• 2017 True West Award: Kenny Moten

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017
    2017 True West Award Kenny Moten. Photo by John Moore

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 7: Kenny Moten

    Motones vs. Jerseys
    Miscast 2017
    Aurora Fox Cabaret Series
    Owner, Narrative Creative Consulting

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    If you think being a performer is hard, try being a performer and the owner of your own entertainment and consulting company. Kenny Moten makes the transition from actor to producer to businessman and back again in same manner that often describes his rich singing voice: Smooth as silk.

    Moten is among the very few performers who also knows how to run a business.

    Kenny Moten“It’s rare because owning an entertainment business is brutal in a way that is very different from the way performing is brutal,” said Moten’s frequent creative partner — and employee — Jalyn Courtenay Webb. “When you’re the boss, you are not only responsible for yourself, but for the people you hire and the team you put together. But Kenny has just the right temperament for it. He does everything with integrity. He’s a solid human being.”  

    Moten is the creator and owner of Narrative Creative Consulting, which presents entertainment events and uses various art forms to help clients ranging from National Jewish Hospital to Snooze Eatery to the Denver Center shape their narratives, customer service, employee training and brand strategies.  

    Moten is also the co-creator, director, writer and a featured performer of a clever new musical form called Motones vs. Jerseys. In July, it was up for three Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards, including Outstanding Musical, for its nearly sold-out run at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins.

    In September, Moten lent his support (and that smooth-as-silk singing voice) to the Denver Actors Fund by appearing in Miscast 2017 as one of the three Fionas singing I Know It’s Today from Shrek the Musical. In October, the Aurora Fox turned to Moten to launch its risky new monthly cabaret series with 12 O’clock Tales: An Evening of Songs and Stories. Both shows sold out, which Webb said is further indication of Moten’s popularity as a performer — and his business acumen. Both come from more than 20 years as a professional performer, Webb says.

    Kenny Moten Miscast 2017“Kenny’s name is synonymous with excellence, and people know that in our community and beyond,” she said. “He was not going to do his show in an empty house — and he certainly did not.”

    Moten caps a remarkable 2017 with a return next week to Motones vs. Jerseys as part of a unique new creative partnership with BDT Stage in Boulder. "MvJ," as the kids call it, is a feel-good, nostalgic evening featuring the music of Motown and The Four Seasons — along with their many ancestors and descendants — in a good-natured competition. After two teams of four performers each rock out a playlist spanning Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bruno Mars and many more, the audience chooses a winning team using their cell phones to vote.

    (Pictured right: Kenny Moten with his 'Miscast 2017' co-stars, Margie Lamb, left, and Hope Grandon. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter,)

    It’s a concept Moten first developed with Chris Starkey, now of Imprint Group DMC. After several refinements, Moten unveiled a slick new version of the show last year at the Midtown Arts Center, where it received a standing ovation “every single night,” said Webb, who is both the show’s Music Director and nightly emcee. “And let me tell you, I’ve never seen that happen at any dinner theatre before in my life.”

    Motones vs. Jerseys opens on Dec. 10 and will play on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights through Jan. 23, playing in rep the rest of the week with BDT Stage’s holiday staging of Annie.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Moten, who is originally from Hagerstown, Md., graduated from Highlands Ranch High School and the University of Colorado Denver. He transitioned from Barnstormer to leading man with a remarkable 2005 performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the late Country Dinner Playhouse opposite now Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee. Westword’s Juliet Wittman called Moten not only “a wonderful singer with a voice full of poignancy and power,” but also “a charming and seductive performer who brings impressive precision and a smooth, lean elegance to the stage.”

    Other major credits include Swing at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Altar Boyz at the Clocktower Cabaret, but it wasn’t long before Moten was off to New York. He re-settled in Fort Collins a few years ago and has since been on a roll that has not only furthered his personal and professional interests, but has gainfully employed dozens of local actors and crew members on his many public and corporate projects.

    “The thing I love about Kenny is that he’s so fun, but he’s also completely no-nonsense when it comes to the work,” said Webb. “He expects the highest quality and the highest level of performance possible from his performers, and we respect that. He knows what he wants — and he goes out and gets it."

