• 2017 True West Awards: Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Awards The Breakouts  Jeremy Rill Steven J. Burge

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 30: The Breakouts

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill are very different performers. Think Sean Hayes and Frank Sinatra. Burge will shock you into gut-busting laughter, while Rill will make you swoon. If Burge is the flamboyant life of the party, then Rill is more, say … sunset on the beach.

    “If there is a spectrum,” said director and actor Robert Michael Sanders, "those two are on the opposite ends of it.”

    The comedian and the crooner.

    Steven J Burge and Jeremy Rill But these two emerging actors have far more in common than you might think. Both had big-time breakout years on Denver stages in 2017 — and both were separately described as “the nicest guy in Denver theatre” in interviews for this very story.

    Something's gotta give.

    Steven Cole Hughes, Burge’s castmate in the Denver Center’s extended hit comedy An Act of God, goes so far as to declare with dead-on eye contact that “Steven Burge is the nicest guy working in the American theatre today. Period.”

    Even Hughes’ 2-year-old daughter, Birdie, backed her father up.

    “Hey Birdie, who is this?” Hughes said, pointing to a poster for An Act of God. The child’s face immediately lit up. She pointed to a photo of Burge playing no less than God Himself, and she declared enthusiastically: “Steven!”

    “She’s 2,” Hughes reiterated. “Even the 2-year-olds love Steve Burge.”

    That’s high praise (or short praise, come to think of it) for Burge, who has been working his way up to this moment with one joyful performance after another since moving from Iowa in 2003, most often in extroverted comic roles. Highlights have included playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and conquering the epic challenge of playing 40 roles in the one-man comedy Fully Committed. In 2012, Westword’s Juliet Wittman flatly declared, “Steve Burge is one of the funniest actors anywhere.”

    Says his friend and fellow actor Shannan Steele: “I love watching him delight in making others happy.”

    But Burge’s body of work has revealed far greater range and uncommon emotional honesty in stagings such as Dog Sees God at The Avenue Theater (I called him "triumphant" in The Denver Post) and Curious Theatre’s Speech and Debate. No matter how big the character Burge is called upon to play, “you always know there's a real and very interesting person underneath," Wittman wrote.

    (Story continues after the photo.)

    Steven J. Burge United in Love Photo by John Moore
    Steven J. Burge co-hosted the 'United in Love' benefit concert with Eden Lane that raised $40,000 for The Denver Actors Fund.  Photo by John Moore.


    But Burge’s steady career trajectory took a turn for the skyward late last year when he was hired by Director Geoffrey Kent to be the understudy for An Act of God, a pointed social comedy in which God comes down to Earth in human form to set the record straight about the misguided ways in which we sometimes act in God’s name. When Broadway and TV star Wesley Taylor’s contract expired, the Denver Center did not seek out a similarly big-named national replacement. It already had Burge, who smoothly ascended to Almighty status for what turned into an extended run at the Galleria Theatre. The role called on all of Burge’s comic skills, as well as his uncommon gift to make people listen and laugh, even when they might not like what he is telling them. Burge had An Act of God audiences eating out of his holy goblet.

    To say that Burge made an impression in his Denver Center debut would be an understatement.

    “Steven has spot-on comic timing, a fantastic voice and the best rehearsal attitude and esprit de corps I know of,” said Kent. “He improves the quality of everything he touches.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A few months later, Director Ray Roderick punched Burge's ticket for an immediate return trip to the Galleria Theatre in the musical comedy First Date. Gigs at the Galleria are considered jackpot jobs among local actors because they generally come with a minimum six-month contract.

    Burge plays many characters in First Date, most notably the quintessential gay best friend of a young woman who’s just starting to brave the dating pool. The reason Burge succeeds at taking such a stock character and making him meaningfully connect with an audience, says Steele, is his willingness to bring his authentic self to all his roles.

    “The thing you need to know about Steven is that just beneath his hilarious and charming exterior is a beautifully tender, vulnerable, compassionate and generous person,” she said.

