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

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2017

    Fall Casting 800 Photos by Adams Viscom

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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

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

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

    Grady Soapes Quote


    Denver Center Fall 2017 Casting:

    Macbeth: 17 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

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

    Actors from Colorado:

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


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

    Actors living in Colorado:

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

    Smart People: Four actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Timothy McCracken
    Actors from Colorado:
    • Jason Veasey

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

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

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

    • Barbara Gehring
    • Linda Klein
    • Amie MacKenzie

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

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

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

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

    Actors living in Colorado:

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

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2017
    True West Awards 2017 White Rabbit Red Rabbit

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 13: White Rabbit Red Rabbit

    Pipedream Productions, Denver
    Star Bar Players, Colorado Springs


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Imagine walking into a theatre and having no idea what you were about to see.

    Now imagine being an actor walking onto a stage and having no idea what you were about to say.

    Now imagine being a 29-year-old playwright forbidden to leave your country.

    Those three imaginings were all realities that informed the most intriguing theatrical experiment of the Colorado theatre year: White Rabbit Red Rabbit.

    White Rabbit Red RabbitThat’s the name of a very meta, one-actor play written by Nassim Soleimanpour in 2010, when he was jailed in his native Iran for refusing to perform two years of required military service. Because he could not leave the country, Soleimanpour sent White Rabbit Red Rabbit out into the world like a message in a bottle, hoping someone might find it and perform it. Knowing that even if anyone did, he would probably never see it performed himself.

    “This was his way of traveling the world, essentially,” Dylan Clements-Mosley, Executive Director of Star Bar Players, told the Colorado Springs Independent.

    Adding to the intrigue: Soleimanpour included some party rules for every interested theatre company to follow: No director, no set and a different actor for every performance. The script must remain sealed until that night’s guinea rabbit, er, actor, enters the stage and begins to read aloud the 40-page script, which includes specific tasks for the narrator and audience to follow.

    We’d love to tell you more about the narrative’s twists and turns, but the biggest rule of Rabbit Club, as you might expect: No one talks about Rabbit Club.

    Now you might naturally assume from the playwright’s circumstances that his play must be a damning political screed. It turns out to be more of a thoughtful, allegorical rumination on many different ways we live in closed worlds. Starting with a playwright who is trapped in a cage — and an actor who is, in many ways, trapped on a stage.

    Sending the play out in the playwright’s stead, said acclaimed Denver actor Emma Messenger, “was like setting a balloon free into the atmosphere — and you have no idea where it will end up.”

    But it turns out, the balloon ended up on dry land throughout the world.  Over the past seven years, more than a thousand actors have performed White Rabbit Red Rabbit, including Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, Alan Cumming, Martin Short, F. Murray Abraham, Cynthia Nixon, Stephen Rea and John Hurt.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    It ended up in Colorado for the first time this year when two very different companies accepted the challenge to stage it: Pipedream Productions, made up of five unafraid youngsters from the University of Denver who took it on as just their company's second production; and the venerable band of Colorado Springs renegades known as the Star Bar Players.

    True West Awards 2017 White Rabbit QuoteThe DU whippersnappers assembled an ambitious roster of 21 actors any local casting director would drool over, including Messenger, Mare Trevathan, Luke Sorge, Adrian Egolf, John Hauser and Meridith C. Grundei (for starters). Clements-Mosely and wife Alysabeth Clements Mosley adopted a diverse, 10-show slate that included a mix of well-known Colorado Springs actors (Hossein Forouzandeh, Lynne Hastings), as well as community leaders such as the outspoken Rev. Dr. Nori Rost of All Souls Unitarian Church.

    That Pipedream Associate Artistic Director Ashley Campbell didn’t know Messenger didn’t stop her from asking the actor who has as many local theatre awards as Streep has Oscars. Messenger’s two-word, email response: “How terrifying!” Quickly followed by a terrified "yes."

    And it was terrifying, Messenger admits. “Until you actually stepped onstage,” she said. “And then, all of a sudden it became this instant connection between you and the audience and this unseen playwright whose words took on a life of their own.”

    True West Award White Rabbit Ashley Campbell At one point, Messenger said, “It got emotional for me, and it became hard to say the lines. It was like we were puppets. And the playwright was pulling the strings not only across continents, but through time.”

    The mission of the Pipedream collective, which includes Campbell (pictured right), Alexis Robbins, Tony Ryan, Trevor Fulton and Katie Walker, is to push the boundaries of the stage while bringing attention to notable causes. Both were accomplished with this self-funded undertaking — all proceeds went to three local charities that fight for animal rights, immigrant rights and free speech, respectively. (Just to give you another clue about the play’s themes.)

    2017 True West Award White Rabbit Jihad MilhemIn all, about 500 curiosity-seekers came out to see one of Pipedream’s 21 performances —  and many of those returned again and again to see how the tone and impact varied according to each narrator’s commitment and passion.  Campbell said audience members regularly milled around for an hour after each performance talking about the experience with the designated actor and fellow audience members. (Pictured above: Jihad Milhem.)

    By the way, the playwright eventually was freed and left Iran in 2013 for London, where he saw White Rabbit Red Rabbit for the first time. And because Soleimanpour has violated the rules of Rabbit Club and given away the ending of his own play in various YouTube videos, it’s not all that much of a betrayal here to say that the possibility of suicide is, understandably, one of the narrator's many touchpoints. And that’s the part that hit Campbell the hardest.