    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.

    Motones vs. Jerseys: At a glance

    • Dec. 10-Jan. 23
    • BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
    • Performances Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Dinner seating begins at 6:15, with the show to follow at 7:45
    • Featuring Brian Cronan, Will Hawkins, Brian Jackson and Jacob Villareal as The Jerseys, and Christian Mark Gibbs, Anthony McGlaun, Kenny Moten and Alejandro Roldan as The Motones.
    • Call 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

    Video bonus: Motones vs. Jerseys at the 2017 Henry Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

    by John Moore | Dec 05, 2017
    2017 True West Awards. Haley Johnson. Sydney Parks Smith

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 4: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

    August: Osage County
    Vintage Theatre, Aurora
    OpenStage Theatre, Fort Collins

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    "I'm in charge now!"


    It's one of the most visceral, gut-scraping lines you'll ever hear in a theatre, and it marks a dramatic turning point in Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-winning family fracas August: Osage County. In that one moment, the eldest daughter of perhaps the must acidic matriarch in the American theatrical canon forcibly wrests that crown right out of her mother's clenched fingers. Only the crown, in this case, is a pill bottle. But Barbara is not rescuing her mother. Not by a long shot. She's becoming her.

    True West Haley Johnson Sydney Parks SmithThe mother is Violet Weston, a pained and profane Okie with cancer of the mouth — medically and metaphorically. Violet pops out furious epithets — most aimed at her three daughters — as quickly as she pops in pills. Her spawn all bear varying degrees of the inherited burns they surely will pass down to their own children. Seriously, Violet is a sniper on par with a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. It's a bucket-list role for any seasoned female actor.

    But the part of Barbara, a Boulder mom whose marriage is crumbling, presents a plum challenge all its own. And in 2017, we got to see two highly accomplished area actors tackle it in different but effective ways: Sydney Parks Smith for OpenStage & Company in Fort Collins and Haley Johnson for Vintage Theatre in Aurora. And they had formidable scene partners in Colorado legends Denise Freestone and Deborah Persoff, respectively, as their poisoned Vi's.

    Parks wears Barbara's accumulating disappointments like a suit of armor, and she's just itching to take it into battle. Johnson, who has made her mark for a decade playing wounded birds, grew teeth here that eventually sprouted into fangs. The mother-daughter conflict builds to a battle of ill-wills that left audiences gasping from Fort Collins to Aurora. All culminating in that one haunting line — "I'm in charge now!" — that can be delivered every which way from a declarative whisper to a savage declaration of war. We're witnessing a brutal metamorphosis where Barbara becomes the unshrinking Violet.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The two actors have more than Barbara Fordham in common: Smith is the Associate Artistic Director of OpenStage and Johnson is the Producing Artistic Director of the new Benchmark Theatre, which is finishing up its first season with the world premiere of a freaky-fun new play called Smokefall, playing through Dec. 23 at the Buntport Theater.

    Haley Johnson Sydney Parks SmithSmith won the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Award and the OpenStage OPUS Award for Outstanding Actress for her performance as Barbara. Northern Colorado theatre critic Tom Jones called her performance "dynamite."

    Says OpenStage Director Dulcie Willis:
    "Sydney is a highly passionate, focused and dynamic actor. Her work as Barbara perfectly illustrated her deep commitment to nuanced character development. She understood the play inside and out and never, ever stopped working to find the most effective moment-to-moment choices in each scene. Her natural strength and intense zest for life served her thoughtful approach to Barbara while leading the entire cast through a beautiful and challenging piece of theatre. She really was the family heroine of our production."

    (Photos above: Sydney Parks Smith, left and Haley Johnson. Photos by Joe Hovorka and RDG Photography.)

    Says Vintage Theatre Director Bernie Cardell: "The magic of Haley Johnson is that not only can she tap into the broken heart of her characters, she can also find their humor.  She is not afraid to reveal her own wounds in order to find the deepest expression of truth on stage. Plus, she's kind of cool."

