• For one day in Denver, 'Hamilton' makes students the stars

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2018


    The video above offers a full recap of 'EduHam' day in Denver, complete with interviews and performance excerpts. Separate videos of each individual performance below. Videos by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    Education program allows underserved students to rise up and have their voices be heard before thousands of peers 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Wednesday was no ordinary day at the Buell Theatre.

    The decibel was higher, the shrieks were louder, the ages were younger and the faces were distinctly more varied in color. 

    EduHam Mathenee TrecoThis was “EduHam,” the innovative educational program developed by the Broadway musical phenomenon Hamilton. On Wednesday, 2,700 students and teachers from 38 Denver-area high schools participated in morning activities followed by a matinee performance of the sold-out, Tony Award-winning musical. 

    You knew this performance would be different before it even began when the students in the mezzanine started a wave. You knew it during the show as they finger-snapped in affirmation of lines that connected with them and roared at the end of songs as if this were a rock concert. Which, in many ways, it was. You knew it as the show was ending when one voice pierced the silence with a scream of “Oh my God!” as, onstage, one of history’s most infamous bullets was piercing Alexander Hamilton’s heart.   

    The students were not only watching a piece of history. They were part of it. Because there has simply never been another pop-culture phenomenon quite like Hamilton. And, to shamelessly quote the show's anthem: They were in the room where it happened.

    “There are moments that the words don’t reach … “ 

    Hamilton, winner of 11 Tony Awards, is the story of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary.  With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it features a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway.

    Cast member Mathenee Treco calls Hamilton the story of America then, as told by America now.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda on theatre's power to eliminate distance

    Hamilton changes lives,” said Treco, who attended Eaglecrest High School in Aurora. And EduHam was perhaps recalibrating the lives of many of the students who spent the day at the Denver Center participating in the show’s innovative educational program that debuted on Broadway in 2015 and has continued in every city it has visited since.

    The participating students prepared by spending up to three months in their classrooms studying American history through a special integrated curriculum about Hamilton and the nation’s other Founding Fathers. On Wednesday morning, select students performed original works based on their studies – songs, rap, poetry, scenes and monologues – on The Buell Theatre stage, in front of their peers. Afterward, they had a Q&A with six cast members.

    “Immigrants … we get the job done”

    Treco, like Hamilton and many of the students in Wednesday’s audience, is an immigrant himself, having been born in the Bahamas and moving to Aurora with his family at age 6. “Today they saw a representation of themselves on the stage," he said. "Their energy was tangible. I could feel their excitement. And I think it's going to propel them.”

    Hamilton is performed by an almost entirely non-white cast. That the audience on Wednesday was almost entirely students of color, Treco said, was overwhelming — in the best possible way. “I want to see children of color feeling empowered and feeling uplifted,” said Treco. But it was not a coincidence, said Hamilton Education Program Manager Amy DiChristina of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

    It was the point. 

    “The goal of this program is to reach Title I schools across the country, and those schools are very often underserved,” DiChristina said. Title I schools have high percentages of children from impoverished families, many of which speak English as a second language. “They don't have the resources they need. And they don't normally have access to field trips like these, or tickets to a show like this.”

    DiChristina’s research indicates more than 65 percent of students who participate in EduHam  have never before attended a Broadway-level show in their lives. “So to be able to offer them both access and educational resources is the goal,” she said.

    Cast member Sabrina Sloan, who plays socialite Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton and volunteered to emcee the morning program at The Buell, said “it was incredible to see this group of students, specifically being mostly kids of color. I remember the first show my parents took me to was West Side Story, and seeing people who were brown onstage and seeing people who looked like me meant the world. It told me that theatre was something that was accessible to me. So knowing that Hamilton might be their first show ever really gives me chills.”

    (Story continues after the video playlist below.)

    Click the video above to see all 14 of the Denver 'EduHam' student performances in one video playlist. Each one plays after the other. Videos by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    “I wrote my way out…”

    Grace Padilla, a junior at Vantage Point High School, was one of the students who applied for — and won — a chance to recite from her poetry on The Buell stage. She has been writing since she was 7 years old, and self-published her own book at 14. She was inspired to bridge Hamilton’s story with her own by penning a variation on a song from the Broadway musical called “Wrote My Way Out.” It’s the story of how Hamilton, born out of wedlock on the Caribbean island of Nevis, was abandoned by his father, orphaned at 13 and came to the American colonies two years later to further his education. Padilla can relate.

    “I was born of dirt, but I will live of redwoods,” Padilla read, bringing her peers to their feet.

    “Growing up, I had to deal with being very poor in an abusive, broken home,” she said afterward. “Hamilton wrote his way out, and that is what I have been doing with my life, too. I really wanted to touch other people and be their voice and let them know they are heard, too.”

    Noah Thomas, a junior at Atlas Preparatory High School in Colorado Springs, opened the program by reading a poem called “Remember the Ladies,” written by his best friend, Laci Caballero. It's about Abigail Adams, wife of the second president, John Adams.  “While her husband was off building the country, he forgot the ladies," he said afterward. "This was Laci’s way of saying, ‘Remember them.’

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Performing for thousands of peers, Thomas said, made him feel emboldened. 

    "Even though I'm just a 17-year-old kid from Colorado, I felt like my voice was heard, and Laci's words were heard, and the message behind them were heard," he said.

    That, DiChristina said, is the point. “We want these students to go out into the world and feel empowered to use their voices for whatever they feel is important.”

    Four students from West Leadership Academy used their voices to perform a full scene called The Story of Peggy, about Hamilton's wife, in their native Spanish.

    "I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot."

    Padilla said Miranda’s spoken-word writing style is the biggest attraction to Hamilton for students  “because you just can't connect with the younger generation today without a little hip-hop and rap,” she said.

    Treco said Miranda isn’t telling a different story than what is already being told in history books. He’s just telling it in a more exciting way.

    Sloan says presenting constitutional debates and personal disputes as rap battles is not only a clever variation on a Broadway theme — it is an essential way of reaching younger theatre audiences. “And it doesn’t just reach students,” she said. “It reaches everyone across generations, color lines, social, economic backgrounds. There is a truth to it. There is a humanity in how he speaks."  And the way he speaks, Treco added, "makes history sound really, really cool.”

    Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints…”

    The Hamilton Education Program is one of several history education programs funded by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. “This project is transformative," said president James G. Basker — who devised the education program in New York in tandem with Miranda, Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller, The Rockefeller Foundation and the New York City Department of Education.

    "Hamilton has struck a chord with students because it embodies what great history education is all about: Bringing the past to life, and fostering connections with the exceptional individuals and moments that have made us who we are. This program empowers students to reclaim their own narrative and empowers teachers to bridge classroom learning with the stage.”

    (Story continues after the video below.)



    The response to EduHam on social media was rapturous. On Twitter, Jill Williams called the Hamilton “the best history lesson ever.” A sample of others:

    • “One of the best things about Hamilton is that every person in the room is excited about art and music and collectively vibrates with good energy,” a woman named Jennifer Tweeted. “We need more of that.”
    • Wrote Lois Rapport on Facebook: This was so fabulous. I am so happy to be a part of a group that encourages learning and helps kids fall in love with the theater. I was lucky that my parents took me to the theater at a young age, and I immediately was hooked.”
    • West Early College posted: We are so proud of our very own Josiah Blackbear, who was selected as one of the students to perform on stage for EduHam Keep an eye on our rising star. He is going places.
    • "That was amazing for those students. I hope the felt as inspired as I did," posted Matt Carnes.

    This is not a moment, it is a movement

    Treco said for it took guts for the high-school students to bare their souls before their peers on the Buell Theatre stage, but he’s sure the experience laid seeds of courage left that are already now germinating.

    "They killed it," Treco said. "Honesty is scary. But at the end of the day, they spoke their truth, and I promise you some of those kids just got really addicted to that feeling. … And some of them will be performing in Hamilton someday.”

    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 participating schools:

    ·    Alameda International High School
    ·    Arapahoe Ridge High School
    ·    Atlas Preparatory School
    ·    Bruce Randolph High School
    ·    Denver School of Science and Technology
    ·    Green Valley Ranch High School
    ·    Denver South High School
    ·    DSST: College View High School
    ·    Early College Academy
    ·    Emily Griffith High School
    ·    Global Leadership Academy
    ·    Harrison High School
    ·    High Tech Early College
    ·    John F. Kennedy High School
    ·    Justice High School
    ·    KIPP Denver Collegiate High School
    ·    KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy
    ·    Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    ·    Legacy Options High School
    ·    Manual High School
    ·    Mapleton Early College High School
    ·    Moffat School (K-12)
    ·    Monte Vista High School
    ·    Noel Community Arts School
    ·    North High School
    ·    Northglenn High School
    ·    Overland High School
    ·    RiseUp Community School
    ·    Sheridan High School
    ·    Sierra High School
    ·    STRIVE Prep RISE
    ·    STRIVE Prep- SMART
    ·    STRIVE Preparatory Schools - Excel Campus
    ·    The New America School Thornton
    ·    Vantage Point High School
    ·    Venture Prep
    ·    West Early College
    ·    West Leadership Academy
    ·    York International 

    The student performers (with video links):

    Noah Thomas, Atlas Preparatory School
    “Remember the Ladies”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/0v1stGZo7po

    Esteban Gallegos and Madis, on RustEmily Griffith High School
    “Hypocrisy of America”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/fys9vkwFyWc

    Eduardo Gonzalez and Sydney Hernandez, Global Leadership Academy
    “Boston Tea Party”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/VEbqfxspC58

    Erin JonesHarrison H, igh School
    “My Father”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/mrk_pIx_-7U

    Albert Ortega, High Tech Early College
    “George Washington at Valley Forge”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/dXjmAHPVTAw

    John Le, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    “Aaron Burr”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/-hT17DgOelU

    Luis Castro and Jesus Villa, Mapleton Early College High School
    “Hamilton v. Jefferson Constitution”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/xNR2vJ226_4

    Ryker Poor and Sabian Storm, Moffat School
    “Jefferson v. King George”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/wh1Af6pU5s0

    Precious Allen, Sierra High School
    “Common Sense”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/hAe-INcmJ2k

    Issak Lucero, Strive Prep - SMART
    “Benjamin Franklin"
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/KQBBuj94vxo

    Isabel Aguilar, Jaqueline Garcia and Brandon Garcia
    The New America School at Thornton
    “Boston Massacre”
    Direct video link:  https://youtu.be/xIv7YatWQfE

     Isabel Aguilar, Jaqueline Garcia, Brandon Garcia, The New America School at Thornton
    “Boston Massacre”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/bWk5j00QsGc

    Grace Padilla, Vantage Point High School
    “Wrote My Way Out”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/wMlT6NmvrPE

    Josiah Blackbear, West Early College
    “Alexander Hamilton”

    Zehydi Chaparro-Rojas, Jose Torres-Andazola, Rossy Martinez-Sanchez and Alexandra Andazola-Chavez, West Leadership Academy

    “The Story of Peggy”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/sRfGFcMZjC8

  • Tommy and the Acid Queen perform Monday for Denver Actors Fund

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2018
    Tommy Denver Actors Fund Andy Mientus. Lulu Fall. Tommy Alamo


    Denver Center stars Andy Mientus and Lulu Fall will sing from Tommy before screening The Who's 1975 source film

    "See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me."

    OK, so … no touching! But not only can you see Ken Russell’s cult-classic film adaptation of The Who’s seminal concept album “Tommy” this Monday night (March 26) at the Alamo Drafthouse, you can be healed by a live sneak peek at the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming rock-tastic stage version. 

    The live pre-screening entertainment will feature performances by Broadway stars Andy Mientus and Lulu Fall. Yes, that’s both Tommy and the Acid Queen, in the flesh. (And Roger Daltrey and Tina Turner in their celluloid skin.)

    Mientus was featured on TV's Smash and The Flash and on Broadway played Hanschen in the Deaf West staging of Spring Awakening and Marius in Les Misérables. Fall appeared on Broadway in Hair and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. She also was featured in the Washington D.C. production of the groundbreaking musical Passing Strange, which just happens to be making its Denver-area premiere next month at the Aurora Fox.

    Choose your seat for Monday night's Alamo screening

    The event is part of The Denver Actors Fund's monthly film series at the Alamo Drafthouse located by Sloan’s Lake at 4255 W. Colfax Ave. The series features films that have a stage counterpart that is currently being performed by a Colorado theatre company. Each month, the rotating local theatre partner entertains the audience with a half hour of songs, trivia, conversation and ticket giveaways before the movie screening. The live entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., with the film starting at 7. The evening's host is Steven J. Burge, currently a featured performer in the Denver Center's First Date.

    Tommy tells the story of a boy who retreats into a world of darkness and silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and emerges as a rock-star pinball wizard. The DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming big-buzz stage adaptation, directed by Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein), performs in the Stage Theatre from April 20 through May 27. TICKET INFO

    The Denver Actors Fund receives 50 percent of Monday's ticket sales. The 4-year-old fund is a grassroots nonprofit that provides financial and situational relief when members of the Colorado theatre community are in situational medical need. To date, the Denver Actors Fund has distributed more than $214,000 in direct financial assistance and provided about 500 hours of volunteer service ranging from meals to transportation to housecleaning. MORE INFO

    Choose your preferred seats now. Click on the "6:30" button to make your selection.

    See the vintage Tommy trailer:


    “In 1968, a revolutionary piece of entertainment was written and played for the first time. It was the creation of an extraordinary British composer, Peter Townshend. It was performed by an incredible music group called The Who. It was titled Tommy. The unusual theme of the story immediately captured the imagination of an entire generation …”

    Note: The Alamo offers a full dinner menu and bar service. Children 6 and older are welcome with an adult.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Meet Lulu Fall:
    Broadway: Hair, ensemble; Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble. National Tour: Hair, ensemble. Off-Broadway: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble; Pretty Filthy, Brown Sugar; Hadestown, Fate. Regional: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, ensemble (ART, Cambridge); August Rush, ensemble (Developmental Lab, NY); 15 Minutes, ensemble (Workshop, NYSAF); Annie Golden Bounty Hunter, Janessa (Workshop, NY); Smokey Joe’s Café, Brenda (Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany); Crowns, Swing (Arena Stage, Washington, DC); Passing Strange, ensemble (Studio Theatre, Washington, DC). TV: “Black Rest” (HBO). WEB SITE

    Meet Andy Mientus:
    Theater: Spring Awakening (Deaf West Theater, Broadway, Ovation Nomination for Featured Actor), Les Miserables (Broadway, Broadway.com Award for Breakthrough Performance), Wicked (National Tour), Spring Awakening (National Tour directed by Michael Mayer), Bent (Mark Taper Forum, Directed by Moises Kaufman). Television: "Gone" (NBC Universal), "Smash" (NBC), "The Flash" (CW), "Chasing Life" (ABC Family), "Anger Management" (FX). Writing: the musical Burn All Night (American Repertory Theater) and the Backstagers book series (Abrams/Amulet publishing).

