• Denver-born 'Georgia McBride' to be a film starring Jim Parsons

    by John Moore | Feb 12, 2018
    Georgia McBride. Matt McGrath and Jamie Ann Romero. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    Ben Huber and Jamie Ann Romero were part of the world-premiere cast that launched  'The Legend of Georgia McBride' for the DCPA Theatre Company in 2014. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    The Big Bang Theory star will both co-star and produce film about an Elvis impersonator who turns to drag for money

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Stage and screen star Jim Parsons will co-star and produce a feature-film version of Matthew Lopez’s Denver Center-born play The Legend of Georgia McBride, according to multiple news reports today. The film rights have been acquired by New Regency and Fox 2000, according to Variety.

    Matthew LopezLopez, whose play Zoey's Perfect Wedding is now performing in the Denver Center's Space Theatre through Feb. 25, will adapt the screenplay. Upon completion, Georgia McBride will become only the second DCPA Theatre Company world-premiere play to be made into a feature film, following HBO's The Laramie Project.

    The Legend of Georgia McBride is about a broke young Elvis impersonator and father who turns to drag to feed his growing family. The play was chosen by former Artistic Director Kent Thompson to be introduced at the Denver Center’s 2013 Colorado New Play Summit and was fully staged the next year under the direction of Mike Donahue — who is also the director of Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.

    JimParsons160Parsons, star of TV’s The Big Bang Theory and who will return to Broadway this season in The Boys in the Band, will play the role of Miss Tracy Mills, a veteran drag queen who coaches a young man named Casey in the art of drag. The role was originated in Denver by Matt McGrath.

    The Big Bang Theory
    has been renewed for a 12th season and has garnered a spinoff series called Young Sheldon. Parsons most recently starred opposite Claire Danes in the play A Kid Like Jake, which coincidentally will be presented in Denver by Benchmark Theatre, opening Friday (Feb. 16) at the former Edge Theatre in Lakewood.

    Mathew Lopez: America could use a laugh right now

    Parsons will produce the film with Todd Spiewak via their That’s Wonderful Productions banner, according to Variety. Eric Norsoph will executive produce and oversee the project, and Fox will distribute the feature film.

    Matt McGrath in 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. DCPA Theatre Company Managing Director Charles Varin said because the play was originally produced by the Theatre Company, the Denver Center owns a small percentage of the property's subsidiary rights. Most significantly, that means the film's end credits will acknowledge that the work was developed and first presented in Denver.

    "It's exciting that Matthew is now getting recognized as an accomplished writer in many different ways — stage, TV and now film," Varin said. "His time has come, and we are proud to have been part of his journey."

    (Pictured above and right: Matt McGrath originated the role of Miss Tracy Mills, who will be played in the film by Jim Parsons. The original cast in Denver also included Ben Huber, Jamie Ann Romero and Nick Mills. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Lopez, the Denver Center's Playwright in Residence for the 2014-15 season, is currently in London for the March 2 premiere of his highly anticipated two-part play The Inheritance at The Young Vic. The epic play takes a panoramic view of gay life in New York today in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis depicted in Tony Kushner’s sprawling Angels in America. Lopez posted the news on his Instagram account saying he was “happy and proud” for the news.

    DCPA Theatre Company taking new plays to new level

    Last year, The Legend of Georgia McBride  became the most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. After Georgia McBride was fully staged in Denver, Lopez continued to fine-tune the script as it had subsequent stagings at the MCC Theater in New York City and the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. In all, 10 companies from California to Florida staged the pay in 2018, with at least four more slated for 2018.

    “We couldn’t be happier for Matthew,” said Doug Langworthy, the Denver Center’s Director of New Play Development. “Georgia McBride was such a big-hearted success here, and I’m sure filmgoers will love it as much as our audiences did.”

    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. News reports contributed to this report,

    Video: Your first look at Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Your first look at 'Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Through Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Video: Director on how perfect Zoey's Perfect Wedding is

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'Zoey' playwright Matthew Lopez: America could use a laugh right now

    by John Moore | Feb 03, 2018
    Zoeys Perfect Wedding. Photo by Adams Viscom

    The cast of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' includes, from left: Mallory Portnoy, Grayson DeJesus, Nija Okoro and Jeff Biehl. Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    In the face of these trying times, the playwright rejects the notion that simply 'checking out' is an acceptable option

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    In this painfully protracted period of ideological divisiveness in the country, there is perhaps one (single) thing we can all agree on: America could use a laugh. 

    But despite the preponderance of comedies high and low to be found on screens large and small, American playwrights have not been widely producing flat-out, laugh-out-loud comedies for generations. And that, says playwright Matthew Lopez, is a good thing. Because theatre can do better than that. 

    matthew_lopez Quote Zoey 800“Comedy has one of two functions: To make you think or to make you forget,” he said. “The best make you forget that you’re thinking. I hope we’re the latter.” 

    Lopez is the author of the DCPA Theatre Company’s  2014 breakout hit The Legend of Georgia McBride, which went on to be performed Off-Broadway and at theatres across the country. He’s back this season with another world premiere comedy Zoey's Perfect Wedding — which is anything but. 

    “I’m allergic to the notion that, in the face of trying times — or perhaps more accurately put: in the face of a full-scale national disaster — it’s preferable to simply check out,” Lopez said. “Checking out really isn’t an option in a democracy. One could argue that’s how we got into this in the first place. However, we don’t always need to think directly at the thing.”   

    There’s nothing wrong with people spending two hours laughing and having fun at the theatre, Lopez believes. But the route to funny must pass through true understanding.  

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding presents a wedding where disaster after disaster follows the frost-caked bride down the aisle, from boozy and brutally honest speeches to obliviously self-absorbed supporting characters to a wildly incompetent wedding planner. Ain’t weddings fun? 

    Lopez has been to enough to know that self-absorbed people often turn weddings into a referendum on their own lives. Put another way, he said: It’s shockingly easy to act like a narcissist at someone else’s wedding.

    Video: Director on how perfect Zoey's Perfect Wedding is

    “It was once said of Teddy Roosevelt that he was the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral,” Lopez said. “I think that applies to more people than anyone cares to admit.”

    It’s also true what they say about your misery being another person’s funny, because Zoey’s Perfect Wedding was inspired by a train wreck of a wedding Lopez was right in the middle of a few years after college.

    “It was the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Lopez said. “We had all just seen each other two days before, and here we were back again with nothing really more to talk about than what a fun night Thanksgiving was. Then one friend began to pick at a scab of something that bothered them from Thanksgiving and, before we knew it, we were all in a full-scale verbal brawl that eventually ended up ruining the night for most of us. 

    Zoey. Adams Viscom“I’m certain that, had this been a dry wedding, we all would have had a much better time. And I am certain that is the first time those words have ever been uttered.” 

    The characters and events in Lopez’s play are pure imagination. But the notion of friends showing up to a wedding and forgetting they’re at a wedding and acting like it’s just another night out at the bar? “That, I am ashamed to admit, is true,” he said. 

    (Pictured, from left: Nija Okoro and Mallory Portnoy of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    But it was the underlying fuel propelling that booze-soaked fire that interested the writer in Lopez. “These characters wrestle with commitment, loyalty and honesty,” Lopez said. “They wrestle with the difference between our expectations and our reality — and those are things we all grapple with in one way or another every day.” 

    Which is why it’s misleading to label his new play a simple comedy. Lopez would like for us to move beyond distinctions between comedy, tragedy and their many variations. The fact is, a great many plays are comedies … until they just aren’t anymore. 

    “Things aren’t funny if they aren’t true,” Lopez said. “Even sight gags require the laws of physics be obeyed in order to work. If and when a comedy veers unexpectedly into drama, perhaps the question one should ask is: ‘Is that true?’ Here’s an example: Is August: Osage County a comedy or a drama?”

    The same can be said about a great joke in the middle of an unquestionably serious play. If the moment is rooted in character, then it is rooted in truth.

    “Humans are funny. Humans are sad. Humans are sometimes funny and then, the next second, tragic,” Lopez said. “Life does not fit neatly into categories and neither should our stories. At the end of the day, it all comes down to story. And if stories are not rooted in some kind of recognizable truth, they are worthless.  

    “Lest we forget: There’s a fart joke in Waiting for Godot.”

    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.

    Matthew Lopez is currently in London for the March 2 premiere of his highly anticipated two-part play The Inheritance at The Young Vic. The epic play takes a panoramic view of gay life in New York today in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis depicted in Tony Kushner’s sprawling Angels in America.

    Video: Your first look at Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Your first look at 'Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding
    Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances ThroughFeb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Bonus read: The perfect union behind Zoey’s Perfect Wedding

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding is not about a perfect wedding. It’s about a wedding where one hilarious disaster follows another. But one creative marriage that was built to last is the one between playwright Matthew Lopez and director Mike Donahue, which started, and continues, in Denver. 

    Zoey Mike Donahue Matthew LopezThe pair first teamed up in 2013 for a reading of The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Colorado New Play Summit. After the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere staging the next year, Donahue and Lopez took the comedy to New York, and it has since been performed at theatres across the country. The two are partnering again on Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, which plays through Feb. 25 in The Space Theatre. 

    Donahue was definitely the pursuer in this relationship. He read an early draft of Georgia McBride, loved it, and asked his agents to arrange a meeting with Lopez. But Donahue was told that Lopez was probably a bit out of his league, because his breakthrough drama The Whipping Man had taken off in New York, he had landed a few screenplays, and was writing for TV’s “The Newsroom.” Jilted, but not for long — because Cupid conspired to bring them together a few years later for the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit in Denver. 

    Donahue was here directing Grace, or the Art of Climbing for the DCPA Theatre Company when the selected titles were announced for the upcoming Summit. “One of the plays on the list was Georgia McBride, and there was no director attached to it,” said Donahue, who again called his agents and ask them to arrange a phone call with Lopez. “He didn’t call me back,” Donahue said with a laugh. “But three weeks later I got the offer, and now Matthew is one of my best friends.” 

    It’s not lost on Donahue that both of his Lopez plays have now originated at the Denver Center. “Who knows? Maybe Denver is just a magical place,” said Donahue, who says what he loves most about Lopez’s comedies is that “they are incredibly funny 
    and have a big heart.” 

    We also asked Lopez to explain what makes Donahue such a good fit to direct his plays.

    “As with any good marriage, we just get each other,” Lopez said. “We share a complimentary — though not identical — view of the world, of theatre, of storytelling. He’s smart in ways I’m not, and I’m intuitive in ways he might not always be. And sometimes vice versa.” 

    “What can I say? He completes me.”

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Video: Director on just how perfect 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' really is

    by John Moore | Jan 02, 2018


    'This is a totally raucous, wild, sexy, wedding gone horribly, catastrophically wrong. It is wild, silly, absurd, fun.'

    What kind of wedding is Zoey’s Perfect Wedding? Here’s a hint: Not-so-perfect. Mike Donahue, who was last in Denver directing the successful 2014 world-premiere comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride for the DCPA Theatre Company, introduces you to the world of the play, also penned by Georgia scribe Matthew Lopez.

    Mike Donahue. Photo by John MooreThe play “is a totally raucous, wild, sexy, wedding gone horribly, catastrophically wrong,” Donahue tells us in the video above. “It is wild, silly, absurd, fun.”  

    But at the same time, “There is such a heart to it,” he said.

    The play revolves around a group of multiracial New York friends ranging in age from their mid-20s to early 30s. The title character is Jewish, and that Zoey will be played by an African-American actor, Donahue said, “is awesome.”

    Nija Okoro is playing Zoey as a  Jewish African-American woman who is marrying a Southern white guy from Arkansas whose family is southern Baptist and this, and part of that point is people from very different places coming together and those differences not having to matter.”

