• Brynn Tucker of 'This is Modern Art': What are we willing to risk?

    by John Moore | Apr 15, 2018
    T This is Modern Art Brynn Tucker. Photo by Adams VisCom
    Rhonda (Brynn Tucker) argues that graffiti belongs outside and not inside on museum walls in Idris Goodwin's 'This is Modern Art,' closing today (April 15) at the Jones Theatre. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    The actor loves anime, stop-motion and now a more controversial variation on the art form: Graffiti, and its history

    MEET BRYNN TUCKER
    05+cut+-+Brynn+Tucker+in+The+Rape+of+the+Sabine+Women+by+Grace+B.+Matthias.+Photo+by+George+LangeBrynn Tucker, who plays Rhonda and other roles in Off-Center's This is Modern Art, made her DCPA Theatre company last year in Frankenstein. Other local credits include the True West Award-winning Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias for Local Theatre Company; Robert Schenkkan's Building the Wall for Curious Theatre and the Aspen Ideas Festival; and  Marcus: The Secret of Sweet for Curious Theatre. Regional credits include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Folger Theatre), The Widow Lincoln, Our Town (Ford's Theatre), A Guide to Dancing Naked* (DC Capital Fringe Festival). 

    • Brynn Tucker QUOTEHometown: Germantown, Maryland
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Rangeview
    • Training: Spelman College and The British American Drama Academy
    • What's your handle? @BrynnPossible on Twitter and Instagram
    • Website: brynnpossible.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Actress and dancer living in the Mile High City. Lover of anime and Adventure Time. Spirit animal is Lumpy Space Princess. Can bust out some black moguls on the ski mountain like a champ. #sostylee!
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be a travel vlogger. Traveling for extended periods of time, where most people don’t know me. Learning new languages is an aspiration of mine. Getting paid for it would be living the dream.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Benjamin Franklin
    • Bucket-list role: I don’t seek out specific roles, they reveal themselves to me and if I’m meant to have them, I take them on.
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Enrique Inglesias. (Baby I STILL like it!)
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I worked on an organic farm in Thailand with no air conditioning or electricity in a bamboo hut. I realized I didn’t know how to grow anything, and I wanted to learn Howa.
    • This Is Modern Art. Brynn Tucker 400.Photo by John MooreOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I’ve always been enamored by Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. The music, story and songs make it a must-watch during the holidays. The darkness, the beauty and the lifelike art of stop-motion animation really catered to my imagination as a child, and still does now as an adult.
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? Evolving theater to be more interactive and engaging than ever before. I think the next generation would appreciate a revolution of some kind. Especially when it comes to their entertainment.
    • What is This is Modern Art about? Idris Goodwin's play recounts the true story of one of the biggest graffiti bombs in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes in a 2010 snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago, raising big questions, including: What is art? Where does it go? And who gets to say so?
    • Why does This is Modern Art matter? It really resonates because it shows a group of young people who were willing to risk everything for something they believe in, something greater than themselves. The right to share your ideas, art, beliefs and even opinions is now under constant scrutiny. You can get into serious trouble if you say the wrong thing. I pose the question: “What are we willing to risk to say or do what we believe is right?”
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing This is Modern Art? I hope they  begin to notice graffiti in their neighborhoods. And that they understand the history and culture so they can make an informed decision for themselves, rather than a one-sided one.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I’ve been thinking about freedom for a while now. I’ve found it’s less about access to what we think we want or deserve. It’s more about your own hero’s journey: Taking up your sword and having the courage to go through life. Love and dragons, you take them all on. I think the ability and the choice to do this is the greatest freedom. Choose your own adventure book EVER!

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Meet Gustavo Márquez of Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

    This is Modern Art at Native Gardens opening

    Some members of the 'This is Modern Art' team attended Friday's opening of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens' on Friday. From left: Chloe McLeod, Brynn Tucker, John Jurcheck, Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller and Jake Mendes. 

  • Video: Your first look at Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art,' opening photos

    by John Moore | Apr 03, 2018
    Video: Your first look at This is Modern Art




    Video above: Your first look at Off-Center's This is Modern Art, written by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval. This proudly controversial play recounts the true story of one of the biggest graffiti bombs in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes in a 2010 snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago.

    The photo gallery below shows photos from the opening-night performance and celebration on March 23, from backstage before the show through the cast party afterward at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver. In attendance was Lisa Portes, who directed the original production of This is Modern Art for Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2015. She is in Denver to direct the comedy Native Gardens, opening April 13 in the next-door Ricketson Theatre. 

    This is Modern Art. Photo by John MooreThis is Modern Art
    runs through April 15 in the Jones Theatre. The cast includes Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurchek, Chloe McLeod, Jake Mendes, Marco Robinson and Brynn Tucker.

    The Scenic Designer is Nicholas Renaud, working with Graffiti Artist Robin Munro, Projection Designer Topher Blair, Lighting Designer Katie Gruenhagen, Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle, Sound Designer Elisheba Ittoop. The Stage Manager is Rick Mireles.

    To read more about the show and its background, click here.

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

    Photo gallery: Opening Night photos and more

    Making of 'This is Modern Art'
    To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery.


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:
    This is Modern Art will make you look
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Meet the cast: Jake Mendes
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This is Modern Art. The set of 'This is Modern Art,' by Scenic Designer Nicholas Renaud and Graffiti Artist Robin Munro. Photo by John Moore.
  • 2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season: In with the old ... and the new

    by John Moore | Apr 01, 2018

    Video overview of the 2018-19 season.


    Coleman's 40th anniversary season includes two world premieres, Tolstoy and an African-American Oklahoma!

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Incoming DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman today announced a 40th anniversary season he believes both honors the company’s past and boldly steps into the future — and in some intriguing examples, at the same time.

    Coleman will return to the company’s roots by presenting its third Rodgers and Hammerstein musical following previous stagings of Carousel and South Pacific. But Coleman is promising a fresh new look at Oklahoma! by telling the beloved story of a spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys from a mostly African-American perspective. Similarly, Coleman will offer adaptations of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife, stories of women overcoming great societal barriers that may strike audiences as remarkably contemporary.

    A Last Night 800 1“It’s incredibly exciting to imagine what you want your first season at an organization to be,” said Coleman, who assumes his full-time Denver duties in May. "This company has long been known as a place where you can do really big, interesting, meaty, dramatic literature. One of the things that's exciting to me is to do something really traditional and then follow that with something that is brand new and edgy. That collision of styles and voices is really juicy to me.”

    Pictured above: Valerie Curtis-Newton, left, will return to again direct 2017 Colorado New Play Summit offering 'Last Night and the Night Before' on the mainstage season. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Coleman covers the traditional-to-edgy gamut with the announcement of both an eight-play Theatre Company season that includes three classics and two world premieres, as well as an innovative five-play slate from the company's adventurous Off-Center wing.  

    nataki-garrettWhen Coleman was named Artistic Director in November, he promised programming that will further the DCPA’s efforts to diversify its audiences, champion local storytelling and give voice to underserved communities. All five of the other mainstage directors he named today are women — and three of the playwrights are women or persons of color. Four if you count Off-Center's commission of a planned immersive hip-hop piece from This is Modern Art co-writer Idris Goodwin.
      

    The mainstage season includes two world-premiere plays: Donnetta Lavinia GraysLast Night and the Night Before, which was featured at the company’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, and Itamar MosesThe Whistleblower. With the exception of A Christmas Carol, which returns for a 26th year, every playwright and source writer (even Tolstoy) will be new to Theatre Company audiences except Nottage, whose Ruined was one of the most celebrated productions in company history In 2011.

    The Off-Center offerings, said Curator Charlie Miller, will complement the Theatre Company season and tell exciting stories in unconventional ways. “From original micro plays to new theatrical experiments to a large-scale immersive hip-hop show, Off-Center will take audiences into unexpected Denver spaces and showcase local artists, stories, and communities,” he said.

    Starting Monday: A daily, deeper dive into 2018-19 season

    The Theatre Company debuted on New Year’s Eve 1979 with The Caucasian Chalk Circle, starring Tyne Daly. Coleman says there is special significance to this being the 40th anniversary season because the company is old enough to have built an significant canon but also young enough to still have staff, artists and audience members who have been here all along — a lot of them.

    "As we step into the next chapter of the Theatre Company’s history, it's inspiring and energizing to look back on the extraordinary body of work that this company has brought to the region over the last 40 seasons," Coleman said. "What's really vivid to me is how many people have been around from Day 1. There are so many people who are really invested in the history and the future of this organization. So, to me, that's worth celebrating. And I view that as a launching pad for me.

    These playwrights and directors are the cream of the crop, and I look forward to the conversations these works will open up with the Denver community."

    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.

    Meet new Theatre Company Artistc Director Chris Coleman


    Chris Coleman 2018-19 season announcement


    2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

    • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre)
    • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre)
    • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre)
    • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre)
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre)
    • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre)
    • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre)
    • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre)

    DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions: New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    2018-19 Off-Center season at a glance:

    • July 11-Aug. 22: Mixed Taste: Tag team lectures on unrelated topics (Wednesdays only, with MCA Denver, Seawell Ballroom)
    • Oct. 23-Nov. 18: Bite-Size: An evening of micro theatre (at BookBar)
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24: The SantaLand Diaries (with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company at The Jones)
    • March 2019: Powered by Off-Center (The Jones)
    • Dates TBA: Untitled Immersive Hip-Hop Show

    Off-Center ticket information: The single ticket on-sale date for all Off-Center productions will be announced at a later time. Subscriptions are not available for Off-Center shows.


    2018-19 THEATRE COMPANY SEASON: Title by title

    (Descriptions provided by DCPA Theatre Company)

    Vietgone

    • Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2016 VietgoneBy Qui Nguyen
    • Original music by Shane Rettig
    • Directed by Seema Sueko
    • Aug. 24-Sept. 30, 2018 (Opens Aug. 31)
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • Glance: This rap-spitting, pop culture-crusted dramedy is an ode to the real-life courtship of Playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents. Forced to leave their country during the height of the Vietnam War, two refugees find themselves at the same relocation camp in Arkansas – the land of Harleys, hot dogs and “howdy!” Before they find their way into each other’s arms, they’ll have to blaze a trail in their weird new world and leave behind the baggage they didn’t pack. Jump on this emotional ride for an adventure that hums with excitement as it hops across time and around the globe through the highs and lows of love.
    • Fun fact: Qui Nguyen is the self-described geeky playwright behind She Kills Monsters, which addressed stereotypes and social issues through the game “Dungeons and Dragons.”

    (Pictured: Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2016 production of 'Vietgone,' courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival.)

    Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

    • Oklahoma!Music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
    • Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
    • Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
    • Directed by Chris Coleman
    • Sept. 7-Oct. 14, 2018 (Opens Sept. 14)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: With a spring in their step and a song in their hearts, cowboys, farmers and travelling salesmen alike have chased their destinies to a land that promises everything they could hope for: love, opportunity and a brighter future. The first collaboration by the legendary team of Rodgers and Hammerstein became a landmark musical for its rollicking music and stunning dance numbers, and this joyful presentation will solidify why it has stood the test of time. New DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman makes his DCPA directorial debut with this production, and he will set the story in one of the 50 all-African-American towns in the early days of the Oklahoma Territory. Discover an overlooked piece of American history as one small community stakes its claim on a place full of hope. The choreographer will be Dominique Kelley, a dancer in the film La La Land and the musical Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.
    • Fun fact: Oklahoma! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre 75 years ago Saturday, and the cast of the Denver-born Frozen marked the anniversary with a curtain-call singalong that you can watch at this YouTube link.

    The Constant Wife

    • The Constant WifeBy W. Somerset Maugham
    • Directed by Shelley Butler
    • Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2018 (Opens Sept. 28)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: As the intelligent, charming housewife of a successful doctor, Constance Middleton cheerfully plays her traditional role. But she knows far more than she’s willing to let on. This cheeky satire pokes holes in the expectations of relationships, fidelity and social roles that were just as relevant in the 1920s as they are today. Featuring an infectiously plucky heroine at the helm, The Constant Wife takes joy in the imperfections of life and applauds those who elude the strict confines of society to discover true happiness. DCPA alum Shelley Butler (Human Error, The Most Deserving) returns to direct this contagious comedy.Fun fact: Variety calls Maugham’s protagonist “a perverse protofeminist — and an antecedent to the women of “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City.”

    A Christmas Carol

    • Sam Gregory A Christmas Carol. By Charles Dickens
    • Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    • Music by David de Berry
    • Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    • Nov. 21-Dec. 24, 2018 (Opens Nov. 29)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, the Theatre Company’s joyous and opulent seasonal offering now in its 26th year traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Note: This is an added attraction, not part of the Theatre Company subscription season.
    • Fun fact: Denver favorite Sam Gregory is scheduled to return for a third time as Scrooge.

    Last Night and the Night Before (world premiere)

    • Summit. Last Night. Donnetta By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
    • Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens January 25)
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • Glance: When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it shakes up Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble and brings their family’s Southern roots with her, grabbing hold of Rachel’s life more ferociously than she could have ever imagined. Poetic, powerful and remarkably funny, Last Night and the Night Before play explores the struggle between the responsibilities that are expected of us and the choices we actually end up making.
    • Fun fact: This play was featured in the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Its original title was simply, Sam. The new title references a line from the children’s game "Last night and the night before, I met my baby at the candy store."


    Anna Karenina

    • TC-web-Season-Ann-400x3003By Kevin McKeon, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
    • Directed by Artistic Director Chris Coleman
    • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Feb. 1)
    • Stage Theatre
    • Glance: Love holds the power to bind us together or tear us apart, and no one knows better than Countess Anna Karenina. As a noblewoman and socialite, her glamorous lifestyle shrouds her unhappy marriage. But everything changes when she meets the dashing army officer Count Vronsky. She risks her social status, marriage, friends and family for the thrill of forbidden love. Anna Karenina uses the romantic backdrop of Tsarist Russia to tell a turbulent tale of passion and betrayal, dreams chased and lost, and the consequences of getting swept off your feet. Helmed by Artistic Director Chris Coleman, this lush, modern adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece brings the opulent setting and heart-wrenching story to life.
    • Fun fact: The play was made into a 2012 movie adapted by Tom Stoppard and featuring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.


    The Whistleblower (world premiere)

    • itamarmoses whistleblowerBy Itamar Moses (pictured right)
    • Directed by TBA
    • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019 (Opens Feb. 15)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: For screenwriter Eli, an offer to finally create his own TV show should be the ultimate culmination of his goals, but instead shocks him into wondering why he had those dreams in the first place. Armed with a new sense of spiritual clarity, he sets out on a quest to serve up some hard truths to his coworkers, family, exes and friends. What could possibly go wrong? A lively world premiere about the lies we tell to protect ourselves  and how the tiniest gestures can have deep impact on those around us. Written by Itamar Moses, the award-winning author of the musical The Band’s Visit, currently on Broadway.
    • Fun facts: The Whistleblower was first introduced as a staged reading at South Coast Repertory’s 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, Calif. — alongside Vietgone. Also, Moses was an Executive Story Editor for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

    Sweat

    • TC-web-Season-Ann-400x3004By Lynn Nottage
    • Directed by Nataki Garrett
    • April 26-May 26, 2019 (Opens May 3)
    • Space Theatre
    • Glance: For the people of poverty-stricken Reading, Pa., work is so much more than a paycheck – it’s the glue that holds the town together. The floor of their central factory is where lifelong friendships are made, where love blossoms and where family members work side-by-side. But as layoffs become the new norm and a cheaper workforce threatens the viability of the local union, the threads that once kept the community together begin to fray. Sweat is an “extraordinarily moving drama,” said The New York Times, that powerfully contrasts life’s happiest highs with the heart-wrenching struggles of survival. Using warm humor and deep empathy, this 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner from Lynn Nottage (Ruined) paints a moving portrait of today’s working-class America in decline.
    • Fun fact: Nottage developed her play through interviews with actual former steelworkers in Reading.

