• Perspectives: 'Smart People' and the constant search for 'yes'

    by John Moore | Oct 18, 2017
    Making of 'Smart People' Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' directed by Nataki Garrett and featuring Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. 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.

     

    Five things we learned about the Theatre Company’s new comedy at our ongoing series of free conversations.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Lydia R. Diamond’s Smart People, opening Friday in the Ricketson Theatre, is a play that takes its premise from an idealistic, real-life Princeton University neuropsychologist named whose research led her to believe that there is an identifiable gene in the bodies of white people that causes them to be racist. “Idealistic” because, in this emerging era of gene manipulation, the possibility might then exist that racism could one day be filtered out of human existence.

    It’s also a funny comedy about four impossibly smart and impossibly beautiful young people embroiled in America's often comically self-deluded conversations about gender and race at the hopeful dawn of the first Obama administration.

    When Diamond read the article about Fiske's quest to solve the problem of racism by locating that elusive gene, she knew she wanted to write a play about it. In an interview with the Huntington Theatre Company, Diamond said: "The genesis was a paper by Susan Fiske, who studies the roots of stereotyping based on race, gender and age. My husband, a sociologist, happened upon the article and said, 'You may want to look at this.' It kind of jolted me and made me think, 'What would be the ramifications of that line of inquiry? I started to see that across disciplines, studies about race aggressively worked to talk around race; I imagine because it’s such a powder keg."

    Here are five things we learned about the DCPA Theatre Company’s production of Smart People at Perspectives, an ongoing series of free conversations with audiences held before the first preview performance of most every Theatre Company offering. The panel featured Garrett and her entire four-actor cast of Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen, as well as Lighting Designer Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew.

    Join moderator Douglas Langworthy next at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19 in the Jones Theatre for a talk on Matthew Lopez’s world-premiere comedy Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.    

    NUMBER 1Jurassic-ParkHow did this play come about? “It’s a real study,” Smart People Director Nataki Garrett said of Fiske's research. “You can download that article on the internet right now.” And if you read it, she said, “What you will find is this person's earnest desire to create change. That is a symptom of this idealistic time we were in just after Barack Obama was elected. The character in our play who is pursuing this idea really does want to help humanity.” But Colorado Springs native Jason Veasey (pictured below right), who plays a different character in the play, says beware of the story’s Frankenstein overtones. “The problem with human beings' pursuit of knowledge to the furthest extremes, even with the best intentions, is that there will always be other human beings who want to take that knowledge and do something bad with it,” Veasay said, “whether it be trying to identify a gene that makes people racist — or creating a park with real live dinosaurs. Look what happened when they did that!

    NUMBER 2 Smart People. Jason Veasey. Photo by John MooreHigh hopes and high I.Qs. The play is intentionally set just as the country was electing its first African-American president, said Garrett, also the Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director. “That was a very optimistic time in our county — for some people,” she said. “There was this revelry around the idea that we were participating in something that was happening for the first time. Because whenever you embark on something for the first time, then what you are probably doing is changing the world. These people meet at a time when they, too, are embarking on something new — with the election, with each other and with their ideas. What they are looking to discover is something about who we are as a nation."

    NUMBER 3Double vision: It is believed that Smart People is the first time the Denver Center's tiny Ricketson Theatre has ever accommodated a double-decker set. That means it has two floors, courtesy of Scenic Designer Efren Delgadillo Jr., with input from Garrett, who initially was told the Ricketson had never been bisected horizontally because the former movie theatre just doesn't have the height. Which set Garrett’s curiosity on a quest to find out if it could be done. That didn't surprise her actors, who call working with Garrett what they call “The Search for Yes.” “I Iike to be told what I can't do, and then ... I just have to see for myself,” Garrett said to laughter. “We jigsaw-puzzled ideas for days looking for ways to make is happen” – and with help from the DCPA design team, they did. The result, Garrett said, is an intentionally spare set made up of extremely clean and efficient lines. “I needed a space where the playwright’s words are most prominent, unfettered by other scenic elements,” she said.


    Smart People. Photo by John Moore

    NUMBER 4 What is ‘The Search for Yes’? When design artists come to Denver, one thing they quickly discover, Garrett said, “is that the team from the Denver Center can do anything. If you say to the people who put their hands on the stages here that you have this really crazy idea, the answer is almost always, exclusively, going to be ‘yes.’ They will do whatever it takes to make it happen." As an example, she asked those in attendance to pay particular attention to the use of projections in Smart People. “How they did what they did in that teeny space is amazing to me,” Garrett said. Added Veasey: “It feels like you are on the inside of a TV.”

    NUMBER 5What is ‘color-blind casting’? Diamond’s script very specifically calls for an  African-American woman who in turn plays an aspiring actor. At one point in the story, she is asked about her current role in a production of Julius Caesar, and specifically whether her casting in the traditionally white Shakespeare play is the result of “color-blind casting” — one of the most polarizing issues among real-life actors. Garrett was asked to define the term, and say whether she advocates for it. After a deep breath, she accepted the challenge:

    “So … ‘color-blind casting’ is an idea that is born out of the age of multiculturalism, where you might take a play that historically was connected to just one culture and cast it instead in a way that is inclusive of several cultures or identities,” she said. “Color-blind casting sometimes works and sometimes it doesn't. I believe that when it doesn't work, it is because of an earnest desire to create a world in which color does not exist — as opposed to creating a world in which color and race and identity are actually tangible things that we hold dear. Where it is important for us to have and embrace difference, as opposed to homogeny. Often, color-blind casting can further marginalize people of color because the question usually comes with the inference that, ‘You were not supposed to be doing this.’ That means you were given an opportunity that doesn't actually belong to you. I believe in casting that allows for people to be considered for roles based on their skills and for their density and for their ability and depth and knowledge — not based primarily on their identity. So I am not a ‘color-blind caster.’ I would say that I am a ‘color-conscious caster.’ I am very aware of the people in the bodies of the people I work with, and I honor them in their bodies, and I need them to be who they are."

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that 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. 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.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
    Photos, story: Smart People opens rehearsals in full swing

  • Perspectives: 'Macbeth' director's recommendation: 'Invest in yes'

    by John Moore | Sep 19, 2017
    Perspectives Macbeth. Robert O'Hara. Steven Cole Hughes'Perspectives' is a series of free panel discussions held just before the first public performance of each DCPA Theatre Company staging. The 'Macbeth' panel included director Robert O'Hara and actor Steven Cole Hughes, above, as well as actors Alec Hynes and Kim Fischer (pictured below right). The moderator was Literary Director Doug Langworthy. The next 'Perspectives' will be held before the first preview of 'Smart People' at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, in the Jones Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    'The Curse,' the costumes and the king obsessed with witches are all fair game at season's first Perspectives

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Macbeth An audience member before Friday’s first performance of Macbeth wanted to know: Is “The Curse” real?

    He was talking about the most famous – and famously respected – superstition in all of theatre: Say the word "Macbeth" inside a theatre, and you invite disaster. Better to say “The Scottish Play” or “Mackers.” Shakespeare’s play gets its evil reputation in part because of the witches in the story, and of course the legendary tales of misfortune that have been associated with hundreds of Macbeth stagings going back to 1606.

    Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore. Robert O’Hara, who is directing Macbeth for the DCPA Theatre Company, says so far – knock on wood! – there have been no incidents attributable to black magic lurking under the brand-new Space Theatre floorboards. But he said things got super weird before rehearsals even began.

    O'Hara invited the actors playing Macbeth and Lady M (Ariel Shafir and Adam Poss) to his home a few months ago to talk about the play. As they were diving into the play, O’Hara looked outside and noticed an inexplicable pack of wild kittens loitering underneath his tree. He says they didn’t live in the neighborhood, and they all disappeared by the next morning. But that day, Poss’ simple plane trip home from Cincinnati to Chicago ended up taking nearly 24 hours to complete.

    Weird, sisters.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Here are five more things we learned about 'Macbeth at Perspactives:

    Macbeth set design by Jason SherwoodTrue blue: NUMBER 1 Macbeth is O’Hara’s first Shakespeare production as a director. And while he brings a different sensibility to this staging that is evident from costumes to clothing to music to movement, he’s not rewriting a word of Shakespeare’s language. “Nothing you see will defame Shakespeare,” O'Hara said. “I didn't come here to do Shakespeare in order to not do Shakespeare. I am a playwright, too, so if I wanted to do an adaptation of Shakespeare, I would have just written my own play. But at the same time, I don't want the audience to see a museum piece. I want them to see something that shows how elastic Shakespeare is. I am not interested in how Shakespeare is ‘supposed’ to be done. I am interested in how I meet Shakespeare’s language today.”

    (Pictured above and right: A look at the 'Macbeth' set design by Jason Sherwood.)