    “Steven is the opposite of an old soul. He is brand new to his world ... and his childlike wonder and joy are palpable.”

    800 Red Hot and Cole Cherry Creek Theatre Jeremy Rill Phot by Olga LopezHe’s now being rewarded for paying his many dues, and everyone agrees — it could not be happening to a nicer guy. For years, Burge has been known for saying yes to anyone who asks for his time and talents. This year, he co-hosted a benefit concert at the Lone Tree Arts Center that netted $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund, and Miscast 2017 at the Town Hall Arts Center, which raised $7,000 more. He also has kept the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards buzzing along since 2012 with his unpredictable comic energy as co-host with GerRee Hinshaw.

    "To me, Burge encapsulates the heart and soul of the Denver theatre community,” Kent said. “He volunteers for almost every arts organization I can list. If Denver were to elect a ‘Theatre Ambassador,’ he would have my vote.”

    Also receiving votes for Nicest Guy in Denver Theatre would be Jeremy Rill, an Arkansas native who already was a big deal in the lofty Chicago theatre scene when he moved to Colorado for love. And it didn’t take long for people to notice.

    “It's that voice,” said his frequent director, Kelly Van Oosbree. “The richness and his absolute control of it is remarkable. The first time I heard Jeremy open his mouth, I said, ‘This guy is going to be big.’ You just can’t deny that voice.”

    Coming Sunday: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    The Performance Now Theatre Company in Lakewood was the first Colorado company to catch wise, casting Rill in the regional premiere of Jane Eyre (Edward Rochester), Guys and Dolls (Sky Masterson) and Ragtime (Younger Brother). By then it was becoming pretty obvious to anyone within earshot that Rill was going to be a man in demand this year.

    Jeremy Rill Miscast Photo by John MooreA lot more people know “that voice” after it opened up and sang for the first time on four different metro stages this year. Rill started out playing no less than Cole Porter himself in the Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s Red, Hot and Cole at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, landing quite cozily among a star-filled cast that included Steele alongside local big-shots Seth Dhonau and Lauren Shealy (both now co-starring with Burge in First Date), Damon Guerasio, Stephen Day, Matt LaFontaine, Sharon Kay White and several others.

    Rill then earned karma points for life when he was asked to join the ensemble of the Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar after the actor playing Judas had to leave the show for medical reasons. That set off casting dominoes that ended with Rill stepping onto one of the biggest theatre stages in the state a mere four hours before the first performance in front of an audience.

    There’s a reason Arvada Center director Rod Lansberry turned to Rill, whom he had never before cast, when the chips were down, Van Oosbree said. It’s that Sinatra cool.

    “If someone ever asked me to do something like that, I would have said, ‘No, thanks,’ ” Van Oosbree said. “But Rod knew Jeremy could handle the pressure. And he did.”

    That may be one reason karma has smiled back on Rill, who will return to Performance Now to play Cinderella’s prince in Into the Woods opening Jan. 5 at the Lakewood Cultural Center. He then joins the cast of the Arvada Center’s Sunday in the Park with George — and on the first day of rehearsal this time. Rill will play Louis, fiancé of the model who attracts the eye of an artist based on Georges Seurat.

    Superstar led to the 2017 performance that will put Rill on every director’s radar – and wish list — for years to come. Van Oosbree tapped Rill to head another dauntingly loaded ensemble in Stephen Sondheim’s Company for the Aurora Fox that included Shealy, Heather Lacy, Lindsey Falduto, Carolyn Lohr, Rebekah Ortiz, Heather Doris and many others.

    (Story continues below the video.)


    Video bonus: Jeremy Rill performs 'Everybody's Girl' at Miscast 2017:




    You knew going in that Rill would bring any production of Company to a thunderous finish with his take on the forceful ballad “Being Alive.” But what separates a good Company from a great one is an actor who understands that Bobby’s journey is a serious rumination on the relative pros and cons of choosing a married or solitary life. Rill allowed himself to get fully lost in his journey — which at times meant going inside and checking out from the Aurora Fox audience altogether.