    Tommy: Film screening

    • Monday, March 26
    • Alamo Drafthouse, 4255 W. Colfax Ave.
    • Live entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., with the film starting at 7
    • Choose your preferred seats now

    The Who's Tommy at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Apr 20-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:


    Video highlights of The Denver Actors Fund's monthly film series:

  • Videos of all 'EduHam' student performances in Denver

    by John Moore | Mar 22, 2018

    Watch students from 14 schools perform original songs, rap, poetry, scenes and monologues based on studies

    EduHam” is the innovative educational program that Hamilton debuted on Broadway and continued in Denver on Wednesday, March 21, when 2,700 students and teachers from 38 Denver-area high schools attended an all-student matinee performance of the hit musical at The Buell Theatre

    The students spent several weeks in their classrooms studying American history through a special integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton and the nation’s Founding Fathers. Before the special performance, students representing various Title I schools performed original works they created based on their classroom studies – songs, rap, poetry, scenes, monologues – in front of their peers on The Buell stage. Title I schools have high percentages of children from low-income families.

    The Hamilton Education Program is one of several history education programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “This project is transformative," said president James G. Basker — who devised the education program in New York in tandem with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, producer Jeffrey Seller, The Rockefeller Foundation and the NYC Department of Education.

    "Hamilton  has struck a chord with students because it embodies what great history education is all about: bringing the past to life, and fostering connections with the exceptional individuals and moments that have made us who we are. This program empowers students to reclaim their own narrative and empowers teachers to bridge classroom learning with the stage.”

    The emcee in Denver was cast member Sabrina Sloan. Later Thursday, you can read more about “EduHam” in Denver on the DCPA NewsCenter, MyDenverCenter.Org

    Click here to see all 14 of the student performances in one video playlist, where each one plays after the other. 


    Noah Thomas
    Atlas Preparatory School
    “Remember the Ladies”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/0v1stGZo7po



    Esteban Gallegos and Madison Rust
    Emily Griffith High School
    “Hypocrisy of America”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/fys9vkwFyWc





    Eduardo Gonzalez and Sydney Hernandez
    Global Leadership Academy
    “Boston Tea Party”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/VEbqfxspC58



    Erin Jones
    Harrison High School
    “My Father”
    Direct link https://youtu.be/mrk_pIx_-7U



    Albert Ortega
    High Tech Early College
    “George Washington at Valley Forge”
    Direct link https://youtu.be/dXjmAHPVTAw



    John Le
    Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    “Aaron Burr”
    Direct link https://youtu.be/-hT17DgOelU



    Luis Castro and Jesus Villa
    Mapleton Early College High School
    “Hamilton v. Jefferson Constitution”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/xNR2vJ226_4


     



    Ryker Poor and Sabian Storm
    Moffat School
    “Jefferson v. King George”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/wh1Af6pU5s0


     



    Precious Allen
    Sierra High School
    “Common Sense”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/hAe-INcmJ2k



    Issak Lucero
    Strive Prep - SMART
    “Benjamin Franklin”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/KQBBuj94vxo


     

    Isabel Aguilar, Jaqueline Garcia and Brandon Garcia
    The New America School at Thornton
    “Boston Massacre”
    Direct link:  https://youtu.be/xIv7YatWQfE


     

    Grace Padilla
    Vantage Point High School
    “Wrote My Way Out”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/bWk5j00QsGc


     

    Josiah Blackbear
    West Early College
    “Alexander Hamilton”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/wMlT6NmvrPE




    Zehydi Chaparro-Rojas, Jose Torres-Andazola, Rossy Martinez-Sanchez and Alexandra Andazola-Chavez
    West Leadership Academy
    “The Story of Peggy”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/sRfGFcMZjC8

  • Game on: Ten things we learned at 'Tommy' first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Mar 20, 2018
    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'


    Photos from the first rehearsal of the DCPA Theatre Company's production of 'The Who's Tommy.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr photo gallery Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The appeal of Tommy: The Who's adapted rock opus proves musical theatre can be both dangerous and entertaining

    By John Moore
    SenIor Arts Journalist

    Staging The Who’s Tommy has been a dream of Director Sam Buntrock’s since 1995, when the wiry young Brit saw one of the first performances of The Who's theatricalized tale of the deaf, dumb and blind kid at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. And Buntrock doesn't even like musicals.

    But this wasn't any musical. It was The Who. And it wasn't a musical — not really. It was an unprecedented rock opera directed by the legendary Des McAnuff. "That extraordinary production showed me that musical theatre could be dangerous as well as entertaining," Buntrock said on the first day of rehearsal for his own upcoming DCPA Theatre Company production. "And I have harbored a desire to approach it myself ever since."

    Kevin Copenhaver. Tommy. Photo by John MooreSince is now, 23 years later.

    Tommy — the record and the stage adaptation — is Pete Townshend's psychedelic trip down memory lane. It tells the story of a boy who retreats into a world of darkness and silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and emerges as a rock-star pinball wizard. It is based largely on Townshend’s boyhood story, when he was sent away by his parents because London had become unsafe during the second world war. “He went to live with a grandmother who was severely mentally ill, and a number of terrible things happened to him,” Buntrock said. “He wrote this piece from the heart.”

    The Who had released three records by 1969, and by then Townshend was wanting to progress beyond the standard three-minute pop-single. So he wrote the trippy pinball opus that changed rock forever.

    (Pictured above and right: Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver.)

    "I want to tell Pete’s story as authentically as possible," Buntrock said. "I want to tell the story of the repercussions of a moment of violence on this family, and how that cascades down over time and lasts for decades.”

    The Who's Tommy cast list includes Broadway stars

    Buntrock says The Who’s Tommy is about parents failing. “It's about growing up and realizing parents are just people. They are not gods anymore,” he said. “What Pete tapped into, as all geniuses do, was taking something deeply personal and finding a way to explode it into this fantastical story.”

    And, Buntrock added, “No one else in the world will be able to tell that story like we are telling it — and that is a testament to how great Denver is. This is a phenomenal theatre. This particular building is magical to me."

    Here are 10 more things we learned at first rehearsal of The Who’s Tommy:

    Sam Buntrock. Tommy. Photo by John Moore

    NUMBER 1I’m a sensation. There should be a moratorium on saying this, Buntrock admitted, “but Tommy was a sensation,” he said. “It became something more than itself.” He recalled a great story about when the band performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1971. “At the end of that concert,” Buntrock said, “Leonard Bernstein ran up to Pete Townshend, grabbed him by the lapels and said, 'Do you know what you have done?' That's Tommy. That album caused a huge shift in how rock music was considered.”

    NUMBER 2

    Throw the book at them. Buntrock has encouraged every member of his creative team to read Townshend's autobiography Who I Am. (The title is a variation on the band's anthem “Who Are You?”). At age 50, Townshend wrote an undelivered letter to his 8-year-old son. In it, the father advises the son to be a pessimist. “It is the safest, most pragmatic way to be,” Townshend wrote. “Being an optimist may enrich the lives of others … but it leads you unaware to danger.” Says Buntrock: “It’s one hell of a read. It's so generous and open and profound.”

    NUMBER 3The watered-down truth. Many of Buntrock’s out-of-town cast members are still adjusting to life — and singing — at a mile high. Music Director Gregg Coffin has encouraged them to drink plenty of water. But how much is enough? "Take your weight and divide it by two,” he said. “That’s how many ounces of water you should drink every day. "

    NUMBER 4

    See me … at age 4. Expect to see more of 4-year-old Tommy in Buntrock’s show than you ever have before, he said. The whole point is for us to see the story of Tommy’s parents through the 4-year-old’s eyes, Buntrock said. But in most stage productions, you only see the 4-year-old for about a minute before he’s gone for good. Not here. “We get to live in the 4-year-old’s head for about 15 minutes, right up until the moment of violence and everything gets taken away,” Buntrock said. “This approach will allow us to see the world the way he sees it until he literally hands the story over to his adult self. That way, when we get to the end, we know how extraordinary the journey has been — because we have been inside the mind of the 4-year-old. We know how beautiful that is. How untouched that is. How pure and how limitless that is. And hopefully, you know, everyone will be in tears by then.”

    NUMBER 5Clap on, clap off. This will make pretty much anyone who grew up with The Who’s music feel old, but here it is: The Who’s Tommy is a period piece. Hard as that might be for anyone still breathing to accept that, it’s true. The story begins when Tommy is a child in the 1940s and runs through the 1960s. Period piece.

    Mientus scheduled to appear at Alamo screening March 26

    NUMBER 6Well, that’s Smash-ing. Young Broadway and screen star Andy Mientus (Smash, Spring Awakening, The Flash) is starring as Tommy at age 18. And he has agreed to spend his only day off over a 13-day span entertaining the audience before Monday’s (March 26) screening of the film Tommy at the Alamo Drafthouse near Sloan’s Lake. The screening raises money for The Denver Actors Fund, which has made $218,000 in medical relief available to Colorado theatre artists over four years. Mientus will sing at least one song from the show, take questions, and help with trivia and ticket giveaways before the Alamo screens the movie that inspired the stage adaptation. Tickets are $20. Choose your preferred seats here.

    Andy Mientus and Charlie Korman. Photo by John Moore
    Charlie Korman and Andy Mientus. Photo by John Moore

    NUMBER 7Intimacy issues. As the legacy of The Who has grown larger over the years, the stage musical has continued to get smaller. Music Director Gregg Coffin (A Christmas Carol, Sweeney Todd with DeVotchKa) said that when The Who’s Tommy bowed on Broadway in 1995, the principal adult cast was 18 people. “It was down to 10 when it toured, and we're taking it down to eight,” he said. “I’m really excited about that because we are bringing it back to that 1969 sound when it was just the four guys in the band performing it. We are going to get small and iconic and authentic very, very quickly.” 

    NUMBER 8David Hess as Sweeney TossWho are you? David Hess, who plays three roles including the minister, was playing Sweeney Todd at the late Country Dinner Playhouse in south Denver (pictured right) long before he played the Demon Barber on Broadway. Hess had many triumphant moments at the beloved dinner theatre from 1991-93, but one of his favorite memories was playing Curly in Oklahoma. “I was supposed to throw a rope over this hook, but one night I kept missing it,” he told me in a previous interview. “The audience roared with laughter, so I told them, ‘Hey, it’s not as easy as it looks.’ I only found out later that the whole house had been bought out that night — they were all cowboys and cattlemen.”

    NUMBER 9Sound? Check. The sound designer for The Who’s Tommy is former rock engineer Ken Travis (Disney’s Aladdin, coming to Denver April 7) and he will be introducing sound techniques in Tommy that have not yet been heard on any stage before. “He’s a genius,” Buntrock said. “He invented a sound system for Aladdin I'll never understand. This machine physically knows where an actor is onstage at any time, so it can pan the sound. When it was confirmed that I would be doing Tommy, I said to myself, ‘I have to ask Ken to do sound’ — but it got announced right away, and I immediately got an email from Ken saying, 'I am doing this without you even asking me.’ Ken has developed this sound system in Germany that is capable of things that are really rather extraordinary, and we are going to be the first to use it in this production. I’ll just say you are going to feel like you are inside the music — without it being too much. So, that will be fun."

    NUMBER 10Jason Sherwood 160Where's Jason? The Scenic Designer of record is the uber-hot Jason Sherwood, who has designed Macbeth, The Wild Party and now The Who’s Tommy for the Denver Center this season alone. He also designed the sets for The Chainsmokers and Sam Smith’s appearances on Saturday Night Live. Sherwood was not present at Tommy’s first rehearsal, Buntrock said, because he is in Wakefield (in the U.K.), designing the set for Sam Smith's upcoming world tour (Which stops in Denver on Aug. 21). But Buntrock and Sherwood are in lockstep on Tommy. “He's the yin to my yang,” Buntrock said. “He augments how I think. He makes everything I do better, and what he has done for this show is remarkable.”

    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 Who's Tommy: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Apr 20-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Tommy to star Andy Mientus and other Broadway stars in Denver
  • BETC moves up in class with ambitious 'The Curious Incident...'

    by John Moore | Mar 20, 2018
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time The Broadway company of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Boulder company will be first in Colorado to stage celebrated plays The Curious Incident and The Wolves

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s 13th season will include its most ambitious undertaking ever: Staging an enormously challenging play that was once thought to be unstageable. For the first time in its history, BETC will stage a Tony Award-winning best play before anyone else in Colorado when it caps its wildly aspirational 2018-19 season with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the stage adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 best-selling novel.

    Stephen-Weitz- quoteIntroducing Tony-winning best plays to Colorado audiences is a distinction that for the past two decades has generally been traded between the DCPA Theatre Company (All the Way, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) and Curious Theatre (Red, Clybourne Park, next year’s The Humans). No one in Colorado has had the temerity to bite on Curious Incident since it won the Tony in 2015.

    BETC steps into that company this year with the story of a socially awkward British teen who is a mathematical savant but falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. The story follows his quest to clear his name after the neighbor’s dog is speared by a garden fork in the middle of the night.

    The National Theatre’s 2012 London production was a sensation for its ingenious technological advances that somehow helped communicate to its audiences what might be going on inside the young man’s mysterious and often short-circuiting head. The staging used lighting and sound innovations that made the boy's sensory overload both harrowing and eminently understandable.

    But the groundbreaking success of the play also seemed to confirm the presumed belief that it would be impossible to produce for small theatres around the country that, like BETC, do not have multimillion-dollar budgets. “Curious Incident is one of the most fully immersive works ever to wallop Broadway,” the New York Times said. “So be prepared to have all your emotional and sensory buttons pushed, including a few you may have not known existed.”

    Gene Gillette comes home in The Curious Incident tour

    BETC co-founder Stephen Weitz was not scared off. He believes any good story is a stageable story. Somehow.

    “At its heart, Curious Incident is a powerful story about a young boy,” Weitz said. “People who encountered the play in New York or during the national tour may be expecting a particular production style. Ours will feature plenty of ‘theatre magic,’ but it will be our own BETC vision guiding the aesthetic with that story at its core.”

    Sarah BETC’s season is also notable for The Wolves, an utterly original story that takes place on the sidelines of a high-school girls soccer team's games. It is not only Sarah DeLappe’s first play, it was presented at New York’s Lincoln Center — and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

    "I'm thrilled that The Wolves has found its Colorado home at the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company,” DeLappe told the DCPA NewsCenter. The playwright, who grew up playing youth soccer in Reno, Nev., was tutored at Brown University by none other than Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive). DeLappe’s characters are listed in the script not by their names but rather their jersey numbers. They are teammates, after all.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    They play, which has surprisingly little to do with soccer, takes place in nine scenes, each while the girls are warming up for a match. “I was attracted to the idea of a stage where we were watching young women whose bodies were active throughout,” DeLappe told the Lincoln Center’s media office. She said she is hungry for narratives with strong female protagonists, and that she sees The Wolves as a story about women warriors. “I was inspired to think of these characters as a pack preparing for battle,” she said.