    NUMBER 2About those costumes: "We don't wear many. You're welcome,” actor Steven Cole Hughes said to laughs. O’Hara said it makes perfect sense for warlocks to live their lives more unencumbered by inhibition (and clothing) than humans. “Our show is essentially warlocks putting on a play, and these warlocks have a different sense of their bodies. They have a different sense of nakedness,” O’Hara said. "But when it comes time for the warlocks to put on Shakespeare’s play, they add some Jacobean clothing. They’re costumes. But underneath, they are still who they are.”

    NUMBER 3 What the Hecate? There is a character in the play who usually gets cut in contemporary stagings. Her name is Hecate, queen of the witches. Hecate says: 'Bring Macbeth to the Pit of Acheron,” and that’s where O’Hara has chosen to set this production. It’s years after the real-life story of Macbeth, the witches are all male warlocks, and they are performing the play as a kind of historical ritual. And here, we will meet Hecate. “Robert did some research that said Hecate is a three-headed witch, so there are three of us actors paying her,” said Hughes. “We had the freedom to create both how we move and talk as a trio. Hecate has a monologue, and we split it up between the three of us." 

    NUMBER 4And as for the music: “It's going to start loud, and get louder,” says Hughes. O’Hara only asks of his audience what he asked of his cast on the first day of rehearsal: "Invest in yes," he said. And if you do, he added, "you will be rewarded at the end.” The play is performed as a ritual not unlike the Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross. And each ritual is accompanied its own music, movement and lighting scheme. These are transitions that act as a bridge between the scenes that Shakespeare wrote, and the hybrid world these warlocks inhabit at the Pit of Acheron.

    NUMBER 5Back to those those witches: Scotland’s King James I – yes, namesake of the King James Bible – was obsessed with the subject of witchcraft. There were 247 witch trials during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and King James, and he was a frequent instigator of them. Belief in witches was common at the time. James, who became the first king of both England and Scotland in 1603, even wrote a book on supernatural creatures and demons. James was also a big fan of live theatre, and he hired Shakespeare to write plays for him. The Bard wrote Macbeth specifically to please King James. In the play, quintessential good-guy Banquo is meant to represent James. And to please His Majesty, Shakespeare inserted more biblical imagery than in any of his other plays.

    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.

    Macbeth. Perspectives. Photo by John Moore.

    Actors Steven Cole Hughes and Kim Fischer demonstrate some of the choreography in 'Macbeth.' Photo by John Moore.


    Macbeth: Ticket information
    Macbeth_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: Forget what you know about Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy. Director Robert O’Hara breathes new life (and death) into this raw reimagining for the grand reopening of The Space Theatre. To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. This ambitious reinvention reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses to kill must suffer the consequences.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Sept. 15, through Oct. 29
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Macbeth: Previous DCPA NewsCenter coverage
    Video: Adam Poss on a man playing Lady Macbeth
    Video: Ariel Shafir on the young new warrior face of Macbeth
    The masculinity of Macbeth
    Macbeth
    at a time when everything is shifting
    Cast announced for Robert O’Hara’s reimagined Macbeth
    Video, photos: Our coverage of the Space Theatre opening

    Making of Macbeth: Full photo gallery:

    Making of 'Macbeth'

    Photos from the making of Robert O'Hara's 'Macbeth' for the DCPA Theatre Company. 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.
  • Perspectives: 'Disgraced' is about starting, not finishing, conversations

    by John Moore | Apr 07, 2017
    Photo gallery: The making of Disgraced in Denver:

    'Disgraced' in Denver

    Perspectives is a series of public panel discussions held just before the first public performance of each DCPA Theatre Company staging. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    Disgraced opens tonight, but
    the conversation is only just beginning.


    By John Moore

    Senior Arts Journalist

    Disgraced
    is the most-produced play in America right now for one very good reason, says actor Vandit Bhatt: “It's a really good play.” If it were not, he surmises, “the DCPA and all those other theatres around the country probably wouldn’t be doing it.”

    But playwright Ayad Akhtar’s provocative, Pulitzer Prize-winning story is one that ultimately - and perhaps intentionally - leaves audiences uncomfortable. And that’s OK, says DCPA Theatre Company Director Carl Cofield. Because he believes a fundamental responsibility of the theatre is to stage plays that sometimes upset us.

    A Disgraced Perspectives 800“Theatre is supposed to lay important questions on the table,” said Cofield, whose production of Disgraced opens tonight in the Ricketson Theatre and runs through May 7. “There is no better place to ask tough questions than in a theatre. “If we're not, then why even bother?”

    As long as the most compelling question audiences walk away asking is not something so banal as: “Do they validate parking?”

    "The Greeks asked big questions about how you deal with love, grief and treachery,” Cofield said at Perspectives, a series of public panel discussions held just before the first public performance of each Theatre Company offering. “Shakespeare asked big questions that we continue to grapple with to this day. So did August Wilson. Theatres are a safe space where we can all come together and devote our attention to one story for 90 minutes and hopefully leave asking questions about ourselves, and about what we just experienced together.”

    Disgraced is the story of an American-born, Muslim-raised New York corporate lawyer and his struggle with his conflicted identity. Amir has rejected Islam and wholly embraced capitalism while his white wife — an up-and-coming New York artist — sees the beauty and wisdom in the Islamic tradition. The play bluntly asks whether Americans must renounce their “other” cultural identities to gain mainstream acceptance.

    A Disgraced Perspectives QuoteBut Akhtar’s play comes along at a highly charged and polarizing time in America, especially given the President’s pledge to ban some foreign Muslims from entering the United States.

    “We are spending more and more time on our telephones and devices these days,” Cofield said. “We get into our vehicles and we drive to our subdivisions where everybody looks just like us and talks just like us. We don't have conversations with people who think differently from us. We just yell and scream over one another.”

    Most important, said Dramaturg Heidi Schmidt: “This play is about starting a conversation. It's not about finishing one.”

    Toward that end, and for the first time in the nearly 40-year history of the Theatre Company, there will be moderated talkbacks following every performance of Disgraced led by rotating members of the local academic community.

    “Some of these conversations might be uncomfortable,” Cofield said. “But important conversations are sometimes uncomfortable. And when we get to the other side of them, we're better for having them than pretending the question does not exist.”

    For Cofield and Schmidt, the conversation began months before the play even began rehearsals. “When I signed on to do this piece, it was explicitly important to me that we actively seek out members of the local Muslim and Islamic faith and culture, invite them into our theatre and how we can start a dialogue,” Cofield said. “How can we talk about this play and this experience together?” 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Disgraced Lighting Designer Richard Devin, who was the longtime Artistic Director for the famed Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder, said he thinks it is important for the Denver Center to stick its neck out and offer audiences stories that will challenge them. “This is a play audiences want to stick around afterward and talk about,” Devin said. “They want to work through some things.”

    Disgraced Perspectives Vandit BhattWhile the playwright wrote Disgraced through the veil of Islam, "he could have told it through many other veils," said Bhatt. "A lot of times it is looked at as a Muslim play, but the genius of it is that it's really about a fractured person, and that's what makes it universal and relatable."

    At the end of the very first talkback, following the first public preview performance of the play on March 30, a Muslim man made the point that the protagonist of the play was but one man and not a representative of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. As this same man was exiting the theatre, another audience member stopped him and asked if he wished they Denver Center were not presenting the play at all.

    "I am not at all against the play,” he responded, “because it will spark a conversation like the one we had it tonight after the play. And we need that."

    Actor Christina Sajous said the play is really much more than one man’s story. It addresses larger universal issues of humanity, violence and our common humanity – for starters.

    “One of the biggest diseases in our world is racism,” Sajous said, “and if we don't address it head-on, then we can never fix it. So why not address it through the story of Disgraced? We want things to be different but it has to start with us.”

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


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

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

    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

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

  • 'Two Degrees': A telling exchange at public conversation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Two Degrees cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


    Video bonus: Your first look at Two Degrees


    Ticket information

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

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

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

  • Perspectives: On coffee, conflict and 'The Christians'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for Two Degrees

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

    The Christians. Perspectives. John Moore.

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


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

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

  • 'The Book of Will': Why is there a bobble-head on that set?

    by John Moore | Jan 17, 2017
    The Book of Will Perspectives Sandra Goldmark'The Book of Will' Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark on her commitment to incorporate recycled and reclaimed materials into all of her designs. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The upcoming world-premiere play The Book of Will takes place in a number of locations including a tap house, a print shop, and the stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. But to Scenic Designer Sandra Goldmark, “location is the least interesting part of my job.”

    The Book of Will Perspectives Lauren GundersonWhat interests her more is how she and her team of collaborating designers can create a world that is distinct and relevant to each play. And the team from The Book of Will wanted to have a little fun with the idea that a life in the theatre today has not fundamentally changed all that much over the past four centuries.