    Turns out, as Van Oosbree plainly puts it: Jeremy Rill is not just another pretty voice.

    “He’s also a really good actor,” she said. “He found the vulnerable in Bobby and the underlying pain that I think sometimes goes missing in other performances. The easy thing would be to make Bobby a fun, jovial bachelor, but that’s just not who this man is. Jeremy was clever and he was sexy and he was charming and he was cynical and he was sad. He was all the things. He just killed it.”

    Wrote Ramsey Scott for the Aurora Sentinel: “Jeremy Rill nails the mix of aloofness and emotional despair that plagues his character throughout the show and matches it with a voice that deserves to be the center of attention.”  Added Wittman for Westword: "Jeremy Rill has a richly melodious and supple voice that’s sheer pleasure to listen to."

    Norell Moore by Jeremy RillAnd Rill’s artistry, by the way, is not limited to the stage. He’s also a disarmingly effective portrait photographer who is known for bringing out an astonishing clarity of character in a single frame. Look no further than his revealing portrait of fellow actor Norrell Moore (right) soon after she started chemotherapy for breast cancer.

    “I mean this as no disrespect to any other photographer,” said Sanders. “But if you put 100 random actor headshots in a pile in front of me, I could easily pick out the ones taken by Jeremy because he has such a distinctive style behind the camera. He just has a way of making actors look their best. Maybe it’s because he’s one of them. But somehow he manages to put a sparkle in the eye of every single person he photographs.”

    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 

    Steven J. Burge: 2017
    • The Almighty in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    • Co-Host, United in Love benefit concert
    • Co-Host, Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards
    • Co-Host, Miscast 2017
    • Multiple roles in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date

    Jeremy Rill: 2017
    • Man 1 (Cole Porter) in Cherry Creek Theatre’s Red, Hot and Cole
    • Ensemble in Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar
    • Aurora Fox’s Company
    • Emile de Becque in Platte Valley Players' South Pacific (concert version)
    • Performed in Miscast 2017 for the Denver Actors Fund

    Steven J Burge GerRee Hinshaw 2017 Henry Awards BLF Photography
    Steven J. Burge and GerRee Hinshaw co-hosting the 2017 Henry Awards. BLF Photography.


    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's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

     

  • 'An Act of God' extends; Burge ascends to Almighty status

    by John Moore | Jan 24, 2017
    Steven J. Burge An Act of God
    Steven J. Burge in the title role of the hit comedy An Act of God. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Steven J. Burge will assume the role of God in An Act of God starting tonight, and today the Denver Center for the Performing Arts announced that the hit comedy is being extended through April 8 at the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    An Act of God is directed by Geoffrey Kent and also includes Steven Cole Hughes as Michael and Erik Sandvold as Gabriel. Jamie Grayson joins the cast as understudy for God and Michael. 

    A Steven J. BurgeGod takes human form in An Act of God, the acclaimed new play direct from Broadway that opens with the Almighty tackling His greatest challenge yet: The Mile High City. He’s finally arrived to set the record straight about the commandments and other quotes that have been attributed to Him over time ... and He’s not holding back. The script is based on the critically acclaimed book written by God (otherwise known as "The Bible") and transcribed by David Javerbaum, a 13-time Emmy Award-winner for his work as a head writer and executive producer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    The play premiered on Broadway on May 7, 2015, and ran for a limited run with God occupying the body of Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"). The play returned to Broadway June 6, 2016, for another limited engagement starring Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace"). This production in Denver is one of the first regional productions of the hit comedy.

    Since making his Colorado debut in 2003 as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Burge has appeared on stages throughout the Denver metro area including the Denver Center, Curious Theatre, Arvada Center, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret and many others. He is also the co-host of the Colorado Theatre Guild's annual Henry Awards.

    The role of God was was originated by Broadway star Wesley Taylor, whose contract ran through Jan. 22. Burge has been serving as understudy in the roles of God and Michael.

