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

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2017

    Fall Casting 800 Photos by Adams Viscom

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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

    Grady Soapes Quote


    Denver Center Fall 2017 Casting:

    Macbeth: 17 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

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

    Actors from Colorado:

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


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

    Actors living in Colorado:

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

    Smart People: Four actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Timothy McCracken
    Actors from Colorado:
    • Jason Veasey

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

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

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

    • Barbara Gehring
    • Linda Klein
    • Amie MacKenzie

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

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

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

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

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Adriane Leigh Robinson as Casey
    • Seth Dhonau as Aaron
    • Steven J. Burge as Man 1
    • Aaron Vega as Man 2 (Nov. 11-Dec. 3)
    • Jordan Leigh as Man 2 (Dec. 5-April 22)
    • Lauren Shealy as Woman 1
    • Barret Harper as Male Understudy
    • Cashelle Butler as Female Understudy
  • 2017 True West Award: The Tramps

    by John Moore | Nov 29, 2017
    TW-Award-1-Bouchard-Scrutchins-Gregory-McCracken

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 1: The Tramps

    Michael Bouchard and Sean Scrutchins
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
    Colorado Shakespeare Festival

    Sam Gregory and Timothy McCracken
    Waiting for Godot
    Arvada Center

    Scholars have long connected the lineage of the tramps from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead back to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, though all winding, endless roads begin with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And all four were brought to brilliantly funny and heartbreaking life this year by four of Denver’s leading actors.

    WaitingForGodot400In both plays, two bewildered men bide their pointless time in a theatrical void while the real action unfolds somewhere … off-stage. Each play presents two insignificant tramps pondering the philosophies of a universe full of fear and uncertainty. These are plays that unravel in worlds where we are told “nothing ever happens," and yet — quite a lot happened in these kindred stagings, thanks to the work of this powerhouse foursome. 

    Theatre of the absurd, once so shocking for its subversion of theatre's traditional values, often leaves modern audiences baffled and scratching their heads. These four brought clarity to the incoherence with precise physical and tongue-twisting comedy.

    And to further muddy the absurdist bloodlines: Gregory also appeared in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (as The Player) and Scrutchins likewise appeared in Waiting for Godot (as The Boy). Not to menton: Bouchard, Scrutchins and Gregory all appeared in Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Hamlet (as Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and The Ghost) — because apparently all of this wasn't meta enough.

    What they are saying:

    • Timothy Orr, director, 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead': “Any good comedy team, from Laurel and Hardy to the Blues Brothers, needs to have this psychic connection between them, and Sean and Michael had it. They were connected. They were breathing the same air. And as actors, they were both playing the funny and the straight man at the same time, which is extremely difficult to do.”
    • RosencrantzGuildenstern-CSF17-JMK-1842Geoffrey Kent, Director, 'Waiting for Godot': "Nothing helps a pairing like friendship, and Sam and Tim are old friends. They met on the Denver Center's 1994 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I watched from the audience. Didi and Gogo are introduced to the audience in the middle of a 50-year old conversation, and that personal history helps. In addition, Sam and Tim are the best listeners I know, intuitively and honestly reacting to each other from line to line. A truly fearless pair of actors."
    • Gary Zeidner, Boulder Weekly: "Whether they’re flipping quarters, forgetting which is Rosencrantz and which is Guildenstern, or delivering Stoppard’s sterling dialogue (like, “Who is the English King? Depends on when we get there”), Bouchard and Scrutchins are two of the most interesting and talented younger actors working the Front Range today. Like a modern-day Abbott and Costello, they are more than a pleasure to watch.”
    • Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post: "The power of Beckett’s words beams through, thanks to fine, bittersweet performances by Sam Gregory and Timothy McCracken knocking about as perfect vaudevillians. The actors’ chemistry is first-rate, finding desperation beneath the comedy that doesn’t dilute the profound despair at the heart of the play. The production packs a wallop.”

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    Michael BouchardMichael Bouchard 2017:

    • Ensemble, Jesus Christ Superstar, Arvada Center
    • Rosencrantz, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Rosencrantz, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Northumberland, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • David, The SantaLand Diaries, BETC and DCPA Off-Center, through Dec. 24


    Sam Gregory 160Sam Gregory 2017:
    • Dr. Lyman, Bus Stop, Arvada Center
    • Vladimir, Waiting for Godot, Arvada Center
    • Ghost/The Player, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • The Player, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, DCPA Theatre Company, through Dec. 24



    Timothy McCrackenTimothy McCracken 2017:

    • Estragon, Waiting for Godot, Arvada Center
    • Brian, Smart People, DCPA Theatre Company
    • Scrooge understudy, A Christmas Carol, DCPA Theatre Company, through Dec. 24
    • Head of Acting, DCPA Education


    A Sean Scrutchins 160Sean Scrutchins 2017:

    • Bo, Bus Stop, Arvada Center
    • Boy, Waiting for Godot, Arvada Center
    • Guildenstern, Rosencrantz and Are Dead, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Guildenstern, Hamlet, Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    • Frank, Appropriate, Curious Theatre
    • Dan (mostly), Body of an American, Curious Theatre, through Dec. 9

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

    The 2017 True West Awards

     

  • 5 things you don't know about Nataki Garrett

    by John Moore | Oct 26, 2017
    Nataki Garrett

     

    She's smart, in demand and making her Denver directorial debut with the Denver Center's Smart People.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    What you might not know about new Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett, who makes her Denver — and Denver Center — directing debut with Lydia R. Diamond’s Smart People, playing through Nov. 19 in the Ricketson Theatre:

    NUMBER 1Macbeth. Nataki Garrett SHE'S SMART PEOPLE. Garrett attended California Institute of the Arts to study theatre and went on to become the associate dean and the co-head of the undergraduate acting program at CalArts’ School of Theater. She became the DCPA Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director in January. (She's pictured right at the recent opening of the DCPA's reimagined 'Macbeth.')

    NUMBER 2 SHE'S IN DEMAND. Garrett directed Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ celebrated antebellum melodrama An Octoroon last year for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, a run that was so celebrated it was remounted in August. After her DCPA Theatre Company directorial debut, she will helm Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre’s staging of Aziza Barnes’ BLKS followed by Jefferson’s Garden at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. “These gigs confirm her status and the Denver Center’s place in the national conversation about theater’s future,” wrote Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post.  

    NUMBER 3SHE'S ADMIRED. “She’s a breath of fresh air. I think she’s a strong, visionary artist and director,” DCPA CEO Janice Sinden told The Denver Post in February. “I think she’s going to inspire us. I think she has a great eye for how we can engage new and different audiences at the DCPA as well. I’m beyond excited.”

    NUMBER 4 SHE'S MIXING THINGS UP. Garrett has established close artistic relationship ties with some of the boldest new voices in the American theatre, including Jacobs-Jenkins (a MacArthur Fellow and Obie winner), Katori Hall (The Mountaintop), Timberlake Wertenbaker (Jefferson’s Garden), and Sigrid Gilmer. Who is Sigrid Gilmer? According to her own website, “she makes black comedies that are historically bent, totally perverse, joyfully irreverent and are concerned with issues of identity, pop culture and contemporary American society.”

    NUMBER 5SHE'S ON THE RISE. Garrett was highlighted in the November issue of American Theatre’s “Role Call: People To Watch.” In that feature, she was quoted as saying she’s attracted to “plays that seem impossible to stage, and to those which impact us in tremendous ways, chasing us out of our comfort zones. My mandate in the theatre is to give voice to the voiceless, and I am inspired by stories that expose the dark and discarded in the corners of our existence.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. No matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life.

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




  • 'Smart People': First-look video, Opening Night photos

    by John Moore | Oct 25, 2017
    Video:

    Video above: Your first look at the DCPA Theatre Company's Smart People, by Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. The cast includes, below from left: Jason Veasey,  Esther Chen, Director Nataki Garrett, Tatiana Williams and Timothy McCracken. Smart People runs through Nov. 19 in the Ricketson Theatre. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photo gallery: Smart People Opening Night and more:
    Making of 'Smart People'
    Photos above from the making of Smart People, including the Opening Night celebration on Oct. 20, 2017. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. No matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    In Smart People, the race is on from the start
    Perspectives: Could racism be filtered out through genetics?
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
    Photos, story: Smart People opens rehearsals in full swing
  • 'Smart People': The race is on from the start

    by John Moore | Oct 24, 2017
    Smart People
    Production photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' directed by Nataki Garrett and featuring Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Playwright Lydia R. Diamond refutes the notion that bigotry is owned only by certain people. No one is exempt.