    So even though the story begins in 1619 London, Goldmark has fashioned an intentionally anachronistic set that cleverly links the past to the present by mingling modern elements into the otherwise Elizabethan world of the play. For example, eagle-eyed audience members might spy, say, a small model car on a print-shop shelf, or a baseball bobble-head, or family photos tacked onto a bulletin board. “This is 2017, after all,” said Goldmark, "so why not have some fun with that?”

    Here are five more fun things we learned last Friday at Perspectives, a series of free conversations hosted by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Director Douglas Langworthy with cast and crew on the evening of each first preview performance. He was joined by Goldmark, Playwright Lauren Gunderson, Lighting Designer Paul Toben, Sound Designer Stowe Nelson, Assistant Director Alyssa Miller and actors Triney Sandoval and Thaddeus Fitzpatrick.

    (Pictured above and right: Playwright Lauren Gunderson wore your study guide to the first preview performance of 'The Book of Will.' The opening performance is Friday, Jan. 20. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    NUMBER 1A The Book of Will Perspectives 400 2As important as it was to Goldmark to be playful in creating her set, she is equally serious about carrying her considerable personal interest in climate change and sustainability into her all of her work across the country. So her sets are almost entirely made up of reclaimed and recycled materials, or in the case of the DCPA, pulled from storage. “I hope that adds a richness and history and integrity to the objects and the materials that are on stage,” Goldmark said. The Ricketson Theatre floor, for example, is now made up of old wooden bleacher boards that came from an old school gymnasium. The beams and railings that denote the Globe Theatre come from trees that were cut down to make room for the expansion of a local ski resort. “The set does feel like it very much could exist in 1623, but it does have these subtle modern touches that make it feel very current as well," added Sound Designer Stowe Nelson. 

    NUMBER 2Ben Jonson, the Shakespeare contemporary perhaps best known for writing The Alchemist, would not approve. So says the playwright and the actor playing him, Triney Sandoval, who doubles as the famous actor of the day, Richard Burbage. It's great fun for Sandoval to play both, he said, “because Ben Jonson had an utter disdain for actors." Added Playwright Lauren Gunderson, with a laugh: "Every time I see Triney as Ben Jonson, it reminds me of how (bleeped) off Jonson would be by the way I have written him.” The fierce rivalry between Shakespeare and Jonson reminds Sandoval of the famous feud between the painters Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. “The actor John Houseman was having lunch with Picasso one day at a restaurant and there was a hair in Picasso’s soup,” Sandoval said. “And Picasso's response was, 'Oh look - a Matisse.’ ”

    A The Book of Will Perspectives 800 4

    NUMBER 3

    The Theatre Company has recently presented A Weekend with Pablo Picasso and One Night in Miami, both plays where the writer completely imagines what might have happened during an otherwise unrecorded moment in history. So Gunderson was asked how much of her play is true, and how much of it is imagined? “The most important thing to me is that the true things are all true in the play - and most of it is absolutely true,” she said. "It’s true that Shakespeare died in 1619. It's true that only 18 of his plays had been published, and that were they not printed on paper that was meant to be saved. It’s true that Burbage and Henry Condell and John Heminges decided to publish the complete collected works after Shakespeare was gone. We know they published the book in 1623. And there are a couple of fabulous plot elements that I am not going to tell you here, but I did not make them up; I just took them from history. The small stuff we invented is still, at heart, true, and it honors the people and their story."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4

    The DCPA Theatre Company has launched dozens of world premieres over the years, but The Book of Will is the first to have its second staging lined up before the original even bows in Denver. The Book of Will already has been added to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival summer lineup in New York, where it will run from June 9 through July 28. That production also will be directed by the DCPA's Davis McCallum, and Gunderson said that staging will feature about half of the Denver cast. By the time The Legend of Georgia McBride closed in Denver in 2014, plans were set for that premiere to have its New York debut at the MCC Theatre.

    NUMBER 5If you saw the reading of The Book of Will at the Colorado New Play Summit last February, Gunderson promises that the play opening on Jan. 20 has a new ending. There were two potential endings written into the original script. “The ending we did before worked very well, but this one has a little more …” Gunderson said as Sandoval suggested the word “pizazz” to complete her sentence.  “Exactly," Gunderson teased. "You'll see.”

    Bonus: The cost of publishing Shakespeare’s collected works in 1623 was the equivalent of the average yearly salary for most working-class people in London at that time. 

    Bonus: It was mentioned above that the actor’s life has not essentially changed in 400 years. But here are three ways that it has: 1. The advent of the director. “They didn't have them back then,” said Sandoval. 2. Actors today primarily perform indoors. And 3. Actors are provided full scripts. In Shakespeare’s day, they were only given their own handwritten lines, as well as the cues that told them when to speak. That was all to save on paper.

    The next Perspectives will cover The Christians at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, in the Conservatory Theatre. All are welcome. It’s free.

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

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


    Photo gallery: The making of The Book of Will in Denver:

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

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

     The Book of Will Perspectives
  • Five things we learned about 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 05, 2016

    From left: Kevin Copenhaver (costumes), Topher Blair (projections), Jason Sherwood (scenic design), Brian Tovar (lighting), Sam Buntrock (director), Curtis Craig (sound), and actors Max Woertendyke, Molly Carden and Thaddeus Fitzpatrick. Photo by McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    "Perspectives" is a series of free conversations with DCPA Theatre Company cast and crew on the evening of each show's first preview performance (except A Christmas Carol). On Sept. 30, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore was joined by nine members of the Frankenstein team. Here’s some of what we learned:

    1 PerspectivesThis is a stage play, but it might as well be an action film. Playwright Nick Dear's script consists of 30 scenes, but they take less than two hours to play out. "The first 20 scenes are over in the first half an hour," Director Sam Buntrock said. And why the eventual change in tempo? “At the beginning of the story, the Creature has almost no language skills, so the first five scenes have almost no dialogue. But as the Creature experiences more of the world, and as he learns to communicate better, the play elongates and becomes more conventional." 

    2 PerspectivesCostumer Kevin Copenhaver said the creative team was not interested in furthering the popular cultural depiction of Frankenstein as the neck-bolted, square-headed monster we know from the 1931 Boris Karloff film. Nor the more recent National Theatre approach in London, which turned the monster into something of a mod zipperhead. “When reading Mary Shelley’s book, I was really struck by when she said the Creature had yellow eyes,” Copenhaver said. So the two actors who play the Creature in Denver will be wearing yellow color contacts, and their teeth will be fitted with iron. “But otherwise the monster will appear to be disturbingly normal,” Copenhaver said, in part to force audiences to confront their own feelings about difference and “otherness.” The less freakish this Creature looks, the more disturbing it should be that this society rejects him anyway. (Photo: Sullivan Jones and Charlie Korman by AdamsVisCom.)

    3 PerspectivesJason Sherwood admitted that his vibrant scenic deign, which features one massive (and surprise) overhanging set piece, created a nightmare for Lighting Designer Brian Tovar and others on the creative team. Everywhere a lighting designer might normally expect to place lights, Sherwood has invaded his space with hanging set pieces, as well as accommodation for rain, snow and fire. “The whole team had to get creative all around because of me, and I apologize for that,” Sherwood said with a laugh.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    4 Perspectives Frankenstein PerspectivesActors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek, the actors who will alternate playing the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature, have been encouraged to go their own ways – and that freedom affects everyone else on and around the stage. Said ensemble actor Molly Carden: “One thing Sam kept repeating to us was, 'If you are going to have two people play the same role on different nights, you don't want it to be the same performance. That would be antithetical to the whole premise.' ” Or, as Buntrock puts it: “I can't cram one person's performance into another person's. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself that this show is not the same for both people. It can't be.” That freedom not only means two actors interpreting the text differently, but also having the liberty to move about differently on the stage. That requires flexibility from the acting ensemble, the audience and even the technical crew - specifically, the person operating the lights. “That’s because Mark and Sullivan aren’t always in the same place on the stage each night, even though they are saying the same words,” actor Thaddeus Fitzpatrick said. (Photo: Sam Buntrock by By McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    5 PerspectivesDenver Center newcomer Max Woertendyke plays a gentleman named Felix de Lacey, a man who is devoted to his family and mistress. In fact, Felix is kind, educated, and gentle to all — save for the poor monster. Just a few months ago, Woertendyke was part of the Broadway ensemble of A View From the Bridge, which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. “Just to clarify - I don’t think I was the one who got it for us,” joked Woertendyke, who understudied the roles of Louis and Marco.

    6 PerspectivesBonus: Mary Shelley’s source novel turns 200 years old this year. And yet surely some audience members will be experiencing the story for the first time. “I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone - but it's about a monster,” Buntrock said with a laugh.

    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 next Perspectives will cover The Book of Will at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, in the Jones Theatre. It’s free.


    Photo gallery: The making of Frankenstein in Denver:

    'Frankenstein' in Denver

    To see more photos, click the arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore and McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.