    The Denver creative team includes the DCPA's Lisa M. Orzolek (scenic design), Meghan Anderson Doyle (costume design) and Charles R. MacLeod (lighting design). Making his DCPA Broadway/Cabaret sound design debut is Anson Nicholson.

    Steven J. Burge, Erik Sandvold, Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God. Photo by John Moore.
    From left: Erik Sandvold, Steven J. Burge and Steven Cole Hughes in 'An Act of God.' Photo by John Moore.


    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    An Act of GodThe story: God takes human form in this critically acclaimed new comedy direct from Broadway. He's finally arrived to set the record straight.
    • Through April 8, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets start at $47: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Steven J. Burge is following in God's footsteps
    Meet the cast: Steven J. Burge
    Meet the cast: Erik Sandvold
    Meet the cast: Steven Cole Hughes
    Video, photos: DCPA, Macy's help 'Make-A-Wish' come true
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    A day in the busy life of Director Geoffrey Kent
    Interview: Geoffrey Kent on a laugh-a-minute God
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award
  • Steven J. Burge following in God's footsteps

    by John Moore | Dec 02, 2016

    Steven J. Burge. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins
    Steven J. Burge is shown co-hosting the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards in July. Photo by Brian Landis Folkins.


    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts announced today that award-winning Denver actor Steven J. Burge will assume the role of God in the comedy An Act of God when Broadway star Wesley Taylor's contract ends on Jan. 22. Burge will assume the supreme role in the Garner Galleria Theatre starting Jan. 24.

    God takes human form in An Act of God, the "sinfully funny" and critically acclaimed new play direct from Broadway. It opens with the King of the Universe tackling His greatest challenge yet: The Mile High City. He’s finally arrived to set the record straight about the commandments and other quotes that have been attributed to Him over time ... and He’s not holding back. The script is based on the critically acclaimed book written by God (otherwise known as "The Bible") and transcribed by David Javerbaum, a 13-time Emmy Award-winner for his work as a head writer and executive producer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    Since making his Colorado debut in 2003 as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Burge has appeared on stages throughout the Denver metro area including the Denver Center, Curious Theatre, Arvada Center, Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret and many others. He is also the co-host of the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Awards.

    Wesley Taylor Taylor, a Broadway star and fan favorite in the NBC-TV show “Smash,” will play God as scheduled through Jan. 24. Westword's Juliet Wittman said of Taylor's performance: "He is so charming, sometimes puckish, sometimes tough ... and has such magnificent abs." Taylor has been seen on Broadway in Rock of Ages and The Addams Family. On  Nov. 14, he presented a star-studded evening of own short plays in New York City, raising thousands of dollars for charity. 

    Burge has been serving in the understudy roles of God and Michael. Local auditions to understudy for these roles will take place from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21. For more information visit Denvercenter.org/about-us/careers.

    The cast of An Act of God also includes Steven Cole Hughes as the angel Michael and Erik Sandvold as the angel Gabriel. The director is Geoffrey Kent. The creative team includes the DCPA's Lisa M. Orzolek (scenic design), Meghan Anderson Doyle (costume design) and Charles R. MacLeod (lighting design). Making his DCPA Broadway/Cabaret sound design debut is Anson Nicholson.

    The play premiered on Broadway on May 7, 2015, and ran for a limited run with God occupying the body of Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"). The play returned to Broadway June 6, 2016, for another limited engagement starring Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace"). This production in Denver is one of the first regional productions of the hit comedy.

    MEET STEVEN J. BURGE
    God starting Jan. 24, understudy God/Michael through Jan. 22

    Steven J. Burge. The award winning character actor landed in Denver following national tours of … And Then They Came for Me and A Christmas Carol. He was the recipient of The Denver Post Ovation Award for Best Solo Performance in Fully Committed (Aurora Fox), a one-man show in which Steven portrayed more than 30 different characters. The piece also earned him a Henry Award nomination, Westword’s Best of Denver Award and an Out Front Colorado Marlowe Award. Steven has also been recognized for his work in Contrived Ending (Buntport Theater) and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (Avenue Theater).

