• 2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced

    by John Moore | Nov 29, 2017
    A video look back at the 2017 Colorado New Play Festival in February. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    DCPA's signature celebration has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which have returned as full productions.

    The DCPA Theatre Company's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit will feature readings of new works by Sigrid Gilmer, David Jacobi, Kemp Powers, and Barbara Seyda alongside world-premiere productions by José Cruz González, Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee, it was announced this morning. 

    A Summit 800 5The Colorado New Play Summit, which return Feb. 17-25, 2018, is the DCPA’s signature festival dedicated to supporting playwrights and developing new work. Participating playwrights, including many commissioned by the Theatre Company, are given two weeks with professional directors, actors and dramaturgs to workshop new plays. Industry professionals and the public are invited to experience them as non-staged readings.

    (Pictured above and right: 2017 Colorado New Play Summit reading of Donnetta Lavinia Grays' 'Last Night and the Night Before.')

    Since its founding, the Summit has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit world premieres include Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    2018 FEATURED NEW-PLAY READINGS:

    Mama Metallica
    By Sigrid Gilmer
    Sigrid GilmerBudding playwright Sterling Milburn has always been overshadowed by her fabulous mother Louise. Even when she’s holed up in a care facility with Parkinson’s, Louise finds a way to steal the spotlight. But with the overly critical eyes of Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams to fuel her rebellion and the frenetic energy of Metallica to help find her voice, Sterling sets out to write a story that is finally her own. As unfortunate histories mesh with hilarious interludes, Sterling must face the truth: her pain, her joys and her life will forever be shaped by and linked to the woman who raised her. Sigrid Gilmer’s “wonderfully impudent sense of humor” (USA Today) shines in this joyfully irreverent black comedy that entwines issues of identity with pop culture icons for a truly unique (and head-banging) experience.

    About Sigrid Gilmer: makes black comedies that are historically bent, totally perverse, joyfully irreverent and concerned with issues of identity, pop culture and contemporary American society. Sigrid burst onto the national theatre scene with her play Harry and the Thief, an action film/historical/time travel play about a thief who is blackmailed into traveling back in time to deliver a cache of arms to Harriet Tubman. It has since been produced across the country, including runs at the Pavement Group (Chicago), the Know Theatre (Cincinnati), and the Skylight Theatre (LA). Additional select works include Slavey (Clubbed Thumb), Seed: A Weird Act of Faith, It’s All Bueno (Cornerstone Theater Company), Frilly, and White 3: Manifestdestinyland. Sigrid is also on the writing team of the acclaimed Black Women: State of the Union. Sigrid is a winner of the Map Fund Creative Exploration Grant, the James Irving Foundation Fellowship and is a USA Ford Fellow in Theatre. Sigrid has an MFA in Writing for Performance from Cal Arts, where she was mentored by Suzan-Lori Parks. She resides in Los Angeles.

     


    The Couches
    By David Jacobi

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    David JacobiEthan Couch has lived in a bubble of pampered privilege for his entire life, so when he’s convicted of killing four people while driving drunk, he and his mother Tonya flee to a resort in Mexico rather than face the consequences. In this self-imposed state of limbo, Ethan pays hotel clerk Daniel $1000 to be his friend and help maintain the facade of his prior life. But as the unlikely pair drink, sing, and stumble through the night, delusions of how the world works melt away as quickly as their cash flow. David Jacobi draws from the infamous 2013 “affluenza” court case to weave a surreal story of recklessness and reflection.

    About David Jacobi
    : His plays have been performed throughout the U.S. and in China, including the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, FringeNYC and Penghao Theatre. His work has been developed at Ojai Playwrights Conference, Portland Center Stage’s JAW Festival, RISK IS THIS, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Kennedy Center MFA Playwright’s Workshop, SLC Playwrights Lab and PlayPenn. He is a winner of the Holland New Voices Award, Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences Award, a Relentless Award semifinalist, and has been nominated for the Weissburger. David was the 2015 Shank Fellow at Pig Iron Theatre Company, and is currently under commission from the Denver Center and South Coast Rep. He received a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Purchase College and an MFA from UC San Diego.



    Christa McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue
    By Kemp Powers DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    Kemp PowersEven though they share the same DNA, twins Steven and Bernard have lived drastically different lives. The big reason? One is plagued by racism because of his dark skin while the other passes as white. Steven spent his childhood fitting in with fellow classmates and is now a successful attorney. Though he was an extraordinarily bright student who had his eyes on outer space, Bernard’s future is as dismal as the Challenger Space Shuttle that once inspired him. As he prepares for trial and potential jail time, Bernard must face his childhood bully behind the judge’s bench and confront his brother’s advantages. Following his DCPA audience favorite One Night in Miami…, Kemp Powers’ piercing meditation on race and privilege targets the circumstances that can change a child’s destiny.

    About Kemp Powers:
    His plays include One Night in Miami… (Donmar Warehouse, Denver Center, Baltimore Center Stage, Rogue Machine; 2017 Olivier nominee for Best New Play, three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards, four NAACP Theatre awards, LA Weekly Theater award), Little Black Shadows (South Coast Repertory) and The Two Reds (The Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory). His work has been developed at Denver Center Theatre Company, South Coast Repertory, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. In television and film, he was most recently a writer for “Star Trek: Discovery”(CBS All Access) and is currently adapting his play One Night in Miami… into a feature film. He has toured nationally as a storyteller for the Peabody Award-winning series, "The Moth," and was one of the 50 storytellers selected for publication in their New York Times-bestselling book, The Moth: 50 True Stories (Hyperion Press). Powers is a founding member of The Temblors, a producing playwrights collective based in Los Angeles, where he resides.



    Celia, A Slave
    By Barbara Seyda

    Barbara SeydaIn 1855, 19-year-old African-American slave Celia was convicted of killing her master and hanged. Her story became known as a notorious failure of justice in American history, but to truly understand its significance, look to the people of Calloway County who experienced it all. Using oral histories and official records as her guide, playwright Barbara Seyda investigates the event with a tapestry of interviews with the dead. This stunningly evocative play illuminates the brutal realities of female slave life in the pre-Civil War South as it resurrects a panorama of real people on stage. The piece won the Yale Drama Series playwriting competition in its current form.

    About Barbara Seyda: She is a playwright, editor, designer and theatre artist. She has a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA from Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University. She has been a freelance editor for the Southwest Center, Rio Nuevo Press and the University of Arizona Press with a focus on native art, culture, history, ethnography and oral traditions of the American Southwest. She taught at Pratt Institute, The New School for Social Research, Rutgers University and University of Arizona's Continuing Education Program. Her publications include Nomads of a Desert City (University of Arizona Press) and Women in Love (Bulfinch, imprint of Little, Brown & Company). Her debut play Celia, A Slave was selected by Nicholas Wright, former Associate Director of London's Royal Court and won the Yale Drama Prize in 2015. The first public staged reading was at Lincoln Center under the direction of Niegel Smith and the script was published by Yale University Press in 2016. Celia opened The Rogue Theatre's 2017 season to rave reviews by PBS and NPR. She will reexamine the structure of Celia at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. Her new plays include An Unnatural History and Life in a Jar.


    2018 WORLD PREMIERE PLAYS:

    American Mariachi
    By José Cruz González

    Directed by James Vásquez
    Produced in association with The Old Globe

    A Jose Cruz Gonzalez 160DCPA Theatre Company Commission developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Lucha and Boli are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band, but they’ll have to fight a male-dominated music genre and pressure from their families to get it done. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music.

