• Meet 2018 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress nominee Dominique Smith-Lopez

    by John Moore | May 18, 2018
    Dominique Smith Lopez Bobby G Awards

    The Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in Colorado high-school musical theatre. The sixth annual awards take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at the Buell Theatre. (Reserve your seat here)

    Today we conclude our daily rollout of the five students who are finalists for Outstanding Lead Actress. The winner will advance to represent Colorado at The Jimmy® Awards/The National High School Musical Theatre Awards™ (NHSMTA).

    Dominique Smith Lopez Quote HyphenDOMINIQUE SMITH-LOPEZ

    The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods
    Vista PEAK Preparatory in Aurora
    Class of 2018

    • Twitter bio: Strong believer that we were put on this Earth for a purpose, and my purpose is to inspire people through musical theatre. I love acting, singing, and dancing, so why not do them all at the same time?  
    • What's your handle? @reneadominique on Twitter and @issadom.23 on Instagram
    • College plans: Metropolitan State University of Denver to pursue a degree in Musical Theatre
    • First role: My theatre debut was my sophomore year in my high-school musical Beauty and the Beast. I played a silly girl and a napkin.
    • Why do you perform? Because I love to. I love receiving energy from an audience, and I love the adrenaline rush you get from the curtain opening and the lights beaming down on your face. I perform to change the demographic of musical theatre.
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: In December, I saw Waitress the Musical at the Buell Theatre and I couldn’t stop singing the soundtrack for the next three weeks because the music, the acting, the trust on stage was impeccable. I have never seen such perfection and love for performing on stage. That was when I knew that musical theatre was what I wanted to do.
    • Ideal scene partner: Johnny Depp. He has played such a wide variety of roles, and he just seems like a really fun person to be around.

    • What's playing on your Spotify right now?  I am listening to a lot of Daniel Caesar and the soundtracks to the musicals Dreamgirls and Waitress
    • Favorite moment from your show: It was when I cheated on The Baker (weird, I know!) because it was honestly one of the funniest moments in our entire show, and it allowed me to be more creative with my acting choices. It was a huge turning point in the show, as well as with my character.    
    • How does it feel to be nominated? I can honestly say that I have never been so excited about anything in my life. This is an incredible opportunity, and I think everyone should get the chance to experience the love and unity of this performing-arts family.

    Reserve your seat for the May 24 Bobby G Awards

    • What has this experience taught you about the value of arts education and extracurricular activities at your school? The importance of having a passion for everything you do — and not just arts education. If you don’t have a passion for something, then it’s not enjoyable for you or the people watching. School has taught me to finish everything I start and to finish strong, and those are lessons I will cherish forever.

     Our featured nominated actors and actresses to date:

    Selected recent coverage of the Bobby G Awards:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Aaron Posner on revisiting ‘The Merchant of Venice’: To be or not to be?

    by John Moore | May 17, 2018

    Cast of The Merchant of Venice Sarah Roshan The cast of Miners Alley Playhouse's 'District Merchants,' which reimagines 'The Merchant of Venice' in 1870s America. Photo by Sarah Roshan.

    Rather than foreclose on The Bard's problem play, playwright gives it a new lease on American life in District Merchants

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Merchant of Venice, with its legendarily merciless Jewish money-lender who demands his pound of flesh and receives not one ounce of mercy in return, has not stood well the test of time. In these contemporary times, Shakespeare’s blatantly anti-Semitic leanings have even led some to suggest the play should no longer be performed at all.

    Aaron Posner, one of the leading imaginers and re-imaginers in the American theatre today, is not one of them. Which is not to say he likes the Bard’s problematic play.

    Aaron Posner Quote“I had known The Merchant of Venice for a long time, but I never wanted to direct it because I couldn't find a way to make the play, as it existed, interesting to me,” said Posner, who sustains multiple careers as playwright, adaptor, educator, company leader and acclaimed director in Washington D.C. “But I knew that if I was going to push it around too much, it ceases to be ‘the play’ for me. So I began to think: ‘Maybe I should use it as a launch-pad for a brand-new play.’ And that's what I did.” That brand-new play is District Merchants, which opens in its regional premiere tonight (May 18) at the Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden.

    District Merchants uses The Merchant of Venice as a jumping-off point to explore the complex relationship between blacks and Jews in America after the Civil War — without cleansing the troubling ethnic undertones of the original story.  

    “For all of his genius, Shakespeare was still a product of his time,” said Posner. “And while he was forward-thinking in a number of ways, he was still limited by those times. Thank goodness, civilization has progressed over the past 400 years.”  

    For centuries, many regarded The Merchant of Venice to be a harmless romantic comedy with a happy ending for all — save for that unforgiving and unforgiven Jew. “I actually think a lot of that play really is interesting and engaging and true and human,” said Posner. “But it has its darker side, too.

    “What's tricky is that I don’t have a problem with the darker sides of the play. I just think they are not explored fully enough in the play to make it clear to us what Shakespeare was really up to — or to make it resonant for us. You have to keep in mind that, for all his genius, Shakespeare was writing 300 years before Freud. He was not asking deep questions about relationships between his characters that we do today, because he didn't have that vocabulary. He doesn't care why this person falls in love with that person. He's not asking about what psychological wounds might be driving this person, or what kind of emotional healing needs to happen between those people. He was talking about incredibly interesting universal truths. But I wanted to engage with the issues of that play in a way where I could make it speak to people today.”  

    Posner easily could have taken inspiration from today’s headlines and set his modern variation in the offices of, let’s say, any the five largest banks in the United States, whose assets equal 60 percent of the U.S. economy. He wanted to create some distance instead. “Because the moment you see a guy named Shylock walking around the streets of D.C., and it’s today, and he's on his cellphone, you are in danger of becoming really kitschy really quickly,” he said.  

    Instead, Posner found “really fertile ground” exploring relations between blacks and Jews during the Reconstruction. He cites lines in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice that bluntly equate slavery to personal property. “That hit a chord with me,” said Posner. “And that led me to the Civil War, which circuitously led me to the setting of my play. And then the play quickly became about the relationships between blacks and Jews, which was very interesting and historically fraught.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    In District Merchants, set in the 1870s, Shylock is an immigrant who has fled ethnic cleansing in the Ukraine. Antonio — the unfortunate merchant of Shakespeare’s title — here becomes Antoine DuPre, a freeborn black man who unwisely borrows money from Shylock to help pal Benjamin Bassanio win Portia's heart and fortune. The play also has its modern, 21st-century meta-theater moments as well, simultaneously making the setting Shakespearean, post-Civil War and present-day — all at the same time. Think of it as two pasts make a present.

    “There has been an uneasy and complicated relationship between blacks and Jews in this country for years,” said Posner, who took inspiration from a book called Blacks and Jews by Nathan Lerner and Cornel West. “Of course, they have been allies at times. But there also have been times when they should have, and could have, been stronger allies. Instead, there is still some essential distrust between those communities to this day. It really piqued my interest to think about these historical relationships between oppressed peoples in this country where there should be natural affinity, and often instead, there is actually animosity, for a variety of interesting and compelling reasons. All of that is in the play to some extent.

    “But really, for all of the political and social aspects of the play, I'm always most interested in individual human beings and the complicated relationships they make. To me, District Merchants ends up being more a story of people coming together across difference, trying to build bridges, trying to reach out to each other, and looking at the things that divide us.”

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    District Merchants Miners Alley Playhouse Photo by Sarah Roshan
    Chris Kendall and Cris Davenport in Miners Alley Playhouse's 'District Merchants,' opening Friday. Photo by Sarah Roshan.


    And what has all of that to say about the rampant corruption in today’s banking industry, the lives left ruined in its wake, and the ongoing ideological polarization that seems to have America in a vice?

    “I guess the play is asking, as you look at such a divided society: Is it possible to come together across distrust, suspicion and genuine difference? Particularly after genuine, deep and abiding harm has been done? You can't pretend damage hasn’t been done. But how do you move forward anyhow?”

    But, just to clarify: Posner swears District Merchants is also a very funny play. Really.

    “If you come to it with an open mind, I think there's a lot there,” he said. “I don't think it takes sides in any one direction. It's just trying to engage people with questions about power and privilege. And if people are open to that story, I think that is a worthwhile story to tell.”

    The year of Aaron Posner in Colorado theatre

    Posner is on the verge of becoming much more known to Colorado theatre audiences, starting with Friday’s opening of District Merchants at Miners Alley Playhouse. Cherry Creek Theatre will stage Posner’s My Name is Asher Lev in October, and the Aurora Fox will stage Life Sucks, his hilariously titled variation on Chekhov Uncle Vanya, in February. 

     Jacqueline Garcia, Curtiss Johns, Albert Banker in My Name is Asher Lev. Photo by Sarah Roshan My Name is Asher Lev, an adaptation of the popular novel by Chaim Potok, follows the journey of a young Jewish painter torn between his Hassidic upbringing and his desperate need to fulfill his artistic promise. When his evident artistic genius threatens to destroy his relationship with his parents and community, young Asher realizes he must make a difficult choice between art and faith.

    (Pictured: Jacqueline Garcia, Curtiss Johns and Albert Banker in Miners Alley Playhouse's 2015 staging of 'My Name is Asher Lev.' Photo by Sarah Roshan Photography.)

    “It’s just a great story,” Posner said. “I already had adapted Chaim's novel The Chosen, (directed by new DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman in 2010 at Portland Center Stage), and I began meeting people who told me that Asher Lev had really changed their lives. It’s the story of growing up in a family that doesn't seem to be yours, or being pulled between your community and something else that is deeply important to you.”

    And while District Merchants and Life Sucks are very much Posner’s singular versions of their source stories, “Asher Lev is not my story,” he said. “This is Chaim Potok’s story. I'm very much the midwife trying to tell his story as best I can. I do think it is a deeply universal, very relatable story regardless of whether you've ever met a Jew.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    In Life Sucks, a group of old friends, ex-lovers, estranged in-laws and lifelong enemies grapple with life’s thorniest philosophical questions and stumble their way toward the inevitable conclusion that, yeah, life pretty much sucks. “It's one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, and maybe one of the closest to me,” Posner said. "Because while Stupid F***ing Bird (a meta takeoff on Chekhov’s The Seagull) is a young person's play in its core sensibilities, Life Sucks is more of a middle-aged play, which is where I sit in my life right now.”

    While The Merchant of Venice is steeped with villains, Posner said, there are no evil-doers here. “I'm much more interested in good people doing their best and still messing things up,” he said. “That's what Chekov tends to do, and that's what I apparently am building of off in Life Sucks. It’s people struggling to do their best and (bleeping) it up on a regular basis."

    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.

    District Merchants Miners Alley Playhouse Sarah Roshan Photography

    Candace Joice as Portia and Sinjin Jones as Benjamin Bassanio in 'District Merchants' at Miners Alley Playhouse. Sarah Roshan Photography.


    Aaron Posner at a glance

    Aaron Posner, born in Eugene, Ore., has built a thriving career as a theater administrator, playwright, and a freelance director of award-winning productions in the Washington, D.C. area and throughout the country with an emphasis on Shakespeare and literary classics. A graduate of Northwestern University with a B.S. in Performance Studies, Posner is an Eisenhower Fellow whose plays and productions have been seen at more than one-third of all LORT theatres in the country. He was a founding Artistic Director of Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, directing more than 35 productions there and Aaron is an Associate Artist at the Folger Theatre and Milwaukee Rep.  Posner has won four Helen Hayes Awards for Best Director for work at the Folger, including: Measure For Measure, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Cyrano, He also won the 2014 HHA -The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play along with two Barrymore Awards (A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Best Director), and The Chosen (playwright), both at the Arden.

