craft their developing works alongside a full, professional creative team. Audiences also are offered the opportunity to see two fully staged world premiere productions that emerged from the previous year's Summit: The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson and Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist. In addition, the DCPA Theatre Company is presenting the regional premiere of Lucas Hnath's The Christians. Most of the Summit actors are also appearing in one of those three mainstage plays.

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit "I always feel blessed at this time of year when we get to tell new stories that provide windows on the world," said DCPA Artistic Director Kent Thompson. "Our audiences can see how these playwrights and these artists are responding to the world around them today."

    (Pictured right: Olivia Sullivent in rehearsal for 'Last Night and the Night Before.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Tuesday's launch was bittersweet given that the 2017 Summit will be Thompson's last. Thompson, who founded the Summit upon his arrival in Denver in 2006, has announced his resignation effective March 3. 

    "We have workshopped 50 plays at the Summit," Thompson said. "We have had 44 playwrights, including 20 female playwrights. We have had 27 world premieres that began at the Summit, and we have launched two major musicals (The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Sense and Sensibility the Musical)."

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Kent ThompsonThree years ago, Thompson (pictured at right) expanded the Summit by a week so that once playwrights get their work in front of an audience, they can take feedback and come back for another round of rehearsals and readings.

    "These two weeks are really about the playwright," Thompson said. 

    The five 2017 Summit readings will take audiences from an American suburb to Brooklyn to China to Nazi Germany to the first meeting between Reagan and Gorbechev.

    New DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said this is an important time in history for playwrights. "It's the playwright's responsibility to always have their ear not only to the present, but also to the future," she said. "What I am most most excited about the plays we are about to unpack at the Summit is that these playwrights have one foot in the present and one foot in the future. We will get to the other side."

    Here is a look at each featured Summit play, with an introduction from each of the playwrights:

    Last Night and the Night Before
    By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Donetta GraysWhen Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble, and her husband is nowhere to be seen. The family’s deep Southern roots have a long reach, and they grab hold of Rachel’s life stronger than she could have ever imagined.

    Says Grays: "It's fitting that today is Valentine's Day because I think this play is squarely about the power and dynamic of love. There are questions around motherhood, what defines motherhood, what defines being a woman, what makes a family, and what loss is as well."

    Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
    Dramaturgy by Lauren Whitehead
    Sam: Olivia Sullivent
    Monique: Brynn Tucker
    Reggie: Cajardo Lindsay
    Rachel: Jasmine Hughes
    Nadima: Valeka Holt
    Stage Directions: Tresha Farris   

    Blind Date
    By Rogelio Martinez

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Rogelio MartinezThis play centers on odd-couple Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's first meeting in Geneva in an attempt to  open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Though members of their cabinets try to keep them on track, the leaders steer the conversation to pop culture and films. While the men chip away at the mistrust between their countries, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev play out a passive-aggressive tango that mirrors their husbands’ negotiations. This play is the conclusion to Martinez’s Cold War trilogy. Martinez previously wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere of When Tang Met Laika.

    Says Martinez: "At some point in their lives, both of these men took a huge pivot. They they were from completely different philosophies and had different ideas. But for a small moment in time they became idealists and they believed in something that no one else believed in. Ultimately the play is about trust: Can one person trust the other across the negotiating table?

    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                            

    Human Error
    By Eric Pfeffinger

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Eric PfeffingerMadelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing a nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely friendships.

    Says Pfeffinger: "One couple's fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted in a stranger so, obviously, it's a comedy: One of those classic 'switched embryo' farces. What ensues is the two couples trying to come to understand a kind of people they have never had any interest in knowing before."

    Directed by Jane Page
    Dramaturgy by Amy Jensen
    Madelyn: Caitlin Wise
    Keenan: Robert Manning Jr.
    Jim: John DiAntonio
    Heather: Jennifer Le Blanc
    Dr. Hoskins: Wesley Mann
    Stage Directions: Drew Horwitz               

    Hanussen

    By Robert Schenkkan

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Robert SchenkkanIn 1930s Berlin, 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 Adolph Hitler. While his star seems to be on the rise, the consequences of his next major prediction (and his own true identity) may break his spell. Based on true events. Schenkkan is a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (All the Way, The 12).

    Says Schenkkan: "The Weimar Republic seems like a good place to be visiting right now. It is said that Hanussen helped coach Hitler to improve his public speaking. That he cast Hitler's horoscope. And that he may or may not have had some part in the Black Flag Operation known as The Reichstag fire. Hanussen was Jewish. This is a play about denial and avoidance and individual responsibility."

    Directed by Kent Thompson
    Dramaturgy by Liz Engelman
    Hanussen: Jamison Jones
    Hitler: Richard Thieriot
    Wolfe: Kevin Kilner
    Ernerst Juhn, Bruno Frei and Stage Manager: Andy Nagraj
    Fred Marion, Joseph Goebbles, Young Man and Manager: Robert Montano
    Fritzi, Katrina and Maria Paudler: Sarah Schenkkan
    Servant, Rudolf Steinle and Nobleman: Leigh Miller
    Businessman and Kurt Egger: Jason Delane
    Stage Directions: Luke Sorge

    Manford From Half Court, or The Great Leap
    By Lauren Yee

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    2017 Colorado New Play Summit Lauren YeeWhen an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game in the post-Cultural Revolution 1980s, both countries try to tease out the politics behind this newly popular sport. Cultures clash as the Chinese coach tries to pick up moves from the Americans and a Chinese-American player named Manford spies on his opponents.

    Says Yee: "What you need to know about The Great Leap is that my father is 6-foot-1. He grew up in San Francisco Chinatown, and before he had kids, the only thing he was good at was basketball. He was never going to the NBA, but he was good enough that even today in San Francisco, people stop us on the street and say, 'I used to play you in basketball.' And as they walk away, my dad is always like, 'Yeah ... and I kicked his ass.' In the 1980s, my father and his Chinese-American teammates went to China to play a series of exhibition games throughout the country. And he got completely demolished in almost every single game. Apparently in Beijing, they played against all these 7-foot-6, 300-pound gods - and remember, my dad was 6-foot-1. And he was the tallest guy on his team. 'We did not even know when they had the ball,' he said."

    Directed by Josh Brody
    Dramaturgy by Kristen Leahey
    Manford: Kevin Lin
    Saul: Brian Keane
    Wen Chang: Francis Jue
    Connie: Jo Mei
    Stage Directions: Samantha Long

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Photos: Opening night of 'The Christians'

    by John Moore | Feb 07, 2017
    'The Christians' in Denver

    Photos from opening night of Lucas Hnath's The Christians by the DCPA Theatre Company on Feb. 3. We joined cast and crew backstage in preparation for the performance, through the opening-night party. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    The Christians Opening Night. Robert Manning Jr. John Moore. In the play, the pastor of a growing congregation is thrown into tumult when he brings up unexpected questions during a sermon. Featuring live music at every performance. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    The Christians: Ticket information
    A 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

    (Pictured at right: Robert Manning Jr., who plays Associate Pastor Joshua, and his daughter. Photo by John Moore.)

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    Video, photos: Your first look at The Christians
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    The Christians
    is 'a pathway to empathy
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    Meet the cast: Caitlin Wise
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

    Video bonus: Your first look at 'The Christians'

  • Video, pics: Your first look at 'The Christians'

    by John Moore | Feb 02, 2017
    Video montage:


    Above: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's The Christians, Lucas Hnath's new play that debuts on Feb. 3 in the Stage Theatre. It's about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church. Playing through Feb. 26. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    Production photo gallery:


    The Christians- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season And here are production photos by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Video, photos: Your first look at The Book of Will


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    The ChristiansThrough 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:
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    The Christians
    is 'a pathway to empathy
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics


    Process photos: The making of The Christians in Denver:

    'The Christians' in Denver

     

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


    The Christians. Kevin Kilner. Photo by Adams VisComKevin Kilner in 'The Christians.' Photo by Adams VisCom
  • Perspectives: On coffee, conflict and 'The Christians'

    by John Moore | Jan 30, 2017
    'The Christians' in Denver
    Photos from Perspectives, a free public discussion of  of Lucas Hnath's play 'The Christians' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Kent Thompson, director of the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming play The Christians, has experienced the play's central conflict first-hand.