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding
    By Matthew Lopez
    Directed by Mike Donahue

    Matthew LopezDisaster after disaster follow one unfortunate bride down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    The Great Leap
    By Lauren Yee
    Directed by Eric Ting
    Produced in association with Seattle Repertory Theatre

    Yee, LaurenDCPA Theatre Company Commission developed at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium.

    The 13th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 17-18
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 23-25
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

    All-inclusive Festival Weekend packages including all four readings, three world premieres, plus meals and special events are on sale now. Launch weekend events will go on sale in January 2018. 

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit

    Full photo gallery from the 2017 Colorado New Play Festival in February. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Bonus video coverage: Meet the 2017 featured playwrights:
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
  • 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

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

    by John Moore | Feb 23, 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: Lauren Yee, author of the basketball play Manford at the Line, or The Great Leap.

    Chinese-American playwright Lauren Yee
    lays it all on the free-throw line

    When 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 opponent.

    John Moore: What do we need to know about your play?

    Lauren Yee: My father grew up in San Francisco Chinatown. And until he had kids,
    the only thing he was good at was basketball. I know this because even today, walking around San Francisco, people stop us on the street and say, “I used to play you in basketball!” And as we're walking away, my dad will smile and say, “Yeah … and I kicked your (bleep).” In the 1980s, he and his American teammates traveled to China to play a series of exhibition games against various teams throughout the country. I asked him, “Did you win?” And he told me, “They demolished us in almost every single game.” I think the first game they played was against Beijing. It was either a high-school or a college team. And my dad was like, “No, joke, Lauren, their players were, like, 7-foot-6. My father is 6-foot-1, and he was the tallest guy on his team. He said, “We would have to tell our teammates when their guy had the ball, because if you were guarding your man, you couldn't see what he was doing.” I think they only won one game, which was in Hong Kong when the players happened to be closer to 6-feet tall than 7-feet tall. And I think they only won that game by two points.

    John Moore: But I bet they could describe the waistbands of their opponents in great detail.

    Lauren Yee: Oh yeah. Have you ever seen one of those Mickey Mouse cartoons where Mickey is being chased by a train? That's how my dad felt: Like Mickey Mouse in China.

    Lauren Yee. Photo by  John Moore

    John Moore: So how does that turn into a play?

    Lauren Yee: I always thought that idea was so interesting of a Chinese-American young man like my father going to the country of his parents for the first time, playing an opponent who looks like him - but not quite.

    John Moore: What do we need to know about the title?

    Lauren Yee: Manford at the Line begs the question of whose play this is. And it foreshadows what is going to be important further down the line. It's almost the final play of the game.

    John Moore: Your play was originally called Manford from Half Court.

    Lauren Yee: Yeah. The final play longer happens at half-court. It happens at the free-throw line, so that necessitated changing the title.

    John Moore: The game of basketball has become very global in the past decade, especially in the NBA. But your play takes place in 1989. When did basketball become such a national priority in China?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Lauren Yee: The interesting thing about that is basketball is the only Western sport that has never been banned in China. I think we Americans think of basketball as a sport that is completely ours. And that whenever go abroad, we are bringing basketball to a different part of the world. But the truth of it is, China has had basketball since the 19th century. American missionaries first brought the game there in the late 1900s. And ever since then, the Chinese have viewed basketball as a symbol of their country. If you think of all the sports out there, basketball is the one in which you can really lay the ideals of communism on top of it. Everyone gets to touch the ball. Everyone is equal in their position. Mao (Tse-tung) was a big, big fan of basketball. Prior to him coming to power in the 1930s, he used to play basketball with his colleagues. I think the shift in the game has just been the professionalization of it. In the 1990s, right after my play takes place, you begin to see the national league in China start up, the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). That’s been really fascinating because you have players like Yao Ming coming out of the CBA and going to America, but you are also have NBA players like Stephon Marbury coming to China and playing in the CBA. Stephon Marbury is beloved in China.

    (Note: Stephon Marbury, now 40, is a two-time NBA All-Star who has played for three Chinese teams since 2010, winning three CBA championships.)

    Lauren Yee QuoteJohn Moore: How does the culture clash play out in your story? Because from a very young age, American kids are taught to shoot the ball. And your lead character at one point explains very comically how a Chinese player almost needs permission to shoot.

    Lauren Yee: My father told me that Chinese players, as opposed to his team of Americans, did not like to go inside. They didn't like to get aggressive. They loved to stand back and sink the ball from the 3-point line. I find that sport is always such a great analogy for how a country works and how two countries interact and that space where they rub up against each other and conflict in terms of strategy and styles and priorities. 

    John Moore: You have said you main character is not, specifically, your father.

    Lauren Yee: No.

    John Moore: What does he think about you writing a basketball play inspired by his experiences?

    Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide

    Lauren Yee: I feel like my father is always simultaneously a little mortified and a little delighted by the idea of there being a play about his experiences. I am sure there is a lot about the play that he will say I got wrong. I feel like the biggest difference between my main character and my father is that my father was always celebrated for the great basketball player he was.   

    John Moore: What is the tone of your play?

    Lauren Yee: My plays tend to be comedies ... until they are not. They also tend to be comedies that hopefully show you something in a way you have never seen before. This is a basketball play, but hopefully I am showing you something about the game in a delightful way that you have never seen before.

    Lauren Yee 2016 Colorado New Play SummitJohn Moore: Last year, you were a guest here at the Colorado New Play Summit as a commissioned writer for the DCPA Theatre Company. Now you are here as one of the five featured Summit playwrights. What are your thoughts on the Summit?

    Lauren Yee: I think the Colorado New Play Summit is such a wonderful playground. The Denver Center supports pieces starting from the inception of a commission and continues after the Summit. I feel like the Denver Center is really invested in telling lots of different types of stories from lots of different perspectives. I also think there is incredible freedom for playwrights to tackle the story any way they want to.

    John Moore: Let’s get perfectly real here: If you are anything other than a white male, you are probably underrepresented in the American theatre right now. And as a Chinese-American woman, you are about as under-represented as it gets. But you have broken through and really have gotten the attention of the American theatre. Do you see that as a burden or an obligation or a wide-open opportunity?

    Lauren Yee: For me, in order to spend the two or three years needed to follow a story and really see it through to its end, I think it has to be a story that feels personal and urgent and specific enough to me that I think I really am the best person to tell that story. And that I would really love to spend all those years of my life in the room with this idea. Sometimes it boils down to, "This is a story that shares something in my DNA culturally.” And other times, it has nothing to do with that. It can be a burden,  but there is also this joy in being able to tell an audience a story in a way that no one else can tell it.

    Lauren Yee QuoteJohn Moore: Obviously gender disparity has been a major topic of conversation in the American theatre for several years. What does it mean to you as a female playwright that the Denver Center is a place with the $1.2 million Women's Voices Fund?

    Lauren Yee: I think the Women's Voices Fund is such an exciting and vital venture. It makes sure that you are representing the groups that you want to be representing - and then letting them run with it. I may be sponsored by the Women's Voices Fund, but I am not being told to write a play that stars all women, or has to have some female-specific topic. My play is about a Chinese-American man playing basketball in China. I think the Women’s Voices Fund embraces the multiplicity of views that come with what your gender is, and what your ethnicity is. I am Chinese-American, but part of the joy of my work is that I get to inhabit all of these different worlds.