    District Merchants: Ticket information

    • Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Performances May 18-June 24
    • Written by Aaron Posner
    • Directed by Len Matheo
    • Performances 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets: $15-$38
    • At 1224 Washington Ave., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com.
    • The play runs 2 hours and 30 minutes

    District Merchants Miners Alley PLayhouse, Sarah Roshan PhotographyCast

    • Cris Davenport as Antoine Dupree
    • Chris Kendall as Shylock
    • Amy Elizabeth Gray as Jessica
    • Sinjin Jones as Benjamin Bassanio
    • Sean Michael Cummings as Finn Randall
    • Candace Joice as Portia
    • Kristina Lorice Fountaine as Nessa
    • Isaiah Kelley as Lancelot
    Aaron Posner's work in Colorado:
  • Owen Zitek on standing up for those who are thought of as lesser

    by John Moore | May 16, 2018
    Charl Brown as Captain Walker and Owen Zitek as Young in the DCPA Theatre Company's The Who's Tommy. Photo by Adams VisCom.
    Charl Brown as Captain Walker and Owen Zitek as Young Tommy in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    After three seasons of A Christmas Carol, the kid comes into his own as young Pinball Wizard in The Who's Tommy 

    Owen Zitek QuoteMEET OWEN ZITEK
    Owen Zitek, a 6th-grader at Falcon Creek Middle School in Aurora, plays Youth Tommy (age 10) in The Who’s Tommy. He has been in the Theatre Company's past three stagings of A Christmas Carol, Other Theatres: The Hobbit (Aurora Fox Theatre), Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan (Classic Acts). Film: Deal, 12th, Halves & Quarter. Training: DCPA Education, Colorado School of Acting.

    • Hometown: Aurora
    • School: Falcon Creek Middle School
    • What's your handle? @OwenZitek on Twitter
    • Twitter-sized bio: 6th-grader who loves acting, reading, running, singing, drawing, playing games with family, camping, climbing 14ers and snowboarding
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would probably be a singer or an Olympic track runner.
    • Bucket-list role: Any role in Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago or Hamilton.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: In January of 2017 I was cast as Michael Darling in Peter Pan, which I was really excited for except the people who were cast as Wendy and John were only 2 or 3 inches taller than me. So after the play, people came up to me and said, “Are you and John supposed to be twins?” or, “You’re his older brother, right?”
    • elphabaWhat's playing on your Spotify? I am currently listening to the Black Panther soundtrack, SZA, The Greatest Showman soundtrack and, of course, Beyoncé
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: The first time I saw Wicked in Denver and Elphaba flew up into the sky during Defying Gravity. Her cape began to enlarge, and it appeared as if she were floating. That moment was inspirational and one of the main reasons I wanted to be an actor.
    • One thing most people don't know about you: I was born in Ethiopia, and I am adopted.
    • Owen Zitek A Christmas Carol 2016. Photo by John MooreOne thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? We, as a cast, should make sure we are making a difference. If we do a stellar job, then audience members might even want to pursue theatre, too.
    • What is The Who's Tommy about? It's a musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff based on The Who's classic 1969 rock opera. Tommy retreats from the world after a traumatic incident, but a newfound talent for pinball introduces him to fame and fortune.
    • Why does The Who's Tommy matter? It shows that everyone is amazing in their own special way no matter what obstacles you face.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing The Who's Tommy? I hope the audience leaves feeling they are special and that they should stand up for those who are seen as lesser in society’s eyes.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Sometimes I forget left from right.

    Pictured at right: Owen Zitek on opening night of 'A Christmas Carol' 2016. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Owen Zitek Photo by John MooreOur Pinball Wizard, Owen Zitek, backstage before the opening performance of the DCPA Theatre's Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. See more here.


    The Who's Tommy:
    Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
    The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.

  • Lulu Fall of 'The Who's Tommy' sings national anthem for Colorado Rockies

    by John Moore | May 14, 2018

    Video above provided by Colorado Rockies.

    Watch as 'The Acid Queen' hits a home run at Coors Field singing anthem before a recent Colorado Rockies game 

    Lulu Fall, who plays The Acid Queen in The Who's Tommy, the DCPA Theatre Company’s star-studded stage adaptation of The Who’s 1969 concept album, sang the national anthem at a recent Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field.

    The Who's Tommy is about a boy who retreats into a world of silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and later emerges as a revered pinball wizard celebrity.    Performances continue through May 27 in the Stage Theatre. Video provided by the Colorado Rockies for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Lulu Fall Colorado Rockies The Who's Tommy. Photo by Hope Grandon

    Sound check for Lulu Fall's national anthem for the Colorado Rockies. Photo by Hope Grandon.

    The Who's Tommy:
    Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:

    Video bonus: Lulu Fall sings for The Denver Actors Fund:


    Video of Lulu Fall by Avery Anderson and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Lulu Fall Colorado Rockies Dinger The Who's Tommy Photo by Hope Grandon Lulu Fall with Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger. Photo by Hope Grandon.
  • 'Human Error': In comedy, your pain is our punchline

    by John Moore | May 12, 2018
    HUMAN ERROR ERIC PFEFFINGER QUOTE. Photo by John Moore


    With this new comedy about a botched embryo implant, playwright posits: To err is human ... to laugh divine

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    In the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere comedy Human Error, a young couple goes to what they think is a routine appointment at a fertility clinic only to discover that their fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted into somebody else. 

    So, obviously … it’s a comedy. 

    “You know: Another one of your standard-issue switched-fertilized-embryo farces,” jocular Midwestern playwright Eric Pfeffinger says with a laugh. 

    It’s a funny premise … but you haven’t even gotten to the punchline yet. 

    “So one couple are blue-state, latte-sipping, NPR-listening liberals,” Pfeffinger said. “And the other are NRA-cardholding, pickup-truck-driving, red-state conservatives.” 

    Human Error rehearsal. Photo by John MooreThat’s the punchline: Two couples who, under normal circumstances, would never choose to be in the same room with each other, now will have to spend nine months building some kind of a family — and hopefully not killing each other along the way. 

    As they say in comedy, your pain is another guy’s pleasure. 

    (Rehearsal photo, from left, Kimberly Gilbert, Marissa McGowan and Wayne Kennedy. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 

    Human Error is a comedy about the state of the nation currently and the political polarization we are all grappling with,” Pfeffinger said of his play, which was featured at the Denver Center’s 2017 Colorado New Play Summit only a month after Donald Trump’s inauguration. And, well, there’s been a bit more rancor since then.  

    “If anything, Americans’ inclination to isolate ourselves within comfortable ideological silos has only increased,” Pfeffinger said back on an April day when the national headlines were dominated by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress. 

    The bad news is: Political, social and cultural polarization is just a given in America right now.

    “But the good news is: The worse things get, the better it is for my play,” Pfeffinger said with a smile. “So … yay?”

    Geography, technology and social status have made it easy for Americans to isolate themselves from anyone who doesn’t already think the same way they do, Pfeffinger said. That means we are only rarely confronted with contradictory or challenging points of view. But Pfeffinger has the power of the playwright in his fingers: He can put any two people he wants face-to-face on a stage. Or, in this case, he can put any two couples he wants face-to-face in the same bumbling fertility doctor’s office.

    “None of the people in my play know anybody else like the other couple,” Pfeffinger said. “They don’t have to confront the reality of someone who thinks differently until they are thrown together by this clerical mix-up at the clinic.” The play is not so much about the ethics of fertility technology, Pfeffinger says — as dramatic as that can be. “It’s more about the echo chambers we Americans often find ourselves in, and the defense mechanisms we adopt when we are forced to step outside our comfort zones and acknowledge that there are other people in the world who are not just like us.”

    But remember, Pfeffinger said his play is not a Lifetime movie event. He said it was funny. And not nasty, David Mamet kind of funny. “It’s BIG funny,” he said. “When I first heard about this kind of thing actually happening at fertility clinics, my first response was, ‘Oh that sounds like an episode of Three’s Company: “Wait, that’s not your embryo — that’s my embryo!” And … cut to commercial.’

    Human Error draws explicit connections to various kinds of classic comedy, particularly the TV sitcom, which is what I grew up mainlining.”  

    So really, Pfeffinger had no choice but to take a comic approach to the subject. It’s all he knows. 

    Human Error: Five funs things we learned at first rehearsal

    “Everyithing I write is a comedy. That’s how I function,” said Pfeffinger, who has past lives as both an improv comedian and a newspaper cartoonist. “Let’s take this thing that does not seem particularly funny to the people it is happening to and find the humor n it.”

    And after all that prolonged division and unrest in the country, he said, now might be a really good time for us to laugh. 

    “A lot of people embrace comedy as an opportunity to escape from what is stressful about the world,” Pfeffinger said. “I happen to believe that comedy is one of the best ways to confront difficult ideas and to examine and articulate those ideas. Comedy lowers your defenses by making you laugh.” 

    Human Error castPfeffinger has continued to hone the play in the 15 months since the Colorado New Play Summit, in close consultation with director Shelley Butler and dramaturg Sarah Lunnie. But not with the intent of either making the play more overtly funny or politically relevant.

    “Tonally, structurally and thematically, the play is pretty much the same now as it was at the Summit,” he said. “It’s more a matter of helping the play to become more of what it’s already wanting to be. That includes making the funny stuff funnier and the human stuff, uh, human-er.”

    Human Error will become the first Theatre Company season offering ever staged in the Garner Galleria Theatre, which will provide an intimate, cabaret-like atmosphere that will be new for many Theatre Company audiences. 

    “This is a play where the comedy comes from the audience connecting with these very different, very recognizable people,” Pfeffinger said. “I think where the audience and the performers are palpably sharing the same space and breathing the same air, that’s where comedy thrives.”

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


    Human Error at Tommy Photo by John Moore
    From left: Kimberly Gilbert, Director Shelley Butler, Playwright Eric Pfeffinger, Joe Coots, and Marissa McGowan of 'Human Error,' at the opening of DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Not pictured: Larry Bates and Wayne Kennedy. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Human Error: Cast

    Human Error: Creatives

    • Directed by Shelley Butler
    • Scenic Design by Lisa M. Orzolek
    • Costume Design by Sara Ryung Clement
    • Lighting Design by Charles R. MacLeod
    • Sound Design by Jason Ducat
    • Dramaturgy by Sarah Lunnie
    • Stage management by Christopher C. Ewing
    • Assistant Stage Management by D. Lynn Reiland
    • Casting by Elissa Myers Casting
    Video: Our interview with Eric Pfeffinger at the Colorado New Play Summit: 

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Human Error: Ticket information

    HumanError_show_thumbnail_160x160After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now two very different couples face sharing an uproarious nine-month odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances May 18 through June 24
    • Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'School of Rock' true to Andrew Lloyd Webber's rocking roots

    by John Moore | May 11, 2018
    School of Rock. Rob Colletti and cast. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

    Rob Colletti and his young castmates in the national touring production of 'School of Rock',' coming to Denver starting May 29. Photo by Matthew Murphy.


    From Cats to kids: The knighted musical-theatre composer has long had a winning way with animals and children

    By Suzanne Yoe
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    It’s sometimes easy to forget how Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber got his start. After all, with a string of West End and Broadway hits including The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Evita and Sunset Boulevard among many others, rock 'n roll seems, well … a bit out of sync. 

    Yet this knighted composer — yes, he does bear the somewhat lofty title of “Sir” — is also considered the father of the rock musical. He actually got his start with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat followed closely by Jesus Christ Superstar.