    2017 True West Award White Rabbit Adrian Egolf“There is this point in the play when he lists all these different ways you can commit suicide,” Campbell said, “and the last method he lists is 'suicide by life.' That was really meaningful to me because while we are all living, we are also all dying. And here was this writer who could not leave Iran — but he did not let that prevent him from doing what he loved.

    "There is something so magical about how you can create something when you are confined, and yet it still can be seen all over the world — even if you are not part of it.”

    White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was an ambitious theatrical experiment, an audacious social experiment, and a potent reminder of the power of spontaneous theatre.

    And as they sang in the Broadway musical Urinetown, you know — don't be the bunny.

    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.

    Pipedream Productions' Denver lineup: 

    • Adrian Egolf
    • Meridith C. Grundei
    • Luke Sorge
    • Anthony Adu
    • Emma Messenger
    • Ilasiea Gray
    • Ben Hilzer
    • Andrew Uhlenhopp
    • Erik Fellenstein
    • Jihad Milhem
    • Julie Wolf
    • John Hauser
    • Kelly Uhlenhopp
    • Sean Michael Cummings
    • Anne Penner
    • Chloe McLeod
    • Jonathan Edward Brown
    • Jeff Jesmer
    • Cooper Braun
    • Mare Trevathan
    • Susannah McLeod

    The Star Bar Players' Colorado Springs lineup:

    • Rev. Nori June Rost
    • Hossein Forouzandeh
    • Phil Ginsburg
    • Lynne Hastings
    • Stoney Bertz 
    • John Hazlehurst
    • Bob Morsch
    • Omid D Harrison
    • Jodi Papproth
    • Michael Lee

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Josh Hartwell

    by John Moore | Dec 12, 2017
    True West Awards 2017 Josh Hartwell

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 12: Josh Hartwell

    Playwright
    Director
    Actor
    Teaching Artist
    Dramatists Guild of America

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Josh Hartwell has done enough this month to earn a True West Award for all of 2017. Oh, he’s made his mark as an actor, director, playwright, teaching artist and community organizer throughout the calendar year. But consider that Hartwell has written two new plays that are being staged at the same time at two different local theatres — and he’s performing in one of them.  

    Resolutions Andrew Uhlenhopp Karen Slack The Edge RDG Photography“I don’t think another Colorado playwright has ever had two professional premieres running concurrently at different theatres,” said Jeff Neuman, co-founder of the local writing group known as the Rough Draught Playwrights. Hartwell graduated from Longmont High School and Metropolitan State University of Denver. But the fact that he's a writer from Colorado only seems to make it harder for his work to actually be seen in theatres here, Neuman believes.

    “I don’t know if people really understand how difficult it is for a Colorado playwright to get produced in Colorado,” he said. “Many Front Range playwrights regularly get produced all over the world, but are unable to secure one single production in their own home state. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so incredibly thrilled for Josh — and more than a little envious of him.”  

    Hartwell was commissioned by The Edge Theatre Company to create Resolutions (pictured above), a plum assignment that came with three stipulations, said Producing Artistic Director Rick Yaconis: “It had to be a holiday play that wasn’t about Christmas, it had to have the word resolutions in the title, and it had to be edgy,” he said.

    Side note: A commission is when a theatre company actually pays you to write a new play for them — the ultimate sign that a playwright has really made it. Because most playwrights pen their plays, submit them blindly to anyone with an address (digital, postal or otherwise) and then pray to the literary gods that someone actually reads them, believes in them and then stages them.

    Meanwhile, a little further west, Miners Alley Playhouse is currently staging Hartwell’s original and intimate spin on A Christmas Carol in downtown Golden with a cast of just six.

    Having the two new plays running at once, Neuman said, “Is a supremely exciting landmark for the local playwriting community, as well as a testament to Josh’s amazing skills and talents as a dramatist.”

    Josh Hartwell Christmas Carol Photo by Sarah RoshanIronically, both of Hartwell’s stories depict actors enjoying very — very — different holiday gatherings away from the stage. His family friendly take on A Christmas Carol (pictured right) drops us in on a group of merry actors who endeavor to stage Dickens’ classic right then and there, as swiftly and cleverly as possible. It stars Jim Hunt as the thespian who takes on Scrooge, with Hartwell among the ensemble playing several supporting roles.

    Miners Alley Playhouse audiences are lapping up the new take on an old favorite like sweet eggnog, and Artistic Director Len Matheo already has announced that Hartwell’s script will henceforth become the company’s annual holiday offering.

    “What I'm most excited about with this production is that this play is a heightened glimpse into us theatre folk,” said Hartwell, who finds it completely conceivable that off-duty actors sitting around a cozy fire at the holidays are compelled to re-enact their favorite Christmas stories. Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post called the work a gentle, sweet and tender bit of nostalgia.

    Resolutions at the Edge is considerably more … well, edgy — as ordered. As in a 'Stephen King meets Quentin Tarantino popcorn pulp' kind of way. This group of former college thespian pals gathers every New Year’s Eve at a posh cabin in Vail to relive their Big Chill days and share their hopes for the coming year. But this time, one of the gang is a little ax-to-grindy, and let’s just say one of these buddies will soon be adding “reattach severed limb” to his list of New Year’s resolutions.

    Westword critic Juliet Wittman called the resulting world premiere, appropriately playing through New Year's Eve, "a swift, funny, clever, 85-minute holiday treat."

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Hartwell is a young writer with a veteran resume that includes productions in New York, Florida, Washington, Minneapolis, New Zealand and beyond. He’s a big-enough deal that he’s represented by the Abrams Artist Agency in New York City.