    In Lucas Hnath's celebrated story, "Pastor Paul" is the founder of a huge evangelical megachurch who creates a deep schism among his congregation when he announces a ground-shaking change in his personal opinion regarding eternal salvation. And the fallout will be enormous.

    The Christians Quote Kent ThompsonThompson is the son of an influential Southern Baptist minister who went through his own personal and not entirely popular epiphany back in the late 1950s. 

    "When I was only 5 or 6, my dad was at the First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., when he decided to change his message and address what he perceived was the growing racial tension in that community," Thompson said at Perspectives, a series of public panel discussion held just before the first public performance of each Theatre Company offering. 

    "He was not considered to be a liberal or a progressive by the Southern Baptist Convention, although he would be today," Thompson said.

    "He changed his message to this: 'We are all human beings, and Jesus tells us to love one another, therefore we have to respect one another, and find a way to talk to one another.' "

    Thompson still can remember a large number of congregants yelling at his dad and walking out. "But after two or three weeks, there were more people coming to his church because of what he said."

    Here are five more pearls we picked up  at Perspectives, hosted by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Director Douglas Langworthy along with members of the cast and crew.

    Join us for the next Perspectives at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, in the Conservatory Theatre. Topic: Tira Palmquist's Two Degrees. It's free.

    NUMBER 1 The Christians. John MooreThompson has seen most every production of The Christians since it debuted at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2014. And he can assure any potential wary audience members of faith that the play does not subvert anyone's core spiritual beliefs. "No character is ever made fun of. No character's viewpoint is undermined by satire," Thompson said. "That was really my fascination with it." Louisville, Ky., is the home of the largest Southern Baptist seminary in the country, Thompson said, and his own father studied there. "That town is deeply religious - and also incredibly Baptist," Thompson said. The Actors Theatre of Louisville, he added, was concerned if the play would prove problematic for the Christian community - or the local theatre community. "But actually both sides were drawn to the play, because of the way it brings up meaningful questions about faith and belief," Thompson said. "The story is about a pastor, but it could be about almost any political or spiritual or cultural leader who changes his or her mind about a core issue. What happens to the movement as a result?”  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for Two Degrees

    NUMBER 2 Dramaturg Heidi Schmidt says the Denver Center invited dozens of local religious leaders to read the play and then participate in something of an ecumenical council to discuss it. "We asked them what they recognize about their own congregations, and many of them said these fractures are very common within any church," Schmidt said. "Pretty much every pastor we talked to said, 'Oh yeah. That's exactly how it plays out - even if the scale is a little bit different.' They all felt it was very true to their experience."

    NUMBER 3The creative team is testing a post-show program called "Coffee & Conversations." As audiences leave the Stage Theatre, they will notice tables set up near Jay's Cafe to encourage anyone who wants to discuss the play, either as individuals or as a group, to stay and do so, with complimentary coffee or tea. These are unofficial conversations, not talkbacks led by a moderator. "At the invited dress rehearsal, there were members of the audience who didn't even make it as far as Jay's Cafe because they were already stopping and talking to each before they even got out of the theatre," Thompson said. "The play stirs up discussion. It's not provocation, because the playwright doesn't tell you what to think. But it really makes you think about how you stand on all of these issues. So if you want to stay and talk afterward, please do so." The experiment will continue at all preview performances this coming week leading up to Friday's official (Feb. 3) opening. The creative team will then make a determination whether to keep it going through the run.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4The audience enters as if walking into a sermon at a large community church. Every performance features live music from a praise-and-worship band made up of four musicians and eight singers. "It is so exciting because there is actual dancing," said Caitlin Wise, an actor and member of the choir. "It's not choreographed dancing. I call it 'feel-the-spirit' dancing. I just think music is so special in churches. It really is a gateway to feel love and welcomed and connected to everybody else in the room." 

    NUMBER 5The bones of the play, writer Lucas Hnath has said, are secretly those of Antigone, Sophocles' Greek story of Oedipus' rebel daughter who defies her uncle's law to bury her brother. A Classics teacher in the Perspectives audience saw a greater parallel to Norwegian master playwright Henrik Ibsen's play Brand (which means "fire"). Brand is an uncompromising and harshly judgmental young priest who believes Christians have become slack. Perspectives host Douglas Langworthy totally agreed. "Talk about plays about religion - that is one of the great ones," Langworthy said. Thompson added by comparison An Enemy of the People, another Ibsen rant with a protagonist who feels everyone around him is essentially absurd.  

    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.

    The Christians. Perspectives. John Moore.

    From left: Douglas Langworthy, Kent Thompson, Caitlin Wise, Robert Manning Jr. and Heidi Schmidt of 'The Christians.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    The ChristiansA new play by Lucas Hnath about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    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:
    The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    Composer Gary Grundei on music to move the masses
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics
    Meet the cast: Robert Manning Jr.

  • 'The Christians': Gary Grundei on music to move the masses

    by John Moore | Jan 11, 2017
    The Christians Gary Grundei


    Longtime DCPA composer Gary Grundei leads a community gospel choir in Boulder that does not require its members to believe in any specific religious precepts. All comers are welcome to sing out as a powerful means of spiritual reflection and contemplation. “At its best, I believe that church is a place to participate,” Grundei said, “especially when you don't have to have everything all figured out.”

    Which sounds a bit like Lucas Hnath’s highly acclaimed The Christians, one of the most-produced plays in the American theatre this season. Set in an “actual” 18,000-seat megachurch service, this provocative new play is the story of an evangelical pastor who comes to question a basic tenet of his faith - and his changing perspective will prove challenging to his tens of thousands of followers.

    A The Christians Gary Grundei Quote“When music works to maximum effect in a church service, I think it gives you a chance to consider big questions in a way that is not necessarily linear or rational,” said Grundei. “It gives you the space to sit with it in your body, ear, and voice. The music I am drawn to in church doesn't necessarily tell you what to think or feel in a dogmatic way. When you sing those phrases over and over again, there's room for you to have it mean something a little different each time or change as you're singing it. I find that to be a very rich experience.”

    The Christians will feature live music at every performance from an 11-member praise band made up of eight singers and three musicians. The score of known contemporary gospel and traditional spirituals, including "God's Unchanging Hand" and "Farther Along," will be arranged by Grundei, who has spent most of his 20 years with the DCPA Theatre Company composing original underscoring for homegrown productions such as the Plainsong Trilogy.

    “We are definitely going to church with this play,” said Grundei, who was also the choir director at Parker United Methodist Church for two years. “We haven't determined yet how participatory it will be. But honestly, my hope is to get some of the audience to participate.‘’

    The DCPA describes The Christians as “an intimate look at the moments that define who we are and what we believe.” Grundei says the play is respectful to people of faith, and opens a two-way ideological dialogue that proves relevant to anyone who has ever questioned something they believe in, whether they are a person of faith or not.  

    Video bonus: Chicago Mass Choir's take on 'God's Unchanging Hand'

    “Honestly, I really love this play,” Grundei said. “It is beautifully written. It brings such sensitivity to progressive ways of thinking about a spiritual life. And it offers a really smart perspective on what it's like for someone who is going along on the spiritual path and is now struggling with whether to lose some of the dogma he has been taught. I tend toward not telling folks exactly what to believe, but rather let's steep ourselves in the tradition of stories that have wisdom and stories and music.”  

    Grundei, MeridithGrundei first came to the Denver Center to design sound for A Servant of Two Masters in 1997. He has a band called High Fictions and teaches music at Naropa University in Boulder. He is also the co-creator of Bar Choir, a kind of flash mob of melody-makers who take over hipster bars once a month by breaking into songs by artists ranging from Pat Benatar to the White Stripes to Prince. Grundei’s wife is actor Meridith C. Grundei (pictured right), whose recent DCPA credits include Sweet and Lucky and Frankenstein.

    Here is more of our conversation:

    John Moore:  How big would a real praise band be in a megachurch that’s the size of the one represented in The Christians?