    John Moore: Why is your play the right play at the right time?
    Lauren Yee: I think this play is relevant now because it explores the idea that one person can make a difference in the world they live in. It's also a play about diplomacy. It's a play about relating to different people from different countries. It is a play about protest. And it is a play about realizing when it is your turn to step up.

    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.

    Manford at the Line, or The Great Leap
    Written by Lauren Yee
    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

    Manford. Photo by John MooreFrancis Jue, left, and Brian Keane in Lauren Yee's 'Manford at the Line, Or The Great Leap.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    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

  • Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America

    by John Moore | Feb 20, 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. First up: Eric Pfeffinger, writer of the comedy Human Error.

    Playwright Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy
    of an unfunnily divided America

    John Moore: Tell us about your play.

    Eric Pfeffinger: In Human Error, a couple goes to what they think is a routine appointment at their fertility clinic and are devastated to discover that their fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted into somebody else. So obviously, it's a comedy. You know: Another one of your standard-issue switched-fertilized-embryo farces.

    John Moore: Not another one of those!

    Eric Pfeffinger: Exactly.

    John Moore: So tell us about this couple.

    Eric Pfeffinger: They are a couple of blue-state, latte-sipping, NPR-listening liberals. And they go to meet this other couple and discover that they are NRA-cardholding, pickup-truck-driving, red-state conservatives. So you have two families who, under normal circumstances, would never choose to be in the same room with each other, now having to spend nine months working their way toward building this family - and hopefully not killing each other along the way. It’s a comedy about the state of the nation currently and the political polarization we are all grappling with.

    John Moore: So help me understand your style of comedy. Are we talking mean, David Mamet funny? Or punchline kind of funny?

    Eric Pfeffinger: It's BIG funny. When I heard about this actually happening at fertility clinics, my first response was, 'Oh that sounds like an episode of Three's Company: 'Wait, that's not your embryo - that's my embryo!' And … cut to commercial. This is my approach to a lot of my plays: Let's take this thing that does not seem particularly funny to the people it is happening to and find the humor in it. It's people being very funny in a very stressful situation.

    Human Error. Eric Pfeffinger. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore

    John Moore: We just went through a brutal two-year election cycle where the divisions in this country were just laid bare, deeply and profoundly. Is that reflected in your play?

    Eric Pfeffinger: I started working on the play quite a while ago but this is a phenomenon that has been percolating for a long time, and has only gotten more pronounced in the past year or so. None of the people in my play know anybody else like the other couple. They all live in a world, as most of us do, where geography and social strata and technology have made it possible for them to isolate themselves from anybody who doesn't already think the same way they do. All their friends on Facebook, in their neighborhood and at their workplace are all pretty much like them. They don't have to confront the reality of someone who thinks differently until they are thrown together by this clerical mix-up at the fertility clinic. The play is really less about fertility technology - as dramatic as that can be - and more about the silos and the echo chambers that Americans in particular often find themselves in, and the defense mechanisms we adopt when we are forced to step outside our comfort zones and acknowledge that there are other people in the world who are not just like us.

    Human Error. John DiAntonio. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John MooreJohn Moore: Why is now a really good time in the American theatre for us to laugh?

    Eric Pfeffinger: Everything I write is a comedy. That's how I function. A lot of people embrace comedy as an escapist opportunity; as a way to get away from what is stressful about the world. I happen to believe that comedy is also one of the best ways to confront difficult ideas, and to examine and articulate those ideas. I would much rather explore a difficult idea through comedy than through some other genre. Comedy lowers your defenses by making you laugh. Comedy is a welcoming way to entice you into spending some time with ideas that you might find challenging.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: You're from Ohio, so would you say this is a Midwestern comedy?

    Eric Pfeffinger: This is definitely a Midwestern comedy. It takes place in the same northwestern part of Ohio where I live, right on the Michigan-Ohio border. The characters clash over the Michigan-Ohio athletic rivalry, in fact. So it's definitely about people in flyover country, and how they live their lives.

    John Moore: That is also Ground Zero for the American Divide.

    Eric Pfeffinger: Absolutely. Some people feel like it's possible these days to move to a city and feel fairly confident that you are going to be comfortable with the political orientation of most of your neighbors. Where I live, everybody is all over the political map. During the election, there was every kind of sign imaginable in my neighborhood, in yards right next to each other. We also have a lot of different religious communities, cultural communities and racial makeups and I think those things express themselves in a very particular way in a Midwestern city like the one I live in, and these characters live in.

    Human Error. Caitlin Wise. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John MooreJohn Moore: You used to be a newspaper cartoonist.

    Eric Pfeffinger: Yes, among other productive roles in society.

    John Moore: Has that experience guided you as a playwright in any way?

    Eric Pfeffinger: To me, playwriting and cartooning are two very similar media, only you express your ideas with different tools. I used to draw a daily comic strip with recurring characters. So in both cases, you have multiple characters living out stories that you are telling primarily through dialogue. You also had a punchline every four panels. There was a rhythm to it, but it also had some very specific restrictions. You didn't have the opportunity for stream-of-consciousness or delving into people's thoughts the way you can if you are writing a novel. It was really like writing a four-panel play every day and moving the characters around on this very small, two-dimensional stage. So to me, cartooning was just a variation on what I am doing now.

    John Moore: So would you say your play is more sit-com in style or a series of panels? 

    Eric Pfeffinger: Human Error does draw explicit connections to various kinds of classic comedy, particularly the TV sit-com. One of my characters is an academic who studies the theory of humor, and in doing so squeezes all of the enjoyment out of it. The points of reference in Human Error are probably more like TV comedy, which is what I grew up mainlining. But I have definitely appropriated the rhythms of the daily comic strip in some of my plays as well. 

    John Moore: This is your first time at the Colorado New Play Summit. What are your initial impressions?

    Eric Pfeffinger: It’s been fantastic. This community is just amazing. Being in that room with everyone on that first morning and seeing this huge population of people who all have different specialties but who are all committed to this one common artistic goal is really inspiring. The team that I have - the actors and the director and the dramaturg and stage management - is amazing. We just have a blast every time we close that door and spend a few hours working on the play together. The community here is really supportive and really, really fun.

    John Moore: One of the things that makes this festival unique is the second week of rehearsals and public readings. How do you think that will impact what you will take away from the Summit?

    Human Error. Eric Pfeffinger. Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John MooreEric Pfeffinger: That's going to be huge, especially with a comedy. The response of an audience is invaluable. Even with an early version of a play, where we haven't figured everything out yet, seeing how that plays in a room with an audience, and feeling the energy is going to be completely integral to what I work on during the second week. I am going to be constantly referring back to what was going on in that space in terms of how specific lines and moments landed. It's so much more valuable than trying to draw only on the discoveries that we make in the hermetically sealed rehearsal room together.

    John Moore: One of my favorite Pfeffinger lines isn't even from your play. It was from an interview where you described the outcome of an earlier workshop of Human Error. You said the play “no longer displays a first-draft's need for radical de-suckification."

    Eric Pfeffinger: That's probably me at my best right there. I can only hope to strive for the pithy expression that is de-suckification. I think we could all use a little radical de-suckification right now. 

    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.

    Human Error
    Written by Eric Pfeffinger
    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      

    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

  • 'Two Degrees': How do they make that ice, ice, baby?

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2017


    Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan takes you backstage for a look at how he created the ever-changing world of Two Degrees for the DCPA Theatre Company.

    Tira Palmquist's world-premiere play introduces us to a scientist named Emma who is called to Washington to testify – reluctantly – before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation.