    The origin of the poison: Our interview with Tracy Letts

    Said Denver Theatre Perspectives reviewer Michael Mulhern: "Haley Johnson showed incredible range from fragile and bitter to powerful matriarch, and from defeated daughter to hopeful independence."

    Haley Johnson: 2017 at a glance

    Johnson is a graduate of Florida State University and the University of Colorado Denver. She has worked all around the metro area, including the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Edge Theatre, Miners Alley Playhouse and Spotlight Theatre Company. Notable roles include Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Harper Pitt in Angels in America, Becca in Rabbit Hole and Jessie in 'Night, Mother. She is also the producing artistic director of the new Benchmark Theatre.
    • The Nether, Morris, Benchmark Theatre
    • August: Osage County, Barbara Fordham, Vintage Theatre
    Sydney Parks Smith: 2017 at a glance

    Smith has performed and directed with OpenStage Theatre in Fort Collins for the past 20 years and serves as the company's  Associate Artistic Director. Notable roles include Claire in Proof, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, Belinda in Noises Off and Hermia in Dead Man’s Cell Phone. As a director, her credits include Stage Kiss, True West, The Book of Liz and Dirty Blonde. She received the Founder’s Award for her outstanding contributions to OpenStage & Company.

    • The Flick, Director, OpenStage
    • Don’t Dress for Dinner, Production Manager, OpenStage
    • Bright Ideas, Production Manager, OpenStage
    • August: Osage County, Barbara Fordham, Production Manager, OpenStage

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 Colorado Fall Theatre Preview: 'Elephant’s Graveyard' and 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'

    by John Moore | Sep 03, 2017
    For 10 days, the DCPA NewsCenter is offering not just 10 intriguing titles to watch on theatre stages throughout Colorado. This year we are expanding our preview by featuring 10 musicals AND 10 plays. Today is Day 5.

    PLAY OF THE DAY: Bas Bleu’s Elephant’s Graveyard

    Featured actor in the video above: Kaya Rudolph

    • Sept. 9-Oct. 8
    • 401 Pine St., Fort Collins
    970-498-8949 or go to basbleu.org
    • Playwright: George Brant
    • Director: Garrett Ayers
    • Assistant Director: Baylor Bebo

    The story: September 1916. Carrying boundless momentum (and a 6-ton elephant), a traveling circus makes its way to a small town in Tennessee, only to stumble into catastrophe. Through memory and storytelling, Elephant's Graveyard describes what happened before, during and after the event that still haunts that Tennessee town to this day.

    But what is it about? Elephant's Graveyard is an important, timely story - particularly in lieu of recent events in Charlottesville, Va. The title has a double meaning, says actor Kaya Rudolph: An elephant really was hung at a circus in Tennessee. That was a century ago. But the elephant in the room remains the racial divide that continues to smolder in America. Elephant’s Graveyard employs physicality and humor, a live Piedmont Blues score and 15 cubic tons of dirt to explore issues related to race, the multiple perspectives of history and the uniquely American appetite for spectacle and violence. (Provided by Bas Bleu Theatre. Photo above by William A. Cotton.)


    Cast list:
    • Hungry Townsperson: Kaya Rudolph
    • Muddy Townsperson: Tabitha Tyree
    • Young Townsperson: Holly Wedgeworth
    • Preacher: Jim Valone
    • Steam Shovel Operator: Wesley Longacre
    • Marshal: Gregory Clark
    • Engineer: Drew Cuthbertson
    • Ringmaster: Nick Holland
    • Strongman: Ken Benda
    • Ballet Girl: Kate Lewis
    • Clown: Liz Kirchmeier
    • Trainer: Liam Kelley
    • Tour Manager: Scott McCoppin
    • Guitarist/Foley Musician: Paul Brewer

    Rehearsal for Bas Bleu Theatre's 'Elephant's Graveyard' in Fort Collins. Photo by William A. Cotton.
    Rehearsal for Bas Bleu Theatre's 'Elephant's Graveyard' in Fort Collins. Photo by William A. Cotton.