    Bad Jews Edge John Wittbrodt and Missy Moore. RDG Photography But writing is just a slice of his breakthrough, renaissance year. He directed two plays, including the comedy Bad Jews for the Edge (pictured right) and a milestone production of Hir at Miners Alley. That was a dark and difficult family drama that dared to include a transitioning teenager as part of a major subplot. Hartwell also continued to vigorously mentor student writers, both through Curious Theatre’s wildly successful Curious New Voices program and Denver Center Education’s year-round and statewide playwriting competition, which has Hartwell offering dozens of in-class workshops throughout the fall semester.

    Banned Together Josh Hartwell Miners Alley Playhouse Angels in America Photo by John MooreHartwell also stepped up into a major leadership role in the community when he took on producing Banned Together, A Censorship Cabaret, on Sept. 28 at Miners Alley Playhouse. MAP joined a national coalition of theatres in presenting an informal evening of censored theatre pieces to mark Banned Books Week in America and raise awareness about the ongoing issue of free expression in the live theatre (pictured right and below).

    An array of acclaimed local actors presented songs and scenes from controversial plays and musicals ranging from Cabaret to Fun Home to Rent to Spring Awakening to Angels in America. Hartwell read from the critical moment in The Laramie Project when murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard’s father addresses his son’s killer in court and bitterly spares him from the death penalty.

    Banned Together Miners Alley Playhouse Rent Photo by John MooreBanned Together was an important evening that Denver might easily have missed entirelyhad not Hartwell, Matheo and Hunt not taken the project on. (See video highlights below.)

    And while acting was low on his list of priorities this year, Hartwell is a company member at Curious Theatre, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and The Edge Theatre Company.

    If all that weren’t enough, Hartwell has worked tirelessly as Colorado's first regional representative for the Dramatists Guild of America, endeavoring throughout the year to both unite, grow and empower the local writer community.

    It’s been a busy year for a writer who has again proven that the pen is mightier than the pillow.

    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.

    Josh Hartwell: 2017 in review

    • Director, Hir, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Teaching Artist, Curious New Voices, Curious Theatre Company
    • Director, Bad Jews, The Edge Theatre Company
    • Producer, Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Playwright, Resolutions, The Edge Theatre Company
    • Playwright, A Christmas Carol, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Actor, A Christmas Carol, Miners Alley Playhouse
    • Teaching Artist, Denver Center Education Student Playwriting
    • Dramatists Guild of America, Colorado Regional Representative

    Photo credits, from top down: Karen Slack and Andrew Uhlenhopp in 'Resolutions' (RDG Photography). Jason Maxwell, Meredith Young, Josh Hartwell and Ella Matheo in 'A Christmas Carol.' (Sarah Roshan Photography). John Wittbrodt and Missy Moore in 'Bad Jews' (RDG Photography). Josh Hartwell performing from 'Angels in America' for 'Banned Together.' Photo by John Moore. Abigail Kochevar, Steph Holmbo and ensemble performing 'Seasons of Love' for Banned Together.' Photo by John Moore.

    Video bonus:Our coverage of Banned Together


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • 'Waitress' writer Jessie Nelson has a tip: Tip your waitress

    by John Moore | Dec 11, 2017
    Waitress. Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman. Waitress. Photy by Joan Marcus

    From left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman of the first national touring production of 'Waitress,' coming to Denver from Dec. 19-31. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Telling a story about a woman doesn't make it a woman's story, says the veteran scribe. 'It makes it a human story.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    If you saw the recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where caustic comedian Larry David hilariously stalks an Uber driver who repaid his trademark rudeness with a poor customer rating, it will come as no surprise that the director of that episode also wrote the breakout underdog Broadway musical hit Waitress.

    Jessie Nelson knows what it’s like to be mistreated in a service industry. Long before she hit in big as a writer in TV and film (I am Sam), Nelson hoofed it for years as a waitress while she pursued her dreams.

    Waitress. Jessie Nelson “I always called waitressing my Hollywood Finishing School, because I learned everything I know about writing from waitressing,” Nelson told the DCPA NewsCenter. “You can know everything you need to know about a person by how they treat their waitress. You can size up a person's character in two brushstrokes. There is something profound in that.”

    While Nelson was pulling hundreds of invisible and anonymous double shifts, she came across both amazing real-life characters — “people with really generous, open hearts,” she said — “and those people who think they are entitled to treat you like you are not a human being.”

    The Denver-bound national touring production of Waitress was Nelson’s first foray into musical theatre. The stage adaptation of the late Adrienne Shelly’s breakout indie film of the same name is about a pregnant, unhappily married waitress named Jenna who falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.

    “We call Jenna ‘The Queen of Kindness and Goodness,’ ” said Nelson. “She knows how to take care of everybody but herself. She presents this sunny exterior, and she bakes these extraordinary pies, and she's the only one who can handle the curmudgeonly customers. But she's also living this very dark secret — this relationship she’s in that is really destroying her self-esteem, her hopes and her dreams.”  

    “What's so beautiful about this story that Adrienne created is the whole restaurant — the customers, her fellow waitresses, the cook, the owner — they all rally around Jenna to support her in this huge next step she is taking.”

    Waitress made history in 2015 as the first-ever Broadway musical with a female director (Diane Paulus), writer (Nelson), composer (pop star Sara Bareilles), choreographer (Lorin Latarro) and orchestrator (Nadia DiGiallonardo). Nelson considers collaborating with Bareilles, a six-time Grammy nominee, to be “the greatest gift of this experience” — especially given this was the first piece either of them had ever written for the theatre.