    Gary Grundei: The church in our play has a huge choir of 100 or so, but they are not there this day. Today, when we stop in on the story, there is instead this small worship choir made up of eight very talented and enthusiastic singers.  

    John Moore: What is the role of a praise band in an actual large community church service with as many as 18,000 people in attendance?

    Gary Grundei: Our job at the beginning of the service is to raise the energy of the people gathered, get them on their feet and get them participating in the service. We'll see if anyone in the congregation wants to sing along or not.

    John Moore: What’s different when you are putting together a band for a church service as opposed to a band to play for a live musical in a theatre?

    Gary Grundei: For The Christians, we are looking for musicians who really understand contemporary and gospel music. In a traditional musical, you read charts that tell you exactly what to play. We're not looking for that. We are looking for people who are willing to bring out their own musical personalities in their music.

    John Moore: Did you attend services at one of these 18,000-seat community churches as part of your research?  

    Gary Grundei: Actually, whenever I visit a new town I like to find the local gospel church, just to have that experience. I have many times been moved, crying, moving my feet and shouting during these services. But I've only been to two actual local megachurches: One was very new-age, and I found that to be very affirming. The other, to be honest, was not very dynamic, and the music was not very good. I found myself not engaged by anything except the Jumbotron. Now, that was gorgeous. They had good lighting and good camera work, too.  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: What is your role as arranger here?

    Gary Grundei: The songs will be based on common traditional arrangements. There will be a little bit of scoring throughout the piece, too, in the tradition of an organ player who plays under the sermon a little bit.

    John Moore: Are you a member of the band?

    Gary Grundei: I'm not because I am committed to doing a production of Beowulf that my wife is directing for The Catamounts in Boulder.  It conflicts with the performance schedule.

    John Moore: Tell us about how you got started at the Denver Center.

    Gary Grundei: The first thing I did at Denver Center was the sound design for A Servant of Two Masters in 1997. I had a paid internship in the sound department, so I designed three shows that year.  It just so happened that Anthony Powell was directing Macbeth, and they didn't have a composer budgeted.  And so I said,  ‘Well, I'm already on contract. How about you put me to work composing music for Macbeth? And he did. I had a good run of doing all the Shakespeare plays with Anthony Powell for a number of years.  And then when Kent Thompson came onboard, he brought me in to do some of the new plays, like the Plainsong trilogy. That was great.

    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.

    Video bonus: Watch Gary Grundei lead a recent Bar Choir event:

    Here's a video glimpse at a recent Bar Choir gathering where drop-ins learned songs including Pat Benatar's "We Belong" and the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To read more about Bar Choir, click here.


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    The ChristiansA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Jan. 27-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:
    The Christians: Five things we learned at first rehearsal 
    The Christians
    is 'a pathway to empathy
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics




  • Thanks pour in for DCPA Theatre Company's Kent Thompson

    by John Moore | Jan 06, 2017

    Sense and Sensibility
    Marcia Milgrom Dodge‎, Director of Sense & Sensibility The Musical (above) was among the many offering Kent Thompson their well wishes today. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen


    Kent Thompson, only the third Producing Artistic Director in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA Theatre Company, announced his resignation Thursday, effective March 3. Here is a sampling of the well-wishes that have been sent in or posted on social media since the news broke:

    Kent Thompson QuoteOn the morning Kent Thompson announced the creation of the Women’s Voices Fund for the DCPA Theatre Company, I remember thinking that this man just counted up all the shows before his arrival in Denver and figured out fewer than 10 were written or directed by women in all those years. And he said, "Enough is enough. Let's change that." Kent was the first leader I met who worked on gender inequities in the field. Also, while we're at it, he said, “Let's launch a huge new-play program.” The Denver Center has been a major artistic home for me. Many shows. Many workshops. Many birthdays. Many problems with altitude. Many, many years of great theatremaking. I feel privileged to have been part of the Thompson years, and I have so much respect for the work he has done.
    Wendy C. Goldberg, Director (Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner), Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

    I've worked with Kent Thompson off and on for almost 20 years. Nothing I can say will begin to describe what that has meant to me. He already knows I'm grateful. I've told him many times. I wish him all the best in whatever new adventures come his way.
    Sam Gregory, Actor (A Christmas Carol)

    Robert Petkoff Sweeney ToddI will forever be grateful for the opportunity you gave me to play one of my dream roles. Robert Petkoff, Actor (Sweeney Todd)

    Kent Thompson is a damn fine human being. Kent's work for the theatre company and Denver at large will be felt for years to come.
    Geoffrey Kent, Fight Director and Actor

    220px-Marcia_Milgrom_DodgeBest of luck to you, dear Kent. I am grateful for the spectacular Sense & Sensibility The Musical experience with the DCPA Theatre Company. Here's hoping your next chapter brings you great success and much happiness.
    Marcia Milgrom Dodge‎, Director (Sense & Sensibility The Musical)

    I so enjoyed working with you and getting to know you, and was looking forward to much more of that. I hope our paths cross again soon in the world. Many congrats on your huge accomplishments at the DCPA.
    Melissa Rain Anderson, Director (A Christmas Carol)

    I have admired your leadership not only in Denver, but the ambition many of your ideas have fueled the national conversations about important issues and initiatives we ignore at our peril.
    Edgar Dobie

    A Kent Thompson Matt ZambranoI owe so much to Kent Thompson. He took a chance on me while I was still in school and cast me in The Liar, which was my first show at the Denver Center. As a kid growing up in Denver theater, that was a big deal. It's also because of him that I got to play Sylvester in Scapin at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where I met friends I will cherish for the rest of my life. He did so much for the DCPA and for the Denver theater community, and I wish him the best in all his new endeavors.
    Matt Zambrano, Actor (The Liar)

    Kent Thompson is a true visionary. I admire him so.
    Elaine Romero, Playwright

    Kent Thompson will be missed ... and that's an understatement.
    Tina Walls, DCPA Trustee

    A Midsummer Night's DreamKent Thompson, thanks to you, I played a sassy wench from Cyprus with epic red hair and an ethereal green-haired lady and her feisty granddaughter. But best of all, I had the privilege of running around an Athenian forest with these wonderful people and a gaggle of mechanicals and fairies, to boot. I am so grateful to you, sir, for taking a chance on an overzealous grad student. I would dunk myself in a freezing pool of water in Denver in February for you anytime.
    Allison Pistorius, Actor (A Midsummer Nights Dream)

    Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    It was a great honor and pleasure working with you. I wish you all the best as you transition into the next chapter of your life. I know beautiful experiences and adventures await you.
    Lauren Shealy, actor (A Christmas Carol)

    Kent is a kind and wonderful human being and a generous collaborator who is leaving very large shoes to be filled.
    David M. Barber, Scenic Designer (The Most Deserving)

    I am so grateful for the opportunities I've had under Kent’s leadership and proud of the work we have created together. He leaves behind an incredible legacy, and I'm excited to see what artistic adventures await him.
    Charlie Miller, DCPA Associate Artistic Director for Strategy and Innovation

    Kent, I so value our artistic collaboration and friendship. Thank you for everything.
    Karen Zacarias, Playwright (Just Like Us)

    Thank you for your talent and creativity.  It has been wonderful to see your productions,  and your footprint is apparent. Best wishes for you next endeavors. We will be watching.
    Karen Garcia

    I've had the honor of working on two shows with Kent Thompson, and he will be missed greatly in the Denver theatre community. Kent's work with the DCPA has impacted my life so much, which is why I think of Denver as a second home.
    Erik Daniells. Conductor (Sweeney Todd)

    Kent Thompson’s groundbreaking achievements here are not likely to be matched in the near future.
    Alan Gass

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Fred Vaugeois and I of the Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre in Trinidad want you to know how pleased we've been with the many new programs and quality productions you brought to us as theatregoers and the increased focus on live theatre you generated for all of us in Colorado. We met briefly one day in your office when you were kind enough to share insights and suggestions for our work in southern Colorado.  You also facilitated a playwriting workshop for our youth interns, which was a great success for our kids.
    Harriet Vaugeois, Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre

    Your creativity, drive and excellent spirit made each story the best quality in storyline, character development and being able to pull it all together with grace. Judith Babcock

    Many thanks for your leadership of the Denver Center. My spouse and I have admired your work and your loyalty to the Denver Center.
    Ed and Patty McAuliffe, ushers and patrons

    I have enjoyed your tenure at the DCPA. You have helped keep things relevant while pushing boundaries and preserving excellence.
    Andy Frazier

    You have brought excitement and joy to me with the wonderful plays you've produced in Denver. We have been blessed with your creativity, vision, sensitivity and so many more of your talents to our theater here in Denver.  I'm grateful I was able to participate in the experience.
    Kathleen Anderson

    We followed you from Alabama Shakespeare Festival and were feeling a bit isolated until we got to our first play at the Denver Center. When we first realized that you and several "friends" from Alabama were here in Denver, we began to feel at home in Denver. Thank you.
    Samera and Bill Baird

    We have been season-ticket holders since the DCPA was formed, and you have been such a marvelous addition to the organization.  We think the plays get better each year and we credit you with the many wonderful experiences you have given us.
    Ann and Gary Polumbus

    We have been subscribers since 1990 and have missed only one production during that time.  Kent Thompson’s contribution and leadership have been felt and appreciated. Richard and Christine Hall, Colorado Springs

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage:
    The Thompson legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices
    The Christians
    : Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Where the blade meets the band: Kent Thompson on Sweeney Todd
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season: Two world premieres and a return to classics
    Westminster High School tackles immigration with DCPA's Just Like Us
    How Thompson turned questions into exclamation points

    Photo gallery: A retrospective of Kent Thompson's years in Denver

    Kent Thompson: A retrospectiveTo see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

  • 'Two Degrees': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 06, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal of Tira Palmquist's play 'Two Degrees' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    When Director Christy Montour-Larson went looking for the key to unlock Tira Palmquist’s new play Two Degrees, she looked no further than her own pocket.

    “All I had to do is pull out my own house key, because when I read this play for the first time, I felt like I was home,” said Montour-Larson, who will direct the upcoming world premiere for the DCPA Theatre Company opening Feb. 3.

    Two Degrees. Director Christy Montour-Larson and Tira Palmquist. hoto by John Moore. Two Degrees is about a woman – and a planet – in crisis. Emma is scientist who has been called to Washington to testify to a congressional committee on climate legislation. And it’s the anniversary of her husband's death.

    “I love this play because it is about something,” Montour-Larson said on the first day of rehearsal. “Climate change isn't just another issue in a world proliferating with other issues. Climate change is the one issue that, left unchecked, will swamp all other issues.”

    New calculations from Scientific American magazine indicate that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, the average temperature of the Earth will rise 2 degrees Celsius by 2036, crossing a threshold that will devastate human civilization, Montour-Larson said.

    “We are the first generation in the history of humanity to feel the effects of climate change,” she said, “and we are the last generation who can do anything about it.”

    And if you are a playwright, the thing you do about it is you write a play about it.

    “For me, as a playwright, the personal is political, and the political is personal,” said Palmquist, who wrote Two Degrees as opportunity to write roles for women older than 45, and also as an opportunity to talk about climate change. For her, that’s as political – and as personal – as it gets.

    “Humans aren't the first species to alter the atmosphere,” added Two Degrees Dramaturg Heather Helinsky, quoting Elizabeth Kolbert’s book Field Notes from a Catastrophe. That distinction belongs to early bacteria, which invented photosynthesis 2 two billion years ago. “But we are the first species to be in a position to understand what we are doing.”

    And that’s why, Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod said, “This is a play we have to do. And not 20 years from now - we have to do it now.”

    (Pictured above and right: 'Two Degrees' Director Christy Montour-Larson and Playwright Tira Palmquist. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Here are five things we learned at that first rehearsal for Two Degrees, opening Feb. 3 in the Jones Theatre:

    NUMBER 1 It’s melting! That’s right. Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan has fashioned a series of hanging painted panels that will look like different forms of ice. But look closely, because about six of them are going to be literally made out of ice that will slowly melt throughout the performance. The idea: The world of the play is the world of our world. “Our hope is that maybe 50 percent of the audience will say afterward, ‘Hey, wasn't it really cool that part of the set melted?’ And the other 50 percent will say, 'I didn't see that,’ ” said Montour-Larson, adding to laughs: “And then you can say to that person: 'Yeah, and that's why you are part of the problem! You didn't notice!"  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Book of Will

    NUMBER 2Credit is due. A small local collective called The Athena Project is responsible for Two Degrees coming to the attention of DCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. Montour-Larson directed a reading of the play as part of the Athena Project’s 2015 new-play festival, then handed the script over to Thompson, who shouted out founder Angela Astle and her 3-year-old company at the first rehearsal. “Athena envisions a world where women's voices are powerfully expressed and recognized for their artistic merit in the community,” Thompson said.

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for The Christians

    NUMBER 3Mr. Jones and you. Two Degrees will be the first play the DCPA Theatre Company presents in the Jones Theatre as a mainstage production since David Mamet’s A Boston Marriage in 2004. At 200 seats, The Jones is the Denver Center’s smallest theatre. “It's just perfect for Two Degrees because it’s so intimate, and the audience is going to be right there with us as we tell the story,” Montour-Larson said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4Two Degrees. Jason Ducat The sound of ice. Sound Designer Jason Ducat (right) promises to replicate the sound of real, cracking ice at key points of the story. He and fellow DCPA soundman Craig Breitenbach embedded microphones into real ice and then recorded the sound as it broke up. “We're going to have speakers underneath the seats so the audience will really be able to feel that rumble,” said Ducat, who grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, hometown of Olympic figure-skating champion Scott Hamilton. “For about 15 years of my life, I pretty much lived on a sheet of ice. It is one of the most peaceful things you can ever experience," Ducat said. But the sound ice cracking also can be terrifying. I know this because when I was young, I was really stupid and I would see how far out on the ice I could get before it started to crack - and then I would have to fly back in to try to beat it. But when I think of the character of Emma, I think she really wants to be on that ice. So I wanted to create that as the soundscape of the play."

    NUMBER 5Do I know you? Montour-Larson met Palmquist at the 2012 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, Idaho. They got to talking and soon learned they both grew up in Minnesota. Then they figured out that they both had performed in a summer repertory theatre program in Duluth, Minn., decades before. So Montour-Larson asked Palmquist what shows she was in, and Palmquist answered, “Oh a few, like, Dames at Sea and Play it Again Sam.” And Montour-Larson dead-panned: "I was in all those shows with you." Everyone talks about six degrees of separation, but in Palmquist’s play every character has, appropriately enough, just two degrees of separation. “And here we discovered that Tira and I had two degrees of separation, because we already knew each other through our younger selves,” said Montour-Larson.

    Bonus: There will be some Greenlandic spoken during the play. That is all.

     

    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.


    Video bonus: Spotlight on Two Degrees



    Two Degrees
    : Cast list

    Written by Tira Palmquist
    Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

    • Jason Delane (One Night in Miami) as Clay Simpson

    • Kathleen McCall (The Glass Menagerie) as Emma Phelps

    • Robert Montano (Colorado New Play Summit) as Jeffrey Phelps/Eric Wilson/Malik Peterson

    • Kim Staunton (Fences) as Louise Allen


    Two Degrees: Ticket information
    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

    Feb. 3-March 12
    Jones Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE


    Two Degrees. Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore.
    First rehearsal for the upcoming 'Two Degrees': Kathleen McCall and Robert Montano. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

  • Kent Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    by John Moore | Jan 05, 2017

    Photo gallery: A retrospective of Kent Thompson's years in Denver

    Kent Thompson: A retrospectiveTo see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.


    Thompson will leave as acclaimed playwright Theresa Rebeck once described him in everyday action: Walking the walk.

    By John Moore
    For the DCPA NewsCenter  

    When Kent Thompson was hired as Producing Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company in 2005, he announced two essential goals: To increase the presence of women and minorities on Denver Center stages, and to rebuild the company’s dormant new-play program into one of the most vital in the country. He has achieved both and more.