    Andrew Lloyd Webber quoteFitting, then, that School of Rock, the 2003 Paramount Pictures film starring then little-known actor Jack Black, caught his attention.

    When down-on-his-luck rocker Dewey Finn can’t pay the rent, he poses as a substitute teacher at an elite private school. Not exactly the teacher type (and in need of a quick infusion of cash), he transforms these prep-school preteens into confidence-commanding rock stars who compete for $20,000 in the local Battle of the Bands competition.

    The plot of the musical hearkens back to Lloyd Webber’s professional beginnings. “I started with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which was a piece written for a school performance. And it’s taking me back to something that I really care very deeply about, which is the importance of music in schools and education.

    “It’s really about how music changes the lives of the kids in the show, and also changes the life of the leading man, because he finds himself, in a way, through the children and the music they’re making.”

    Even though the movie is about music performed by schoolchildren, there is really very little music in the film itself, which intrigued Lloyd Webber. “Originally, the idea was first mooted to me by my wife, Madeleine, who got the rights to the whole thing. I thought maybe it was something that we would flesh out with existing rock songs, because there were a few in the original movie. But when I got into it … there was only the song we all called ‘Teacher’s Pet’ and then ‘The Legend of the Rent.’ So, I thought that it really did need a score.”

    To fully flesh out the story for the stage, Lloyd Webber realized he needed a dramatist with a major career. Lloyd Webber tapped Julian Fellowes, whose career has spanned television (“Downton Abbey”), film (The Tourist) and theatre (Mary Poppins).

    Moving from what, to some, might seem more classical works into the world of rock, wasn’t an obvious transition. “It’s always good to do something that’s completely outside your kind of tame territory,” said Fellowes. “I was thrilled when Andrew asked me if I’d do it. Sometimes you have to talk yourself into things. But I knew I wanted to do it straight away.

    “I think my job was to give a kind of emotional imperative, a kind of emotional path, for all of the different characters, which is either suggested or pretty clearly delineated,” Fellowes said. “And then to add that to the central comedy of the situation. But I hope we’ve been very faithful to the film, too. I want people who adored the film to have a really good evening in the theater.”

    Lloyd Webber rounded out the team with Broadway lyricist Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid) and director Laurence Connor (Les Misérables), neither of whose credits might scream “rock 'n roll," either.

    School of Rock. Hernando Umana and Rob Colletti. Photo by Matthew MurphyWhile the creative team might seem anything but typical, what’s even more surprising is that, ultimately, the show’s success relies almost entirely on the talents of 9- to 13-year olds. The 12 children on stage who literally steal the show are required to be quadruple threats — act, sing, dance and play an instrument. More than 22,000 children responded to the original Broadway casting call.

    “We watched some incredible kids playing instruments,” said Connor. "But what we didn’t know was whether they would be cohesive as a band. So, in the end, we brought about 24 children into a room, and we set up some amps and plugged in some guitars and set up a drum kit, and they just played. The first band we put together just rocked. It was emotional. I mean, I think we all had little tears in our eyes. I think it really goes down as my favorite audition of all time.”

    (Pictured at right: Hernando Umana and Rob Colletti in the national touring production of 'School of Rock.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

    And they really can play," Webber said. "It’s extraordinary for their ages, just how great they are, and how together they play. I mean, you could close your eyes and say, ‘Oh gosh, this is a band that’s played together for years.’ You wouldn’t really think it’s 10- and 11-year olds.”

    Though W.C. Fields famously warned: "Never work with children or animals,” Lloyd Webber can say (somewhat tongue in cheek) that he’s done both and come out unscathed. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was first performed by 8- to 12-year-old boys. Then, he debuted Cats, which remains the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history. Now, he's bringing audiences the inspiring, fist pumping, heartwarming story in School of Rock — opening May 29 at the Buell Theatre.

    DCPA Director of Communications and Cultural Affairs Suzanne Yoe has been working for the Denver Center for 23 years.


    School of Rock:
    Ticket information
    school-of-rockBased on the hit film, this new musical comedy follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star posing as a substitute teacher who turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. This high-octane score features 14 new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, all the original songs from the movie and musical theater’s first-ever kids rock band playing their instruments live on stage.

    • National touring production
    • Sponsored in Denver by Hard Rock Cafe
    • Performances May 29 though June 10
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    School of Rock. Rob Colletti and Phoenix Schuman. Photo by Matthew Murphy. Rob Colletti and Phoenix Schuman in the national touring production of 'School of Rock.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.

    Hometown trivia:
    The original Broadway production co-starred Sierra Boggess as Rosalie Mullins. She is a Denver native and graduate of George Washington High School. (She is not appearing in the national touring production.)
  • 'Remote Denver': A completely unique way of seeing the city

    by John Moore | May 11, 2018
    Photo from a previous 'Remote' experience by Craig Schwartz.
    Photo from a previous 'Remote' experience by Craig Schwartz.

    Don’t think of it as theatre. Think of it as a 2 1/2-mile live art experience and guided audio tour of the unobserved.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The most exotic adventure yet from the Denver Center’s most adventurous line of programming will take fearless participants through the streets of Denver from May 22 through July 1. Off-Center is known for creating experiences that challenge conventions and expand on the traditional definition of theatre, and Remote Denver promises to be a walk on the wild side.

    Charlie Miller. Remote Denver. Photo by John Moore. Remote Denver, Off-Center Curator Charlie Miller says, “is an unexpected ramble through parts of Denver you probably haven’t seen before.” It’s an encounter with artificial intelligence. It’s both an individual and group social experiment.

    And here’s something you won’t hear very often: It’s not for everyone. Participants will walk for more than two hours. They will cover approximately 2 ½ miles on foot. The won’t finish where they start. There’s no sitting. Which means, Miller says, some theatregoers may want to sit this one out.

    Here’s the concept: You and a group of 50 don headphones and set off on a guided audio tour of hidden Denver that seems to follow you as much as you are following it. A computer-generated voice guides your movements in real time as you explore gathering spaces, back alleyways, unexpected passageways and public areas through a new lens.

    But you’re not just walkers — you’re the actors and spectators, the observers and the observed. You will make your own individual decisions and yet remain always part of the group. Along the way, your headphones will provide a soundtrack to the streets, sights, and rooftops of the Mile High City. “The sound in your headphones will totally alter your view of reality,” Miller said. “Walking through the streets of Denver with this computer voice talking to you is a completely unique way of seeing the city.”

    Don’t even think of it as theatre, Miller suggests. Think of it as a live art experience.

    Remote Denver comes from the creative Berlin braintrust known as Rimini Protokoll, the umbrella label for a group of multimedia artists including Jörg Karrenbauer and Stefan Kaegim, who have developed a tailored experience for Denver. Remote X, as the parent show is called, has now been developed in more than 20 different countries.

    Full guidelines: denvercenter.org/remote


    Remote Denver:
    Ticket and show information
    Remote Denver

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • May 22-July 1
    • Starts at Lincoln Park on the corner of 13th Avenue and Mariposa Street
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Remote. Photo by Craig Schwartz. Photo from a previous 'Remote' experience by Craig Schwartz.

  • Andy Mientus: That deaf, dumb and blind kid is anyone who's been marginalized

    by John Moore | May 10, 2018

    Video excerpts from Andy Mientus' conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about playing the title role in 'The Who's Tommy' for the DCPA Theatre Company through May 27.  

    Stage and TV star sees Tommy as a traumatized boy who is 'looking at his life through the wrong end of the telescope'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Who’s Tommy is a rock opera that tells the sad story of a traumatized little boy who's beaten, exploited and molested — and comes out of it a madly adored pop star. But while to some Tommy's operatic ordeal might sound a tad close to a tilt (to use pinball parlance), it all feels very real to actor Andy Mientus.  

    “I think Tommy becomes a stand-in for anybody who feels marginalized in any way — anyone who isn't seen or heard or felt or touched,” said Mientus, who plays the adored and idolized and ultimately discarded Tommy in the DCPA Theatre Company’s acclaimed new production playing through May 27 in The Stage Theatre.

    Sam Buntrock quote. Andy Mientus“When we get to see how that kind of upbringing affects him into adulthood, I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to,” said Mientus, who has starred on Broadway in Spring Awakening and Les Misérables, and had a featured role on NBC’s “Smash.”

    “It's definitely something I can relate to: That feeling of being an ‘other’ in your own community. Feeling you're the one who doesn't quite fit in, or you’re the one people don't see. That definitely speaks to me.”

    Director Sam Buntrock said Mientus fundamentally understands the fame aspect of Tommy’s story from his own experiences with celebrity.

    “I think what Andy brings — and I mean this as the utmost compliment —  is a simplicity and an innocence, but without being childlike,” Buntrock said. “His Tommy is very clear and very charismatic. But also, when Tommy has experienced the effects of being famous, Andy is playing that with an honesty and a brutality that's really, really arresting. And it's real.”

    Mientus has had a remarkable but indirect ascent in his performing career, having risen from a Spring Awakening groupie in Michigan to having a featured role on "Smash."

    “My story really goes to show that there is no set path,” he said with a laugh. (More on that path below.)    

    “As somebody who has been trying to make a living in performing arts for almost 10 years now, yes, it is very true that people are quick to lift an artist up, and quick to forget them and drop them,” he said. “That’s the fickle nature of fame. When finally you are heard and seen by masses of people, it becomes an addiction. It becomes a drug. And it can lead to some really destructive behavior. And then what happens when those people go away? That’s definitely something that I continue to feel.”

    Here are more excerpts from Andy Mientus’ conversation with Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:    

    John Moore: I'm guessing you have one of the most mispronounced names in show business.

    Andy Mientus: I do. Mee-en-tas. It's weird because it's not an actual name from an actual cultural heritage. There are a lot of consonants in our family name, and when my ancestors got to Ellis Island they kind of hacked it in half. So no one knows where to place its origin.

    John Moore: And where does it actually come from?

    Andy Mientus: It’s Polish. So it had lots of Cs, and Zs and other excitement in there. And now … it doesn't.

    John Moore: Tell us when we have seen you before in Denver.

    Andy Mientus: I was here in 2009 doing the first national tour of Spring Awakening at the Buell Theatre. I remember that it was the dead of winter, so I didn't get to see much of Denver. I'm very happy to be back and able to explore.

    Our deeper dive with Director Sam Buntrock

    John Moore: What was it about this show, this production and this director that made you want to come to Denver to do this?

    Andy Mientus: Tommy is definitely a bucket-list show and role for me. I really didn't grow up in a household where we listened to a lot of musicals. But our house was filled with music. There were always classic rock albums playing, soul records, country. So I grew up with “Tommy,” the album. I loved the tunes, and my family loved the tunes. It’s one of the things that bonded us. That’s one reason I’ve always wanted to play the role. But also because this genre of music is more my actual wheelhouse than some of the things I've done in my musical-theatre career. This is the kind of music I like to sing in the shower. So just to get to do the role is really exciting to me. And then, when I saw that Sam Buntrock was directing, I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Being aware of his other work, I just knew this was going to be unlike any production of Tommy I had ever seen before. When you think of Tommy on stage, you think of that iconic Des McAnuff Broadway production: Tommy, the wig, the white costume, the geometric shapes — just the sheer scale of that production. I just  knew that Sam was going to do something completely different. He is, and it's really thrilling.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Andy mientus quote. Photo by John Moore.

    John Moore: Recount for us how you went from a Spring Awakening groupie to being on national TV in Smash?