    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People is a loaded title for a loaded play. 

    It opens with projected images: diverse people, young, old, rich, poor, engaged in various activities. When I asked the play’s author, Lydia R. Diamond, what these images meant, she thought for a moment.  

    Lydia_R._Diamond“I wanted to open with a sense of the diversity of the characters,” she said with gravitas. “I wanted to inspire the director in a certain direction. I write from a very visual place, particularly when it’s about race.” 

    And yes, Smart People is about race. 

    Diamond is meticulous when it comes to intent. Her talents now include writing for film and television as well as theatre, and she was in the middle of writing for Showtime’s The Affair when we spoke on the phone. This required that she pull her mind off that project to discuss her 2014 play. 

    Four complicated people vie for our attention in Smart People: Brian, a white, tenured Harvard professor of neuropsychiatry with an entitlement issue who’s pursuing a controversial project; Valerie, a young African-American struggling to break through as a professional actress; Ginny, a Chinese-Japanese-American professor of psychology at Harvard with a serious shopping habit who focuses on identity issues among Asian-American women; and Jackson, an African-American medical resident with an attitude, fresh out of Harvard Med and eyeing a career as a surgeon. 

    If these thumbnail descriptions sound rooted in academia, they are. 

    “My mother was a college professor,” Diamond offered. “I grew up in a family of academics.” 

    Her own career has included stints as a professor and, although they are now divorced, she was married to a Harvard professor with whom she has a son. “I was very aware of that self-congratulatory world,” she added, “and what shapes it.”

    Smart People was triggered by a Princeton study about how we, as a species, tend to dehumanize the lowest of the low. When the study’s focus group was confronted by images of indigent, homeless people, the group registered no reaction. That detail got Diamond’s attention. It confirmed for her that our preconceptions — how we see others — are where prejudice begins. 

    Nataki Garrett, who joined the DCPA Theatre Company as Associate Artistic Director in January, chose Smart People for her Denver directorial debut because she could relate, she said. Like Diamond, Garrett comes from an African-American family of academics. Except that she grew up in Oakland, Calif., in the 1980s. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “It was the middle of the Reagan scourge, the drug scene, the killings down the street from my house. That was my life,” Garrett said. With President Obama’s ascension to the presidency, “I was living in an extreme dichotomy with my sweet liberal friends because they were saying ‘racism is over,’ except it wasn’t. They weren’t listening to the wider world; they were listening to the sound of their own voice. Their sense of entitlement determined how the world was meant to be: my existence defined by your privilege. 

    SMART PEOPLE ADAMS_VISCOM“I wasn’t shocked by the (Trump) election and needed to ask myself why,” she continued. “Why wasn’t I…? And then I read Smart People and remembered how self-congratulatory my sweet liberal friends had been. This belief that you and I are alike just because we’re really good friends is an illusion. We’re not (alike). ‘Liberal’ does not protect you from bias; you have to go back to the beginning to understand how we got to here.”

    (Pictured right: Timothy McCracken and Tatiana Williams in 'Smart People.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Before coming to Denver, Garrett racked up solid credits working in various capacities with a broad range of the country’s best resident theatre companies and schools, most recently California’s CalArts. She was highlighted in American Theatre magazine last year as a person to watch and admits she favors doing cutting edge work by emerging artists. 

    “My mandate in the theatre is to give voice to the voiceless. I’m attracted to plays that seem impossible to stage and that chase us out of our comfort zones,”  she said.

    Garrett selected Efren Delgadillo Jr. to design the sets for Smart People because, she said, “he favors clean lines and uncluttered spaces. Nothing’s hidden. A neutral place, so we can hear the words.”  

    And Diamond’s words do demand to be heard, because Diamond is an equal-opportunity indicter. She refutes the notion that bigotry is owned only by certain people. As demonstrated by her stark 2008 play Stick Fly, racism cuts all ways. No one is exempt. 

    Her “smart people” have issues with the wider world, but they also have a hard time talking to each other. Their anger simmers under a fragile surface that erupts easily. As the world’s playwrights all know, communication is mainly miscommunication — a human failing, regardless of the color of one’s skin, yet made worse by it.

    “I knew Brian had to be a white man,” said Diamond, whose protagonist is “a neuroscientist out to prove that white people are biologically racist. No, that’s not what I believe,” she added quickly. 

    It was a way to jump-start the discussion.

    “I didn’t know what or who the characters around this man would be,” she said. “Creating characters is part of a process that’s purposeful, but also organic. It has a spiritual component. I discover things as I go along.” 

    That the play takes place in the weeks leading up to President Obama’s inauguration is a component that wasn’t there when she started thinking about Smart People. Yet when his presidency became reality, it played into her premise, helping to shape it.  

    As for the steady stream of controversial statements regarding race that have come from  Obama’s successor, Diamond said only: “I always thought that I would rather people be outspoken about their ideas — but I find it frightening."

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

    Lydia_R._Diamond SMART PEOPLE ADAMS_VISCOM

    Clockwise from top left: Esther Chen, Timothy McCracken, Tatiana Williams and Jason Veasey in 'Smart People.' Photo by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Smart People
    : Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. No matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life.

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

    Photo gallery: The making of Smart People

    Making of 'Smart People' Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' directed by Nataki Garrett and featuring Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

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

    by John Moore | Oct 18, 2017
    Making of 'Smart People' Photos from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' directed by Nataki Garrett and featuring Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Smart People. Photo by John Moore

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. No matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life.

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

  • 'Smart People' opens rehearsals in full swing

    by John Moore | Sep 21, 2017
    Making of 'Smart People'

    Photos from the first day of rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' which features Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Sharp comedy takes on the ways in which racism pervades American culture just as the national pendulum swings.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Smart People is a thought-provoking new comedy about all the ways in which racism pervades American culture. And it took playwright Lydia R. Diamond eight years to finish it.

    Imagine taking on that incendiary subject just as Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency, and completing it the same year he would cede it to Donald Trump.

    "She started the play at one time in our collective zeitgeist, and she finished it at a completely different time in our collective zeitgeist,” DCPA Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said Tuesday at the opening rehearsal for Smart People, which marks her Denver directorial debut. 

    Smart PeopleThe collective national pendulum, as gravity seemingly demands, had fully swung. And Garrett believes the only way today’s highly polarized Americans are ever going to find common ground and genuine connection again is if they slow down and stop talking long enough to meet somewhere in the middle.

    "What's so awesome about something swinging wildly back and forth is the part that's in the middle," said Garrett. "Not the extremes where we all seemingly live now, but the space where we do come together and we are able to find intersection.”

    And that’s what Diamond butts up against in her critically acclaimed, four-person comedy that has its first performance Oct. 13 in the Ricketson Theatre.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Diamond’s story, set on the eve of Obama’s historic 2008 presidential election, centers on four "smart people" with Harvard connections: A surgeon, an actress, a psychologist and a neuro-psychiatrist who is studying how the brain responds to race. As their relationships evolve, the four discover that their motivations and interpretations are not as pure as their wealth of knowledge would have them believe.

    Diamond was inspired to write Smart People by a news report about an actual neuroscientist who was studying the potential link between bias and brain chemistry. He hypothesized that a person's chemical composition can cause him to be biased, prejudiced or racist.

    "For me, the play is kind of like going back to the scene of the crime: Going back to the beginning of something to try to figure out where we are now," said Garrett.

    “This play intersects with these four highly intellectual people who keep smacking up against each other like two rocks trying to make a spark. They are trying figure out, 'Well why don't you believe what I believe? Because if I believe that something is really important and true, then you should also have that belief.’

    “That's what sparks the comedy: You have these four sexy, crazy people who are almost too smart for their own good all colliding around these ideas. But if they could just stop talking and give in to each other's ideas, they might actually be able to hear something.

    “I think ultimately, Smart People is a call for people to listen."

    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.  

    Smart People: Ticket information
    SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. No matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Oct. 13, through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
    Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar
  • Cast announced for DCPA's 'Smart People': Fresh and familiar

    by John Moore | Sep 19, 2017

    Smart People
    From left: Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen.