    Thompson, only the third Producing Artistic Director in the nearly 40-year history of the Theatre Company, announced his resignation this morning, effective March 3.

    Kent Thompson. Then and Now“Serving as Producing Artistic Director for the past 12 seasons has been a fulfilling and rewarding period of growth and achievement,” Thompson said before going back to work on rehearsals for The Christians, opening January 27 in The Stage Theatre – his 21st production as a director at the Denver Center.

    Upon his arrival in June of 2005, Thompson identified a problem: 54 of the most recent 55 Theatre Company productions had been written by men. In addition, the company had not produced a play by a Latino playwright in six years.

    “We have worked to diversify our programming, company and staff to create a theatre that better reflects the communities we serve,” said Thompson. Twelve years later, the proof of his promise is forever sealed into Denver Center’s well-trod boards:

    • Thompson co-founded the $1.2 million Women's Voices Fund, which has enabled the company to commission new plays by 20 female playwrights and hire 23 female directors. In total, Thompson has produced 31 plays written by women as part of the mainstage season.
    • He also has produced 23 plays by writers of color and hired 17 directors of color.
    • One of Thompson’s most significant achievements has been the creation of the Colorado New Play Summit, which after 12 years has established itself as one of the top new play festivals in the country. The Summit has workshopped 50 new plays, leading to 27 fully produced world premieres as part of the mainstage season. He has commissioned 44 new plays, supporting playwrights to create new work for the Theatre Company.

    "Kent Thompson absolutely walks the walk," said Rebeck, whose plays Our House and The Nest came into being through the Colorado New Play Summit. “But to me, the thing that is electrifying about Kent is that he went out in front of everybody 10 years ago and said, 'We are not doing enough plays by women.’ I wish more people knew about what is happening in Denver.”

    Kent QuoteThompson also kept a promise by completing the 10-play August Wilson “decade cycle” started by his predecessor. Under Donovan Marley, the late director Israel Hicks directed eight of the 10 Wilson plays at the Denver Center. Having worked with him several times elsewhere, Thompson asked Hicks to direct the final two plays, making Hicks the first and still only director to helm all 10 of Wilson’s plays for the same theatre company. That is an achievement Denzel Washington (Fences) is now undertaking on film.

    DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden called Thompson “an exceptional artistic leader,” citing many of his other accomplishments including “his creation of Off-Center to develop innovative and immersive programming, and a robust commissioning program.” Another achievement was commissioning and staging the adaptation of three plays from the works of quintessential Colorado novelist Kent Haruf that came to be known as The Plainsong Trilogy.

    “With the support of so many at the DCPA and in the Denver community, the Theatre Company’s efforts have brought national acclaim and foundation support to the DCPA, Denver and Colorado,” Thompson said. (Story continues below.)


    Photo gallery: Productions directed by Kent Thompson

    Kent Thompson: Plays directed in Denver
    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Through it all, Thompson’s mantra has been relevance – “making our theatre engaging, thrilling and thought-provoking to audiences and artists,” he said. “We seek to create theatre that evokes discussion, serves as a town hall of ideas and relevant issues while producing new plays that will advance the American Theatre.”

    He often said his legacy would one day be judged on the success of the new-play program, and specifically whether the plays he nurtured went on to additional stagings by companies around the country. More than a dozen plays that were nurtured in the Summit have gone on to have 70 subsequent productions at some of the country’s leading theatres, including Playwrights Horizons, Victory Gardens, Theatre Works, South Coast Repertory, The Women’s Project, Trinity Repertory, The Magic Theatre, INTAR and Primary Stages. Some of these successful plays include The Whale, 1001, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Lydia, Our House, The Most Deserving, Sunsets and Margaritas, and FADE.

    Prior to Denver

    After a decade-long career directing across the U.S. and Canada, Thompson was hired in 1989 as Artistic Director at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He inherited two theatres in an idyllic cultural park in Montgomery but also a modest endowment. And 16 years later, he left it with $18.5 million. He also launched the Southern Writers’ Project, a new-play festival that produced 16 world premieres, including Romulus Linney’s adaptation of A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines. Thompson directed the premiere and the first follow-on production at the Signature Theatre in New York as the opening show of its 10th season. His tenure culminated with a production of Macbeth he toured to 13 military bases around the country.

    Thompson diversified casting, programming and staff, and built strong relationships with the African-American community, as well as African-American playwrights, directors, designers and actors. He took that same approach with him to Denver, where the population is about 31 percent Latino.

    “It’s very important for me to allow the Latino community to have an artistic voice,” he said when he was hired. Some of his landmark productions here have included Octavio Solis’ Lydia, and more recently Just Like Us, a close-to-the-bone adaptation of journalist Helen Thorpe’s true accounting of four straight-A Denver high-school seniors whose college opportunities become divided by their immigration status. The play was controversial, it was local — and it drew the largest Latino audiences of his tenure.

    One of Thompson’s favorite quotes comes, appropriately enough, from Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well: “The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and ill together.” And his life has not been without its challenges, on or off the stage.

    When Thompson was interviewed and hired by the DCPA, there would be challenges and opportunities that have faced many theatres, notably the reductions in funding following the Great Recession. The DCPA closed its National Theatre Conservatory masters program in 2012. And as Thompson increased the commitment to new plays, he faced a difficult decision.

    The resident theatre company concept had been dwindling nationally long before Thompson arrived. In Denver, the core company was down from a high of about 28 in the 1980s to about 12 in 2005.

    One of the most difficult challenges for Thompson was publicly acknowledging in 2011 that, for all practical purposes, the days of audiences seeing many of the same actors in up to four plays in a single season were over. “And that was agonizing,” he said. “But we actually stuck it out longer than the vast majority of our (regional theatre) compatriots across the country.”

    Moving forward, Thompson announced something he called a “frequent-flier company”— familiar actors from Denver and around the country appearing in one or more shows here every season or two.

    A recovery of late

    In recent years, as the economy has rebounded, Thompson continued to take bold, innovative steps to create the “next generation of theatre, artists and audiences,” by creating Off-Center in 2010. Last year Off-Center, which is responsible for creating fresh, environmental and mobile theatre experiences aimed at millennials, presented Sweet & Lucky in a 16,000-square foot warehouse, which made it the largest physical undertaking in DCPA history.

    Always trying to find new ways to produce a new, engaging version of a classic, Thompson jumped at Artistic Producer Emily Tarquin’s suggestion that he direct Sweeney Todd, engaging Denver’s own gypsy punk band, the internationally beloved DeVotchKa, to re-orchestrate Stephen Sondheim’s score. They performed in every show – and had their necks sliced nightly onstage.

    For all of his accomplishments, there is little question that Thompson’s tenure in Denver will be most remembered for his unyielding commitment to underrepresented voices.

    “What that means for people who have been marginalized in the theatre is that Kent is affecting the reality of the world we live in,” said playwright Amy Gonzalez (September Shoes). “The world out there is made up of all sorts of people, and it is really exciting that Kent is respecting that in his choice of plays.”

    For Rebeck, Thompson has been a champion of women, of audiences, and of common sense: “Women are more than half our audience and more than half the human race,” she said. “But for some reason, the rest of the American theatre is still catching up with Kent’s vision.”

    In his statement this morning, Thompson wished the DCPA, the Theatre Company and the entire theatre community of Colorado “much success in the future.” Sinden said, “We will miss his commitment to artistic excellence and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

    Thompson has been contracted to write a book on professional directing for a major publisher of drama and theatre books in the U.S. and the U.K. He plans to take the next few months to write his book, and then pursue other opportunities in the American theatre.

    In the coming weeks, DCPA executive staff and Theatre Company leaders will create a transition team that will develop an interim plan, including a national recruitment effort.


    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.

    Kent Thompson/At a glance

    • Served for eight years on the Board of Directors for Theatre Communications Group (TCG, is the national organization of not-for-profit theatre) and as its president for three years.
    • Artistic Director of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, 1979-1981
    • Producing Artistic Director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival 1989-2005
    • Producing Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company from 2005-17
    • Served on peer review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts (also chair), TCG, Pew Charitable Trusts, The Fulbright Scholars Program, The Wallace Funds, The Doris Duke Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, among others.
    • Graduate of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Theatre and Speech, 1976. Phi Beta Kappa.
    • Graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, U.K., 1979. The Draper’s Guild of London Scholarship.