    • Hometown: Martelle, Iowa. It's a cute little farm town with fewer than 300 people in it.
    • Training: I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa
    • How do we follow you on social media? I don’t do the Twitter or the Instagram. I’m firmly and archaically planted in the land of the Facebook. Friend me here! <3
    • What was the role that changed your life? In 2003, a tour I was doing ended and I came to Denver to take a three-month contract playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. The plan was for me to do the show and hit the road again. Colorado was so beautiful, however, and the people were so great, that I just kept postponing my departure date. I kept forgetting to leave. Now, 13 years later, I consider myself a proud Denverite. I guess that role didn’t just change my life … it sort of created it.
    • A Steven J. Burge quoteWhy are you an actor? Because I would do it even if I weren’t getting paid to do it. Sometimes I feel like I’m pulling a fast one on the universe when I cash a paycheck from a theatre company. I love being in a room with other creative, passionate, interesting people. I look forward to rehearsals. I look forward to performances. And I’m bummed out on days off and closing nights. I don’t know how many people out there are working jobs they don’t want to take a vacation from  — my guess is, not many. But that’s how I feel about my job. And I never take that feeling for granted.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: I’d like to find a job where I got paid to sit down and listen to people tell me their stories. I think people are fascinating and I would love to learn about as many of them as possible. Is that a job? If it is, and you’re reading this and you’re the boss of that job … invite me in for an interview.
    • elvira4Ideal scene partner: Denver is known for its sports teams and outdoorsy activities. That’s for certain. But we are also home to a thriving artistic community. I have met and worked with some of the best, most inspiring, most creative actors anywhere, right here in Denver. It might sound like a cop-out, but honestly? I’d love to roll up my sleeves and work with any one of Denver’s own resident performers, any day. (But if that answer isn’t good enough, then I'll say Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. She cracks me up.
    • Why does An Act of God matter? Everybody believes in something, right? You either believe there is something bigger than us out there somewhere, or you believe there is not something bigger than us out there somewhere. I think An Act of God does a great job of creating a space for everyone  — regardless of spirituality or religion or lack thereof  — to explore those beliefs in a safe and often hilarious place.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of seeing it? I hope it provides a few good belly laughs, as well as a few quiet moments to contemplate. And if there is a lively discussion or spirited debate on the car ride, home, all the better. That is when theatre is doing what theatre is meant to do.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... All I want is a room somewhere,
      Far away from the cold night air.
      With one enormous chair,
      Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?"


      That's from My Fair Lady. Yes, I am a #MusicalTheatreGeek

    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    An Act of God• The story: God takes human form in this critically acclaimed new comedy direct from Broadway. He's finally arrived to set the record straight.
    • Through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    (Please be advised that the DenverCenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of An Act of God.)

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Meet Wesley Taylor, An Act of God
    Meet Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God
    Meet Erik Sandvold, An Act of God
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    A day in the busy life of Director Geoffrey Kent
    Interview: Geoffrey Kent on a laugh-a-minute God
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • A day in the busy, busy life of Geoffrey Kent

    by John Moore | Oct 11, 2016

    Geoffrey Kent An Act of God
    'An Act of God' Director Geoffrey Kent, right, with his cast, from left: Steven Cole Hughes, Erik Sandvold and Wesley Taylor. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    EDITOR'S NOTE: Artists are natural multitaskers. Perhaps that stems from a young age and the struggle to scrape together a reasonable living in the arts. The more you know – and the more you know how to do – the more likely you might be to pay your rent. But even when artists reach the top of their craft(s), they continue to find their services in great demand throughout their careers. Many continue to juggle a variety of creative duties, often on multiple shows at once. That is certainly the case at the Denver Center.