    The DCPA Theatre Company has announced the full cast and creative team for its upcoming production of Lydia R. Diamond's Smart People, featuring the Denver directorial debut of Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. The production includes:

    • Esther Chen as Ginny Yang
    • Timothy McCracken as Brian White
    • Jason Veasey as Jackson Moore
    • Tatiana Williams as Valerie Johnston

    McCracken, a graduate of the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory and now the Head of Acting for DCPA Education, has previously appeared in Theatre Company productions of A Christmas Carol, Jackie and Me, The Giver and others.

    A Smart People 360 Jaso VeasayVeasey, a native of Colorado Springs, graduated from Coronado High School and the University of Northern Colorado. His local credits include playing Jesus in Town Hall Arts Center's Godspell in 2003 (pictured right), and the ensemble in the Arvada Center's Ragtime. Last year, he performed in the Henry Award-nominated Best Musical Motones vs. Jerseys at the Lone Tree Arts Center. He made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of The Lion King.

    Garrett was profiled in American Theatre as “One to Watch,” saying she is attracted to “plays that impact us in tremendous ways, chasing us out of our comfort zones.”

    Veasay, Chen and Williams will be making their DCPA Theatre Company debuts in Diamond's acclaimed new play, a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. No matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life. Fiercely clever dialogue and energetic vignettes keep the laughs coming in a story that Variety calls “Sexy, serious and very, very funny.”

    Diamond’s award-winning plays have been produced throughout the country, including the 2011 Tony Award-nominated Broadway production Stick Fly.

    The creative team for Smart People will include:
    • Efren Delgadillo Jr. (Scenic Designer)
    • Lex Liang (Costume Designer, DCPA's Disgraced)
    • Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (Lighting Designer)
    • Curtis Craig (Sound Designer)
    • Kaitlyn Pietras (Projection Designer)
    • Lyle Raper (returning longtime Theatre Company Stage Manager)
    • Corin Ferris (Assistant Stage Manager).
     

    Smart People: Ticket information

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • First performance Oct. 13, through Nov. 19
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
  • Video, photos and quotes from 2017 Bobby G Awards

    by John Moore | Jun 02, 2017
    A VIDEO LOOK BACK:


    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Interviews by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.


    The Bobby G Awards celebrate achievement in high-school musical theatre. Our look back in video, photos and words. 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver Center's fifth annual Bobby G Awards celebrated achievement in Colorado high-school theatre on May 25 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. (Click here for complete night-of coverage of the awards, including a list of winners and nominees.)

    Bobby G Awards. Boulder High RentThe video above provides a recap of the evening and includes interviews with students, teachers and DCPA staff. Our photo gallery below includes the red-carpet walk, the awards, student performances, backstage trophy presentations and a look back at rehearsals leading up to the big night.

    The Bobby G Awards are a culmination of a year-long program administered by the Denver Center that emphasizes camaraderie and shared experiences - but there is also much at stake. The students named Outstanding Actor and Actress go on to represent Colorado at the The Jimmy® Awards/National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City. This year’s honorees are Elleon Dobias of Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch and Austin Hand of Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins.

    (Pictured above: Boulder High School's performance of 'Rent.')

    Our full report from the 2017 Bobby G Awards

    Bobby G Awards. Valor Christian.  PippinFor Dobias, was her record fourth straight nomination and first win. “Yes, I was nominated for Bobby G Awards my freshman, sophomore and junior year, and lost, lost, lost. But you lose some - you lose some,” she said with a giggle. “I was super excited to be nominated again this year just to have the chance to maybe go out on a win. I can't believe it. My mind is short-circuiting right now because I am just so happy.”

    Dovias played Catherine in Valor Christian's production of Pippin, which was named Outstanding Musical (pictured right). Valor Christian is a private Christian school in Highlands Ranch. "My freshman year when I auditioned for the school play, there were 10 people auditioning," she said. For Pippin, we had more than 60 people audition. I think recognition from a program like the Bobby G Awards has helped that growth."

    (Story continues below the photo gallery)

     

    COMPLETE PHOTO GALLERY:

    2017 Bobby G Awards

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos may be downloaded and redistributed with permission from the DCPA with proper photo credit.

    Award presenters included Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee and Colorado native Gene Gillette, who is a member of the national touring production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, currently performing at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House through  June 25.

    Bobby G Awards. Valor Christian.  Pippin“High school was pretty rough for me,” Gillette told the DCPA NewsCenter. “I really look up to and envy these kids and the discipline they have to have gotten this far at this young of an age. I've been lucky to have theatre in my life." Asked his advice to the teens, Gillette wisdom of his own theatre professor from the University of Colorado. “He told me, "There are two wolves inside of you. There is the wolf that wants to do good, and the wolf that wants to do bad. And whichever wolf you feed, that's what you become. So feed your good wolf.”

    (Pictured right: Reaction to naming of Valor Christian's 'Pippin' as Outstanding Musical.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    While the Bobby G Awards culminate each year with the awards ceremony, which is modeled after the Tony Awards, the year-long focus of the program is to both celebrate and educate. The participating schools receive detailed feedback on their musical productions from the adjudicators. Joe Robinson, who played Dewhurst in Chaparral High School’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, was named the 2017 Rising Star. That’s an award reserved for a promising underclassman. 

    “I would like to thank my Bobby G adjudicators for all of the valuable feedback you gave me,” Robinson said in his acceptance speech. “It really helped me in the right direction last year, moving into this year, and now going into next year.”

    (Story continues below the photo)

    Bobby G Awards

    Timothy McCracken, Head of Acting for DCPA Education, said the Denver Center is proud to offer the Bobby G Awards in Colorado because it aligns so well with its overall educational mission. “We are always looking for ways to continue to offer opportunities for younger artists to see what art and theatre can bring to a community, and to themselves as individuals. And this is one of those programs that highlights that."

    Coming next week: A separate video offering performance highlights.

    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 QUOTES OF NOTE:

    • Shelly Cox-Robie, Director, Boulder High School (and 25-year actor at the nearby BDT Stage): The theatre kids feel like this is their equivalent of the football team going to state. As both a parent and as a teacher, it means so much for these kids to have the support and the camaraderie and the family that they have with (school theatre).
    • Bobby G Awards. North High School and Strive Prep's 'In the Heights'Maya Stone, North/Strive Prep High School's In the Heights: Doing In the Heights made a really big impact at our school because the story of In the Heights isn't just a story to our community. It's our story. We have such a feeling of pride. So many people put in so much work to make this happen. And it means so much to come together for one final performance her at the Bobby G Awards. I was telling (a castmate) on closing night, 'I just want to go on stage as Nina one more time. You always want that when a show closes - and it is amazing that we get that opportunity to do that here tonight.
    • Davie Gonzalez, North/Strive Prep High School's In the Heights: It feels great to be invited to the party. It makes us feel like we did something really special. Something this big makes us feel really happy about ourselves, and makes us feel like we really do matter to this community.
    • Dayna Marshal, North/Strive Prep High School's In the Heights: Being nominated for Outstanding Musical was a very big deal to us. It meant coming out of the shadows. It meant proving everyone wrong about a minority community at a small school. It means everything to us. And as for performing tonight at the Ellie: It feels like butterflies are exploding in my stomach.
    • Trey Kochevar, Outstanding Actor finalist, Lakewood High School: At school, it's become a lot more that arts can be a cool thing thanks to the Bobby G Awards, rather than it just being about sports. You get a lot more respect when you are able to showcase your craft like all of the other extra-curricular activities can.  
    • Grace Nolte, Outstanding Actress finalist, Chaparral High School: I came into this experience so scared that it was going to be such a catty environment. That changed the first minute we were all together. I have never been in such a collaborative environment with such contagious energy.
    • Asha Romeo Outstanding Actress finalist, Boulder High School: I think this program raises up the schools that have put  a lot of work and dedication into their productions, and pushes other schools to better their own programs.
    • Jesse Shafroth, Outstanding Actor finalist, Boulder High School: The Bobby G Awards has given us all good insight into what  show business is actually like. Because these rehearsals have been really fast-paced, and we have been learning a lot of stuff very quickly. I want to give a shout-out to our (Bobby G Awards) director, Claudia Carson. She's the best.
    • Chantal King, Outstanding Actress finalist, Niwot High School: Everyone has been so nice. Meeting everybody here was such a humbling and great experience.
    • Gable Kinsman, Outstanding Actor finalist, Valor Christian High School: “I think theatre doesn't usually get the credit that it deserves at our schools, but I think the Bobby G Awards program definitely helps.
    • Austin Hand, Outstanding Actor, Fossil Ridge High School: This was the first year Fossil put itself up for nominationf, so just everyone was so excited when we found out that we were even nominated for two awards. I feel like athletics in schools get most of the recognition because of the competitive nature of sports. Theatre doesn't have that, so its fun to have that extra push that Bobby G Awards provides to strive for greatness.
    • Timothy McCracken, Head of Acting for DCPA Education: I have an 8-year-old son and I cannot wait till he has an opportunity to be in this environment, I think it is so inspiring. There are so many people here. The excitement is just amazing. You can just feel everyone bubbling over.
    Bobby G Awards. Outstanding Actor and Actress medley.
    The Bobby G Awards' Outstanding Actor and Actress finalists performed a medley tailored to each other, and their school musicals.