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Zoey's Perfect Wedding":
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    Photo gallery The Making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding:

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding': Photos and 5 things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Dec 20, 2017
    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Photo gallery

    The making of Zoey's Perfect Wedding

    Photos from the first rehearsal of 'Zoey's Perfect Wedding' on Dec. 20. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to the full photo gallery. The world-premiere comedy plays Jan. 19-Feb. 25 in the Space Theatre. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Playwright Matthew Lopez's newest comedy is about a wedding that goes horribly, horrifically wrong. As they do.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    NUMBER 1Zoey's Perfect Wedding, the DCPA Theatre Company's next world-premiere play, reunites playwright Matthew Lopez, author of The Whipping Man, with director Mike Donahue. The pair met in Denver in 2013 when they introduced Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride as part of the DCPA Theatre Company's Colorado New Play Summit. The play went on to have its full world-premiere staging at the Denver Center in 2014, followed by successful run Off-Broadway and subsequent productions around the country. "We met over a bagel in this very building," Donahue said. "That play has been very important for both of us, and now Matthew is one of my closest friends."

    NUMBER 2 Mike Donahue. Photo by John MooreZoey’s Perfect Wedding was inspired by a train wreck of a wedding Lopez found himself right in the middle of a few years after graduating from college. His play has old friends getting back together and when one friend begins to pick at a old scab, it leads to a full-scale (but funny!) verbal brawl. "This is a play about a group of people who at one point were really close friends," said Donahue (pictured at right). "But now they are at a moment in time where they are just starting to realize that their friendships and their relationships and their marriages are not as alive and vital and necessary as they once were. One of the things the play looks at is: How do you negotiate the realization that your life isn't where you thought it would be?" 

    NUMBER 3Zoey’s Perfect Wedding is at once Lopez's newest — and one of his oldest — plays. "Yeah, this one is old enough to vote," Lopez joked. He wrote it back in 2008, and now that the play is finally coming to stage life in 2017, Lopez and Donahue had a decision to make: Keep the time of the play in 2008, or update it to 2018. "2008 doesn't seem like so many years ago," Donahue said, "but we realized that it really was a very different moment in time. It feels to us like the consciousness of the country was in a very different place. That was not long after the stock-market crash, and soon after Obama was elected for the first time. A lot of us were realizing that for the first time as a nation, we were not economically invincible anymore. But also, coming so soon after the election, a lot of people had hope, both socially and politically. That's where we were as a country, and that's where this story lives. So we made the decision to let this play be a period piece. And I happen to think it is incredibly, raucously funny." 

    NUMBER 4 Zoey's Perfect Wedding will be presented in the round in the Space Theatre, which poses significant challenges for the creative team. "We are utilizing the full roundness of the theatre," said DCPA Lighting Designer Charles R. MacLeod. "The main wedding table is on a rectangular turntable and will remain in motion throughout the story, which will allow everyone in the audience to take things in from a 360-degree perspective. And because this is wedding reception, that of course means there will be a DJ — compete with janky DJ lighting," MacLeod said. One seating section in the Space Theatre is being removed in favor of the DJ station, but capacity won't change much because two of the "voms" that usually serve as actor entranceways will instead be used for seating.

    NUMBER 5 Lopez says it was the encouragement he got from the DCPA creative team during the making of The Legend of Georgia McBride that got him to revisit Zoey's Perfect Wedding. The DCPA conducted development workshops of the play in Denver and Steamboat Springs, which were shown to various audiences for their feedback. One thing they learned from the experience is that 17-year-olds apparently love to laugh at weddings gone horribly, horrifically wrong, "because 17-year-olds love this play," said Donahue, The director added that the support he gets from the Denver Center team is just one reason, he said, that "to this day, this is my favorite place to work." 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

    Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding:
    Cast and creatives announced:

    • Playwright: Matthew Lopez
    • Director: Mike Donahue


    • Jeff Biehl as Charlie
    • Grayson DeJesus as Sammy
    • Nick Ducassi as DJ
    • Nija Okoro as Zoey
    • Mallory Portnoy as Rachel
    • Kristin Villanueva as Missy


    • Scenic Designer: Dane Laffrey
    • Costume Designer: Dede Ayite
    • Lighting Designer: Charles R. MacLeod
    • Sound Designer: Veronika Vorel
    • Dramaturg: Kimberly Colburn
    • Stage Manager: Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Manager: Corin Ferris

    Zoey's Perfect Wedding: Ticket information
    Zoey_seasonlineup_200x200At a glance: The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Jan. 19-Feb. 25
    • 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
  • Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

    by John Moore | Jul 02, 2017

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

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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How Georgia McBride has evolved since Denver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Story continues after the video)

    Video spotlight: American Mariachi

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video spotlight: The Great Leap

  • Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons

    by John Moore | Apr 03, 2017


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

    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

    The Great Leap and Human Error emerged from the recent 2017 Summit in February.  In The Great Leap, Yee explores sport as a metaphor for how countries rub up against each other in terms of strategy, styles and priorities. "If you think of all the sports out there, basketball is the one in which you can really lay the ideals of communism on top of it. Everyone gets to touch the ball. Everyone is equal in their position,” she says.

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

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

    2017-18 Broadway season brings Hamilton to Denver

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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


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


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

    TC 2017-18 800

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


    the-great-leap2By Lauren Yee
    Director to be announced
    Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    Ricketson Theatre
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly-changing country and Chinese American player Manford seeks a lost connection. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium. Yee’s “acute ear for contemporary speech” and a “devilishly keen satiric eye” (San Francisco Chronicle) creates an unexpected and touching story inspired by events in her own father’s life. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN YEE


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

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

    Sam Buntock

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


    human-error2By Eric Pfeffinger
    Director to be announced
    May 18-June 24, 2018
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    Madelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing an uproarious nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships. “Up-and-coming scribe Eric Pfeffinger has the vital nerve to explore the gaping communication gap between red America and blue America, liberal humanists and the conservative right” (Chicago Tribune). READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH ERIC PFEFFINGER

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



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



  • Summit stands in thanks to departing founder Kent Thompson

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


    Colorado New Play Summit pauses to thank
    departing founder Kent Thompson

    To understand the impact the Colorado New Play Summit has had on the development of new works for the American theatre, one need look no further than Skokie Ill., home of the Northlight Theatre.

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

    Thompson is resigning after 12 years effective March 3, leaving a legacy that includes founding the Colorado New Play Summit in 2006 and the Women's Voices Fund, a $1.4 million endowment that supports new plays by women and female creative team members.

    Kent Thompson's legacy: Giving sound to unheard voices

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

    Kent Thompson. 1001The Colorado New Play Summit, which is presenting readings of five featured new works through Sunday, has workshopped 50 new plays, leading to 29 fully produced world premieres as part of the DCPA Theatre Company’s mainstage season. Thompson has commissioned 44 new plays, almost half written by women.

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

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

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

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

    Thanks pour in from around the country for Kent Thompson

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

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

    Praise from playwrights for Kent Thompson:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kent Thompson in Denver: A photo retrospective

    Kent Thompson: A retrospective

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • '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
  • Colorado actors take center stage in Oregon

    by John Moore | Feb 25, 2016
    Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero.

    Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero in Ashland, Ore.

    Jamie Ann Romero and Benjamin Bonenfant, two rising Colorado actors whose rockets have been propelled by fuel from the Colorado theatre community, are opening in major new world premieres at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this weekend.

    On Saturday, Bonenfant stars as Pip in a massive new look at Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations. The next day, Romero introduces Belmira in Marisela Treviño Orta’s new ensemble drama The River Bride.

    While Pip is of course the iconic orphan who becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor, Romero plays a Brazilian fiancée named Belmira whose wedding plans are disrupted three days before the ceremony when fishermen pull a mysterious stranger out of a river.

    While they won’t appear together in Ashland, the actors have 13 seasons between them at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder, starring together as the star-crossed lovers in 2011’s Romeo and Juliet. Bonenfant is fresh off starring roles in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Henry V and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s 4000 Miles, and most recently appeared at the Denver Center in the Theatre Company’s Benediction and A Christmas Carol. He’s a graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

    Romero’s Denver Center credits include Romeo & Juliet, Sunsets and Margaritas, The Three Musketeers and a breakout, gender-bending turn in the 2014 world premiere of The Legend of Georgia McBride, which led to a high-profile run in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. She is a graduate of Chatfield High School and the University of Northern Colorado (UNC).

    “A large chunk of my heart is still in Colorado, and I miss it every day,” Romero said this week on the eve of her opening. “From high school through UNC through the things I learned working with brilliant actors at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Denver Center, I think every single thing has led me to being here. To being anywhere, really. That just goes back to Denver being an incredible community that supports and lifts up everybody.”

    They now find themselves reunited at the oldest Shakespeare festival in the nation.

    “When I look around in the rehearsal room and I see the interactions of the company members here and the rapport that they have, it makes me miss home,” Bonenfant said. “Because I found those kind of relationships in a great rotation of theatre companies all over Colorado – but specifically, for me, at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.”

    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is considered a dream job among the nation’s actors because the company presents an 11-show repertory season that lasts 10 months, employing perhaps the last true resident acting company in the nation. So while most actors scramble from one job to the next every month or two, Bonenfant has signed a 40-week contract with the OSF, which equates to the first real professional and financial stability of his young adult life. He also will play two roles in Hamlet (Osric and Reynaldo) while understudying the princely title role.

    Romero, who now lives in New York City and has other upcoming commitments there, chose a one-show, six-month contract that runs through July 7.

    Jamie Ann Romero. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
    Jamie Ann Romero with Armando McClain in 'The River Bride' for The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    One reason the OSF is considered “the granddaddy of American theatres” has been its ability to adapt with the times. Its wildly varying 11-show 2016 season includes five Shakespeare titles as well as The Wiz, Gilbert & Sullivan, and edgy new works like The River Bride, Roe and, if the publicity materials are to be believed, "a brash new comedy about three young Vietnamese immigrants making their way through the bewildering landscape of 1970s America," called Vietgone.

    “It's an interesting mix,” Bonenfant said. “The legacy of the company certainly has been built for decades on producing Shakespeare. And it’s that history of producing Shakespeare that has gotten it to the place where it has become a powerhouse when it comes to developing all kinds of works.”

    The authors of the two new plays the OSF is launching this weekend are familiar to Colorado theatre audiences. Penny Metropulos and Linda Alper, who have created this new version of Great Expectations, also adapted The Three Musketeers for the DCPA Theatre Company. Metropulos, who is directing Great Expectations, also directed Quilters, You Can’t Take it With You and The Trip to Bountiful for the Denver Center.

    “I think this new production might bring a lot of people into contact with this classic novel, and this great Dickens language, for the first time,” said Bonenfant. “The focus of the narration is just one person telling the story to another person, so it seems to be saying something about the simplicity of storytelling.”

    And, he added, about the generosity of shared storytelling.

    “OSF is very straightforward about the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Bonenfant said. “In this particular telling of Great Expectations, you have an ensemble that is extremely diverse. You have people from all different walks of life, and all different social strata, sharing in the telling of this same story together.” 

    Benjamin Bonenfant. Jamie Ann Romero. Romeo and Juliet. Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of ColoradoMarisela Treviño Orta is a young playwright from Texas, but Denver’s Su Teatro was onto her talents eight years ago when it staged the world premiere of her play Braided Sorrow, a devastating look at the very real plight of thousands of young women who commonly disappear from their jobs at American factories in the border city of Juárez, Mexico, and are later found mutilated in the nearby desert.

    The River Bride, winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award, is set in Brazil and is inspired by Amazonian folklore. “It’s called a 'grim' Latino fairy tale,” said Romero, “and that's exactly what it is.” The story is the first in Orta’s planned trilogy inspired by the Brothers Grimm.

    “It does have humor and tragedy and pathos in it, but the play is really about love,” Romero said. “Being brave in love and what happens when you are … and what happens when you aren’t.”

    (PIctured above right: Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2011 'Romeo and Juliet.' Photo by Glenn Asakawa.)

    Bonenfant and Romero now join a longstanding Colorado pipeline to Ashland that dates back to James Sandoe, a seminal figure in the development of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and a regular director in Oregon from 1948-68. Over the years, the OSF family has included Colorado natives including Phamaly Theatre Company’s remarkable Regan Linton, James Newcomb (son of the legendary Bev Newcomb-Madden and currently starring as Hubert Humphrey in the DCPA’s All the Way), and Sandoe’s daughter, Anne, who is a mainstay at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and played a central role in Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s award-winning Ghost-Writer. The connection has grown so strong that, for the first time, casting directors from Ashland took advantage of their time here in Denver for the Colorado New Play Summit last week to audition many of the area’s most accomplished actors for consideration in Oregon’s 2017 season.

