Denver School of the Arts honors "Just Like Us" author Helen Thorpe

by John Moore | Sep 30, 2013


Click here to see a full photo gallery from the Denver School of the Arts gala, including photos from "Beauty and the Beast."


"Just Like Us" author Helen Thorpe was honored Saturday, Sept. 28, at the first-ever Denver School of the Arts Friends Foundation gala at the school.

Thorpe was given the Community Arts Leadership Award for her role in inspiring youth through the arts. The presenter was Susan Daggett, an environmental attorney, DSA mom and wife of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. (Their daughter made a video appearance in the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of "The Giver" last season.)

"Just Like Us" won the Colorado Book Award and is being adapted for the stage by the Denver Center Theatre Company. It opens for previews Oct. 4. [[MORE]]Thorpe's award, conceived and crafted by Denver School of the Arts students, is shaped something like a teapot -- fitting given that Saturday's gala culminated with a performance of the all-school musical, "Beauty and the Beast."

Thorpe thanked the students for their work, and the sellout crowd for supporting the school. Of "Just Like Us," she said, "I hope people will come and see the play, which is written by an amazing playwright based in Washington D.C. name Karen Zacarias."

The book followed four Denver Latina straight-A students, two documented and two not, for five years, starting with their final year of high school. It showed in a very personal way the differences in the  women's opportunities based solely on their immigration status. Daggett called the book "a groundbreaking story about the real-life impact of our broken immigration system on the lives of young women growing up in Denver.

"Helen's compassion and artistry in making a beautiful story ... and her commitment to using her writing to educate the rest of us about their plight, and so many like them ... and her willingness to bring that story to light to the stage, has earned her this award," Daggett said.


From left: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, author and journalist Helen Thorpe, and Denver School of the Arts principal William Kohut. Hickenlooper has been on crutches since undergoing hip surgery.  Photo by John Moore.


Gala attendees included Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee, Denver Center Chairman Dan Ritchie (who once owned the land upon which the DSA is built), and Ellie Caulkins, namesake of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

Thorpe's award was preceded by the DSA Arts Extravaganza, which included student dance, orchestra and art showcases, as well as live poetry, video cinema demonstrations, pottery-making and more.

The award presentation was followed by "Beauty and the Beast," featuring more than 50 students from every major, including video cinema, creative writing and visual arts.


Denver Center chairman Dan Ritchie and Denver School of the Arts student Gabe Koskinen, who appeared last season in the Denver Center Theatre Company's "The Great Wall Story" and "The Giver." Photo by John Moore.


"Just Like Us": Information

Oct. 4-Nov. 3

Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
Info: 303-893-4100 or



Austin Marquez and Julia Hemp played Belle the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."


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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.