    Previous 2017 Bobby G Awards coverage

    Meet your 2017 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress finalists
    Meet your 2017 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor finalists
    2016-17 Bobby G Award finalists are announced
    Video: The 2017 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
  • Photos: Opening night of 'The Christians'

    by John Moore | Feb 07, 2017
    'The Christians' in Denver

    Photos from opening night of Lucas Hnath's The Christians by the DCPA Theatre Company on Feb. 3. We joined cast and crew backstage in preparation for the performance, through the opening-night party. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.

    The Christians Opening Night. Robert Manning Jr. John Moore. In the play, the pastor of a growing congregation is thrown into tumult when he brings up unexpected questions during a sermon. Featuring live music at every performance. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

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

    (Pictured at right: Robert Manning Jr., who plays Associate Pastor Joshua, and his daughter. Photo by John Moore.)

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

     

    Video bonus: Your first look at 'The Christians'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for Two Degrees

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

    The Christians. Perspectives. John Moore.

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


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

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

  • 'The Christians': Five things we learned at first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Jan 01, 2017
    'The Christians' in Denver
    Photos from the first rehearsal of Lucas Hnath's play 'The Christians' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Click again to download. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Director Kent Thompson greeted all those gathered for the first rehearsal of the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming staging of The Christians like a pastor with a message for his own flock: That playwright Lucas Hnath’s motivation for writing his thoughtful story about a crisis within a large community church comes from a genuine place.

    Kent Thompson quote“This is a rare play for today's theatre because it actually talks about its subject in an honest and non-judgmental way,” Thompson said. "He doesn't try to make fun or dehumanize anybody. There is no agenda. These are people who are all striving for understanding and vision and to know what is the right thing to do.”

    In The Christians, Pastor Paul is the founder of a huge evangelical megachurch who creates a deep schism among his congregation when he announces a ground-shaking change in his personal opinion regarding eternal salvation. And the theological fallout will be enormous.

    Thompson read a message from Hnath explaining why he wrote the play. Here is an excerpt, along with four other things we learned about The Christians at the first rehearsal:

    NUMBER 1 From Lucas Hnath: “I can feel that rush to understand when people ask me, with respect to The Christians, what I personally believe. I refuse to answer the question. I'm not necessarily cagey about my beliefs — although I do sort of think that the attempt to put those beliefs into words will always result in a misrepresentation of said beliefs. But I suspect that answering the question will somehow diminish the effect of the play. In these kinds of questions, I detect the desire to explain away something. I detect the desire to locate a single, visible point. And while the plot of The Christians is far from ambiguous, the play is a series of contradictory arguments. No single argument “wins.” There’s no resolution. That lack of obvious resolution can be uncomfortable, even agitating. But with a lot of practice, we can also learn to take pleasure in the agitation. And maybe something more complex and true becomes visible within the agitation. A church is a place where people go to see something that is very difficult to see. A place where the invisible is — at least for a moment — made visible. The theater can be that too.”  

    Five things we learned at first rehearsal for 'The Book of Will'

    NUMBER 2Several members of the creative team have deep personal ties to churches like the one depicted in the play. Hnath’s mother is an evangelical minister – he even thought he might follow in her footsteps until playwriting lured him away. Thompson’s father was an influential Southern Baptist preacher. Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver’s father is a retired Nazarene minister, and Composer Gary Grundei has been a church musician all his life. They all said their experiences will help to ensure that the story will be presented in Denver with credibility, authenticity and respect. “This is not a stereotypical evangelical church you might see on a TV sit-com,” Thompson said.

    Video bonus: Lucas Hnath talks about writing The Christians:


    NUMBER 3The setting of the play is an actual megachurch sermon, so those in the audience for the play are essentially part of the congregation witnessing it. But while the Denver Center's Stage Theatre holds “only” 680 people, in Hnath's story there are many thousands in attendance. “So we want to imply that the church we are in is much, much larger than the theatre,” Thompson said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    NUMBER 4The creative team has been researching local megachurches for inspiration, specifically the Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette. Projection Designer Topher Blair and Lighting Designer Richard Devin were specifically interested in studying how these churches integrate multimedia and visual effects into their sermons. “What we learned is that these presentations are not cheesy in any way,” Blair said. “They are very slick and highly professional.” It struck Devin that the grand use of fog, colored lights and other technical effects in church sermons is not unlike the effects artists employ in their live theatrical presentations. “They have immense amounts of equipment at their disposal,” Devin said of the churches, “but I think it’s important we not overdo the spectacle because that’s really not what it’s all about. It’s about the message and the music and the spiritual experience.”

    Coming this week: Gary Grundei on the live music in The Christians

    NUMBER 5The Christians. Kevin Kilner. Photo by John Moore. The enormous role of Pastor Paul will be played at the Denver Center by veteran TV, film and stage actor Kevin Kilner, who is perhaps best known for playing the protagonist in the first season of the Canadian sci-fi series Earth: Final Conflict, and Officer Dean in The Stoned Age. In 1995-96, he starred in Almost Perfect as the romantic interest of Nancy Travis, who played a TV screenwriter. Kilner graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he was a member of the school's NCAA champion lacrosse team. He has appeared in the hit TV series House of Cards (Michael Kern in the first two seasons), Damages and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. His extensive theatre credits include work for the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, L.A. Theatre Works and the Skirball Cultural Center. He has been married since 1998 to actor Jordan Baker (Another Earth, Escape from L.A.). (Photo above: Robert Manning Jr., left, and Kevin Kilner. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

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


    The Christians. Caitlin Wise, Krystel Lucas, Kim Staunton. Photo by John Moore.  From left: Caitlin Wise and Krystel Lucas of 'The Christians', with Kim Staunton of 'Two Degrees.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The Christians: Cast list
    Written by Lucas Hnath
    Directed by Kent Thompson

    • Steve Brady (All The Way) as Elder Jay
    • Kevin Kilner (DCPA debut) as Pastor Paul
    • Cajardo Lindsey (All The Way) Associate Pastor Joshua understudy
    • Krystel Lucas (DCPA debut) as Elizabeth
    • Robert Manning Jr. (DCPA debut) as Associate Pastor Joshua
    • Timothy McCracken (The Giver) Pastor Paul understudy/ Elder Jay understudy
    • Erin Willis (The 12) Elizabeth / Jenny understudy
    • Caitlin Wise (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Jenny


    The Christians
    : Ticket information
    The ChristiansA new play about the mystery of faith and what happens when a doctrinal controversy shakes the foundation of a large community church.
    Jan. 27-Feb. 26
    Stage Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Christians:
    The Christians is 'a pathway to empathy
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics




  • 2016 True West Award: Jada Suzanne Dixon

    by John Moore | Dec 01, 2016
    Jada Suzanne Dixon True West Award


    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 1:
    Jada Suzanne Dixon

    2016 may have the most been the most volatile year in a tense and divided America since 1968. More than 1,000 people have been killed by police, and more than 130 police have been killed in the line of duty. During a hotly contested presidential election, Donald Trump brazenly called Hillary Clinton a bigot. Clinton brazenly retorted that Trump was normalizing white nationalism. "Black Lives Matter" became not only a movement - but a flash point. People aren't just talking about race and politics. They're shouting about race and politics.

    Live theatre can be a refuge from the din because, for 90 minutes at least, audiences have no choice but to listen, if not hear. But theatre is also, by the necessities of long-term scheduling, often a year or two behind the national conversation.
    Jada Suzanne Dixon True West Award
    Not in 2016.

    As protests spilled onto America's streets over race and politics, plays about race and politics spilled onto many of our local stages. And smack in the middle of two was Jada Suzanne Dixon, who took on incendiary roles in two incendiary plays that spoke with uncommon urgency to our volatile national problem that permeated the entire election season.