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


    Previous NewsCenter coverage:

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

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

  • Five things we learned about 'The Glass Menagerie'

    by John Moore | Sep 12, 2016


    From left: 'The Glass Menagerie' Dramaturg Stephanie Prugh, Scenic Designer Joe Tilford, Director Ina Marlowe, Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle and "Perspectives" host Douglas Langworthy. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    "Perspectives" is a series of free conversations hosted by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Director Douglas Langworthy with cast and crew on the evening of each first preview performance. On Sept. 9, Langworthy was joined by Director Ina Marlowe, Scenic Designer Joe Tilford, Dramaturg Stephanie Prugh and Costume Designer Meghan Anderson Doyle to discuss The Glass Menagerie. Here’s some of what we learned:

    1 PerspectivesWhat’s in a name? Tennessee Williams first conceived his story as a film originally to be called The Gentleman Caller. Williams had been hired as a writer for MGM in 1940, making a then-princely sum of $200 a week. But when he presented his treatment to his own studio, his bosses turned it down. The script then morphed into an autobiographical play that Williams labored over for the next three years.

    2 PerspectivesPerspectives Quote The Glass MenagerieShe had how many Gentlemen Callers? In the play, matriarch Amanda Wingfield recalls the days of her youth when she lived in the fictional town of Blue Mountain and had 17 Gentlemen Callers on a single Sunday afternoon. Amanda is based on Tennessee Williams' mother, Edwina, and Amanda is modest by comparison. "Edwina Williams once entertained 30 suitors in one day," said Dramaturg Stephanie Prugh. "She was very popular during her time. It was only when the family moved to St. Louis in 1918 that she started retreating more and more into her past.” Because of the play, we think of Amanda as one of the most imposing characters in stage history. But did you know? In real life, Edwina Williams was only 4 feet, 11 inches tall.

    3 PerspectivesThe wilting Rose. You likely know that Laura Wingfield is based on Tennessee Williams' actual sister, Rose, who descended into schizophrenia and in 1937 had one of the first pre-fontal lobotomies ever performed in the United States. In real life, Tennessee, too, was asked by his mother to bring home a Gentleman Caller. He brought home a boy from school, but Rose already was showing signs of mental illness. "One of the beautiful parallels is his sister's mental illness in real life becomes Laura's physical disability in the play," said Prugh. But Amanda Wingfield should not be played as if she is out of her mind. “In many productions, they have Amanda in la-la land," Marlowe said. "I just don't feel that's true. Her motivation for everything she does was strongly rooted in her love for her children. Not that it was effective - it very rarely was. But I want this play to have love at its center.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    4 Perspectives"It's a perfect play." While The Glass Menagerie is universally regarded as an American classic, Marlowe takes it one step further. "Very infrequently do you find a play that is this perfectly written," she said. "Even among Tennessee Williams' plays, it is just a jewel. Even though A Streetcar Named Desire is wonderful and expansive, it's not as perfectly constructed as The Glass Menagerie, in my opinion. Williams gives us all of the information that we actually need to know about the play in the first paragraph":

    "The Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living-units that flower as warty growths in overcrowded urban centres of lower-middle-class population and are symptomatic of the impulse of this largest and fundamentally enslaved section of American society to avoid fluidity and differentiation and to exist and function as one interfused mass of automatism."

    5 PerspectivesThat's no ordinary photo. The Wingfield patriarch abandoned the family 16 years before, "so there is a tremendous hole in the family where he used to be," Marlowe says. Not only are these characters haunted by his absence, added Scenic Designer Joe Tilford, "this place is haunted by his absence, too." So how do you portray the magnitude of that absence onstage when a framed 8x10 just won't do? "Whenever I have seen a production of The Glass Menagerie, I have been frustrated by the lack of the photograph's ability to haunt us," said Marlowe. "Tennessee Williams calls him the fifth character in this story, but he never appears except in this photograph. So we have this giant projection of him. Sometimes he dims, and sometimes he lights up a little but more. But he's always there. He is very, very present in the story."

    Read more about it: As a memory play, much of what audiences will see in the play is not represented as historical or literal, but rather with an unreliable, dreamlike quality.  What does memory look like? And how do you make memory real on a stage? Read more about Director Ina Marlowe and Scenic Designer Joe Gilford's design concept.

    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 next Perspectives will cover Frankenstein at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, in the Jones Theatre. It’s free.

    The Glass Menagerie: Ticket information
    • Through Oct. 16
    • Ricketson Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 15
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Glass Menagerie:

    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    Casting set for The Glass Menagerie
    First rehearsal: This will be no wimpy Glass Menagerie
    The Glass Menagerie: A modern visual twist on an American classic
    Meet the cast: Amelia Pedlow

    Meet the cast: John Skelley

    Photo gallery: The making of The Glass Menagerie:

    'The Glass Menagerie' in Denver

    Photos from the making of 'The Glass Menagerie' in Denver. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.
  • Perspectives: 5 things we learned about 'Sweeney Todd' (like use a dull blade)

    by John Moore | Apr 11, 2016
    Sweeney Todd Perspectives'Sweeney Todd' Perspectives conversation on April 8 in the Conservatory Theatre, from left: Choreographer Joel Ferrell, musical director Gregg Coffin, Director Kent Thompson, Actor Kevin McGuire (Judge Turpin) and Actor Samantha Bruce (Johanna). Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Perspectives is a series of free conversations with cast and creatives that take place on the evening of each production's first preview performance. The DCPA Theatre Company already has garnered enormous advance attention for its upcoming production of Sweeney Todd opening Friday (April 15), in part because of its collaboration with the band DeVotchKa on a new arrangement of Stephen Sondheim's classic score about the vengeful barber who teams up with a macabre baker to turn their customers into meat pies. Director Kent Thompson talked about how the DeVotchKa dots got connected. But the wide-ranging conversation unearthed a few other gems as well. Here’s some of what we learned. (This Perspectives panel was hosted by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.)


    1 Perspectives Sweeney Todd Persepctives QuoteWhat in the world just happened in New Zealand, and how is that not possible to happen here? Students at a private high school in Auckland, New Zealand, were determined to make their production of Sweeney Todd as realistic as possible. So real that two 16-year-old students’ necks were cut with a prop knife during last week's opening performance. Both were hospitalized, one with serious injuries.

    How does something like that happen? "I'll tell you how," said Thompson: You're really stupid. I will say this is a challenging show, because you've got to make it credible - but I can't imagine why you would use a real razor in a high-school production. The razors you will see in our show are real, but they have been significantly dulled. One thing you have to be careful about is the strap that Sweeney uses, because you can actually be sharpening the blade on it. But we check that every night. Also our Fight Director, Geoff Kent, is constantly making sure that we're not making actual contact with the skin.

    "I just think someone in New Zealand had a very unwise thought. It's like somebody saying, 'Oh, I'll bring my pistol in and we can shoot blanks.' You'll see a gun in our show, but it's a gun that can never fire a real bullet. It would actually fall apart if you even tried."

    Thompson has his own question when he heard about the New Zealand accident: "After the first child got cut ... " 

    He didn't even have to finish his thought.

    2 Perspectives Samantha Bruce Sweeney ToddThose actors playing Anthony and Johanna have fantastic chemistry. And so they should. Samantha Bruce and Daniel Berryman played the young lovers together in The Fantasticks off-Broadway for a year. "We didn't know that when we cast them," Thompson insists, to which Bruce joked: "Which is astounding to me. We didn't even know were were both auditioning for this show until my final callback. Daniel walked out of the room and it was like, 'Oh. Hi!' "

    Thompson quipped: "I couldn't understand how they had such great chemistry from the very first day of rehearsal. I just thought it was brilliant casting - and it is."

    "Just not that brilliant," he added with a laugh. 

    3 Perspectives

    DeVotchKa with 'Sweeney Todd' Conductor Erik Daniells. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. DeVotchKa: So whose idea was that, anyway? "Emily Tarquin, who is our coordinator for the Colorado New Play Summit and one of the two people who run Off-Center at the Jones, came up with the idea of DeVotchKa," Thompson said. "She said, 'Wouldn't that be cool?' And so I thought about it for a day - because I didn't want to give away what a brilliant idea I thought it was right away. I went back and listened to their music again. I had seen Shawn King here several times because he loves to come to the theatre, and Tom Hagerman had done some collaborating with Off-Center. So we approached them and asked if they were interested, and they said yes. The loved the idea. They love Sweeney Todd. They love the Denver Center. But they had no idea what they were getting into. This is Steven Sondheim, and it's one of the most complex scores in all of musical theatre. But I think they are having a great time." 

    Getting Sondheim's permission was not as difficult as one might think. "Most musical theatre composers, living or dead, are resistant to anyone doing anything with their original arrangements and orchestrations," Thompson said. "But Mr. Sondheim is very different. He loves experimentation. You still have to honor the melodic structure, but there is a progressive-grunge version that was just done in Texas, and of course in 2005 there was the 10-character Broadway version with Patti Lupone where she was playing the tuba onstage."