    2018-19 OFF-CENTER SEASON: Title by title

    Mixed Taste: Tag team lectures on unrelated topics

    • Mixed Taste Aug 9Co-presentation with MCA Denver
    • July 11-Aug. 22, 2018 (Wednesdays only)
    • Seawell Ballroom
    • Glance: Returning for a second summer series, even mismatched subjects find common ground in this fun lecture forum that can go pretty much anywhere. Two speakers get 20 minutes each to enlighten you on unrelated topics, but can’t make any connections to each other. Ideas start to blend afterward, when audience members ask questions to both speakers and anything goes.
    • Fun fact: One clever example from last year’s series: “Wild West mail delivery and post-conceptual art.” Last year’s series emcee Suzi Q. Smith wrote a poem during each performance and read them at the end of every evening.
     

    Bite-Size: An evening of micro theatre

    • 2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS Gary Grundie Meridith C. GrundeiCreated and directed by Meridith Crosley Grundei
    • Oct. 23-Nov. 18, 2018
    • At BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St.
    • Glance:
    • Bite-Size brings you five short plays with bookish twists performed in and around BookBar, an independent bookstore and wine bar in the Tennyson Street Arts District. Grab tapas and drinks between the short performances of original works by Colorado-based artists. There is no better way to see a variety of local playwrights and performers in one place. Whether you’re a theatre geek, a bookworm or on the hunt for an off-beat night out, this evening will leave you eager to crack into a fresh hard-cover and dream up some tales of your own.
    • Fun fact: Director Meridith Grundei, a 2017 True West Award winner, packed up a used R.V. and hit the road with her husband and daughter in 2017 to travel the United States and Mexico for a year.


    The SantaLand Diaries

    • A Santaland Diaries Michael BouchardCo-presentation with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • By David Sedaris, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
    • Directed by Stephen Weitz
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018 (Opens Nov. 25)
    • The Jones Theatre
    • Glance: This acclaimed one-man show is based on David Sedaris’ best-selling memoir about his curmudgeonly experience working as a Macy’s SantaLand elf, once again featuring Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge as David, and his devilish Macy’s persona, Crumpet the Elf. Think holiday shopping is brutal? Try being on the receiving end of Macy’s SantaLand madness in a pair of pointy shoes. This twisted tale is the cure for the common Christmas show and the perfect excuse to take a break from it all.
    • Fun fact: 2018-19 will mark the 10th anniversary of BETC’s annual holiday staging, the last seven in partnership with Off-Center. That will equal The Bug Theatre’s run of 10 seasonal The SantaLand Diaries starring Gary Culig.

    Powered by Off-Center

    • March 2019
    • The Jones Theatre
    • Glance: Discover your next favorite Colorado performer as they debut new work at the Denver Center. Off-Center is offering the spotlight to local creators of all kinds as they get their projects off the ground with the support of our team. We’re giving our local artistic community a new place to play and a platform to experiment, engage and excite us all. Performance dates and participating artists to be announced.

    Untitled Immersive Hip-Hop Show

    • Idris Goodwin 160Written by Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Jenny Koons
    • Glance: Following the hit experiential shows Sweet & Lucky and The Wild Party, Off-Center is cooking up its next large-scale immersive adventure. Off-Center has commissioned playwright Idris Goodwin and New York-based director Jenny Koons (Burn All Night at American Repertory Theatre) to create a one-of-a-kind new hip-hop-inspired event. Title, location, dates, and details to be announced.
    • Fun fact: Goodwin is the director and co-writer of This is Modern Art, currently playing through April 15 in The Jones Theatre.

    Note: Due to the nature of live performance, all productions, prices and dates are subject to change.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • In the Spotlife: Jake Mendes of 'This is Modern Art'

    by John Moore | Mar 30, 2018

    Jake Mendes. THIS IS MODERN ARTLakewood native Jake Mendes makes his Denver Center debut in This is Modern Art.'

    Jake Mendes glides from Hedwig glam to graffiti bomber in Off-Center's provocative new play This is Modern Art

    MEET JAKE MENDES
    2016 True West Award winner Jake Mendes, who plays Dose in Off-Center's This is Modern Art, is making his Denver Center debut. The University of Northern Colorado grad just blew the roof off the Aurora Fox starring in Hedwig and The Angry Inch. At the Arvada Center, he recently played Rueben in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Paul in A Chorus Line and he originated the role of Simon in the world premiere musical I'll Be Home For Christmas. Off Broadway, he performed in Bunnicula and Pinkalicious: The Musical. Other New York credits include Xanadu, A Man of No Importance, The Little Dog Laughed, The Normal Heart and The Drowsy Chaperone.

    • Hometown: Lakewood
    • Home now: Denver
    • What's your handle? @_jake_mendes_ on Instagram
    • What have you done for us lately? I played Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Aurora Fox
    • Twitter-sized bio: Portuguese. Virgo. Lactose Intolerant.
    • JAKE MENDES HEDWIG AURORA FOXWhat would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be directing and choreographing. I thrive on the creation of art and collaboration with artistic minds. I feel like I can best contribute to the world around me through theatre and performing arts.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: While it was very fun … I did a spot in a web series where I had to be a hipster bro, introducing my girlfriend to my sex-obsessed, over-sharing parents for the first time.
    • Bucket-list role? I was lucky enough to cross this off of my list earlier this year when I played Hedwig with the incomparable Norrell Moore. So now I’m waiting for someone to cast me as Effie White in Dreamgirls.
    • One seminal experience where you saw greatness play out in front of you: When I saw Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart on Broadway, I had a moment where I truly understood how theatre could immediately affect people in a guttural and primitive way. At the end of the play, people were crying and hugging each other, silent. I realized then that it is truly our responsibility and privilege as performers to send our stories to people’s hearts and souls. We won’t be able to determine how they’ll  be received, but we could be the ones to provide an opportunity for an audience member to be transformed in some way.
    • Betty WhoWhat are you listening to on Spotify right now? I’m always listening to Betty Who, but I’m also really into the playlist compiled from the Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It” right now.
    • What is This is Modern Art all about? It's based on the true story of a Chicago graffiti crew that is are willing to risk everything for their art. But when they pulled off the biggest graffiti bomb the city had ever seen, the consequences got real, and it sparked a public debate that asked where art does — and does not — belong?
    • Why does This is Modern Art Matter? This play highlights the fact that art should never be boxed into something specific. Artistic expression means different things to different people. You may like to experience different forms of art, but one will never be better than the other.
    • Jake Mendes THIS IS MODERN ARTWhat do you hope audiences get out of seeing This is Modern Art? At the very least, I hope their eyes will be more open to the beautiful and illustrious street art culture that is exploding in Denver.
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? We need to encourage people to listen, and to be open and honest. Whether you’re listening to a performance, listening to your castmates on stage with you, listening to what your director is saying … listening to your own heart and soul. Listening, honesty and openness all help to foster a sense of trust, which cultivates one’s ability to take risks and create dynamic, life-changing experiences.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Dear Dad, I got my nose pierced… I’ve been keeping it hidden for a few months… sorry.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I’m a certified Pre-Natal and Post Partum Personal Trainer.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:
    This is Modern Art will make you look
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • 'This is Modern Art' will make you look

    by John Moore | Mar 04, 2018
    Making of 'This is Modern Art'

    Above: Our full photo gallery from the making of Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art,' opening March 22. To see more, click on the image above. From left in first photo above: Denver actors Robert Lee Hardy, Jake Mendes and Marco A. Robinson. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter


    Off-Center play starts a provocative conversation about art that controversial Chicago graffiti artists started in snow 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Graffiti crews have been called vandals, criminals — even creative terrorists. What they are is artists, says director, playwright and artist Idris Goodwin. “And in 2009, some of those artists set out to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world.”

    Goodwin, also a full-time associate theatre professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, co-wrote This is Modern Art, a book and now proudly controversial stage play based on an incident when a graffiti crew created a massive tag on the outside of the Art Institute of Chicago’s new, multimillion-dollar Modern Wing. Under cover of snowfall, they painted a 50-foot mural bookended by the words “Modern Art … Made You Look.”

    This explicit challenge of a powerful arts institution drew condemnation, outrage and, from many, celebration.

    "They wanted to have a conversation around art and culture that I don't think otherwise happens,” Goodwin said. "I think fine art has become very apolitical over the years, and that then fosters a certain apoliticism to class. These artists really wanted to have an open conversation about art but, unfortunately, that didn't really happen."

    Instead, the anonymous artists went — and remain — underground. But Goodwin’s co-writer Kevin Coval found them and interviewed them, Studs Terkel-style, for the play.

    This is Modern Art. Idris Goodwin Quote. Photo by John MooreThis Is Modern Art, which will be staged by the DCPA’s Off-Center from March 22 through April 15 in the Jones Theatre, offers a glimpse into the lives of graffiti artists and asks timeless questions about art: What is art — and who gets to say so? It also addresses the competing issues of artistic freedom and private property.

    This is a story, Goodwin added, “that allows the audience to get to know a very particular culture that has its own history, and its own set of morals. It allows them to go along on this ride without actually getting any paint on their hands.”

    Off-Center co-founder and curator Charlie Miller said Goodwin and Coval "take elements of hip-hop culture and put them onstage in a way that is both accessible to an audience who knows nothing about it, and to those who are deeply steeped in that culture. Idris makes the theatre a meeting place for both of those audiences.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Miller said he is “proud to be doing this work and engaging the artists who are working on this project. And, most important, to be engaging our audiences in the tough conversation this play brings up.”

    Goodwin knows the Denver Center’s traditional theatregoing audience base will be challenged. That’s the point, he said. 

    “I have this fantasy where these seniors who are 65 and older come to see the show and suddenly get a late-in-life spark to write graffiti. That's my goal," he said. "If I can get at least three octogenarians thrown in jail after seeing this play, I will have done my job.’ ”

    A THIS IS MODERN ART. Idris Goodwin. Photo by John Moore

    Photo by John Moore.


    Here are five more things we learned at the first rehearsal for 'This Is Modern Art,' followed by the announcement of the all-local cast and creative team:

    NUMBER 1

    Modern Art 800Small world. The world premiere of This is Modern Art was staged at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2015 (pictured right). The director was Lisa Portes, who just happens to arrive in Denver next week to begin work on the Karen Zacarías comedy Native Gardens for the DCPA Theatre Company. The Off-Center production of This is Modern Art is being directed by Goodwin himself. “Idris is a wildly imaginative thinker,” Portes told the DCPA NewsCenter. “He knows the necessity of traditional structure well, and he also pushes against it in order to get to something else. This is Modern Art follows a pretty traditional structure, but its content is quite subversive.” Indeed, the staging was among the most controversial of the past decade. The play was presented as part of Steppenwolf's Young Adult Series, and critics at the city’s two major daily papers bashed the morality of the piece. "There was a bit of a kerfuffle to say the least," Goodwin said with a laugh. "For critics, the question became, 'How dare you glorify anyone who challenges the law?' To which we said: 'Thank you for making us the N.W.A. of theatre,' " referring he said, to the polarizing gangsta-rap pioneers. Goodwin says he considers the scathing review by Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times to be among his most prized possessions. "It reads like it is right out of the 1930s," he said. "I kept waiting for the words 'Reefer Madness' to appear." A social media backlash accused the Chicago critics of being out of touch.

    NUMBER 2This is a heist! In writing the play, Goodwin and Coval were inspired by the film Man on Wire, which chronicles Philippe Petit's renegade 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. “It's a documentary, but it feels like a heist film,” Goodwin said. A heist film is a kind of crime film that focuses on the planning, execution and aftermath of a theft. “And that was the play we wanted to write,” Goodwin said.

    NUMBER 3Crushing it. The Jones Theatre will be transformed into an abandoned warehouse that serves as the primary location for the story. The theatre walls will be covered in layers of graffiti, while the actual tag at the Art Museum will be depicted through a real-time animated projection so that the actors don’t actually paint during the performance. “It's going to be really exciting,” said Scenic Designer Nicholas Renaud. Projection Designer Topher Blair has been consulting and collaborating with graffiti artist Robin Munro, founder of Colorado Crush, Colorado’s largest independent annual graffiti event that has transformed the two-block alleyway in RiNo now known as “Art Alley.” 

    Read more: Is graffiti modern art ... or urban terrorism?

    NUMBER 4Opening doors and minds. There will be eight student matinee performances of This is Modern Art, Miller said, “because the questions this play asks are really important, particularly for high-school students. This play really lifts up these artists, who are people we don't normally get to see on a stage.” There also will be a facilitated talkback after every student matinee to further the conversation. "We're really excited that every student who comes will get to really get to dig deep into the themes and questions of the play as part of their experience,” Miller said.

    NUMBER 5The more you know. If you are interested in the rich history of Chicago graffiti art and the story behind This is Modern Art before you attend the play, you can order the source book from Haymarket Books. “We wanted to do something different than just an acting edition of the play,” Goodwin of the book, which includes a foreword by Lisa Yun Lee, Director of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "This play is about more than just this particular art crime,” Lee wrote. “ It is also about an ongoing kind of crime perpetrated by the powerful against those in the margins, a more universal history of oppression that takes place through the prescription of what is beautiful.” It is available in paperback ($11) or e-book ($6) form here. And you can read the foreword here.

    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.


    This is Modern Art
    : Cast and creatives

    This is Modern Art Cast. Photos by John Moore

    Clockwise from top left, actors John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Robert Lee Hardy, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson. Photos by John Moore, filtered by Prisma. 