    Benjamin Bonenfant. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
    Benjamin Bonenfant with Nemuna Ceesay in 'Great Expectations' for The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    Bonenfant learned he would headline Great Expectations while visiting the Creede Repertory Theatre in August. He closed the DCPA’s A Christmas Carol on Dec. 27 and was in Ashland for his first Great Expectations rehearsal less than 48 hours later.

    “My last couple of months in Denver, I was really keenly aware that I was going to be leaving, and just how large and how vibrant and wonderful the theatre community in Colorado is,” he said. “On the one hand, it’s a joyful experience getting to join a new community here completely fresh. But I think that only adds more appreciation for what you've left behind and how it's afforded you your opportunities to grow.”

    For as long as Romero has loved Shakespeare, “which is a very long time,” she said, “I've always wanted to work for the OSF. And to actually be here is wonderful and kind of indescribable. I've felt so comfortable and so supported in every way. But to echo what Ben said, the community here does remind me a lot of the community in Denver and Boulder and Colorado in general. Everyone is so supportive and loving of each other there, and that's very much the way it is here too.”

    More about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

    • Founded in 1935
    • Located in Southern Oregon
    • Season runs from February through early November
    • Three theatres: The flagship outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, and the indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre and Thomas Theatre
    • Summertime visitors can see up to nine plays in one week
    • More information

    2016 Oregon Shakespeare Festival season:

    • Twelfth Night
    • Great Expectations
    • The River Bride
    • The Yeomen of the Guard
    • Vietgone
    • Roe
    • Hamlet
    • The Wiz
    • The Winter’s Tale
    • Richard II
    • Timon of Athens

    More about Benjamin Bonenfant:

    Benjamin Bonenfant True West AwardRonald Dean in Benediction, Fortinbras, Hamlet (understudy) in Hamlet, Ensemble in A Christmas Carol, Gerald Forbes in When We Are Married (DCPA Theatre Company); Prince Hal in Henry IV, Parts One and Two, Henry V in Henry V, Dauphin in Henry VI, Part One, Ferdinand in The Tempest, Hamlet in Wittenberg, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew, Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Philip II in The Lion in Winter (The Arvada Center); Ken in Red (Curious Theatre Company); Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Herod in Salome, Treplev in The Seagull, Dionysus in The Bacchae, George Gibbs in Our Town, Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Silvius in As You Like It (TheatreWorks); Leo in 4000 Miles (Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center); Joey/Jim in Ambition Facing West, Rheticus in And the Sun Stood Still (Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company); Elijah in Elijah: An Adventure (Local Theater Company). 


    More about Jamie Ann Romero:

    Jamie Ann Romero. The Legend of Georgia McBride. Photo by Gabe Koskinen. Nina in Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike (Paper Mill Playhouse); Jo in The Legend of Georgia McBride, Kitty in The Three Musketeers, Bianca in Sunsets and Margaritas (DCPA Theatre Company); Silvia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lucy in Dracula (Utah Shakespeare Festival); Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Queen in Richard II, Lady Percy in Henry IV, Part One, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Ophelia in Hamlet (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Sylvia in Sylvia, Audrey in Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Lone Tree Arts Center); Celia in As You Like It (Modern Muse Theatre Company); Nina in The Seagull (TheatreWorks); International: Brooke in Noises Off (Maxim Gorky Theatre in Vladivostok, Russia).

    Photos: Benjamin Bonenfant won a 2015 True West Award for his performance in the title role of Henry V for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Jamie Ann Romero appearing in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Gabe Koskinen

  • Part 5: Matthew Lopez on the evolving role of marketing in making art

    by John Moore | Feb 15, 2015

    Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez at the DCPA. Photo by John Moore.

    NOTE: This is Part 5 of an ongoing series of conversations with 2014-15 DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez, above. Photo by John Moore.

    One of the reasons Matthew Lopez accepted an offer to become the DCPA Theatre Company’s first-ever Playwriting Fellow this season was because the experience promised to pull back the veil on parts of the theatre-making process writers are rarely privy to.

    “The fellowship came at a time when I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the opacity of the way theatres around the country make decisions,” said Lopez.

    Lopez’s six-month fellowship promised a front-row seat to everything from season-selection meetings to budget sessions. He is serving as the DCPA’s host for the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit. He is teaching playwriting and acting workshops. He has visited Denver-area schools. He is essentially a full member of the artistic staff.

    “When does a playwright ever get to do all that?” Lopez said. “It’s like being offered a backstage tour of the inner workings of a company.”

    He got the backstage tour, too.

    One of the most illuminating parts of Lopez’s tour has been developing a greater understanding of the role marketing plays in everything from the way a playwright’s work is introduced to the public, to the playwright’s financial bottom line. Simply put: The better the marketing, the more seats are sold - and the more the playwright gets paid, Lopez said. 

    The bottom line for anyone with a hand in creating a play, Lopez says, is this: “No one wants to put all of this work into it, and then not have anyone show up.”

    Here is more from our conversation:

    John Moore: What has surprised you the most about delving into the world of marketing here?

    Matthew Lopez: The science of it; the professionalism of it; the industry of it. That was pretty eye-opening. But what was even more enlightening and refreshing to me is how it always seems to come back to the creative process, and to the art. When everything is done well, it really is the perfect meeting of art and commerce - at least that is how I have experienced it here at the DCPA.

    John Moore: What is it like for a playwright to talk with staff about your play in terms of ticket sales and revenue goals and percentages of capacity?

    Matthew Lopez: There are hard numbers being discussed in those meetings. There are literally percentage points being bandied about. But then there is also a keen eye toward "the why.” Why is a play selling or not selling? With A Christmas Carol, you know it’s selling because of the name recognition. Because of the tradition. Because people have seen this production before, and they know it will be of high quality. But people are also asking, “Why was Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike‎ such a big hit for the company?" And even though Lord of the Flies maybe didn’t sell quite as many tickets, why is that the play that everyone was talking about for weeks afterward? It's fascinating.

    John Moore: Especially given that Lord of the Flies performed so many student matinees - and every ticket was sold. And those students treated the cast like they were boy-band rock stars. But for whatever reason, it didn't appeal to an adult audience in the same way at night.

    Matthew Lopez: And why is that? What amazes me is that marketing departments now have ways of finding out. I had no idea the business end of it has become so sophisticated and scientific. It's pretty impressive. But again - the road always led back to the art and to the creation, and that was pretty exciting to me.

    Matthew Lopez

    John Moore: How do you compare the particular challenge of marketing live theatre to, say, films?

    Matthew Lopez: The difference between selling live theatre and film is that the owners of the movie theatres could care less about the number of butts in their seats, because they get to keep such a tiny fraction of the box office. They get practically nothing from ticket sales. All of the action that they make at a movie theatre is off of concessions. So there is zero connection between the number of tickets sold, and the audience’s intellectual and emotional interaction with the film. Seriously: They could not care less what you thought of The Imitation Game or Unbroken or The Hobbit. They just don't care. They want you to buy popcorn. But here at the Denver Center, there is a direct correlation between butts in the seats and the audience’s engagement with the theatre that is being created. Everything depends on it. This might be a crass way of looking at it, but for a playwright, the more attention the marketing department can generate for your play, the more tickets are sold, which means the playwright makes more money. I can't speak for the actors, because they don't get paid based on how many tickets are sold. I get paid based on how many tickets are sold.

    John Moore: I thought licensing fees were based on the seating capacity of the theatre, not on how many people actually show up.

    Matthew Lopez. There is a formula that determines what you get paid in advance. But later on, you also get a pre-negotiated percentage of the box office. So the size of the house, and the number of tickets sold, does factor into it. If you are the playwright, you are going to make more money in a 1,200-seat theatre than you will in a 150-seat theatre. You are going to make more money if they charge $100 for the ticket as opposed to $27 for the ticket. The actors are paid a fixed rate based on the size of the house, and they get paid the same whether the house is full or empty. And so for me, the work that the marketing department does directly impacts my bottom line.

    John Moore: The way I see it, really every part of the process can, in some way, be considered marketing. Advertising is marketing, obviously. But really anything that convinces a potential audience member to come and see a show is marketing. That might be a story in the Sunday newspaper. A banner they see driving down the street. An email with a discount offer. An audience testimonial on social media. Even the script – and the performances. Because if an audience thinks The Legend of Georgia McBride is the best new play they have seen in a long time – and they tell people about it, that's organic marketing. Or if they see Mark Rylance perform in Jerusalem, and they tell their friends they have to see it – that's all part of the wide swath that is marketing now.

    Matthew Lopez: Absolutely.

    John Moore: What do you think of the emerging role of curation in enhancing and extending the audience’s theatergoing experience? For Georgia McBride, there was a cooperative effort between the marketing and artistic teams so that the audience experience began from the moment they walked through the front door and continued long after the show with a local drag performance. 

    Matthew Lopez: That was fun, wasn’t it? What I took from that is the idea that marketing doesn't have to be unimaginative. Marketing can actually be a part of the creative experience. I think the more imaginative the marketing department is, the more engrained they are in the production itself. Georgia McBride was a perfect example of that. The less marketing looks like marketing, the better. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," right? You are not supposed to notice.

    John Moore: So this is new to everyone, right? But I can only assume that deep down, the playwright wishes the play could speak for itself.

    Matthew Lopez: At first, that was probably my attitude. I kind of felt like, “I got this, guys. This is what I do. Why don't we just let them see the show?” But I think that was a little bit of contempt prior to investigation. Once I saw what they were thinking about for Georgia McBride, and once I actually saw what kind of resources they were able to put into it, and the imagination they put behind the idea, I think we all kind of dug it. Not too soon after we started performances, most nights you would see half the cast watching the drag show in the lobby after the show.

    Note: Matthew Lopez is conducting a playwriting workshop and discussion as part of the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit at 5 p.m. today, Feb. 15, at the Jones Theatre, Speer and Arapahoe.

    Check out our photo gallery covering parts of Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, above.

    Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
    Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
    Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre?
    Part 4: Peter Pan Live made Matthew Lopez cry - and fly
    Part 5: Matthew Lopez on the changing role of marketing in making art (today)
    Part 6: Matthew Lopez leads acting, playwriting workshops at  2015 Summit (coming next)

    Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

    Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
    Georgia McBride will be staged in New York
    Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
    2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
    Georgia McBride team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

  • Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15

    by John Moore | Sep 12, 2014

    In this video interview with John Moore from the DCPA's 2014 Colorado New Play Summit, Matthew Lopez says what makes the new-play development program unique here is "the start-to-finish approach of the process."

    Matthew300Matthew Lopez has made a significant impact on the national theatre landscape in the past year, and probably nowhere more decidedly than right here in Denver. In January, he had simultaneous plays running: The world premiere of the human comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and an uncommon Civil War drama called The Whipping Man at Curious Theatre.

    The Colorado Theatre Guild bestowed nine Henry Awards on The Whipping Man, including Outstanding Production. That story followed a returning Jewish Confederate soldier in desperate need of help from his family's former slaves in the immediate aftermath of Civil War fighting. The Legend of Georgia McBride, about an Elvis impersonator who conquers his fears and preconceptions when he enters the vulnerable world of drag performance, won two Henry Awards, including Outstanding New Play.

    Today, the DCPA announced the appointment of Lopez as its first-ever Playwriting Fellow for the 2014/15 Theatre Company season.

    “I’m delighted to be returning to the DCPA this season to continue what has already been a happy and fruitful collaboration,” Lopez said. “The Theatre Company’s commitment to playwrights and new plays isn’t just boilerplate. Writers know the difference between companies who claim to support new work and those that actually do. The Theatre Company is most decidedly on the right side of that divide and I am excited by the opportunity to deepen my relationship with this wonderful theatre.”