    “We both have a background in the musical theatre from when we were younger, but our careers took in very different directions,” Nelson said. “So because neither of us had ever done this before, there were a lot of 2 a.m. emails that said things like" 'Hey, how about we try this?' or, 'Hey, how about a song right there that talks about how much she loves baking?' ” 

    Our interview with Lenne Klingaman of Waitress

    It can come as a shock to some first-time book writers just how collaborative making a musical can and ultimately must be. “You will write a scene that you are so proud of and someone will say, ‘Hey it might be better to turn that scene into a song,’ ” Nelson said. “I felt it was one of the greatest compliments to watch Sara Bareilles take a scene I had written and turn it into a beautiful song. It was an amazing thing to witness, because Sara can really capture characters and story with her music in such a beautiful way. Eventually you get to this point where there's no divide between you and your writing partner. You're birthing it together."

    Waitress is a uniquely female story in that its protagonist is a woman who was brought to the stage by women. But Nelson doesn’t think of Waitress as a uniquely female story. “I think of it as a uniquely human story,” she said. “I think everybody can relate to the overriding themes in the story. There’s the theme of daring yourself to pull a long-forgotten dream off a shelf and to just go for it. The theme of getting out of a relationship where you’ve had to shrink yourself to fit into it just to survive the relationship. I think everyone can relate to the liberation you feel when you dare to step out a toxic relationship. Men understand that. The themes are really universal, and I am pleased that men seem to respond to the piece as much as women.”


    Waitress. Photo by Joan Marcus

    Photo above by Joan Marcus.


    Here’s more from our conversation with Jessie Nelson about Waitress being the first Broadway musical to be led by an all-female creative team, her connection to Colorado’s own Supergirl, Melissa Benoist (who grew up in Littleton), and much more:

    John Moore: OK, so you produced Danny Collins, the movie that put Melissa Benoist in a scene with Al Pacino on one side of her, and Annette Bening on the other.

    Jessie Nelson: And she completely held her own. She's such a nice person to boot.

    John Moore: And at the time of this interview, we’ve just learned that Lenne Klingaman, who just played a female Hamlet for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, has been cast to play Jenna’s waitress friend Dawn on the tour that is coming to Denver. What can you tell us about her?

    Jessie Nelson: That she's just so good in the part. She's got such a natural funnybone, and she is just bringing so much to the role. I'm thrilled we cast her.

    John Moore: Much has been made that Waitress made Broadway history as the first musical to be led by an all-female creative team. What does that milestone mean to you?

    Jessie Nelson: The funny thing is, none of us even noticed until a man pointed it out to us. At the time, we were so knee-deep in the work and finding people who were really in sync with the vision that was forming that no one even thought about gender. It was about a creative connection. When it got pointed out to us, that was just an extraordinary thing to observe because honestly, people were only chosen because they were right for their creative role in the team. It means more to me as time passes.

    John Moore: What should we glean from that?

    Jessie Nelson: That when you throw women into the mix in hiring, they bring a lot to the table.

    John Moore: Studies show 68 percent of the Broadway audience are made up of women. So why are not more women writing the material that the primary Broadway audience is watching?

    Jessie Nelson: I think that is the most important question. I see it in film, too. Women choose the movies you go to, and they think it's an anomaly when there is a successful female movie. It's been shown time and time again that when you have a woman at the center of musicals, people — all people — want to see those stories. And people want to see stories where women are kind to each other and support each other, like they do in our piece. That was very important to us. I do think this is a time where more and more female voices are emerging, so I have great hope for this next chapter, and for the world.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: How is creating a Broadway musical not unlike being part of a team of waitresses getting through the dinner rush?

    Jessie Nelson: Both experiences are really team sports. When you are waitressing, it’s like this: ‘You get the menus. I'll get the water. I'll bus that table for you. You bring that pie over there.' You are all working together to get through those very intense few hours when there is a lot of demand on you. And that’s a lot like the creative process on a musical, which goes a little like this: I’ll say, ‘I'll write this scene that will express this.’ And then the composer will go, 'Oh, hey, can I take those five lines of yours out of the scene and turn them into a song?' And the director will go, 'Well, if you give me five more bars of music here, we can make a beautiful transition here.' And then the choreographer will say, 'Actually, if you add just a little more room here, I can create this really beautiful visual moment that will kick us off into the next scene.’ In both examples, you are only as good as the trust and the intimacy that develops between you and the rest of the team."

    Bryan Fenkart and Desi Oakley in the National Tour of WAITRESS Credit Joan Marcus
    Bryan Fenkart and Desi Oakley in the National Tour of 'Waitress.' Photo by Joan Marcus.


    John Moore: Before you go, what do you want us to know about the next person who greets us when we walk into a diner?

    Jessie Nelson: That saying something as simple as, 'Hi, what’s your name?' to your server can change the entire interaction. I love that. It's so important for us to think about what they might be going through that you cannot be aware of. This person is living a whole life that's completely separate from taking your order.

    John Moore: And lastly: What do you think Waitress is ultimately about?

    Jessie Nelson: For me, Waitress is about daring to find your authentic self, or your voice or your talent, and finding some way to express that. I also think it is about community and these unexpected families we form with the people we work with. Sometimes you can be closer to them than you are to your own families because you spend so much time together, and they see you for who you really are.