    Andy Mientus:  When I was a theater student, I fell in love with Spring Awakening, and I made a Facebook fan group for the show — back in the days when you could do that. A bunch of my friends had seen it over the summer and we were just buzzing about it, and making that page was just something I did one Saturday. And then a bunch of people started following it. And then one of the producers reached out and said they were exploring using social media, which was a very new concept for a Broadway show at the time. I already had all these Spring Awakening followers, so they said: 'Why don't we just make your page the show page?' And so I became one of the first-ever Social Media Managers for a Broadway show.

    John Moore: Did they know then that you could sing?

    Andy Mientus: They knew that I was a performer. So when (auditions) were coming up for the first national tour, they said, ‘Oh, you should go audition.' There's one in Chicago, and you're in Michigan. It's not that far.’ It actually is kind of far, but I drove there. I waited in line at 5 o’clock in the morning. I still know the guys who stood on either side of me in line — and we are all still in the business. Many callbacks later, and after many more twists and turns, I was cast in the national tour.

    John Moore: That's storybook.

    Video bonus: Andy Mientus sings acoustic 'Sensation'

    Andy Mientus: It was a really big, auspicious first gig to have. And so naturally I thought, ‘OK, you're in the national tour of a Broadway show — so, next you'll be in a Broadway show. And it will just sort of continue from there. And ... that's not how it works. I had some very quiet years when that was done. I was really hitting the pavement, doing little gigs, getting my name out there, playing any concert, working for free, seeing casting directors. But I just could not get cast in a Broadway show. But then I did get cast by NBC for "Smash" — which oddly enough was a show about Broadway. It took being on a TV show about Broadway to get cast, finally, in a Broadway show. That was Les Misérables in 2014. And it's just gotten weirder since then. I mean, there really is no linear path.

    John Moore: It’s crazy to think that one episode of Smash was seen by more people than could probably ever see you perform live on a stage over your whole lifetime.

    Andy Mientus: That’s true.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: Can you relate any of the lessons learned through all of that to your performance now in Tommy?

    Andy Mientus: Oh, gosh, yes. I really relate to the part about Tommy growing up feeling isolated, feeling unseen, feeling unheard — and then suddenly, because of this one weird little talent he possesses, all these people want to be around him. I was so young during the Spring Awakening tour. I was away from home for the first time, and I was going through a really crazy time in my personal life. And suddenly there are all these people looking at you, and you think it's genuine. They've seen you on stage being vulnerable in front of an audience, and they are following what you're doing, and so they think that they know you. But they don't actually know you at all. There's this moment in Tommy where he brings all these people into his home and he thinks, ‘Oh, now I've filled the gap. I have this family.’ And then based on something Sally Simpson says, he quickly realizes that he had it all wrong. They don't really want to be around him — They want to be around the idea of him. That’s something I have encountered, that hunger for attention because of deep personal struggle. Yeah.

    John Moore: So here’s a practical actor question: How does one actually rehearse playing deaf, dumb and blind? Do you put on a blindfold and go, or do you go full-on Daniel Day-Lewis?

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Tommy. Photo by Adams VisCom
    Andy Mientus and the cast of 'The Who's Tommy' for the DCPA Theatre Company, playing through May 27. Scenic Design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams VisCom.


    Andy Mientus: I really just try to lock into Tommy's inner life. I can relate to what it feels like to be marginalized, so that's what I try to feel when I'm doing all of that. But there is one practical way: I actually have terrible vision if I take my contacts out. So I rehearsed without them for the first few days —  just to really get into that ‘Tommy Stare.’ In my head, I'm thinking that I'm in one of those horror stories where the anesthesia has kicked in just enough for you to be paralyzed and numb, but not enough to be unconscious. Tommy's in there watching it all. It's a bit like the movie Get Out when they go to the Sunken Place. Tommy’s looking at his life through the wrong end of the telescope. He's seeing it all. He’s taking it all in — but he has no control over it. I just try to think about the terror of that and the isolation of that and the sadness of that. And that's a lot to think about — so then it's easy to just go numb and catatonic.

    John Moore: What do you want to say to those people who already are familiar with Tommy, either the album or from seeing a local stage production of The Who's Tommy, and think they may already may know what they are in for when they come to see this show?

    (Pictured below and right: Andy Mientus with the other three actors who portray Tommy for the Denver Center: Samuel Bird, left, and Radley Wright play Tommy at age 4; Owen Zitek, front, plays Tommy at age 10. Photo by Bamboo Booth.)

    Andy Mientus Tommy. Bamboo Booth.Andy Mientus: I think that no matter what experience you bring into our production — whether you're a huge fan of the album or a huge fan of the Des McAnuff Broadway production — I think you are going to be incredibly surprised and, I hope, pleasantly surprised. I think the album fans will be surprised because we are telling a fully realized visual story based on this music that you already know and love. And the film fans will see it all in a way that's different from the movie, which is very much ‘of its time.’ Our version tells a more human story and a more relatable story and a much more realistic story. For all of its fantastical elements, we really have found a way, I think, to make the story feel plausible and realistic. If you were a big fan of the Broadway production, you think scale. You think of a large cast, the dancing, the lights. This is not like that. I feel audiences today are hungry for a more chamber, intimate, authentic experience like Next to Normal or Dear Evan Hansen — shows that really strip everything away and focus on storytelling. Our production's feels a lot more like that. And I think that’s going to let you hear a lot of these lyrics, in a new way.

    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.

    Bonus coverage: Andy Mientus, author of 'The Backstagers and the Ghost Light'

    John Moore: Tell us about your book.

    Andy Mientus: I have been tasked with writing a series of books based on this incredible comic series called The Backstagers and the Ghost Light. The publisher was looking to expand the original eight-comic arc into a series of books for 10- to 14-year-olds. And they hired me to do so. I've never written a novel before, but I've just turned in the first installment, which is called The Backstagers, and it comes out on Sept. 25 from Chronicle Books, which is an imprint of Abrams Books. It's available for pre-order now. And I'm already working on the second one, which am writing while I'm here in Denver. So I think it's going to be influenced by my experiences here, definitely.

    John Moore: What’s it about?

    Andy Mientus: It's about a group of kids who come together and make magic behind the scenes. And I think that's a really important story to tell.

    John Moore: Who is your target audience?

    Andy Mientus: I think the readers for this book are theater kids. It's a book I wish that I had growing up as a theater nerd. Because not only is it about theater and what makes theater cool and fun and exciting, it's about friendship and inclusivity.

    John Moore: What about theatre nerds who are older than 14 … like me?

    Andy Mientus: I've written it to be appropriate and clear for 10- to 14-year-olds. But if you're into any kind of whimsical, sci-fi magic stories that also have jokes about Hello, Dolly! in it, you'll love this. So middle-aged theater nerds shouldn't feel embarrassed to read it.

    Pre-order 'Backstagers and the Ghost Light' now


    The Who's Tommy:
    Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:

    Video: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk,

  • Video: 'Native Gardens' asks: 'How do we live together?'

    by John Moore | May 05, 2018

    In the video above, 'Native Gardens’ playwright Karen Zacarías and Director Lisa Portes about the DCPA Theatre Company’s current staging of Zacarías' celebrated comedy Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    How playwright Karen Zacarías' disarming comedy turns a conversation ender into a surprising conversation starter

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Native Gardens is a play about neighbors. And “it's a border dispute,” as Director Lisa Portes mischievously puts it.

    On one side of the fence, we have Pablo and Tania Del Valle. He is a rich and rising hotshot attorney from Chile. She is a pregnant Chicana doctoral candidate. They have just moved to Washington D.C. and bought a messy fixer-upper. On the other side of the fence, we have Frank and Virginia Butley, an older, established Anglo couple with a pristine home and yard. Virginia is a conservative defense contractor, and Frank is a semi-retired GSA agent who now tends passionately to his pristine English garden.

    The couples are happy to be neighbors — until the young interlopers discover they actually own 2 more feet of backyard land than previously thought. Putting a new fence along the actual property line would mean smashing through Frank's cherished hydrangeas and peonies.

    800 Karen Zacarias. Photo by John MooreAnd from there, “shenanigans ensue,” said Portes.

    “All sorts of shenanigans,” playwright Karen Zacarías echoed.

    Like when the white couple decides their best legal defense in this property dispute is to argue that they have squatters’ rights. Which is funny, but might lead a reader to believe the play is either a serious political metaphor for the current ideological divide in America, or that it is a needling polemic. It is neither, said Zacarías, whose Native Gardens is presently among the 10 most produced plays in the country, with 15 professional stagings staged or scheduled. The DCPA Theatre Company’s production runs through Sunday (May 6).

    “The great joy in writing this play for me was that I wanted to look at the poetry and absurdity of conflict,” Zacarías said. “To do that, I had to take a comedic angle.

    “And I wrote all four of my characters from a place of love and respect.”

    Lisa Portes. Photo by John MooreBecause of that, Portes added, “Not only do you love each of these characters, you love them all the more because you see their foibles. None of them is perfect, and none of them are evil. They're all just like us: Flawed and funny.”

    But in this highly charged, politically divisive time, Portes admits that when you hear words like fence and borders and Latinos, “naturally you think this must be an immigration play,” she said. But it’s not. “I think this play touches on differences. There's class differences, gender differences, differences across ethnicity, differences in philosophy, differences between Republicans and Democrats. There are all kinds of borders in this play that ultimately, by the end of the play, are transcended.

    And from transcendence … comedy blooms.

    mariana-fernandez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_oAside: It’s almost impossible to talk about Native Gardens without invoking shovelfuls of gardening puns, but Zacarías could not be more on point when she says, “Nobody comes out smelling like a rose.” And: “Even though the play does dig in the dirt with some thorny issues, it does it in a disarming way. I think it's kind of this cathartic experience for people to sit and laugh — not at them, but at ourselves. People leave the theater feeling buoyant and hopeful.”  

    (Pictured: Mariana Fernandez and John Ahlin in the Denver Center's 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    In the end, Portes said, “The play is really asking: ‘How do we live together?’ And I think there's no more important question to be asked at this time. And I think comedy is an invitation. When our souls are opened by laughter, I think we make room to expand ourselves.”

    Native Gardens is Zacarías’ third play at the Denver Center, following world premieres of Mariela in the Desert in 2010 and Just Like Us in 2013.

    Here are more highlighted excerpts from Senior Arts Journalist John Moore’s conversations with Karen Zacarías and Lisa Portes:

    John Moore: Karen, tell us how a dinner party changed the course of your playwriting career.

    Karen Zacarías: Ah, yes. I was at a dinner party, and I was saying to some friends, “Gosh, I don't know what to write about (next).” And so a friend tells me: “Oh, I know what you should write about. I had this fight with my neighbor” — and he went on to describe it in great detail. Then someone else says, “Oh, that's nothing. My parents have been in a seven-year legal battle with their neighbors over a tree.” And then someone else says, "Oh, yeah? Well, someone paved over our driveway!” And we were all just laughing and laughing. But then I realized all of these neighbor stories were a metaphor for human behavior — not just in our country, but all over the world. And I thought maybe I could take an absurdist look at that and have a little fun with the idea.

    Jordan Baker: 'Hard to listen when the message is a brick'

    John Moore: Lisa, tell us how your playwright managed to write a conversation starter as opposed to a conversation ender.

    Lisa Portes: Karen and I believe in theater as a live space in which many different kinds of people can come together and wrestle with the issues of our time. And I think that if you want people to come together, you can't shut anybody out. This play asks these characters to expand their circle, expand their borders and expand their sense of what's possible in the world.