    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Scenic Designer: Nicholas Renaud
    • Costume Designer: Meghan Anderson Doyle
    • Lighting Designer: Katie Gruenhagen
    • Sound Designer: Elisheba Ittoop
    • Projection Design: Topher Blair
    • Graffiti Artist: Robin Munro
    • Dramaturg: Kristin Leahey
    • Stage Manager: Rick Mireles
    • Casting: Grady Soapes

    Cast:

    • Robert Lee Hardy (DCPA Education’s The Snowy Day, Vintage Theatre’s A Time To Kill) as Seven
    • John Jurcheck (Curious Theatre Company’s Hand To God, DCPA Theatre Company’s Jackie & Me) as Ensemble
    • Chloe McLeod (Miners Alley Playhouse’s Fun Home, DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Selena
    • Jake Mendes (Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, DCPA Debut) as Dose
    • Marco Robinson (Miners Alley Playhouse’s Fun Home, Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Jose Clemente/JC
    • Brynn Tucker (Local Theater Company’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein) as Ensemble

    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances March 22-April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Idris Goodwin:
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art
    Video: Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band


    About Off-Center

    As the most unconventional line of Denver Center programming Off-Center specializes in unexpected experiences such as Sweet & Lucky, the first large-scale immersive show in Denver; and The Wild Party, a decadent, 360-degree party set in the Roaring '20s. An Off-Center show is like no other theatre experience — by design. Off-Center focuses more on connecting people and upending expectations than on adhering to tradition. Off-Center wants you leaving a show thinking, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

    Cast and creatives for 'This is Modern Art' on the first day of rehearsal. Photo by John Moore.Cast and creatives for Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art' on the first day of rehearsal Feb. 27. Photo by John Moore.
  • It's called 'micro-theatre,' and it's the next big thing in theatre

    by John Moore | Jan 03, 2018
    Meridith Grundei, shown performing in 'Sweet and Lucky' in 2016, will head Off-Center's new 'micro-theatre' project

    Meridith Grundei, shown performing in 'Sweet & Lucky' in 2016, will head Off-Center's new 'micro-theatre' project. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    DCPA’s Off-Center is accepting submissions of original short plays and performance pieces from Colorado artists.

    Off-Center, the Denver Center's most unconventional line of programming, is seeking submissions of original short plays and performance pieces by Colorado artists for production. The deadline to submit is March 5.

    Charlie Miller quoteEach of the five chosen works will be awarded $1,000 and produced as part of an evening of "micro theatre" that will run for 24 performances at BookBar in October and November 2018.

    “Micro-theatre is essentially short pieces with incredibly intimate audiences of just 10 to 15 people," said Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller. "It's a unique approach to performance that is popular internationally, and we are excited to bring the format to Denver,”

    This event is conceived and will be led by newly named 2017 True West Award winner Meridith Grundei, who also was featured as one of Westword’s 2017 Colorado Creatives. Grundei recently directed Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage for The Catamounts in Boulder. That was a blood-pumping, leather-clad, sexy-weird gypsy-punk musical take on the ninth-century epic poem. She also has recently appeared in Off-Center's immersive Sweet & Lucky and the DCPA Theatre Company's Frankenstein. Last summer, she played Curtis in Colorado Shakespeare Festival's The Taming of the Shrew.

    "Meridith was inspired by the micro theatre she experienced in Mexico," Miller said. "Her passion was infectious, and it was clear that this format would be a perfect fit for Off-Center as a different kind of site-specific theatrical experience."

    Read about Meredith Grundei's 2017 True West Award

    Miller is also looking forward to the ways this project will engage the larger Denver artistic community.

    "In addition to Colorado-based playwrights and creators, Off-Center also plans to hire all performers and other collaborators locally," Miller said.

    This evening of micro theatre will feature five short original works by local artists. It will be performed environmentally at BookBar, with each piece performing in a different indoor or outdoor space simultaneously. The evening will accommodate around 70 audience members; groups of ten at a time will see each piece in different orders. During scheduled breaks between performances, audiences will drink wine, eat tapas and socialize.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Presenting these new works in a non-traditional setting also created the opportunity for a new partnership between Off-Center and BookBar, a community bookstore and wine bar that features a highly curated selection of titles for all ages.

    "BookBar is a local business we admire," Miller said. "They regularly host literary events that bring the community together over food and wine and we can’t wait to activate their spaces with new stories by Colorado creatives,” Miller said.

     

    Submission Guidelines

    Submissions must:

    • Be original, unpublished works that have not been previously produced. Writers/creators must have sole rights to all matters contained within the piece.
    • Be written/created by a Colorado resident
    • Have a run time of between 10 and 15 minutes, and be no more than 30 pages
    • Feature no more than three performers
    • Reference or relate to a work of literature
    • Take place in a location where there are books (a library, book store, living room, etc.)
    • Have simple technical and production needs
    • Be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. on March 5 at dcpa.today/micro

    Performance pieces that incorporate different art forms (dance/movement, music, visual art, etc.) are also encouraged to apply. To propose a non-scripted interdisciplinary work, please submit a written description of the work and include imagery or links to video to help convey your ideas.

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts provides equal opportunities to all applicants without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, age, or disability. Applicants must be age 16 or older.

    Formatting Guidelines

    • Scripts must be typed in a generally accepted play-style format, with 12-point font and must be page-numbered. We will only accept PDF documents.
    • The first page/title page must contain ONLY the title of the piece. Do not put the author’s name anywhere on the manuscript.

    Other Rules

    • We will only accept one submission per person
    • Scripts/proposals not in compliance will not be considered
    • By submitting, you give DCPA Off-Center the rights to produce and perform the work in 2018. You agree (if selected) to collaborate with our team through the rehearsal and production process.
    • Winners are encouraged to make changes to their scripts through the development and rehearsal process, in collaboration with the production team.
    • The selection committee has the sole discretion over the manner in which the works are judged, and its determination of the winners will be final

    Selection Process

    Submissions will be reviewed blindly by a selection committee comprised of members of the DCPA staff and associated artists. All applicants will be notified via email in April 2018 and winners will be announced publicly at a later date.

    Questions? Email offcenter@dcpa.org

  • 2017 True West Award: Composer and Music Director David Nehls

    by John Moore | Dec 29, 2017
    2017 True West Award David Nehls

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 29: David Nehls

    Composer and Music Director
    I’ll Be Home for Christmas

    Killer Wigs from Outer Space

    The Wild Party

    Mommie Dearest

    A Midnight Clear

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Composer David Nehls had four new musicals in various stages of development over the past 12 months.

    Wait, wait. Let me repeat that:

    Composer David Nehls had FOUR NEW MUSICALS in various stages of development over the past 12 months.

    It’s nearly incomprehensible to think that one composer based here in Colorado could have that much new musical material gestating out there in the theatre world all at once. And all four of his musicals got staged and seen, in some form or other, in three states.

    And that doesn’t even include his musical direction of someone else’s musical: Nehls made his Denver Center debut in 2017 by taking on Off-Center’s full-flapper cannonball dive into immersive theatre with The Wild Party, a truth-in-title Jazz Age musical that was staged under The Hangar at Stanley in Aurora.

    Joan_CrawfordLadies and gentlemen, this is David Nehls’ moment. And his moment includes brain-eating parasites, unapologetic holiday sentiment and partnerships with none other than the daughter of Joan Crawford (pictured at right) and a star of Broadway’s Rock of Ages.

    Maybe we should go back to the beginning of the year.

    Nehls began 2017 by bravely leaving the safe embrace of his 12-year artistic home at the Arvada Center, where he supervised the music for about 45 mainstage productions. And he went out on top: His final project there was one of his own: The Arvada Center premiered Nehls’ I’ll Be Home for Christmas, a familiar holiday throwback with a little bit of bite. He ended 2017 premiering a purely joyful holiday commission called A Midnight Clear: A Musical Tale of Christmas at Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston, where Nehls’ writing partner, Kenn McLaughlin, is the Artistic Director.

    "The work that David is doing is really vital for the future of the American musical,” said Denver's Robert Michael Sanders, who traveled to Houston to be the assistant director A Midnight Clear. "Because without people like David continuing to take these big risks and write this new stuff, we’ll continue to just perform The Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast into the next century."

    Here’s a quick look at Nehls' four very different new musicals in 2017:

    A David Nehls 800


    I’ll Be Home for Christmas

    • World premiere at the Arvada Center
    • Nov. 18-Dec. 23, 2016
    • Written with: Kenn McLaughlin
    • At a glance: Set in 1969, the Bright family prepares for their annual Christmas variety show, always one of the most-watched national TV events of the year. As the telecast approaches, they welcome their eldest son home from the Vietnam war. The former teen idol is now a decorated hero but deeply challenged by his return to civilian life in front of the cameras.

    Killer Wigs from Outer Space

    • Workshop staging at the University of Colorado Boulder on Dec. 5-6, 2016. Fully presented at the New York Musical Festival from July 10-16, 2017
    • Written with: Zac Miller
    • At a glance: This “hair-raising rock opera” is the story of a carnival handyman named Orville who is attacked by a galactic, brain-eating parasite. The alien transforms Orville into "a rock ’n roll prophet for peace with out-of-this-world hair." We follow Orville on his epic operatic journey to save our world. The New York cast featured Mitch Jarvis, who starred in Broadway’s Rock of Ages.

    Mommie Dearest

    • Presented as a reading on Sept. 1, 2017, at Out of the Box Theatrics in New York
    • Written with: Christina Crawford
    • At a glance: This is the musical stage adaptation of Crawford’s shocking, bestselling memoir about growing up as the adopted daughter of Joan Crawford. The focal point of the stage story, written in full collaboration with Christina Crawford, is the famous actor’s will, which disinherits her two eldest adopted children. The plot becomes the coming-of-age story of the brother-sister pair who try to remain family as various obstacles force them down different paths.

    A Midnight Clear: A Musical Tale of Christmas

    • True West Award David Nehls Megan Van De Hey A Midnight Clear HoustonNov. 8-Dec. 24, 2017
    • Stages Repertory Theatre, Houston
    • Written with: Kenn McLaughlin
    • At a glance: It’s Christmas Eve 1964, and a snowstorm threatens to cancel a concert hosted by the Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart. But when a mysterious stranger and a stranded motorist arrive at their chapel, the nuns find that the songs of Christmas have far more power than they had imagined. The score combines traditional Christmas songs with Nehls originals including “A Joyful Christmas Noise,” “St. Christopher's Prayer” and “Eyes of a Wandering Stranger.”


    'If regular theatre takes place in three dimensions, then immersive theatre takes place in six.'

    No less impressive than creating those four new works from scratch was tackling the unique challenges Nehls was presented by Off-Center’s staging of The Wild Party, said director Amanda Berg Wilson.

    “First of all, the way the music functions in an immersive-theatre space like The Stanley is a totally different ballgame from how it works in a traditional theatre,” Berg Wilson said. “If regular theatre takes place in three dimensions, then immersive theatre takes place in six. Performing the show environmentally seriously changes how the music is going to play out in your time and space.”

    Imagine a cast of 15 actors playing characters who are attending a drunken, decadent party in a 16,000-square-foot apartment crammed with 200 guests. The live band is stationed in one far corner of the room, but the actors sing and dance and run down tiny aisleways at times more than 100 feet away from the musicians. This was a new performance challenge for actors and musicians alike.

    “David really had to be there to support the actors and to help them develop techniques for how to perform the songs in completely different corners of this massive room and still make it sound blended and lovely,” Berg Wilson said.

    A David Nehls The Wild Party Aaron Vega Jenna Moll Reyes Photo by Adams ViscomAnd Nehls had to abandon his own comfort zone to do that. “After so many years at the Arvada Center doing outstanding, but traditionally presented musical theatre, David had to be willing to go places he had never gone before —  and he was completely game for it,” Berg Wilson said.

    Perhaps no actor has more practical experience working with Nehls than the multiple award-winning Megan Van De Hey, who has performed in nearly two dozen productions under Nehls’ musical supervision since 2005. She even went on the road to Houston with Nehls last month to play the Mother Superior in A Midnight Clear.

    “The one thing that has impressed me the most about David over the years is how much that he, as a composer and lyricist, thinks about the characters and the story and the mood and the ambience — and then he puts all of that into his songs,” said Van De Hey. “He has a very clear concept for every show that he goes into.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    She cited the Arvada Center’s 2012 production of the Cold War musical Chess as an example. “He took every song that was focused on the Russians and filled it with the warmth of violin and cellos,” Van De Hey said. “And anything that had to do with the Americans had more of an electric sound to it. That’s the kind of twist that David adds to everything he does.”

    In recent years, Nehls vigorously joined the now 30-year-old grassroots movement to resurrect the dilapidated old Elitch Theatre summer playhouse that once hosted the likes of Vincent Price, Grace Kelly and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a year-round, functioning crown-jewel of Denver theatre. As a former board member, Nehls got further than anyone else has in 2015 when the old wooden theatre in the Highlands began hosting an annual new-play festival of readings.

    Despite Nehls’ breakout year as a composer in 2017, his success in new-musical development is not actually new. Nehls first hit it big back in 2004 with The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which he developed here in Denver with Betsy Kelso before it went on to dozens of productions in New York, Australia, the U.K. and many points in-between.

    Van De Hey was asked how she reconciles the breadth of Nehls’ story subjects, ranging from the sci-fi silliness of Killer Wigs to basking in the show-biz mud to holiday stories geared for traditional theatre audiences.

    From 2014: Nehls' work to save the Historic Elitch Theatre

    “No one who has met David would ever expect him to turn out to be a sentimentalist in any way, shape or form,” said Van De Hey. “But actually, so much of his work is rooted in actual memories from his own childhood.”

    She describes working with him as "insanely collaborative."

    “It’s never been his way or the highway,” she said. "If you are the person who is going to be singing his song, he talks to you. He asks you questions. He asks for your point of view. As a composer, he works with the actor, and you discover the song together. And when David turns a song over to you, he is really turning a piece of himself over to you."

    And that works to everyone's advantage, Sanders said.

    "David is not only furthering his own craft — he’s creating work for the rest of us,” Sanders said on behalf of the hundreds of actors, musicians and other creative personnel who produce musicals in Colorado and around the country.

    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 

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

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 True West Awards: Six set-sational set designs

    by John Moore | Dec 23, 2017

    True West Awards 2017 Scenic Designers 800

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 22: Six set-sational set designs

    Markas Henry, Curious Theatre’s Appropriate
    Roger Hanna, Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s Elephant’s Graveyard
    Lori Rosedahl, OpenStage’s The Flick
    Robert Mark Morgan, Creede Repertory Theatre’s General Store
    Christopher M. Waller, Benchmark Theatre’s Smokefall
    Jason Sherwood, Off-Center’s The Wild Party


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The magical worlds scenic designers conjur on Colorado stages come in all scopes and budget sizes. And in 2017, the challenges thrown their way were thrillingly varied and exhilaratingly executed. Just by way of example:

    • Two Degrees. Robert Mark Morgan. Photo by John MooreRobert Mark Morgan integrated actual panes of slowly melting ice into his set for the DCPA Theatre Company’s world-premiere play Two Degrees (pictured right). Eagle eyes might have noticed the ice slowly dripped throughout every performance to subtly reinforce the play’s climate-change theme.
    • Jonathan Scott-McKean dug a 5-foot grave out of a stage that’s only about 20 feet wide in Miners Alley Playhouse’s A Skull in Connemara.
    • Buntport Theater’s wholly original The Crud was exactly that — A huge pile of cast-off objects, toys and appliances that represented the crud on your floor and the crud in your head and the crud in the world. You know: The crud.
    • And Brian Mallgrave, who so consistently makes magic at the Arvada Center, somehow devised a way for three actors to splash about on water in the mesmerizing The Drowning Girls even though the stage has no drainage — and the entire set had to be regularly cleared to make room for other plays being performed there in repertory.

    And those aren’t even the amazing scenic designs we are focusing on today.