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

    Jessie Nelson/At a glance
    Jessie Nelson wrote, directed, and produced Corrina, Corrina with Whoopi Goldberg and I Am Sam with Sean Penn, who received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Recently she directed Love the Coopers with Diane Keaton and John Goodman. She also co-wrote Step Mom and The Story of Us, and produced both Danny Collins with Al Pacino and Annette Bening, and Fred Claus with Vince Vaughn. She co-wrote Alice By Heart with Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik (creators of Spring Awakening), which was developed at The National Theatre. Nelson began her career in the theater working with Mabou Mines and The New York Shakespeare Festival. And she co-wrote the children’s book Labracadabra. Nelson has been the Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute’s Writers Lab.

    waitressWaitress in Denver: Ticket information
    Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna — a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 19-31
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Selected NewsCenter coverage of Waitress:

  • 2017 True West Award: 'The Rape of the Sabine Women'

    by John Moore | Dec 11, 2017
    2017 True West Award Rape of the Sabine Women

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 11: The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias

    Local Theater Company, Boulder

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    “The truth is like castor oil. It’s bitter to swallow and people don’t want it.
    Therefore, you make them laugh. And when their mouths are open … you pour it in.”

    Harold Clurman 

    The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias was an uncomfortable play to watch. Not because Local Theater Company’s staging was unpleasant to sit through. It wasn’t. And maybe that’s what made it so uncomfortable to watch.

    The playwright is not named Grace B. Matthias — she is rather the primary character in the story. The actual playwright is Michael Yates Crowley, who adopted an unnervingly casual and outright comic tone for a play about sexual assault, homophobia and bullying at an Ohio high school. But rape as satire? With rim shots and punchlines? Isn’t that an affront to anyone who has ever been assaulted? Is this (male) playwright somehow trying to make rape … palatable?

    Sabine Women Photo by George LangeWell, no. But perhaps palatable enough so we can actually talk about the numbingly pervasive rape culture in America. “Sometimes you have to shock people to get to a truth,” said Director Christy Montour-Larson. “And what better way to shock people about sexual assault than to get them laughing about it?”

    Therein lies the eventual genius of this unsettling play that lingers in the brain for weeks afterward. Then again, a play this topical never has even a remote chance of dissipating when its subject matter reverberates anew with the drumbeats of the latest daily news cycle.

    (Photos on right and below feature Adeline Mann, Erik Fellenstein and Peter Henry Bussian of 'The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias.' Photos by George Lange.)

    Time Magazine just named the Silence Breakers who fueled the #MeToo Movement its 2017 Person of the Year as a means of honoring those women who came forward in droves to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault. The very subject of this play is the most significant news story of the year.

    Theatre rarely gets to matter in such an urgent way because it can take years for a company to bring a chosen play to full life on the stage. Local Theater, a strong, female-led company founded by Boulder’s Pesha Rudnick, caught wise to Crowley’s developing new work two years ago, first choosing to workshop it at its annual new-play festival, and then slotting it for full production in October. Many a play goes stale in the meantime. The reason this one didn’t is as old as time.

    “This play was topical long before the ‘Me Too’ movement,” said Montour-Larson. Sexual assault isn’t new. The whole point in referencing the Sabine Women in the story is that sexual assault has been going on for thousands of years.”

    True West ErikFellensteininTheRapeoftheSabineWomenbyGraceB.Matthias.PhotobyGeorgeLangeThe actual “Rape of the Sabine Women” was an incident from Roman mythology in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of young women from nearby cities. They were taken from families, treated as slaves and made to bear children. If you are looking for a historical bookend, look no further than the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

    Given the falling dominoes from the rise of the #MeToo social-media moment, there is no question Americans are more awake to the issue of sexual assault than they were a year ago. And by staging Sabine Women now, Local Theater gave its audiences a context through which to keep that conversation going.

    In the play, an ordinary 15-year-old student has accused the two stars of the high-school football team of rape. The school's nickname? The Romans, natch. But if you’re expecting some deep and thoughtful exploration of the powerful ramifications of this accusation, well — hold on to your funny bone. Instead, the playwright points his sharp cynicism at every adult authority figure in the story, from a lawyer to a teacher to a journalist to a school official — all intentionally made into ridiculous caricatures.

    Adding to this incendiary pot are two very real personal crushes aimed at Jeff, our all-American rapist: Both the victim and Jeff’s closeted teammate Bobby are in love with him. Decades of pop culture have conditioned us to root for the golden boy and the unremarkable girl to hook up. Bobby, on the other hand, seems to be the playwright’s revenge against every repressed gay man who has ever turned his inner turmoil into an outward, toxic weapon.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This is a very dangerous game Crowley is playing. But thanks to a devastatingly honest performance by Adeline Mann as the confused yet utterly real young Grace (surrounded by an impeccable ensemble of top-notch fellow actors), the audience is never allowed to fully give in to the hilarity because there are real physical and emotional consequences here.

    “The comedy in this play definitely hits different people in different ways based on their own politics and personal experiences," Montour-Larson said. "And that’s not only OK — it’s kind of the point.”

    Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias. Photo by George LangeWhat’s indisputable is the greater good Local Theater did by letting this particular Pandora out of her box. Local presented the play to the Boulder community in a responsible and comprehensive manner, with audience talkbacks and at least five public panels throughout the city. Local boldly demonstrated how theater can be a catalyst for dialogue by addressing urgent issues of the day in real time.

    “I believe theatre is at its best when it tells stories that people can relate to their lives right now,” Montour-Larson said. “Sometimes that story is Hamlet. Sometimes that story is The Crucible. And sometimes that story is The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias. This is why theatre exists.”