    800 2 Lisa Portes. Photo by John MooreJohn Moore: Talk about the double entendre of the word “Native” in the title.

    Karen Zacarías: There is a movement called “native gardening,” and it's actually pretty strong here in Colorado. The idea is to plant only plants that are original to the landscape of a given area. Native plants take up less water, they're easier to take care of, and they feed bees and bugs in that area. So native planting is lower-maintenance and better for the environment. But some people would say native plants are not as attractive as some of the more European-style gardens like Frank’s, where you might see Japanese Azaleas or plants from all over the world. And so by using the word “Native” in the title, there are a lot of things to unpack: Who was here originally? Who is a transplant? Where is it acceptable for a hybrid garden to exist? It’s a great metaphor for a lot of things that are in the news today.”

    (Pictured: Lisa Portes addressing the opening-night celebration at the Denver Center. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    John Moore: How do the Gomez Family Landscape Technicians fit into the story?

    Lisa Portes: They are the folks who are actually doing the work while everybody else is arguing over their first-world problems. They are literally changing the landscape as the play unfolds. Karen was telling me that there have been theaters around the country that have wanted to cut those characters, but you can't make this play without them. I think the way all three families come together at the end — the Del Valles, the Butleys and the Gomezes — is Karen’s way of creating the world we want to live in.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: How great is it that actor Gustavo Marquez, who plays a member of the Gomez family, has a day job working in the Denver Center ticket office?

    Lisa Portes: I think it's going to be such a treat for the audience who may have actually bought their ticket from Gustavo to then see him in the play because he brings such beautiful life to the stage. And I'll tell you a little secret: For the pre-show, we wanted music in Spanish having to do with gardens. So, Gustavo sent me three or four lists of songs, and we used them. I owe him special thanks for that.

    John Moore: Karen, I think the most surprising part of your play may be that it has a happy ending.

    Karen: I think everybody is happy that there's a happy ending. The first draft I wrote, the ending was quite different. It was kind of gritty and ended with a gut-punch. But then I sat back and thought, ‘Do I need another gut punch right now?’ And when I asked myself, ‘What does it take to make a happy ending?’ And it’s not that hard. It takes a little understanding, a little compromise, and a lot of listening. And so I decided to go full-throttle and get the happy ending I think we all deserve.

    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.


    Photo gallery: The making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens'

    Making of 'Native Gardens'Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing 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 Virgina 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 play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

    Native Gardens cast. Photo by John MooreThe cast of the Denver Center's 'Native Gardens' on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Native Gardens:
    Cast and creatives

    • Written by Karen Zacarías 
    • Directed by Lisa Portes
    • Scenic Designer: Lisa M. Orzolek
    • Costume Designer: Raquel Barreto
    • Lighting Designer: Charles R. MacLeod
    • Sound Designer: Rick Sims
    • Dramaturg: Douglas Langworthy
    • Stage manager: Heidi Echtenkamp
    • Kailey Buttrick: Assistant Stage Manager  

    Cast:

    • John Ahlin (Broadway’s Tony-Award winning revival of Journey’s End) as Frank Butley
    • Jordan Baker (Broadway’s Suddenly, Last Summer, The Normal Heart) as Virginia Butley
    • Mariana Fernández (DCPA’s FADE) as Tania Del Valle
    • Ryan Garbayo (Red Bull Theater’s The Government Inspector Off-Broadway) as Pablo Del Valle.
    • Anthony V. Haro (University of Northern Colorado Opera’s La Cenerentola), Ensemble
    • Brandon Lopez (Lucent Performing Arts’ American Idiot), Ensemble
    • Gustavo Marquez (Colorado Shakespeare Education’s Comedy of Errors), Ensemble
    • Gia Valverde (Su Teatro’s Enrique’s Journey), Ensemble
  • Director Sam Buntrock on 'Tommy' and riding the rock 'n roller coaster

    by John Moore | May 04, 2018


    Our video takes you behind-the-scenes with the making of the DCPA Theatre Company’s 'The Who's Tommy, Interviews include Director Sam Buntrock, star Andy Mientus and choreographer Katie Spelman. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

     

    A deeper drive with the director: What happens when we discover our fallen gods are merely human beings? 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Who’s seminal rock opera Tommy is Pete Townshend's semi-autobiographical story of a kid who was molested, abused, exploited and grows up to be internationally celebrated. And then it becomes a commentary on the fickle nature of pop idolatry, which could be seen as two very different things.

    “Well, it is two different things, but it's the same thing,” said Sam Buntrock, who is directing the DCPA Theatre Company’s vibrant new look at the 1994 Broadway stage adaptation through May 27.  

    “That’s the Amy Winehouse story. We’ve seen it a thousand times, and we’ve seen it end tragically a thousand times. The notion of somebody whose stardom is made through their past, whose unique abilities and charisma and enigma is their past, and the idea of them becoming a star and then falling from grace — it's all the same thing. It’s the vicious cycle of stardom.”   

    In his story, Townshend turns a deaf, dumb and blind kid named Tommy into an iconic — and ironic — hero of a sport that no one actually fan-follows. And just as quickly, he’s yesterday's news.

    “That is why this is such a surprisingly rich piece,” Buntrock said. "He’s talking about how we love to lift up in order to tear down. You see it happen again and again in the British tabloids, almost on a daily basis: A star is either on their way up or being pulled back down again. It's this idea that because we have made their lives news, then every intimate thing about them must be known. And then we find out that they're just people. We find out that they're not gods. We find out that they're just human beings. And then they disappoint us. And that disappointment is the moment the elevator stops to go back down again.”

    Buntrock first came to Denver for the 2012 Colorado New Play Summit that would lead to his direction of Michael Mitnick’s world premiere Ed, Downloaded. He returned in 2016 for an innovative staging of the National Theatre’s Frankenstein, in which the actors playing both God and Monster switched each performance.

    Ed, Downloaded introduced me to the capacity and the ability of the Denver Center as a house for making sensational and world-class theater,” Buntrock said. “And then Frankenstein was essentially making a movie on stage.”

    Here is more of Buntrock’s conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:   

    Sam Buntrock The Who's Tommy. Photo by John Moore.


    John Moore: How did the idea to take a fresh look at The Who's Tommy come about?

    Sam Buntrock: When I was invited to come back and direct Frankenstein, I remember sitting on the steps of The Stage Theater with (former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director) Kent Thompson when he asked me what I wanted to do next. I said “Tommy,” because it was a piece I'd always dreamed of having a chance to do. And I realized that the only place I could do a version with my vision and of this ambition is at a place with the multi-departmental excellence of the Denver Center.

    John Moore: Your cast is smaller than the original Broadway production by half — but I have a feeling your vision is no less grand.

    Sam Buntrock: This one is gargantuan in its own way, but also tiny. I mean, that's the challenge — making an intimate version that's also huge.

    John Moore: You have said that as a theatregoer, you don't particularly like musicals. So is this then a musical for people who don't like musicals?

    Sam Buntrock: I, by default, don't like musicals because musical theater at its worst is a series of conventions unchecked. I've learned over decades of working in the development of musical theater that so much of the conversation is about how we have to do certain things because that's the way it is always done. It's almost like a factory. A production line. I'm drawn to musicals that don't do that. The work of Stephen Sondheim has been incredibly influential on me because he reinvents the form each time he does a show. He looks at what the story needs and he reinvents.

    Our interview with The Who's Tommy star Andy Mientus

    John Moore: How is Tommy an exception to the rule?

    Sam Buntrock: Tommy isn't a musical; it's a collage. It's a song cycle. It's an album written by a man in his early 20s that is a form of self-expression about his childhood. And he is talking about the childhoods of a whole generation of people who experienced the second World War and its repercussions as children. And therefore, it's about the birth of the '60s because those people went on to make the '60s. Pete Townshend is writing about his own personal experience through the filter of a grand metaphor, and somehow that manages to be about all of us. Our childhoods make us the people we are, for good or ill. Every single one of us. Tommy is about how these incredibly damaging things made him who he is — and also happened to make him a star. There's this line when his fan, Sally Simpson, says she wants to be more like him. But all he wants to be is more like them. He just wants not to have had his past. Not to have had those things that made him who he is. But if he doesn't have those things, he stops being the star.

    John Moore: The film version of Tommy was released the same year as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. In some ways, they seem to be the same story.

    Sam Buntrock: Well, Jesus's biggest crime was that he was just a man. That's what made his downfall. People aren't interested in any nuance. I mean, you look at that in the world we live in right now: People would rather just be told the simplified version of the truth and not deal with the fact that things aren't simple. And the moment you start to find out the reality of any human being — that they are contradictory, and that they are flawed, you start to lose sight of the mythology.

    Tommy-home-slide
    Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    John Moore: In what ways are you changing the framing of the storytelling in your version of Tommy?

    Sam Buntrock: We present the beginning of the story as Tommy's mythology, as what he understands the story of his parents to be. So his father is a god. His father is this entity who created him and left, and never came back. And so when his father does arrive back home, the first thing he does is commit a brutal act of violence. And so the man is flawed and scared and human. And that’s the biggest crime of all — to be human.

    John Moore: What can we know about what Jason Sherwood is up to with the scenic design for this production?

    Sam Buntrock: Well, what isn’t Jason Sherwood up to in this production? This is the most ambitious thing we've ever done together, and we went through more iterations on this than any of our other shows combined because we knew we had to get it just right. It's not a literal space, it is a beautifully conceived abstract space that helps, I hope, the audience to see the whole show through an expressionist lens. This space is fragments and memory. I think he's done something extraordinary. But then again, he always does.

    andy-mientus-as-tommy-photo-by-adamsviscom_26827050207_oJohn Moore: You created some of your own animations for this production.

    Sam Buntrock: Yes, I have a history and an interest in combining projection and animation with live performance. And that was a lot of fun.

    John Moore: What do you want to say about the pedigree of your cast?

    Sam Buntrock: Well, casting for this show was a white-knuckle-ride, but we have collected a cast the caliber of which I couldn't have dreamed of across the board. They do extraordinary things on a vocal level, but they're also really good actors. It's been so rewarding with these actors to unearth all of the emotion and pain and truth inside of what Pete was playing with.

    John Moore: For fans of the film, will there be baked beans?

    Sam Buntrock: Ann-Margret's not here, but there will be baked beans on that stage at some point in the show, yes.

    John Moore: Let’s talk specifically about what Andy Mientus brings to the role of Tommy.

    Sam Buntrock: Andy fundamentally understands what fame is about from his own experiences. All of us in the Broadway community watch people get launched into the stratosphere. We see how people handle it, and some do it better than others. I think what Andy brings — and I mean this as the utmost compliment —  is a simplicity and an innocence, but without being childlike. He's very straightforward in the way he performs. His Tommy is very clear and very, very charismatic. Which he has to be, because he's the person who takes you on the journey. But also, when he’s experienced the effects of being famous, Andy is playing that with an honesty and a brutality that's really, really arresting. And it's real.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: You show more of young Tommy throughout than any previous staging of the show.

    Sam Buntrock: In this production, we meet the 4-year old at the very beginning of the show, and he takes us through his understanding of who he is and how he came to be. It's his story. The parents are incredibly important, but it's not their story; it's his story. Their story is only there because it makes his story.

    John Moore: What made you think you could take two 4-year-old kids off the street to share the role and know they could handle so much responsibility?