    The True West Awards are not about “bests,” so singling out just one compellingly executed design this year seemed entirely inadequate. So instead, we chose to spotlight six inventions of varying scopes and budget sizes that have just two things in common: The sets are themselves essential characters in all of their stories, and each presented boggling challenges for their creators that begged for playful innovation.

    Please don’t think of these six as comprehensive. They are meant instead to be representative acknowledgements of all scenic designers bringing new worlds to life throughout the Colorado theatre community:

    Curious Theatre’s Appropriate:

    2017 True West Award  Markas Henry. Photo by Michael Ensminger

    • Scenic Designer: Markas Henry
    • Playwright: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
    • Director: Jamil Jude
    • The challenge: It’s not every day a script’s final two pages are entirely instructions for what must happen with the set pieces, lights and sound. The traditional “last word” of the play has been taken out the mouths of actors here and given over instead to Henry, Sound Designer Jason Ducat and Lighting Designer Richard Devin. The story’s setting is an old mansion on a now abandoned, hand-me-down ex-slave plantation. And in a dance of technical synergy, we see the literal crumbling of an old way of life disintegrating into the earth.
    • Markus Henry: “The script calls for a chandelier to crash to the floor, but Jamil wanted to do something that felt a little more final than that. And so, to 'up the ante' a little bit, I came up with the idea that a beam should come down to signify that the house was falling down. It was simple stagecraft involving a rope and pulley, and it was all done manually: No motors and no techno gadgetry. It’s an old-school trick. But we thought that would be a fitting metaphor for ushering in a new sense of humanity. Sometimes it’s good that things come crashing down."
    • Jamil Jude: "Markas took on the Herculean task of making a house collapse on itself every night for six weeks. Most would run away from that challenge, but Markas ran to it and kicked its butt." 


    Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s Elephant’s Graveyard

    2017 True West Award Roger Hanna

    • Scenic Designer: Roger Hanna
    • Playwright: George Brant
    • Director: Garrett Ayers
    • The challenge: The setting of this play is a dirt floor on the grounds of a 1916 circus where witnesses tell us the true tale of the tragic collision between a struggling circus and a tiny town in Tennessee that resulted in the only ever-known lynching of an elephant. And here, that meant covering the stage with 15 metric tons of dirt.
    • Roger Hanna (who doubled as Lighting Director): “Our biggest challenge was how to make our empty space actually look like an empty space. We achieved that by adding mirrors in the windows and extending walls to make the space closed off. Our production manager naturally wondered if we couldn’t just paint the floor brown, rather than shovel in all that dirt. Fortunately, the whole creative team and cast was on board with the dirt, and Jonathan Burns found a way to make it happen. Once the dirt was down, I was concerned with how the actors would know where to stand for each light cue since there’s no way to use spike tape on dirt. But that worry proved unfounded. It was really a joyous collaboration from start to finish, thanks to the smart way Garrett, and the company, and the staff, and the volunteers all embraced the style of the show."



    OpenStage Theatre’s The Flick

    2017 True West Award Lori Rosedahl

    • Scenic Designer: Lori Rosedahl
    • Director: Sydney Parks Smith
    • Playwright: Annie Baker
    • The challenge: The Flick takes place in a dilapidated old movie palace, so it must at once reflect the grandeur of a time gone by, while still making it abundantly clear that time certainly has, in fact, gone by.
    • Sydney Smith: “Annie Baker deals in realism with everything she does, and we wanted our audiences to be able to really smell the mildew and the rancid popcorn butter. Lori started by building a truly lovely movie theatre that she then tore down and deconstructed to make look like it had existed for enough years to become run down. Then her Set Decorater, Starla Kovar, went in and put fake gum under the seats and actually glued popcorn into the seat corners. She also created old puddles of spilled soda and put stains on the rug that no one could really identify."


    Creede Repertory Theatre’s General Store

    2017 True West Award Robert Mark Morgan

    • Scenic Designer: Robert Mark Morgan
    • Director: Christy Montour-Larson
    • Playwright: Brian Watkins
    • The challenge: There’s a monster living under the floorboard of Mike’s faltering general store on the Eastern plains of Colorado. It growls. It shakes the foundation. There’s a pit, a snapping bear trap, lots of rope and tons of crazy light and sound cues. By the end, this violent confrontation between man and metaphor takes a considerable physical toll on the set. Actor Logan Ernstthal calls General Store “a beautiful beast of a play.”
    • Artistic Director Jessica Jackson: "Rob’s designs do everything at once: They tell the story, define a world, and also work beautifully within a repertory season. They embody the transformative, sophisticated, imagination-over-spectacle aspect of rep that defines the Creede Repertory Theatre. What's also great about Rob is that, despite being the smartest guy in the room, he’s also the nicest. He's not just there to design a set. He works like a true ensemble member.” 


    Benchmark Theatre’s Smokefall

    2017 True West Award  Christopher M. Waller

    • Scenic Designer: Christopher M. Waller
    • Playwright: Noah Haidle
    • Director: Rachel Rogers
    • The challenge: Haidle’s modest, magical play tells the story of one family that learns, through the course of generations, that life can change in an instant. Changes to the set at intermission must communicate to the audience in one visually visceral moment that many years have gone by in this same house. You know this because there is now an overgrown apple tree whose branches have infiltrated the house from the outside and are now growing freely throughout several rooms. And in this story, that really means something.
    • Rachel Rogers: “What I love about working with Christopher is his collaborative spirit. One of of my favorite aspects of his Smokefall design is that he gave the kitchen a half wall. That brilliantly helped delineate the house and created a metaphorical nest where the mother at the center of the story continually retreats. His solution for adding the tree into the home after intermission was also inspired, as it continued the theme of magic rather than attempting to be entirely realistic."


    DCPA Off-Center’s The Wild Party:

    2017 True West Award Jason Sherwood

    • Scenic Designer: Jason Sherwood
    • Writers: Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    • Director: Amanda Berg Wilson
    • The challenge: The Wild Party was performed environmentally under The Hanger at Stanley Marketplace. Audiences were first led into a vaudeville-style theatre and then invited to join the performers for a party on the other side of the curtain — which was revealed to be a sprawling Jazz Age, New York apartment. Now, the Hangar is 18,500 square feet. But once you put 15 actors, a band and 200 audience members inside the apartment (with furniture for them to sit on), Sherwood was left with mere nooks and crannies that could be used as viable playing spaces. And it was a musical, so, you know — there's dancing. And as a piece of on-site, environmental theatre: The whole thing had to be built from scratch.
    • Amanda Berg Wilson: "Any time the actors and the audience are all in the same space together, it's a huge challenge for the Scenic Designer. There was nowhere for the actors to perform that was wider than a few feet. But the way Jason did it was brilliant. He really wove these little threads throughout the room so there was never any one obvious place for them to play. Even the aisles were genius. And the way he filled the space and the walls was incredibly detailed. He absolutely ran with the idea that this was a downtown crowd of true bohemians. They were maxilamists, and that was evident in every detail of the set, which Jason saturated with color."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • Study: There's a lot of Denver in Denver Center casts this fall

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2017

    Fall Casting 800 Photos by Adams Viscom

    Survey of DCPA cast lists shows 56 percent of all available jobs this fall have gone to actors who live in Denver area 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    There has been a lot of Denver at the Denver Center this fall. An analysis of cast lists for the eight shows presented since the start of September shows that 56 percent of all actors who have taken to a DCPA stage also call Denver home.

    That doesn’t even include the eight child actors who currently populate the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol. And when you add in all the actors who grew up in Colorado but are now based elsewhere, the number of actors with local connections jumps to 67 percent.  

    “The Colorado acting community is such a multi-talented group, and that is evident in all the amazing work featured across the entire state and on every one of our stages at the DCPA this fall,” said DCPA Director of Casting Grady Soapes.

    The survey includes all homegrown programming offered by the DCPA, totaling 73 adult actor slots. Much of the local infusion this year can be traced to Off-Center’s immersive musical The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, as well as DCPA Cabaret’s newly launched musical First Date at the Galleria Theatre, both of which cast entirely local actors.

    First Date Fall Casting Photo by Emily LozowFirst Date director Ray Roderick, who is based out of New York, is responsible for the longest-running musical in Colorado Theatre history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, also at the Galleria, as well as The Taffetas, Five Course Love and many others. And while he is always empowered to cast actors based anywhere around the country, he almost always fills his Denver cast lists with Denver actors. Why? Because he can, he says.

    (Pictured above and right: Local actors Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson will be taking their 'First Date' through April 22. Photo by Emily Lozow.)

    “There is no question that there is a wealth of talent here in Denver,” Roderick said. “When I work at other regional theatre centers and I choose my cast, I’m often told, 'Well what have they done on Broadway?’ I never get that here at the Denver Center. The fact is, when you are casting a show, what matters is the story, period. And we have beautiful storytellers in Denver. That they happen to live in Denver has nothing to do with their level of talent.”

    It was the Denver Center’s Jeff Hovorka who convinced then-DCPA President Randy Weeks that the first staging of the Galleria Theatre’s Always…Patsy Cline back in 1997 could be effectively cast with local actors. Melissa Swift-Sawyer and Beth Flynn made Denver musical-theatre history when their show ran for three and a half years, only to be surpassed by I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, another all-local show that opened in 2000 and became Denver’s longest-running musical by 2004.

    “The three biggest successes in the Galleria Theatre history, including Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women, all have had local casts,” said Hovorka, now the DCPA’s Director of Sales and Marketing for Broadway and Cabaret. “Denver always has had an incredibly strong talent base, and we are always proud to celebrate the homegrown talent we have in this city.”

    Check out the all-local cast of DCPA's First Date

    The Wild Party Director Amada Berg Wilson, also the founder of a Boulder theatre company called The Catamounts, put 15 local actors to work on Off-Center’s risky plunge into immersive musical theatre, which was attended each night by 200 live party guests.

    “Having an all-local cast is evidence that we really do have the talent right here to pull off a show like this,” said Wilson. “And I think it is great that as the Denver Center continues to experiment with immersive theatre, we are developing a base of talent right here who have the tools and the vocabulary to make this specific kind of work. We are discovering that audiences are really hungry for more of it, and now we have the people here to do it.”

    michael-fitzpatrick-leslie-ocarroll-photo-credit-adamsviscom_24874516748_oThe list of local actors working for the Denver Center this fall spans beloved veterans such as Leslie O’Carroll, who is again playing Mrs. Fezziwig in the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol, to first-timers such as longtime BDT Stage favorite Wayne Kennedy and Adriane Leigh Robinson, who just played Sally Bowles for the Miners Alley Playhouse’s Cabaret.

    (Leslie O'Carroll, right with 'A Christmas Carol' castmate Michael Fitzpatrick, is now the longest-tenured actor in the DCPA Theatre Company.)

    Longtime Galleria Theatre favorites Jordan Leigh and Lauren Shealy, now appearing in First Date, have built sustainable acting careers around steady work at the DCPA, including occasional crossover roles in Theatre Company productions. Shealy, headlined the Lone Tree Arts Center’s summer production of Evita that was nominated for Outstanding Musical by the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards.

    Colorado theatre favorite Steven J. Burge, who joined the Denver Center earlier this year to play none other than God in the long-running Galleria Theatre hit An Act of God, is back in First Date, which runs through April 22. This is a job, Burge says, “that I would not quit even if I won the lottery, because I love it so much.”

    Each May, the Denver Center holds three days of “general auditions” that are open to local actors to sign up for. This year a record 100 union and 275 non-union actors participated, directly resulting in many of the fall hirings.

    Many of the Denver Center’s current crop of actors have tentacles that reach throughout the Colorado theatre community from Creede Repertory Theatre (Diana Dresser and Emily Van Fleet) to Phamaly Theatre Company (Leonard E. Barrett), which exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

    Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge, the two actors playing David in Off-Center’s The SantaLand Diaries, are both company members with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which was co-founded by occasional DCPA Theatre Company actor and Director Stephen Weitz.  

    The Theatre Company’s season-opening production of Macbeth included local playwright Steven Cole Hughes, also a longtime Teaching artist for DCPA Education and graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory. Robert O’Hara’s cast was a Denver Center reunion of sorts that also brought home Colorado natives Gareth Saxe, Erik Kochenberger and Skyler Gallun.

    Skyler GallunSaxe, a graduate of Colorado College and Denver East High School, played Scar for two years on Broadway in Disney’s The Lion King, but his DCPA Theatre Company roots go back to Cyrano de Bergerac in 2001. Kochenberger also graduated from East High School — but his was in Pueblo. Gallun, who previously appeared in Lord of the Flies, led a talkback with students from his alma mater, George Washington High School, after one Macbeth matinee (pictured at right by John Moore).

    DCPA Education head of acting Timothy McCracken, who has recently performed with both BETC (Outside Mullingar) and Local Theatre company (The Firestorm), landed this fall in both the Theatre Company’s Smart People and A Christmas Carol. His Smart People co-star Jason Veasey graduated from Coronado High School in Colorado Springs and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. His many past local credits include playing Jesus in Town Hall Arts Center’s Godspell.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This fall also has brought the launch of DCPA Education’s new Theatre for Young Audiences program. The three-person cast of The Snowy Day who performed Ezra Jack Keats’ beloved story for 19,000 pre-kindergarten through third-graders included longtime DCPA Teaching Artist Rachel Kae Taylor (also an NTC grad with three Theatre Company credits) and Robert Lee Hardy, who was recently seen in Vintage Theatre’s A Time to Kill In Aurora.  

    finalpdheadshots0005-web“This has been an exciting year not only for the local actors but for myself and the DCPA,” Soapes (pictured right) said of his local casting. “The dedication this organization has made to further highlighting the talent we have here in Denver has also deepened our appreciation for the artists who are working hard every day to entertain our audiences —  my hat goes off to them,” he said.

    Soapes said his top priority always will be to cast the best person for every role, regardless of ZIP code.

    “We here at the DCPA are excited to continue to tap further into the local talent pool, open our doors wider and show the entire industry why Denver is a destination for quality theatre,” Soapes 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.