    Take Geoffrey Kent, for example. Kent is a Colorado native who started teaching classes with DCPA Education back in 1996 and debuted as an actor with the DCPA Theatre Company in Anthony Powell’s Hamlet in 2002. He won a 2015 True West Award for his performance as Iago for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He’s also a certified stage-combat expert. Literally. He’s the former President of the Society of American Fight Directors, the largest organization of stage combatants in the world. In September, he became one of only 18 certified “Fight Masters,” and the youngest by a decade.

    With that kind of cred, Kent is also the resident Fight Director for all Theatre Company plays. He is also member of the Arvada Center's new resident acting company, where he will act in Bus Stop and direct Waiting for Godot. Kent will make his DCPA directorial debut when An Act of God premieres regionally at the Garner Galleria Theatre on Oct. 21. And while he’s been getting that Broadway comedy ready for opening, he’s also been choreographing the complicated stage combat in Frankenstein. And teaching weekly stage-combat classes at the Denver Center.

    Twenty years after his arrival at the Denver Center, Geoff Kent is as busy as any kid ever was trying to break into the business. In short, he continues to practice pretty much every theatre discipline he ever learned - at the same time. To illustrate the point, we asked him to take notes we could share with readers that show a day in the life of Geoffrey Kent. He chose Saturday, Oct. 1, just a few days before he completed his work on Frankenstein, and just a few days after starting on An Act of God with Broadway star Wesley Taylor in the role of The Almighty.

    Here is his report, in his own words:


    Titus Geoffrey Kent6 a.m.: I’m usually up at 6 because that’s when my “Titus Hates Cats” alarm goes off. Here’s how it goes: The cats enter the bedroom to ask for breakfast. Titus, my Chihuahua who thinks he’s a Great Dane, runs subtle interference by emerging from under the covers yammering at me at 100 mph. “OK, I’m awake! God! I mean, Dog!”

     6:15 a.m.: Breakfast consists of microwave poached eggs on toast - because I’m lazy. And coffee. Times 3. While over-caffeinating, I shoot off some emails about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play On!  Project to DCPA Literary Manager Douglas Langworthy. The OSF is commissioning modern translations of every Shakespeare play – and Doug is writing three of them. His Henry VI Parts I and II will be read in a workshop in Boulder soon.

    6:30 a.m.: I’m wracking my brain trying to find the right kid to play Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, which I will be directing next for the Colorado Springs TheatreWorks. I just cannot find that kid. Face palm. My wife, DCPA Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen, is adapting this version. We have a quick connection about the script - over yawns.

    7 a.m.: A walk with my proud post-cat-barking attack dogs.

    Geoffrey Kent An Act of God8 a.m. Saturdays are my busiest day of the week because, in addition to my other show duties, I work a three-hour Rapier and Dagger class at the Denver Center into the mix. I bike to work, taking the long route. I only live about 4 miles from the Denver Center, but I am really enjoying this gorgeous ride ... until I hit 15 miles, when I realize that 15 miles was a terrible and unnecessary choice to start the day. The soundtrack to Rock of Ages gets me through it. My God in An Act of God – Wesley Taylor – sings on that soundtrack, and I realize I am singing my God’s part. Badly. (PS: I say “my God”) a lot these days.

    9:30-12:30: My Rapier and Dagger class at the DCPA’s Newman Education building. That’s across Arapahoe Street from the Denver Performing Arts Complex. I have 16 swashbucklers in this class, with special guest Samantha Egle. (Who among many things is also house-managing for Denver Center shows that will be beginning at 1:30 p.m. today.) She is a mean sword-fighter to boot. On deck for today is fancy footwork and prise de fer – a move where the fencer takes the opponent's blade into a line and holds it there in preparation for attack. It literally means “taking the blade.”

    12:25 p.m.: I enjoy a brief visit from my talented wife, who is teaching an improv class nearby - and she brought coffee! – which is already bringing me to the brink of blissful caffeine overload.

    12:30 p.m. sharp: Class ends. I make a quick stairwell run to join my An Act of God rehearsal, which begins at 12:30 in the Orange Studio. Note to self: Remember to eat.