    Dixon (formerly Roberts) played the only black character in Curious Theatre's White Guy on the Bus. Bruce Graham's literary Molotov cocktail essentially ridicules white people for the ultra-P.C. ways in which they talk about race. Until the main character's wife, an educator, is brutally murdered. He then sweetly preys on Dixon's character, Shatique, a struggling stand-up single mother, for her help in exacting his revenge.

    Dixon was a revelation. Westword's Juliet Wittman wrote: "Jada Dixon, sitting in shadow during the evening’s final moments, commands your attention. You see it all on her face – Shatique’s weariness, rage and pain; her intense and terrible loneliness – and can only wonder at the courage it takes to reveal such emotional depths."

    Dixon then dove head-first into the other end of the American cesspool in Local Theater Company's world-premiere of Meridith Friedman's The Firestorm. Here she played a  highly successful lawyer and wife of a white man on the verge of becoming governor. But when a scandal hits, the power couple begins to fracture. It's very Clintonesque, only with additional and uncomfortable racial undertones that call into question the interracial couple's motivations for marrying in the first place.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Dixon, Denver-raised and NYU-trained, has been a powerful if sadly intermittent  presence on Denver stages for 20 years. In 2016, she morphed before our eyes from a poor and powerless woman facing an impossible dilemma into a poised and privileged political partner. (And opposite two of Denver's most formidable leading men in Sam Gregory and Tim McCracken.)

    At a time when our country is facing such divisiveness in regard to race, power, politics and unseemly human behavior, there was no better time for a strong woman of color not only to emerge on the stage, but to allow audiences to discover - and consider - two strong and very different women of color.

     

    Jada Suzanne Dixon/At a glance:

    • High School: Bishop Machebeuf Catholic High School
    • College: New York University, Tisch
    • Additional training: Harvard - American Repertory Theatre
    • Artistic Company Member, Curious Theatre Company
    • Denver Center tie: She was in the cast of the DCPA Theatre Company's black odyssey


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS

    The True West Awards, now in their 16th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    THE 2016 TRUE WEST AWARDS
    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride

    THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS IN REVIEW
    Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
    Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
    Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Day 4: Laurence Curry
    Day 5: Bernie Cardell
    Day 6: Susan Lyles
    Day 7: John Jurcheck
    Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
    Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
    Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
    Day 11: Shauna Johnson
    Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
    Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
    Day 14: Keith Ewer
    Day 15: Allison Watrous
    Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
    Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
    Day 18: Emma Messenger
    Day 19: Shannon McKinney
    Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
    Day 22: Scott Beyette
    Day 23: Augustus Truhn
    Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
    Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
    Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
    Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
    Day 29: Mark Collins
    Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
    Bonus: Donald R. Seawell
  • In the Spotlife: Timothy McCracken of 'The Firestorm'

    by John Moore | Oct 14, 2016

    Timothy McCracken and Jada Suzanne Dixon in 'The Firestorm.' Photo by George Lange for Local Theatre Company.

    (The DCPA NewsCenter regularly profiles actors performing in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)

    MEET TIMOTHY McCRACKEN

    McCracken, whose day job is Head of Acting for DCPA Education, plays Patrick Henderson in Local Theatre Company's 'The Firestorm' at the Dairy Arts Center.

    • Hometown: St. Helena, Calif.
    • Home now: Beautiful Denver
    • High School: Justin-Siena in Napa, Calif.
    • College: I have a BA in Theatre from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and an MFA in Acting from the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory
    • Timothy McCracken QuoWhat have you done for us lately? I played Anthony in Outside Mullingar for Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, and Old Joe in A Christmas Carol for the DCPA Theatre Company
    • What's coming up next? I will be playing Estragon in Waiting for Godot for the Arvada Center, with Sam Gregory as Didi and directed by Geoffrey Kent (An Act of God
    • What is The Firestorm all about? The Firestorm is a relationship and race play. Gaby and Patrick are a hot political power couple on the verge of moving into the governor’s mansion. But when the campaign is hit with an impending political scandal, the race — and the marriage — begin to fracture. Tensions rise. The personal becomes explosively political. And a husband and wife must heartbreakingly confront just how strong their alliance really is.
    • Tell us about your character: Patrick is running for Governor of Ohio, and I am highly motivated in my pursuit. I love how many facets of humanity there are to these people, Patrick included. I have integrity, and am well-intentioned in my career, marriage and life — and yet there are things that I have done, and behaviors that I exhibit, that show many other colors. One of my many challenges is connecting with the very specific rhythms and seemingly “naturalistic” yet precise language that playwright Meredith Friedman has created. There is meaning in every beat and punctuation. I  find that fascinating, and I want to honor it.
    • What do you love most about this play? I love that Local Theatre Company has chosen this play at this particular time, when our country is facing a great deal of divisiveness in regard to race, power, politics and human behavior. It is very timely,  and it will spark strong opinions and conversation. It will make a theatregoer think. 
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? Most people don't know Frank and Ralph. These are two bell peppers (one red, one yellow) who live in “Pepper Brooklyn” and speak in strong Brooklynese dialects. Frank and Ralph have been the central characters in my son Conlan’s imaginary world, and mine, for more than five years. They are with us every day, and I love them!
    • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? Here’s a simple and enjoyable suggestion for many parts of your day, from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: "Breathe in through your nose, and when you exhale, SMILE. It does wonders for you!

    Local Theatre Company's The Firestorm: Ticket information
    • By Meredith Friedman
    • Directed by Pesha Rudnick
    • Oct. 16-Nov. 13 (previews Oct. 14-15)
    • Carsen Theatre at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., in Boulder
    • Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays
    • Tickets $15-$32
    • Info: 303-444-7328, or thedairy.org

    Cast List:
    • Jada Suzanne Dixon as Gaby
    • Iona Leighton as Leslie
    • Timothy McCracken as Patrick
    • Maduka Steady as Jamal

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Soggy skies can't shake 5,000 students' Shakespeare spirit

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2016
    2016 DPS Shakespeare Festival

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos may be downloaded and recirculated with source attribution. Click on any photo to download.

    "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

    Michael Berger grew up with a stutter. On Friday, the high-school senior stood ebulliently in the rain and welcomed thousands to the 32nd annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.

    A DPS Shakespeare 160"This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my theatre career,” said Berger, a senior at Denver School of the Arts who was chosen from hundreds of DPS students to perform as none other than the Bard himself at the festival’s opening ceremonies in Skyline Park.

    “My first performance as an actor was here. It was in the fourth grade, I was 8 or 9, and I performed Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1,” he said definitively. “Because of that, I was inspired to continue in the theatre. And it was through Shakespeare that I learned how to speak clearly. So this is very much full circle for me.”

    The rain-snow mix didn’t dampen the students’ spirits, but the chill surely put the shake in the Shakespeare as nearly 5,000 chilly students from 80 schools in grades kindergarten through high school braved the cold to perform more than 640 short scenes, dances, soliloquies and sonnets on stages in and around the Denver Performing Arts Complex while bundled in an array of colorful costumes that were often covered in parkas.

    DPS Shakespeare Fetsival opening ceremonies: Micael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    DPS Shakespeare Festival opening ceremonies: Michael Berger as Shakespeare, Vicky Serdyuk as Queen Elizabeth I, and DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Denver Center or the Performing Arts CEO Scott Shiller served as Grand Marshall for the three-block opening parade alongside Berger and George Washington High School senior Vicky Serdyuk, who won the annual honor of playing Queen Elizabeth I at the oldest and largest student Shakespeare festival in the country.

    “Shakespeare was the first live performance I ever saw – and I was in daycare,” Serdyuk said with a laugh. “I remember that the actors talked funny, but that they made it sound so good.”

    Shiller told the students that by participating in arts-education programs like the Shakespeare Festival, studies indicate they will be more likely to graduate, enroll in college, contribute meaningfully to civic life and volunteer. “Plus, children who are exposed to live performance are 165 percent more likely to receive a college degree,” he said.

    Gillian McNally, who served as a festival adjudicator and general encourager, was undaunted by the cold. Despite the gloomy weather, she declared Friday to be the most beautiful day of the year.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote “This might be the only time most of these students ever perform on a stage in their whole lives – and we celebrate that,” said McNally, an Associate Professor of Theatre Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Just look at these wonderful, handmade costumes,” she added, indicating young students from the DaVinci Academy dressed as a human forest. “That tells me teachers collaborated with students and their parents, and they made something together. That’s what this is all about: We are making something together.”