    Grady Soapes Quote


    Denver Center Fall 2017 Casting:

    Macbeth: 17 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Steven Cole Hughes as Doctor of the Psychic/Ensemble)

    Actors from Colorado:

    • Skyler Gallun as Donalbain/Ensemble
    • Erik Kochenberger as Hecate Two/Ensemble
    • Gareth Saxe as Duncan/Ensemble)


    'A Snowy Day. Rachel Kae Taylor, Robert Lee Hardy. Zak Reynolds. Photo by Adams Viscom.The Snowy Day:
    Three actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Rachel Kae Taylor as Archie, Amy, Mom and others
    • Robert Lee Hardy as Peter

    Smart People: Four actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Timothy McCracken
    Actors from Colorado:
    • Jason Veasey

    The Wild Party: 15 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Brett Ambler as Gold
    • Leonard Barrett Jr. as Oscar D’Armano
    • Allison Caw as Sally
    • Laurence Curry as Black
    • Diana Dresser as Miss Madelaine True
    • Katie Drinkard as Mae
    • Trent Hines as Phil D’Armano
    • Drew Horwitz as Burrs
    • Wayne Kennedy as Goldberg
    • Sheryl McCallum as Dolores
    • Jenna Moll Reyes as Nadine
    • Marco Robinson as Eddie Mackrel
    • Emily Van Fleet as Queenie
    • Aaron Vega as Jackie
    • Erin Willis as Kate

    Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women: Three actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Barbara Gehring
    • Linda Klein
    • Amie MacKenzie

    A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 24): 21 adult actor jobs; eight youth jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Sam Gregory as Ebenezer Scrooge
    • Chas Lederer as Swing
    • Kyra Lindsay as Martha Cratchit/Ensemble
    • Chloe McLeod as Swing
    • Timothy McCracken as Ebenezer Scrooge understudy
    • Leslie O’Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig/Ensemble
    • Jeffrey Roark as Jacob Marley/Ensemble
    • Shannan Steele as Ensemble
    • Marco Robinson as Ensemble

    A Michael Bouchard 800The SantaLand Diaries (through Dec. 24): Two actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Michael Bouchard as David
    • Luke Sorge as David understudy
    First Date (through April 22): Eight actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Adriane Leigh Robinson as Casey
    • Seth Dhonau as Aaron
    • Steven J. Burge as Man 1
    • Aaron Vega as Man 2 (Nov. 11-Dec. 3)
    • Jordan Leigh as Man 2 (Dec. 5-April 22)
    • Lauren Shealy as Woman 1
    • Barret Harper as Male Understudy
    • Cashelle Butler as Female Understudy
  • Video: Take a deeper visual dive into Off-Center's 'The Wild Party'

    by John Moore | Nov 01, 2017

     

    We didn't want to give away too much of the visual surprise while the show was going on, but now that The Wild Party has ended, here's a closer video look at Off-Center's deep dive into immersive theatre at Stanley Marketplace.

    Much like last year's Sweet & Lucky, The Wild Party transported audience members to a different era as guests at a decadent, 360-degree party set in the Roaring Twenties. There they mingled with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Amid all that, a scripted musical played out in which the debauchery turned disastrous as the alcohol set in, the evening wore on and the drama bubbled to the surface.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This unusual, jazz- and gin-soaked gathering afforded a completely new kind of experience for visitors to the former airplane hangar Stanley Marketplace, which was completely transformed by the Denver Center's creative teams.

    The Wild Party was directed by Amanda Berg Wilson. The all-local ensemble included Brett Ambler, Leonard Barrett Jr., Allison Caw, Laurence Curry, Diana Dresser, Katie Drinkard, Trent Hines, Drew Horwitz, Wayne Kennedy, Sheryl McCallum, Jenna Moll Reyes, Marco Robinson, Emily Van Fleet, Aaron Vega and Erin Willis. To explore more about the show, go wildpartydenver.com.

    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Wild Party:
    Meet the cast: Katie Drinkard

    First look at photos from The Wild Party
    2017 Colorado Fall Theatre Preview: Meet Emily Van Fleet
    Cast list: Look who's been invited to The Wild Party
    Off-Center throwing a Wild Party at Stanley Marketplace this fall
    The Wild Party: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons announced

    PHOTOS: THE MAKING OF THE WILD PARTY

    Making of 'The Wild Party'

    (New photos added!) Photos from the making of Off-Center's 'The Wild Party,' from the Opening Night party back to the first day of rehearsal. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    OFFICIAL PRODUCTION PHOTOS:

    The Wild Party
    The official production photos for 'The Wild Party.' To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by Adams VisCom.

  • Meet Katie Drinkard of 'The Wild Party'

    by John Moore | Oct 22, 2017
    A katie-drinkard

    Katie Drinkard, above, attended ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch. Photo by Adams VisCom.


    MEET KATIE DRINKARD
    Mae in The Wild Party, playing through Oct. 31 under the hanger at the Stanley Marketplace.   

    A katie-drinkard 200At the Denver Center: Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking. Recent regional credits include Million Dollar Quartet at Totem Pole Playhouse and Chasing Rainbows at Flat Rock Playhouse. Off-Broadway: Far From Canterbury at Soho Playhouse.

    • Hometown: Highlands Ranch
    • Home now: New York
    • High school: ThunderRidge
    • Training: I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ithaca College in New York
    • Twitter-sized bio: Comically verbose avocado enthusiast often found in the process of dropping or spilling something.
    • What's your handle? @katiedrinkard on Twitter and Instagram
    • Web site? katiedrinkard.com
    • What do you be doing if you were not an actor? I am a true-crime junkie and aficionado, so perhaps something in the realm of private investigator or criminal psychologist. If only I got paid for the embarrassing number of hours I’ve already spent going down various internet rabbit holes compiling my own research and theories on countless forensic cases.
    • A Laurie Metcalf 200One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Laurie Metcalf in A Doll’s House Part 2 on Broadway (pictured right). Oh wait, no. Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple. I am riddled with indecision. I can’t stick with one answer. I will describe both in tandem: These women changed the molecules in the air with their performances. As an audience member, you felt the room become so still and you could feel everyone listening with their entire bodies. The command, the power, the humanity and the magic harnessed and delivered from these two women was nothing short of intoxicating to witness.
    • Bucket-list role: I change my mind on this bi-weekly, but at the moment it’s Mama Rose in Gypsy. I know, I have to wait about 30 years, but one day everything’s gonna come up roses for me.
    • One time you were totally miscast: I played the elderly and racist Mrs. Dubose in To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, and I played another ancient woman in the ensemble of The Light in the Piazza at Ithaca College. What can I say? I’ve got a convincing and compelling old-lady gait.
    • What's playing on your your Spotify? Phoebe BridgersStrangers in the Alps album.
    • How should we should foster the next generation of theatregoers? We need to work harder to reach disenfranchised communities. We need to continue to foster outreach programs that bring the arts and live-theatre experiences to every young person.
    • Katie-Drinkard-with-mom-Celeste. Photo by John MooreOne thing we don't know about you: I was born in England!
    • Why does The Wild Party matter? Like all great theatrical endeavors, The Wild Party provides compelling insight into human nature. We see complex, fascinating people dealing with pain, inner turmoil, secrets and indiscretion. We see people projecting the versions of themselves they want the world and their community to see, and we also get to see people without all the glitz and glamour at their most raw and carnal. I think that matters.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of this play? That they find pieces of themselves in these 15 characters. I hope they leave feeling like they have been truly immersed in a wild evening of fun and debauchery. I hope they leave ruminating on the masks they might wear in their own lives.
    • One thing you want to get off your chest: I have a hard time trusting anyone who enjoys the taste of Marmite.

    Pictured above right: Katie Drinkard her with her mother, Celeste, at the 'Wild Party' opening-night celebration. Photo by John Moore

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Wild Party: Ticket information
    The Wild PartyAt  a glance: You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind as you join a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties, brought to you by the producers of Sweet & Lucky. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and gin-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees.

    • Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    • Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    • Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    • Through Oct. 31, only
    • At The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St.
    • Visit the official Wild Party web site
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Wild Party:

    First look at video and photos from The Wild Party
    2017 Colorado Fall Theatre Preview: Meet Emily Van Fleet
    Cast list: Look who's been invited to The Wild Party
    Off-Center throwing a Wild Party at Stanley Marketplace this fall
    The Wild Party: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons announced

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of Su Teatro's I Don't Speak English Only
    Meet Autumn Hurlbert of Something Rotten!
    Meet Zak Reynolds of DCPA Education's The Snowy Day
    Meet Rachel Kae Taylor of DCPA Education's The Snowy Day
    Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific

  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'The Wild Party'

    by John Moore | Oct 19, 2017

    VIDEO:

    Your first look inside the making of Off-Center's 'The Wild Party.' Just push play. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    The Denver Center's Off-Center programming wing is presenting the Jazz Age musical The Wild Party as a 360-degree immersive theatregoing experience where the 208 audience members are guests at a corker of a gin-soaked Big Apple soiree, right alongside the 14 professional actors in the ensemble. It is staged in what was once an airline hangar at the new Stanley Marketplace in the Stapleton neighborhood. The director is Amanda Berg Wilson and the all-local ensemble includes Brett Ambler, Leonard Barrett Jr., Allison Caw, Laurence Curry, Diana Dresser, Katie Drinkard, Trent Hines, Drew Horwitz, Wayne Kennedy, Sheryl McCallum, Jenna Moll Reyes, Marco Robinson, Emily Van Fleet, Aaron Vega and Erin Willis. The Wild Party runs through Oct. 31 only.

    OPENING-NIGHT PHOTOS:

    Making of 'The Wild Party'

    Photos from the making of Off-Center's 'The Wild Party,' from the Opening Night party back to the first day of rehearsal. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    OFFICIAL PRODUCTION PHOTOS:

    The Wild Party
    The official production photos for 'The Wild Party.' To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by Adams VisCom.


    The Wild Party: Ticket information
    The Wild PartyAt  a glance: You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind as you join a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties, brought to you by the producers of Sweet & Lucky. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and gin-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees.

    • Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    • Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    • Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    • Oct. 11-31, 2017
    • At The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St.
    • Visit the official Wild Party web site
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Previous NewsCenter and other local media coverage of The Wild Party
    :



    2017 Colorado Fall Theatre Preview: Meet Emily Van Fleet
    Cast list: Look who's been invited to The Wild Party
    Off-Center throwing a Wild Party at Stanley Marketplace this fall
    The Wild Party: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons announced

    Reviews:
    Westword: This one party you should not miss
    5280 Magazine: full of fun, flappers, booze and tunes
    303 Magazine: The Wild Party delivers on the promise of its name

    About the Stanley Marketplace
    The Stanley Marketplace, which opened last year near the Stapleton neighborhood just east of Denver, is a community of like-minded businesses and residents who believe sustainable retail and community development. The more than 22-acre space, which occupies 140,000 square feet, was once Stanley Aviation headquarters, where airplane ejector seats were engineered and manufactured. Today it is an adaptive re-use community hub, home to a park, beer hall and an urban marketplace. All businesses are local and independent. The address is 2501 Dallas St. in Aurora. MAP IT

  • 'The Wild Party': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Sep 15, 2017
    Making of 'The Wild Party'

    Photos from the first rehearsal for Off-Center's upcoming off-site, immersive production of 'The Wild Party.' To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The audience will become, like the characters in the play,
    'a roomful of strangers who call themselves friends.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver Center is preparing to present the Jazz Age musical The Wild Party as a 360-degree immersive theatregoing experience where the 208 audience members are guests at a corker of a gin-soaked Big Apple soiree, right alongside the 14 professional actors in the ensemble. It will be staged in what was once an airline hangar at the new Stanley Marketplace in the Stapleton neighborhood.

    And that is not at all how composer Michael John LaChiusa originally imagined his piece to be staged. Like most musicals, The Wild Party was first presented in front of an audience separated from the stage by theatre’s nearly ubiquitous, invisible “fourth wall.”

    There’s no wall here.

    “Our production is going to put our audience directly in the Jazz Age,” two-time True West Award-winning Director Amanda Berg Wilson said Tuesday at the company’s first rehearsal for the show opening Oct. 11.

    The Wild Party. Amanda Berg Wilson. Photo by John MooreThe DCPA’s adventurous Off-Center wing is known for creating original nontraditional work in nontraditional spaces, most notably last year’s sprawling Sweet & Lucky, which played out in a huge warehouse north of downtown. The Wild Party will be its first musical, and first scripted work.

    The musical is based on a scandalous, book-length poem written by Robert Frost protege Joseph Moncure March in 1926. It was described as “a kind of obscene, more destructive take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Scott Miller, Artistic Director of St. Louis’ New Line Theatre. The poem paints a vivid and decadent picture of Manhattan just before the market crash. It centers on the damaged, reckless relationship between a dancer named Queenie and a vaudeville clown named Burrs. The audience here will witness many personal dramas unfold up close and in three dimensions.

    The Wild Party. Allison Caw, Marco Robinson, Katie Drinkard and Jenna Moll Reyes. Photo by John Moore.“The audience is not going to be passive witnesses to the party,” said Wilson. “They are going to be integral components of the party – and its conspirators. So we are going to encourage them to help mix the bathtub gin; to console the coke-snorting wannabe starlet; to read love letters; to be pulled into boiler rooms for intimate moments; to see things they are not supposed to see.” In the end, the audience will become, like the characters in the play, "a roomful of strangers who call themselves friends." 

    Which helps explains why this is a 21-and-over evening. It’s a party, after all. And apparently a wild one.

    “Our goal with each audience member is that they are going to experience a kind of release that you only have when you have had a really wild night," Wilson said.

    Here are five more things we learned about 'The Wild Party' at the first rehearsal:

    NUMBER 1A Wild Party PoemThe source poem, which went virtually unread for two years because no publisher would touch it, inspired iconic beat writer William Burroughs to become a writer. “It is a witty and risqué poem about two vaudeville performers who fight, make up, throw a party and flirt with danger,” Wilson said. “It name-drops Martha Graham and Langston Hughes, and the book for the musical is by George C. Wolfe (the Public Theatre icon who first directed Angels in America). The story is set at a time when America was waking up to its identity as a wild and creative nation that was emerging into its own sense of self separate from Europe. That sense of self was really born in vaudeville and speakeasies and the avant-garde of the 1920s when jazz, arguably the most American of art forms, was being born. These are people who are not only trying to figure out who they love but who they are and who they will present as. Ambisextrous, Jewish, uptown, downtown, black and white identities are all explored in these jazz-soaked numbers.”

    NUMBER 2The audience will be encouraged (but not required) to dress up for the party. Says Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle: “I think we get the best of the 1920s in this piece because we get the glitz and glamour of beaded dresses and tuxedos and dinner jackets and champagne, and then we get the soft sensuality and the vulnerability of stockings and garter belts and bathtub gin.”

    NUMBER 3The Wild Party. David Nehls. Photo by John Moore.The Music Director is David Nehls (pictured right),  who has helmed the music for most every musical at the Arvada Center for more than a decade. "I am very excited that we have an amazing, seven-piece live band," Nehls said. One of those players is Trent Hines, himself an active Music Director in the local theatre community. For this production, Hines is also being integrated into the story as an actor.

    NUMBER 4The cast is made up entirely of local actors. Wilson, also the founder of a Boulder theatre company called The Catamounts, performed in Sweet & Lucky alongside Diana Dresser, Jenna Moll Reyes and The Wild Party choreographer Patrick Mueller. “Having an all-local cast is evidence that we really do have the talent right here to pull off a show like this,” said Wilson. “And I think it is great that as the Denver Center continues to experiment with immersive theatre, we are developing a base of talent right here in Denver with an increasing set of tools and vocabulary so that we can keep making this kind of work. And we are discovering that audiences are really hungry for it.”

    NUMBER 5The man charged with turning the airplane hangar at Stanley Marketplace into a New York apartment is Jason Sherwood, who first came to the Denver Center in 2014 as an assistant on The Unsinkable Molly Brown and returned last year as the lead Scenic Designer for Frankenstein. This season, he will create the worlds for the Denver Center’s The Wild Party, Macbeth and The Who's Tommy.