    Weitz calls The Wolves “possibly the most honest depiction of the lives of young women I've ever encountered,” he said. “Not only is it a profound story, but if affords an incredible opportunity for nine young women in our acting community — part of our efforts to address equity in all facets of our art form.”

    Arvada Cebter Sense and Sensibility. Mall Gale PhotographyThe 13th BETC season is also notable for two Jane Austen adaptations — Pride and Prejudice (a rollicking new adaptation by Kate Hamill, who also wrote the Arvada Center's current Sense and Sensibility) and its modern sequel, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. This makes the third straight BETC season with a title by Gunderson (Silent Sky, The Revolutionists), currently the most produced playwright in the world not named Shakespeare.

    (Pictured at right: Zachary Andrews, Jessica Robblee, Emma Messenger, Abner Genece, Geoffrey Kent, Jessica Austgen, and Emelie O'Hara in the Arvada Center's 'Sense and Sensibility', running through May 6. BETC will stage a sequel penned by the same adaptor. Matt Gale Photography.)

    2018-19 will also mark the 10th anniversary of BETC’s holiday staging of David Sedaris’ The SantaLand Diaries, the last seven in partnership with Off-Center at the DCPA’s Jones Theatre.The complete season is listed below.

    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.

    Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company 2018-19 at a glance

    • Sept. 13-Oct. 7, 2018: Pride and Prejudice
    • Oct. 25-Nov. 18, 2018: The Wolves
    • Dec. 8-24, 2018: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018: The SantaLand Diaries
    • Feb. 7-March 3, 2019: The Rembrandt
    • April 25-May 19, 2019: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    A closer look at each play:

    (Descriptions provided by BETC)

    Pride and Prejudice
    Sept. 13-Oct. 7, 2018
    By Jane Austen, adapted by Kate Hamill
    This is a playful and unconventional update Jane Austen's classic romance set in Regency, England, where marriage is a must for women. This clever comedy offers a decidedly progressive take on the trials of Lizzie, Mr. Darcy and the Bennet family — with a few dance breaks thrown in for good measure. 

    The Wolves
    Oct. 25-Nov. 18, 2018
    By Sarah DeLappe
    In each scene of this stunning first play by Sarah DeLappe, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, nine girls warm up for their upcoming soccer game. But they must also tackle coming of age and all the confusion, awkwardness, joy and sorrow that comes with it.  Along the way, these unforgettable young women make fierce choices, face their own fragility and ultimately grow into a team. The New York Times said: “The scary, exhilarating brightness of raw adolescence emanates from every scene of The Wolves.”

    Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
    Dec. 8-24, 2018
    By Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
    In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the bookish middle child of the Bennett family is constantly overshadowed by her four sisters and longs for a large life.' As Mary searches for her identity, she unexpectedly discovers the possibility of true love.

    The SantaLand Diaries
    Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018
    By David Sedaris, adapted by Joe Mantello
    For the 10th consecutive year, BETC returns to the Macys department store for this delightfully devilish holiday hit, produced in partnership with Off-Center at the Denver Center’s Jones Theatre. Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge will again alternate as David, the desperate New Yorker who takes a job as a SantaLand elf named Crumpet.

    The Rembrandt
    Feb. 7-March 3, 2019
    By Jessica Dickey
    Inside a modern-day museum, two security guards and a painter find themselves compelled to touch a masterpiece.  But soon, we are skipping through time; watching Rembrandt at work and listening to Homer discuss the nature of art. Dickey’s play asks us to consider the longevity of art, and the brevity of life.  

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    Gene Gillete. Curious Joan MarcusApril 25-May 19, 2019
    By Simon Stephens, adapted by Mark Haddon
    Christopher Boone, a sweet 15-year-old Brit, has an extraordinary mind but is ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of everyday life.  When falsely accused of killing his neighbor's dog, he sets out to find the true culprit. His journey across London leads to an earth-shattering discovery that will change his life forever. Winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.

    Pictured above and right: Colorado native Gene Gillette in the recent national touring production of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

  • Slamming puppeteering myths on eve of Denver's first Puppet Slam

    by John Moore | Mar 19, 2018
    Katy Williams is producing the first ever Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam. Photo by Cheyenne Michaels.
    Katy Williams is producing the first ever Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam. Photo by Cheyenne Michaels.


    Editor's Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers regular guest columns from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and proposed topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.


    Saturday's Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam wants you to marionette on the idea of this budding adult art form

    By Katy Williams
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    • "Puppets? I thought those were just for kids!"
    • "A puppeteer? You mean like creepy dolls in basements?"
    • "You probably shouldn't tell people about your puppet hobby on first dates ... It might scare them off."

    These are actual quotes I've heard when I talk about my job as a puppeteer. I'm here to prove those statements wrong.

    Being a puppeteer is one of the coolest and most magical jobs out there. While I have been known to house a life-size cow puppet in my car for days on end (storage is a real struggle when you’re professional puppeteer), it’s all mKATY WILLIAMSade worth it when I get to create life out of bits of foam and fabric. Or when I get to make people’s fantasies a reality when they meet my life-size Pegasus puppet and tell me they thought it was real. I get create art that comes to life.

    Puppetry, while ancient in its roots, is a continually growing art form that has been steadily rising in prominence in the American theatre for the past couple of decades. Puppetry  has been a central part of landmark Broadway productions such as The Lion King, War Horse and Angels in America.

    (Photo at right: Katy Williams and her original lobster puppets in 'Lobstermen in Love' at Portland Stage Company. Photo by Vici Chirumbolo.)

    Far from being just for kids, puppetry is capable of deep expression and poetic exploration. Puppetry arguably requires the most imagination above any other storytelling form. Perhaps kids gravitate more easily to puppets because they innately have freer imaginations than adults, but one does not have to be a child to suspend disbelief and embrace a child-like sense of wonder. Some adults seem scared of the art form. This Saturday's Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam seeks to change that.

    When I saw my first puppet slam at the National Puppetry Festival (that’s right, puppetry festivals are a thing), I was inspired, but also frustrated tKaty Williams Shadow Puppetshat Colorado was somewhat lacking in puppetry arts in general. So I made it my mission to bring more puppetry to my home state. I vowed to perform more puppetry myself, to find more local puppeteers, and to make puppetry better known within the Denver theatre community.

    I want local theatre companies to realize puppetry is a real option for their shows, even when it’s not obvious like Avenue Q or Little Shop of Horrors. Puppets do not have to be described in a script or have eyes. They can be created out of objects as simple as a scarf or a newspaper. You can have a life-size horse onstage (War Horse), or a crocodile made of forks and knives straight from a child’s imagination (Peter Pan). By bringing inanimate objects to life, theatre practitioners can invigorate even the most traditional theatre stories.

    (Pictured at right: Shadow puppets inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Photo by Katie Weimer.)

    War Horse Circus 1903 PuppetsI started to reach out to the few puppeteers I knew in Colorado, and soon found many others creeping out of the woodwork. Before I knew it, I had a large group of Rocky Mountain puppeteers I never knew existed. Now was the time to try out a puppet slam. And the timing is perfect, with World Puppetry Day coming March 21.


    So what is a puppet slam?

    It’s a night of curated short-form puppetry for adults. It's a variety-style show that brings puppetry artists together to network and introduce audiences to the vast arrays of techniques and styles. You might see a comedic and raunchy hand-puppet piece; a dramatic and moving marionette; a life-size animal — you just never know. Like poetry slams where professionals and budding enthusiasts alike share their work, puppet slams are the perfect place for artists looking for exposure and the chance to meet others in the field.

    (Pictured above and right: 'Circus 1903,' top, and 'War Horse' show how puppets can be used to greatly heighten the impact of storytelling in live theatre.) 

    This first Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam will also feature a “Puppet Lab” before and after the show where audience members can experience a unique behind-the-scenes interaction with the puppeteers and see the mechanics of the puppets. Unlike magic, puppeteers love to share their secrets.

    While a puppet slam for kids is planned for later in 2018, this edition of the Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam is geared specifically toward adults. Moving forward, we are planning to present at least three slams a year. 

    The Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam

    • 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24
    • Syntax Physic Opera, 554 S. Broadway
    • Tickets: Pay what you can by donation at the door
    • For more information, go to the Rocky Mountain Puppet Slam Facebook page or email katy@katywilliamsdesign.com

    About the author:

    Katy Williams Katy Williams is a puppet, makeup, and props designer based in Denver. Most recently she consulted on Little Shop of Horrors at the University of Denver, created puppets for Into the Woods at Northglenn Youth Theatre, was a featured makeup artist at Denver Zombie Crawl, and was a puppeteer in People’s Theatre of Denver’s Death Goes on Strike. While studying at DU, she created four life-size puppets for her original show The Myth of Pegasus. During her time with the Education department at Portland Stage Company in Maine, she created three 4-foot long lobster puppets for shows and children’s museums. Find her work at katywilliamsdesign.com. (Photo by Katie Walker.)

  • DCPA's next Theatre for Young Audiences title: 'Corduroy'

    by John Moore | Mar 19, 2018
    Curduroy 5


    DCPA Education to follow its staging of The Snowy Day with Don Freeman's popular children's story Corduroy this fall

    The Denver Center's fall Theatre for Young Audiences offering will be Corduroy, based on Don Freeman's popular children’s books about a department-store teddy bear, it was announced today. 

    DCPA Education will stage more than 100 performances tailored for pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade audiences in The Conservatory Theatre. 

    “Theatre for Young Audiences provides opportunities for our youngest audience members to experience live theatre for the first time,” Executive Director of Education Allison Watrous said. “Arts education allows children to connect their experiences to stories on stage and participate in activities designed to engage their imagination, critical thinking and socio-emotional intelligence." 

    The Denver Center launched its new Theatre for Young Audiences last year to address a gap in its education programs for this  specific age group. Watrous believes it is crucial to introduce the vital force that live theatre can be in the lives of young people during those early years. Last fall, the DCPA welcomed nearly 20,000 Denver area students, teachers and families for 100 performances of The Snowy Day and Other Stories. Most remarkably, Watrous said, "79 percent attended on a full or partial scholarship.”

    Don Freeman wrote Corduroy in 1968, and and the book was included on the National Education Association's list of its top 100 books for children in 2007. Freeman, who died in 1978 was a painter, printmaker, cartoonist, children's book author and illustrator. Frequent subjects included Broadway theatre, politics and the circus. He was also a jazz musician. 

    In the play, which also incorporates Freeman's A Pocket for Corduroy, Corduroy is a teddy bear who has been patiently waiting on a department store shelf to find a home. A girl named Lisa thinks he’s just the teddy bear for her. But before she can convince her mom to let her take Corduroy home, he’ll have to go on a late-night hunt to find a missing button for his overalls. The ensuing chase becomes a sort of allegory for the universal search for happiness. And by the end, he finds both — the button and happiness. Curdoroy is a tender, enduring story about true friendship and the lengths we go to find it.

    Corduroy

    • Based on the books by Don Freeman
    • Adapted by Barry Kornhauser
    • Directed by Allison Watrous
    • Oct. 5-Dec. 9
    • Conservartory Theatre
    • Tickets will go on sale in summer 2018
    • There will be a a sensory-friendly performance on Oct. 22
    • Weekday student performances will be $10 and weekend performances will be $15. 

    To receive an alert when tickets for weekend performances go on sale to the public, sign-up at denvercenter.org/corduroy.
     
    All school groups are encouraged to participate in a no-cost, post-show workshop with DCPA Teaching Artists to give students an opportunity to explore themes and elements of the production. To receive an alert on Aug. 1, when reservations will begin being accepted for weekday student matinees, including post-show workshops and applications for scholarships, sign-up here.

    Scholarships are available for student groups. Call 303-893-6085 for information on how to apply.

  • Abner Genece: An actor survives, and the son also rises

    by John Moore | Mar 18, 2018
    Abner Genece. Matthew Gale Photography. Arvada Center.


    When the actor took one small step onto the Arvada Center stage, it was one giant leap back from near-fatal tragedy

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    When actor Abner Genece woke up days after the accident with as many tubes in his body as broken bones, he wasn’t thinking of whether he might ever perform again. He was thinking of his son, Jayden, who had been airlifted from the highway carnage to a pediatric trauma center in another state.

    “I was confused and upset,” said Genece, whose body was being held together by nine permanent titanium plates — and held down by physical restraints.

    But then he remembered hearing Jayden’s voice cut through the cacophony of fear in those terrifying initial moments after impact: “I’m OK, Daddy. I love you, Daddy.”

    Abner Genece Selfie with Jayden“As soon as I was able to think more clearly, I was assured by the trauma staff and my brother and sister that Jayden was indeed alive,” Genece said this week, eight months after he and Jayden were struck from behind by a semi-truck traveling at nearly 70 mph. Days later, he said, “what could have happened to Jayden dawned on me in its full clarity.”

    Father and son were driving to Oregon to visit cousins for the holiday weekend. They were stopped on a Wyoming highway by police because of an accident ahead. Genece remembers stopping at a rest stop a few minutes before to fuel up and buy some snacks. “We even took a selfie,” he said (pictured above and right). Genece doesn’t remember getting back into the car. “I only remember waking up several days later in a Salt Lake City intensive-care unit.”

    Genece and his son both sustained multiple, life-threatening injuries. Abner required several surgeries on his ribs and spine. Jayden, who was 11 at the time, had to wear a neck brace for several months. Both needed dental surgery to repair their teeth.

    Genece’s spirits were high that day. He had been recently featured in Curious Theatre’s Water by the Spoonful, and just the day before had participated as a director and performer in Curious’ National Collective Festival, a week-long intensive for promising young playwrights. Genece was preparing to perform in a play that September in Jackson, Wyo. And he had just received word days before that he was one of 11 actors chosen as full members of the Arvada Center’s Black Box Theatre Company for the 2017-18 season. That not only meant he would be performing in three plays in repertory — he had guaranteed employment for a year. It is considered one of the best jobs any actor in Denver can get.   

    Lynne Collins, artistic director of the Arvada Center’s repertory company, chose Genece to play Sir John in Sense and Sensibility, Jim Bayless in All My Sons and Ambimbola in The Electric Baby. So when she got the call days later that Genece was now fighting for his life in a Utah hospital, Collins couldn’t wrap her head around the sadness of it all — and the heavy irony.

    Abner Genece Sense and Sensibility“Just a week before, Abner was auditioning to play a Nigerian man who spends 90 percent of the play in a hospital bed wondering if he will ever walk again,” Collins said of The Electric Baby. That’s a play about a woman who causes a car accident that kills a young man and brings together a group of fractured souls who connect around a mysterious dying baby who glows like the moon.

    “When I cast him in the role, Abner told me, ‘I understand this character’s background. I know I can do the dialect. But you know what? I have never spent any time in a hospital,’ ” Collins said. He thought maybe he should spend some time in a hospital to better prepare for the role. And a week later … “

    A week later, Genece was facing a long road toward recovery that would be difficult, painful, expensive and presumably quite slow. His new daily regimen would now include ongoing physical, occupational and mental therapies.