    An Act of God Scenic Design 12:31 p.m. I forget to eat. Rehearsal starts.

    12:32 p.m.: It’s fun to be working on An Act of God in the Orange Studio. As a longtime fight director I have… well … killed a lot of people in this room. Last week, in rehearsal for Frankenstein, we snapped some necks in this very same spot. Having multiple jobs is weird. (No snapped necks are anticipated for An Act of God.) 

    (Pictured above right: Erik Sandvold, Wesley Taylor and Steven Cole Hughes get a first look at the scenic model for 'An Act of God' at the Galleria Theatre.)

    12:32-5:30 p.m.: We work through the first half of the script. We are encouraged to localize the script, meaning to change jokes about New York to jokes about Denver. God is kind of a braggart at the top of the play. The conceit is that God is coming down to Earth to adapt the dusty 10 Commandments for these modern times. But because the very majesty of God might simply be too much for we mere mortals to handle, He takes on the far more approachable human form of a fabulously fun actor with just enough snark and charm. And he’s chosen Wesley Taylor, star of stage and screen ("Smash"). I encourage Wesley to make the bragging even braggier. So we add a bit where Wesley flashes his abs to the audience. This works. When you see them, you’ll know. We have a short discussion about how to best localize a joke about “the gayest area of Denver.” (It’s a surprise.)

    It's delightful to rehearse a comedy with a team of actors who have such amazing timing. Wesley’s castmates are longtime Denver favorites Erik Sandvold and Steven Cole Hughes.  Wesley is game for anything. We try 10 punchlines to a single joke. We settle on a favorite, only to abandon it for a better one five minutes later.

    Geoff Kent QuoteAt the end of the rehearsal, I get to give God notes. (Isn’t that weird?) A miniaturized version of Noah’s Ark is a set piece. I catch myself actually saying, “God: Can you cradle the ark like it’s a baby?"

    5:30 p.m.: We wrap An Act of God rehearsal for the day and make plans to work the second half of the play on Sunday. I then eat food … I think?

    6:45 p.m.: It’s fight call for Frankenstein. That means a preview performance is about to take place on the Stage Theatre. About 45 minutes before every show, all of the actors who have any physical contact with another actor during the show meet on the stage for a quick run-through of all violent stage business. This exercise keeps the actors sharp, and safe. It also helps them work these movements into their muscle memory. Frankenstein has lots of short bits of physical action, but this show is further complicated by the fact that two actors trade places each night playing the leading roles of Frankenstein and his Creature. I never remember who is playing the scientist and who is playing the monster on any given night until I show up. My fight captain is Rodney Lizcano, who also is an actor in the show. Because I can’t always be there, a Fight Captain is designated to help the actors with any concerns they may have. One of my fun tasks with Rodney is figuring out how to throw young Charlie Korman about the stage by his head - without actually throwing young Charlie Korman about the stage by the head.

    You really can leave nothing to chance when it comes to fight direction, because the safety of the actors is at stake. In my job, the No. 1 priority is and always will be, “Do no harm.” 

    One major challenge in Frankenstein is staging a moment of conflict between Frankenstein and the Creature that is staged on a massive coffin suspended above the stage by four ropes. Now imagine these two actors wrestling around on this very narrow piece of scenery that is hanging above the stage. Complicated by the fact that the lights go in and out during the scene. Also: The Creature’s eyes are closed. There is very … very little room for error.

    We run the scene. No one dies. … Success!

    7:30 p.m.: I watch the preview performance of Frankenstein. The young Charlie Korman head-toss toss goes well. I note a few tweaks for Rodney to fix the next day. I will next be working with these actors directly on Tuesday. I watched the show from the grid above the stage with Avi Levin (Charlie's understudy), and he hangs on every word for the entire show. It's infectious.

    Jessica Austgen Tartuffe9:30 p.m.: The creative team goes over notes with the cast. Some of the audience has stayed to watch the crew work on the show’s snowfall mechanics. We all say goodbye to amazing Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood, whose work is done, and he leaves town tomorrow. The end of the creative process is often a long series of slow goodbyes, only with no yearbooks to sign. Jason rocks.