    During his six-month fellowship, Lopez will serve as part of the Theatre Company’s artistic team. Lopez will bring the playwright’s voice into the production process for upcoming  world premieres of Benediction and Appoggiatura, assist with play selection for the 2015-16 season and serve as the Playwright Host for the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit.

    “We are thrilled to welcome Matthew back to Denver,” said Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. “He is a remarkable talent and was the perfect choice to serve as our inaugural playwriting fellow. We look forward to adding Matthew’s  unique voice to our artistic discussions throughout the season and know he will help us take the Colorado New Play Summit to new heights.”

    Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
    Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
    Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre?
    Part 4: Lopez's role in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit

    Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

    Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
    Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
    2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
    'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

    More about Matthew Lopez

    Matthew Lopez is the author of The Whipping Man, one of the most widely produced new American plays of the last several years. The play premiered at Luna Stage in Montclair, NJ and debuted in New York at Manhattan Theatre Club. That production was directed by Doug Hughes and starred Andre Braugher. The sold-out production extended four times, ultimately running 101 performances off-Broadway and garnering Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards. Matthew was awarded the John Gassner New Play Award from the New York Outer Critics Circle for the play. Since then, it has received over 40 productions worldwide. His play Somewhere has been produced at the Old Globe, TheatreWorks in Palo Alto and most recently at Hartford Stage Company, where his play Reverberation will receive its world premiere in 2015. His newest play, The Legend of Georgia McBride, premiered earlier this year at the Denver Theatre Center for the Performing Arts. His play The Sentinels premiered in London at Headlong Theatre Company in 2011. Matthew currently holds new play commissions from Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Hartford Stage, and South Coast Rep. Matthew was a staff writer on HBO’s “The Newsroom” and is currently adapting Javier Marias’ trilogy “Your Face Tomorrow” for the screen.


    Matthew Lopez working on his script "The Legend of Georgia McBride" in the lobby of the Ricketson Theatre during the production process in January. Photo by John Moore. 

  • Record 28 Henry Award nominations for Denver Center Theatre Company

    by John Moore | Jun 18, 2014

    imageFrom left: Ben Huber, Jamie Ann Romero and Nick Mills are all nominated for Henry Awards, as well as “The Legend of Georgia McBride” castmate Matt McGrath. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    The Colorado Theatre Guild has just announced the nominees for its 9th annual Henry Awards, and the Denver Center Theatre Company has been honored with a record 28 nominations, including best season by a company.
    Death of a Salesman and The Legend of Georgia McBride are among the five productions nominated for best play. Three of the five nominated best new plays are Denver Center productions: black odyssey, The Legend of Georgia McBride and The Most Deserving.   

    Animal Crackers led all shows with 13 nominations, including nods for lead actors Jonathan Brody and Jim Ferris. All four actors in The Legend of Georgia McBride were nominated in lead or support roles: Ben Huber, Jamie Ann Romero, Matt McGrath and Nick Mills. In all, the show collected nine nods. Veteran actors Mike Hartman and Sam Gregory were nominated for their performances in Death of a Salesman and Hamlet, respectively.

    Celia Tackaberry, Stephanie Rothenberg and Christine Rowan were all nominated as supporting actresses for Animal Crackers. The complete list follows below.

    The Aurora Fox earned 16 nominations, followed by Curious Theatre with 15 and the Arvada Center with 10. The upstart Edge Theatre Company had its best showing to date with eight nominations, including best season by a company.

    The most nominated play was Curious Theatre Company's The Whipping Man, with 10, followed by Georgia McBride, with nine. One is a Civil War story; the other a contemporary drag comedy. The one thing the plays have in common is their playwright, Matthew Lopez. Next was the Aurora Fox's Metamorphoses, with six.

    After Animal Crackers, the most honored musical was the Arvada Center's Curtains, with six.

    Perhaps the most shocking omissions from the list were Kate Gleason and Chris Kendall for their highly praised performances in Annapurna for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which was shut out.

    The Henry Awards will take place Monday, July 21, at the Arvada Center.

    To be eligible for a Henry Award, a show must be presented by a Colorado Theatre Guild member company and be seen by at least six Henry Award judges. This year, there were 213 eligible shows, and 174 were seen by at least six judges and were therefore eligible. 

    For just the second year, Colorado companies outside the metro area were eligible for Henry Awards consideration. The Midtown Arts Center of Fort Collins pulled seven noms -- six for its outstanding presentation of Les Miserables, which was nominated for best musical. The Breckenridge Backstage Theatre earned a whopping six nominations for its staging of the oft-produced musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.

    There were two prominent area productions of Venus in Fur, the most-produced professional play in America this year. The staging by TheatreWorks of Colorado Springs was nominated for best play and best actress (Carey Cornelius), while Curious Theatre's production was cited in three design categories -- lighting, scenic design and sound.

    Several individuals earned multiple nominations, led by lighting designer Shannon McKinney with four, scenic designer Charles Dean Packard (two) music director David Nehls (two) and costumer Linda Morken (two). Christine Rowan was cited as supporting actress and choreography for Animal Crackers. Jamie Ann Romero was nominated as lead actress in Sylvia as well as her supporting nod in Georgia McBride.

    Jalyn Courtenay Webb was the music director for two of the five best musical nominees: Les Miserables at Midtown and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change in Breckenridge. She was nominated in that category for Les Mis. She is also nominated as a supporting actress for her work as Bloody Mary in South Pacific at Midtown.     

    The pronounced repetition of nominees in the design categories reflects the Colorado Theatre Guild's effort for the second straight year to separate lighting, sound, scenic and costumes into "large scale" and "small scale" budget categories. What was intended to expand the pool of nominees in those categories seems instead only to be clustering them.

    This year features mother-daughter nominees: Wendy Moore for directing Lake Dillon's Scapin, and daughter Missy Moore, nominated for best actress in The Edge's The House of Blue Leaves.                            


    Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company

    Arvada Center

    Aurora Fox Theatre

    Curious Theatre Company

    Denver Center Theatre Company

    The Edge Theatre Company

    Outstanding Play

    "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," Edge Theater Company, Michael Stricker, Director

    "Death of a Salesman," Denver Center Theatre Company, Anthony Powell, Director

    "The Legend of Georgia McBride," Denver Center Theatre Company, Mike Donahue, Director

    "Metamorphoses," Aurora Fox Theatre, Geoffrey Kent, Director

    "Venus in Fur," TheatreWorks, Murray Ross, Director

    "The Whipping Man," Curious Theatre Company, Kate Folkins & Chip Walton, Directors

    Outstanding Musical

    "Animal Crackers," Denver Center Theatre Company, Bruce K. Sevy, Director; Gregg Coffin, Musical Direction

    "Curtains," Arvada Center, Gavin Mayer, Director; David Nehls, Musical Direction

    "Fiddler on the Roof," Phamaly Theatre Company, Steve Wilson, Director; Donna Debreceni, Musical Direction

    "Les Miserables," Midtown Arts Center, Kurt Terrio, Director; Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Musical Direction                                

    "I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change" Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, Seth Caikowski, Director; Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Musical Direction                                

    Outstanding Direction of a Play

    Christopher Alleman, “Other Desert Cities” Lake Dillon Theatre Company

    Kate Folkins & Chip Walton, “The Whipping Man” Curious Theatre Company

    Geoffrey Kent, “Metamorphoses” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Michael Stricker, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” The Edge Theater Company    

    Wendy Moore, “Scapin” Lake Dillon Theatre Company

    Outstanding Direction of a Musical

    Seth Caikowski, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Gavin Mayer, “Curtains,” Arvada Center

    Bruce K. Sevy, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company

    Nick Sugar, “Spring Awakening” Town Hall Arts Center

    Kurt Terrio “Les Miserables,” Midtown Arts Center

    Outstanding Musical Direction

    Gregg Coffin, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company          

    Donna K. Debreceni, “Spring Awakening” Town Hall Arts Center

    David Nehls, “Curtains” Arvada Center

    David Nehls, “End of the Rainbow” Arvada Center

    Jalyn Courtenay Webb, “Les Miserables” Midtown Arts Center

    Dan Wheetman, “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Lone Tree Arts Center & Starkey Theatrix

    Outstanding Choreography

    Piper Lindsay Arpan, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, “Curtains” Arvada Center      

    Matthew D. Peters, “Shrek the Musical” Boulder’s Dinner Theatre          

    Christine Rowan, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company   

    Kelly Van Oosbree, “Hairspray” Performance Now

    Outstanding Actor in a Play

    Kevin Alan, “Scapin” Lake Dillon Theatre Company      

    Mike Hartman, “Death of a Salesman” Denver Center Theatre Company

    Ben Huber, “The Legend of Georgia McBride” Denver Center Theatre Company 

    Cajardo Lindsey, “The Whipping Man” Curious Theatre Company            

    Sean Scrutchins, “The Whipping Man” Curious Theatre Company            

    Outstanding Actress in a Play

    Carley Cornelius, “Venus in Fur” TheatreWorks

    Emily Paton Davies, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” The Edge Theater Company

    Missy Moore, “The House of Blue Leaves” The Edge Theater Company  

    Karen Slack, “Painted Bread” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Jamie Ann Romero, “Sylvia” Lone Tree Arts Center & Starkey Theatrix   

    Outstanding Actor in a Musical

    David Ambroson, “Les Miserables” Midtown Arts Center

    Jonathan Brody, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company     

    Jim Ferris, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company               

    TJ Hogle, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Mack Shirilla, “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Lone Tree Arts Center & Starkey Theatrix

    Outstanding Actress in a Musical

    Lindsey Falduto, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Melanie Horton, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

    Tari Kelly, “End of the Rainbow” Arvada Center

    Sarah Rex, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” Aurora Fox Theatre       

    Megan Van De Hey, “John and Jen” Cherry Creek Theatre Company       

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play

    Laurence Curry, “The Whipping Man” Curious Theatre Company

    Sam Gregory, “Hamlet” Denver Center Theatre Company          

    Matt McGrath, “The Legend of Georgia McBride” Denver Center Theatre Company           

    Nick Mills, “The Legend of Georgia McBride” Denver Center Theatre Company  

    Sean Scrutchins, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Colorado Shakespeare Festival                  

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

    Jenna Bainbridge, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Colorado Shakespeare Festival                  

    Rhonda Brown, “Steel Magnolias” Senior Housing Options

    Emma Messenger, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” The Edge Theater Company 

    Jamie Ann Romero, “The Legend of Georgia McBride” Denver Center Theatre Company   

    Kelly Uhlenhopp, “The House of Blue Leaves” The Edge Theater Company

    Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

    Colin Alexander, “Curtains” Arvada Center  

    Michael Bouchard, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Tyrell Rae, “Shrek the Musical” Boulder’s Dinner Theatre          

    Brandon Schrami, “Les Miserables” Midtown Arts Center

    Scott Severtson, “Shrek the Musical” Boulder’s Dinner Theatre               

    Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

    Stephanie Rothenberg, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company

    Celia Tackaberry, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company   

    Christine Rowan, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company   

    Megan Van De Hey, “Curtains” Arvada Center

    Jalyn Courtenay Webb, “South Pacific” Midtown Arts Center

    Outstanding Ensemble Performance

    "Animal Crackers" Denver Center Theatre Company, Bruce K. Sevy, Director

    "The Legend of Georgia McBride" Denver Center Theatre Company, Mike Donahue, Director

    I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, Seth Caikowski, Director; Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Musical Direction                                

    "Metamorphoses" Aurora Fox Theatre, Geoffrey Kent, Director

    "The Whipping Man" Curious Theatre Company, Kate Folkins & Chip Walton, Directors

    Outstanding New Play

    "And the Sun Stood Still" by Dava Sobel. Directed by Stephen Weitz; Produced by Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company                                                     

    "black odyssey" by Marcus Gardley. Directed by Chay Yew; Produced by Denver Center Theatre Company                                           

    "Electra Onion Eater" by Buntport Theater. Directed and Produced by Buntport Theater

    "The Legend of Georgia McBride" by Matthew Lopez. Directed by Mike Donahue; Produced by Denver Center Theatre Company                                           

    "The Most Deserving" by Catherine Trieschmann. Directed by Shelley Butler; Produced by Denver Center Theatre Company                                           

    NOTE: In recent years the theatre community reached out and asked that we consider ways that allow our larger and smaller companies to compete, more appropriately, with each other. The Colorado Theatre Guild has created two categories for our technical awards. The breakdown is for productions, of larger and smaller scale, based upon currently established production budgets.