    More than half of all students enrolled in Denver Public Schools speak English as a second language. Serdyuk says it makes sense that many DPS English teachers use Shakespeare as a language-learning tool in the classroom. “Shakespeare’s English follows a lot of the same rules as many of these students’ first languages,” she said. 

    Berger serves as student teacher for Denison Montessori School’s Shakespeare program.  He says Shakespeare is less intimidating for students whose native language isn’t English because they are already learning one foreign language – so what’s another? “It’s neat seeing kids learn to speak Shakespeare while they are learning English at the same time,” Berger said.

    Christine Gonzalez, who teaches kindergarten through 6th grade students at Denison, said Berger has been a big help to her students. “He keeps it light and fun and inspirational,” she said. “It’s easier to learn when you make it fun.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Mary Louise Lee, an accomplished performer and also the First Lady of Denver, addressed the crowd about the importance of arts education. “I am a proud product of the Denver Public Schools,” said the graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee, wife of Mayor Michael B. Hancock, has made restoring arts-education programs in schools her top priority since founding her nonprofit, Bringing Back the Arts.

    The DPS Shakespeare Festival draws students of all ages and experience levels. While hundreds were performing for the first time Friday, Denver School of the Arts senior Jimmy Bruenger was performing in his seventh DPS Festival.

    “I remember feeling nervous my first year because I was performing Shakespeare for the first time,” said Bruenger, who was born in Mexico. “But I looked around and I saw younger kids who were only 6 or 7 years old and they were completely into it. That gave me confidence that I could do it, too.”

    Seven years later, Bruenger is not only a recent winner of a True West Award and Denver Mayor's Award for the Arts, but also a full scholarship to the University of Oklahoma from the Daniels Fund. After he performed in his final Shakespeare Festival on Friday, he was off to star in the opening of a world premiere musical about the Armenian genocide called I Am Alive.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. This is the first year the DCPA served as a full producing partner in the DPS Festival. The DCPA’s Education Department offered up its Teaching Artists to assist all 80 participating schools in their preparations for Friday.

    “We are proud to partner alongside the largest school district in the state,” Shiller said. “Colorado’s commitment to arts integration outpaces the national average in nearly every category. In fact, 64 percent of our high schools offer theatre education, just like our own Shakespeare Festival.”

    Friday’s crowd was peppered with prominent figures in the local theatre community. Susan Lyles, founder of the city’s only company dedicated to female playwrights (And Toto Too) was on hand to root on her son, Harrison Lyles-Smith, who played a shepherd with a wicked death scene in As You Like It.

    Lyles said Harrison and his 5th-grade classmates at Steck Elementary School have been practicing for two hours every Friday since February. “It has given him self-confidence and a fearlessness when it comes to Shakespeare that a lot of adults don’t have,” she said.

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Sara McPherson Horle, Executive Producer of The Catamounts Theatre Company of Boulder, happened to have a nephew in that same class at Steck. For her, one of the great rewards young Samuel Davis has gotten out of the experience is the lost art of listening.

    “You have to be self-disciplined to be an actor at any age,” Horle said. “Learning to listen is a huge thing, but especially at this age.”

    McNally said the emphasis of the festival is not on producing professional-quality performances – although many of the older students come awfully close. What the judges want more to encourage is passion, which leads to the development of useful life skills such as public speaking and boosted self-esteem.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But occasionally there are performances that make even the Shakespeare purists turn their heads. DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken was particularly impressed with the 3rd through 5th graders from Isabella Bird, a “heart-centered” community school where teacher Rebecca Sage says students are all made to feel valued for their own specific, individual talents.

    DPS Shakespeare Quote 2“The general clarity of their storytelling was astounding, and their delivery were astounding,” McCracken said after watching Sage’s students perform a Cinco de Mayo-informed take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Ricketson Theatre. “That was an amazing throughline for elementary-school actors." 

    Sage said her approach to the project was not unlike the approach of any director who takes on a full-fledged theatrical production: “It all starts with table work,” she said. That means working through the script with the students line-by-line, making sure they understand the meaning, the innuendo and most important, the comedy of the words they speak.

    Sage’s students fully bought into the project, she said, in part because Friday’s festival was only the start of their reward. Next week, the students will perform the full story back at the school for parents and friends. Sage said her students have been putting in half-mornings two days a week since January.

    “It was hugely gratifying for them to put in the work, both at home and at school, and then to get that kind of validation and respect once they got here today,” she said. “This whole experience is a huge incentive for them to continue doing things that challenge them and take them to their edge.”

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's Romeo and Juliet

    DCPA Teaching Artists John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes starred in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Also new this year was the evening Shakespeare After-Fest program, when arts organizations from across Denver came together to continue the celebration of the Bard. The program included music from DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, mini-performances from The Catamounts, The Black Actors Guild, DCPA's Off-Center, Stories on Stage and PHAMALY. DCPA Education also performed its hour-long production of Romeo and Juliet from its outreach program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.

    The First Lady of Denver left the kids with a Shakespeare quote whose authorship has been disputed over time – but its meaning was indubitably apropos for Friday’s occasion:

    “The meaning of your life is to find your gift,” Lee told the gathered crowd. “The purpose of your life is to give it away.”

    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.

    Our 2015 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    Our 2014 DPS Shakespeare Festival coverage

    DPS Shakespeare Festival. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Directors talk tough with local actors: Get to class!

    by John Moore | Jan 19, 2016
    Continuing Classes Forum

    Photos from the recent communitywide forum on the need for continuing education among local theatre performers. To see more photos, hit the 'forward' button. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Local theatre directors and producers had a provocative message for Colorado’s teeming talent pool at a specially called forum last week: “Get to class.”

    Representatives from Colorado theatre companies large and small gathered at Cap City on Jan. 12 to light a fire under the creative community.

    “We’re good,” said longtime BDT Stage Artistic Director Michael J. Duran. “But good is not good enough.”

    Producers sense a complacency settling in over the acting community because, ironically enough, the local theatre ecology is so healthy. There are more than 50 theatre companies in the metro area, and more than 100 statewide, which means there are plenty of shows - and plenty of roles - to go around.

    But if you want the jobs that actually pay more than gas money, the actors were told in the complete absence of sugar-coating: They need to be continually honing their craft.

    “I think the problem is our community doesn’t think they have to work that hard because they are working all the time,” said choreographer Piper Arpan. “If I am working all the time, then there is a sense then that I must be good enough.’ ” 

    Doctors and attorneys are required to participate in continuing education to keep their licenses, but nothing obligates an actor to continue taking dance, voice or acting classes. "Why is that?" Duran said. "Athletes don’t stop practicing when they turn pro."

    But as long as actors continue to be cast in shows, why should they bother with the time, expense and inconvenience of classes?

    Read more: Audition advice from the experts

    Duran had a rather pointed response: Just because actors are working does not mean they are they are getting better by merely working. Worse, Duran said, many don’t even seem to want to get better. And that is being reflected in the quality of productions theatres are putting on local stages.

    “Every one of us (producers) makes concessions and lowers our expectations for our shows,” Duran said. “We dumb it down because we don’t have the dancers to make our shows what they could be. Listen, just because you are cast in a dance show does not make you a good dancer: It makes you a warm body.”

    Tim McCracken QuoteWell, if that doesn’t make a warm body hot … to trot … to class … what will? That is the question.

    “How do we find the competitive edge within ourselves?” Duran said. “How do we create the desire to improve just for the sake of getting better at what we do?”

    Arvada Center Artistic Director Rod Lansberry told the gathering of about 40 that every casting director goes into every audition hoping that any given actor will be amazing. After all, you would then be the solution to the director’s problem. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

    “We want you to have those skills that we need,” Lansberry said. “But you have to bring them to us. We can’t give them to you.”

    This was an uncommonly blunt forum presented by Duran in partnership with the Colorado Theatre Guild. Others who spoke either in person or by proxy included Charles Packard of the Aurora Fox; Chris Starkey from AXS Group; Gloria Shanstrom and Pat Payne of the Colorado Theatre Guild; Jalyn Courtenay Webb from the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins; Ali King of the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown; directors Nick Sugar (Town Hall Arts Center’s Violet”) and Spotlight's Bernie Cardell; Arvada Center choreographer Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck; BDT Stage's Matthew D. Peters, Jessica Hindsley and Scott Beyette; and other interested individuals.