    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 Wild Party: Cast list

    • Brett Ambler: Gold
    • Leonard Barrett Jr.: Oscar D’Armano
    • Allison Caw: Sally
    • Laurence Curry: Black
    • Diana Dresser: Miss Madelaine True
    • Katie Drinkard: Mae
    • Trent Hines: Phil D’Armano
    • Drew Horwitz: Burrs
    • Wayne Kennedy: Goldberg
    • Sheryl McCallum: Dolores
    • Jenna Moll Reyes: Nadine
    • Marco Robinson: Eddie Mackrel
    • Emily Van Fleet: Queenie
    • Aaron Vega: Jackie
    • Erin Willis: Kate


    The Wild Party:
    Ticket information

    The Wild PartyAt  a glance: You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind as you join a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties, brought to you by the producers of Sweet & Lucky. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and gin-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees.

    • Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    • Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    • Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    • Oct. 11-31, 2017
    • At The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St.
    • Visit the official Wild Party web site
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Wild Party
    :



    2017 Colorado Fall Theatre Preview: Meet Emily Van Fleet
    Cast list: Look who's been invited to The Wild Party
    Off-Center throwing a Wild Party at Stanley Marketplace this fall
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons announced

    About the Stanley Marketplace
    The Stanley Marketplace, which opened last year near the Stapleton neighborhood just east of Denver, is a community of like-minded businesses and residents who believe sustainable retail and community development. The more than 22-acre space, which occupies 140,000 square feet, was once Stanley Aviation headquarters, where airplane ejector seats were engineered and manufactured. Today it is an adaptive re-use community hub, home to a park, beer hall and an urban marketplace. All businesses are local and independent. The address is 2501 Dallas St. in Aurora. MAP IT
  • Read Suzi Q. Smith's original 'Mixed Taste' poems here

    by John Moore | Jul 20, 2017
    Suzy Q Smith
    Suzi Q. Smith at the inaugural 'Mixed Taste' in the Seawell Ballroom on July 5. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    'Know which voice to listen to
    when it’s time to fly,
    when it’s time to land.
    '

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Mixed Taste is a weekly tag-team lecture series that paired playfully unrelated topics on Wednesday nights throughout the summer in the Denver Center's Seawell Ballroom. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is now collaborating on the popular series with Off-Center, the Denver Center's most unconventional programming arm

    Read more: Mixed Taste walks the talk to the Seawell Ballroom

    Local slam poet Suzi Q. Smith was the series emcee. As part of the fun, she created an original poem as each evening progressed to connect the dots between two featured but seemingly unrelated topics. She read them at the end of each night, and we have been publishing them here throughout the summer.

    Read our previous interview with Mixed Taste emcee Suzi Q. Smith

    On Glimmer and Flight

    Aug. 23
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture Topics: Air Traffic Control and Drag Queen Activism
    Lecturers: Bruce Goetz and Shirley Delta Blow

    There are so many ways to approach a runway.
    Fast, heavy as a skilled boxer’s glove;
    Precise as a jeweled manicure
    or a highlighted cheekbone;
    Clumsy as the first time in heels.
    It takes time, coordination, and practice
    to get it right.

    Last Suzi QWhat I love about the airport
    is the vastness of possibility:
    every terminal filled with dreams and stories,
    beginnings and long kisses goodbye,
    every face choreographed
    into magnificent ballet – and who
    serves more face
    than drag queens?
    Every wink
    and eyebrow raise
    is worth at least
    56 square miles of
    absolutely.

    We must remember that certainty
    when we find ourselves mid-flight
    in what could be chaos.
    Listen: there is a small voice lending us direction –

    stay here,
    come closer,
    not yet,
    aim higher,
    the runway is yours, darling –

    and if we listen, that voice keeps us from disaster.
    Step to the front
    while flashing lights sing
    in reverence to your every eyelash.
    Sashay when they wave you on,
    ignore the flailing arms
    that offer you no welcome.

    Know which voice to listen to
    when it’s time to fly,
    when it’s time to land,
    know who keeps you safe,
    keeps you airborne amidst roaring winds
    that would have your wings
    if you let them.

    Let your pride swell.
    When you hear the sky calling, fly.
    Stay fly
    and flying,
    let the breath of those who love you
    be your wind,
    let their voices be your beacon.

    You, brilliant shimmer,
    land on that runway
    like you mean it.


    On Perspective and Relativity

    Aug. 16
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: P.T. Barnum and Infinity
    Lecturers: Kathy Maher and Diane Davis


    I first used the term “infinity” as a means
    to compound an insult
    on some schoolyard playground, as in

                “you’re ugly”
                “your mama’s ugly”
                “you’re ugly times a million”
                “your ugly times INFINITY”

    until
    my Sunday School teacher said infinity
    was like carrying a bucket of water
    from the Atlantic Ocean
    to the Pacific Ocean,
    pouring it in, refilling the bucket
    and carrying it back,
    repeating this process until all of one ocean
    had been poured into the other entirely,
    and I stopped using it then
    as a weapon.

    It seemed a cruel use of vocabulary.
    Speaking of cruelty, I can’t help but weep
    when I consider the life of Joice Heth
    whose body, even in death, was someone else’s spectacle,
    whose suffering was no less than infinite,
    heavy as endless buckets of water colliding into a gulf
    a grand showcase of laughing waves, crashing the shore
    and winking at the grains of sand for their pretense of grandiosity.

    Maybe it is all perspective, bending with time.
    Is time a line, or a circle?
    Are we standing at zero or infinity?
    Is it ingenuity or exploitation?
    Is an elaborate hoax to be scorned or celebrated?

    Neither the sand nor the stars are infinite,
    but they offer a grand show.
    A brilliant display of possibility,
    a quantifiable image to lend this vast vocabulary
    to the dream of something greater.

    And what is greater, more infinite, than our dreams?
    Are we not the most stunning display of blue and bite?
    The most illustrious outpour of story and song?

    May we learn from our history.
    May we transform our finite breath
    into a stunning cascade of tomorrows,
    may we build a world of infinite compassion, courage and creativity –
    I believe it will be the greatest show on earth,
    to infinity

    (and beyond).



    On Bob and booze

    Aug. 9
    A Meet the Cast Bianca Mikahn 600Written by Guest Host Bianca Mikahn
    (Pictured right in May 2016)
    Lecture Topics: Prohibition and Bob Ross
    Lecturers: Jason Hanson and Doug Blandy 

    Bob was once drunk off power
    off his hands and all they could spill

    Thirty years before
    maybe his family would have been driven
    by his bust 'em up demeanor
    to the voting polls
    But then Bob got hooked on painting’s joy

    I wonder
    before he fermented his feelings into
    the nectar of inspiration
    Was his voice
    a rough and burning moonshine
    a howling across brand new highways
    while false McCoys raced in the distance
    How many distillations did it take
    to find the perfect smoky earthy pitch
    lulling so many of us to comfort
    like a perfectly aged red

    Mr Ross is famed for saying
    “there are no mistakes”
    I wonder had he witnessed to the
    dehydrated hypocrisy and
    Overreaching amendment which was the eighteenth
    Would he have maintained his floating
    and free demeanor
    Or would he revive his famed military fire
    for access to the saloon

    Mixed Taste Aug 9Maybe his only intoxication was the palette
    Most likely he would have found a
    favored speakeasy
    (which should be called Bob Rosses
    if time continuum allowed)
    A single malt
    Maybe a dear friend

    Bob Ross was my bartender
    the first to fill my cup with color
    and affirmation
    Replete with seasoned ice and
    landscapes which burned so good going down
    Temperance comes from the Latin word
    temperar which means to restrain
    Tempera is a form of paint and means
    to paint in distemper
    May we generate a toast
    to the eschewing of prohibition’s temperance
    less temperar renders us
    each of us little burgeoning Bobs
    Missing our happy little trees and forgetting
    there are no mistakes
    Just happy accidents



    On Growth and Dirt 

    Aug. 2
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Asparagus and Money Laundering
    Lecturers: Carol O'Meara and Micah Schwalb

    To grow asparagus, it must be planted deeply,
    like an oil drum full of money.
    It helps to have good real estate to bury it in.
    It takes patience and skill to get it right,
    with a nose for detail that must be studied.
    Maybe banks are the best place to begin
    the sprouts, they always have plenty
    of dirt.

    The Romans had a love
    for asparagus as well as coin,
    as both have been known
    as aphrodisiacs, both have led to
    suspicions and secrets, both traceable
    if you know where to sniff.

    I love asparagus. 
    Once, I ate marinated asparagus at a party.
    It was so magical that I decided to recreate the dish at home.
    Asparagus? Check.
    Herbs, seasonings, oil, vinegar? Check.
    I placed the ingredients in a casserole dish
    and covered, then promptly
    forgot about it.
    For days.
    Several days.
    Several long, hot, summer days.

    When I remembered,
    I excitedly removed the lid, ready to delight
    in my first attempt at marinated asparagus, and
    BEHOLD!
    The worst smell I have ever experienced –
    the kind of smell that expands the realms of imagination,
    so bad that my brain had to activate new functions
    just to accurately perceive this level of awful.

    I grabbed the dish and ran outside to throw it in the dumpster –
    the asparagus,
    the spices,
    the oils and vinegars,
    and the glass dish they’d been conspiring in.
    No amount of laundering would have saved it.
    The crime was so dreadful
    that I had to hide the evidence.

    I fled the scene, packed up my daughter,
    and stayed with family that night
    because the scene was too ghastly to remain.

    The word “asparagus” comes from a Persian word
    meaning “shoot” or “sprout.”
    I imagine I asparagussed my way out the back door
    on that fateful day.

    While it was once know for its reproductive effects,
    I have yet to reproduce the marinated asparagus since then,
    the evidence of the failed attempt left an unmistakable mark.

    Both money and asparagus involve a bit of dirt,
    a fair amount of work, but when done well
    can sustain us for generations.

    May all of our harvests be fair and clean. 


    On Ways and Words

    July 26
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Giant Flutes and Celestial Navigation
    Lecturers: Akio Lis and Jim Cook

    I’ve heard that in Australia,
    Aboriginal tribes used to navigate their land
    through music.  Each place had its own song.

    Charlie.jpg_largeI’ve heard it said that
    while any person can learn to play a note,
    it takes a true musician to know why to play a note, and when,
    how to navigate a song and draw its map.

    The earth spins at nearly 1,000 miles per hour,
    so fast it almost feels like we’ve always been still.
    Sound travels at nearly 800 miles per hour,
    so fast it feels eternal, like we’ve always known this music.

    Do you ever think about the fact that we are in space
    right now? Do you wonder why?
    Are we what happens when the momentum of
    sound and orbit collide?
    Does the weight and gravity
    of our instruments help us to know
    where our momentum means something?

    When we look at the center or
    the surface of the earth
    and move toward the distant
    celestial lights twinkling their hello
    (or goodbye, as the case may be),
    is it reasonable to still feel lost?

    Is it reasonable
    to bellow into the dark
    and hope your breath will be enough
    to carry you toward home?
    The way that wind holds a sail,
    our breath carries notes
    and we are transported.

    I’ve heard conflicting tales
    about the Pied Piper, and who he lured away
    with a hypnotizing flute.
    Music has always moved us,
    even if we don’t know where its glinting guides us,
    it is natural to follow what might still be light.



    On Science and Magic

    July 19 By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Telekinesis and Sauerkraut
    Lecturers: Professor Phelyx and Mara and Willow King

    We train our kids to wash their hands
    with potions
    made by people who want to sell us something.
    We all have a lot to unlearn.

    One kiss is an exchange
    of 8 million bacteria
    invisible, moving beings
    that could kill us
    or heal us,
    we all know kisses can go either way.

    It’s amazing, the magic
    we do with our mouths & minds,
    break down
    or be broken – I don’t think I understand
    the difference between magic and science,
    when the same botulism that can kill us
    can also stop stories
    a living face might tell,
    I suppose it’s a bit of both – wielding nature,
    being wielded by it.

    Maybe everything is cultural –
    time, science, magic, movement –
    like food, fermenting into medicine,
    breaking and becoming more whole.
    They say seeds break open to sprout.
    They say people who are married for a long time
    start to look alike.

    Maybe it is like sauerkraut –
    the more time we spend together, the better we get.
    Maybe science and magic are the same thing.
    Either theory requires a bit of faith,
    even when we see it, even when we taste it.
    Maybe it’s all in our minds,
    or maybe only the best parts of each
    survive.


    On Language and Justice

    July 12
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Esperanto and Trial by Jury
    Lecturers: Orlando Raola and Fred Bloom

    I have never served on a jury. 

    Have been left to share my opinions on stages,
    and especially on twitter, which is

    fine,
    I guess.

    Somehow, I have never been invited to the party

    no one else wants to go to.
    I mean – I’d be a good juror, I think.
    I’ve seen like every single episode of Law & Order at least twice.
    And Ally McBeal, The Practice, and pretty much every courtroom drama
    that Netflix has to offer.

    When it comes to the wisdom of crowds,
    the finders of facts, even standing in unpopular opinions,
    I feel like I’d make a strong candidate.

    My friends roll their eyes at being called for jury duty . . .

    again,
    while I raise my hand, eager and polite
    as any wallflower
    wanting to dance.

    Meanwhile, it sounds like jury duty is sometimes
    A LITERAL PARTY!

    Maybe I want it so bad
    because I believe in the weight of words,
    the intention and design of each syllable.

    How our languages shape fate,
    words as heavy as “guilty” or “not guilty”,
    of course we should speak in planned language
    when our words change lives.

    I saw an article yesterday about a family
    who was drowning in the Atlantic Ocean
    until the people on the beach formed an 80-person chain
    to bring them safely to shore.

    Imagine if we all used the power of our words
    in the same tongue.
    If we all spoke together, listened and understood.
    I imagine the harmony would make me weep,
    I imagine the volume would shake the ground,
    if we knew the weight of our words,
    imagine how heavy we could be.



    On History and Movement

    July 5
    By Suzi Q. Smith
    Lecture topics: Wild West mail delivery and post-conceptual art
    Lecturers: Adam Lerner (pictured right) and Nataki Garrett

    July 4, 1776, some of my ancestors were enslaved.
    One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.
    What conversations they must be having in my unexpected blood,
    emancipated and armed like Stagecoach Mary.
    How unprepared they must have been for such “mixed taste.”

    Adam Lerner Sometimes, the most essential stories are the impossible truths, born of need.
    Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention.
    Stagecoach Mary was one of the Wild West’s urgent needs:
    her shotgun,
    her six horses,
    her mule named Moses
    and if her story ain’t a burning bush
    clearing our way, maybe we are ready
    for some post-conceptual belief
    and art;
    stasis has never saved us.

    Watch how we grow wild as sagebrush,
    how we perpetuate our own movement like tumbleweed,
    how we find new ways to show the unseen
    as a means to survive.
    See how our manifestation stays migrating,
    maybe home has always been a moving target, the place
    where we are best heard.
    See how we make new language of color and moment.

    I come from a long line of wild westerners.
    Some who were enslaved and fled.
    Some who were desperately poor and fled.
    Some who’ve been here since forever ever ever ever.
    All of them finding new ways to survive.