    Local's mission is to discover and develop new American plays, and to date, all of them have felt similarly “of the moment.” “Last year, we presented The Firestorm — a play about race and politics and a marriage — right before the election,” said Local Theater Communications Manager Ted Stephens. “This year, we staged Sabine Women just as women were starting to step forward about sexual assault. And this spring, we will produce Wisdom from Everything, a beautiful world premiere about a young Syrian refugee trying to survive in a world with little agency, few rights and no country. And that one feels, unfortunately, incredibly relevant and important once again.

    “I suppose that's the advantage of presenting brand-new works — they can take what we are experiencing right now and invite our audiences to be part of some sort of change.”

    Theatre doesn’t get any better than that.

    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 Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B Matthias cast list:
    • Peter Henry Bussian
    • Erik Fellenstein
    • Cajardo Lindsey
    • Rodney Lizcano
    • Adeline Mann
    • Matt Schneck
    • Mare Trevathan
    • Brynn Tucker

    Video bonus: Cast member Mare Trevathan

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Sammie Joe Kinnett

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2017
    True West Award Sammie Joe Kinnett
    Photo at right by Zachary Andrews.

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 10: Sammie Joe Kinnett

    Arvada Center
    Colorado Springs TheatreWorks
    Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Sammie Joe Kinnett is one of the hundreds who started 2017 adrift in grief over the death of Murray Ross.

    Ross founded TheatreWorks as part of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 1975 and for the next 42 years, he built it into a fertile incubator of young hearts and minds. Some of them were not even his students. Kinnett, for one, was a teenage community-college dropout who, through Ross, found a mentor — and a home — on a campus he didn’t even attend.

    "Ross was a divining rod of talent," said frequent Colorado Springs Director Geoffrey Kent. When Ross met Kinnett, he didn’t see a dropout. He saw his next Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He saw his future co-writer and the co-star of an original piece they developed together called I Am Nikola Tesla.

    sammie joe-15-m242x323“Murray was able to see when there was something special in someone,” said Kinnett, "and he was able to bring it out in them just by sheer belief.” Ross certainly brought it out in Kinnett, who developed into one of the most intelligent and consistently working comic actors in theatres across Colorado Springs.

    And so when Ross died in January, Kinnett confronted his own profound sadness and honored his mentor by going out and making people laugh. First in a revelatory take on the title character in the warhorse comedy The Foreigner at the Arvada Center. Then by putting a more humane spin on The SantaLand Diaries, David Sedaris’ comic monologue about working as a Macy’s elf (playing through Dec. 23). Both plays were directed by Kent, who calls Kinnett “the ‘fire and forget’ missile of comedians.”

    When he says that, he’s invoking the military term for a projectile that never fails to hit its target. “Once launched in any given direction,” Kent elaborated, “Sammie rockets forward with 110 percent commitment.”  

    Audiences saw a whole different side of Kinnett's comic skills when he played Sancho to Stephen Day's Henry Award-winning Cervantes in Man of La Mancha for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Reviewer Bill Wheeler wrote the casting of Kinnett as Sancho was brilliant, and that "he’s the finest comedic actor working in Colorado Springs."

    True West Awards Sammie Joe Kinnett The Foreigner Arvada CenterThe Foreigner
    has been done and doner since playwright Larry Shue (M*A*S*H) debuted it in 1983. But everything about the tired old comedy felt fresh at the Arvada Center — even, sadly, its intentionally racist overtones that felt uncomfortably contemporary in the wake of the Charlottesville riots. Kinnett played a pathologically shy young Brit who pretends not to speak English to avoid interacting with the rubes visiting a fishing lodge in rural Georgia.

    The reason it felt so fresh, said Drew Martorella, Executive Director of UCCS Presents, is because everything seems to when filtered through Kinnett’s playful lens.

    “Sammie Joe has an innocence about him that allows you to see the world through his eyes — and that is a great vehicle to allow comedy to happen,” Martorella said.

    (Pictured at right: Sammie Joe Kinnett, center, with Jessica Robblee, left, Lance Rasmussen (back) and Edith Weiss in the Arvada Center's 'The Foreigner.' M. Gale Photography.)

    'Murray Ross put beauty and goodness out into this world'

    Kinnett is a great physical comedian who uses his body as a readily available tool just as a painter uses a paintbrush or a mechanic uses a tire iron — and that was on confident display in The Foreigner. This was not the first time on a Denver stage for Kinnett, who turned two memorable summer seasons at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. But for many, The Foreigner was an introduction worthy of a classic comedy double-take. Take a gander at what the impressed critics had to say:

    • Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post: “The Foreigner is a particular triumph for Sammie Joe Kinnett, who, through a mix of lithe physical antics, deft dialect work and spot-on timing, brings Charlie to life.”
    • Juliet Wittman, Westword: “Sammie Joe Kinnett sports a goofy, all-stops-out physicality and a gutsy, crazed creativity that lets him try anything and go anywhere for a laugh — the result being gales of laughter from the audience.”

    Ross would have loved seeing Kinnett in this exquisitely executed role, Kent said. Here was this now fully grown-up actor putting on a confident comedy clinic that was fully gained through hard knocks and hard experience. And yet it was infused with a joyful spirit of reminiscent of Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful). Kinnett's humanity even bleeds through his current take on Sedaris’ famously cynical SantaLand elf in Colorado Springs.

    "TheatreWorks made a bold choice," writes the (unnamed) critic for the website Springs on Stage:  "They gave Crumpet a soul.