    Two DegreesCompounding her anxiety: It’s the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It’s meant to be a human story about both a woman and a planet in crisis.

    The play takes place in 11 scenes in 10 locations in the Jones Theatre. "We tried to create an abstract space that was evocative and had an arc like Emma's character that went from frozen to somewhat melting,' Morgan said. The set includes 56 Plexiglass panels that are treated to look like ice - and six of them are actual ice that will melt throughout the show.

    How did he do it? Watch and learn. Two Degrees, directed by Christy Montour-Larson, features Kathleen McCall, Robert Montano, Kim Staunton and Jason Delane Lee, and plays through March 12. 

    Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees
    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.
    • Through March 12
    • Jones Theatre
    • ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Meet the cast: Kim Staunton
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

     

  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'Two Degrees'

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2017
    Video: Your first look at Two Degrees

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s world-premiere play Two Degrees introduces us to a scientist named Emma who is called to Washington to testify – reluctantly – before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation. Compounding her anxiety: It’s the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It’s meant to be a human story about both a woman and a planet in crisis. 

    "What we did in the past affects our present and will change our future,” Emma tells those in Washington. But is anyone listening?

    Two Degrees
    is written by Tira Palmquist, directed by Christy Montour-Larson and features Kathleen McCall, Robert Montano, Kim Staunton and Jason Delane Lee. It plays through March 12 in the Jones Theatre. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photo gallery: Two Degrees production images

    Two Degrees- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season Photos from 'Two Degrees' by Adams VisCom. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Ticket information: Two Degrees

    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.

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

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    Two Degrees Jones Theatre'Two Degrees' is the first mainstage Theatre Company offering to be presented in The Jones Theatre since 2004. It is located on the corner of Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe streets. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • 'Two Degrees': A telling exchange at public conversation

    by John Moore | Feb 08, 2017
    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Photo gallery: The cast of 'Two Degrees' takes questions from the audience at Perspectives, a panel conversation held before the first public performance of every play. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    There was an exchange at Friday's public Perspectives discussion that both acknowledged the deep divide in America over climate science while also illustrating just what the DCPA Theatre Company’s new play Two Degrees aspires to do: Start a dialogue among not necessarily like-minded audience members.

    Two Degrees opens just three months after the Pew Research Institute released a major study that found only 48 percent of Americans understand the Earth to be warming because of human activity.

    The play introduces us to a scientist named Emma who is called to Washington to testify – reluctantly – before a congressional committee on proposed climate legislation. Compounding her anxiety: It’s the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. It’s meant to be a human story about both a woman and a planet in crisis. 

    Two Degrees quoteAnd the first chance for anyone to get together in a room and talk about it was at Friday’s Perspectives – an ongoing series of conversations between audiences and DCPA Theatre Company creative teams that is presented before every first public preview performance.

    “We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it,” Two Degrees director Christy Montour-Larson told those gathered at the Conservatory Theatre before last Friday’s first performance. Many in the audience surely took that as an environmental rallying cry. But at least one man in attendance took exception.

    Two Degrees cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research

    “That is an extremely alarming statement that really is not factual,” said the man, who said he does not consider himself a denier of climate science. “I think there is nothing more certain than that the climate is changing. The question I have is to what degree humanity is influencing the change. I don't consider this to be ‘settled’ science, and there are a lot of us out in the world who feel that way.”

    Playwright Tira Palmquist responded by pointing to research that suggests 97 percent of climate scientists around the world have endorsed the conclusion that humans have played a role in global warming since the Industrial Age. “There is scientific evidence to suggest that what we have done has made an impact,” she said.

    The man remained skeptical, but said he would keep an open mind when he saw the play later that night. Palmquist said the exchange is an example of the proactive role live theatre can contribute to any community. “For me, this is a play about the difficulty we have in having these kinds of conversations,” she said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Two Degrees Dramaturg Heather Helinsky said the exchange is what the play is all about.

    “For a play to be a good play, it has to give you characters with different points of view, and this play does that,” Helinsky said. “You don't want a play that just preaches one side. A successful play has to make you want to continue having that conversation after you leave.”

    And here are five more things we learned about 'Two Degrees' at Perspectives:

    NUMBER 1Two Degrees PerspectivesEvery DCPA Theatre Company production has a week of “preview performances” before it officially opens. And Montour-Larson was asked, well, what exactly is the point of these preview performances? Once a production opens, it’s pretty much locked down. But during preview week, the work continues. The designers continue to hone staging details. If it’s a new play like Two Degrees, the cast continues to rehearse line changes by day and perform the play before live audiences by night. “During a preview performance, we add the most important element, which is the audience,” Montour-Larson said. “All of us (on the creative team) are watching the play along with all of you, but I see less of what is happening onstage because I am watching you guys.”

    (Pictured above right: Two Degrees actor Kim Staunton at Perspectives. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)


    NUMBER 2Two Degrees is a ghost story. Emma, the scientist, is grieving the death of her husband. “And anyone who has ever grieved a loved one knows that process takes a while,” Palmquist said. “In Washington, Emma finds herself confronted by a gentleman who reminds her of her husband. And then we go back in time and find another person who reminds her of her husband. And then there is a guy in a bar who reminds her of her husband. For me, that is very much a metaphor for seeing the person you love as always with you, whether it is literal or figurative or metamorphic – or a ghost. Emma is being haunted constantly. And that ghost is not going to go away until that ghost is done with you.”

    NUMBER 3Two Degrees has changed since it was presented as a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit last February. And it has changed more since the election in November. “After the Summit readings last year, we were given this big packet of responses from the Denver audience members,” said Palmquist. “But as I was gearing up to make my revisions, I thought, ‘I don’t think I can re-write this until I know the outcome of the election.’ ” So she waited. Because the energy in the room would be quite different depending on whether audiences would be attending Two Degrees at the start of a Clinton Presidency compared to the start of a Trump Presidency. After Trump’s victory, she said, “We now have a White House that has said it is going to dismantle some of the things the Obama administration did in terms of climate-change legislation. And so for me, the engine of the play became a little more ratcheted-up. The environment in Washington (for a person like Emma) is not so friendly."

    NUMBER 4Two Degrees Jones TheatreTwo Degrees is the first mainstage offering to be held in the Jones Theatre (the DCPA Theatre Company’s smallest venue) since A Boston Marriage in 2004. That posed some unique challenges for Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan - not the least of which is that the story has 11 scenes in 10 different locations. “The Jones is a three-sided ‘thrust’ stage, so it’s a little like Florida,” Morgan said. “And it’s just a different show if you are watching from the sides than if you are watching from the front, so it's a tricky thing for us to make sure the entire audience gets the same story.”

    NUMBER 5From the start of the rehearsal process, the cast and crew have adopted what they call a two-pronged “daily action plan.” Helinsy and Stage Manager Karen Federing provide the team with a link to relevant reading on climate change, and suggest a proactive daily step each person can take to make a positivel impact in their daily lives. Over the past month, the cast has studied the work of the League of Conservation Voters, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, EarthJustice.Org and Denver’s own Snowriders International, among others. “The idea is to infuse our storytelling with a sense of urgency,” Montour-Larson said.

    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: Your first look at 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.

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

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

  • Tira Palmquist: Grief for a husband, and a planet

    by John Moore | Feb 06, 2017
    Tira Palmquist. Photo by John Moore
    Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    By Chad Henry
    DCPA Literary Associate

    Tira Palmquist is a funny, tart, plainspoken writer with several plays to her credit and a lifelong habit of writing.