    And the tough love didn’t get any less tough as the evening progressed. For example, Lansberry told attendees that the buzzword today is “triple threat.” As in, “If you want to work in this town, you have to be able to do all three well,” Lansberry said of acting, singing and dancing. “They don’t have shows coming out that are not for triple threats.”

    Starkey took that one step further. “Now you actually have to be a quadruple threat,” he said, “because more and more, shows are calling on performers who also can play their own musical instruments.”

    Once the ABC message got through – “Always Be Classing” – the conversation turned to practical matters, such as: Are there a variety of classes out there available to be taken (there are); how is a potential student to know where they are (read on); and who’s to say the investment will eventually pay off? (No one honestly can.)

    Tim McCracken, the new Head of Acting for DCPA Education, took the opportunity to introduce those in attendance to the breadth of year-round classes the Denver Center makes available to more than 68,000 every year, covering all disciplines, experience levels and age groups.

    “I think in the past there has been this notion that the DCPA is somehow separate from the rest of the theatre community, and that could not be further from the truth,” McCracken said, citing a whole host of the community’s most prominent performers who also work as Teaching Artists for the DCPA. As for any perceived cost barrier, McCracken spoke of scholarship opportunities that can bring the cost of classes down by as much as 75 percent.

    “We want more inclusion with the entire Denver theatre community,” McCracken said. “That’s our goal.”

    Michael J DuranArpan ran down a range of metro area dance companies that offer lessons for all abilities, and Hindsley and Peters spoke of continuing classes held at BDT Stage as well. By the end of the evening, a Facebook page (The Denver Area Actors Continuing Education Forum) had been created that is dedicated to informing potential students about class opportunities. There was also preliminary talk of a more organized repository, perhaps one to be taken on by the Colorado Theatre Guild’s web site.

    “So I would suggest this is not question of opportunity,” Arpan said in conclusion. “It is a question of motivation.”

    This is not a topic of conversation you can start within the local theatre community without opening up a Pandora's Box of ecology-related questions, such as: Why can’t more theatres afford to pay a living wage? Why do the biggest theatres feel they must cast from outside the metro talent pool? How can a mid-size market like Denver make it more attractive for our most talented performers not to leave for New York or Los Angeles? Each is worthy of its own forum.

    But as the discussion pertains to classes, Duran reiterated his staunch belief that the quality of theatre on our local stages would be much higher if every singer, dancer and actor took it upon themselves to continually work on their craft.

    “The thing I think we need to figure out,” Duran said, “is how to make people hungry to be better.”

    WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS TOPIC?
    Please enter your comments at the bottom of this story. 

  • 2015 True West Awards: Rebecca Remaly

    by John Moore | Dec 28, 2015
    True West Award Rebecca Remaly

    Timothy McCracken and Emily Paton Davies of 'Outside Mullingar.' Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    ​Today’s recipient:
    Rebecca Remaly
    Managing Director, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

    Today’s award presenter:
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore


    Stephen Weitz has been on a pretty public roll these past few years. The co-founder of the 10-year-old Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company just directed Tribes and The SantaLand Diaries back-to-back at his second artistic home, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Meanwhile, his own rising company back in Boulder has been picking up four-star reviews like so many coins in a fountain, most recently for the Chekhov variation Stupid F***ing Bird and, last month, for John Patrick Shanley’s Irish romance Outside Mullingar.

    Rebecca Remaly quote 2In 2012, Weitz was named the True West Theatre Person of the Year. But he would be the first to insist that the driving force behind his theatre company, his family and pretty much his whole life is his wife, Rebecca Remaly.

    When the pair started BETC (colloquially known as “Betsy”) in 2006, their artistic plan was noble. The mission: “To present profound theatrical stories that inspire our audiences and enrich our community.” And in 2009, Remaly figured out a foolproof, slightly ignoble way to pay for it: By staging an annual production of The SantaLand Diaries, which just completed its sixth sold-out holiday run and third as co-production with the DCPA. Remaly directed the inaugural production that started it all.

    Remaly is also an accomplished director who has been authoritatively delivering one solid regional premiere after another for BETC. She has helmed 17 titles over the past decade, and two in 2015: The Aliens and Outside Mullingar. One is a deliberately slow-motion tale following two wayward young men who spend their days in the alley behind a coffee shop talking music and Bukowski. The other is the old-fashioned romantic tale of a pair of stubborn, middle-aged Irish introverts who decide to take a chance on late love.

    Broadway reviewers were largely ambivalent about Shanley’s unexpectedly sentimental turn after his searing Doubt, but Remaly’s staging of Mullingar struck a deep chord with audiences and critics alike. If it’s true that directing is about 90 percent casting, then Remaly hit Mullingar about 90 percent out of the ballpark when she cast Chris Kendall, Emily Paton Davies, DCPA Head of Acting Timothy McCracken and Colorado Theatre Guild Life Achievement winner Billie McBride. The Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow called what that foursome presented “spellbinding.”

    But of perhaps even greater importance to BETC’s success has been Remaly’s contributions as Managing Director. With Remaly managing the business side of the operation, BETC’s annual operating budget has steadily climbed over the past three seasons from $285,000 to $350,000 to $420,000. Back in 2006, it was $12,000. That represents a growth of 3,400 percent.

    “She's incredible with numbers, and I give her a ton of credit for the financial health and success that the company has achieved over the years,” said Weitz. “At the same time, she's a hell of a good artist. Many of our most successful shows have been under her direction. I would go so far as to say she's possibly the most underrated director in the area.”

    Westword’s Juliet Wittman has certainly seen the light. Remaly’s An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf in 2014 “announced emphatically that BETC was at the top of its game, both in choice of material and in terms of performances.”

    If Remaly weren’t so busy behind the scenes, you’d likely be seeing more of her on the stage as well. Her acting resume includes Doubt (Sister James), Stop Kiss (Sara), The Glass Menagerie (Laura) and Antigone (Ismene) for BETC. She also played Hannah in Curious Theatre Company’s world premiere of Collapse. And then there is young Jamison, the son she and Weitz welcomed to the family in 2012.

    Remaly is part of a remarkable organic trend that is underway in Boulder: With the exception of Michael J. Duran of the venerable BDT Stage, all of Boulder’s present theatre companies are managed by women: Pesha Rudnick (Local Theatre Company), Amanda Berg Wilson (The Catamounts), Emily K. Harrison (the lower-cased square product theatre company) and Remaly (BETC).

    Weitz knows one thing for sure:

    “In all honesty, BETC would be nothing without her," he said. "There's no way we would have ever gotten this far without her leadership.”

    Stephen Weitz with son Jamison at a 2013 opening that happened to be his son's first bithday. Photo by John Moore.
    Stephen Weitz with son Jamison at a 2013 opening that happened to be his son's first birthday. Photo by John Moore.

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


    THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS
    Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
    Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
    Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Day 4: Laurence Curry
    Day 5: Bernie Cardell
    Day 6: Susan Lyles
    Day 7: John Jurcheck​
    Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
    Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
    Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
    Day 11: Shauna Johnson
    Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
    Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
    Day 14: Keith Ewer
    Day 15: Allison Watrous
    Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
    Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
    Day 18: Emma Messenger
    Day 19: Shannon McKinney
    Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
    Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
    Day 22: Scott Beyette
    Day 23: Augustus Truhn
    Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
    Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
    Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
    Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
    Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
    Day 29: Mark Collins
    Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
    Bonus: Donald R. Seawell
  • DCPA says farewell to retiring Head of Acting, Larry Hecht

    by John Moore | Aug 04, 2015

    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are downloadable for free. Click "View original photo on Flickr."


    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts said farewell to retiring Head of Acting Larry Hecht on Monday night with a celebration that drew past and current acting students from their 20s into their 70s. Hecht taught hundreds of students over 18 years at the DCPA, ranging from beginners to master’s degree candidates.

    “I consider your passion and utterly endless commitment to what you do, day in and day out, to be a rare and incredible gift,” said Hecht’s successor, Timothy McCracken. "Not only to students, but to all of us around you.”

    (Photo: Larry Hecht accepts the congratulations of his successor as DCPA Head of Acting, Timothy McCracken. Photo by John Moore.)Hecht’s retirement coincides with the end of the DCPA's summer education session. He is also wrapping up his farewell performances as a Colorado-based actor with several roles for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He is playing Doctor Faustus in Wittenberg; Captain Fluellen in Henry V; and Earl of Warwick in Henry VI, Part 1. The season wraps in Boulder on Aug. 9 (303-492-8008).