    MUSICAL OF THE DAY: Evergreen Chorale’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame


    Featured actor in the video above: Adam Kinney.

    • Sept. 15-Oct. 8
    • At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen
    A Adam Kinney 400Call 303-674-4002 or go to evergreenchorale.org
    Based on the novel and songs from the Disney film. Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and Book by Peter Parnell.
    • Stage Director: Timothy Kennedy
    • Musical Director: Christine Gaudreau

    • The story:
    Our story, featuring a cast of 53, is based on Victor Hugo's novel, set in 15th century Paris. Quasimodo is confined in Notre Dame by his evil guardian, Frollo. They both love the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, who prefers Phoebus, captain of the guard. Seeking vengeance, Frollo attacks the gypsies. Quasimodo, Phoebus and Esmeralda are captured and meet a tragic end. 

    • But what is it about? "This show asks so many questions that are so relevant to the turbulent times that we live in," says Adam Kinney, who plays Quasimodo. Questions like, "What makes a monster and what makes a man?" Although written in 1831, the theme of people being discriminated by society for their appearance or background resonates today. Set to Alan Menken’s gorgeous music, The Hunchback of Notre Dame challenges us to strive for a better world. (Provided by the Evergreen Chorale.)

    Cast list:
    Quasimodo: Adam Kinney
    Frollo: Mike DeJonge
    Esmeralda: Hannah Marie Harmon
    Phoebus: Brian DeBaets
    Clopin: Brian Trampler

    The Ensemble:
    Katrina Atkinson, Alexandra Rose Brown, Wyatt Burnham, Dave Cameron, Edie Cherubino, Tracy Denver, Sierra Dunham, Mark Fairchild, Buz Gibson, Michelle Jeffres, Lindsey Jones, Christine Kahane, Ian Kisluk, Colleen Lee, Anna MacPhee, Jeremiah Martinez, Dodge McCord, Max McCord, Drew McDowell, Anna Piper, Charlee Polivka, Alan Rubin, Becky Sides, Ethan Sides, Zane Steele, Jessica Swanson and Samantha Wood.

    Choir of Notre Dame:
    Laurie Atkinson, Bob Baldwin, Greg Bond, Chris Boyd, Mayra Delgadillo, Alyssa Gerard, Sara Hashman, Charlie Hodes, Geri Ikelheimer, Anna Lacjak, Genevieve LeBlanc, Tom McAllister, Zach Miller, Sophie Orsund, Jonathan Pine, Danita Richter, Richard Scudder, Sarah Steen, Ariel Thomas, Madeleine Wilson and Trevor Wood.

    More creatives:
    • Choreographer: Rachael McWilliams Lessard
    • Costume Designer: Davis Sibley
    • Set Designer: Biz Schaugaard
    • Lighting Designer: Chelsea Asmus


    Rehearsal for the Evergreen Chorale's upcoming 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.'

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Our complete 2017 Colorado Fall Theatre Preview:
    Day 1: Curious Theatre's Appropriate and BDT Stage's Rock of Ages
    Day 2: The Catamounts’ You on the Moors Now and Rocky Mountain Rep’s Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver
    Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's General Store and Town Hall Arts Center's In the Heights
    Day 4: Avenue Theater’s My Brilliant Divorce and the Arvada Center’s A Chorus Line
    Day 5: Bas Bleu’s Elephant’s Graveyard and Evergreen Chorale’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    Day 6: Firehouse Theatre’s The Mystery of Love and Sex and the Aurora Fox’s ‘Company’
    Day 7: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s The Revolutionists and Off-Center’s The Wild Party
    Day 8: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Pretty Fire and the Aurora Fox's Hi-Hat Hattie
    Day 9: Edge Theatre Company’s A Delicate Balance and Midtown Arts Center’s Once.
    Day 10:  Local Theater Company’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias and Thin Air Theatre Company’s The Toxic Avenger Musical

    This 2017 Colorado fall preview is compiled by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Senior Arts Journalist John Moore as a service to the Colorado theatre community. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011 and is the founder of The Denver Actors Fund.
     
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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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