    “I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Hey, I’m a playwright.’ I was a pastor’s kid in the borderlands between Minnesota and Iowa," she said. "I fully intended to be an actor from the time I was old enough to memorize the entire cast album of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. But then I also really loved to write, and wrote relentlessly during high school and college. At that point, I was encouraged to go to grad school as a poet, and I thought ‘Well, what the hell!’ I am constantly reinventing myself. I am currently reinventing what it means to be 50.”

    Palmquist’s new play Two Degrees brings a human face, and a grieving human heart, to the issue of global warming. Her powerful drama of a female scientist’s quest to bring the hard facts of global weather change to the world’s attention uses the latest scientific research to ground her drama. But she frames that drama in the universal and emotionally wrenching story of the loss of a loved one and the sacrifice necessary to get to the truth and to make it known.

    Palmquist said the play’s evolution and subsequent debut at DCPA Theatre Company was part persistence and part timing.

    Palmquist, who teaches at University of California at Irvine, said that over the past years she’d been submitting plays regularly to Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, a well- regarded new play development organization based in bucolic McCall, Idaho. Christy Montour-Larson, who is directing the world premiere of Two Degrees, is the board president of Seven Devils, and she chose the play and directed the workshop reading there. The play then eventually made its way to Denver’s Athena Project, where it was once directed by Montour-Larson. It then caught the eye of the Theatre Company’s new-play development department, was recommended to Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, read at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit and selected as part of the 2016-17 mainstage season.

    Photo gallery: The making of Two Degrees in Denver:

    'Two Degrees' in Denver

    Photos from the making of 'Two Degrees' 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.

    Palmquist, who also has worked closely with dramaturg Heather Helinsky on the play, said the process of workshopping and revising her play began at Seven Devils. “The director and dramaturg were asking me very hard questions about the focus of the play, and encouraging me to make rewrites and changes based on our conversations," Palmquist said. "At first I thought they were just being mean, but I realized as we went along that these were questions that really needed to be asked to clarify the story I was trying to tell. They actually taught me a new way of approaching my work — they taught me to be relentless.”

    Tira Palmquist QuoteAs a result of the workshop, Palmquist felt that she really was able to get to the essence of the play. “My play was revealed to me through the process.”

    The workshop process continued at the Center’s New Play Summit, which Palmquist described as “...genius. You get to rehearse for a week, day and night; rewrite, fix and tweak; then see the play in front of an audience. Then, you get to go back for another week and do even more work based on what you, your director and dramaturg and cast learned from the first reading. It’s truly a luxury for a writer.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    In Two Degrees, lead character Emma Phelps is a paleoclimatologist studying ice in Greenland. In drilling and studying ice core samples, she sees firsthand the symptoms of our changing planet, which makes the need for immediate remedial action and education all the more crucial and urgent. In addition to her growing sense of urgency for the planet, Emma, a recent widow, is suffering grief and loss that grows deeper as time passes. Now she’s been asked to come to Washington D.C. to testify in a Senate Committee regarding climate change legislation, and in this intersection of science and politics, and of politics and the personal, she finds her own world breaking up under the strain of change.

    Palmquist explains that the big themes of the play are not actually global warming, although the two degrees of the title are an explicit warning of the disastrous tipping point our global environment will reach without remedial action. “This is actually a play about grief — about working through grief, about deciding to stand up and move forward and do what needs to be done, rather than collapsing. And the parallel situations in the play are that Emma, our climatologist, learns that she can’t go back and fix the mistakes she made in her marriage, and that we humans cannot go back and fix the damage that we’ve done to the planet.” Emma’s strength and determination in the face of crippling grief make this story a dramatically compelling piece.

    Two Degrees cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research

    Palmquist discovered in the course of writing the play that one of the problems in making the scientific realities of global warming immediate to the general public is that scientists are good at science — and bad at communicating their science. “I didn’t want this play to turn out to be a polemic on the subject of global warming; rather, I wanted to open a door to a dialogue about the subject. Scientists and lay people don’t speak the same language — my play is one attempt to bridge this gap.” Denver Center’s world premiere production of this important new drama is bound to spur lively conversation and debate about our own choices in our life journeys. 

    Chad.HenryChad Henry is the Literary Associate for the DCPA Theatre Company. He is a composer, actor, lyricist, playwright, and author. He has written more than 20 musical theatre titles. His DCPA credits include acting in Master Class,' and choreographing 'The Winter's Tale.' He is the author of the children's book 'Dogbreath Victorious.'  



    Video bonus: Playwright Tira Palmquist talking about Two Degrees



    Our video with 'Two Degrees' playwright Tira Palmquist, at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    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

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Two Degrees cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

  • 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.

  • Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit

    by John Moore | Jan 17, 2017
    A Playwriting Scenester finalists 800Meet your 2017 Scenesters: Teen playwriting finalists (from left) Parker Bennett, Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Ryan Patrick McCormick and Jessica Wood.



    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts has announced a record four finalists for its fourth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition for Colorado high-school students:

    • Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School, Counting in Clay MEET PARKER
    • Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School, Chill Winds MEET JESSICA
    • Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School, Spilt Lava MEET RYAN
    • Jasmin Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak Preparatory Academy, The Boy on the Tree
      MEET JASMIN

    Because of a tie, an unprecedented fourth finalist was named. The four will receive mentoring from a professional playwright and have their plays read by professional actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, in The Conservatory Theatre. Finalists also receive a $250 cash scholarship and complimentary pass to all Summit activities.

    A Playwriting Scenester finalists QuoteWood is the first student in the competition's history to place as a finalist two years in a row. Two of the finalists come from different high schools in Fort Collins. The finalists' plays represent a wide swath of storytelling ranging from a gender-bending variation on Rapunzel, to a modern take on Frankenstein, to a historical drama about sisters on the eve of World War II, to the love story of a boy and girl “who float across each other in a world where the floor is lava.”

    DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals first determined 10 semifinalists from  132 submissions received from high-school students across the state. The blind judging produced a first - twins sisters Sarah and Samantha Shapard of Overland High School both made the top 10.

    From that field, a record  four finalists were chosen, up from three in previous years. After the Colorado New Play Summit, one of the four scripts will be selected for full production during DCPA Education’s 2017 summer program.

    “These young playwrights are the next generation of theatre. It is our responsibility and our privilege to encourage them and give them the tools to succeed,” said DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous. “We launched the one-act play playwriting competition in 2013 to nurture Colorado’s promising young playwrights, create new plays and inspire creativity. In just four short years, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response: 577 submissions and nearly 12,000 students served through the program, giving voice to the next generation of American theatre.”

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Our profiles of the 2017 Semifinalists:
    Parker Bennett, Fossil Ridge High School
    Corinna Donovan and Walker Carroll, Crested Butte Community School
    Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School
    Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes, Fossil Ridge High School
    Amelia Middlebrooks, Valor Christian High School
    Samantha Shapard, Overland High School
    Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    Daniela Villalobo, York International
    Jessica Wood, Denver Christian School


    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. </p?>
  • January 2017: Crossword puzzle and solution

    by John Moore | Jan 10, 2017
    With each new issue of Applause Magazine, we offer readers a crossword puzzle related to our current shows. Here is the most recent puzzle, covering Fun Home, The Book of Will, The Christians and Two Degrees. This should be fun - two of the four are world premieres, and Denver audiences have never before seen any of them!  