    But one thing he never had to worry about was whether he still had a job at the Arvada Center at the end of October. In fact, the Arvada Center sent bouquet of flowers to the I.C.U. the very next day.

    Photos: NewsCenter coverage of All My Sons opening night

    “It never occurred to me not to stick with Abner,” Collins said. “Just as a general rule, you should try very hard not to punish people on the heels of a very horrible tragedy in their lives. The idea of making Abner’s situation worse by abandoning him was simply not an option.”

    Genece said support from Collins and Arvada Center Executive Director Philip Sneed was steadfast and clear from the beginning. “What was unclear was whether I would be physically able to return by the time rehearsals for Sense and Sensibility began,” said Genece.

    “The decision would be mine,” he added. “I would return only if I felt that I could perform at the level that I had set for myself."

    (Story continues below the video.)

    Video: Abner Genece speaks at Miscast 2017:


     

    But Genece, needless to say, was highly motivated to recover both fast and fully. That job for the Wyoming theatre in September was out of the question. Instead, the goal became walking into rehearsals for Sense and Sensibility not quite three months after the accident.

    Back in July, the end of October seemed both just around the corner and a lifetime away. While Genece went to work on his recovery, an army of friends, relatives and strangers mobilized to help. The Denver Actors Fund provided Genece with more than $6,300 in medical relief as well as volunteers who provided meals, groceries, housekeeping and transportation.  

     “Simply put, I would not be here without the Denver Actors Fund,” Genece said. “During some of the toughest times, they helped provide food, shelter, financial aid, a caring ear and a diligent hand.”

    Abner Genece Electric BabyBut during that time Genece, who is divorced, still had basic living expenses and obligations to meet. His supplemental streams of income were impacted directly. “My work as a teaching artist, a workshop facilitator and a Lyft driver stopped immediately,” he said. His family started an online fund that raised naother $23,000. Genece singled out local directors Betty Hart and Robert Michael Sanders for their help in the months after the accident, as well as Pastor Brad Richardson of Crossroads Church Northglenn and Genece's brothers, Richard and Daryl. “I was both humbled and inspired,” he said.

    Collins was hopeful Genece would be able to handle the demands of The Electric Baby from his character’s hospital bed. But this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is a rollicking one, and very demanding on the actors. “It was scary for all of us in the rehearsal room because it is a very physical play, and on certain days we could really tell that Abner was hurting and pushing himself too hard, so we made him sit down and rest," Collins said. "But he did not want any special treatment, so whatever pain he was dealing with, he was keeping very private.”

    Genece describes the support he received from his fellow artists as both "thoughtful and proactive." Arrangements were made for his dressing room to be located as close to the stage as possible. He was ordered not to do any heavy lifting. “Costume fittings were scheduled and executed with special care,” he said. “The stage managers were especially attentive to my need for frequent breaks as my spine, shoulder blades and ribs were all very much still healing. These and other considerations made it so much easier for me to focus on the task at hand.”

    Another constant source of support was his son, Jayden. Professional theatre companies don’t typically allow the actors to bring their children to rehearsals because of the potential distraction. But for Genece, Jayden’s presence was another form of medicine.

    “It definitely helped Abner to have Jayden literally in his corner,” Collins said. “He’s a good theatre kid and he was so quiet. But you could tell that just having Jayden there made Abner feel better. The love they share is really palpable, and I imagine this has only bonded them even more.”

    Castmate Emma Messenger describes Genece as both a gentleman and a gentle man. "We are all very protective of him," actor Kate Gleason added. But perhaps none more so than Regina Fernandez, who remembers working with Genece on a schools touring production for Kaiser Permanente — and in particular one early morning drive to Greeley two years ago. 

    "We talked that day about how our ultimate goal was the same — to be hired into the Arvada Center's Black Box Theatre Company," Fernandez said. They achieved that goal together, but the triumph was nearly taken away from Genece as quickly as he got it. And that, Fernandez said, made seeing Genece walk onstage on opening night of Sense and Sensibility on Jan. 26 all the more of a miracle.

    "But no more so than any other night," Fernandez said, "because now I think that every night with Abner is a miracle."

    Genece says he has been blessed to work with many wonderful people over the years. "However, this repertory company holds a special place in my spirit," he said, "particularly when one considers the mountain I had to climb, and am still climbing. In so many ways, great and small, these talented artists made me feel welcomed, like a valued member of the team. And perhaps most of all, like I was being encouraged to bring my personal truth and creativity to the fore. That has had everything to do with the quality of my recovery.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Collins said she teared up when she saw Genece make his opening-night entrance. She said she saw an actor who was funny and adorable and, in her words, “a big ball of love" on the stage.

    Abner Genece All My Sons“Abner is a lovely and humble man,” she said. “I was just so grateful for him — and for us —  that we were all able to make this happen. Abner has earned a karma point.”

    Genece said Sense and Sensibility is such a physically robust production that on opening night, "I didn’t have much time to reflect during the show, thankfully,” he said. “But afterward, while celebrating with Jayden at the party, I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and triumph.”

    Gratitude for the opportunity to realize what Genece says every actor aspires to achieve: “Those brief onstage moments in the dark, when I can feel the audience gasp and my spirit expand,” he said. "When magic is possible — if only for an instant.”

    Now that all three plays are open (and will run through the first week of May), Genece has had an opportunity to reflect on his journey from being left broken on a Wyoming highway to whole and performing on the Arvada Center stage.

    “I’ve learned that we will be tested in our lives,” he said. “We will suffer. There will be pain. But it’s how we choose to deal with those events that ultimately determines the quality of our lives. It’s a long road. Trust that there are good people in the world; there are angels. And trust that you are enough.

    “And in those dark moments: Double down on yourself.”

    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. He is also the founder of the Denver Actors Fund.

    Abner Gence: My Three Characters

    • “In Sense and Sensibility, I play Sir John Middleton, a male gossip, a female gossip, an old servant, a furniture mover and the doctor. In Kate Hamill’s adaptation, the physical and vocal demands are considerable. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to play characters at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.”
    • “In The Electric Baby, I play Ambimbola, an immigrant from Nigeria who works as a cab driver. One of my challenges in this production was to embrace the irony of playing a man who spends the bulk of the play suffering in a hospital bed.”
    • In All My Sons, I play Dr. Jim Bayliss, a loyal friend of the Keller family who goes to great lengths to tend to their well-being. Among the challenges in this play was exploring the natures of loyalty and loss, two themes that I am familiar with in my own life.”

    Abner Genece: At a glance
    Abner Genece is making is Arvada Center debut. Other local credits: Water By The Spoonful (Curious Theatre Company); The Arabian Nights (Aurora Fox Center); Off Broadway: Othello, Hamlet, Tartuffe and Waiting For Godot (Jean Cocteau Repertory); Regional: The Bluest Eye (Moxie Theatre), The Meeting (Stella Adler Theatre), For The Love of Freedom (Greenway Arts Alliance), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum); Film and Television: Unrest, A-List, Harry’s Law, Zeke and Luther and Law & Order

    Arvada Center: Ticket information:

    Black Box Theatre Company repertory season:

    • All My Sons, written by Arthur Miller and directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 3
    • The Electric Baby, written by Stefanie Zadravec and directed By Rick Barbour, runs through May 4
    • Sense and Sensibility, adapted from the Jane Austen by Kate Hamill and directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 6
    • 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
    • 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org
    • The Arvada Center's 2017-18 Back Box Theatre Company ensemble members are 

      Zachary Andrews, Jessica Austgen, Regina Fernandez, Abner Genece, Kate Gleason, Geoffrey Kent, Emma Messenger, Emelie O'Hara, Lance Rasmussen, Jessica Robblee and Greg Ungar

    Abner Genece All My Sons. Matt Gale PhotographyThe cast of 'All My Sons.' Matt Gale Photography.
  • Cup of coffee with … Curious Theatre’s Lawrence Hecht

    by John Moore | Mar 15, 2018

    Lawrence Hecht quote. Photo by Michael Ensminger.
    Lawrence Hecht. Photo by Michael Ensminger.


    Denver Center favorite returns to tackle Kushner's beast of a play for audiences who are demanding more substance 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Lawrence Hecht, who taught hundreds of students over 18 years as the Denver Center’s Head of Acting, is back in Denver to play the patriarch in Curious Theatre’s upcoming staging of the Tony Kushner opus The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.

    Hecht had a major role on the faculty of the Denver Center’s former National Theatre Conservatory master’s degree program. Of particular current pride to Hecht is the recent casting of NTC graduate Genesis Oliver in the Broadway revival of Kushner’s Angels in America. Oliver appeared in the same play for the NTC as a student in 2009.  

    As an actor, Hecht’s many DCPA Theatre Company credits have included A Skull in Connemara, The Pillowman, Glengarry Glen Ross and A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also played Mark Rothko in Curious Theatre's multiple award-winning Red. Hecht last performed in Colorado for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 2015, most notably as Doctor Faustus in Wittenberg.

    Hecht left Denver in 2015 and moved to California with wife Ashlee Temple — a former DCPA Teaching Artist and local director — but their dream of settling on the coast of San Francisco coast ended about 80 miles short, in Stockton. That’s where Temple was hired to run the theatre department at San Joaquin Delta College while Hecht taught adjunct theatre classes at Stanford. That was a joyful task but it came at the soul-crushing cost of a two-hour drive along I-580. “And there is never a good day on the 580,” said Hecht, who now lives with Temple in Livermore, 35 miles closer to San Francisco.

    Hecht Lawrence QUOTEIn his current play with the lumbering title that the Curious cast has affectionately shortened to “IHo,” Hecht plays Gus, a retired Italian-American longshoreman and patriarch of a family that is having an unusual weekend reunion in a Brooklyn brownstone.

    Hecht took some time this week to talk about his Colorado return, his mammoth present acting challenge and other random thoughts in this new feature we call: Having a Cup of Coffee with … (And in this case, the cup was poured at the Denver Diner.)

    John Moore: How did this role come about?

    Larry Hecht: All it took was a phone call. (Director) Chip Walton said: 'I've got this play. It's Kushner. There's a role for you. Do you want to do it?’ It took me all of 30 seconds to say, 'Sure.'

    John Moore: Why was it such a slam dunk?

    Larry Hecht: When you get the chance to do Kushner, there is every reason in the world to do it. I would do Kushner anywhere, anytime. Plus, it's Curious. When Chip calls, I answer.

    John Moore: After the death of Edward Albee, I surveyed a national panel of experts and, not surprisingly, it determined that Tony Kushner is the leading living voice among American playwrights. What is it about him?

    Larry Hecht: He is an incredible wordsmith and a great poet. But I think it really is the daring and sheer audacity of his writing that sets him apart. He makes the issues and the world we live in accessible to people who would perhaps otherwise be put off by the topics he writes about.

    From 2015: DCPA says farewell to Larry Hecht after 18 years

    John Moore: Such as homosexuality and AIDS and communism?

    Larry Hecht: Yes. But he writes in a way that generates incredible passion for the people watching his plays on both sides of an issue. We’ve talked about this in rehearsal: You may have different views, but you don't have different passion. He comes from a place that is pure in soul, heart and mind. He writes good, brainy stuff. And he doesn't treat you as if you couldn't possibly understand. You can.

    John Moore: Angels in America is essentially two separate, three-hour plays. IHo comes in at 3 hours and 45 minutes. Tell me about the epic nature of Kushner’s storytelling, especially at a time when most American playwrights are being told to write no longer than 90 minutes without an intermission.

    Lawrence Hecht Michael EnsmingerLarry Hecht: Kushner knows that certain stories can't be told in just 90 minutes. This is the story of an Italian-American family over the course of two days, and that story is bigger than a sound bite. Yes, he could touch on his main points in a 90-minute play, but that's not what it’s about for Kushner. For him, it's about settling into this world that the audience gets to inhabit for 3 or 4 hours —  if they have the guts and the determination to come along with us.

    John Moore: Curious will appreciate your use of the word "guts."

    Larry Hecht: Yes, that’s their company slogan: “No guts, no story.” Well … there you go.

    John Moore: I feel like this is a play that speaks to a different kind of theatregoer right now. Not the kind that demands a quick, drive-through kind of approach to live theatre. This is a play for audiences who are missing, seeking and demanding more substance. 

    Larry Hecht: Exactly.

    John Moore: But that requires a different kind of mindset going into a play like IHo. What would you say to audiences who are on the fence about coming to Curious and really settling in for an entire night?

    Larry Hecht: I would just remind them that people are lining up by the thousands every night to see an almost-three-hour musical that has changed the landscape of the American theatre itself. So … time is kind of a relative thing.

    John Moore: Speaking of time: The Broadway revival of Angels in America is about to open next week, 37 years after it was first performed. That play was such a statement about where we were as a country in 1991. But why should it matter to us now?

    Larry Hecht: When something is so deadly specific to a time and place as Angels in America, it becomes universal. The writing is so incredible. Those relationships. Those characters are so fully drawn that they have become part of the diorama of America. It has so much life beyond just the play itself. And to now see this uniquely American story as presented by the National Theatre of Britain should be really interesting.

    John Moore: I'm of the belief that tumultuous times demand a ferocious cultural response. But that didn’t happen after 9/11. The attack produced a generation of plays that were certainly informed by the terrorism, but that moment didn't necessarily produce a run of great plays. But when you look back at the 1980s — specifically the AIDS crisis and the government's lackadaisical response to it —  that inspired angry, intelligent, monumental plays like Angels in America and The Normal Heart and many others. Maybe that's why they are bringing Angels in America back now: It's time for theatre to get angry again.

    Larry Hecht: It is. And Angels is still a potent force in theatre. I mean, if you were going to name your top-five plays ever written, Angels is certainly going to be at or near the top.

    John Moore: So let's talk more specifically about IHo. It will be new to this audience. What do we need to know?

    Larry Hecht: This is Kushner's venture into Arthur Miller territory. It's his Death of a Salesman. Or Eugene O'Neill. It's his Long Day's Journey into Night. This is Kushner’s great American family drama.

    John Moore: You mention the nod to Miller and O'Neill but the title is actually a riff on George Bernard Shaw's 1928 nonfiction book called The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism and Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which delved into Marxism and socialist thought. How is this play informed by Shaw?

    Larry Hecht: I would say it’s the wit and wisdom of the words. But also the ideas are similar.

    John Moore: So set us up. What happens in this play?

    Larry Hecht: It's a fun-filled two days with a scattered Italian-American family going through a crisis situation having to do with the patriarch. And that crisis brings everybody's divergent ideologies to the fore. 

    John Moore: OK, now what would you say the play is about?

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Larry Hecht: I think it's Kushner’s look at a past that is not spoken of much anymore. It's a past that involves unions and revolution and the possibility of a violent change that is both necessary and inevitable. The idea of revolution has gone away in this country. Kushner’s play speaks to the danger of complacency in America and in the world. So it's really a play about revolution.