    "Kinnett brings a wild energy and warmth to the show,” the reviewer goes on to say. “This Crumpet wants to care — he’s just waiting for something that’s worth caring about. It’s a touching blend of deviance and heart.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    And as most any comedian will tell you, successful comedy is often born through life’s rockiest transitions. Over their decade together, Ross watched Kinnett grow up, fall in love, get married, become a father — and then a single father.

    Ross did live to see that his former community-college dropout is now enrolled at UCCS studying for a degree in Performing Arts and Psychology. It seems the more complicated Kinnett’s life has become, the better he’s become as an actor who floats easily from screwball farce to Shakespeare (sometimes at the same time).

    Man-of-La-Mancha_3“We would rehearse for The SantaLand Diaries from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Colorado Springs, and then Sammie would drive to Arvada to perform in The Foreigner that night — all as a full-time student and single dad,” Kent said. “I don’t know how he did it.”

    Kent might not know how Kinnett did it, but he is certain Ross has had everything to do with Kinnett’s now more widely recognized statewide success.

    “Sammie Joe is now equipped with the deep pathos to pair with that classic spit take,” Kent said. “He’s the complete package.”

    (Pictured at right: Sammie Joe Kinnett as Sancho in 'Man of La Mancha' for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Photo by Jeff Kearney.)  

    Martorella believes Kinnett “may be the most generous, most humorous, most accommodating performer we have ever turned out here in Colorado Springs,” he said. “We’re proud that we still have him, and we’re glad he’s still making people laugh.”

    Whatever "that thing" Kinnett has may be indefinable. Martorella knows only one simple thing:

    “Sammie Joe just makes me smile.”

    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.

    Sammie Joe Kinnett: 2017

    • The Hairy Ape, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks (Assistant Director)
    • The Foreigner, Arvada Center
    • The SantaLand Diaries, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks (Actor)

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Brandon Case

    by John Moore | Dec 09, 2017
    True West Award 2017 Brandon Case

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 9: Brandon Case

    Aurora Fox
    Technical Director
    Scenic Designer

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Brandon Case’s current program bio is far more revealing than most. In it, the Aurora Fox’s Technical Director and resident Scenic Designer describes himself as “skinny as a pencil, smart as a whip and possibly the scariest man currently living.”

    And who’s going to argue with that?

    Wait, what’s that, you say? He’s quoting the Wes Anderson movie Fantastic Mr. Fox? Well that works, too. Because if you ask anyone how the Aurora Fox just pulled through the most challenging year in its 33-year history, they will pretty much say it was The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

    Brandon Case Softball True West Awards After longtime Executive Director Charles Packard resigned in May, Case and Production Manager Jen Orf stepped up and led the remaining staff through a transition that is now in its seventh month.

    “Brandon stepped up when they were down with more time, more hours and more leadership,” said director, actor and former Fox employee Robert Michael Sanders. “It would have been really easy for him to roll over and wait to see what the coming changes would bring. But instead he took over. And he refused to let anything take away from the quality of the work that they were doing.”

    Patron Services manager Beau Bisson puts it this way: “If theatre were a dodge-ball game — as it often feels like — Brandon would always be my first pick as a teammate. When he’s around, you get this sense that everything will work out. Because when things hit the fan, you want Brandon Case to be there.”

    A short list of Case’s job duties this year includes overseeing the building facilities and all its sound and light equipment. Because the Fox is owned by the city of Aurora, Case also supervised departmental budgets, schedules and hiring, all while navigating the additional layer of municipal oversight.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Case is the rare Technical Director who also doubles as resident Scenic Designer. And in 2017, he brought five wildly different worlds to vivid life on the Fox’s main stage: Myth, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Stephen Sondheim’s Company, the current Hi-Hat Hattie and Tales of a 4th-Grade Nothing for the Little Foxes children’s troupe.

    And he gets around. This very month, Case has three theatrical designs in theatres across the metro area: The Fox’s Hi-Hat Hattie (through Dec. 23), The Edge Theatre’s Resolutions (through Dec. 31) and he made significant contributions to Lone Tree Arts Center’s Home for the Holidays (through Dec. 17).

    Case is a Littleton native who was home-schooled and just kind of appeared at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center in 2006 offering to help out as a set-builder and sound operator. He was hired full-time by the Aurora Fox in 2011 and has since become known for creating all types of scenery and props using many forms of carpentry, metalwork, mechanics and automation.

    In that aforementioned Aurora Fox program bio, Case also claims to be “married to the prettiest girl in town” — and that’s not a line cribbed from a Wes Anderson movie. That would be Rae Leigh Case, an actor and costume designer currently appearing in the Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (through Dec. 23).

    A Brandon Case Myth True West Awards 400And what she wants you to know is that Case hand-crafts and hand-paints virtually his entire scenic designs, down to the crown molding now framing the Hi-Hat Hattie opera-hall set. The “skull mound” in She Kills Monsters? The cool steam-punk look for Jekyll and Hyde? The wilderness campfire in Myth? “He doesn’t go on eBay or to thrift stores to find that stuff,” she said. “Brandon makes all of that himself, no matter how many hours it takes.”

    (Pictured at right: 'Myth' at the Aurora Fox. Photo by Christine Fisk.)

    This past April, Case took on one of the great scenic challenges of his career: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which is a journey across the Australian outback on an oversized tour bus that, in real life, would never even remotely fit on the Aurora Fox stage. Case went out and found the bus, chopped it down to a manageable size and then added all of the requisite lights, paint and glitter. And he did virtually all of that work by himself (with some help from his brother). Just take a look at the time-lapse video below:

    Time-lapse video of 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' Scenic Designer (and Aurora Fox Technical Director) Brandon Case pulling an all-nighter to assemble the bus. All by himself.