    The solution is posted below. Print and play! CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE PUZZLE WITH THE SOLUTION!


    Crossword 1

    Crossword 2

    Crossword 3
    Photo credit: Cast of 'Fun Home' by Joan Marcus.


    The solution:

    Crossword Answer January 2017
  • '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. 

  • The 2017 Scenesters: Abby Meyer and Nic Rhodes

    by John Moore | Jan 05, 2017
    Scenesters. Abby Meyer Nic Rhodes. Today at the DCPA NewsCenter, we continue our daily countdown of the 10 Colorado student playwrights who have been named semifinalists for our fourth annual statewide playwriting competition. On Jan. 13, we will announce the three scripts that will be read at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.) Tomorrow: Scenester profile No. 5.

    SCENESTER NO. 4: ABBY MEYER AND NIC RHODES

    • School: Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins
    • Class: Juniors
    • Teacher: Kristin Rust
    • Your play title: Imaginary Friends
    • What is your play about? This play takes the audience through the mind of schizophrenic high school boy. Unaware of his own disorder, he can't distinguish between reality and his mind. As he drifts further into himself and away from reality, we meet his only sense of comfort: His imaginary friends. 
    • What was your inspiration for writing your play? In our sophomore yearScenesters Abby Meyer Nic Rhodes Casting, we were both cast in a one-act play about a suicidal teen girl, which inspired us to write this story together. We both have people in our lives affected by mental disorders, and we wrote it to honor them and raise awareness in a previously untold way.
    • Favorite word that appears in your script: "Babe." 
    • Killer casting: We would cast Sarah Hyland of Modern Family (pictured right) as Hazel/Hannah because Hazel is the comedic relief of the show. Sarah could be that bubbly personality the play needs without compromising the serious overall tone.
    • What did you learn from writing this play? We both discovered a passion for playwriting, along with learning how all-consuming it is to create a world.
    Scenesters Abby Meyer Nic Rhodes Quote


    Our countdown of the 2017 'Scenesters' (to date):
    No. 1: Sarah Shapard, Overland High School
    No. 2: Ryan Patrick McCormick, Fort Collins High School
    No. 3: Jasmin A. Hernandez Lozano, Vista Peak High School

    About the 2017 Regional High-School Playwriting Workshop and Competition:

    What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 138 playwriting workshops in 46 Colorado high schools. More than 2,823 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 15 counties around the state, including Gunnison, Garfield, El Paso, Chaffee and Ouray.

    Why: To nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

    How: A total of 132 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten semifinalists are being identified through this rolling daily countdown. At the end of the countdown, three winners will be named. They will receive a cash scholarship of $250 each AND a staged reading in the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit next month. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms. One play also will be presented as a fully staged performance exercise for DCPA Education students in the summer of 2017.

    Sponsors: Robert and Judi Newman/Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

    Video: We talked with the three 2016 student playwriting finalists and looked in as their plays were read by professional actors at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit in February. Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Guest columnist Lauren Gunderson: How one word can change a play

    by John Moore | Jan 04, 2017
    Lauren Gunderson. Jennifer LeBlanc. The Book of Will.

    Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    By Lauren Gunderson
    Playwright, The Book of Will

    During a very early reading of The Book of Will - when I was just starting to understand my own play and how to make it the richest, most complex and soulful play I could - one of my favorite actors in America changed one word of my play.

    Handsomely. The Book of Will. Well. She didn't change the word itself, but she changed her delivery of it. And with that one instinct she changed my whole play. The word was "handsomely," and the actor was Jennifer LeBlanc, a graduate of the Denver Center's own National Theatre Conservatory.

    During a scene where our trio of heroes (John Heminges, Henry Condell and John's daughter Alice - played by Jenn) are discussing what kind of publication their friend William Shakespeare deserved, Jenn's character describes this future book like a strapping young man, and everyone in the scene agrees with her that they want to publish the book "handsomely." But also in this same scene is another character, Isaac (played by Andy Nagraj), who is trying to convince the trio that he can help them publish the works of Shakespeare.

    A jennifer_le_blanc_headshot 160During a rehearsal of this scene Jenn (pictured at right) tried something new and, without any direction from me, turned to Andy and sent her one-word line - "handsomely" - in his direction and with a slight twinkle of flirtation in her delivery. Suddenly her character of Alice wasn't just talking about the book but about this new young man: a smart and thoughtful person who loves theatre as much as she does, who loves Shakespeare as much as she does, who might just share her values and interests. In that moment I saw a part of the play I had never noticed before: A simple love story.

    American Theatre on Gunderson and LeBlanc's previous work

    For the past months I have been developing this subplot in the play and so enjoyed watching both Jenn and Andy subtly plant clues of their character's love throughout the production.

    Jennifer LeBlanc. Photo by John MooreThe mutual interest of Alice and Isaac isn't overt or ruddily operatic in the play, but it allows me to echo the other love stories in the play like those between the main character John and his wife Rebecca, between Shakespeare and the "Dark Lady" to whom he dedicated his sonnets, and between the men and their lost friend Will. It's a simple, fun, and rosy addition that I would have lost without Jenn's great insight and improvisation.

    This is one of those amazing moments in the creation of a new play where one actor's instinct - in this case with a single word! - influences the entire play. This is why theatre is such a collaboration at heart. It only exists with the mutual brainpower and bravery of a group of talented and complimentary people working together to discover a story's best self. We are finding moments like this in every rehearsal of The Book of Will here at Denver, and I truly cannot wait to share it with you. Because the final element of this production is - of course - you.

    The audience completes the collaboration by offering the heart and histories you bring with you when you walk in the theater. Our story is yours, just as Jenn's instinct became mine. We all affect, challenge, and exhilarate each other. And isn't that the great magic and power of theatre.

    (Photo above and right: Jennifer LeBlanc at first rehearsal for 'The Book of Will.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    About our Guest Columnist

    A Book of Will Lauren Gunderson 160Lauren Gunderson is a playwright, screenwriter and short story author from Atlanta, GA. She received her BA in English/Creative Writing at Emory University, and her MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch, where she was also a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. She was named the most produced living playwright in America by American Theatre Magazine in 2016, was awarded the 2016 Lanford Wilson Award from the Dramatist Guild, and was awarded the prestigious 2014 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for her play, I and You(also a Susan Smith Blackburn Blackburn and John Gassner Award finalist). Her Play Silent Sky will be presented by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company from April 6-30 at The Dairy Arts Center in Boulder. 

    Editor's Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers a regular guest column from local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

    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:
    Five things we learned at 'The Book of Will' opening rehearsal
    '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?

    Selected previous NewsCenter Guest Columns:
    Students Aleksandra Kay and Alice Zelenko on The Secret Garden in NYC
    Student Nik Velimirovic on A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
    Douglas Langworthy: On translating Shakespeare for Oregon Shakespeare Festival
    David Nehls: Live theatre returns to Elitch Gardens after 24 years
    Gillian McNally: Colorado's oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
    Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn't add up
    Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
    Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver

    Photo gallery: The Book of Will in Denver

    '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. 
  • The Book of Will: Just who were all the King's Men?

    by John Moore | Dec 15, 2016

    By Douglas Langworthy
    DCPA Literary Director and Director of New Play Development

    The Book of Will Richard Burbage In 1613, William Shakespeare retired his pen and moved back to Stratford, where his wife and daughter had carried on for years without him while he devoted himself to his London “family” — the theatre. When he died three years later, he left in his will a telling bequest: 26 shillings and eightpence each to Richard Burbage, John Heminges and Henry Condell to buy mourning rings in his memory.

