News from the Summit: 'The Most Deserving' bound for New York

by John Moore | Feb 14, 2014

imageJeanne Paulsen and Judith Hawking in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s world premiere production of "The Most Deserving." The comedy will debut in NewYork on March 30. Casting has not yet been announced. Photo by Jennifer M Koskinen

News and notes from the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit:

The Most Deserving deserves New York:

The name of the game at the annual Colorado New Play Summit is to develop works that will have a continued life in the American theatre. Many of the 37 plays and commissions the Summit has propagated in its first nine years have had significant continued life - namely Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale, Jason Grote's 1001, Octavio Solis' Lydia and others. Hopes are high for this season's mainstage breakout hit, The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez.

We learned at last weekend's Summit that this year's small-town art-council comedy The Most Deserving will make its New York debut next month. Catherine Trieschmann's play, read at the 2012 Summit and fully produced by the Denver Center Theatre Company last fall, will be staged as on off-Broadway offering at The Women's Project Theatre in midtown Manhattan (131 W. 55th St.).

The Most Deserving opens March 30 and runs through May 4. The director again will be Shelley Butler, and the scenic designer will be David M. Barber, who also designed the sets for the Denver Center's Richard III, Taming of the Shrew and Map of Heaven. No casting information has yet been released.

In the play, the Ellis County Arts Council is giving away the largest individual artist grant in its history. But council members can't agree on who is "the most deserving." It's a tart, satirical comedy about what happens when the arts collide with sex, class and small-town politics. In her Westword review, Juliet Willtman wrote The Most Deserving "is definitely deserving of your time." Here's more from her review:

 
"I knew Catherine Trieschmann could write intelligent, thoughtful dialogue. I'd never have guessed that she could also be this funny — original, sudden-gusts-of-surprised-laughter funny — and the Denver Center Theatre Company deserves a lot of credit for commissioning this play. There's a bedroom scene here (featuring Jeanne Paulsen) that is  more hilarious than any I've seen in French farce."

 

"Appoggiatura": So what's in a name?

Part of the fun of the Summit each year is guessing which plays might end up on next year's full Denver Center Theatre Company season. It's no secret that James Still's Appoggiatura was a favored reading among audiences. It is also the most difficult title to spell or pronounce.

For the record: It is pronounced "Ah-poj-ee-ah-too-rah." It's a musical term that means "to lean." It's that moment right before a note resolves. "That's the feel of the play," says director Risa Brainin. "We're on the verge of resolving."

The play is a romantic fantasy about three Americans with broken hearts who go Venice to get lost … and found. Unbounded by time, and helped by a bumbling travel guide and a violin-playing Vivaldi, they discover how to heal.

This brings up a hot topic at the Summit: Naming conventions for contemporary plays. We are seeing many more new plays taking on one-word titles, for example. And titles are all, pretty much without exception, marketing-approved. When Death of a Salesman was staged in Denver to open the season, there was some speculation that no literary agent worth his or her salt would allow Arthur Miller to include the word Death in his title if he wrote that play today. Too much of a downer. Too difficult to sell.

So what do you do with a play with such evident staging potential as Appoggiatura? If the Denver Center Theatre Company were to include that title on its 2014-15 season, how do you attract audiences to a brand-new play with no name recognition, and your patrons won't know what it means, or how to say it, or how to spell it?

So I flat-out asked the three-time Pulitzer-nominated playwright James Still a dicey hypothetical: "Say the Denver Center says it will include Appoggiatura on the new season -- as long as you change the name?" (Now, please understand again that this question is my own pure speculation.)

Still briefly considered the possibility, then politely rejected it outright. The Denver Center Theatre Company has been developing Appoggiatura for some time -- it got some workshop time at last year's Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival in Steamboat Springs. "So I would like to think that if the title were a sticking point, I would have gotten that request a long time ago, so I don't think it's an issue," Still said.

Plus, unfamiliarity aside, Still happens to think it is the perfect title for this play. And then he mentioned another popular work that pretty much put an end to the debate:

"Eleemosynary," Still said, referring to Lee Blessing's 1985 play exploring the relationships between three disparate women. No one can say the title without stumbling. I still can't spell it without looking it up -- and yet it has received hundreds of stagings around the world.

Appoggiatura it is!

Denver Center Theatre Company's season announcement is coming:

Final decisions are being made and details are being ironed out for the announcement of the Denver Center Theatre Company's 2014-15 season. No exact date has yet been set, but look for the announcement  in March.

 

Please enjoy our five "play-by-play" 2014 Summit Spotlight videos:

 

The Comparables

Appoggiatura

Zenith

Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band

Benediction (above)

 

More Summit news in brief:

Longtime Denver Center employees and audiences were saddened when word reached the Summit that longtime Denver Center Theatre Company actor Jim Baker has died. You can read our full account here ...

Will Taylor, choreographer and movement coach for The Legend of Georgia McBride, is also a director and actor. (He appeared on Broadway in A Chorus Line). Taylor has been cast as a principal in the Ahmanson Theatre's upcoming Los Angeles launch of Harmony, a new musical written by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman and directed by Tony Speciale. Opening March 12, Harmony tells the true story of The Comedian Harmonists, an ensemble of six young men in pre-World War II Germany who rose from struggling street musicians to world-famous entertainers.  For ticket information, click here. To read my interview with Taylor and Georgia McBride director Mike Donahue, click here.

Here is our complete "Summit Soliloquies" video series:

Day 1: James Still

Day 2: Jason Grote

Day 3: Caridad Svich

Day 4: Idris Goodwin

Day 5: Michael Mitnick

Day 6: Matthew Lopez

Day 7: Eric Schmiedl

John Moore is the Senior Arts Journalist for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts

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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.

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