    4 PerspectivesSweeney Todd Perspectives There not only will be blood - there will be lots and lots of blood. So how are those gorgeous Victorian costumes created by Kevin Copenhaver supposed to survive being splattered eight times a week? "You have to have the best blood mixture in the world," Thompson said. "There are lots of ways of doing blood. There are commercial bloods you can buy for theatrical performance, for example. But we have found over time that if you want the right viscosity and the right look, you have to create your own. Then you can change the thickness of it, and the color if you need to. And as for protecting the costumes, it's about planning ahead about what will costumes get blood on them. Over the past few days, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to control the splatter so if someone gets their throat slit, the blood doesn't jump out 20 feet and fall through the floor below."

    5 Perspectives About that iconic barber chair. It's not giving anything away to say that a significant set piece is Sweeney's barber's chair. He is the Demon Barber, after all. The chair used here was built from scratch by the DCPA Props Department to to support the unique needs of  this production. 

    "Sweeney Todd moves really fast from scene to scene, and it has a lot of technical elements," Thompson said. "One of them being the barber chair where some unfortunate things happen and people ... disappear quickly.

    "It's quite a bit of technology, and it takes a lot of practice. I mean think about this:  Robert Petkoff (the actor who plays Sweeney) is singing this very complicated music while putting this barber sheet on, while moving this chair around, while unlocking the mechanisms that keep the actors safe, and - in coordination with the stage manager - opening the chute and delivering his victims at the same time. Then re-setting the chair. And then he does it again ... and again ... and again. All while still singing. It's really like watching a complex dance between this incredible piece of technology and this actor. It was our challenge to figure how to do that safely and yet theatrically. It really is special when you watch his victims ... depart the stage. It takes a lot of people you never see.  We have a backstage crew of nine to run the show, which is a lot of people. We have people on automation. We have people checking trap doors. We have people watching as these large units move on and off the stage. And we have a lot of special effects and costume changes going on. It's almost as complicated as Sondheim's music. Not quite ... but that makes it even more thrilling."    



    Extras (because Sweeney Todd is all about being insatiable):

    6 PerspectivesMusic Director Gregg Coffin says the orchestra each night is made up of nine members - Conductor Erk Daniells, DeVotchka members Shawn King, Jeanie Schroder and Tom Hagerman, and five backing musicians. They play nearly 40 instruments. We asked Coffin to name one we probably never have heard of. He mentioned the bandoneon. "It's a concertina squeeze box that looks like an accordion," Coffin said. "If you have seen Pinocchio, its what Geppetto plays." 


    7 PerspectivesAnd finally: Thoughts on doing the 37-year-old musical today, with so much violence both real and rhetorical happening in the world. The panel was asked how the tone of the piece differs now than when it debuted in 1979. 

    Kent Thompson: "In the initial production, which I saw, there were people who were just horrified by the slitting of the throats and the people going down the chute. Over time, that's become more of an "applause" moment, which is an indication of how our world has changed. I think it is scarier in some ways now. Some people are corrupt but powerful in this world, and some people have had their lives shattered by the corruption of the system. That's Sweeney."

    Actor Kevin McGuire: "Revenge is always the motivation when we do something horrible to someone else: This person has done something horrible to you, or to someone you love. So we take our revenge. But this global revenge that we seem to have going on today is what makes it more scary to me."

    Choreographer Joel Farrell: "For the last three years in this country, we have been having this ongoing conversation about "why is there so much violence?" It seems to happen in poverty-stricken, demoralized, disenfranchised neighborhoods more than it happens elsewhere. And I don't think that's arbitrary."  


    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Sweeney Todd: Ticket information

  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • Through May 15 (opens April 15)
  • StageTheatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that's 'loud and proud'
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa

    Previous Sweeney Todd profiles (to date):

    Meet Danny Rothman
    Meet Jean McCormick
  • 'FADE' Perspectives: Why ARE writers' rooms so drab?

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2016
    FADE Jerry Ruiz and Timothy R. Mackabee. Photo by John Moore. 'FADE' Perspectives conversation on Feb. 5 at The Jones Theatre, from left:

    Director Jerry Ruiz, Scenic Designer Timothy R. Mackabee and DCPA Literary Manager Doug Langworthy. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Perspectives is a series of free panel conversations moderated by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. They take place from 6 p.m. to 6:45 on the evening of each production's first preview performance. The next Perspectives will be held April 8 (discussing Sweeney Todd) in the Jones Theatre. No reservations necessary.

     



    In Tanya Saracho's world-premiere play FADE, opening Friday (Feb. 12) in the Ricketson Theatre, Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character in a cutthroat Hollywood TV studio. She soon discovers that the Latino studio custodian, Abel, has a windfall of plot ideas. As their friendship grows, his stories start to blur with hers, with unexpected consequences.

    Here’s some of what we learned from Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy’s conversation with FADE Director Jerry Ruiz and Scenic Designer Timothy R. Mackabee. The production's two actors, you soon will learn, were off learning brand new lines for Saracho's play. They are Mariana Fernández as Lucia and Eddie Martinez as Abel.

    1 Perspectives Why are TV writers' rooms so drab? FADE is set in a TV writer's office in Los Angeles. And TV writers’ rooms are not just drab. “They are crappy,” says Mackabee, who has the opportunity to work on several TV shows. “The funny thing about these rooms is that they are made for creative people do wonderful things, and they are the most awful rooms you could ever want to be in in your life.” Considering the budgets these shows have, who go so cheap on the aesthetics? "Usually a show rents a space to work and then you go out and rent a bunch of horrible Ikea furniture because the show might last only one season - and that's it. So there is never money or effort spent on these spaces because they are so temporary in nature.”

    Macakabee’s scenic design for FADE intentionally makes the Lucia's work space very cramped. “We are only using about a third of the Ricketson Theatre stage because we want it to be claustrophobic," he said. "These two cannot get away from each other.”

    For this production, Club Denver (located just outside of the Ricketson Theatre lobby), will be curated to look like a TV writing room, complete lousy furniture and bad lighting, to give the audience a sense of the play's environment even before walking into the theatre. 

    2 Perspectives What is the meaning of the title? “Originally, I think Tanya chose FADE because ‘fade to black’ is a common TV term,” Ruiz said. “But I also think it refers to our protagonist. Lucia comes into this job with a very clear sense of purpose. She has a mission she wants to accomplish on this TV show. But along the way, she gets so caught up in trying to survive in this shark-tank environment that she begins to lose sight of that. So her clarity of vision starts to fade away."


    John Moore's 2015 video interview with 'FADE' playwright Tanya Saracho.

    3 Perspectives

    Hispanic vs. Latino: What’s in a name? There is a moment in FADE when those two terms are bandied about. And both generate controversy. “Hispanic is an official term. It’s the one that is used on the U.S. census,” said Ruiz. “But a lot of people don't like that term politically because the root of the word is 'Hispania,' and that goes back to colonial Hispanic roots. A lot of us who are here in the Americas are from a Mestizo lineage – that is a combination of indigenous people who were already here and the colonists who came from Spain. So it is very complicated for us to say, 'Oh, we are Hispanic,' like we are some offshoot of Spain. Many people really don't like to think of themselves that way.”

    When ‘Latino’ came along as a term, many preferred it to Hispanic because it reflects a cultural identity and a pride in being from the Americas, whether that mean South America or Mexico or Central America. “But Latino is such a huge umbrella term,” Ruiz said. “There are different nationalities, different customs and very different cultures within that term - so it's not like all Latinos are the same.”

    That’s part of what FADE is exploring, Ruiz added: "How these two people who identify as Latina or Latina come from completely different backgrounds and experiences."

    4 Perspectives Get me rewrite! FADE may become the textbook example of the DCPA’s new-play development program at work. The process starts more than a year before a developing work is introduced as a reading at the annual Colorado New Play Summit. And the work continues, in some cases, until Opening Night. “When Tanya arrived in Denver last year for the New Play Summit, she really had about the first 50 pages of the play done, so she had a whole ending section to figure out,” Ruiz said. “She did quite a bit of work while she was here, and then the Denver Center conducted a workshop in Los Angeles last summer. All during this time, Tanya was doing more work on it, and she continued to flesh it out. By the time we got here to Denver for rehearsals about a month ago, she had a very solid draft of the script. And now we are starting to make one last pass at rewrites.”

    Ruiz was speaking on Feb. 5, just before the first preview performance of FADE, and one week before the official opening on Friday (Feb. 12). About six new pages of dialogue were added that day, and the actors were off learning their new lines. What’s fascinating to learn is how rewrites can greatly impact other parts of the creative process. Even those thought done.