    John Moore: Why is this a relevant topic of conversation in 2018?


    Lawtence Hecht. Photo by Micharl EnsmingerLarry Hecht: Kushner is a political beast. His voice speaks about what is happening in the here and now, even in the things he wrote 10 years ago. But for all the issues he raises, this play is really about the necessity of family. Our families have started drifting away from each other, and this play is a call for families to come back together. That's the only way the revolution ever happens.

    John Moore: And what is your role in all of this?

    Larry Hecht: I play Gus, the patriarch. Gus is an old-time communist, union guy. He worked on the waterfront as an organizer. His mission in life was revolution. And now, at a more advanced age, other issues are coming into play.

    (Pictured above and right: Lawrence Hecht with Emily Paton Davies. Photo by Michael Ensminger.)

    John Moore: How does this work compare in style and structure to, say, Angels in America?

    Larry Hecht: For me, this is Angels in America: Middle Age. Angels was about young people. This is the middle-age version of that.

    John Moore: What questions do you want audiences to wrestle with after they see the play?

    Larry Hecht: I would want them to ask themselves, ‘What are the things that we have become complacent with, both in our society and in our families?’ Are you really with your family? This play calls that into question.

    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 Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures: Ticket information

    • March 17-April 14
    • Written by Tony Kushner
    • 1080 Acoma St.
    • Information: 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org 

    Cast:
    • Dee Covington
    • Brian Landis Folkins
    • Lawrence Hecht
    • Desirée Mee Jung
    • Lawrence Hecht
    • Kirkaldy Myers
    • Anne Oberbroeckling
    • Emily Paton Davies
    • Matthew Schneck
    • Karen Slack
    • Luke Sorge
    • Justin Walvoord

    Creatives:
    • Chip Walton, Director
    • Sabin Epstein, Creative Consultant
    • Markas Henry, Scenic Designer
    • Kevin Brainerd, Costume Designer
    • Shannon McKinney, Lightning Designer
    • Brian Freeland, Sound Designer
    • Danielle Light, Props Designer
    • Dane Torbenson, Fight Choreographer
    • A. Phoebe Sacks, Stage Manager
    • Heidi Schmidt, Dramaturg
    • Kristin Fernandez, Assistant Stage Manager

    Photo gallery: Lawrence Hecht's 2015 Denver farewell

    Larry Hecht's retirement

    Photos from the Denver Center's 2015 celebration of Lawrence Hecht's 18 years as Head of Acting. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • Adam Trent bringing his signature brand of modern illusion home

    by John Moore | Mar 14, 2018
    In the video above, illusionist and Fairview High School graduate Adam Trent talks with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about his March 20 homecoming, and has some fun explaining an old-school finger trick. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    Cloning, holograms and even a little song and dance: Hometown illusionist is 'The Justin Timberlake of magic'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Adam Trent knew he wanted to be an illusionist from the time he was 8, when he saw David Copperfield perform at the Buell Theatre. He then got a book on magic and started doing children’s birthday parties around Denver and Boulder. “That was the first time I remember seeing a show where the entire family was laughing and having fun,” he said.

    But it was his later experience in theatre, comedy, singing and dancing that helped transform Trent into a modern magician for the 21st century.

    Adam Trent “I was involved in theater from a very young age, and I was always dabbling in other art forms before magic,” Trent said on the eve of his March 20 return to his native Colorado. “So when I started performing magic publicly, I combined music, dancing and comedy together, and they all worked harmoniously."

    Trent was born in the Cherry Creek neighborhood and graduated from Boulder’s Fairview High School. His big break came when he joined The Illusionists, which became the best-selling magic show in Broadway history and was followed by a tour that visited Denver last May. Trent, one of the show’s breakout stars, was known as “The Futurist.” He has since been called "The Justin Timberlake of magic."

    Trent describes his upcoming solo Denver appearance as an immersive entertainment extravaganza of magic, comedy and music perfect for the entire family. “I would say my signature brand of magic is a combination of music, comedy and new-age illusion,” he said.

    Magic has evolved considerably since Copperfield’s heyday, and artists such as Trent have had a lot to do with that.

    “There is so much more technology available these days,” he said. “I clone myself, I teleport, and I try to re-create movie special effects using hologram projection and LED walls among other pieces of technology that are slowly becoming accessible.”

    Trent said he can't overstate what it will mean to come home on March 20 and perform his show in The Ellie.

    “I’ll be next to the theater where I used to see great performers and national touring shows when I was a kid,” he said, “so it means the world to now be in a position where I can perhaps inspire a kid or a person and change a life.” 

    Here are more highlights from our recent conversation with Trent:

    Adam Trent quote

    Photos by Matt Christine.



    John Moore: You were named one of the 10 most influential youth in the nation by US News & World Report. What was that all about?

    Adam Trent: Every year AXA Financial and U.S. News & World Report Magazine choose one student from each state to name an ‘AXA Achiever,’ based on their nonprofit work and community contributions. I won for the state of Colorado — and also was one of the top 10 national winners — due to my work with inner-city schools and my fundraising for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Along with the title came a scholarship to Loyola Marymount College.

    John Moore: Random aside: How come a magician never reveals his tricks? 

    Adam Trent: It’s more fun to be left in the sense of mystery.

    John Moore: Any big influences on your early life you want to shout out in advance of your return to Colorado?

    Adam Trent: Anyone who ever came to see one of my smaller shows at a high-school auditorium. Doing those shows is what made me stick with it and brought me to where I am now.

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


    Video bonus: More from Adam Trent


    Video: Colorado native Adam Trent talks about his March 20 return to his home state to perform his new-age magic in The Ellie.

    The Magic of Adam Trent: Ticket information
    adamtrent_show_thumbnail_160x1608b980b99e7fd401d89c73fd844aa0c54Adam Trent, the breakout star of the world’s best-selling magic show The Illusionists, brings his signature brand of magic and illusion to this high-tech spectacle.  Produced by the same creative team behind The Illusionists brand, Adam Trent’s production is an immersive entertainment extravaganza of magic, comedy and music perfect for the entire family. “Seeing is dis-believing,” wrote The New York Times. Don’t miss the next generation of magic.

    • Presented by DCPA Broadway
    • March 20
    • The Ellie, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Adam Trent

     

  • 'American Mariachi' sets students on a search for the recipe of their American Dreams

    by John Moore | Mar 13, 2018

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

    DCPA Education goes into schools to prepare students for themes expressed in plays such as American Mariachi


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Each season, DCPA Education partners with the DCPA Theatre Company to develop classroom workshops that help prepare students to attend performances of the company’s plays. Last month, more than a dozen members of the American Mariachi cast and band participated in workshops at Annunciation and Bryant-Webster elementary schools, whose enrollments are primarily lower-income students of color.

    “We engage students in these pre-production workshops to develop themes that are explored in the play,” said DCPA Teaching Artist Andre' Rodriguez. "And for American Mariachi, the overarching theme keeps coming back to the American Dream."

    With help from several American Mariachi cast members and fellow DCPA Teaching Artists, Rodriguez challenged the middle-schoolers to identify not only what their own American Dreams are, but their real and perceived barriers to achieving those dreams. The results were telling. Dream jobs expressed included playing in a variety of professional sports, being a rapper or doctor. One wrote: “Keep playing mariachi,” while another’s goal, simply, is “to be alive.”

    American Mariachi Luis Quintero“A lot of the kids wrote down that one of the big barriers to achieving their dreams is not having support from their own family members,” said American Mariachi actor Luis Quintero (pictured with an Annunciation student, right). Other common impediments expressed by the children, mostly ages 9-13, included money and access to college. “My thoughts,” one student wrote simply. “They say I can’t do it,” another scribbled in brightly colored ink.  

    Quintero was joined in the workshops by castmates Natalie Camunas, Jennifer Paredes, Bobby Plasencia, Amanda Robles and Heather Velazquez, as well as Rodriguez and DCPA Teaching Artists Joelle Montoya and Chloe McLeod. Working in small groups, the students and actors created their own original mariachis and performed them for the rest of the class. One such example:

    “My health is bad because
    I keep second-guessing myself.
    Self-doubt holding me back
    .
    It’s time to bring my confidence back.”

    “One of the most powerful parts of this experience is that they got to engage directly with the actors in their own classrooms, and then the following day, they got to see them on onstage at the Denver Center,” Rodriguez said.

    (Story continues after the photo gallery below:)

    Photo gallery: American Mariachi in the classrooms

    Making of 'American Mariachi'To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The afternoon session at Bryant-Webster was special because it is one of the only schools in the state that has its own mariachi program and student band. To open the afternoon’s activities, the professional band from American Mariachi stood on the stage and played a song from the play for the approximately 100 students and staff gathered in the Bryant-Webster auditorium.

    “One of the student leaders approached me and said, ‘We would like to challenge the professional mariachi band to a duel,’ ” Rodriguez said. The student mariachi band then performed a song in return for the professional musicians. “It was a great show of community and celebration of tradition,” Rodriguez said.

    DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous said programs such as the DCPA’s in-school workshops are a critical part of the process of introducing the theatre arts to unfamiliar students.

    American Mariachi spurs community conversations

    “We at the Denver Center know how important it is for students to experience theatre in their classroom — and first-hand,” Watrous said. “So we are excited to make that investment, and to partner with teachers and marry that with their curriculum. That is the heart of our work.”

    Natalie Camunas American Mariachi American Mariachi,
    which has ended its run in Denver but in two weeks will re-open at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, follows the journey of a young woman named Lucha who has become the caretaker for a mother with dementia. When Lucha finds a mariachi record that briefly brings her mother back to life, she becomes determined to learn how to play this magical song for her before it is too late. Although being a female mariachi player was unheard of in the U.S. in the 1970s, Lucha assembles a group of friends who help make her dream come true.

    Quintero was certain these students would get a kick out of seeing a live representation of their culture on the stage, “and in a positive light, Camunas added. “In a way that makes women look strong and happy and brave.

    “It was really nice to be able to bring them to our show that fully represents them in all the beautiful complexities that it is to be Mexican-American, which I think has never been more important and necessary than it is in these times.”

    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.


    Annunciation at American Mariachi
    The class from Annunciation at school (above), and, the next day, attending a performance of 'American Mariachi' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of American Mariachi:
    Behind the scenes video: Making the Great Wall of American Mariachi
    Tony Garcia: American Mariachi is an American beauty
    When Leonor Perez found mariachi, she found her true voice
    American Mariachi
    Perspectives: Music as a powerful memory trigger
    Photos, video: Your first look at American Mariachi
    American Mariachi
    's second community conversation: Food, music and tough issues
    Cast announced, and 5 things we learned at first rehearsal
    American Mariachi
    : Community conversation begins
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company season
    Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

  • Denver's 'Tommy' to star Andy Mientus and other Broadway stars

    by John Moore | Mar 13, 2018

    TOMMYCASTING

    From left: Charl Brown, Betsy Morgan, Owen Zitek, Carson Elrod and Charlie Korman.

    'Smash' star: 'I’m excited for the challenge and opportunity to show audiences who I am as a musician and an actor.'

    By John Moore
    Senor Arts Journalist

    Andy Mientus is known around the world for two iconic, music-infused projects — Broadway’s Spring Awakening and TV’s Smash. And he says the bloodline for both absolutely run straight  through The Who. Which makes it all the more perfect for Mientus to be coming to Denver to play Tommy in the DCPA Theatre Company’s star-studded production of The Who’s Tommy, based on the band’s 1969 concept album about a boy who retreats into a world of darkness and silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and emerges as a pinball wizard.

    AndyMeintusQUOTE“You can bet that The Who’s album, and then the original cast recording of Tommy, was in the library of all of the contemporary musical-theater writers you love,” Mientus told the DCPA NewsCenter today in the announcement of his first return to Denver since playing Hanschen in the 2009 national touring production of Spring Awakening.

    “That album was an absolute phenomenon when all of our current songwriting greats were coming up, and I think any fan of the contemporary musical canon will absolutely freak out for this score if they don’t know it yet.”

    Tommy will be directed by visionary British director Sam Buntrock, who last year directed the Denver Center’s U.S. premiere of Nick Dear's Frankenstein. Buntrock has been nominated for Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk awards for his innovative work in theatre, film and animation, including Broadway’s 2008 revival of Sunday In The Park With George. He also directed Ed, Downloaded for the Denver Center in 2012.

    Mientus will be joined by a cast that includes big-name Broadway veterans Betsy Morgan (The King and I) as Mrs. Walker, Tony Award-nominated Charl Brown (Motown the Musical) as Captain Walker, and Carson Elrod (Peter and the Starcatcher) as Uncle Ernie. Colorado Shakespeare Festival audiences may remember Elrod from the 1999 season, when he played Dromio of Syracuse in A Comedy of Errors, among other roles.

    Mientus called Buntock’s lineup “a visionary creative team and incredible company,” and called Tommy his dream role.

    “Growing up, my house was full of music but strangely, not musicals,” Mientus said. “I’m not sure where I caught that bug. Instead, my earliest musical influences were classic rockers, soul singers and folk balladeers. I was aware of The Who’s album long before I was aware of Tommy as a stage show. So, it’s a bit of connective tissue between my two worlds, and something my dad would have absolutely loved to see. I haven’t sung so much in a musical since Les Miserables in 2015, but the score of Tommy is much more in my wheelhouse, vocally, so I’m excited for the challenge and the opportunity to show audiences who I am as a musician as well as an actor.”

    Tommy is a musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of a boy who must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. The story was made into a trippy film in 1975 starring Roger Daltrey, and in 1993 debuted as a Broadway musical under the direction of Des McAnuff.

    “I think Tommy is, at its heart, a parable about feeling alien in your own family and community,” Mientus said. “Tommy escapes into the serenity of his own mind after a traumatic event and is treated terribly by almost everyone around him. I think we have all felt that way at some point.”

    Mientus scheduled to appear at Alamo screening March 26

    Four actors will play Tommy at different ages — two rotating local children will play Tommy at age 4. Owen Zitek (of DCPA Theare Company’s A Christmas Carol) will play him at 10, and Mientus at 18. In an unusual twist, Buntrock will also have Cousin Kevin age over the course of the story with age-appropriate actors. He will be played as a boy by Denver Center favorite Charlie Korman (Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol), who is now a high-school student at Denver School of the Arts but has been appearing on DCPA stages since he was 5. Kevin will be played as an adult by big-time Australian actor Gareth Keegan (TV’s The Good Fight.)

    Cast:

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

    Creatives

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

    Even the house band will be filled with big names and local talent. DeVotchKa drummer Shawn King had so much fun playing (and having his throat sliced) each night during Sweeney Todd, he is coming back to play in the pit for Tommy. Other local rockers will include Jason Tyler Vaughn, David Devine, Dan Graber, Matthew Scheffelman, Daniel Schwindt and Angela Steiner.