    Sam Buntrock. Photo by John MooreSam Buntrock: It was hairy initially, because first we had to find these kids who could really carry the show. And that was important to me because I think there's nothing like seeing a real 4-year old on stage to understand who Tommy was when all of this happened to him. To connect that frailty and vulnerability. Having any child on the stage is inherently fragile because you don't know what's going to happen next. And when Samuel Bird and Radley Wright are on the stage, it's incredibly fragile. As an audience member, you see a child on the stage and you wonder, ‘Well, how is it going to run?’ For me, the most unsatisfying part of seeing this show in the past has been that we only meet the 4-year old Tommy for about 90 seconds before the moment of violence that changes the course of his life. Everything that is his childhood gets internalized, and he goes into his stasis. And he’s gone. Now, if we've only seen that for 90 seconds, it's impactful, but it's not profound. If we see the whole story through his eyes, through his imagination, through his exuberance and innocence and hope, then the moment it gets internalized, I think that's a stomach punch.

    John Moore: What do you want to say to people who might be on the fence about coming to see a rock opera about a traumatized and exploited pinball wizard?

    Sam Buntrock: I've been approaching this show like Shakespeare. My goal is presenting a story that is clear on a visual level. This is a piece that has required every skill set; every part of what I can do and want to do. I believe that we are presenting this in a fresh way, in a very authentic way, that I hope has strong emotional resonance. But it also is really bloody entertaining, you know? This is rock and roll — and it goes up to 11.

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



    Video: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    Your first video look in video at scenes from the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'The Who's Tommy.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The Who's Tommy
    : Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
    The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27.To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.
  • The Who's Tommy: Opening night photos and celebration

    by John Moore | May 02, 2018
    Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'

    The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27, including behind-the-scenes photos backstage and the celebration afterward in the Seawell Ballroom.

    To see more images, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of downloadable photos. All photos may be downloaded and shared with credit: Photo booth images by Bamboo Booth. All other opening-night photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The Who's Tommy, based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, runs through May 27 in The Stage Theatre.

    Tommy Opening. Photo by John Moore
    That’s Radley Wright, who plays 4-year-old Tommy, off playing pinball while the openong-night party was going on in the Seawell Ballroom upstairs. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 
     
    Cast list:
    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/EnsembleDCPA_TheWhosTommy-800 Bamboo Booth
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright share the role of Young Tommy at age 4

    (Pictured above and right, our four Tommys: Andy Mientus holding Radley Wright (left) and Samuel Bird. Owen Zitek in front. Photo by Bamboo Booth.) 

    Creatives:

    • Music 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
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales

    Video: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    Your first video look in video at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'The Who's Tommy.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Photos: Your first look at the production photos:

    The Who's Tommy The first production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy
    : Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Video: Your first look at 'The Who's Tommy' at the Denver Center

    by John Moore | Apr 27, 2018

    Your first video look in video at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, running though May 27 on The 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. 'The Who's Tommy' is directed by Sam Buntrock and features Andy Mientus, Charl Brown and Betsy Morgan. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.  For information, call 303-893-4100 or go to denvercenter.org.

    Cast:

    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4
     

    Creatives

    • Music 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
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales

    Photos: Your first look at the production photos:

    The Who's Tommy The first production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. More photos will be added later this week. Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. 'The Who's Tommy' opens today.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Photos: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'

    Photos from the making of 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. More photos will be added later this week. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • Photos: Your first look at 'The Who's Tommy' at the Denver Center

    by John Moore | Apr 25, 2018
    The Who's Tommy Production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. 'The Who's Tommy' opens Friday.

    Cast:

    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4
     

    Creatives

    • Music 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
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Jed Feder: A lad in Boulder is now bowing in 'Aladdin' in Denver

    by John Moore | Apr 24, 2018
    JED FEDER QUOTE. Photo by John MooreJed Feder's earliest theatrical memory is attending a 1997 national touring production of 'Annie' at the Buell Theatre. Tonight, he officially joins the cast of Disney's 'Aladdin' on the very same stage. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  

    Boulder High graduate's wish came true to debut in Denver, just five days earlier than he or Disney originally planned

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Jed Feder’s magic carpet arrived in Denver about five days early.

    The Boulder native had been sitting for weeks on the happy news that he would be making his debut as Kassim in Disney’s Aladdin tonight (April 24) while the national touring production is visiting the same Buell Theatre where Feder grew up watching Broadway shows. Hometown stories don’t get any better.

    Only his does.

    Last Thursday, as Feder was on his way to the Buell for a regularly scheduled, five-hour rehearsal, he got a text telling him to stop by and see the production stage manager when he arrived. “So … do you want to go on tonight?" Michael McGoff asked Feder. Keep in mind, this was a full five days before Feder’s planned debut — and only eight hours before that night’s performance would begin in front of 2,800 people. Of course, Feder said yes. “And Michael was like, ‘Cool, let’s go do the rehearsal,’ ” Feder said with a laugh.

    There would be just enough time to summon Feder’s parents, Rob and Andrea, from Boulder, and his only sister Rachel, an English professor at the University of Denver. But not enough time for Feder’s girlfriend, who already had made plans to fly into Denver from Seattle for tonight’s show. “She was disappointed that she didn’t get to see what turned out to be my first performance — but she somehow got flowers sent to the stage door in less than an hour,” Feder said.

    Making Feder’s challenge all the greater was the fact that he wasn’t being promoted from within a show he already knows well. He is a newbie joining a cast that has been together on the road performing in front of nearly a million people over the past year. This would be Feder’s first time playing Kassim on any stage anywhere. And not just any stage. The stage where one of his earliest memories is seeing the touring production of Annie in 1997.

    But in the end, the evening was a thrilling, surreal success.

    “I was expecting to walk out on that stage and see nearly 3,000 people, but the most shocking part about it was that it was like walking into a black hole. You can't see anything,” Feder said. “But as soon as they started reacting and laughing, I could hear them. And then I could feel them. I could feel them breathing.”

    Feder credits the support he got from castmates Zach Bencal and Philippe Arroyo, who play Kassim’s layabout pals, Babkak and Omar. In the Broadway musical, these three characters replace Aladdin’s animated sidekick, Abu the monkey. “We basically serve as Aladdin's little street family,” Feder said. “Luckily, I am never on stage without those other two guys, and they totally got me through it. Toward the end I was just holding onto them. But we did it.”

    Broadway begins in Boulder

    TJed Feder family. he Feder family moved from Manhattan to north Boulder when Rachel was 4 years old and Jed was 6 months. Rob Feder is a real-estate land-conservation lawyer who specializes in open space, while Andrea’s background is in social work. “When I was born, my parents had this realization that they did not want the city life for us,” Jed said. Instead they raised their children on the go and out of doors: Backpacking, camping, canoeing. Anything under the sun. “Being outdoors was a big family value,” said Feder.

    So was the arts. The Feders exposed their children to every form, from fine arts to music to theatre. Jed picked up a guitar when he was 6. The family took regular culture trips to New York. “Everywhere we went, we were going to museums and seeing theatre,” said Jed, who got hooked on any art that moved. “My dad loved the museums most, but I'm color-blind, so I never really took to art as much. I was rewarded for my patience in the museums by seeing the shows later that night.”

    Disney names a new Aladdin for Denver: Clinton Greenspan

    Back home, Jed attended many stage shows with his grandmother at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre (now BDT Stage). She took Rachel and Jed on separate special trips to see classics like The Music Man and Camelot. “I remember it was all about the Bosco Sticks,” Feder said with a laugh. “That, and I was really into their souvenir glasses.”

    Jed’s first show as an actor was a family affair. The Feders joined a community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof that was performed in the outdoor pavilion at Chautauqua Park.

    JED FEDER 800 BACK“It was really my sister who wanted to do the show, and my dad told me, ‘Well, then, you're going to do it, too.’ I was 7 at the time, and I remember my dad pushing me to all the places where I was supposed to stand on the stage. I also remember getting my cheek pinched by Yente.”

    Feder attended Boulder High School, where he performed in West Side Story, Chicago and Jesus Christ Superstar. “My big breakthrough was playing Mary Sunshine in Chicago,” Feder said of a female reporter who eventually reveals herself to be a man. Feder went to Northwestern as a math and film major, though he eventually dropped the math for music composition. His unusual path since has evolved into what he calls “half as an actor, half as a drummer.” His resume lists among his special talents: “Extreme finger-snapping and body percussionist.”  

    But for a young man who has never followed a beeline toward one specific field of performance, the live theatre has done a good deal of steering for him. He was cast in a big-time production of Mother Courage and Her Children at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. that was directed by one legend (Molly Smith) and starred another (Kathleen Turner). He also has performed for the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

    The family that dances together

    He landed his role in the dance-heavy Disney’s Aladdin tour simply by showing up at a Chicago audition. And he got it, despite not having any actual dance training. Unless you count the innumerable bar mitzvahs and weddings the Feder family has attended in Boulder over the past few decades. “I come from a family of good movers. I mean we are not shy people,” Feder said. “Whenever there was a party, my family hit the dance floor.”

    Jed Feder guitar But still, Disney’s Aladdin is a show with big, aerobic musical numbers that last eight and 12 minutes at a time.

    “Well, the dancing has certainly been the hardest part for me to get into my body,” he said. “But I did grow up doing some swing dancing just for fun. And at Northwestern, I was in this group called Boom Shaka. It's a rhythm-and-dance ensemble that was sort of like Stomp. It was half drummers and half dancers. Those dance majors at Northwestern upped my game, for sure.”

    And now Feder is appearing in Aladdin, based on a film he grew up watching at home until the VHS tape wore out. Appropriately witnessed by the family who encoded the story into his DNA.

    “It is an ongoing joke in my family for my dad to say, ‘Who disturbs my slumber?’ ” Feder said of the famously terrifying threat issued to Aladdin by the tiger in the Cave of Wonders. But it’s been going on so many years now, even his parents had forgotten where exactly it came from — until they saw Feder’s first performance as Kassim last week.

    Celina Nightengale is doing her happy dance in Denver

    “After the show, my mom was like, ‘Did you remember that that was from Aladdin?’ ”

    Feder says it’s especially fun for him to watch Aladdin on stage through adult eyes and compare it to the kid-friendly animated film he grew up on.

    “I actually saw the show really soon after it opened on Broadway, just because I wanted to,” Feder said. “I think it very much honors the original film while also honoring the tradition of a big Broadway musical at the same. There's really something for everyone. I mean, you've got these big, Broadway production numbers. You've got Disney magic going on all over the stage. And when I first saw the magic carpet, my jaw literally dropped. It really sucks you in. It's a good family night. It's a good date night. It's just incredible.”

    JED FEDER. Photo by John Moore. Feder’s quirky, multidisciplinary career includes a college band that has been compared to Tenacious D. “We call it comedic contemporary rock,” he said with a laugh. He also has scored two musicals, including one that premiered at North Carolina State University last October. “It's called Beowulf: Lord of the Bros,” he said with another laugh. “It's a modern bromantic comedy adaptation of Beowulf.”

    With so many different directions to follow, Feder was asked when he realized that his immediate future is in the live theatre. In Aladdin.

    “I don't really know,” he said. “I guess when I got cast in this show.”

    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.

    Photo gallery: Jed Feder in Boulder

    Jed Feder in Disney's 'Aladdin'
    Boulder native Jed Feder he has provided some photos of his early life in Colorado with his family. Also photos of Feder on the Buell Theatre stage by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.


    Disney's Aladdin: Ticket information
    Disney’s AladdinFrom the producer of The Lion King comes the timeless story of Aladdin, a thrilling new production filled with unforgettable beauty, magic, comedy and breathtaking spectacle. It’s an extraordinary theatrical event where one lamp and three wishes make the possibilities infinite.
    • National touring production
    • Performances through April 28
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Disney's Aladdin:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Aladdin Photo by Deen van Meer 'Aladdin.' Photo by Deen van Meer.
  • John Ahlin of 'Native Gardens' on what theatre can learn from Comic-Con

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2018
    mariana-fernandez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_o
    Photo by Adams VisCom.