    DCPA Theatre Company productions directed by Kent Thompson

    • The Christians
    • Sweeney Todd
    • As You Like It
    • Benediction
    • Hamlet
    • Just Like Us
    • Other Desert Cities
    • Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (twice)
    • The Taming of the Shrew
    • The Liar
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Othello
    • Eventide
    • Noises Off
    • Dusty and the Big Bad World
    • Plainsong
    • Amadeus
    • Measure for Measure
    • A Flea in her Ear

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage:
    The Christians: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Where the blade meets the band: Kent Thompson on Sweeney Todd
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season: Two world premieres and a return to classics
    Westminster High School tackles immigration with DCPA's Just Like Us
    How Thompson turned questions into exclamation points


    Video retrospective: Kent Thompson on his commitment to new-play development:

  • Kent Thompson resigns as Producing Artistic Director of DCPA Theatre Company

    by John Moore | Jan 05, 2017
    Kent Thompson



    Denver Center for the Performing Arts President and CEO Janice Sinden and DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson jointly announced his resignation to Trustees, staff and subscribers earlier today. Kent will remain head of the Theatre Company through March 3, 2017 and will direct the upcoming production of The Christians (Jan, 27  through Feb. 26).

    “Kent has been an exceptional artistic leader of the Theatre Company for the past 12 years,” said Sinden. “His accomplishments as Producing Artistic Director include the creation of the nationally acclaimed Colorado New Play Summit, the establishment of the Women’s Voices Fund to support the work of women in theatre, the development of innovative and immersive programming through Off-Center, and a robust commissioning program. As a director, Kent has led more than 20 productions at the Theatre Company, most notably Kent Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy, Sweeney Todd, and numerous world premieres and Shakespearean productions during his tenure. We will miss his commitment to artistic excellence and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

    Kent Thompson’s legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

    “With the support of so many at the DCPA and in the Denver community,” said Thompson, “serving as Producing Artistic Director for the last 12 season has been a fulfilling and rewarding period of growth and achievement. The Theatre Company’s efforts have brought national acclaim and foundation support to the DCPA, Denver and Colorado. We also have worked to diversify our programming, company and staff to create a theatre that better reflects the communities we serve.

    Photo gallery: A retrospective of Kent Thompson's years in Denver


    Kent Thompson: A retrospectiveTo see more, click the forward arrow on the image above

    “After 12 seasons, I believe it’s now time to move onto other opportunities in professional theatre. In the immediate future, I am writing a book on professional directing for a major publisher of drama and theatre books in the US and the UK. After that is done, I look forward to pursuing opportunities elsewhere in the American theatre. I wish the DCPA, the Theatre Company and the entire theatre community of Colorado much success in the future.”

    In the coming weeks, DCPA Executive Staff and Theatre Company leaders will create a transition team, which will develop an interim plan as we embark on a national search for a new Artistic Director. Thompson will remain in an advisory capacity through the end of the current 2016/17 season.


    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage:
    The Christians: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Where the blade meets the band: Kent Thompson on Sweeney Todd
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season: Two world premieres and a return to classics
    Westminster High School tackles immigration with DCPA's Just Like Us
    How Thompson turned questions into exclamation points

  • 'The Christians': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 01, 2017
    'The Christians' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal of Lucas Hnath's play 'The Christians' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Director Kent Thompson greeted all those gathered for the first rehearsal of the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming staging of The Christians like a pastor with a message for his own flock: That playwright Lucas Hnath’s motivation for writing his thoughtful story about a crisis within a large community church comes from a genuine place.

    Kent Thompson quote“This is a rare play for today's theatre because it actually talks about its subject in an honest and non-judgmental way,” Thompson said. "He doesn't try to make fun or dehumanize anybody. There is no agenda. These are people who are all striving for understanding and vision and to know what is the right thing to do.”

    In The Christians, Pastor Paul is the founder of a huge evangelical megachurch who creates a deep schism among his congregation when he announces a ground-shaking change in his personal opinion regarding eternal salvation. And the theological fallout will be enormous.

    Thompson read a message from Hnath explaining why he wrote the play. Here is an excerpt, along with four other things we learned about The Christians at the first rehearsal:

    NUMBER 1 From Lucas Hnath: “I can feel that rush to understand when people ask me, with respect to The Christians, what I personally believe. I refuse to answer the question. I'm not necessarily cagey about my beliefs — although I do sort of think that the attempt to put those beliefs into words will always result in a misrepresentation of said beliefs. But I suspect that answering the question will somehow diminish the effect of the play. In these kinds of questions, I detect the desire to explain away something. I detect the desire to locate a single, visible point. And while the plot of The Christians is far from ambiguous, the play is a series of contradictory arguments. No single argument “wins.” There’s no resolution. That lack of obvious resolution can be uncomfortable, even agitating. But with a lot of practice, we can also learn to take pleasure in the agitation. And maybe something more complex and true becomes visible within the agitation. A church is a place where people go to see something that is very difficult to see. A place where the invisible is — at least for a moment — made visible. The theater can be that too.”  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for 'The Book of Will'

    NUMBER 2Several members of the creative team have deep personal ties to churches like the one depicted in the play. Hnath’s mother is an evangelical minister – he even thought he might follow in her footsteps until playwriting lured him away. Thompson’s father was an influential Southern Baptist preacher. Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver’s father is a retired Nazarene minister, and Composer Gary Grundei has been a church musician all his life. They all said their experiences will help to ensure that the story will be presented in Denver with credibility, authenticity and respect. “This is not a stereotypical evangelical church you might see on a TV sit-com,” Thompson said.

    Video bonus: Lucas Hnath talks about writing The Christians:


    NUMBER 3The setting of the play is an actual megachurch sermon, so those in the audience for the play are essentially part of the congregation witnessing it. But while the Denver Center's Stage Theatre holds “only” 680 people, in Hnath's story there are many thousands in attendance. “So we want to imply that the church we are in is much, much larger than the theatre,” Thompson said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4The creative team has been researching local megachurches for inspiration, specifically the Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette. Projection Designer Topher Blair and Lighting Designer Richard Devin were specifically interested in studying how these churches integrate multimedia and visual effects into their sermons. “What we learned is that these presentations are not cheesy in any way,” Blair said. “They are very slick and highly professional.” It struck Devin that the grand use of fog, colored lights and other technical effects in church sermons is not unlike the effects artists employ in their live theatrical presentations. “They have immense amounts of equipment at their disposal,” Devin said of the churches, “but I think it’s important we not overdo the spectacle because that’s really not what it’s all about. It’s about the message and the music and the spiritual experience.”

    Coming this week: Gary Grundei on the live music in The Christians

    NUMBER 5The Christians. Kevin Kilner. Photo by John Moore. The enormous role of Pastor Paul will be played at the Denver Center by veteran TV, film and stage actor Kevin Kilner, who is perhaps best known for playing the protagonist in the first season of the Canadian sci-fi series Earth: Final Conflict, and Officer Dean in The Stoned Age. In 1995-96, he starred in Almost Perfect as the romantic interest of Nancy Travis, who played a TV screenwriter. Kilner graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he was a member of the school's NCAA champion lacrosse team. He has appeared in the hit TV series House of Cards (Michael Kern in the first two seasons), Damages and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. His extensive theatre credits include work for the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, L.A. Theatre Works and the Skirball Cultural Center. He has been married since 1998 to actor Jordan Baker (Another Earth, Escape from L.A.). (Photo above: Robert Manning Jr., left, and Kevin Kilner. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    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.