    “These new rewrites happen in the first few scenes of the play, and they really impact how we get to know the main character,” Ruiz said. “So when I was reading these new pages, the first thing I said was, ‘Well, we are going to have to get her some new clothes.' I went to the costume designer (Meghan Anderson Doyle) last night and I said, ‘Hey, guess what? We've got these new pages. And there is a whole different tone now. These costumes are not going to work.’ And bam, she went out shopping this morning, and now there are completely different costumes in the first half of the show. All of that happened today.”  

    That anecdote, Ruiz says, demonstrates how a new play “is very much a living organism that is evolving and changing and growing.”

    5 Perspectives Is FADE autobiographical? In part. Saracho is a writer on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, primarily to help transform the Mexican-born protagonist played by Karla Souza into a complicated and fully fleshed character. But her first job was writing for HBO’s Devious Maids. “Tanya is a very funny writer, but she has a serious sense of politics about Latino and Latina identity,” Ruiz said. “So I think her experience on Devious Maids was somewhat troubling. She was suddenly in a show that was probably perpetuating a lot of the stereotypes that she had spent her whole theatre career trying to combat or challenge. I think FADE very much came out of that space of feeling unsure of how to navigate the world of network television while feeling conflicted between what she had to do as a writer on the staff and her own personal artistic values."


    FADE in Denver

    Photos from the making of 'FADE' in Denver. To see the full gallery, click the forward button on the photo above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    FADE: Ticket information
    tanya-saracho

  • By Tanya Saracho
  • Through March 13
  • Ricketson Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of FADE:
     

    FADE 600A question is posed at the latest Perspectives.
  • Perspectives: What we learned about 'All the Way': Johnson gave a dam!

    by John Moore | Feb 02, 2016
    All the Way Perspectives 'All the Way' Perspectives conversation on Jan. 29 at The Jones Theatre, from left: Actor Todd Cerveris (Gov. George Wallace), Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan, Voice and Dialect Coach Jack Greenman, Costume Designer David Kay Mickelsen and Director Anthony Powell. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.



    Perspectives
    is a series of free panel conversations moderated by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. They take place from 6 p.m. to 6:45 on the evening of each production's first preview performance. The next Perspectives will be held Feb. 5 (discussing FADE) in the Jones Theatre. No reservations necessary.

    Here’s some of what we learned from Langworthy’s conversation with cast and crew from All the Way, which imagines Lyndon Baines Johnson’s chaotic first year in office following the John F. Kennedy assassination and his sudden ascension to the presidency. His guests were Director Anthony Powell, Actor Todd Cerveris (Gov. George Wallace), Costume Designer David Kay Mickelsen, Voice and Dialect Coach Jack Greenman and Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan.

    1 Perspectives Johnson gave a dam. All the Way covers the 11 months between the Kennedy assassination and when LBJ was elected to his own term. It was, in essence, a very public tryout for the job. And during that time, he successfully got the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. "He would do whatever was necessary to get the job done,” said Powell, “including bullying or cajoling or giving you a dam.” That's DAM. Johnson, indeed, paved the way for Oklahoma’s Eufaula Dam, which was both needed and politically expedient. “Johnson had been head of the Senate for many years, and he was a master of parliamentary rules. And once he was in the presidency, he continued that kind of puppeteering and manipulation while trying to keep his fingerprints off it - which fooled no one.”  

    2 Perspectives It's 1960s Shakespeare! Playwright Robert Schenkkan's work has been equated to Shakespeare's in terms of characters, structure and language. In addition to basic devices such as direct-address monologues that show a character thinking out loud as he comes to critical decisions, the bones of the play were intentionally structured like a Shakespearean history. “All the Way was originally commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and they wanted to tell a modern history in the form of what a Shakespeare history play might be like,” said Greenman. “So you see a lot of characters, and you get a lot of story and a lot of plot, and you have a central character to focus on."

    And Powell says the central character of LBJ is “absolutely” Shakespearean in scope and complexity. “In fact, I saw a documentary on LBJ five years ago and I remember saying, ‘This is the American Lear.’ Because Vietnam came and destroyed everything he set out to do.”


    John Moore's 2009 interview with Colorado native Angela Reed, wife of 'All the Way' actor Todd Cerveris.

    3 Perspectives

    Michael Cerveris, left, and Todd CerverisHe ain't heavy. What does actor Todd Cerveris have in common with Sweeney Todd? Cerveris, who plays Gov. George Wallace and other characters in All the Way, is the brother of two-time Tony Award-winning Broadway actor Michael Cerveris, whose credits include the Demon Barber. Michael won his first Tony in 1993 for The Who’s Tommy, and last year for playing the conflicted father in Fun Home opposite Castle Rock native Beth Malone. Todd Cerveris has appeared on Broadway in South Pacific and Twentieth Century. The brothers are active on social media and are often encouraging each other’s work on Twitter. “The bedeviling thing about my brother is that he's a nice guy,” said Todd. The pair know each other’s strengths, weaknesses and acting tools better than anyone, so they often play the role of coach or professional adviser to one another, Todd said. (Photo above: Michael Cerveris, left, and Todd Cerveris.)

    Todd almost never followed in his big brother’s footsteps. “When I graduated from college, it made the most sense to go into theatre - which is why I didn't,” he said. “I spent about five years doing anything but (theatre). I drove a bike taxi for a while. I taught high-school English. I was a phlebotomist at a health clinic.”

    But Todd has another significant, small-world ally in his theatrical corner. He is married to actor Angela Reed, who graduated from Ponderosa High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder. She is a Colorado Shakespeare Festival alum and starred in the DCPA Theatre Company’s 2006 production of After Ashley. She returned to Denver in 2009, playing all of the adult women in the national touring production of Spring Awakening.

    “We understand each other,” Todd said. “We're good at talking each other off the cliff when either of us has been without a job for a long period of time.”

    All The Way Photo gallery above: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's production of 'All the Way.' To see more photos, click the forward button above. Credit: Adams Visual Communications.)

    4 Perspectives Costume longevity: Costume Designer David Kay Mickelsen (pictured right) has been with the DCPA Theatre Company for 21 seasons. All the Way marks his 56th production, and it is a whopper. There are 20 actors in the cast, and all but three play multiple roles. But when you work with certain recurring actors over time, you develop a shortcut. Mickelsen has been outfitting Sam Gregory, for example, for nearly two decades. Gregory plays 10 characters in All the Way. Fitting an unknown actor for 10 costumes might normally take Mickelsen half a day. He was done with Gregory in 45 minutes. "That includes 10 costumes, wigs and mustaches,” Mickelsen said. “But I have dressed Sam so many times, I know how to fit him. I know how he carries himself. I know what I can hand him that he will turn into something wonderful.” Cerveris said the challenge of playing multiple roles is making each character distinct. It's essential for the audience to follow the story - and costumes are only one tool at their disposal. Others include wigs, dialect, posture and vocal variance. "Sometimes the pieces can be very simple but very profound, like a shock of white hair or a pair of glasses,” Cerveris said.

    5 Perspectives Common cause? In his research, Powell found himself constantly challenging the history he was taught in school. Perhaps most significantly, he found that certain groups you might assume would be in ideological lock-step “were absolutely not,” he said. “Everybody had a different idea about how to affect change in America, and people you thought might be on the same side were often at each others' throats. MLK was thought by some to be outmoded by age 35. The Black Power movement was coming up, and they were going, 'We have no time for you and your nonviolence.' When the Watts riots happened, Dr. King went to L.A. to try to help, and black audiences booed him. He was told he wasn’t wanted there.”


    Photo gallery: The making of All the Way:


    All the Way in Denver Photo gallery above: The making of the DCPA Theatre Company's production of 'All the Way in Denver.' To see more photos, click the forward button above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 



    All the Way
    : Ticket information

  • All the WayJan. 29-Feb. 28 at the Stage Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of All the Way
    Video: Cast reads from Civil Rights Act
    When Robert Schenkkan meets LBJ, sparks fly
    Five ways you don't have to connect the dots 'All the Way' to today
    Art and Artist: Stage Manager Rachel Ducat

    Full casting announced
    Official show page
    DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16

    Meet the Cast Profiles (to date)
    Meet Paul DeBoy
    Meet Mike Hartman
  • 5 Things we learned at 'The Nest' Perspectives ... Like 'Mansplaining'

    by John Moore | Jan 29, 2016


    'The Nest' Perspectives conversation on Jan. 22 at The Jones Theatre, from left: BrIan D. Coats, Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Lighting Designer Grant W. S. Yeager and host Douglas Langworthy, Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    A The Nest Perspectives 300Perspectives
    is a series of free panel conversations moderated by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. They take place from 6 p.m. to 6:45 on the evening of each production's first preview performance. The next two Perspectives will be held tonight Jan. 29 (All the Way), and Feb. 5 (FADE) in the Jones Theatre. No reservations necessary.