    Mientus said he is especially happy for the chance to return to Denver since the Spring Awakening tour did not afford him much time to explore. “I loved the energy of the city, but it was too brief and too cold," he said. "This time, I’m going to do it all.”

    The first public preview performance of The Who’s Tommy is April 20, a fluke of the calendar that has not escaped Mientus. “If I may be so cheeky,” he said, “it’s not lost on me that we’re doing our first performance a psychedelic rock show in Denver on 4/20. I expect we may get a few audience members in who do not usually see live theater, and I think that is always something worth celebrating.”

    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 Who's Tommy: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Apr 20-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Photos, cast list: 'Native Gardens' draws line in the soil

    by John Moore | Mar 12, 2018
    Making of 'Native Gardens'Above: Our full photo gallery from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Native Gardens,' starting with last week's first rehearsal. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter


    Karen Zacarías' popular comedy takes a lighter approach to the concept of a border war — with your next-door neighbor

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    "Who here has a neighbor?" Director Lisa Portes asked the cast, creatives, ambassadors and staff gathered for a festive first day of rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's upcoming production of Native Gardens. And when she further queried, "Who here has had a dispute with a neighbor?" and, "How many of those disputes have had to do with land or noise?" — not many of the many raised hands fell.   

    Karen Zacarías' celebrated play is the story of a young Latino couple that moves into a fixer-upper next to an older couple with a beautifully kept garden. All goes well until the aristocratic young Chileans discover their property line actually extends about 2 feet over their neighbors' existing flowerbed.

    "We all hope we get along with our neighbors," Portes said. But where there is a property line, there tends to be a line in the sand.

    Native Gardens is a comedy, "but it's a sneaky comedy," Portes added, "because suddenly there is this border dispute, and within that there is all kinds of conflict  — generational, ethnic, gender and class. And eventually these two couples really have to contend with one another."

    Portes, who primarily tackles new plays and musicals, serves on the board of Theatre Communications Group, heads the MFA directing program at DePaul University and has directed at dozens of theatres around the country. Her cast includes Broadway veterans Jordan Baker (The Normal Heart) and John Ahlin (Journey’s End), as well as Mariana Fernández, who two years ago starred the DCPA Theatre Company's FADE.

    'Native Gardens' has its first performance April 6 in the Space Theatre. Here are five fun facts we learned at first rehearsal:

    Lisa Portes quote
    Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    NUMBER 1

    The world goes round. Although Zacarías' play has been produced around the country since 2016, Portes is calling this the play's "world premiere production in the round." The Space is a five-sided theatre with the stage in the middle. In every previous staging, the audience has watched the story in a traditional theatre setting with an invisible fourth wall separating them from the actors on the stage. "That means the audience is examining this dispute from a safe distance," Portes said. "But in this production, the stage floor is the actual garden, and the fence separating the two houses runs right through the middle of the stage. And so depending on where your seat is, you will be sitting on one side of the fence or the other. That means you are a part of this dispute. And we're interested to see how that physical relationship you have with one side or the other plays out in your terms of your allegiances."  

    NUMBER 2RAQUEL BARRETO Expect the unexpected. If Costume Designer Raquel Barreto has one wish for how the audience feels when they walk into the Space Theatre, she said, "It's they don't encounter a preconceived set of characters" when the play begins. Meaning they should not be so easily pegged based on their appearance — or your presupposition. "This is a play that is as much about about cultural and ethnic perceptions as it is about generational differences, and so I would love it if people's expectations of having a Latino or a foolish older American neighbor are not met," she said. "We have a chance to present the audience with characters who are funny but at the same time have some layers to them. I may strongly disagree with my neighbor's politics and still love the scarf that she is wearing." 

    NUMBER 3 Is that a typo? Questions about the recent rise of the term “Latinx” (pronounced “Latin X”) have come up on a regular basis all season, and they came up again on the first day of rehearsal. They even come up in  Zacarías' script. It's not a term the older white couple in the story have ever heard of — and they are not alone. So, a refresher: Latinx has become widely embraced among scholars, community leaders and journalists as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina.  According to The Huffington Post, Latinx is part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.

    Just Like Us makes the political personal ... and entertaining

    NUMBER 4Speaking of ... Zacarías, who also wrote the DCPA Theatre Company's Just Like Us in 2014, and Portes were among the “DC-8” who started a national movement called The Latinx Theatre Commons in 2012 to amplify the visibility of Latinx theatre in the United States. Since then, Portes has directed the world premiere of Antoinette Nwandu’s Breach, a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate in Chicago, as well as an all-Latinx version of The Glass Menagerie for Cal Shakes in northern California.  Zacarias last month launched a high-profile staging for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival called Destiny of Desire, a subversive homage to telenovelas, which she calls “one of the most exported forms of entertainment in the world.”

    NUMBER 5Small world. Next door to the Space Theatre, Off-Center is preparing to stage  This is Modern Art in The Jones Theatre. That story explores an  incident when a graffiti crew created a massive tag on the outside of the Art Institute of Chicago’s new, multimillion-dollar Modern Wing. The world-premiere of the play was staged at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2015, and it went down as among the most controversial stagings of the past decade. And it debuted under the direction of none other than .... Lisa Portes. "Idris is a wildly imaginative thinker,” Portes said of co-writer (and Off-Center director) Idris Goodwin. " He knows the necessity of traditional structure well, and he also pushes against it in order to get to something else. “This is Modern Art follows a pretty traditional structure, but its content is quite subversive.” READ MORE

    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.

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

    Cast:

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

    NativeGardens_show_thumbnail_160x160Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virgina have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt play about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.
    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances April 6-May 6
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'Saturday Night Alive' raises record $1.15 million for DCPA Education

    by John Moore | Mar 12, 2018

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    More than 800 see performance of Hamilton while supporting programs that serve 106,000 students every year

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts' 38th annual Saturday Night Alive party netted a record $1.15 million on March 3. The fundraiser is a benefit for the DCPA’s extensive theatre education programs, which serve more than 106,000 students of all ages each year.

    With that evening's performance of Hamilton included as part of Saturday Night Alive, the evening sold out in record time — just one week. While more than 80Saturday Night Alive. Janice Sinden. Photo by Amanda Tipton0 guests enjoyed the full evening, another 200 joined the festivities at the show and after-party. The emcee was of CBS Denver.

    DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden described the evening as breathtaking.

    “At the DCPA, we believe that the arts are a fundamental part of a well-rounded education,” she said. “Being able to celebrate that with Hamilton, a show that is equally passionate about arts education, is an exciting opportunity for our Saturday Night Alive donors.”

    (Pictured at right: DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden. Photo by Amanda Tipton.)

    In addition to seeing Broadway’s biggest blockbuster, guests enjoyed a luxury silent auction, dinner by Epicurean Group, and post-show desserts and dancing to music by the Wash Park Funk Band.

    Saturday Night Alive has now raised an estimated $29 million and has helped the DCPA provide theatre programs to more than 2 million students.


    2018 Saturday Night Alive

    Photos from the 2018 Saturday Night Live, starting with, above, members of the 'Hamilton' cast enjoying the post-show party in the Seawell Ballroom. To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos. Image above by acustomlook.com. All other photos by Amanda Tipton. 

    2018 Saturday Night Alive

    • 2018 Event Chairs: were Susan and Steve Struna
    • Corporate Chairs: Lisa & Norm Franke / Alpine Bank
    • Silent Auction Co-Chairs: Keri Christiansen & Jane Netzorg
    • Patron Chairs: Lyn and Dr. Michael Schaffer
    • Platinum Sponsors: Roger, Rick & Friends; United Airlines
    • Emerald Sponsors: Salah Foundation, SRC Energy, US Bank, Westin Denver Downtow
    • Gold Sponsors: Alpine Bank; Assist2Hear; Bayswater Exploration & Production; Colorado State Bank and Trust; CRG, Epicurean Group; Kathie & Keith Finger; Genesee Mountain Foundation; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP; HealthONE; Edward H. and Margaret Anne Leede; Microsoft; Tuchman Family Foundation; PDC Energy; Xcel Energy; Trice Jewelers
  • Ugly Lies the Bone: The transformation of Missy Moore

    by John Moore | Mar 09, 2018



    Albert Einstein said: "Beauty is skin deep, ugly lies the bone. Beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own."

    The Lake Dillon Theatre Company is currently presenting Lindsey Ferrentino's play 
    Ugly Lies the Bone
    . When a newly discharged veteran returns to her native Florida hometown after a disabling third tour in Afghanistan, she discovers that readjusting can be painful and disorienting. Through virtual reality video-game therapy, the play examines the possible restoration of one soldier’s life, relationships and self.

    In the time-lapse video above, Moore shows how she takes on the persona of a soldier who has been burned over more than half her body. The prosthetic makeup design is by Todd Debreceni. The process to apply the makeup takes about two hours a day, Moore said.

    Ugly Lies the Bone plays through March 18 at the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne. Information: 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    Cast:

    • Jess: Missy Moore
    • Kacie: Samantha Rosentrater
    • Stevie: Joel Oramas
    • Kelvin: Joel Rainwater
    • Voice/Mom: Jennifer Condreay

    Creatives:

    • Director: Joshua Blanchard
    • Scenic Design: Jared Grohs
    • Lighting Design: Vance McKenzie
    • Costume Design: Molly Walz
    • Sound Design: Matthew Eckstein
    • Stage Manager: Amber Julian
    • Assistant Stage Manager: Andy Bakehouse
  • 'The Great Leap' prepares for big bound to Seattle

    by John Moore | Mar 07, 2018
    Kristin Leahey and Lauren Yee. Photo by John Moore

    'The Great Leap' Dramaturg Kristin Leahey and playwright Lauren Yee at the opening-night celebration in Denver. The play next transfers to the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Dramaturg, playwright talk hoops as The Great Leap prepares to leave Denver and visit the Great Northwest

    The DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere staging of The Great Leap has its final Denver performances this weekend, but the play is just starting its creative life. After closing on Sunday (March 11), it packs up with its cast, creatives and scenery intact and moves to the Seattle Repertory Theatre for a run starting later this month.

    The play, set in San Francisco and China, follows a scrappy young Asian-American kid who talks his way onto the University of San Francisco basketball team that is about to embark on a series of “friendship” games in China, which is in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution era. Personal and international politics collide like Jordan driving to the hoop against Shaq. The story was inspired by events from playwright Lauren Yee's  father’s real experiences. 

    Kristin Leahey and Lauren Yee Quote. Photo by John MooreSeattle Rep dramaturg Kristin Leahey, who has been a key team member in the development of the play since it was first introduced at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, sat down with Yee for a Q&A about the play:

    Kristin Leahey: Lauren, who did you write The Great Leap for?

    Lauren Yee: My dad. Growing up, my father, Larry Yee, played basketball –  every day, all night, on the asphalt courts and rec center floors of San Francisco, Chinatown. It was the only thing he was good at. He was never good enough that he was going to play for the NBA or even at the college level, but for a 6-foot-1 Chinatown kid from the projects, he was good. Really good. I know this because even today, people still stop him on the street and try to explain to me what a legend he was. They tell me his nickname — Spider — his position — center — and his signature move — the reverse jump shot. Then they will tell me about China. My dad's first trip to China was in the '80s playing a series of exhibition games against China's top teams. At their first game, my dad and his American teammates faced off against a Beijing team of 300-pound 7-footers who demolished my dad's team. It was the first of many slaughters. My dad doesn't play anymore, but you can see how his head is still in the game. Sometimes, he'll walk up to tall young men at checkout counters, parking lots, and sporting events, and ask them if they've ever considered playing basketball. And it doesn't matter what they say: he'll start coaching them on the game right then and there. So while this play is not my father's story, it's a story like it.

    For playwright Lauren Yee, family is generation map

    Kristin Leahey: Did you know a lot about basketball before working on this play?

    Lauren Yee: Despite my father’s history with the game, I actually knew very little, so I got to apprentice myself to this whole new world. And using basketball as a means to explore China-America relations turned out to be an incredibly apt metaphor. China has played basketball almost as long as America has; it’s the most popular sport in China, the only western sport never previously banned by the Chinese government.

    Kristin Leahey: As you have been developing The Great Leap, you have also been working on two other incredible plays, among many others, The King of the Yees and Cambodian Rock Band.  What do you see is the connection with these works? 

    Kristin Leahey and Lauren Yee 800. Photo by John MooreLauren Yee: King of the Yees, which had its Northwest premiere at A.C.T. last September, is a love letter to Chinatown and my real-life relationship with my dad. Cambodian Rock Band is also a father/daughter story, a play with music about a Cambodian American young woman’s discovery of her father’s secret past as the bassist for a rock band during the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Along with The Great Leap, these plays form a kind of trilogy, about ordinary people intersecting in extraordinary places in history.  Each play reveals the hidden histories that lived alongside each other and that you would have never unexpected (basketball and Communism, rock bands and genocide). Seeing these plays through to production has revealed to me the breadth and depth of the Asian American acting community. Each play requires specific, extraordinary talent, and gives actors the chance to be so many different things on stage: funny, virtuosic, heartbreaking, and versatile –  something that Asian American actors frequently do not get to do. I feel if nothing else, one of my proudest accomplishments is creating roles worthy of today’s Asian-American actors.

    (Pictured above right: 'The Great Leap' Dramaturg Kristin Leahey and playwright Lauren Yee talk at a public forum to discuss the play with Denver Center audiences. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Kristin Leahey: Can you share with us about your writing process? 

    Lauren Yee: I start writing even before I know what I’m writing about. I can sketch out the pieces of the plays — for example, the setting, the characters, the language — fairly quickly. Most of the writing process — or rewriting process — is me figuring out how these pieces best fit together. My intuitions are rarely wrong, but it usually takes me a very long time to figure out why these particular characters are in these particular situations. In fact, in The Great Leap, I didn’t figure out one of the key plot points until very late in the writing. I’m also incredibly motivated by collaboration with others. One of my favorite things to do is enter a week-long workshop with the goal of mapping out a brand new play or pushing a half-finished piece of writing forward. I have a great respect for actors and directors, and so the thought of them having to wait for me to complete a scene makes me churn out work so much faster than I could by myself. And once I’ve nailed the characters and circumstances, I’ll go back to see where I got things right (or not) and fill in all the gaps. For me, research comes late in the process.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kristin Leahey: You’ve spent a lot time in Seattle developing your plays.  Can you share what you love about the city and the Seattle theatre scene?

    Lauren Yee: I have never seen a city hungrier for new work than Seattle. The joy that Seattle audiences harbor for new work is incredibly motivating; they will show up for readings with an inquisitiveness that you don’t always see in other cities. It’s also an inspiring place to think about story. There’s so much unexpected and unexplored history in Seattle. And every time I come to Seattle, I’m floored by the layers I continue to unearth.

     Kristin Leahey, Ph.D., is Director of New Works for the Seattle Repertory Theatre.