    Outstanding Costume Design - large scale

    Kevin Copenhaver, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company

    Clare Henkel, “End of the Rainbow” Arvada Center     

    Markas Henry, “The Whipping man” Curious Theatre Company

    Dane Laffrey, “The Legend of Georgia McBride” Denver Center Theatre Company

    Outstanding Costume Design - small scale

    Cindy Franke, “Hairspray” Performance Now

    Linda Morken, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” Boulder’s Dinner Theatre     

    Linda Morken, “Fiddler on the Roof” Phamaly Theatre Company

    Rebecca Spafford, “Dangerous Liaisons” OpenStage Theatre & Company

    Outstanding Lighting Design - large scale

    Shannon McKinney, “The Whipping Man” Curious Theatre Company

    Shannon McKinney, “Venus in Fur” Curious Theatre Company

    Shannon McKinney, “End of the Rainbow” Arvada Center

    Jaymi Lee Smith, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company    

    Outstanding Lighting Design - small scale

    Stephen D. Mazzeno, “Fiddler on the Roof” Phamaly Theatre Company

    Vance McKenzie, “Hairspray” Performance Now

    Shannon McKinney, “Metamorphoses” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Shannon McKinney, “Painted Bread” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Outstanding Scenic Design - large scale

    Caitlin Ayer, “Good People” Curious Theatre Company                              

    Michael R. Duran, “Venus in Fur” Curious Theatre Company

    Markas Henry, “The Whipping Man” Curious Theatre Company

    Vicki Smith, “Animal Crackers” Denver Center Theatre Company             

    Outstanding Scenic Design - small scale

    Tina Anderson, “And the Sun Stood Still,” Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company                                                     

    Mark Hanluk, “Les Miserables” Midtown Arts Center

    Charles Dean Packard, “Metamorphoses” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Charles Dean Packard, “Painted Bread” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Outstanding Sound Design - large scale

    Jill BC DuBoff, “The Legend of Georgia McBride” Denver Center Theatre Company

    Jason Ducat, “Venus in Fur” Curious Theatre Company

    Brian Freeland, “The Whipping Man” Curious Theatre Company                              

    David Thomas, “End of the Rainbow” Arvada Center

    Outstanding Sound Design - small budget

    El Armstrong, “Painted Bread” Aurora Fox Theatre

    William Burns, “Metamorphoses” Aurora Fox Theatre

    Allen Noftal, “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Lone Tree Arts Center & Starkey Theatrix

    Adam Stone, “Electra Onion Eater” Buntport Theater

    Kenny Storms, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” The Edge Theater Company        

     The Henry Awards will take place Monday, July 21, at the Arvada Center. Tickets are $23 for Colorado Theatre Guild members, $30 for non-members, and $50 for VIP. Tickets go on sale beginning July 1 by phone only through the Arvada Center Box Office by calling 720-898-7200. For more information go to www.coloradotheatreguild.org.

  • The Kent Thompson Interview, Part 4: Whatever happened to the resident acting company?

    by John Moore | May 22, 2014


    With the recent closing of Kent Thompson’s ninth season as Producing Artistic Director of the Denver Center Theatre Company, we present to you this four-part interview. The series at a glance:

    Part 1: Kent Thompson’s assessment of the 2013-14 season
    Part 2: A play-by-play look at 2014-15 season
    Part 3: On the factors that went into choosing the 2014-15 season
    Part 4 (today): On the national trend away from preserving large resident acting companies.

    Thompson: “Can we guarantee (actors) three or four roles a year? I don’t think we can, and that is agonizing.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The American regional theatre movement has been undergoing a glacial transition that has been so slow to reach Denver, you may have hardly noticed it was even happening:

    There aren’t any large, permanent resident acting companies anymore. Even though that was one of the founding reasons the regional theatre movement sprung up back in the 1960s and ’70s.


    “The regional theatre movement was started as a rebellion,” Denver Center Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson said. “It was seen as a different solution to theater than Broadway.”

    The idea was that new regional theatres in Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis and elsewhere would hire a somewhat permanent company of actors who would be cast in multiple productions throughout the season in a combination of large and small roles. These actors would become fully invested in their local artistic communities and forge real relationships with their audiences over time. They would earn a livable wage and enjoy unprecedented job security - for actors. Enough to put down roots, buy homes and raise families.

    But times changed, and most regional theatres began giving up the ghost of the resident-company concept long before the wake of 9/11 brought shortened seasons, lowered attendance and other ramifications that made the idea of a resident company even more impractical.

    When asked this week whether the Denver Center Theatre Company still has a permanent resident acting company anymore, Thompson said publicly for the first time: “I don’t believe we do.” But he was quick to point out, “We actually stuck it out longer than many of our compatriots.”

    When Thompson arrived in Denver nine years ago, he inherited more than a dozen resident actors who were pretty much assured three or four roles per season. Longtime audiences can rattle off the names like a football geek can name Denver Broncos Ring of Famers: Jamie Horton, Jacqueline Antaramian, Annette Helde, Philip Pleasants, Randy Moore, Kathleen M. Brady, Jeanne Paulsen, Robin Moseley, Carol Halstead, Caitlin O’Connell, Bill Christ, John Hutton and Sam Gregory, among them.    

    When he got here in 2005, Thompson stated straight-out that the concept of a resident acting company would change here over time. That the revolving door to his stages would start to revolve much more widely, allowing for more diversity and variety in casting than ever before. And that is exactly what has come to pass. Last month, Hutton moved east, leaving Gregory as the last truly year-round player from the group listed above.

    Gregory will be back next season, in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. But the days of audiences seeing popular actors up to four times a season are over. Part of the reason, Thompson said, is simple math: With an eight-show season, it no longer adds up. Part of it is economic: Attendance is on a slow decline, and specific foundation support for the resident company concept has dried up. Part of it is the simultaneous graying of the actors we have called resident Denver Center actors over the past 20 years. And part of it, Thompson said, is artistic necessity: If you are going to commit to a broader spectrum of programming, you have to commit to a wider spectrum of casting.


    Thompson sees his company evolving into what he calls more of a “frequent-flyer” ensemble: Popular actors returning here to perform often, but without as much regularity as in the past. But he emphasized that audiences will continue to see their favorite actors perform here.

    “Those people are the actors we want to use most often,” Thompson said. “The question is, can we guarantee them three or four roles a year?  I don’t think we can, and that is agonizing.”

    But he also pointed out that while there is a strong base led by subscribers who want to see popular company members return time and time again, “there is another set of ticket-buyers who are really more interested in seeing new faces,” Thompson said.

    Here are highlights from the conversation I had with Thompson on the subject:

    John Moore: Why has the resident acting concept gone out of style nationally?

    Kent Thompson: The two major changes that have made it more difficult have been changes to the economy and attendance, both of which have contributed to theatres presenting smaller seasons, with smaller casts. That has made maintaining a commitment to a large ensemble of actors – especially when most are of similar ages – nearly impossible.

    John Moore: How does that play out here in Denver?

    Kent Thompson: I think the economic conditions, and some of our artistic priorities – such as new plays – have meant we’ve had to re-think what a resident company means. Moving forward, I look at the core of this company as actors who have worked here before coming in and doing a show here every year or two.

    John Moore: How did the resident-acting concept begin in the first place?

    Kent Thompson: When I was at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which was basically the 1990s through 2005, there were major foundation grants available to anyone who maintained a permanent resident company of actors. And the NEA, for a period of time in the late 1980s, and probably even earlier, was actually giving grants to those theatres that would keep a company of actors together. The benefits of having professional actors working together over time were obvious. They would develop an artistic language by which they worked. They lived in their communities and were recognized as theatre professionals. And there was also recognition by most companies – and certainly here in Denver – that they should be properly compensated, because of the mutual commitment. The concept took hold in just about every resident theatre in the country. Then, over time, it really evolved into more of a season-by-season relationship. But with every company, you have different issues you have to deal with, whether it’s that you’ve got a lot of actors above the age of 50, or you need more diversity that reflects your community. In our case, a major commitment to new plays doesn’t always mean the resident company members will fit into the play as the playwright has written it. We have to provide them the cast they need and want.  

    John Moore: How has this change been for you?

    Kent Thompson: I have always advocated for resident company members in any show I’ve done. But our artistic priorities have changed, and it has become more difficult to cast them. Take The Legend of Georgia McBride.  We had Jamie Ann Romero in that show, and the other three guys were from New York. They had to be (because of the requirements of the roles). At the same time, we were continuing our commitment to African-American plays (black odyssey). We’ve started an ongoing commitment to Latino plays, and we did not have any resident company members who were Latino. So those things have changed the face of our company.

    John Moore: What about from a national perspective?

    Kent Thompson: What happened nationally is that funding got tighter and tighter, for a couple of reasons. First, 9/11 changed the world, and it changed American culture in many fundamental ways. The buying patterns of single-ticket audiences went from buying 2-3 weeks in advance, to about 7-10 days. Then the (2007) recession changed that to 3-5 days, tops. That’s very scary. Also, in the past decade, foundations have moved a lot of their money toward education and other issues like poverty, health care and social issues – things other than the performing arts. A great example was the Pew Charitable Trust in Philadelphia. For years, they were major supporters of residencies for actors and playwrights. And then they decided to change their focus on the arts to be more about “public policy on the arts.” It turned into a think-tank rather than a fund that supported the field. And since the ’90s, corporations have been pulling out some of their support for the arts. Support on the federal level has continued to fall as well. So there aren’t the sources of diversified income that were once specifically supporting the concept of a resident company. There aren’t the sources that are supporting theatre as much, period. The two biggest foundations that still support theatres are the Shubert Foundation and the Steinberg Foundation. The Steinberg supports new plays, so that leaves the Shubert as the only major foundation I know of that still gives money for general operating support. That’s very different from where the arc of it once appeared to be going.

    John Moore: How does that affect how you choose a season?

    Kent Thompson: You have to pick seasons that you know will have some level of general appeal. At the same time, you have to commit yourself to two or three “programmatic priorities” for yourself, rather than 10 or 12, which I think was the original model of the major regional theatre system. In many ways, we’ve been building our seasons around the resident acting company since time immemorial. That had to change.


    John Moore: That has to be hard for you.

    Kent Thompson: Believe me: It’s incredibly sad for me, because I’ve spent the past 25 years as the leader of a major theatre with a resident company. When I left Alabama, I knew this would be something I would have to fight for, because I was watching it disappear.

    John Moore: When you look back to when there were 15 or 16 actors who could count on nine months of work per year in Denver, part of the fun for audiences was acknowledging that maybe not every actor was exactly right for every role.

    Kent Thompson: That’s right.

    John Moore: But that was the give-and-take of the resident-acting  concept: That in order to ensure that audiences were going to get to see a favorite actor in four roles a year, that might require some artistic compromise.   

    Kent Thompson: I don’t view it as artistic compromise. It’s only a compromise if they are really inappropriately cast, like having a 50-year-old actor playing a 20-year-old character. I think there’s a huge benefit in casting John Hutton or Sam Gregory or Mike Hartman or Kathleen Brady or many of the other actors we’ve worked with. But two things happened in our theatre company: We already talked about how we’ve been diversifying our programming. The other thing is that cast sizes are shrinking. If it’s more than six characters now, it’s considered a large play. So that gives you fewer opportunities to cast people.

    John Moore: The end of the resident acting company concept is not really a new development, is it?


    Kent Thompson: In truth, this process has been going here on for the last three or four years at least. We are moving toward what I would call a “frequent-flier company.” I don’t mean that in a trite way. These are people who simply work with us regularly – and that is a much larger pool of actors in Denver and around the country than what we would have called our resident acting company. These are people who have an intense commitment to working here, and enjoy working here.