    Here’s some of what we learned from Langworthy’s conversation with cast and crew of The Nest, Theresa Rebeck’s world-premiere new play written specifically for the DCPA. “This play is about the dream of wanting your life to turn out a certain way, and it hasn't," said Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt. “It's about combative people trying to create their own tribe. It's Chekhov meets Cheers meets Long Day's Journey Into Night.”

    1 PerspectivesThe Nest takes place entirely in a bar. And, perhaps surprisingly, there is not a long tradition of successful plays set primarily in bars. Three that leap to mind are Eugene O'Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (1936), Conor McPherson’s The Weir (1997) and Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile (1993). Iceman is set in Harry Hope's dank skid-row bar in 1912. The Weir plays out in a rural Irish pub and centers on ghost stories. Picasso imagines Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso meeting at a bar in Paris in 1904.

    There are a few others, but not a lot funny ones. And The Nest is funny. DCPA Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson has repeatedly said he thinks the opening scene of The Nest is the funniest he has seen in any new play in years.

    2 PerspectivesThe Nest Carly Stret and Brian Dykstra. Photo by Adams Visual Communications. A bar should make for an irresistible setting for any playwright. Why? It’s a place where people naturally tell stories. A bar offers a writer endless possibilities in characters, but generally bars gather people who have known each other for years and really know how to push each others buttons – without necessarily being blood family. And then there is the booze. “Alcohol tends to fuel the story and the emotional response,” said The Nest actor Brian Dykstra, himself a playwright. People tend to loosen up faster with alcohol.” (Photo above: Carly Street and Brian Dykstra in a scene from 'The Nest.' Credit: Adams Visual Communications.)

    3 PerspectivesWe learned a new word, courtesy of the director: “Mansplain.” It refers to a man explaining "the way things are" to a woman in a manner regarded by the receiver as condescending or patronizing. “There are characters in the play who talk about being sick of listening to guys ‘Mansplain,’ said Campbell-Holt, who proudly identified herself as a feminist. So too, by the way, has Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I am proud to be a feminist,” Trudeau said this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The role we have as men in supporting and demanding equality, and demanding a shift, is really, really important.”

    4 PerspectivesIt pays to tell someone your feelings. Nearly 30 years ago, Dykstra and Rebeck were students at Brandeis University in Boston. Rebeck wrote a play that Dykstra saw and liked, but he had to leave as soon as the performance was over. “So I left her a fan letter in the mailbox on the way out,” he said. Nine years later, Dykstra met Rebeck at a party, and she remembered the note. “I guess you don’t forget your first fan letter,” he said. Dykstra has since become one of Rebeck’s go-to actors, having recently played the lead role in her roast of academia called Seminar. Rebeck is now writing a play as a star vehicle for Dykstra to play a chef. It is expected to be staged later this year at the San Francisco Playhouse.

    5 PerspectivesRobert Schenkkan’s Tony-winning best play All the Way follows The Nest with an opening night here at the Denver Center one week from tonight (Feb. 5.) The celebrated play focuses on how LBJ and MLK got the historic Civil Rights Act passed in 1964. And wouldn’t you know: Dykstra just played LBJ in a production of All the Way for the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Asked for his insights, Dykstra compared the task to Sisyphus being forced to roll that immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. “It’s not told in an episodic way, so people are coming and going so fast that there are times when you don’t know what scene you are in,” Dykstra said with a laugh. He also wished his Denver Center counterpart C David Johnson well because, he said, “I think I had only five minutes where I was not on stage.” 


    Video: First look at The Nest:



    The Nest:
    Ticket information
  • theresa-rebeckBy Theresa Rebeck (pictured right)
  • Jan. 22-Feb. 21
  • Space Theatre
  • When you have a seat at the bar called The Nest, no conversation is off-limits, whether you’re speaking or eavesdropping. That is, until a stranger walks in with a lucrative proposition. Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck’s plays “may make you laugh or shudder (or both)” according to American Theatre, and with its feisty humor and scorching dialogue, this explosive new comedy holds a cracked mirror up to friendships, romantic relationships and families.
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Nest:

    The Nest flies in face of national gender trends
    Theresa Rebeck: Bar plays should be 'humanly reckless'
    Five things we now know about that bar
    Cast list announced
    Theresa Rebeck is not getting angry: She's getting even
    ​American Theatre magazine: The Colorado New Play Summit Is a Developing Story

    Meet the Cast profiles (to date):

    Meet Kevin Berntson
    Meet Brian D. Coats
    Meet Brian Dykstra
    Meet Victoria Mack
    Meet Carly Street

    Photos: The Nest in process:
    The Nest

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the "forward" arrow.


    Photos: The Nest production photos:
    The Nest

    Photos by Adams Visual Communications. To see more, click the "forward" arrow.
  • Perspectives: 5 things we learned about 'Tribes'

    by John Moore | Oct 15, 2015

    Cast and creatives from 'Tribes' at Perspectives. From left: Moderator Doug Langworthy, Dialect Coach Kathy Maes, Director Stephen Weitz, actor Kate Finch and Interpreter Natalie Austin. Not pictured: Actor Andrew Pastides. Photo by John Moore.


    Perspectives
    is a series of free panel conversations moderated by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. They take place from 6 p.m. to 6:45 on the evening of each production's first preview performance (except A Christmas Carol). The next Perspectives will be held Jan. 22 (The Nest) in the Jones Theatre. No reservations necessary.

    Here’s some of what we learned from Langworthy’s conversation with cast and crew of Tribes, the story of bickering British parents who have raised their deaf son as if he is not. Meeting Sylvia, who is losing her hearing, causes Billy to go off in search of a new tribe.

    The video above is close-captioned. Please hit the "CC" YouTube option to read them.

    1 PerspectivesThe DCPA invited members of the local deaf community to attend a preview performance to test both how much of their story is being understood by the deaf and hard-of-hearing, as well as the effectiveness of a new closed-captioning pilot program.

    "We wanted to see from their perspective what is working, and we got great, wonderful feedback," said Natalie Austin. From the start of rehearsals, Austin has served as an interpreter for cast member Tad Cooley, who is deaf in one ear and losing his hearing in the other. He plays Billy, whose parents have basically ignored their son's deafness and never learned - or had their son learn - sign language. So when Billy meets Sylvia, he can't understand her any more than he can his own family.
     
    Natalie AustinThe DCPA has acquired 10 individual closed-captioning devices, each with small video screens about the size of a cell phone. The device clips onto the seat in front of you like a booklight, but with privacy settings that don't distract surrounding audience members. Throughout the play, a live captioning operator sends the dialogue and other stage activity to these screens in real time. Translations are also liberally projected onto the stage so that hearing audiences can understand what deaf characters are saying when they communicate through sign language.

    After the preview performance, the invited audience gave feedback, and many significant changes were adopted within 24 hours. For example, the captions, which had been streaming in all white lettering, were changed to color-coded so that audiences reading along can better distinguish between speakers. And audiences using the new devices will be seated in the center of their row, so they can look up at the stage and down at their screens without also having to move their heads from side to side.

    "The DCPA is really recognizing that accessibility for patrons who are deaf and hard-of-hearing needs some improvement," Austin said. "In the past, a deaf or hard-of-hearing patron's only option has been to come to the one designated performance when interpreters or open-captions are scheduled in advance. (Open captions are when an entire performance has dialogue projected onto the wall of the theatre.) One of the audience members told us that providing him with these new individual closed-caption devices provides equality. Now a deaf person can wake up and say, 'Hey, I want to go to the theatre tonight.' And ... they can. They can come to any show they want, on any day they want, and use this new captioning device. That is equal access at its greatest. For the entire run of Tribes, these devices will be available at every performance. The eventual goal is that they will be  available for all performances of every production. But for now, this is a pilot program. The only caveat is that people are asked to call in (303-893-4100) and let the DCPA know you are coming, so they can make sure a live captioning operator is called in for that performance.    

    (EDITOR's NOTE: The DCPA presently asks for 48 hours of advance notice.)
       
    Director Stephen Weitz was happy to make changes based on direct input from the deaf focus group. "It's great for us as artists to be forced to always re-evaluate the world through someone else's eyes," he said. "That is what theatre is all about."

    As for the performance, Austin said the invited guests were blown away. "So many of them were so moved by the story because this is their life being played out on stage," she said.

    (Pictured above right: Rachel Berman Blythe served on the DCPA's focus group for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences. Photo by John Moore.)  


    2 PerspectivesNinety percent of children who are deaf are born to hearing parents and hearing families. So, too, is lead character Billy. "This is a very common experience for someone who is deaf to be raised in a hearing family," Austin said. "For different reasons, families choose for their child to learn spoken language instead of sign language." Dialect coach Kathy Maes said only 10 percent of parents who have deaf children ever learn to effectively communicate with them. "And only one-third of those children ever graduate from high school," she said. "And if they go on to college, only one-fifth of those complete their degrees."