    Production photos: The Great Leap

    The Great Leap Photos from 'The Great Leap,' opening Friday (tonight) and performing through March 11 in the Ricketson Theatre. To see more photos, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery. Photos by Adams VisCom.  

    The Great Leap: Ticket information
    GreatLeap_show_thumbnail_160x160When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, while Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly changing country. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action on the court.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Through March 11
    • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $30
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Selected previous coverage of The Great Leap:
    Lauren Yee: “This play would not exist without the Denver Center'
    Video: First look at The Great Leap, and five things we learned at Perspectives
    For The Great Leap playwright Lauren Yee, family is a generation map
    Five pieces of fun hoops history to know, like: What's a pick and roll?
    Five things we learned at first rehearsal, with photos
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Vast and visceral: Theatre Company season will include The Great Leap

  • Photos: Opening night of Arvada Center's 'All My Sons'

    by John Moore | Mar 06, 2018
    Arvada Center's 'All My Sons'
    Full photo gallery from the opening performance of the Arvada Center's 'All My Sons,' directed by Lynne Collins. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full, downloadable Flickr gallery.  Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter at MyDenverCenter.Org.


    Photos: Opening night of Arvada Center's All My Sons

    Arthur Miller's breakthrough play All My Sons is based on the true story of an Ohio manufacturer who sold faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Joe Keller, played by Sam Gregory, is made to face the true cost of his business choices and their devastating impact on his family.

    The big-name cast features some of Denver's top actors, many with deep connections to the Denver Center, including:

    • All My Sons. Arvada Center. Sam Gregory: Joe Keller (More than 40 DCPA productions including Scrooge in A Christmas Carol)
    • Emma Messenger: Kate Keller
    • Lance Rasmussen: Chris Keller
    • Regina Fernandez: Ann Deever (DCPA's The Secret Garden)
    • Geoffrey Kent: George Deever (Acted in many DCPA productions, resident fight director, DCPA Education Teaching Artist and director of An Act of God)
    • Abner Genece: Dr. Jim Bayliss
    • Kate Gleason: Sue Bayliss (DCPA’s Don Quixote, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Love's Labour's Lost and more, DCPA Education Teaching Arts)
    • Zachary Andrews: Frank Lubey (DCPA’s Romeo and Juliet, The Three Musketeers and more)
    • Jessica Austgen: Lydia Lubey (former DCPA Education Teaching Artist, member of Off-Center’s Cult Following and writer of Drag On)
    • Harrison Hauptman: Bert
    • August Reichert: Bert (DCPA's A Christmas Carol)
    This is the final opening of the Arvada Center's second Black Box Theatre Company season. All My Sons, directed by Lynne Collins, runs through May 3 in repertory with Sense and Sensibility and The Electric Baby at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org.


    Production photos:

    All My Sons at the Arvada Center, 2018

    Emma Messenger and Sam Gregory. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to a full Flickr gallery. Matt Gale Photography 2018.
  • Boulder Ensemble Theatre commissions Idris Goodwin for new play

    by John Moore | Mar 06, 2018
    IDRIS GOODWIN. PHOTO BY John Moore
    Idris Goodwin is the co-writer and director of Off-Center's upcoming 'This is Modern Art.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.



    Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company expands commitment to parent playwrights with children under age 18

    The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company today announced it has a commissioned a new play by Colorado playwright Idris Goodwin, the co-writer and director of Off-Center's upcoming This is Modern Art.

    "BETC and I share the belief that the theater artists and audiences of the Rockies are hungry for relevant new work," said Goodwin, also a rapper and associate theatre professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

    Goodwin will be working with an ensemble of artists to develop a play about how public schooling in America intersects with race, poverty, civil rights, states’ rights and federal oversight. "We're going to dive deep into the question of who decides what is worth knowing?" Goodwin said. "I am eager to get to work."

    Jenifer BarclayOn March 22, Goodwin's production of This is Modern Art, which recounts the true story of the biggest graffiti bomb in Chicago history, opens in the Jones Theatre.

    BETC's new-play development program, called Generations, supports the work of parent playwrights with children under 18. And this year it is being expanded to host a second residency, for University of Maryland assistant playwriting professor Jennifer Barclay. Her play Danny was selected from more than 150 submissions as part of BETC's annual Generations competition. Danny is a drama about two generations of African-American women set in the Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago.

    Barclay will receive a week-long residency in Boulder to develop Danny with a professional cast, director and dramaturg — with childcare support provided by BETC. The workshop will culminate in a public reading in August.

    “I am thrilled that BETC offers an award and development opportunity that is specifically for parents of young children," Barclay said. "I am grateful for the commitment that BETC has made to new plays, as well as their commitment to easing the burden of the playwright parent's work and life juggling act."

    Producing Artistic Director Stephen Weitz said the goal for the Generations program is to welcome all generations into the theater to see new plays, and to empower playwrights to generate new work.  “Our program has a unique focus and demonstrates our commitment to foster new play development here in the Colorado community that will have wide-ranging impact across the country and the theatre industry," he said. 

    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art: Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances March 22-April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Idris Goodwin:
    This is Modern Art will make you look: Cast list, first-day report, photos
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art
    Video: Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band

  • 'This is Modern Art' will make you look

    by John Moore | Mar 04, 2018
    Making of 'This is Modern Art'

    Above: Our full photo gallery from the making of Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art,' opening March 22. To see more, click on the image above. From left in first photo above: Denver actors Robert Lee Hardy, Jake Mendes and Marco A. Robinson. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter


    Off-Center play starts a provocative conversation about art that controversial Chicago graffiti artists started in snow 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Graffiti crews have been called vandals, criminals — even creative terrorists. What they are is artists, says director, playwright and artist Idris Goodwin. “And in 2009, some of those artists set out to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world.”

    Goodwin, also a full-time associate theatre professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, co-wrote This is Modern Art, a book and now proudly controversial stage play based on an incident when a graffiti crew created a massive tag on the outside of the Art Institute of Chicago’s new, multimillion-dollar Modern Wing. Under cover of snowfall, they painted a 50-foot mural bookended by the words “Modern Art … Made You Look.”

    This explicit challenge of a powerful arts institution drew condemnation, outrage and, from many, celebration.

    "They wanted to have a conversation around art and culture that I don't think otherwise happens,” Goodwin said. "I think fine art has become very apolitical over the years, and that then fosters a certain apoliticism to class. These artists really wanted to have an open conversation about art but, unfortunately, that didn't really happen."

    Instead, the anonymous artists went — and remain — underground. But Goodwin’s co-writer Kevin Coval found them and interviewed them, Studs Terkel-style, for the play.

    This is Modern Art. Idris Goodwin Quote. Photo by John MooreThis Is Modern Art, which will be staged by the DCPA’s Off-Center from March 22 through April 15 in the Jones Theatre, offers a glimpse into the lives of graffiti artists and asks timeless questions about art: What is art — and who gets to say so? It also addresses the competing issues of artistic freedom and private property.

    This is a story, Goodwin added, “that allows the audience to get to know a very particular culture that has its own history, and its own set of morals. It allows them to go along on this ride without actually getting any paint on their hands.”

    Off-Center co-founder and curator Charlie Miller said Goodwin and Coval "take elements of hip-hop culture and put them onstage in a way that is both accessible to an audience who knows nothing about it, and to those who are deeply steeped in that culture. Idris makes the theatre a meeting place for both of those audiences.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Miller said he is “proud to be doing this work and engaging the artists who are working on this project. And, most important, to be engaging our audiences in the tough conversation this play brings up.”

    Goodwin knows the Denver Center’s traditional theatregoing audience base will be challenged. That’s the point, he said. 

    “I have this fantasy where these seniors who are 65 and older come to see the show and suddenly get a late-in-life spark to write graffiti. That's my goal," he said. "If I can get at least three octogenarians thrown in jail after seeing this play, I will have done my job.’ ”

    A THIS IS MODERN ART. Idris Goodwin. Photo by John Moore

    Photo by John Moore.


    Here are five more things we learned at the first rehearsal for 'This Is Modern Art,' followed by the announcement of the all-local cast and creative team:

    NUMBER 1

    Modern Art 800Small world. The world premiere of This is Modern Art was staged at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2015 (pictured right). The director was Lisa Portes, who just happens to arrive in Denver next week to begin work on the Karen Zacarías comedy Native Gardens for the DCPA Theatre Company. The Off-Center production of This is Modern Art is being directed by Goodwin himself. “Idris is a wildly imaginative thinker,” Portes told the DCPA NewsCenter. “He knows the necessity of traditional structure well, and he also pushes against it in order to get to something else. This is Modern Art follows a pretty traditional structure, but its content is quite subversive.” Indeed, the staging was among the most controversial of the past decade. The play was presented as part of Steppenwolf's Young Adult Series, and critics at the city’s two major daily papers bashed the morality of the piece. "There was a bit of a kerfuffle to say the least," Goodwin said with a laugh. "For critics, the question became, 'How dare you glorify anyone who challenges the law?' To which we said: 'Thank you for making us the N.W.A. of theatre,' " referring he said, to the polarizing gangsta-rap pioneers. Goodwin says he considers the scathing review by Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times to be among his most prized possessions. "It reads like it is right out of the 1930s," he said. "I kept waiting for the words 'Reefer Madness' to appear." A social media backlash accused the Chicago critics of being out of touch.

    NUMBER 2This is a heist! In writing the play, Goodwin and Coval were inspired by the film Man on Wire, which chronicles Philippe Petit's renegade 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. “It's a documentary, but it feels like a heist film,” Goodwin said. A heist film is a kind of crime film that focuses on the planning, execution and aftermath of a theft. “And that was the play we wanted to write,” Goodwin said.

    NUMBER 3Crushing it. The Jones Theatre will be transformed into an abandoned warehouse that serves as the primary location for the story. The theatre walls will be covered in layers of graffiti, while the actual tag at the Art Museum will be depicted through a real-time animated projection so that the actors don’t actually paint during the performance. “It's going to be really exciting,” said Scenic Designer Nicholas Renaud. Projection Designer Topher Blair has been consulting and collaborating with graffiti artist Robin Munro, founder of Colorado Crush, Colorado’s largest independent annual graffiti event that has transformed the two-block alleyway in RiNo now known as “Art Alley.” 

    Read more: Is graffiti modern art ... or urban terrorism?

    NUMBER 4Opening doors and minds. There will be eight student matinee performances of This is Modern Art, Miller said, “because the questions this play asks are really important, particularly for high-school students. This play really lifts up these artists, who are people we don't normally get to see on a stage.” There also will be a facilitated talkback after every student matinee to further the conversation. "We're really excited that every student who comes will get to really get to dig deep into the themes and questions of the play as part of their experience,” Miller said.

    NUMBER 5The more you know. If you are interested in the rich history of Chicago graffiti art and the story behind This is Modern Art before you attend the play, you can order the source book from Haymarket Books. “We wanted to do something different than just an acting edition of the play,” Goodwin of the book, which includes a foreword by Lisa Yun Lee, Director of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "This play is about more than just this particular art crime,” Lee wrote. “ It is also about an ongoing kind of crime perpetrated by the powerful against those in the margins, a more universal history of oppression that takes place through the prescription of what is beautiful.” It is available in paperback ($11) or e-book ($6) form here. And you can read the foreword here.

    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.


    This is Modern Art
    : Cast and creatives

    This is Modern Art Cast. Photos by John Moore

    Clockwise from top left, actors John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Robert Lee Hardy, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson. Photos by John Moore, filtered by Prisma. 

    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Scenic Designer: Nicholas Renaud
    • Costume Designer: Meghan Anderson Doyle
    • Lighting Designer: Katie Gruenhagen
    • Sound Designer: Elisheba Ittoop
    • Projection Design: Topher Blair
    • Graffiti Artist: Robin Munro
    • Dramaturg: Kristin Leahey
    • Stage Manager: Rick Mireles
    • Casting: Grady Soapes

    Cast:

    • Robert Lee Hardy (DCPA Education’s The Snowy Day, Vintage Theatre’s A Time To Kill) as Seven
    • John Jurcheck (Curious Theatre Company’s Hand To God, DCPA Theatre Company’s Jackie & Me) as Ensemble
    • Chloe McLeod (Miners Alley Playhouse’s Fun Home, DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Selena
    • Jake Mendes (Aurora Fox’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, DCPA Debut) as Dose
    • Marco Robinson (Miners Alley Playhouse’s Fun Home, Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Jose Clemente/JC
    • Brynn Tucker (Local Theater Company’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein) as Ensemble

    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances March 22-April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Idris Goodwin:
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art
    Video: Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band


    About Off-Center

    As the most unconventional line of Denver Center programming Off-Center specializes in unexpected experiences such as Sweet & Lucky, the first large-scale immersive show in Denver; and The Wild Party, a decadent, 360-degree party set in the Roaring '20s. An Off-Center show is like no other theatre experience — by design. Off-Center focuses more on connecting people and upending expectations than on adhering to tradition. Off-Center wants you leaving a show thinking, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

    Cast and creatives for 'This is Modern Art' on the first day of rehearsal. Photo by John Moore.Cast and creatives for Off-Center's 'This is Modern Art' on the first day of rehearsal Feb. 27. Photo by John Moore.
  • March openings: Athena rises as 'All My Sons' leaves American Dream in ruins

    by John Moore | Mar 02, 2018
    All My Sons. Emma Messenger. Sam Gregory. Matt Gale Photography

    Emma Messenger and DCPA Theatre Company favorite Sam Gregory (Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol') are currently starring in the Arvada Center's 'All My Sons.' Matt Gale Photography 2018.


    Month-long Athena Project Festival turns March theatre spotlight to women in fields of theatre, music and dance

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company's newly completed Colorado New Play Summit serves as something of a kickoff to a series of Colorado festivals celebrating new work for the American Theatre. Throughout March, the spotlight shifts to the 6th annual Athena Project Arts Festival, which has grown into a massive, citywide celebration of women's voices in theatre, dance, music, comedy and fashion.

    Athena Project 2013The festival's signature program is its Plays In Progress series. Organizers have selected three promising scripts from among 150 submissions for development during the festival: The Buddha’s Wife by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin, Mama’s Eggnog by Angela Stern, and The Golden Hour by Elizabeth Nelson. Each script will get two public workshop readings between March 22 and March 31. In addition, Claire Caviglia's The Inside Child will receive a table read on March 22, and Philana Omorotionmwan's Strong Face will have a concert reading on March 29. Most theatre events will be held at the University of Denver.

    Music highlights will include an open-mic night for female singers on March 8 at the Swallow Hill Music Hall; and a concert headlined by Megan Burtt and emerging artist Nina de Freitas on March 10. New this year is Cross Pollinations, in which artists from different disciplines are paired together to create a live, original work of art to be presented March 9. Dance events will be held March 17 and 18.

    Tickets range from free to a $35 series pass that gets you into to all three plays, panel discussions and more. Full schedule and more information at AthenaProjectArts.org.