    John Moore: Are there other positives to be gleaned from this evolution?

    Kent Thompson: I think the only downside of a maintaining a company is that when an actor has been with you for a long time, there can become a sense of entitlement. They want to start determining who’s directing a play, and who else is in the cast. I understand that instinct completely, but you can’t accommodate it, because you have to build your company based on what your vision is.

    John Moore: But you have already acknowledged what you lose when you dissolve this resident company concept – this idea that your actors are a part of our larger community. And that even if they go off and work for other companies, the Denver Center is still their artistic home.

    Kent Thompson: Yes, but you have seen the steps that have had to be taken here. We no longer have the National Theatre Conservatory students. That was actually an opportunity for us to really go into the community and hire many more local actors and directors and designers, and to really get to know the community better. It’s tricky, though. There is also a presumption that company members drive sales, but the numbers don’t really back that up.

    John Moore: So … it’s tricky.

    Kent Thompson: It’s very tricky. 

    John Moore: So who still has a permanent resident acting company? And I know that’s difficult to answer because every theatre’s definition of “company” is different. Steppenwolf in Chicago lists 44 past or present actors as company members. Closer to home, Curious Theatre lists about 30 resident actors, but none of them are guaranteed a role in any given season. Is that really even a resident acting company? 

    Kent Thompson: I would call that an acting ensemble. I don’t doubt the commitment at Steppenwolf to those people. Their actors have a very strong tradition of having gone elsewhere, succeeding and then giving back to the company. There are a few companies left who maintain a commitment to a regular group of actors, like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but most of them draw from no more than a half-dozen actors. Marco Barricelli, who directed Glengarry Glen Ross for us, is an incredibly gifted actor. He’s in the American Conservatory Theatre’s company in San Francisco – which means he does two shows in any given year. And he’s one of their core company resident artists.


    Producing artistic director Kent Thompson looks over the set model for the upcoming Denver Center Theatre Company production of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Photo by John Moore.

    John Moore: But if you are the company actor here, this fundamentally changes your financial security. Now you are going to have to live the gypsy life. You can choose to live in Denver, but you are going to have to go where the work is. 

    Kent Thompson: Yes, and if you are in Chicago, you have much greater opportunities in every way. There’s Lookingglass, there’s Steppenwolf, there’s the Goodman. There’s like 300 theatres. And then there is the film industry. It’s not the same here.

    John Moore: I think what people are afraid of is, when you say there is no more resident theatre company here, that means they will never see anyone that they recognize again.

    Kent Thompson: Oh no, that’s not’s not true at all.

    John Moore: So the next time you come across the perfect John Hutton role, you’re going to call John Hutton?  

    Kent Thompson: Yes, absolutely.

    John Moore: We should not forget, too, that every new play is an opportunity for audiences to forge new relationships.

    Kent Thompson: Absolutely. Look at William Oliver Watkins, who came here for the first time in Ruined and then came back this year to play Jackie Robinson in Jackie and Me. Or Brent Harris, who played Saliere in Amadeus, and came back to be in Noises Off.

    John Moore: Or Michael Fitzpatrick. Or Michael Santo.

    Kent Thompson: And neither of them lives in Denver.

    John Moore. I don’t want to pre-cast Appoggiatura for you, but I think another example might be Nick Mills, who came here for the first time to perform in The Legend of Georgia McBride, probably having no idea that his contract included the stipulation that, hey, while you are here, we get to use you in the Colorado New Play Summit. But after that reading, I’ve heard a number of people say they hope he gets that same role next season.

    Kent Thompson: He was fabulous.

    John Moore: That’s how new relationships get started.

    Kent Thompson: Yes, it is. We do that every year, with actors, with creative teams and with playwrights. And we’ll continue to do that.

  • 2013-14 Season: A Video Retrospective

    by John Moore | May 21, 2014

    The Denver Center Theatre Company's 35th season was one of its most eclectic to date, spanning classics such as Death of a Salesman to the stage adaptation of the 1928 Marx Brothers musical, Animal Crackers. Please enjoy, in words, video and photos, our look back at a wonderful season of laughs, catharsis, topical issues and heartbreak. Retrospective by John Moore. Footage shot by Ken Mostek and David Lenk. Photos shot by Jennifer M. Koskinen and John Moore. Elephant shot by Groucho Marx.

    To read Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson's assessment of the 2013-14 season, click here.


    Aaron M. Davidson and William Oliver Watkins played the title roles in 'Jackie & Me.' The cast spent a day at the batting cages and touring Coors Field. Jackie Robinson's 42 jersey is retired from use by all major-league baseball teams in honor of the main who broke the modern-era color barrier. Photo by John Moore.

  • The Kent Thompson Interview, Part 2: The 2014-15 season, play by play

    by John Moore | May 15, 2014

    A video look at the upcoming 2014-15 season, above.

    With the recent closing of Kent Thompson's ninth season as Producing Artistic Director of the Denver Center Theatre Company, we present to you this four-part interview. The series at a glance:

    Part 1: Kent Thompson's assessment of the 2013-14 season
    Part 2, today: A play-by-play look at 2014-15 season
    Part 3: A discussion of the little-known factors that went into choosing the 2014-15 season
    Part 4:  Thompson addresses the pros and cons in the national trend away from preserving large resident acting companies.


    The following conversation took place as part of the Denver Center's public Page to Stage panel conversation at the Tattered Cover Bookstore on May 6:

    John Moore: Your 2014-15 season begins with a biggie: The highly anticipated “refreshed” new take on the quintessential Colorado Broadway musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown. This project was first introduced to Denver audiences five years ago at your Colorado New Play Summit. But you are not calling it a revival. What are you calling it?

    Kent Thompson: (Writer) Dick Scanlan likes to call it a “revisical.” It’s a musical that has been revised, as opposed to a musical that has been recreated. When you come, you will see some of the famous musical numbers and scenes from the original. But some songs have been removed and replaced with other songs from the Meredith Willson catalogue. The story, of course, is about one of the first iconic female figures from Colorado. The musical is still very much a love story. But version offers a more realistic telling of Molly Brown’s real life … sort of. Because if it went totally there …

    John Moore: It wouldn’t be the same musical.

    Kent Thompson: It wouldn’t be the same musical. It does include more historical facts, which will make all of the characters’ storylines more interesting. But it still has the signature songs we all remember, like I Ain’t Done Yet. And we have a first-class Broadway creative team behind it.


    Kent Thompson, left, will complete the Kent Haruf Trilogy in 2014-15 with his direction of "Benediction." Featured in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit were Mike Hartman, center, and Matt McGrath. Photo by John Moore

    John Moore: Three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall is coming to Denver to direct. Given that, people are naturally wondering … is this on its way to Broadway?

    Kent Thompson: I have no doubt that this musical will go on to another life. The producer is just not saying yet when or what that is.

    John Moore: So tell us about the new score.

    Kent Thompson: Dick Scanlan was allowed full access to any song from Meredith Willson’s catalog. He has added Willson songs that were pop hits of the day, and also great songs that were cut from other Willson musicals but seem to fit nicely in this new telling of Molly Brown.

    John Moore: The next show on your season was my very favorite book growing up, Lord of the Flies.

    Kent Thompson: This story has been around for a long time, obviously, and it is still read around the world. My son, who is now 21, read it when he was in seventh or eighth grade. It’s still pertinent. And it’s even more pertinent when you think about the issues of bullying and violence in schools today. And this is a great stage adaptation. I have found that people react in one of three ways when they hear about the play: “Oh, wow, I would love to see that!” … or, “Oh my gosh, why are you doing that?” … or, “Wow, that book scared me so much!” I will say the 1963 black-and-white movie by Peter Brook was truly scary, and very stark. But the book has a lot more humor, and it’s not so totally bleak. When you watch that movie, it almost looks like you are watching one of the Swedish black-and-white movies from the period of (Ingmar) Bergman. What I like most is that this story is fundamentally about something. And it’s accessible to all audiences. Adults are curious to see it. Younger readers connect with it because they are getting to the age of, say, 11 through 16, where they are dealing with a lot of these issues every day. It may not be nearly as harsh as in the book, but they are dealing with them.

    John Moore: The age thing is interesting because this is a story about what happens when children, in effect, become little adults. And they take on a lot of the violent tendencies of adults. I’ve been asked this several times: Can we expect this to be performed by age-appropriate actors, or by young-adult actors?

    Kent Thompson: I think we are going to have young-adult actors in several roles, but I hope they look no older than 15 or 16 to the audience. And they won’t be big bruisers. In the book, there are kids as young as 6 or 7 and there will be in the performance, too.

    John Moore: As a programmer, you have never been an award-chaser. So it’s never a given that the play that just won the Tony Award for Best Play on Broadway will automatically be on your next season. But this time, it is: What is it about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike that made you want to do it?

    Kent Thompson: Well, I think it’s a really funny play. But it also has melancholic underpinnings. There are some incredibly moving speeches in it. This group of people are basically in their 50s, with a couple of younger people around them, and they are coming to terms with where they have been, and where they are going as a family.  I think that’s always really fascinating. It has a Hollywood starlet, and a brother-and-sister who are basically taking care of the family home in Bucks County, Pa. And then there is Spike, who is the boy-toy of the Hollywood star. He’s 25 and extremely good-looking. You don’t need to know (Anton) Chekhov at all to enjoy the play, but if you do, you will love it because you’ll know all the references – even though they are mixed up like a hash in a stew in in a bowl. I think this play is about the way the expectations of the world collide with your expectations for yourself, and hopefully you come out of it with a renewed feeling of family and purpose.

    John Moore: And for the first time in the 36-year history of the Denver Center Theatre Company, you are staging a play byChristopher Durang.

    Kent Thompson: Yes. He is one of America’s great satirists and playwrights.

    John Moore: In its 24th year, A Christmas Carol just finished up one its most successful runs. So, clearly, people still want it on the season.

    Kent Thompson: They do. It’s also an entrée for both multi-generational audiences and for new audiences. A lot of new people come to A Christmas Carol every year, and when they do, we try to entice them to come back and see something else.


    John Moore: And now we come to the two new plays that were chosen from the Colorado New Play Summit, starting with Appoggiatura, by James Still. First off, what does that word men?

    Kent Thompson: I’ll probably explain it badly, but here goes: It’s the note before the resolving chord in a movement. It’s that note that takes you into that ending chord. The play follows the journey of a group of people who are mourning someone who has died. He was a father, a grandfather, a husband, a lover. So they go to Venice, where they work through some of their grief. But they also find a new way to think about grief, and how they feel about each other. And, like Venice itself, it’s part magic. Vivaldi is a character in it. He wanders through it and plays the violin. And there is some time-travel involved.

    John Moore: This play does not have a mean bone in it. It seems to me like a throwback to the kind of theatre that was clever and sweet

    Kent Thompson: It is clever and sweet and very imaginative. It’s Romantic, but I mean Romantic with a capital R, rather than romantic as in “romantic comedy.”


    John Moore: Now move forward to Benediction, which completes the Kent Haruf Trilogy, following your earlier stagings of Plainsong and Eventide. I don’t think it was necessarily a slam-dunk that this was going to be put on the season because, while the third chapter is set in the same location of Holt, Colo., it introduces all new characters and tells a new story. So it wasn’t as if audiences would have been deprived of the ending of the story if you chose not to stage it. So why was it important to you to finish the Haruf Trilogy?