    3 PerspectivesA deaf child who learns to speak will pick up on a regional dialect. "It can be very difficult to really understand a deaf person who has learned how to speak," Maes said. But in the theatre, we don't have the luxury of not understanding. The audience has to be be able to understand everything Billy says. So when Tad (the actor) speaks, essentially he is doing the same thing that any actor does when he adopts a dialect. That's how we had to approach it. The other complication here is that the story is set in Britain, and this family speaks in a British dialect. So when Billy says a word like 'ask,' he needs to pronounce it the way they say it in Britain, which is more like 'ahhhhsk.' That's what really puts his character in Britain. But that is also how a deaf person in Britain would say it, Austin added. "A lot of times, when children who are deaf lip-read, they will pick up the dialect of where they are from. They might not be able to hear it like we can, but because of the shape of the mouth and the way sounds are formed differently in different regions, they will pick up a British or, say, Southern accent." The most important thing for the dialect coach, Maes said, is intelligibility. "The audience has to be right with you every minute and know what Tad is saying," she said, "unless there are times when you are not supposed to know what Tad is saying."

    4 PerspectivesCODA vs. COSA. The character of Sylvia is a CODA - an acronym for a Child of Deaf Adults. "CODA really has its own very special place in the hierarchy of the Deaf - with a capital D - culture," said actor Kate Finch, who plays Sylvia in Tribes. Finch is a hearing actor, as are her parents. But she was raised to sign because she grew up around several hard-of-hearing friends and family members, including her godmother. "My friends jokingly call me a COSA - a Child of Signing Adults," she said. "The way I was raised, it is rude to leave anyone out. So if someone is over to the house, you were expected to sign and speak at the same time. Not doing so would be considered rude. I remember the first time I met someone who was mainstreamed growing up, like Billy. He was deaf, but he hadn't been taught sign language. I was floored because my upbringing says if you had an avenue to learn sign language, you did. It's just another way to communicate. So when I met someone who never learned sign language until he was 24, I sort of gingerly had to pick my jaw up off the floor. It didn't occur to me that you could be deaf and not naturally be a part of the deaf community."

    (Pictured above right: Director Stephen Weitz and Actor Kate Finch. Photo by John Moore.) 

    5 PerspectivesTribes has run into controversy at other theatres around the country when the actress playing Sylvia is not trained in sign language. "To the best of my knowledge, this role has always been played by a hearing actress," said Finch, "but the vast majority of them don't sign. As you can imagine, that has offended deaf audiences. You can't just pick someone and have them flap their hands on the stage. That's all kinds of wrong. It's not like learning a dance in a musical. The Denver Center has cast this play appropriately, and thank goodness for that."


    Tribes: Ticket information

    Performances  through Nov. 15
    Ricketson Theatre
    Performance schedule: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m. (No Saturday matinees during preview performances)
    ASL interpreted & Audio described performance: 1:30 p.m. Nov. 7
    Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
    Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at Denvercenter.org.

    Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts  – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of 'Tribes.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Tribes:
    Go to the official Tribes show page
    Video: Your first look at Tribes
    Video: A message from Director Stephen Weitz
    Tribes and the art of projections in a play about hearing loss
    Tribes and the tyranny of language and listening
    Tribes: Anytime there is an 'us,' there is a 'them'
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    Casting announced for Theatre Company's fall shows
    Theatre Company introduces bold new artwork for 2015-16 season

    Tribes 'Meet the Cast' profiles (more to come):

    Kate Finch, Sylvia in Tribes
    Isabel Ellison, Ruth in Tribes
    Andrew Pastides, Daniel in Tribes

    Tribes production photos

    Photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Tribes,' featuring Stephen Paul Johnson, Andrew Pastides, Isabel Ellison, Tad Cooley, Kate Finch and Kathleen McCall. Photo credit: Adams Visual Communications.
  • Perspectives: 5 things we learned about 'As You Like It'

    by John Moore | Oct 02, 2015

    Perspectives is a series of free panel conversations moderated by DCPA Theatre Company Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. They take place from 6 p.m. to 6:45 on the evening of each production's first preview performance. The next Perspectives will be held Oct. 9 (Tribes) in the Conservatory Theatre. No reservations necessary.

    Here’s some of what we learned from Langworthy’s conversation with cast and crew of As You Like It, the story of a new love that becomes threatened when the budding lovers are banished and Rosalind is forced to disguise herself as a young man:

    1 Rosalind is being played in Denver by Carolyn Holding. Photo credit: Adams Visual Communications.When Rosalind goes undercover as a man, you might wonder why the lovely actor playing her (Carolyn Holding) doesn't, you know, look more like a man. Costume Designer Denitsa Bliznakova says the answer is simple: Because she’s not. “The audience knows that this character is in disguise. So I didn't put too much pressure on myself to make her look like a man. I felt like we only had to suggest it. I think we succeeded in creating a look that is believable but yet … I still want her to be a woman.” (Photo: Carolyn Holding as Rosalind in 'As You Like It.' Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications)  

    Did 2you know As You Like It has more songs in it than any other Shakespeare play? The words are all Shakespeare’s, but it was director Kent Thompson and composer Gary Composer Gary Grundei, As You Like ItGrundei’s decision to create original music for this production. Expect to hear violin, cello and guitar to bridge the play's two worlds of the stuffy court and the free-love forest. “The incidental music and the accompaniment for one song and one dance are recorded,” said Grundei (pictured at right), "but the rest of the music is performed live.” Cast member M. Scott McLean plays guitar throughout, and the three young boys who play pages “carry a few other songs,” Grundei said.

    No Sh3akespeare comedy would be complete without a clown, but Touchstone is different from all others. “He’s not the singing clown that you find in Feste (Twelfth Night), he’s not the philosopher that you find in King Lear's unnamed Fool and he's not the bumbling idiot that you have in Dromio (Comedy of Errors)," said Matt Zambrano, the actor who plays him. “Touchstone is somewhere along that spectrum." Touchstone is an intellectual fool, which makes him somewhat threatening. Zambrano calls him dexterous. J Paul Boehmer. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications. “It has been a real fun challenge for me because Shakespeare’s fools are always smarter than their masters," Zambrano said, "and they get to have a relationship with the audience where they act as a mirror, in a way.”  

    In ev4ery courting scene between lovers Rosalind and Orlando ... there's Celia, Rosalind’s best friend. And she basically just sits there and does not say anything. Why? Theorizes Maren Bush, who plays Celia: "Personally, I think the reason is because Celia is pretty much anti-love and anti-relationship at the beginning of the play, and I think Shakespeare puts Celia in these scenes to observe and learn," she said. "I don't think she’s ready to fall in love at the beginning of the play like Rosalind and Orlando are. It takes her the course of the play for her to open up, and luckily she does - which I am glad about."

    (Photo above right: Actor J. Paul Boehmer in the DCPA's 'As You Like It.' Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.)

    Cast5mates Matt Zambrano (Touchstone) and Maurice Jones (Orlando) are not only graduates of the Denver Center's former graduate-degree program (The National Theatre Conservatory), they were classmates in the final graduating class of 2012.

    Maurice Jones in the National Theatre Conservatory's 'Farenheit 451'Maurice Jones in the National Theatre Conservatory's 'Farenheit 451.'



      ONE MORE, IF YOU LIKE
    • Zambrano is an accomplished comic actor who graduated from Wheat Ridge High School and the University of Colorado. He was asked how one actually becomes an accomplished comic actor. "Take an improv class,” he said. “You will learn more about yourself as a performer doing improv than in anything else because it's all about honestly reacting in the moment. And as we all know, truth is comedy.” Zambrano started working on his improv skills in 2004 at the Impulse Theatre, which was housed beneath the downtown Wynkoop Brewery. “It really helped me get to a place of letting go and just living in the moment, because that’s where comedy lies,” he said. “If you try to force something because you have already decided that it’s funny, I can tell you, it won't be.”



    'Meet the Cast' profiles (more to come):
    J. Paul Boehmer, the Dukes
    Maurice Jones, Orlando
    Geoffrey Kent, Actor, Assistant Director and Fight Director
    Emily Kron, Phoebe
    Nick LaMedica, Sylvius
    Matt Zambrano, Touchstone


    As You Like It: Ticket information

  • Performances through Nov. 1
  • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
  • Space Theatre
  • 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at Denvercenter.org.

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of 'As You Like It.'


    Previous NewsCenter coverage of As You Like It:
    Kent Thompson and the Four Loves of As You Like It
    As You Like It opens: A woman's woman in a man's world
    As You Like It begins rehearsals: 'Literally, watch it bloom'
    Costume corner: Letting it all go in the Arden Forest
    Shakespeare's largest female role might surprise you: It's Rosalind
    Casting announced for Theatre Company's fall shows
    DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    Official show page

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

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