    We are people who learn to make what we need.
    We are people who pour ourselves over horizons in unmistakable color.
    We both find, and have always been, the frontier.
    What is art if not us?
    If not the impossible conversations in my blood?
    In this room?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Off-Center's 'Wild Party' nearing its Kickstarter goal

    by John Moore | Jul 20, 2017
    Wild Party


    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    As of July 26, 321 backers have helped the DCPA's Off-Center reach 67 percent of its Kickstarter goal for its upcoming production of the immersive musical The Wild Party, which runs Oct. 11-31 at the Stanley Marketplace.

    Off-Center, which last year presented the immersive drama Sweet & Lucky in a RiNo warehouse, is the Denver Center's most unconventional programming arm. The Wild Party will be Off-Center's first musical.

    "Off-Center is committed to thinking outside the box and creating exciting ways to surprise our audiences, plucking them out of reality for 360-degree theatrical experiences of all sizes," said curator Charlie Miller. "By supporting our Kickstarter, you’re giving our team of local actors, musicians and artists the chance to create a thrilling new theatrical experience for our community."

    Click here to go to The Wild Party Kickstarter campaign

    The Wild Party, written by Michael John LaChiusa, follows a mix of debauched vaudevillians in the 1920s as they attempt to drink and dance their way out of personal problems over the course of one fateful night. In the immersive staging, audiences will be smack in the middle of an art-deco apartment of yore located in the Stanley's 9,000 square-foot hangar.

    To help make the idea a reality, Off-Center has again launched a Kickstarter campaign. Last spring, Kickstarter backers helped to bring the immersive world of Sweet & Lucky to life through donor contributions. Backers were invited deeper into the experience of the critically acclaimed production by contributing photographs of loved ones that were included in the storytelling.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Wild Party Kickstarter campaign allows for contributors at varying levels to be even more involved in the action. For example, $10 will get donors early bird access to tickets; a $50 donation comes with admission to a dress rehearsal and the opportunity to provide valuable feedback that will help shape the finalized production; and $150 lets donors send in photos to be used in the set. At the highest end, $7,500 will get donors a customized costume to wear to the show designed by the production's costume designer, Meghan Anderson Doyle.

    As of Wednesday, $17,365 had been pledged toward the total goal of $25,000. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition, so this project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by 2 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10.

    The Wild Party
    was nominated for seven Tony Awards when it appeared on Broadway in 2000. 

    This production continues the partnership forged between Off-Center and Stanley, which began with the adventure comedy Travelers of the Lost Dimension. That show ran throughout the public spaces at Stanley through May 21. The address is 2501 Dallas St. in Aurora. MAP IT

    The Wild Party:
    Ticket information

    You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind as you join a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties, brought to you by the producers of Sweet & Lucky. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and gin-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees.

    • Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    • Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    • Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    • Oct. 11-31
    • At The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St.
    • For more information including ticket pre-sale and other exclusive experiences, visit WildPartyDenver.com

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Wild Party:
    Cast list: Look who's been invited to The Wild Party
    Off-Center throwing a Wild Party at Stanley Marketplace this fall
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons announced
  • Cast list: Look who's been invited to 'The Wild Party'

    by John Moore | Jul 06, 2017
    Wild Party
    From left: Wayne Kennedy, Sheryl McCallum, Diana Dresser and Erin Willis.


    Off-Center, the unconventional and most adventurous wing of Denver Center programming, has announced casting for its next off-site collaboration and first full-scale musical production: An immersive, 360-degree staging of Michael John LaChiusa’s jazz musical The Wild Party to run Oct. 11-31 at Stanley Marketplace.

    The Wild Party, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards when it appeared on Broadway in 2000, will feature Denver favorites Brett Ambler, Leonard Barrett Jr., Allison Caw, Laurence Curry, Diana Dresser, Katie Drinkard, Trent Hines, Drew Horwitz, Wayne Kennedy, Sheryl McCallum, Jenna Moll Reyes, Marco Robinson, Emily Van Fleet, Aaron Vega and Erin Willis.

    Barrett is set to star as Daddy Warbucks in Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie, opening Saturday at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre. Dresser recently appeared in Off-Center's Sweet & Lucky and the Theatre Company's All the Way. Curry appeared in the Theatre Company's All the Way; Willis in The Secret Garden; and Horwitz in As You Like It. Jenna Moll Reyes is a DCPA Teaching Artist who performs in the Shakespeare in the Parking Lot schools program. Reyes (Bus Stop) and Van Fleet (The Drowning Girls) were members of the Arvada Center's inaugural Black Box Repertory Ensemble. Drinkard returns to the Denver Center after having appeared in the Galleria Theatre's Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking.

    Kennedy is a 30-year veteran of Boulder's BDT Stage, where he is currently playing Jacob in the critically acclaimed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Ambler just appeared in the Arvada Center's Jesus Christ Superstar. Caw just worked with Ethelyn Friend on an improvised opera called “_____”, An Opera, in Lafayette. McCallum, a Denver native, was in the Broadway company of The Lion King. Robinson is an actor and professional photographer whose stage credits include playing the Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Assassins. Vega is a new Denver resident who most recently worked with the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, Ohio.

    The previously announced director of this fully immersive staging is Amanda Berg Wilson, who is the artistic director of the Boulder-based company The Catamounts. She was a cast member for Off-Center's Sweet & Lucky last year and is a 2016 True West Award winner.

    The music will be directed by David Nehls, the Arvada Center's former longtime resident music director. Nehls and Hines are currently sharing the music direction for Phamaly, which creates performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

    The choreographer is Patrick Mueller. The production will feature designs by Jason Sherwood (Scenic Designer), Meghan Anderson Doyle (Costume Designer), Jason Lynch (Lighting Designer), Sean Hagerty (Sound Designer), and Erin Ramsey (Fight Coordinator).

    “Last summer, Off-Center took over a 16,000-square foot warehouse in RiNo to bring you Sweet & Lucky. This fall, we’re breaking out the bathtub gin and heading to the Hangar at Stanley to tackle the first musical in Off-Center’s history,” said Off-Center curator Charlie Miller.

    “Much like Sweet & Lucky, The Wild Party will transport audience members to a different era where they will be immersed in the story as guests at Queenie and Burr’s party. The live band will be swinging, and we’ll find out what happens when you let down your guard and give yourself over to the party. I am so excited to dive into this piece with our incredible team of collaborators.”

    This production continues the partnership forged between Off-Center and Stanley, which began with the adventure comedy Travelers of the Lost Dimension. That show ran throughout the public spaces at Stanley through May 21.

    The Stanley Marketplace, which opened last year near the Stapleton neighborhood just east of Denver, is a community of like-minded businesses and residents who believe sustainable retail and community development. The more than 22-acre space, which occupies 140,000 square feet, was once Stanley Aviation headquarters, where airplane ejector seats were engineered and manufactured. Today it is an adaptive re-use community hub, home to a park, beer hall and an urban marketplace. All businesses are local and independent. The address is 2501 Dallas St. in Aurora. MAP IT

    (Note: The Michael John LaChiusa adaptation of 'The Wild Party' is very different from the Andrew Lippa version that was presented by Ignite Theatre at the Aurora Fox.)

    The Wild Party: Cast list

    • Brett Ambler: Gold
    • Leonard Barrett Jr.: Oscar D’Armano
    • Allison Caw: Sally
    • Laurence Curry: Black
    • Diana Dresser: Miss Madelaine True
    • Katie Drinkard: Mae
    • Trent Hines: Phil D’Armano
    • Drew Horwitz: Burrs
    • Wayne Kennedy: Goldberg
    • Sheryl McCallum: Dolores
    • Jenna Moll Reyes: Nadine
    • Marco Robinson: Eddie Mackrel
    • Emily Van Fleet: Queenie
    • Aaron Vega: Jackie
    • Erin Willis: Kate


    The Wild Party:
    Ticket information

    The Wild PartyOfficial show description: You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind as you join a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties, brought to you by the producers of Sweet & Lucky. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and gin-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees.

    • Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    • Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    • Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    • Oct. 11-31, 2017
    • At The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St.
    • For more information including ticket pre-sale and other exclusive experiences, visit WildPartyDenver.com

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Laurence Curry
    File photo of Laurence Curry from his days as a teacher and choreographer for the Denver Center Theater Academy and the National Theatre Conservatory.
  • 'Mixed Taste' walks the talk to the Seawell Ballroom

    by John Moore | Jun 29, 2017

    Mixed Taste 

    Ready, set ... goad! Experts debate silly topics that have absolutely nothing in common. Or do they?


    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    So what’s your pleasure? Telekinesis or, say …  sauerkraut? Giant flutes or, perhaps ... celestial navigation?

    No preference, you say? That may change when those burning topics and more are lustily debated at Mixed Taste, Adam Lerner’s tag-team lecture series pairing playfully unrelated topics that enters its 14th season on Wednesday night in its new home: The DCPA’s Seawell Ballroom. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is now collaborating on the popular series with Off-Center, the Denver Center's most unconventional programming arm.

    The comic debates will rage beginning at 6:30 p.m. for eight consecutive Wednesday nights through Aug. 23. Up first: Wild West mail delivery and post-conceptual art.

    Here’s how it works: Think political debate, only the politicians are respected experts in their fields of study. The first speaks on one topic for 20 minutes, followed by the other. "The audience then gets to ask questions - and that's wheAdam Lerner Mixed Tastere anything can happen,” said Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller.

    But unlike political campaigns and sporting contests, winners are not declared. This is simply a chance for curious audiences to learn more about bizarre topics and then perhaps even draw unexpected connections between the two. Think the ability to move objects through mental prowess has nothing in common with finely cut fermented cabbage? Don’t be so sure.

    Lerner, the MCA’s director and chief animator, created Mixed Taste in 2004 at The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at the Belmar Shopping Center in Lakewood. The series moved to the MCA in 2009.

    The Seawell Ballroom will be an expansion for the series, which is used to topping out at 400 people. Although the Ballroom can hold up to 1,000 people, Miller says only about 450 seats will be made available for Mixed Taste to preserve its intimacy.

    “MCA approached us a year ago and asked if we would be interested in hosting and giving Mixed Taste the next chapter of its life, and we jumped at the opportunity,” Miller said.

    After nurturing Mixed Taste from its inception, Lerner now feels “the program is ready for its next level of growth," he said, "and I believe Off-Center is the perfect partner to help us take it there.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Mixed Taste is not a theatrical production, and yet Miller feels it is an inherently theatrical adventure for its audience.

    “It’s a really engaging and fun summertime experience,” Miller said. “It’s a way to learn about things you never engage with and inject some new information and fun into a Wednesday night.”

    Mixed Taste. Charlie MillerOther wacky pairings on tap this summer include Prohibition and Bob Ross, Air Traffic Control and Drag Queen Activism, and Asparagus and Money Laundering.

    “Each lecture is 20 minutes, which is long enough to go deep but keep your attention the whole time,” Miller said. “We try to make sure the topics have nothing in common and that makes it fun because after a while you start to think, ‘Well they do have things in common.’

    So how did he come up with a roster of such non-kindred, spirited subjects?

    “I used this as an opportunity to engage friends and Denver Center staff to submit ideas for topics,” he said. “Once we got some ideas we talked with a smaller group of Off-Center collaborators and teammates to narrow it down. Then we started researching people to speak on those topics.”

    Our previous interview with Mixed Taste emcee Suzi Q. Smith

    Miller is particularly excited for the talk on Prohibition and Bob Ross, the American painter and host of The Joy of Painting, which aired on PBS from 1983-94, while his personal favorite is telekinesis and sauerkraut (July 19), simply because it’s such a bizarre combination.

    Mixed Taste. Professor Phelyx. Shirley Delta BlowLocal slam poet Suzi Q. Smith will be the series emcee.

    “Off-Center collaborated with Suzi Q. last summer in our poetry show How I Got Over: Journeys and Verse that she was the lead collaborator on,” Miller said. “She will be the host and poet laureate, so we will be fusing poetry and spoken word into the evening. She will be creating an original poem to connect the two topics to conclude every Mixed Taste.”

    Off-Center is bringing back other past collaborator the series as debaters. Professor Phelyx, the mentalist magician who last worked with Off-Center on Perception, will speak on behalf of telekinesis, while Shirley Delta Blow, recently seen in DragOn at the Galleria Theatre, will be rally on behalf of drag-queen activism. (Photos above right by Adams Viscom.)

    Before every lecture, audiences can attend a Mixed Taste Garden Party starting at 4:30 p.m. just outside of the Galleria Theatre with live music curated by Swallow Hill Music.

    Mixed Taste: Ticket information
    • 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday from July 5 through Aug. 28
    • Seawell Ballroom, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets: $20
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

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

  • 'Cult Following: Rated G' brings improv to the 'mini' masses

    by John Moore | Apr 19, 2017
    Cult Following Rated GA scene from 'Cult Following: Decide Your Destiny' in 2015. Next, 'Cult Following' is offering performances geared for third- through fifth-graders. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. 

    The Cult Following actors don’t have to awaken the
    inner child of this audience. They still are their inner child.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    At its best, improv comedy is essentially game night – with a playful audience. A group of highly trained actors perform completely invented scenes driven by audience suggestions. It is unscripted theatre without a net. And when it is done well, the actors behave with the abandon of a third-grader – and their audiences snickering with the abandon of a third-grader.

    Which is what makes professional improv actors – and young audiences – the perfect match. And the Denver Center is doing some matchmaking. Better stated: The Denver Center is arranging a play date.

    Since 2011, Cult Following has been DCPA Off-Center’s signature series of unrehearsed team improv comedy evenings. They feature the fast-talking and quick-thinking talents of some of Denver’s best comic performers typically performing for a pretty cool crowd of generally younger adult audiences.

    But on April 29, and again on May 13, Off-Center and DCPA Education are joining forces for Cult Following: Rated G. Essentially the veteran Cult Following lineup of Jessica Austgen, Sarah Kirwin, Brian McManus, Nanna Sachiko Thompson and Chris Woolf will be creating improvised fairy tales with the help of (ideally) audience of third- through fifth-graders and their families.

    Cult Following Rated G Allison WatrousDCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous says the goal of improv comedy is to get audiences to think like a child, to be willing to play in a sandbox, to think on their feet and laugh at some seriously silly things. The Cult Following actors don’t have to awaken the inner child of this audience. They still are their inner child.

    Watrous emphasizes Cult Following: Rated G is an audience-involved performance, as Off-Center shows always are, but this is not a class teaching young people the basics of improv. (Those kinds of classes are separately available through DCPA Education.)

    “Improv is all about cultivating a sense of play, and all of us were more connected to our sense of play when we were in elementary school,” she said. “As we move through middle school and high school and into adulthood, we are in constant danger of losing that sense of play. Improv comedy is a good reminder for all of us how important play is, and also how productive play is.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Rated G program, developed by Watrous with Austgen, DCPA Associate Director of Education Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski and Off-Center curator Charlie Miller, will include two mid-week matinees for participating schools coming on field trips. The goal from the start was to create a program that will appeal to educators by complementing their classroom work, especially as it pertains to creative writing and effective storytelling.