    The Christians. Caitlin Wise, Krystel Lucas, Kim Staunton. Photo by John Moore.  From left: Caitlin Wise and Krystel Lucas of 'The Christians', with Kim Staunton of 'Two Degrees.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The Christians: Cast list
    Written by Lucas Hnath
    Directed by Kent Thompson

    • Steve Brady (All The Way) as Elder Jay
    • Kevin Kilner (DCPA debut) as Pastor Paul
    • Cajardo Lindsey (All The Way) Associate Pastor Joshua understudy
    • Krystel Lucas (DCPA debut) as Elizabeth
    • Robert Manning Jr. (DCPA debut) as Associate Pastor Joshua
    • Timothy McCracken (The Giver) Pastor Paul understudy/ Elder Jay understudy
    • Erin Willis (The 12) Elizabeth / Jenny understudy
    • Caitlin Wise (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Jenny


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    The ChristiansA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Jan. 27-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:
    The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics




  • 'The Book of Will': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Dec 31, 2016
    'The Book of Will' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal for Lauren Gunderson's world-premiere play 'The Book of Will' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Rehearsals are underway for the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere play The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson. The play tells how two obscure members of William Shakespeare’s acting company took it upon themselves to publish the “First Folio” - the first complete published collection of Shakespeare's plays. Had they not taken on this Herculean task, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever, including Romeo and Juliet. Here are five things we learned at first rehearsal, along with photos (above) and a cast list (below):

    NUMBER 1The Book of Will Davis McCallumThe Book of Will is a new play, so people naturally want to know what it's about. Director Davis McCallum is tempted to say, yes, it is about the publication of the First Folio in 1623. “But I don’t think that's what the play is actually about,” he said. “That is the occasion of the play. I think the play is about a theatre company, and the people who make up that company. It's about the relationships that animate that theatre company. And at the center of that is this relationship between these two guys, John Heminges and Henry Condell. They weren't the greatest actors in Shakespeare's company. They were more like the middle of the batting order, in baseball terms.” Playwright Lauren Gunderson agrees that at heart, her play is about many sets of friendships. One of her favorites is one she couldn’t have made up. “Shakespeare's friends could not physically find a publisher in England to put all of these plays together in one document," she said. "Nobody was able to do it - except for the one guy Shakespeare hated most. Now that’s great drama, and that's real." Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson calls The Book of Will "a love letter to Shakespeare, to actors and to the theatre." 

    NUMBER 2Nance Williamson and Kurt Rhoads. Photo by John Moore. Kurt Rhoads, who plays Henry Condell, and wife Nance Williamson, who plays Rebecca Heminges and Anne Hathaway, are DCPA Theatre Company veterans. Rhoads most recently played Clarence in Richard III in 2009. Williamson first worked at the DCPA in 1999 (A Hotel on Marvin Gardens) and most recently played schoolteacher Alene Johnson in 2015's Benediction. The couple have appeared in 62 plays together – but this is their first time appearing in the same play at the Denver Center. The cast also includes two graduates from the DCPA’s former National Theatre Conservatory: Jennifer Le Blanc and Rodney Lizcano.

    Video bonus: Our profile of Nance Williamson from 2015:


    NUMBER 3Nationally acclaimed Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark is personally committed in using as much recycled and reclaimed material as possible in all of her work. So many of the materials that make up the scenery for the Book of Will are being repurposed from recent productions of Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie. “Our task was to pull as much stuff as we could from (our storage), or find things that people were throwing away that we could somehow repurpose,” said DCPA Director of Design Lisa Orzolek. The planks that will make up Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, for example, were old gymnasium bleacher boards she found on craigslist. “The paint department spent a good deal of time scraping off the nastiness that you often find under old bleachers,” she said to laughs. They are being stained and treated to look as though they are the boards of a theatre stage that have been walked upon for many years. Posts and beams and railings come from raw timber found at a mill just outside of Boulder. The trees had been cut down to make room for the expansion of a local ski resort.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4McCallum, also the Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, is an admitted Shakespeare romantic, but he says no one should be intimidated by the language of the period. “Do you know how Juliet says, 'A faint cold fear thrills through my veins?' " he said. "Some people just see the word 'Shakespeare' and they feel that faint, cold fear. They have this sense they might not understand the language. But Shakespeare’s plays have a very open, warm and human center. They are about people's hopes and dreams and fears. I see a lot of my own life in these 37 plays. I see my family, my relationships and my experience of what it fully means to be alive in these plays. And that will be our guiding principle as we work on this play.”

    NUMBER 5OK, so maybe you remember that the DCPA Theatre Company commissioned the world premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale back in 2012. The play, about a 500-pound home-bound gay man who wants to reconnect with his daughter before his dies, was directed here by Hal Brooks. But when the hot property was picked up for a run in New York by Playwrights Horizons, it was none other than McCallum who directed it there. "Cleanly," wrote the New York Times.

    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.

    A The Book of Will. Davis McCallum. Photo by John Moore.
    Director Davis McCallum addresses those gathered for the first rehearsal of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Book of Will.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    The Book of Will: Cast list
    Written by Lauren Gunderson
    Directed by Davis McCallum

    • Liam Craig (DCPA Debut) as John Heminges
    • Thaddeus Fitzpatrick (Frankenstein) as Marcus/Boy Hamlet/Bernardo/Crier
    • Miriam A. Laube (DCPA Debut) as Elizabeth Condell/Emilia Bassano Lanier
    • Jennifer Le Blanc (Pride and Prejudice) as Alice Heminges/Susannah Shakespeare
    • Rodney Lizcano (Frankenstein) as Ralph Crane/Barman/Compositor/Francisco
    • Wesley Mann (DCPA Debut) as William Jaggard/Barman 2/Sir Edward Dering
    • Andy Nagraj (Colorado New Play Summit) as Ed Knight/Isaac Jaggard
    • Kurt Rhoads (Richard III) as Henry Condell
    • Triney Sandoval (DCPA Debut) as Richard Burbage/Ben Jonson/Horatio
    • Nance Williamson (Benediction) as Rebecca Heminges/Anne Hathaway

    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.

    Jan. 13-Feb. 26
    Ricketson Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described Matinee 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Will:
    'The Year of Gunderson' has begun in Colorado
    Shakespeare in a season with no Shakespeare
    First Folio: The world's second-most important book heads to Boulder
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics
    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?

  • The Christians: 'The play is a pathway to empathy'

    by John Moore | Dec 01, 2016

    In this video interview courtesy of and conducted by Playwrights Horizons, Lucas Hnath talks about his new play The Christians, which will be staged by the DCPA Theatre Company from Jan. 27 through Feb. 26, 2017.


    According to the Pew Research Institute, 70 percent of Americans identify themselves as persons of faith. Yet they remain a largely underserved audience group in the American theatre. And when companies do take on stories about religion, Alissa Wilkinson wrote last year for Christianity Today, “The New York theatre scene is not noted for its religious acumen or open-mindedness.”

    The DCPA Theatre Company has bucked that trend by regularly and responsibly addressing complex questions of faith in a variety of recent plays spanning Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner, Shadowlands, Benediction, The 12 and now, Lucas Hnath’s The Christians.

    The Christians Quote Kent ThompsonProducing Artistic Director Kent Thompson doesn’t think of the local trend as overtly serving the faith-based. That’s because any compelling drama must, in some way, question an audience’s core beliefs, he says — whether the subject of the story is religion or not. That’s the cornerstone of good storytelling.

    “What is intentional for me is that I am always interested in looking at moments in our lives where events happen, and your beliefs are profoundly shaken — and you have to figure out how to move on,” Thompson said. “Maybe that means within your faith. But you don’t only find faith in religion. Faith can be in all kinds of movements, whether you're talking about civil rights or the environment or otherwise.”

    Hnath, like Thompson, is a Preacher’s Kid (or “P.K.”). Thompson’s father was a well-known Southern Baptist preacher and, his son says, a mesmerizing storyteller. Hnath’s mother is an evangelical minister and he thought he might follow in her footsteps until playwriting lured him away. Although The Christians didn’t pull him too far from the world he knew.

    “I was having a very difficult time thinking of other contemporary plays that took on the subject of religion, and specifically Christianity, that did so without satirizing it or prompting us to roll our eyes at ‘those Christians,’” Hnath told The New York Times. “It seemed to me that there was a lack of effort to try to understand what’s at stake in those beliefs.”