    Kent Thompson: It was important to me just because … I like it. And because Kent Haruf is one of our major novelists in the state Colorado. And when you think about it, while Eventide had couple of recurring characters, it introduced mostly new characters, too. The mentally challenged couple who had the kids, for example. The love interest of Raymond, after his brother died. You will hear characters you know mentioned in Benediction, like the Guthrie boys from Plainsong. But it does have the same character types in it. Benediction is a story about an old hardware store owner who knows he’s dying of cancer, and is hoping to come to terms with the long-estranged son he threw out years before. It’s also about his wife and daughter, and what he meant to the people he worked with. But then there is this other story about an exiled preacher who lost job at a big church in Denver because one day he stood up at the pulpit and said what he really believes Jesus would do -- as opposed to what our government and our society might say Jesus would do. So now he’s an outcast in this small church in the Eastern Plains -- and he gets into trouble again. He has a very dysfunctional family. I’m the son of a preacher, so I know this is true: If this man was running a big church, then he wouldn’t have had lot of time with his teenage son. And in the play, they come to this moment of crisis. Finally there is also the story of a poor little orphan girl who is now living with her grandmother and comes to be embraced by some of the older women in the town. They become her new family. That’s ultimately what Kent Haruf’s novels are about. They are about how your family is not necessarily your blood relatives. Your family is the people who choose to be your family, and choose to be your community.

    John Moore: That sounds like a world premiere you just did called The Legend of Georgia McBride.

    Kent Thompson: It does, doesn’t it?

    John Moore: The sports and music fan in me can’t wait for One Night in Miami.

    Kent Thompson: I was fascinated about this play because of what it was about. It takes place on the night in 1964 when Cassius Clay won his first world heavyweight boxing championship. But instead of going to the Miami Beach party that had been planned for him with all of these famous people and Hollywood stars, he went back to his hotel room with three of his closest friends: Jim Brown, the football player; Malcolm X, the activist; and Sam Cooke, who wrote so many famous tunes  …

    John Moore: A Change is Gonna Come

    Kent Thompson: Yes, and did you know, he is the only composer in American pop culture up until about three years ago who never sold the rights to any song? Everybody else did, but he refused to. That’s why the Beatles bought them back. This play is filled with humor and drama. It’s really about these three highly successful African-American men talking and arguing about how they got there. And about  what it means to be an African-American man. Of course, the next morning, Cassius Clay would come out and say he was Muhammad Ali. But by the end of the play, you have discovered many things about each of the four characters – including Malcolm X.

    John Moore: The open “Director’s Choice” slot top close your 2014-15 season is still unknown because it is … still unknown. Can you tell us a little bit about what you are looking for? Can we expect it to be another new play?

    Kent Thompson:  I can tell you it could be a new play … or a classic … or a comedy … or a drama. There are a lot of moving parts going on with this one. You will hear soon.

    John Moore: Do you have a target date for making that announcement?

    Kent Thompson: Yes, and it’s about the first of June.


    Kent Thompson at the recent Hattitude luncheon that raises funds for his Women's Vices Fund. Photo by John Moore.



    • Sept. 12-Oct. 26: The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Stage Theatre
    • Sept. 26-Nov. 2: William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, Space Theatre
    • Oct. 10-Nov. 16: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Ricketson Theatre 
    • Nov 28-Dec 28: A Christmas Carol, Stage Theatre
    • Jan. 16-Feb. 22, 2015: Appoggiatura, Ricketson Theatre
    • Jan. 30-March 1, 2015: Benediction, Space Theatre
    • March 20-April 19, 2015: One Night in Miami, Space Theatre
    • March 27-April 26, 2015: Director’s Choice, Stage Theatre

    For ticket information, call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center's web page.


    Part 3: A discussion of the little-known factors that went into choosing the 2014-15 season

    Part 4:  Thompson addresses the pros and cons in the national trend away from preserving large resident acting companies.


  • The Kent Thompson Interview, Part 1: On balancing the financial with artistic risk

    by John Moore | May 12, 2014

    By John Moore

    With Sunday’s closing of Animal Crackers, Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson completed his ninth season in charge of the Denver Center Theatre Company. That more Denver Center-born plays than ever are poised to be seen around the country than ever before speaks to the inroads Thompson has made crafting his signature new-play development program. And yet he would be the first to admit that the Denver Center, like all major non-profit arts organizations around the country, face a future that is as uncertain as ever.

    In this four-part interview, Thompson first looks back at the season just ended. The 2013-14 campaign included four world premieres, at least three of which will enjoy a continued life at theatres around the country. If wagers were being taken at the beginning of the season on which two plays would be most enthusiastically received by audiences, a bettor would be getting rich now for having chosen the quiniela of The Legend of Georgia McBride and Shadowlands. Audiences also got to enjoy longtime favorite Mike Hartman and his wife Lauren Klein take on Death of a Salesman, and A Christmas Carol, a Denver Center staple since 1990, enjoyed one of its most successful runs.  


    "The Legend of Georgia McBride," featuring Ben Huber, left, and Matt McGrath. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    The text of the following conversation primarily comes from Kent Thompson’s appearance this week at the Denver Center’s monthly Page To Stage noontime conversations at the Bonfils Tattered Cover. (Next up in that series is Denver Center president Randy Weeks to discuss all things Broadway at noon on July 17.) 

    John Moore: Let’s start with a quick assessment of the season that ended on Sunday.

    Kent Thompson: There were a handful of what I would call stunning performances or productions in the season. Those would include — for me — Death of a Salesman and Hamlet and The Legend of Georgia McBride and Shadowlands.  The other thing is, there were productions that reached deeply into some of the other communities that we serve. Particularly, Just Like Us. That had extraordinary attendance by Latino audiences. That kind of a reach into a community had never happened before in the nine years I have been here. It offended some people. But it also engaged that community in a profound way.  We did four world premieres. One of them is already being produced in New York right now: The Most Deserving. The Legend of Georgia McBride will be appearing in New York next year, but I won’t tell you where just yet.


    Kent Thompson fields questions at Tuesday’s Page to Stage event at the Bonfils Tattered Cover Book Store. 

    John Moore: Not because you don’t want to.

    Kent Thompson: Not because I don’t want to. Because I want to honor the theatre’s commitment to its own subscribers. And I anticipate in the following season, there will be two major regional theatres doing Just Like Us. So we had a great batting average of three out of four plays. And I will be surprised if black odyssey is not picked up. But (playwright) Marcus Gardley is the busiest man in American playwriting right now. He has something like seven new plays opening in the next year. I think the show that was least-liked in the season by some, and most liked in the season by others, was The Most Deserving. That’s interesting because the number of single-ticket buyers for that show was very positive.

    John Moore: You once told me one of your barometers for how successful your new-play program is doing is whether your plays eventually have a continued life at other theatres across the country. How important is it that your Denver Center premieres live on?

    Kent Thompson: Well, it’s certainly important for me. But it’s also important for the Denver Center because when a play is commissioned here, or even if it only premieres here, they have to put our name on the title page of the play. It’s also important because it’s part of what we give back to the American theatre. I feel like every not-for-profit theatre exists to serve your community as a connector … as a town hall for different cultures and perspectives. But we also exist to lead both our field and our audiences toward something they might not otherwise have known was going to make them feel happy or sad or furious or enlightened. So continued life is a real goal for me. But it’s also a real goal for me that we simply have strong attendance and reaction to our work. We don’t want to offend anybody, but we do sometimes want to provoke. We know that we have an audience for our new work. With the volume of plays we have presented, you can now see our productions all over the country. And I think if our work has traction elsewhere, then we are on to something.

    John Moore: It’s interesting to me that the two plays that most resonated with audiences, according to the feedback we got, were Shadowlands and Georgia McBride. On the surface those stories would seem to have little in common. Or do they?

    Kent Thompson: They are not as disparate as they appear because they are both in some ways about the transformation of the lead character. In  The Legend of Georgia McBride, it gets forced upon Casey that he can no longer be an Elvis impersonator, and so he goes in as a drag queen. What’s interesting is that he really soars and succeeds as a drag queen. He’s still the same person, but profoundly changed. And I think that’s true with C.S. Lewis, too. His life is transformed in a way that he never thought possible by Joy Davidman. He discovers that what he’s been lecturing about love and suffering is different when it’s about somebody you actually love romantically. At the end, he still has his faith, even after this crisis of confidence, but he is fundamentally changed as well.

    John Moore: But you might think those stories would appeal most to different segments of your audience. It was interesting to hear so many longtime, older audience members tell us they were just as moved by Georgia McBride as they were by Shadowlands. And Georgia McBride is a comedy. I would not have expected that.

    Kent Thompson: I think it’s because they are both about the kind of transformative experiences that we all seek, even though they are hard and painful sometimes. We seek a greater understanding of ourselves and our place in the world, and it can be just as wonderfully moving, even if it is filled with comedy or filled with ideas and tragedy. Both can transform us by the end. That’s what we want, isn’t it? We want the stories that will move us, that will grip us, that we will go along with the journey, and kind of forget that we are watching a play.   


    "Shadowlands," featuring Graeme Malcolm, left, and Kathleen McCall. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    John Moore: What regrets or disappointments do you have about the current season?

    Kent Thompson: With Just Like Us, we had major rewrites every single day through opening. Major. And that’s incredibly difficult to direct, because you are trying to make the play better, and you are trying to make the performance better, at the same time. That train was moving all the time for the actors. An entire scene might be gone the next day. Or half a scene. So there’s a lot of scrambling around backstage. Everyone involved acknowledges that play still needs a lot of work. It’s not like it’s finished and it’s done. I would say the same about black odyssey. It still needs a lot of work. I think if you enjoy very imaginative, non-linear work, you really got it. And if you don’t, you probably didn’t like it. And also I think the playwright (Marcus Gardley) is still trying to figure out exactly, exactly what he is trying to say in the course of the piece. That’s not surprising. Any playwright in America will tell you it’s the third to fifth production when it usually settles. When it’s ready.

    John Moore: Somebody has to be first.

    Kent Thompson: Somebody has to be first. We also do second or third or fourth productions of pieces, and the playwrights often are still working on them.

    John Moore: Bottom line?

    Kent Thompson: We know that we have an audience for our new work. With the volume of plays we have presented, you can now see our productions all over the country. But I think the hardest thing about theatre is figuring out the balance between the financial and the artistic risk.


    Part 2: Kent Thompson talks about the titles that made it onto the 2014-15 season.

    Part 3: Kent Thompson talks about all of the largely unknown vagaries that go into planning a season at a major regional theatre company.

    Part 4: Kent Thompson addresses the pros and cons in the national trend away from preserving large resident acting companies.

  • Dresser Brooke Vlasich makes it plain: Doing laundry is a pain

    by John Moore | May 12, 2014


    Brooke Vlasich writes: Night after night, a vast amount of long, elegant lashes are applied to be a sign of dramatic feminine beauty, but I wonder, how can it be beautiful when you’re an actor carrying around the weight of a heavily padded fat suit, a dress with turquoise sequins that scratch at your arms, and platform boots in which you have walk with confidence? Photo by John Moore on the set of "The Legend of Georgia McBride."

    Brooke Vlasich works as a Stitcher and a Dresser with the Denver Center Theatre Company. She writes about her experiences in a blog she calls Passport Couture. To those people who assume that working in a costume department must be glamorous work, Brooke writes with great self-deprecation, it is most certainly not:

    Doing other people’s laundry is NOT glamorous.  Ironing someone’s sweaty shirt in between a matinee and evening performance is NOT glamorous.  ... Pulling costumes for a production from storage is not always a pretty sight–there may be sweat stains and odors, old and torn pieces needing laborious multiple repairs, and costumes that make you wonder, “Who made this?  Who wore this?”  Not to mention various insect culprits like moths and silverfish.  Yeah.  And just about any Stitcher can tell you sewing on sequined knit fabric and using metallic thread is NOT glamorous.  It’s a lot of work and a pain in the ...



    Read more in Brooke's entertaining read, complete with photos: Common Myths About Costumes

    Another fun recent entry is one she titled A Look Through the Lashes. It's about The Legend of Georgia McBride, and in it she addresses the question, "Is the exotic and exaggerated make-up what exemplifies the persona of a woman?"

    Check out Passport Couture here. To contact Brooke Vlasich directly, email  brooke@passportcouture.com





  • Photos: Opening Night of 'Hamlet'

    by John Moore | Feb 01, 2014


    Hamlet, played by Aubrey Deeker, and director Kent Thompson.


    Thursday night was the opening performance of the Denver Center Theatre Company's "Hamlet," set here in the environs of a crumbling World War I, where carnage both human and structural is strewn everywhere.