    "Educators are really looking for experiences for their students that have real value," Watrous said. "We really wanted to make sure that we are connecting to what English teachers might be covering in their classrooms. We're playing within a form that really teaches the students about story structure, about character, about plot and about story climax. So if I were a teacher in an elementary school, I would be really excited about this opportunity to give their students an amazing, fun time, and yet they leave knowing their writing also just got stronger, their vocabulary also just got stronger and their understanding of literary terms also just got stronger."

    Cult Following Rated G Jessica Austgen and in a previous 'Cult Following' performance. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Cult Following: Rated G

    • 11 a.m. Saturday, April 29: Public performance in the Jones Theatre
    • 11 a.m. Sunday, May 13: Public performance in the Jones Theatre
    • Ticket price: $10
    • Run time approximately 60 minutes
    • Age recommendation: All ages. Designed with families of elementary-school children in mind. Children 4 and over are welcome.
    • Tickets: Teachers or schools. Call 303-446-4829 or email groupsales@dcpa.org. There are two student matinees currently available, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 16.
    • Tickets: Public and families: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons

    by John Moore | Apr 03, 2017

     

    Macbeth, The Who's Tommy, four world premieres and
    "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations"

    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s 39th season will include vast and visceral reimaginings of two distinct cutting-edge classics, a record-tying four world premieres and the company's 25th staging of perennial favorite A Christmas Carol.

    The season begins in September with visionary director Robert O'Hara’s Macbeth to reopen the newly renovated Space Theatre, and builds to The Who’s rock musical Tommy, directed by Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein). And both directors promise ambitious stagings unlike anything audiences have seen before.

    Nataki Garrett QuoteThe DCPA has worked its way to the forefront of new-play development in the American theatre, and next season’s slate will include the comedy Zoey’s Perfect Wedding by former Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez; José Cruz González’s American Mariachi, the musical tale of an all-female 1970s mariachi band; Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, about an American college basketball team that travels to Beijing in 1989; and Eric Pfeffinger’s timely comedy Human Error, which raucously explores the great American ideological divide through two vastly different couples - and one wrongly implanted embryo.

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding will reunite Lopez and Mike Donahue, writer and director from the DCPA’s endearing world premiere The Legend of Georgia McBride (which makes its West Coast debut tomorrow at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.)

    American Mariachi
    was a favorite from the Theatre Company's 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. "Women of course had many challenges trying to play in such a male-dominated musical form," González said. "We interviewed a number of amazing women who were able to help us enter into that world, and we found an amazing group of artists who will play and sing in the piece."

    The Great Leap and Human Error emerged from the recent 2017 Summit in February.  In The Great Leap, Yee explores sport as a metaphor for how countries rub up against each other in terms of strategy, styles and priorities. "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,” she says.

    Human Error will set a precedent as the first Theatre Company offering ever to be staged in the cabaret-style Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    “The 2017-18 DCPA Theatre Company season represents the microcosm at the heart of the American experiment,” said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. “These writers, spanning across generations, cultures, and genders, are exploring the ways in which our commonalities are more meaningful than our differences."

    2017-18 Broadway season brings Hamilton to Denver

    For the first time, the DCPA simultaneously announced the upcoming year of its adventurous and ambitious Off-Center line of programming. Off-Center is known for creating experiences that challenge conventions and expand on the traditional definition of theatre. Next season will be the largest yet for Off-Center. It includes Mixed Taste, a summer-long partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; a 360-degree immersive staging of The Wild Party musical at the Stanley Marketplace. Also of great intrigue: Remote Denver, a  guided audio tour of the secret city; and This Is Modern Art, a controversial play by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval that explores graffiti as modern art ...  or urban terrorism.

    “The expansion of Off-Center is a result of the incredible response of the Denver community,” said Off-Center Curator (and Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director) Charlie Miller. “We have seen that audiences are hungry for a broad range of experiences, and are eager for the unexpected.”

    Miller calls the upcoming year "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations." A continuing one will be the return of The SantaLand Diaries, in partnership with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and again starring Michael Bouchard

    Combined, the DCPA today announced 14 upcoming new productions that will be presented across eight different venues at the Denver Performing Arts Complex and beyond.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Theater has the opportunity and the ability to help bridge our differences by offering performances that inspire us to seek deeper connections with one another,” said Garrett, who will make her DCPA debut directing Lydia Diamond's acclaimed race comedy Smart People. “We are honored to provide a space for conversations and connections to the Denver community this year through this season's offerings.”

    Lisa Portes Robert O'HaraMacbeth will be directed by Robert O'Hara, a rising playwright, director and screenwriter who won the 2010 NAACP Best Director Award and the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play. He was a young prodigy of original Angels in America Director George C. Wolfe and is perhaps best-known as a writer for Insurrection, a time-traveling play exploring racial and sexual identity. 

    The Who's Tommy, the rock musical based on the classic 1969 concept album about the pinball prodigy, will reunite acclaimed British Frankenstein director Sam Buntrock and Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood (who also will create the world of Macbeth). Native Gardens will mark the DCPA return of playwright Karen Zacarias, who wrote Just Like Us in 2014. Zacarias has penned a very close-to-home border-war story: One that plays out between two neighboring couples in D.C. who have a dispute over their property line. The director is Chicago's Lisa Portes, who recently won the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation's 2016 Zelda Fichandler Award, which recognizes an artist who is "transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in the theatre." She is head of the masters program in directing at DePaul University.

    Next year's A Christmas Carol will be the 25th season staging of Dickens' classic by the DCPA since 1990. Melissa Rain Anderson will return for her second turn at directing, and popular longtime DCPA actor Sam Gregory again will play Scrooge.

    DCPA THEATRE COMPANY SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • Sept. 15-Oct. 29: Robert O’Hara’s Macbeth (Space Theatre Grand Reopening)
    • Oct. 13-Nov. 19: Smart People (Ricketson Theatre)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre)
    • Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018: Zoey’s Perfect Wedding (Space Theatre)
    • Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018: American Mariachi (Stage Theatre)
    • Feb. 2-March 11, 2018: The Great Leap (Ricketson Theatre)
    • April 6-May 6, 2018: Native Gardens (Space Theatre)
    • April 20-May 27, 2018: The Who's Tommy (Stage Theatre)
    • May 18-June 24, 2018: Human Error (Garner Galleria Theatre)

    DCPA OFF-CENTER 2017-18 SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • July 5-Aug. 23 Mixed Taste, with MCA Denver (Seawell Grand Ballroom)
    • Oct. 12-31: The Wild Party (The Hangar at Stanley)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: The SantaLand Diaries, with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Jones Theatre)
    • March 22-April 15, 2018: This Is Modern Art (Jones Theatre)
    • Spring/Summer 2018: Remote Denver (on the streets of Denver)

    TC 2017-18 800

    And here is a more detailed look at all 14 newly announced productions, in chronological order:

    MIXED TASTE (Off-Center)
    mixed-tasteTag team lectures on unrelated topic
    Presented by Off-Center with MCA Denver
    Wednesdays from July 5 through Aug 23
    Seawell Grand Ballroom
    Even mismatched subjects will find common ground in a lecture series that can go pretty much anywhere. Two speakers get twenty minutes each to enlighten you on unrelated topics, but can’t make any connections to each other. Ideas start to blend afterward when audience members ask questions to both speakers and anything goes. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    MACBETH
    macbethBy William Shakespeare
    Directed by Robert O’Hara
    Sept. 15-Oct. 29
    Space Theatre (Grand Reopening)
    To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others, the people of Scotland or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. Shakespeare’s compact, brutal tragedy kicks off the grand reopening of our theatre-in-the-round in a visceral re-imagining from visionary director Robert O’Hara, who is “shaking up the world, one audience at a time” (The New York Times). This ambitious reinvention of the classic tale reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses the dagger must suffer the consequences. 



    THE WILD PARTY
    (Off-Center)
    the-wild-partyMusic and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson
    Oct. 12-31
    The Hangar at Stanley
    You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind for a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and booze-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees. Dress up in your finest pearls, suits and sequins – encouraged but not required.



    SMART PEOPLE

    smart-peopleBy Lydia R. Diamond
    Directed by Nataki Garrett
    Oct. 13-Nov. 19
    Ricketson Theatre
    Intelligence can only get you so far when it comes to navigating love, success and identity in the modern age. This biting comedy follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. But no matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life. Fiercely clever dialogue and energetic vignettes keep the laughs coming in a story that Variety calls “Sexy, serious and very, very funny.”



    A CHRISTMAS CAROL

    christmas-carolBy Charles Dickens
    Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    Music by David de Berry
    Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    Stage Theatre
    Essential to the holiday season in Denver, A Christmas Carol promises to “warm your heart and renew your holiday spirit” according to the Examiner. Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Denver favorite Sam Gregory returns as Scrooge. READ MORE ABOUT IT

    (Note: 'A Christmas Carol' is an added attraction, not part of the Theatre Company subscription season.)



    SantaLand Diaries 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom
    'The SantaLand Diaries,' 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    THE SANTALAND DIARIES
    (Off-Center)
    By David Sedaris
    Adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
    Presented by Off-Center with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    Directed by Stephen Weitz
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    The Jones Theatre
    This disgruntled Macy's elf has the cure for the common Christmas show. Looking for a little more snark in your stocking? Crumpet the Elf returns for more hilarious hijinks in this acclaimed one-man show based on stories by David Sedaris. Crumpet’s twisted tales from his stint in Macy’s SantaLand are the cure for the common Christmas show. Release your holiday stress, get all of those obnoxious carols out of your head and check out even more late night options this year. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING

    zoeys-perfect-wedding2By Matthew Lopez
    Directed by Mike Donahue
    Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018
    Space Theatre
    The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. From the team that brought you, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Matthew Lopez’s wildly funny fiasco destroys expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up. READ OUR 2015 INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW LOPEZ



    AMERICAN MARIACHI

    american-mariachi2By José Cruz González
    Director to be announced
    Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    The Stage Theatre
    Lucha and Bolie are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band in the 1970s. The only things standing in their way are a male-dominated music genre, patriarchal pressure from inside their families and finding the right women to fill out their sound. As they practice, perform and strive to earn the respect of their community, their music sparks a transformation in the lives of those around them – especially Lucha’s parents. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music played on stage. González writes a passionate story about families and friendships that you should share with yours. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ CRUZ GONZÁLEZ


     

    THE GREAT LEAP
    the-great-leap2By Lauren Yee
    Director to be announced
    Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    Ricketson Theatre
    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. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly-changing country and Chinese American player Manford seeks a lost connection. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium. Yee’s “acute ear for contemporary speech” and a “devilishly keen satiric eye” (San Francisco Chronicle) creates an unexpected and touching story inspired by events in her own father’s life. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN YEE


     

    THIS IS MODERN ART
    this-is-modern-artBy Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    Directed by Idris Goodwin
    March 22-April 15, 2018
    The Jones Theatre
    Graffiti crews are willing to risk anything for their art. Called vandals, criminals, even creative terrorists, Chicago graffiti artists set out night after night to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world. But when one crew finishes the biggest graffiti bomb of their careers, the consequences get serious and spark a public debate asking, where does art belong? This Is Modern Art gives a glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists and asks us to question the true purpose of art. READ MORE ABOUT IT


    NATIVE GARDENS
    native-gardensBy Karen Zacarias
    Directed by Lisa Portes
    April 6-May 6, 2018
    Space Theatre
    Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virginia have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt comedy about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.



    Sam Buntock

    THE WHO'S TOMMY
    the-whos-tommyMusic and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    Directed by Sam Buntrock
    April 20-May 27, 2018
    Stage Theatre
    Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive. This production reunites director Sam Buntrock and scenic designer Jason Sherwood, the team behind last season’s audience favorite, Frankenstein.



    HUMAN ERROR

    human-error2By Eric Pfeffinger
    Director to be announced
    May 18-June 24, 2018
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    Madelyn 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. “Up-and-coming scribe Eric Pfeffinger has the vital nerve to explore the gaping communication gap between red America and blue America, liberal humanists and the conservative right” (Chicago Tribune). READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH ERIC PFEFFINGER


    REMOTE DENVER
    remote-denverBy Rimini Protokoll
    Concept, Script and Direction: Stefan Kaegi
    Research, Script and Direction Denver: Jörg Karrenbauer
    Spring/Summer 2018
    On the streets of Denver
    Join a group of 50 people swarming Denver on a guided audio tour that seems to follow you as much as you are following it. Experience a soundtrack to the streets, sights, and rooftops of The Mile High City as a computer-generated voice guides your group’s movements in real time. Discover a "secret Denver," exploring places like gathering spaces, back alleyways, dark hallways and public areas through a new lens. You’re not just audience members — you’re actors and spectators, observers and observed, individuals and hordes, all at the same time.

     

    TICKET INFORMATION:

    • Theatre Company: New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are available online at denvercenter.org/nextseason or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. Note: Plans for the new season are subject to change and benefit restrictions may apply.
    • Off-Center: The single-ticket on-sale date for all Off-Center productions will be announced at a later time. Subscriptions are not available for Off-Center shows.

     

     

  • Off-Center throwing a 'Wild Party' at Stanley Marketplace this fall

    by John Moore | Mar 21, 2017
    Charlie Miller


    By Hope Grandon
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Off-Center, the unconventional and most adventurous wing of Denver Center programming, has announced its next off-site collaboration and first full-scale musical production: An immersive, 360-degree staging of Michael John LaChiusa’s jazz musical The Wild Party to run Oct. 12-31 at Stanley Marketplace.

     

    Amanda Berg Wilson “Last summer, Off-Center took over a 16,000-square foot warehouse in RiNo to bring you Sweet & Lucky. This fall, we’re breaking out the bathtub gin and heading to the Hangar at Stanley to tackle the first musical in Off-Center’s history,” said Off-Center curator Charlie Miller.

    “Much like Sweet & Lucky, The Wild Party will transport audience members to a different era where they will be immersed in the story as guests at Queenie and Burr’s party. The live band will be swinging, and we’ll find out what happens when you let down your guard and give yourself over to the party. I am so excited to dive into this piece with our incredible team of collaborators.”

    The Wild Party, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards when it appeared on Broadway in 2000, will be directed by Sweet & Lucky cast member Amanda Berg Wilson (pictured above), also the artistic director of the Boulder-based company The Catamounts and a 2016 True West Award winner.

    Stanley Marketplace home to Travelers of the Lost Dimension

    This production continues the partnership forged between Off-Center and Stanley, which began with the adventure comedy Travelers of the Lost Dimension, currently running throughout the public spaces at Stanley through May 21. 

    Full details including cast and creative team will be announced at a later date.

    The Stanley Marketplace, which opened last year near the Stapleton neighborhood just east of Denver, is a community of like-minded businesses and residents who believe sustainable retail and community development. The more than 22-acre space, which occupies 140,000 square feet, was once Stanley Aviation headquarters, where airplane ejector seats were engineered and manufactured. Today it is an adaptive re-use community hub, home to a park, beer hall and an urban marketplace. All businesses are local and independent. The address is 2501 Dallas St. in Aurora. MAP IT

    (Note: The Michael John LaChiusa adaptation of 'The Wild Party' is very different from the Andrew Lippa version that was presented last year by Ignite Theatre at the Aurora Fox.)

    The Wild Party
    Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    Oct. 12-31, 2017
    At The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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