    (Photo: Larry Hecht accepts the congratulations of his successor as DCPA Head of Acting, Timothy McCracken. Photo by John Moore.)


    Hecht had a major role on the faculty of the DCPA's now-closed National Theatre Conservatory (NTC) masters degree program. His many on-stage credits for the DCPA Theatre Company have included A Skull in Connemara, The Pillowman, Glengarry Glen Ross, A Midsummer Night's Dream and more. He also played Mark Rothko in Curious Theatre's multiple award-winning Red.

    Hecht and wife Ashlee Temple (a DCPA Teaching Artist and local director) are moving to California.


    READ OUR ART AND ARTIST PROFILE FEATURE ON LARRY HECHT 

    Monday’s celebration did not start until 9:30 p.m. because that’s when Hecht’s final evening class was scheduled to end. His final group of students serenaded him with a take-off on Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls (You Make the Rockin’ World Go Round.)”

    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous and longtime Teaching Artist Steven Cole Hughes (who is himself leaving the DCPA for a year-long teaching assignment at Western State College in Gunnison) compiled enough tributes from Hecht’s students throughout the world to fill a book. The hosts read several randomly chosen excerpts, many of which thanked Hecht for making them better artists.

    “Thanks for teaching me to speak from the heart, helping me to find the courage to do it in front of people, and giving a little less of a (bleep) what anybody thinks about it,” wrote Ailish Riggs Dermody, a member of the NTC Class of 2008.

    Larry Hecht is playing Doctor Faustus in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'Wittenberg' through Aug. 9. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. January LaVoy, from the NTC Class of 2002, talked about something she calls "That Larry Hecht Thing":

    “Truth. Authenticity. Spontaneity. Simplification. Humanity,” LaVoy wrote. “Most of all: Stop pretending, and just be.”

    (Photo: Larry Hecht is playing Doctor Faustus in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's "Wittenberg" through Aug. 9. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    McCracken said he considers himself not as Hecht’s successor but, like most everyone else in the room, among his students.

    “I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to learn and grow simply by being around you,” McCracken said, “having you rub off on me and picking up any and every little piece of information, thought, opinion you have offered on theatre, teaching and the arts. I consider you to be one of the finest acting teachers in the country.”

    That’s a sentiment Watrous echoed in an anecdote she shared involving the late and loved DCPA actor and instructor Archie Smith.

    “Archie once said to home, ‘You know, Larry Hecht is the No. 1 acting teacher in the country,’ ” Watrous said. “And I know Archie to be one of the wisest men I have ever met in my life.”

    Encouraged to make a speech, the reluctant Hecht reminded his students that "acting is important, is not frivolous, is serious and does matter to the world.”

    He also left them with some rather profound advice: “If you ever direct, don't write director’s notes,” he said. “It's stupid, and nobody cares.”

    Still, Hecht wrote plenty of director’s notes in his career, and they often quoted Hecht’s favorite band, the Rolling Stones. He did it again at Monday’s party: "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need,” Hecht said.

    “Well, you all gave me what I need … so thank you."   

  • DCPA announces promotions for Zupancic, McCracken

    by John Moore | Jun 08, 2015

    David Zupancik, right, with 2015 Saturday Night Alive headliners Jarrod Spector and Jessie Muller. The event raised $914,000 for DCPA Education programs. Photo by John Moore. David Zupancic, right, with 2015 Saturday Night Alive headliners Jarrod Spector and Jessie Mueller. The event raised $914,000 for DCPA Education programs. Photo by John Moore.


    The DCPA has announced that David Zupancic has been named Director of Development, and Timothy McCracken will be the new Head of Acting for Education.

    Zupancic, a native of Pueblo, has been serving as interim Director of Development since the retirement of Dorothy Denny last year. McCracken will replace Larry Hecht, who has been teaching with the DCPA for 18 years, including having a major role on the faculty of the now-closed National Theatre Conservatory masters program.

    Larry Hecht and Timothy McCracken"David has served with distinction as Associate Director of Development since joining the DCPA in 2000 and has worked tirelessly the last year as the interim Director," said DCPA CEO Scott Shiller. "In his time as Interim Director, David has hired extraordinary staff, led Saturday Night Alive to record-breaking revenue and has inspired other departments to help fund-raise. He is collaborative and committed."

    (Photos above: Larry Hecht, left, and Timothy McCracken.)


    Hecht and wife Ashlee Temple (a DCPA Teaching Artist and local director) are retiring at the end of the DCPA's summer education session and moving to California. He has appeared as an actor in many DCPA Theatre Company productions, including A Skull in Connemara, The Pillowman, Glengarry Glen Ross, A Midsummer Night's Dream and many more. In the meantime, Hecht will be starring as Doctor Faustus in Wittenberg. for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder.

    McCracken is a professional actor, playwright, acting teacher and director who has worked in theatre, television and film for more than 20 yeaTim McCracken may look sweet, but he played a seriously bad dad in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Giver' in 2012. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.rs. He has performed with the DCPA Theatre Company, Curious Theatre Company, the Arvada Center and Colorado Shakespeare Festival. His DCPA Theatre credits include Benediction, Jackie and Me, The Giver, When We Are Married, Reckless, A Christmas Carol and A Midsummer Night's Dream. New York credits include Troilus and Cressida for the New York Shakespeare Festival and My Neoptolamus for the New York Theatre Workshop.

    (Photo above and right: Tim McCracken may look sweet, but he played a seriously bad dad in the DCPA Theatre Company's "The Giver" in 2012. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    McCracken, a native of Napa, Calif., earned his MFA in Theatre from the DCPA's National Theatre Conservatory and a BA in Theatre from Whitman College. He has taught at Webster University, Washington University and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He is married to Denver actor Tara Falk. They are the parents of son Con.

    "His organizational skills and classroom talents are legendary. His enthusiasm is unmatched," Hecht said in naming his own replacement. "This is a thrilling step for DCPA Education."

    McCracken is also known around town for his work managing restaurants such as Root Down and, more recently, the new Ophelia's at 20th Street between Larimer and Lawrence streets.

    As Head of Acting for the Academy, Hecht coordinates the curriculum for the adult education programs. He serves, in essence, as a bridge for serious acting students who want to make the leap from the classroom onto legit area stages. His major initiative is his popular Master Class Project. Recently, Hecht led 15 students into the intimidating world of Stephen Sondheim, which he followed up with a student version of Macbeth.

    More about David Zupancic:
    In the past, Zupancic has been responsible for three membership groups: Best of Broadway Society, Directors Society, and Marquee Club. In addition to serving as major gifts officer for gifts from individuals, including a significant gift to renovate the Directors Room, he has secured recent corporate sponsorships from Anadarko Petroleum, Microsoft, Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management, Wells Fargo Advisors, KeyBank, Larimer Square, BKD CPAs & Advisors, and Fairfield and Woods. Atlantic Trust’s sponsorship renewal for the 2015-16 Season marks the company's 12th consecutive year of participation. Zupancic also successfully solicited foundation grants from Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, Oscar G. Mayer & Elsa S. Mayer Family Foundation, Walter S. Rosenberry III Charitable Trust, and Mabel Y. Hughes Charitable Trust.

    More about Larry Hecht:
    Art and Artist: The Golden Age of Larry Hecht

    Larry Hecht, center, with wife Ashlee Temple and DCPA Education master-class student Daniel Traylor at the 2015 Saturday Night Alive. Photo by John Moore.
    Larry Hecht, center, with wife Ashlee Temple and DCPA Education master-class student Daniel Traylor at the 2015 Saturday Night Alive. Photo by John Moore.



    Video: Tim McCracken and son's Ice Bucket Challenge
    "


  • Meet the cast: 'Jackie & Me'

    by John Moore | Nov 26, 2013

    In this new video series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Here, meet the cast of the Denver Center Theatre Company's family friendly baseball play "Jackie & Me," running through Dec. 22, 2013, in the Space Theatre. Videos by John Moore. Each runs about 2 minutes.

    Above: William Oliver Watkins. Other cast members:

    Kristen Adele

    Aaron M. Davidson

    Diana Dresser

    John Jurcheck

    Timothy McCracken

    Leigh Miller

    Michael Santo

    Justin Walvoord

    Ryan Wuestewald

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

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