    The Christians takes place in an evangelical megachurch that serves a flock of nearly 20,000 followers. Thompson likens the leaders of these institutions to mayors of small cities. The founder of this church is Pastor Paul, who creates a deep schism among his flock when he announces a ground-shaking epiphany that has changed his personal opinion about a fundamental belief regarding eternal salvation. The theological fallout within his congregation will be enormous.

    “The thing I love about this piece is that we are all human beings, and it's all so very complex,” Thompson said. “All theatre is about conflict — but then you have to figure out the path forward, either as a group or independently. How do you deal with events that challenge your core beliefs?  It’s the hero’s journey, and that has really become my obsession.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Thompson said audiences who do not attend megachurches might be unfamiliar with their institutional structure. These churches are essentially independent businesses and are often not affiliated with traditional denominations.

    “There might be a series of beliefs that these churches share,” Thompson said, “but each church hires its own pastor. It's not like the Catholic or Episcopal church where you are appointed by an established religious hierarchy.”  

    In Pastor Paul’s case, his changing beliefs are his own. “But this is how he now perceives God's word to be,” Thompson said, “and he believes profoundly that this is where he must take this community for the next step in its spiritual development.”

    In doing so, Thompson insists Hnath is not making a playwriting statement about anyone’s religious beliefs. “That isn't about pointing the finger at these Christians and judging them in any way,” Thompson said. “It's about watching these dynamics play out that are intensely personal and very human.”

    Lucas Hnath. The ChristiansThe bones of the play, Hnath says, are secretly those of Antigone, Sophocles' play about the daughter of Oedipus who defies her uncle's law to bury her brother. In the end, Hnath says, The Christians is "a pathway to empathy."

    He describes the play itself as “a kind of sermon.” Sometimes it’s a literal sermon, he teases, “and sometimes it’s made up of scenes that use the formal elements of a sermon.” In addition to Pastor Paul, the audience will be introduced to his wife, an associate pastor, a church elder and a younger congregant.  Every performance includes an on-stage praise band made up of eight singers and three musicians.

    Hnath admits his play is made up of intentional ambiguities and contradictory opinions. No single argument “wins.” There’s no resolution.

    “A church is a place where people go to see something that is very difficult to see,” he said in an interview with Playwrights Horizons. “A church is a place where the invisible is — at least for a moment — made visible. The theatre can be that too.”

    Thompson had an opportunity to speak with Hnath about the commonalities in their upbringings, and what the playwright thought was most important that Thompson get right.

    “First, that we present every person on stage as a fully developed and complex human being,” Thompson said. “And to really ensure this is dramatic and emotionally engaging and moving, and not only for what we would call a Christian community, but for any community. Whether that’s theatre-lovers who don't go to church or those who do, or the public at large. Because the journey here is core to the human endeavor. That makes The Christians a story for everyone.”

    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.


    The Christians:
    Ticket information

    The ChristiansAt a glance: Pastor Paul inspires faith in the members of his growing congregation through his preaching. But when he brings up unexpected questions during a sermon, his changing perspective may ask too much of his followers. Featuring live music at every performance.

    Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    Written by Lucas Hnath
    Directed by Kent Thompson
    Jan. 27-Feb. 26, 2017   
    Stage Theatre
    ASL Interpreted and Audio-Described Performance: 1:30 p.m. Feb. 12
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Making of The Christians: Photo gallery

    Making of 'The Christians' Photos from the making of 'The Christians at the DCPA. To see more, click the forward arrown on the image above. More will be added as the process continues. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • Jason Edwards, the other Man in Black, dies at 62

    by John Moore | Nov 17, 2016

    Jason Edwards in the DCPA's 'Ring of Fire.' Photo by Terry Shapiro. Jason Edwards in the DCPA's 'Ring of Fire.' Photo by Terry Shapiro.


    Broadway actor and Colorado native Beth Malone regularly receives the same short text message on her cell phone. It simply says, “Who-”

    What it lacks in character count, it made up for in character.

    “It was Jason Edwards just telling me, ‘Who loves you?’ out of the blue,” said Malone, reflecting today on the death of her friend and former castmate in Broadway’s Ring of Fire, a revue of Johnny Cash songs.

    Jason Edwards 400“He was the real deal,” said Malone. “He wasn’t slick. He was authentic, funny, a good friend – and the fact that he lived in New York City was always completely weird to me.”

    Edwards was far more comfortable in the mountains than in Manhattan, and yet the self-described good-old boy from the hills of Asheville, N.C., was right at home on any stage as long as he had guitar in his hands and a Johnny Cash song to sing.

    Edwards died Tuesday, Nov. 15, in Vero Beach, Florida on an extended fishing trip with friends after another successful Ring of Fire tour. He was 62.

    Randal Myler, a longtime musical collaborator, spoke to Edwards Tuesday about their mutual love for minor-league baseball. He said Edwards told him Tuesday had been one of the happiest day of his life.

    "Jason was his own guy," said Myler. He had a ton of friends, but he was at peace with himself.”

    Edwards played a wealth of country characters ranging from cowboys to truck drivers to George Jones. He starred in a notable touring production of Pump Boys and Dinettes opposite another familiar DCPA performer, Cass Morgan. But Myler understands why Cash became Edwards’ signature role after Ring of Fire debuted on Broadway in 2006.

    “Simply from a casting consideration, there are very few JohnJason Edwards in 'Mama Hated Diesels.' ny Cashes out there,” said Myler. “There aren’t many guys with that kind of Johnny Cash macho, but with a gentle side, and also can act. Jason was the complete package.”

    Edwards first performed for the DCPA Theatre Company in the 2010 world premiere of the trucker musical Mama Hated Diesels, directed by Myler. Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever” was one of the songs he sang. Edwards returned to Denver in 2012 to both direct and star in Ring of Fire. Denver Post theatre critic Lisa Kennedy said of his performance: “Director Jason Edwards cuts a rugged, rightly creased figure as an older Johnny Cash tempered by life.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson called Edwards a brilliant musician, performer, writer, director, and producer. "In addition, he was a funny, smart, and deeply compassionate man," Thompson said. "Our paths crossed many times over the years, and he always had a smile, a warm welcome and a new idea for a show!  He loved the theatre, and we shall miss him."

    Today on Facebook, writer Seth Greenleaf said, “The world lost a really good guy, and I lost a dear friend.” Greenleaf met Edwards in 2005 when he was working on his new musical based on the songs of Johnny Cash. “We became instant friends, but he became instant friends with everyone he met. During our time outside of my urban comfort zone, he taught me my first chords on a guitar, took me to a country music hall in Nashville, and taught me how to order southern food. The cast was a family, and Jason was Pa.”

    Greenleaf said Edwards’ death was completely unexpected, “but with Jason, there was nothing left unsaid. No regrets or need to apologize for anything. You were always good with him, and he was always good with you. I have no doubt his first order of business in heaven is to walk up to Johnny himself and ask, “How’d I do?”

    Edwards was Born on April 28,1954, in Hendersonville, N.C., the son of Dawn and Irene Edwards. He graduated from North Buncombe High School in Weaverville and attended Belmont University in Nashville and Mars Hill College.

    He toured nationally and directed The Will Rogers Follies with Larry Gatlin, and Man of La Mancha with John Raitt. Off-Broadway credits included Of Mice and Men, Johnny Guitar, Honky Tonk Angel and Cowboy.

    His obituary in the Asheville Citizen-Times described Edwards as a fiercely loyal friend, and a champion of animals and underdogs. "Friends and colleagues have repeatedly described him as genuine, kind, compassionate, spiritual, honest, generous to a fault, fun, funny, encouraging, tenderhearted, and supremely gifted, a man whose energy brought joy to thousands from the stage, and to each person he met, no matter his or her station in life," it read.

    Edwards' survivors include his parents, son Michael Dawn Edwards and wife Stephanie. Funeral services were held  on Nov. 22 in Weaverville, N.C. 

    Myler said he will miss Edwards dearly, “but he was at home with himself. He was just a big-hearted guy and he left a lot of friends."

    Memorial gifts are being accepted by the Riverside Theatre Endowment Fund, which has been set up by the theatre in Edwards' name. Call 772-410-0481 for information.

     


    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.

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

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