    The Athena Festival, founded by Angela Astle, will be followed by Local Theater Company's Local Lab new-play festival from April 20-22 in Boulder.

    Here are a few more highlights for the coming month in Colorado theatre, followed by a comprehensive list of all your statewide theatregoing options for March. 

    Ten intriguing titles for March:

    NUMBER 1All My Sons. It not only won the first-ever Best Play Tony Award, All My Sons may be Arthur Miller's best play, period. This classic tale is based on the true story of an Ohio manufacturer who sold faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Joe Keller, played by DCPA Theatre Company favorite Sam Gregory, is made to face the true cost of his business choices and their devastating impact on his family. This is the last opening of the Arvada Center's second Black Box Theatre Company season. The big-name cast also includes Emma Messenger, Geoffrey Kent, Kate Gleason, Regina Fernandez, Abner Genece, Zachary Andrews, Jessica Austgen, Lance Rasmussen and youngsters Harrison Hauptman and August Reichert. Runs through May 3 in repertory with Sense and Sensibility and The Electric Baby at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    NUMBER 2Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. Monday, March 5, promises to be an emotional night when Mary Louise Lee revisits her signature role as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the Galleria Theatre. Lee's performing career began in the Galleria (then called StageWest) when she appeared in Beehive at only 18 years old and still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. Lee first portrayed the jazz legend with a singular singing voice — and a lethal heroin habit — for Shadow Theatre in 2002. She returned to the role in January for this unique co-production with Vintage Theatre that now transfers to the Denver Center. This new production, directed by Betty Hart, will perform on Monday nights only through April 23. Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    NUMBER 3Wisdom from Everything. The latest provocative offering from Boulder's Local Theater Company asks: What you would sacrifice to escape a war? Chicago playwright Mia McCullough's story presents a 19-year-old Syrian who finds herself educating girls in the largest refugee camp in the world — until an older Jordanian doctor offers her an education in exchange for marriage. The primo cast includes Amy Carle (known for her work on "Chicago MED" and for the Goodman and Steppenwolf theatres) and Mehry Eslaminia, who performed in the DCPA Theatre Company's world-premiere play Appoggiatura. March 4-26 at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    NUMBER 4The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. With his trademark mix of soaring intellect and searing emotion, legendary playwright Tony Kushner unfurls an epic tale of love, family, sex, money and politics — all set under the hard-earned roof of an Italian family in Brooklyn. When former longshoreman and Marxist union activist Gus decides to die, his kids come home with a raucous parade of lovers and spouses to find that even the house keeps secrets. Curious Theatre presents the regional premiere of Kushner's 2009 opus with an all-star cast including the return of former DCPA Head of Acting Larry Hecht alongside Dee Covington, Karen Slack, Desirée Mee Jung, Kirkaldy Myers, Anne Oberbroeckling, Emily Paton Davies, Matthew Schneck, Luke Sorge and Brian Landis Folkins. March 17-April 14 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    NUMBER 5 Idris Goodwin 160This is Modern Art. Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval recount the true story of the biggest graffiti bomb in Chicago history. In less than 20 minutes, and in a snowstorm, a stealthy crew spray-painted a 50-foot graffiti piece along the exterior wall of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. The tagging began with the words “modern art” and ended with the phrase “made you look.” The work was sandblasted off the next day, but because the artists had chosen such a high-profile target, the consequences got serious. “They were putting out a challenge,” Goodwin said. “What is modern art? Who gets to decide who a real artist is? And where does art belong?” The all-local cast includes John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Robert Lee Hardy, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson/ Presented by Off-Center from March 22-April 15 at the Jones Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    NUMBER 6Ugly Lies the Bone. When a newly discharged veteran returns to her native Florida hometown after a disabling third tour in Afghanistan, she discovers that readjusting can be painful and disorienting. Through virtual reality video-game therapy, Lindsey Ferrentino's brave and bracing drama, featuring Missy Moore, examines the restoration of one soldier’s life, relationships and self. Through March 18 at the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    NUMBER 7Totally Awesome '80s Ski Town, USA. It's rare to see a fully staged, locally written and produced musical, and this silly new party tuner spoofs goofball ski movies of the '80s and early '90s. The story follows Billy Tanner, a hilariously tortured drifter who wanders into a seemingly quiet ski burg and gets mixed up in saving the town from a greedy oil tycoon while slaloming his way through house parties, Norse gods and strange foreign-exchange students. Writers Charlie Schmidt and Cory Wendling draw from films such as Ski Patrol, Better Off Dead, Hot Dog The Movie and even Footloose. Through March 31 at Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, 121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    NUMBER 8Company. On his 35th birthday, perpetual bachelor Bobby contemplates his unmarried state. Through a series of comical outings with pals and an especially anxious wedding, his friends explain the pros and cons of marriage and relationships. Bobby is forced to examine his adamant retention of bachelorhood during these hilarious arrays of social interactions. The humor is sharp and the music is legendary, written by Stephen Sondheim. Presented by the Evergreen Chorale through March 11 at 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen. 303-674-4002 or EvergreenChorale.org. A portion of ticket sales for the weekend of March 2-4 will benefit the Denver Actors Fund.

    Fun Home: Third staging to open in Colorado Springs

    NUMBER 9Jessica Robblee. Waiting for Obama. Waiting for Obama. Heeding the call from Florida high-school students for a national day of dialogue, marches and protest, the Bas Bleu Theatre will present a community conversation on the prevalence of gun violence in America, followed by a reading of John Moore's play Waiting for Obama about one Colorado family that, like so many others, is deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs. Waiting for Obama was praised at the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival as “a powerful and timely play that depicts the problem of gun violence in the United States in an emotional but often humorous light.” The cast will include Laurence Curry, Chris Kendall, Leslie O’Carroll, Drew Horwitz, Maggy Stacy, John Hauser and Jenna Moll Reyes. Panel at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, with the reading to follow at 7:30. p.m. Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St. in Fort Collins, CO 80524. Admission is free but donations to the Denver Actors Fund will be accepted. Reservations are strongly encouraged by calling 970-498-8949 or emailing basbleu@basbleu.org.

    NUMBER 10The River Bride. The northern Brazilian locals say the river dolphin found in the Amazon River can transform into human beings in search of their destined life mate. Surely you don't believe that, but ... what if it were true? In this folk tale set alongside the mightiest river in the world, Marisela Treviño Orta's heartrending storytelling blends love, grudges and transformation. Directed Hugo Jon Sayles. March 8-25 at the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org


    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of upcoming theatre openings, spotlighting work being presented on stages statewide. Companies are encouraged to submit listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.

    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    DCPA March Mary Louise Lee. Lady Day. Photo by Adams VisComMarch 1-31: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Totally Awesome 80's Ski Town USA
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    March 2-May 3: Arvada Center's All My Sons
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    March 2-18: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Ugly Lies the Bone
    At the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    March 2-11: Evergreen Chorale's Company
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4002 or evergreenchorale.org

    March 3-31: Athena Project Arts Festival
    Various locations, 303-219-0882 or athenaprojectfestival.org

    March 2-11: Vintage Theatre's Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    March 3-26: BDT Stage's Always … Patsy Cline
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    March 4-24: Local Theatre Company's Wisdom From Everything
    The Carsen Theater at The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    March 5-April 23: DCPA Cabaret's Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
    Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    March 8-25: Su Teatro's The River Bride
    721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    March 8-25: Millibo Art Theatre's The Blow Up
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, themat.org

    Briar-Rose-Ilasiea-L.-Gray-pricks-her-finger-with-Prince-Owain-Austin-Lazek-SLEEPING-BEAUTY-MACC-2018-RDG-Photography-1440x810March 8-May 4: Denver Children's Theatre's Sleeping Beauty
    Public performances 1 p.m. Sundays
    Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6360 www.maccjcc.org

    March 9-April 1: Theatre Esprit Asia's Coping With America
    At ACAD Gallery, 1400 Dallas St., Aurora, 720-492-9479, or theatre-esprit-asia.org

    March 9-24: Theatrix USA's The Baptism
    At Blanc, 3150 Walnut St., wellattended.com

    March 16-April 8: Evergreen Players’ Love/Sick
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

    March 16-25: Inspire Creative's Laughter on the 23rd Floor
    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, 303-805-6800 or inspirecreative.org

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    March 16-25: Longmont Theatre Company's Leaving Iowa
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    March 17-April 14: Curious Theatre's The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    Benjamin Cowhick RDG PhotographyMarch 20-April 1: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Androcles and the Lion (children's)
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    March 22-April 15: Off-Center's This Is Modern Art
    Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 22-25: Magic Moments' In the Same Boat
    Anschutz Family Theatre at Kent Denver School, 4000 East Quincy Ave, Englewood, 303-575-1005 or magicmomentsinc.org

    March 23-April 8: Performance Now's The Producers
    Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or performancenow.org

    March 23-April 29: Miners Alley Playhouse's The 39 Steps
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    March 23-May 26: Midtown Arts Center's Ragtime
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    March 29-April 22: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s Fun Home
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org READ MORE

    March 29-April 8: The Upstart Crow's Playboy of the Western World
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or theupstartcrow.org

    March 30-May 13: Vintage Theatre's The Audience
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    March 31-April 28: Lowry's Spotlight Theatre's The Diary of Anne Frank
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    March 31-April 28: OpenStage's And Then There Were None
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    Local Theater. Mehry Eslaminia. Naseem Etemad. Photo by Michael Ensminger
    Naseem Etemad and Regis Jesuit High School graduate Mehry Eslaminia (DCPA Theatre Company's 'Appoggiatura') in Local Theatre's upcoming 'Wisdom from Everything.' Photo by Michael Ensminger.

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through March 3: Grapefruit Lab's JANE/EYRE
    The Bakery, 2132 Market St., eventbrite.com

    Through March 3: Miners Alley Children's Theatre’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through March 4: Miners Alley Playhouse's Fun Home
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com READ MORE

    Through March 4: Bas Bleu Theatre's Waiting for the Parade
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through March 4: Springs Ensemble Theatre's The Totalitarians
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 80909, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Through March 4: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Trouble in Tahiti
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through March 10: Coal Creek Theater of Louisville’s Becky Shaw
    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org

    Through March 10: Thunder River Theatre Company's The Price
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Through March 11: Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Oklahoma
    At the Ent Center for the Arts, 5225 N. Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through March 11: Vintage Theatre's Sleuth (with Lowry's Spotlight Theatre)
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through March 17: Midtown Arts Center's Fun Home
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com READ MORE

    Through March 17: Buntport Theater's The Book Handlers
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    Through March 17: Firehouse Theatre's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com  

    Through March 18: DCPA Theatre Company’s The Great Leap
    Ricketson Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through March 18: Aurora Fox's Real Women Have Curves
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    Through March 25: Benchmark Theatre's A Kid Like Jake
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, benchmarktheatre.com

    Through March 25: Town Hall Arts Center's Something’s Afoot
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org

    Through March 25: Midtown Arts Center's Always ... Patsy Cline
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through March 26: Local Theater Company's Wisdom from Everything
    At The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    Through April 22: DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    Garner Galleria Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through April 1: National touring production of Hamilton
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through April 8: Jester’s Dinner Theatre’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Through April 8: The BiTSY Stage’s Jotunheim: A Legend of Thor and His Hammer
    1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com

    Through April 15: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Kiss Me Kate
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through May 4: Arvada Center's The Electric Baby
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through May 6: Arvada Center's Sense and Sensibility
    Studio Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through May 25: Arvada Center Children's Theatre's Seussical
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through Aug. 11: Iron Springs Chateau’s A Precious Bit of the West, or: She Was Simply a Delight!
    444 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 719-685-5104 or ironspringschateau.com

    EVERGREEN CHORALE. Company. Photo by Michael Ensminger

     

    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE
  • Ongoing productions
  • ARVADA CENTER

  • Wednesday, March 14: The conflicted voices of America's World War I poets will spring to life in this performance written by Colorado Poet Laureate Joseph Hutchison and presented by members of the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Company. This event is part of “Where Do We Go From Here?” a multifaceted statewide event marking the 100th anniversary of World War I. 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $15.
  • AVENUE THEATER

  • Weekends: Comedy Sportz
  • leonard-barrett-jrAURORA FOX ARTS CENTER

    • March 23-24: True West Award-winning performer Leonard E. Barrett Jr. is the featured artist this month in the Aurora Fox's ongoing cabaret series in its studio theatre. Barrett will perform Unforgettable: The Songs of Nat King Cole, a tribute to Cole through story and song.

    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurora fox.org


    BDT STAGE

    • March 5-6: The Glenn Miller Orchestra

    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    BUG THEATRE
    • Thursday, March 15: The Emerging Filmmakers Project, showcasing Denver's indie film scene on the third Thursday of every month.
    • Monday, March 26: Freak Train: Open-mic variety show hosted by GerRee Hinshaw on the final Monday of every month

    3654 Navajo St., 303-477-9984 or bugtheatre.info


    BUNTPORT THEATER

    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com


    THE 39 STEPSDENVER ACTORS FUND

    • Sunday, March 4: Watch the biggest night of the year for movies on the big screen with Denver7 at Alamo Drafthouse Denver. Arrive around 5 p.m. in BarFly for your own red carpet, paparazzi, and more before for food, drinks and fun for everyone i the theatre. Your ticket includes a glass of champagne (or sparkling cider) and a donation to the Denver Actors Fund. Choose your preferred seating

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Sunday, March 11: Screening of the film The 39 Steps with live entertainment from Miners Alley Playhouse's s upcoming comical stage adaptation of the Hitchcock classic. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7. Choose your preferred seating

    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Saturday, March 24: Waiting for Obama. Community conversation on the prevalence of gun violence in America, followed by a reading of John Moore's play about a Colorado family deeply divided by polarizing political beliefs. Panel at 6:30 p.m. with the reading to follow at 7:30. p.m. Admission is free but donations to the Denver Actors Fund will be accepted. 
    At Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., Fort Collins. Reservations are strongly encouraged by calling 970-498-8949 or emailing basbleu@basbleu.org

    DENVER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
  • Tuesday, March 20: The Magic of Adam Trent
      At the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

  • LOCAL THEATER COMPANY
  • Sunday, March 18: LocalREADS encourages a community-wide reading of a book with complementary themes to Local Theater Company's current production. First up: Helen Thorpe’s The Newcomers as a companion to Local's world premiere production of Wisdom From Everything. Read the book, see the play at 4 p.m. and stay for the conversation after the show.

    At the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-379-4470 or tickets.thedairy.org

  • THE SOURCE THEATRE COMPANY
    • Every third Monday: Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org


    STORIES ON STAGE
    • Sunday, March 18: Wild Women. Stories on Stage has renowned actors bring stories to life by combining literature with theater. This month: Rhonda Lee Brown, Allison Watrous and Betty Hart perform stories by and about women - unconstrained, fun-loving and living large. 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive,  303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org
    (Program repeats on Saturday, March 24 at the Dairy Center in Boulder)
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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.