    But who were these three men and why did Shakespeare care that they remember him?

    The Book of Will has always been about the power of friendship, and those rings are the perfect symbol of it," said playwright Lauren Gunderson. "We don’t have many details about who Shakespeare was, but this fact is one of them: that he bequeathed mourning rings to his core group of friends on his death. It was an unique tradition in Elizabethan times that let me imagine the kind of love, respect and cherished intimacy of this special group of men.”

    (The illustration above and right shows Costume Designer Camille Assaf's sketch for Richard Burbage.)

    William Shakespeare was the house playwright for The King’s Men (formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain’s Men), an acting company that included legendary actor Burbage, as well as Heminges and Condell, actors who are best known as the masterminds behind the First Folio, the book that immortalized Shakespeare’s plays.

    Burbage, Heminges and Condell figure prominently in The Book of Will, a DCPA Theatre Company world premiere opening Jan. 13 in the Ricketson Theatre. Several years after Shakespeare’s death, and immediately following the death of Burbage, Heminges and Condell realized that if they didn’t act soon, many if not all of Shakespeare’s plays could be lost in the wake of history. Both men dropped everything to devote themselves exclusively to locate and edit the scripts, and then have them printed in a single, majestic volume. Their instincts were correct: if not for their tireless devotion to the plays and their love for their friend Will, we would have lost half of the plays that today make up his canon.

    So why were these men so dedicated to each other? Why were Heminges and Condell willing to give up two years of their lives to make sure their friend’s words lived on? First of all, by the time Gunderson’s play starts, the four men had been working together in the same acting company for more than 20 years. In that time, Shakespeare had written 38 plays for The King’s Men, affording Burbage the chance to create the roles of Hamlet, Othello, Richard III and King Lear for the first time. And conversely, Shakespeare got to create those monumental characters with Burbage’s prodigious talents in mind.

    Gunderson imagines this group of theatre artists as visionaries: “They invented theatre as we know it today — not just the plays but the experience of seeing a play. When my play introduces them, they are seasoned experts with great acclaim, but at their hearts I see them as the same scrappy, creative, rebellious band of ‘upstart crows’ they must have been when they were young.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    All four men were shareholders in The King’s Men, which meant they were financially invested in the company’s operations and able to cash in on the theatre’s profits. Yes, Shakespeare’s theatre was a for-profit enterprise run chiefly by its actors. Given that Shakespeare was the most popular playwright in London at the time, business for The King’s Men was brisk. This meant that instead of being starving artists, these shareholder-actors became modestly wealthy. In fact, when The Globe burned down in 1613, the company was able to afford an expensive rebuild, even replacing the thatched roof with tile. Conveniently, the actors wouldn’t have had to go far to grab a drink after a show, as Heminges, who was a grocer by trade, also ran the ale house just outside the entrance to the theatre.

    A The Book of Will QuoteThe King’s Men were a well-knit community with many of them marrying each other’s family members and, in some cases, widows of other company members. In fact, John Heminges married Rebecca Knell (also a character in the play), the widow of the actor William Knell, who was killed by another actor while on tour near Oxford. Some speculate that this job opening gave Shakespeare his first acting job. Heminges and Condell lived very close to each other in the London parish of St. Mary of Aldermanbury, their children grew up together, and the two men were married and buried at the same church. Shakespeare lived just around the corner. They all lived a short walk from their two performance venues: the open-air Globe Theatre or the indoor Blackfriars Theatre.

    Video: Our interview with Lauren Gunderson:


    Our video interview with DCPA commissioned playwright  Lauren Gunderson, author of 'The Book of Will.'


    A sign of his generosity, when Richard Burbage inherited The Blackfriars Theatre, he allocated equal shares of it to all of the existing shareholders of The Globe with no fee. With the addition of the much smaller, indoor Blackfriars, the King’s Men became the first company to operate two theatres under a seasonal model — Globe in the summer and Blackfriars in winter. The audiences of the Blackfriars were vastly different from that of the Globe, which attracted a wide spectrum of social classes. Audiences at the smaller and pricier Blackfriars were more affluent and women attended in greater numbers, which could have been why Shakespeare wrote some of his strongest female characters at this time.

    “It is quite clear,” Gunderson points out, “from Shakespeare’s own portrayal of women in his plays that he must have known some incredible ladies in his time. The women are complex and thoughtful and layered and emotional and human. I wanted to believe that he was inspired by the women around him and his comrades, so I wrote the coolest, wisest and strongest women I could imagine to pair with the heroes in The Book of Will.”

    If not for the love these men felt for each other and their work, Condell and Heminges might have given up somewhere along the way before reaching the finish line. But the love expressed in those mourning rings got doubled down by the two friends with the publication of the First Folio. 

    And the rest, as they say, is history.

    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, 2017
    Ricketson Theatre
    Written by Lauren Gunderson
    Directed by Davis McCallum
    303-893-4100 or ONLINE TICKETING

    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


  • 2016 True West Award: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski

    by John Moore | Dec 06, 2016
    True West Awards Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski Lost Creatures


    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 3:
    Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski

                      Presented by Henry Award-winning actor Maggy Stacy

     

    His name is Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski. But you can call him by his initials: PEZ. It just seems to fit. Like the classic candy, he’s sweet, colorful, spreads joy – and is seemingly dispensed all over the world. Or at least throughout the Denver Center and surrounding theatre community.

    The DCPA’s Associate Director of Education is a master teacher, educator and administrator who also found time this fall to direct And Toto Too Theatre Company’s world premiere of the play Lost Creatures. Local playwright Melissa Lucero McCarl imagined what might have happened in 1978 when eminent British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan interviewed reclusive silent-film star Louise Brooks in her dingy apartment for a profile he was writing for The New Yorker. North Denver Tribune critic Craig Williamson said Elkins-Zeglarski “took the roots of the concept and watered it, fed it, nurtured it, and let it grow and fully blossom.”

     

    True West Awards Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski SonderElkins-Zeglarski’s day job is helping DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous run every aspect of a massive program that has provided access to nearly 106,000 students in the past year, of which 84,000 were youth.

    Last summer, he directed Sonder (pictured right), the winning entry in the DCPA’s third annual statewide teen playwriting competition. This week, he is overseeing one of the entries in the DCPA’s Adult One-Act Festival. This winter, he will lead the DCPA’s highest-level adult acting masters class, which will culminate in a public performance of Born Yesterday. Next summer, he will direct advanced high-school students in a production of Our Town.

    Elkins-Zeglarski was born in Sacramento and began working at the DCPA as a Teaching Artist in 2000. He is as gentle with a beginning actor, Watrous says, as he is with a seasoned pro like Colorado Theatre Guild Lifetime Achievement winner Billie McBride (DCPA Theatre Company's Benediction), who starred in Lost Creatures alongside 2015 True West Award winner Mark Collins and Annabel Reader.  

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Watrous said it is Elkins-Zeglarski’s authenticity that allows him to connect with artists of every experience level.

    “Truly, he leads with humor, grace and generosity,” Watrous said. “Our DCPA Education team is so joyful, and he is at the center of that joy. He provides an ear for every one of our teaching artists, and he is an example for how each of us can grow in our artistry. Everybody is better because PEZ is in the room.

    “Plus, he decorates our hallways for holidays. He brings that kind of joy to work with him every day. And, he owns more PEZ paraphernalia than anyone.”