    Broadway veteran's garden grew out of a dream to be a forest ranger. Now he's tilling the soil in the Space Theatre.  

    MEET JOHN AHLIN
    John-Ahlin-Jefferson-Mays-in-the-2007-Broadway-revival-of-Journeys-End-at-the-Belasco-Theatre.-Photo-by-Paul-Kolnik.John Ahlin, who plays gardening fan Frank Butley in Native Gardens, has appeared on Broadway in seven productions including Waiting for Godot with Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin, 2007 Tony Award-winning Best Revival Journey’s End (alongside DCPA master's graduate John Behlmann), The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Macbeth, and others. Other New York credits include Orson Welles in Orson’s Shadow (Barrow Street Theatre), Gray Area (Barrow Group), ChipandGus (Soho Playhouse) and others. TV and film credits include: “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Coen Brothers), “Law & Order: SVU,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “As the World Turns” and many more. (Pictured above: John Ahlin and Jefferson Mays in Journey's End.' Photo by Paul Kolnik.)

    • Hometown: Aurora
    • Home now: New York
    • Training: BFA from Syracuse University Go Orange
    • Website: JohnAhlin.com
    • Twitter-sized bio: Actor, playwright, thinker: Lives 36 floors above New York City: Works hard: Plays nice: Likes all people and distant train whistles
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? Out of high school, I wanted to be a forest ranger, and I was sidetracked by theatre in college and never looked back. I still have the “what if” pangs whenever I look up at forested mountains, and as I type this I can look out to see some snowy Rockies. There is where I’d most likely be if not for acting.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Not a prideful fellow I, but I feel I’m able to perform myriad roles somewhat effectively, and am not pigeonholed into a type. For example, I’ve appeared on Broadway in a splashy musical, a whodunit, a contemporary Irish black comedy, an all-black musical revue, a Shakespeare, an absurdist classic and a Tony Award-winning revival of a World War I drama. I did, however, once get mis-booked on a radio show where I thought I was going to promote a play I had written, and they instead thought I was a bright young comedian. Luckily I was quick-witted enough to survive that interview, but I wouldn’t want to do that again.
    • John+Ahlin+as+FalstaffBucket-list role: If I were forced to list my all-time bucket-list role, it would be Lear. A small portion of the rest of the list: Willie Loman, Big Daddy, Sheridan Whiteside, Walter Burns, Estragon and Mama Rose. (Note: I included Mama Rose because, in theory, after you complete your bucket list, don’t you kick the bucket? If I have one un-played role on my list, I hope to stave off the inevitable end.)
    • What's playing on your Spotify? "Levon" by Elton John, "Everybody’s Talkin’ " by Harry Nilsson, "Elusive Butterfly of Love" by Bob Lind, "Gentle on My Mind" by Glen Campbell and "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat and Tears — my favorite band. I would call these my top-five favorite songs, and it wasn’t until this little exercise that I realized what was alike about them all: Scope. The expansive reflection on one’s life, both past and future and its echoing through time.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I have done Falstaff 11 times — and I’d be happy to do him 11 more times. (Pictured above right.)
    • 200 Mark Rylance. jerusalem. (Photo by Simon Annand)One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: Watching Mark Rylance in Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth was the happy confluence of seeing both the greatest performance and the greatest play I had ever witnessed, at the same time. And to see such a marvel, after my nearly four decades in show business, was more than an inspiring glimpse of what theatre can be. It was a rejuvenating experience, fueling me to go on, to keep wondering, and seeking the surprises that lurk around every corner of life. (Pictured at right: Mark Rylance in 'Jerusalem.' Photo by Simon Annand.)
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? This is a bit wacky, but I think everyone who makes or markets theatre should go to a Comic-Con and see the enthusiasm of the crowds of young people lining up around the outside of the convention center, and then just ponder what it is that drives these joyous fans to surrender themselves completely to the stories, characters and ambience. There are probably many revelations that can come just by thinking and wondering how to nurture, increase, reciprocate and reward fandom for theatre — and not just the young, but all theatregoers.
    • What is Native Gardens all about? Karen Zacarías' play is about a young Latino couple who move into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though their neighbors have the best intentions, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
    • Why does Native Gardens matter? Native Gardens is what all good theatre should be: the lifting out of ideas and concepts intrinsic to life, to be examined in a focused and palatable way. The themes, characters, plot and style blend beautifully so that the play makes its points through behavior and not comment. This play wonderfully fulfills theatre’s purpose, where we humans gather in one big room and debate life through our stories.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Native Gardens? Someone once said “the audience is the only genius in theatre,” so what they get out of it is all that really matters. I have a feeling they will get a wonderful and funny night of theatre, but more, they will see a play that shakes preconceived notions and will cause the audience to look at something afresh, as if for the first time. And hint at avenues of hope.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? I think too many people are getting things off their chests. I’m far more interested in common ground and common pursuits.  There are an awful lot of good things to be done without all the complaints and recriminations dividing people.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing 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 Virgina 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 play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
  • Video: A tree grows ... and grows ... in 'Native Gardens'

    by John Moore | Apr 19, 2018

    Video: DCPA Theatre Company Charge Scenic Artist Jana Mitchell talks about the creative challenges that came with building a massive 30-foot indoor tree. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    How the DCPA's team of scenic artists built a 30-foot indoor tree for a play in the round without blocking audience views

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The set for the DCPA Theatre Company’s new comedy Native Gardens is dominated by a large and meaningful oak tree that grows tall and encompasses the entire space above and below the stage.

    But the Space Theatre is in-the-round, which means the indoor tree posed a significant creative challenge for Scenic Designer Lisa M. Orzolek and her team of artists for this first-ever staging of Karen Zacarías' celebrated comedy in a theatre where the audience is seated in a circle all around the stage.

    The play centers on two neighboring couples at odds over the location of their property line — and the presence of a massive backyard oak tree that one couple loves but aggravates the other when it drops its leaves, acorns and branches on the other side of the fence.

    How did she pull it off? “That's the magic of theatre," Orzolek teased.

    Jana Mitchell On the page, it would seem that the tree should be located between the two houses, just on one side of the property line closest to the fence. But that would be the middle of the Space Theatre, and you can't put a big tree in the middle of a round stage because of the sightline problems that would create for audiences. So Orzolek put the tree in one of the theatre’s five “voms” (or actor entranceways). And then built it to such a massive size that its branches still create all kinds of havoc for the neighboring couple.

    “In order for the tree to reach all the way across the theatre into the neighbor’s yard, it just kept getting taller and longer and wider,” Orzolek said. "It goes up and then comes back down. In the end, it was 24 feet tall and 30 feet wide.”

    The tree began as a tiny clay model. Then came wood, steel, chicken wire and muslin. “The bark structure is actually carpet padding,” Orzolek said. “Our amazing scenic-artist team just ripped carpet padding into strips to make bark and then they spray-painted it with drywall texture." It's a technique former DCPA Scenic Artist Brian Proud invented for The Secret Graden. 

    The tree plays a major part in the story, and not just because it represents a physical point of contention. It reveals differences in the way the two couples look at the world.

    “The oak tree is very important in any native garden,” Zacarías said. “They have the most biodiversity of any tree species.”

    And that's relevant to one of the couples, and hogwash to the other.

    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.

    Making of 'Native Gardens'Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens: Ticket information
    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing 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 Virgina 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 play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Blues queen Erica Brown on taking care of our veterans

    by John Moore | Apr 18, 2018
    Quote Honorable Disorder Erica Brown Theo Wilson  Celia HerreraURBN Brands

    Erica Brown and Theo Wilson in 'Honorable Disorder.' Photo by Celia Herrera/URBN Brands.

    The new Emancipation Theater tackles the difficult issue of how we support our veterans when they return from war

    MEET ERICA BROWN
    Erica Brown, who has been called "Colorado's Queen of the Blues," plays Nancy Foster, mother of a Denver military veteran struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the new play Honorable Disorder. This is the inaugural production by the new Emancipation Theater Company, and is being hosted at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre. Brown, namesake of the former Erica Brown Band, has worked with some of the finest artists in the world, including B.B. King, Al Green, Delbert McClinton, Tab Benoit, Kenny Neal and, most recently, Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters

    • Dan-Treanor-Erica-Brown-Steve-Mack-Photo-01-02-2013-International-Blues-Challenge-Finals-Orpheum-Theatre-Memphis-TNHometown: Sikeston, Mo.
    • Home now: Denver
    • Training: Degree in Management from the University of Phoenix
    • What's your handle? @ericabrownenter on Twitter and @ericabrownentertainment on Instagram
    • Website: ericabrownentertainment.com (photo at right by Steve Mack)
    • Twitter-sized bio: Nerdy girl who loves the blues, history, reading, African-American science fiction and romance — and her family.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Hasn't happened yet. I've been uniquely suited to every role I've played so far. 
    • Bucket-list role: It doesn't exist: I'd love to play a lead role as a magical teacher-mentor — who also just happens to be a witch or a sorceress —  -n a Harry Potter-style stage play with black characters fighting the forces of evil in America. Black women are not heralded enough for their lives as wise women, crones, witches and Curandera in American theatre and film, and such a production has never been put on, as far as I know.   
    • Big Mama ThorntonWhat's playing on your Spotify? Any old guard blues woman such as Koko Taylor, Big Mama Thornton (pictured right), Memphis Minnie (or Erica Brown 😊 )
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? One of my original passions in life was to be a librarian, because I so love history. I would have made a great museum curator. I love old things.
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: When my truly stage-frightened daughter stepped up to the musical plate and slayed an audience of 6,000 people singing at her first real gig — at the Telluride Blues Festival!
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? Let's engage them in difficult conversations through theatre. Our play Honorable Disorder has strong language and situations, but we should not necessarily shelter our youth from the realities of life. One of our attendees last weekend was a young teenager, and she absolutely loved and understood everything about our play.
    • What is Honorable Disorder all about? Honorable Disorder, written by pioneering local hip-hop and spoken-word artist Jeff Campbell, tells the story of DeShawn Foster, a native of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood and a veteran of  Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following the loss of his commanding officer and father figure, DeShawn struggles to hold on to his “Soldier’s Creed” back home in Denver.
    • Why does Honorable Disorder matter? Because we are tackling the difficult issue of how we support our veterans when they return from war. It also explores the difficulties the families of returning servicemen and women face, and the scarcity of support they receive. We also talk about and portray homelessness, drug addiction and poverty. These are important conversations that should be at the forefront of how we care for and about ourselves as a nation.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Honorable Disorder? A sincere desire to go back into their communities and make real change happen for our vets and their families and support systems. The conversations and help must be real and ongoing. They've been there for us, now it's time for us to step up and care for them.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Let's all just try to love each other without anger, rancor and violence, please.  We can do it!

    April theatre listings: Don't pass on Fox's Passing Strange

     Honorable Disorder Erica Brown Devon James Photo by Celia HerreraURBN BrandsDenver Center Teaching Artist Devon James, left, and Erica Brown in 'Honorable Disorder.' Photo by Celia Herrera/URBN Brands.