    The cast features Aubrey Deeker as Hamlet, Amelia Pedlow as Ophilia, Kathleen McCall as Gertrude, Peter Simon Hilton as Claudius, John Hutton as King Hamlet's Ghost, Shawn Fagan as Horatio, Jacob H. Knoll as Laertes, and a company that includes Anthony Bianco, Douglas Harmsen, Jeffrey Roark, Philip Pleasants, Benjamin Bonenfant, Michael Keyloun, Rodney Lizcaino, Stephanie Cozart, James O'Hagan-Murphy and Mackenzie Paulsen. The director is Kent Thompson.

    "Hamlet" plays through Feb. 23 in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or click here for ticket information. All photos by John Moore.




    The curtain call.



    Who says you can't have fun at "Hamlet"?



    Onstage father and son: Sam Gregory and Jacob H. Knoll (Polonius and Laertes).


    imageHamlet and Ophelia, Aubrey Deeker and Amelia Pedlow.



    The cast of "The Legend of Georgia McBride" strikes a pose, from left: Ben Huber, Nick Mills, Jamie Ann Romero and Matt McGrath.



    The Ghost, John Hutton, with Christy Montour-Larson, who will direct the Denver Center's "Shadowlands," opening March 28.



    Sam Gregory (Polonius) with Shawn Fagan (Horatio).



    Seeing double of company member James O'Hagan-Murphy.



    Steve Wilson, director for the handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company, his wife Leslie O'Carroll, a Denver Center Theatre Company vet who next appears in Curious Theatre's "Good People," and their daughter.


    imageDenver Center Theatre Academy instructors Heather Nicolson and Steven Cole Hughes.



    Our two Hamlets: Aubrey Deeker, right, with understudy Benjamin Bonenfant, who plays Fortinbras.



    Aubrey Deeker with Eric Lockley of 'black odyssey."


    imageTyrell D. Rae of "black odyssey" with Fortinbras, Benjamin Bonenfant.



    Scenic design by Robert N. Schmidt.



  • 'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

    by John Moore | Jan 28, 2014



    "Georgia McBride" Choreographer Will Taylor, left, and Director Mike Donahue.

    On opening day of the Denver Center’s world-premiere comedy, we took some time with director Mike Donahue and choreographer Will Taylor to talk about staging the story of a straight Elvis impersonator in the Florida Panhandle who turns to the world of drag to support his growing family. It plays through Feb. 23 in the Ricketson Theatre.

    John Moore: What did you guys think months ago, before rehearsals had even started, when you saw the video that showed 82-year-old Dan Ritchie, CEO of the largest performing-arts organization between L.A. and Chicago, undergoing a public drag transformation just to bring attention to this play? That video has had nearly 3,000 hits, and I just don’t think there are many other CEOs out there who would have done it.

    Mike Donahue: I thought it was awesome. And he looks fabulous, by the way. We had big plans for him to be one of the drag queens who perform in the lobby after every performance. But after some discussion, he politely declined. But still, I love his sense of humor, and his commitment to the show.

    Will Taylor: I thought it was a great gesture.

    Daniel L. Ritchie does drag.

    John Moore: Let’s talk about what first attracted you to this script by Matthew Lopez.

    Mike Donahue: Well, the play is incredibly funny, and there is this wonderful world of drag at play. But at the end of the day, the thing that is most exciting for me is actually what a big heart the play has. At its core, it's two love stories. The first is between this guy and his wife as they struggle to figure out how to survive in the world and take that next step toward having a family and raising a kid and having a house. And then there is the love story between this same straight man his drag mother; this artistic mentor who comes from the most unlikely of places. Somehow they are able to establish this really close and loving relationship. That's what is particularly special for me.

    Will Taylor: There is something really great about the fact that it’s about this very specific part of the country (the Florida Panhandle) and this very specific world of performance (drag) -- and yet it’s still somehow universal.

    Video montage of scenes from "Georgia McBride"


    John Moore: I'm curious about your thoughts on the Denver Center taking on this project in the first place. Because staging and selling any new play is inherently difficult. There is a lack of familiarity with the title and the subject matter. And they say producing any new play typically costs about 30 percent more than producing an existing script. From an outsider’s perspective, what does it say about the Denver Center that they were willing to take on this play as part of a 10-play new season in which there are four world premieres?

    Will Taylor: The Denver Center has a great reputation for being a place that has a lot of resources and open arms in embracing new works and nurturing them. 



    Mike Donahue: For me, it is remarkable the way the Colorado New Play Summit works. They do readings of five new works every year, and most of them are then fully produced the next season. There are very few companies in the country that are able or willing to make that kind of promise to developing new work through to full production. I think that’s extraordinary, and the fact that four of the five readings from last year are being produced this season says so much about the Denver Center’s commitment to developing new work. It’s also exciting to me that we can do a world premiere here of a play like “Georgia McBride,” and many of the people in the audience were there at the staged reading last year. They really have an investment in the development of the piece. They have more of an attachment to the play than a lot of audiences typically get to have.

    John Moore: Are you at all surprised by how warmly audiences have received this story?

    Mike Donahue: One of the things I think (playwright) Matthew Lopez has done so brilliantly is how he introduces the audience to the world of drag. Your guide into that world is Casey, this sort of fumbling, straight-guy Elvis impersonator in the Panhandle. And then you consider all of the curatorial elements that have been added by the Denver Center to extend the experience into the lobby after the show. Everyone at the Denver Center has been so sensitive to exactly how we should be introducing this play to audiences. People here have been very respectful in trying to honor what the play actually is. It isn’t really a drag play. It’s a play about a guy who is trying to take care of his family. It’s a coming-of-age story.

    John Moore: You know, I think the fear that (actor) Ben Huber's character sheds during the course of the play speaks to the inherent squeamishness in our society about the bending of genders. But at a time of quickly changing opinion polls on subjects like same-sex marriage, Casey represents the Everyman. He’s got to get over his own fear of how he is being perceived by his wife and family in the same way the audience might have to get over whatever preconceptions about drag that they bring into it. But why do you think we are still somewhat hung up on this issue?



    Mike Donahue: Oh gosh. Well, I don’t know, but I hope that we get over it real fast. Maybe it is our innate Puritanism.  I think the thing that is so beautiful in the play is that Casey is not a guy who is outwardly homophobic.  He just has a lack of familiarity with gay people and with drag queens. It's not something he or anyone in his life has ever come into real contact with before. There is an innate fear of the unknown and shame around participating in that, and he has to get over it. He approaches life with such openness, and hopefully that is infectious for audiences as well.

    John Moore: It's interesting timing with "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" having toured here just a few months ago. The messages of tolerance are similar. The Denver Center turned opening night into "Drag Night in Denver” and invited drag performers to come see the show and pose with audience members for photos in the lobby. Everywhere you looked you could see these suburban, white-haired grandmothers having these tearful conversations with these 6-foot-6 performers, one of whom later told us that her half hour in the lobby was the most validated she ever felt as a drag performer. When you look at how warmly audiences are now responding to Georgia McBride: Are we further along than maybe we think we are?

    Mike Donahue: That would be a lovely thing if that were true. Maybe Denver is just a magical place. 

    Me: Hah, yes, maybe Denver is. Will, I want to ask you about your challenge as the choreographer. The drag numbers are such an essential element in this play, but this isn't just another musical. Can you speak to all of the various challenges you faced, and not just with high heels. Two of the three guys you worked with are not musical theatre actors.

    Will: Yes, they aren't inherently musical theatre actors. And a couple of them are very masculine. So one challenge was finding a way to minimize the masculinity in the heels and in the clothing. Now I think a little bit of masculinity in drag is actually kind of interesting, so we haven't completely eliminated it. But we had to break it down to a science. We had to find a way to use the physicality they have in life and make it work in the clothing they have to wear. Sometimes it was a matter of keeping the legs straight as they walk, or keeping their feet closer together. When you put masculine guys in a pair of heels, they kind of want to let it all hang out, like they are used to doing. It was a challenge at first just getting them really comfortable in the heels so that we could then build the choreography on top of that. And then there’s the lip-syncing, which is a big part of the drag performance. That’s maybe the most important element in creating the illusion. When we talked with some drag queens before we started, we found that subtlety is our enemy. We really wanted to find a heightened expression of everything feminine and everything performance-related. The lyrics are heightened in a way that is almost bastardized. We decided to take the quirks and nuances the original artists sometimes show on their tracks and lift them up to an almost comedic level. We also found that working with the mirror is really helpful.

    John Moore: How do you think your actors did with the whole movement challenge?

    Will Taylor: They did great. I am glad we had such strong support here at the Denver Center with the costume pieces we were able to have available to us early in the rehearsal process. That were really, really integral in getting us there.



    John Moore: Speaking of subtlety, were you sometimes shocked by some of the things you have gotten away with, in terms of, say, costuming and props?

    Mike Donahue: Maybe … pleasantly surprised. I mean, what we are doing is nothing compared to what I feel like so many people must surely see on TV and movies. And our matinee audiences, which tend to be made up of older people, actually have been our most raucous, raunchy houses so far.

    John Moore: Mike, let’s talk about Nick Mills and Ben Huber. You sent them to Drag Camp. They went through body waxing and eyebrow threading. And they both play characters who at some point have to be at the top of the drag craft. Talk about the challenge they undertook, and how they did with it.

    Mike Donahue: The first thing I will say about both of those guys is that they are both so unbelievably game to do anything and everything we asked of them. They are also both so rigorous in their work. I almost think the part of their drag performance that has to be really good is almost easier for them to get to than the stuff that has to be obviously bad. That’s because you sort of know what the good thing is supposed to look like eventually, and you just have to keep working until it's as good as it possibly can be. So something like My Man, which has to be the best performance of Ben’s that we see, I think was maybe easier for him. Whereas figuring out, say, how that first Edith Piaf scene works, when Ben is walking in heels for the first time in a way that has to be believable and honest … that’s almost the trickier thing to accomplish. You have to get them to be as good as possible -- and then you have to get them to forget all of that stuff and remember what they were naturally and instinctually doing badly back when none of us knew any better. That’s unbelievably hard.

    Video: Waxing Day for cast members.


    John Moore: And then there is Matt McGrath, who has some experience at this.

    Mike Donahue: Yeah, Matt's done a lot of musical theatre. He has played Hedwig and he’s done “Rocky Horror,” so he's done work that bends gender before. But Ben and Nick really had never even worn a pair of heels before.

    John Moore: So how would you summarize your experience at Drag Camp? 

    Mike Donahue: Drag Camp was like being alone in your bedroom playing dress-up in front of a mirror -- and hoping that no one else can see you. 

    Will: Nobody should have to pay to see that.



    John Moore: For those people who don’t know much about the show yet, what do you want to tell them about what it’s trying to accomplish?

    Will Taylor: I really like what (artistic director Kent Thompson) said about the show on the first day of rehearsal: It’s not about drag. It’s about the transformative power of performance. It’s about the power of transformation.

    John Moore: You mentioned the curated effort that has gone into giving the audience an extended lobby experience so that the show in some ways continues after the final curtain. How do you describe the overall experience of attending “Georgia McBride”?

    Mike Donahue: Hopefully it's an event, and it's a fun night out. Come with friends and have a drink. The atmosphere in the lobby is a little more relaxed than it normally might be. It’s infectiously funny. And the whole curatorial thing just makes it easy for people to tap into that early on. I think it's a life-affirming, joyous night at the theatre.


    Ben Huber and Jamie Ann Romero in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s world premiere production of "The Legend of Georgia McBride." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    The Legend of Georgia McBride

    • Through Feb 23 • Ricketson Theatre
    • Tickets: 303.893.4100
    • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    • Groups (10+): 303.446.4829 • denvercenter.org

    The Denver Center Theatre Company is a community-supported, nonprofit theatre company

  • Video: The Denver Center is United in Orange: Go, Broncos!

    by John Moore | Jan 26, 2014

    The casts and crews of the Denver Center Theatre Company's current shows wish the Denver Broncos victory in their upcoming Super Bowl battle with the Seattle Seahawks. Video by John Moore.  



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

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