    True West Awards Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski


    Elkins-Zeglarski's name was brought up for True West Award consideration by 2016 Henry Award-winning Denver actor Maggy Stacy. Elkins-Zeglarski directed Stacy in a short piece for And Toto Too Theatre Company’s fun annual play crawl along six blocks of Tennyson Street last summer. The event raised funds for one of the only theatre companies in the country that is fully dedicated to telling stories written by women. Elkins-Zeglarski also has furthered the cause of storytelling by women with his work on the Athena Project’s past three new-works festivals – in 2016, 41 performances by women playwrights over 38 days.

    “Patrick has been an artist, educator, director and mentor for many of us in Denver,” said Stacy. “His ethics are unwavering. His artistic approach is based on high values and quality standards. And his work supports and empowers his fellow artists and teaching artists.”

    Stacy nominated Elkins-Zeglarski for a True West Award, she said, “because Patrick rarely gets recognized for his commitment and efforts. But the impact of his contributions has had, and continues to have, a mighty rippling effect.”


    Our video report from the culminating performance of DCPA Education's statewide teen playwriting competition last summer. The winning entry was given a full performance directed by Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski.

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
    The True West Awards, now in their 16th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    THE 2016 TRUE WEST AWARDS
    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride
  • In the Spotlife: Austin Terrell of 'A Krumpus Story'

    by John Moore | Dec 01, 2016
    Austin Terrell, left, with the cast of 'A Krumpus Story.
    Austin Terrell, left, with the cast of 'A Krumpus Story': Michael Morgan, Rachel Whyte, Jim Hitzke and Iona Leighton.


    (The DCPA NewsCenter regularly profiles actors performing in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)

    MEET AUSTIN TERRELL

    Nick in Boys Hair Club's 'A Krumpus Story,' a new holiday comedy through Dec. 18 at Buntport Theater.

    • Austin Terrell. A Krumpus StoryHometown: Lubbock, Texas
    • Home now: Denver
    • High school: Lubbock
    • College: Baylor University (Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance)
    • What have you done for us lately? Ajax, Troilus and Cressida for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • What's next? I will be playing Peter in Silent Sky for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • What is A Krumpus Story all about? It's an original, off-color holiday romp that asks questions about knowing yourself, recognizing your own path and living the life you were born to live. We call it an dark holiday comedy for anyone who wants a little more spice in their holiday fare. In our story, Santa is the naughty one and hard justice compliments the figgy pudding. The show is full of surprises, from Elves to Mio, from Lebron James to peppermint balls, from absurd to touching. This show is hilarious, irreverent, and surprisingly moving.
    • What is your role in all of this? Nick is a complex fellow. There is a constant balancing act going on in his head – he’s a master tactician in a very uncertain and wary world. The biggest challenge for me as an actor is not depending on a comedic “bag of tricks” – but instead letting the language and situations inform this dark little comedy.
    • What do you love most about the challenge? When BHC approached me with the opportunity to read for their new holiday show, I was elated. Since the first reading, I’ve felt a connection to this piece, and it’s been a great joy to see it come to fruition. Denver is filled with creative forces like Leigh Miller, Andy Waldschmidt and Sam Provenzano. Getting to dig in with new and collaborative works makes everyone better, more well-rounded and more adventurous in their play.
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? It is not completely unknown, but I am an exceptional chef. I’ve never worked as one professionally – but if I can’t be on stage, I’d rather be in the kitchen. 
    • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? I sincerely believe Denver is in the beginning rumblings of a theatre explosion. I am very, very excited about this community's potential, and I want to be a part of it in every way I can to make it a common ground for new works, activist theatre and heightened performance.

    Troilus and Cressida. Austin Terrell. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Austin Terrell in Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Troilus and Cressida in the summer of 2016. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    A Krumpus Story: Ticket information
    • Written by Leigh Miller, Andy Waldschmidt and Sam Provenzan
    • Through Dec. 18 at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St. 
    • Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays; also 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12
    • Tickets $14
    • Info: Call 303-321-5925 or go to the show's ticketing page

    Cast list:

    • Austin Terrell
    • Michael Morgan
    • Rachel Whyte
    • Iona Leighton
    • Jim Hitzke

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Mark Collins of And Toto Too's Lost Creatures
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet John Hauser of Curious Theatre's Hand to God
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
    Meet Angela Mendez of Beauty and the Beast
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Jane Shirley of Santa's Big Red Sack
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Sharon Kay White of the Arvada Center's I'll Be Home for Christmas

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • DCPA completes field of five New Play Summit playwrights

    by John Moore | Nov 03, 2016



    The DCPA Theatre Company has announced the five playwrights whose works will be featured at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit next Feb. 18-26. The 12th annual festival will feature readings of new works by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Rogelio Martinez, Eric Pfeffinger, Robert Schenkkan, and Lauren Yee.

    Summit PlaywrightsThe Colorado New Play Summit presents readings of new plays over two weeks as the playwrights continue to craft their developing works alongside a full creative team of actors and crew. Audiences also are offered the opportunity to see two fully staged world premiere productions that have emerged from the previous year's Summit. The featured full stagings in February will be The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson and Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist.

    (Pictured above, from left: Rogelio Martinez, Lauren Yee and Robert Schenkkan at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    The Colorado New Play Summit has introduced 48 new plays  in its history, more than half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit world premieres have included Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride (which made its Off-Broadway debut at New York's MCC Theater), Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Eric Schmiedl’s adaptation of Kent Haruf’s Benediction, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    2017 NEW-PLAY READINGS 

    Donnetta Lavinia GraysLast Night and the Night Before
    By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    When 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 Reggie 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. The play was featured in the 2015 National New Play Network's National Showcase of New Plays and won the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest the same year.

    Martinez, RogelioBlind Date
    By Rogelio Martinez

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    Before the advent of Match.com and eHarmony, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev try to build a relationship old school when they sit down to open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Though members of their cabinets try their hardest 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 in this conclusion to Martinez’s Cold War trilogy where “edgy comedy and sudden sorrow intertwine” (American Theatre).Martinez previously wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's world premiere of When Tang Met Laika.

    Human Error
    By Eric Pfeffinger

    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 an uproarious nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships. American Theatre has said, “Pfeffinger’s social conscience is matched by his amazing comic sensibilities” and his new play is no different.

    Schenkkan, RobertHanussen

    By Robert Schenkkan

    A DCPA Theatre Company commission
    In 1930s Berlin, the brilliant mentalist Eric 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. A new drama from Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (All the Way, The 12). Based on true events.

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

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    When 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 Chinese American player Manford spies on his opponents. Inspired by events in her own father’s life, Yee “applies a devilishly keen satiric eye to…her generation (and its parents)” (San Francisco Chronicle).

    Check out our Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    2017 FULLY STAGED WORLD PREMIERES


    Lauren GundersonThe Book of Will
    B
    y Lauren Gunderson

    Developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever! After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the first Folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They’ll just have to borrow, beg and band together to get it done. Lauren Gunderson weaves a hilarious and heartfelt story inspired by the true story of Shakespeare’s First Folio.


     

     
    Tira PalmquistTwo Degrees
    By Tira Palmquist

    Developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    The smallest changes can lead to the biggest impact, and no one knows that better than Emma, a scientist studying climate change in Greenland. Still grappling with the unexpected death of her husband, she is invited to the nation’s capital 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 to make the difference in the world that she’s always wanted.

    The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit

    Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-10, 2017
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26, 2017
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

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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.

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