     9:45 p.m.: Now I forget where I parked my car and wander the parking garage aimlessly. The bike helmet clipped to my bag fails to remind me that I did not actually drive the car to work today. Eventually I remember this ... and that I forgot to bring my bike lights. So I wait for my wife to finish her performance in the Arvada Center’s Tartuffe. She kindly comes for me and gives me a ride home.

    Midnight: I walk the dogs quickly. They are oddly silent. Surely they are saving their barks for the 6 a.m. wake-up call tomorrow.

    (Pictured above right: Geoffrey Kent's wife, Jessica Austgen, performing in the Arvada Center's 'Tartuffe.' Photo by Matthew Gale Photography.)


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

    Geoffrey Kent Teaching
    In this 2015 file photo, Geoffrey Kent is shown conducting a stage swordsmanship class for DCPA Education. His students are Kyle Steffen, left, and fellow Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen (Kent's eventual wife.) Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    An Act of God
    : Ticket information

    • Oct. 15 through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    • Through Oct. 30

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

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Geoffrey Kent:
    Geoffrey Kent on 'a laugh-a minute God'
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    Geoffrey Kent's As You Like It cast profile
    Geoffrey Kent's NewsCenter podcast on the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award
  • Director Geoffrey Kent on a 'laugh-a-minute' God

    by John Moore | Sep 08, 2016
    Geoffrey Kent quote. An Act of GodAn Act of God is a new comedy that imagines The Almighty is coming down to Earth to adapt the dusty 10 Commandments for these modern times. But because the very majesty of God might simply be too much for we mere mortals to handle, He takes on the far more approachable human form of a fabulously fun actor with just enough snark and charm. Imagine Jim Parsons or Sean Hayes — two popular TV sit-com actors who have played the role on Broadway.

    In Denver, no need to imagine Wesley Taylor. The Broadway and TV star (Smash) has been cast as the omnipotent one here.

    “Think of God as the perfect host of the perfect cocktail party … and he has the mic,” said Geoffrey Kent, a longtime actor and stage-combat expert who will be making his DCPA directorial debut when An Act of God premieres regionally at the Garner Galleria Theatre on Oct. 15. Kent calls the show part stand-up comedy… and part “Oprah.”

    In An Act of God, Kent said, “We get to watch God appear before us as a reflection of who we are now.”

    And who are we now?

    “Oh, we can be kind of terrible sometimes, and we can also be wonderful,” Kent said with a laugh. “And the same thing can be said of God.”

    An Act of God, written by 13-time Emmy winner David Javerbaum of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, is “laugh-a-minute funny,” Kent said – but in an occasionally thoughtful kind of way.

    “I think it pokes fun at the theist and the atheist equally,” Kent said. “But a comedy can ask meaningful questions just as well as a drama can. What’s joyful to me is that through the course of the play, we get to watch God learn something about himself — and that humanizes him.”

    The cast also includes Steven Cole Hughes as the angel Michael, Erik Sandvold as Gabriel and Steven J. Burge as understudy to God.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kent is a Colorado native who attended Centaurus High School in Lafayette and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. He started teaching classes with DCPA Education back in 1996 and debuted as an actor with the DCPA Theatre Company in Anthony Powell’s Hamlet in 2002. He is the in-house Fight Director for all Theatre Company plays, and is a member of the Arvada Center's new resident acting company.

    “I never thought I would ever have an opportunity to direct a show at the Galleria Theatre,” Kent said, “and it’s thrilling.”

    An Act of God: Ticket information

    • Oct. 15 through March 12, 2017
    • Garner-Galleria Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: TBA
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Selected Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Casting announced for An Act of God
    Geoffrey Kent's As You Like It cast profile
    Geoffrey Kent's NewsCenter podcast on the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Geoffrey Kent's 2015 True West Award
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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.