    Honorable Disorder: Ticket information

    • Presented by Emancipation Theater Company
    • Written and directed by Jeff Campbell
    • Performances through April 29
    • At Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, 119 Park Avenue West
    • Tickets at EmancipationTheater.com
      or email emancipationtheaterco@gmail.com

    Remaining performances:

    • 8 p.m., Friday, April 20
    • 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21
    • 6 p.m., Sunday, April 22
    • 8 p.m., Friday, April 27
    • 8 p.m. Saturday, April 28
    • 6 p.m., Sunday, April 29

    Cast list:

    • Theo Wilson, Erica Brown, Chet W. Sisk, Corey Rhoads and Devon James

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    • Meet Elizabeth Bernhardt of Phamaly's Romeo and Juliet
    • Meet Sheryl McCallum of Aurora Fox's Passing Strange
    • Meet Brynn Tucker of Off-Center's This is Modern Art
    • Meet Gustavo Márquez of DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of Off-Center's This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Denver Children's Theatre's Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of DCPA Theatre Company's Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Lone Tree Arts Center's Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • 'Tommy': How The Who went from smashing guitars to blowing people's minds

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2018
    Sam Buntrock. Photo by John Moore
    Performances of the DCPA Theatre Company's staging of 'The Who's Tommy' begin Saturday. Photo of Director Sam Buntrock by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Director Sam Buntrock says 50 years on, Tommy's true wizardry remains its emotionally authentic storytelling

    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Remember The Who’s Tommy? Remember when it played Denver’s Buell Theatre in 1994? Maybe you were too young.

    The show was very young then too, known mostly by hearsay or from the 1969 rock concept album on which it is based. It had made waves by elevating the life of a deaf, mute and blind boy whose prodigious talent at pinball makes him a celebrity. By applying what was then a lot of new technology to his fertile imagination, director Des McAnuff’s 1992 transfer of that iconic album to the La Jolla Playhouse stage in San Diego took musical theatre to a whole new level of innovation.

    At the time, The Who was a British rock group seeking broader recognition, so the album’s breakthrough in London — and the rock opera created in La Jolla — became sensations. Rock operas were still uncommon. There had been Hair (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), both huge, to say nothing of The Rocky Horror Show that exploded on several London stages in 1973 before spreading across the globe with its enduring popularity.

    Rommy Sam Buntrock Andy Mientus. Photo by John MooreTommy was different. Its La Jolla opening with its flashy tech effects, its combination of heartbreaking story and unrestrained flamboyance, was a big surprise. The tools were the same, but watching the astonishing fall and rise of a traumatized child on stage offered a deeper and deeply thrilling experience. The subsequent 1993 Broadway run set box-office records, and the show traveled to Denver the following year on the wings of great press and five Tony Awards.

    (Pictured: Sam Buntrock with Andy Mientus (Tommy) on the first day of rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Today’s DCPA Theatre Company revival is a homegrown incarnation, with a live band and reinvented staging by director Sam Buntrock, whose Frankenstein at the DCPA and whose West End direction of Sunday In the Park With George scored high marks.

    “I’ve never directed Tommy before,” he said by email earlier this spring. “In the ’60s, Townsend wrote the score to be performed in concert. In the ’90s he worked with Des McAnuff to transform it into a big and brilliant stage musical. I suspect mine will be a more emotionally driven, intimate version of the show. I’m approaching that version through the lens of contemporary theatrical conventions.

    “Audiences have become accustomed to simpler, more distilled storytelling, the sort whose thrills are precise and unexpected. With Tommy, I’m excited to stage a fantastical show that has, at its heart, a rich and emotionally authentic story.”

    Video: Andy Mientus, Lulu Fall sing for Denver Actors Fund

    Among the new ideas Buntrock brings to his staging is younger casting, including that of Andy Mientus (of TV’s “Smash” and Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening) as Tommy.

    “Of course, there are children written into the fabric of the show — 4-year-old and 10-year-old Tommy,” Buntrock said. “These two are givens, though our 4-year-old may play a larger part than people expect.

    Sam Buntock Tommy“The only other child is a teenaged Kevin. The story spans some 20 years, and Kevin is one of the characters who features through most of the timeline. So if he interacts with 10-year-old Tommy, and then adult Tommy, it’s powerful to see him grow up too. How that doubling works and what the payoff is, are both things conceived in service of creating a credible family on stage.” 

    (Right: 'Tommy' artwork by DCPA Theatre Company Director Sam Buntrock.)

    Pete Townshend, The Who’s lead guitarist, composed most of the score for Tommy. He told Applause magazine in 1994 “that story is, in a sense, my life brought up-to-date. I didn’t quite realize how autobiographical it was. Not just of me, but of the people around me at the time … everybody in the group. Not only was it an important step for us artistically, it also was the critical financial breakthrough for a group that, up to that point, had been known for wearing funny clothes and pop-art outfits and smashing guitars.”   

    Almost 50 years on, the Tommy story, and especially its score, still resonate.

    Four-year-old Tommy is thrown into a catatonic state after he witnesses a traumatic family event reflected in a mirror. It makes him instantly deaf, dumb and blind. This triple whammy brings him the wrong kinds of attention; he struggles through childhood, badgered and abused — until he discovers he has a freakish talent for winning at pinball. 

    In late adolescence, when he’s accidentally present as his mother, in a moment of despair, smashes the same mirror that caused his catatonia, Tommy is magically healed. The revitalized pinball wizard becomes an international star before evolving into a sentient, responsive and compassionate human being. All this melodrama, married to its stunning musical score, results in a rock opera whose alchemy is practically addictive.

    When asked if he agrees that what continues to make the show so gripping
    is this melding of music, magic, mystery, mysticism and melodrama,
    Buntrock demurred.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Yes. In part. It remains so gripping because it is one of the greatest musical scores ever written,” he said. “It’s not faux musical theatre rock and roll, it’s … rock and roll. All those ‘m’s are intrinsic to what Townshend was exploring when he wrote it.

    “Ultimately,” he added, “it’s a deeply honest exploration of Townshend’s own childhood. With Tommy, with his prone passivity, we have a hero we can all project ourselves upon. Yes, it’s magnified and melodramatic, but it’s rock and roll, so what do you expect? And despite this, I think it has something profound to say about our relationship to our childhood selves.”

    Theatre, being a primary champion of human understanding, often takes the lead in reversing secretive old-fashioned attitudes. Tommy is an example of art shining a light into the darkness and, in former theatre critic Frank Rich’s words, “spreading catharsis like wildfire through the cheering house.

    Sylvie Drake is a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a translator, a contributor to culturalweekly.com and American Theatre magazine, and a former Director of Media Relations and Publications for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    Tommy cast Photo by John MooreThe cast of 'The Who's Tommy' at its first rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based 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.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances April 21-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Brynn Tucker of 'This is Modern Art': What are we willing to risk?

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

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

    This is Modern Art at Native Gardens opening

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

  • Backyard border dispute: How does your garden grumble?

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2018

    Your first video look at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'Native Gardens." Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. 

     

    Good fences make for good neighbors in new comedy about couples who draw a property line in the sand


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    These days, sure, we can choose our own families. But unless you live in a commune, you don’t really get to pick your own neighbors. And America’s great, ongoing ideological divide could not be expressed more definitively — or apparently, more comically — than in a play about a property line dispute between neighbors.

    KAREN ZACARIAS. Photo by John MooreThat’s the thorn in the rose of Karen Zacarías’ popular comedy Native Gardens. On one side of the fence, we have a pregnant Latinx couple who are new to town. On the other we have empty-nesters who think “Latinx” must surely be a misspelled word. (It's not.) Trouble blooms when the younger couple discovers their property line actually extends right over their next- door-Boomers’ pristine flowerbed.

    “It’s a deceptively simple play,” Chicago-based Director Lisa Portes said. “At first you might think you are watching this charming and disarming little play about neighbors and gardens. But the minute there is a dispute over 2 feet of land — all hell breaks loose.”

    Zacarías, a native of Mexico who penned previous DCPA Theatre Company stagings of Mariela in the Desert and Just Like Us, got the idea for her play at a dinner party where the guests all traded horror stories about their neighbors. Everyone, it seems, has one.

    “All of these stories, I found, were both upsetting and funny,” Zacarías said. “And what I discovered in listening to them is that we seem to have this primal attachment to land that is both poetic and absurd at the same time. And then I realized that almost every single fight that’s going on anywhere in the world can be distilled down to one of these two things: border disputes and cultural differences.”

    mariana-fernndez-john-ahlin-ryan-garbayo-photo-by-adamsviscom_26525867837_oWhat comes out on stage, Portes said, is an accessible comedy that explores weedy issues we don’t dare talk about in our own living rooms but maybe we can laugh at in the communal anonymity of a theatre.

    At a time when the nation is polarized by talk of borders and walls, Zacarías found a way to use gardening as what she calls “a really fun metaphor to talk about really much harder issues like class and race and ageism .”

    (Pictured above and right: Mariana Fernandez and John Ahlin in 'Native Gardens.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Even the title asks a prickly little question, Portes said: “What is native? Who is native? What does that word even mean? It’s not as black and white as we think.”

    The inaugural staging of Native Gardens accomplished something quite rare when the play was praised by a local reviewer both for having “a finger pressed to the pulse of the American mood” and for “its ability to make you forget the current political and social climate.” At the same time.

    That’s probably because Native Gardens, Zacarías said, puts no one on the defensive. “It’s sneaky that way,” she said. “I wrote all four main characters from a place of love. There’s a simplicity to the set-up, and that’s on purpose. It allows the play to sow some seeds and grow some deeper roots. And the audience is willing to go there together because really nobody comes up smelling like a rose.”

    LISA PORTES QUOTE. Photo by John Moore. Native Gardens premiered in 2016, before the ascendency of Donald Trump. But while debate over immigration has raged for as long as America, there is no question it now tops a list of issues Zacarías says “are bubbling to the surface in a vicious manner.”

    Zacarías experienced something similar in 2014, when she adapted Denver journalist Helen Thorpe’s book Just Like Us for its Denver Center world premiere. That true story followed four Denver Latinas through high school, and told how their struggles and opportunities diverged based on their citizenship status.

    “I was hoping Just Like Us would become less relevant over time, but unfortunately it’s only become more relevant,” Zacarías said, referring to the ongoing battle over the immigration policy known as DACA. And with the rise of Trump, she said, the same has proven true of Native Gardens. Only this play is much funnier.

    Zacarías and Portes were among the so-called “DC-8” who started a national movement called The Latinx Theatre Commons in 2012 to amplify the visibility of Latinx theatre in the United States. Since then, Portes has directed the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Breach, a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in Chicago, as well as an all-Latinx version of The Glass Menagerie for Cal Shakes in northern California.

    Read more: Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    Zacarías, now the most produced Latinx playwright in America, last month launched a high-profile production for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival called Destiny of Desire, a subversive homage to telenovelas, which she calls “one of the most exploitative forms of entertainment in the world.”

    Native Gardens has already had several productions around the country, but the Denver Center’s will be the first to be staged in the round configuration,” which Portes said “almost makes this like a world premiere because that will create an entirely different actor-audience relationship. The audience will be its own kind of community circling this other community of actors, and we’re all sitting together in this real garden with real plants and flowers.”

    Zacarías said the Denver Center staging also will be a first because it will introduce small, first-time improvements to the script. “I do think this will be a whole different take on the play,” she said.

    “Native Gardens is a story that asks what it takes to be a good neighbor. It is about four specific, flawed people — but it’s not really about them. It’s about us. And how all of us can be better neighbors.”

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Native Gardens: Production photos

    Native Gardens Photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Native Gardens
    : Ticket information

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing 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 Virgina 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 play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.

    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 6
    • Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Native Gardens:
    Native Gardens Opening Night. Photo by John Moore. Cast and creatives on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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