    “Theaters the size of the Aurora Fox often have an entire scenic department," Rae Leigh Case said. “But at the Fox, it’s usually it’s just Brandon and one other dude he hires." 

    Brandon Case Hi Hat Hattie True West AwardsBisson says Case is equal parts artist and craftsman. “It seems cliché to say that he continually surprises me with his work, but truly, he continually surprises me with his work,” he said. “He’s like the John Napier of The Aurora Fox. Or MacGyver. Or both.”

    And aside from being a meticulous artist, Bisson said, Case happens to be not the scariest man currently living. Instead, “he’s funny, a great listener and deeply passionate about The Aurora Fox.” Qualities that came in most handy in 2017. “This year, I would add backstage counselor and peacekeeper," Bisson said.

    He was, for lack of any better way to put it: The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

    “I try to make it as known as possible,” his wife says, “that Brandon’s abilities go so beyond far beyond what people know of so far. I think he is going to change the face of set design in this theatre community."

    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.

    Brandon Case: 2017 Scenic Designs

    • Myth, Aurora Fox
    • Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Aurora Fox
    • Company, Aurora Fox
    • Hi-Hat Hattie, Aurora Fox
    • Tales of a 4th-Grade Nothing, Aurora Fox children’s theatre
    • Resolutions, Edge Theatre
    • Home for the Holidays (contributed), Lone Tree Arts Center
    • Also: Technical Director of the Aurora Fox’s Chinglish

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • Play 'Cast Album Karaoke' with 'Waitress' band on Dec. 28

    by John Moore | Dec 08, 2017
    Bryan Fenkart and Desi Oakley in the National Tour of WAITRESS Credit Joan Marcus
    Bryan Fenkart and Desi Oakley in the national touring production of Waitress, which plans a special audience event on Dec. 28. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Here's a good idea: Sing Bad Idea - or another favorite Waitress song - at a post-show karaoke with the band.

    Following the Thursday, Dec. 28 evening performance of Waitress at The Buell Theatre, audience members will have a chance to sing one minute of any song from the show accompanied by the Waitress band.

    It's a fun audience appreciation event called Cast Album Karaoke that started with the  Broadway cast in New York. It was so popular there, the team is taking it on the road to cities like Denver. 

    The Dec. 28 performance is also a designated Theatre Thursday event. When you order your tickets, Enter the code THURSDAY to receive a discount off the purchase price, as well as a free pre-show drink from the lobby bar.

    Interested audience members with tickets to the Dec. 28 evening performance will be chosen at random for Cast Album Karaoke. Just find one of four volunteers in Waitress shirts and carrying Waitress clipboards to sign up for consideration. The four will be stationed on all levels of The Buell Theatre lobby.

    Signups are available before the show and at intermission. You will be asked to include your name, what song from Waitress you want to sing and a fun fact about yourself. You can sign up to sing solo, in duets or as a group. Up to eight names will be drawn. A book of lyrics will be provided. But, hey, if you want to practice in advance, the cast album is available for listening or download on Spotify, iTunes or Amazon

    With original music and lyrics by six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), Waitress is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie. Inspired by Adrienne Shelly's beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. While her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness, a baking contest in a nearby county and the town's new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, but Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This irresistible new hit features a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam), and direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Finding Neverland, Pippin, Hair).

    Tickets are on sale now for the Dec. 19-31 Denver engagement at denvercenter.org. Information below.

    DCPA Tickets

     

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    waitressWaitress in Denver: Ticket information
    Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna — a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 19-31
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here

    Selected NewsCenter coverage of Waitress:

    Waitress. Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman. Waitress. Photy by Joan MarcusFrom left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman of the first national touring production of 'Waitress.' Photo by Joan Marcus
  • 2017 True West Award: Emily Van Fleet

    by John Moore | Dec 08, 2017
    Emily Van Fleet True West Award 2017

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 8: Emily Van Fleet

    Arvada Center
    Creede Repertory Theatre
    DCPA's Off-Center

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Denver actor Emily Van Fleet was a shape-shifter in 2017. She played a hillbilly wannabe starlet stranded in a snowstorm. She played a soaking wet corpse in a bathtub. She played a Hungarian lonely heart. She played a coy minister’s daughter. She was an improv comedian. Her stories spanned the globe from 1912 to 1956. Apparently she can play anyone, anywhere, in any time period.

    But once in a great, lucky while, you get to witness an actor killing it so hard in a particular role, you just know they will never be looked at the same way again.

    A Emily Van Fleet The Wild Party Adams Viscom 400 That was watching Van Fleet play a self-destructive showgirl in Off-Center’s very wild The Wild Party, a debauched musical drama based on a 1928 narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March and staged under The Hanger at Stanley Marketplace with a cast of 15, a live band and 200 audience members doubling as in-your-lap party guests.

    (Photo at right of Emily Van Fleet in 'The Wild Party' by Adams Viscom.)

    Van Fleet played the hostess Queenie, and she was regal. It was an absorbing and undeniably seductive performance that demanded Van Fleet’s complete immersion into a role that, on paper, director Amanda Berg Wilson said, frankly didn’t give the actor all that much to work with.

    “That character is actually a trope,” Wilson said, “and yet Emily somehow managed to make a not-terribly developed character fully dimensional, heartbreaking, vulnerable and sexy. And to do that in such an intimate space is a really tricky thing to pull off.”

    Van Fleet is a Boulder native who graduated from Fairview High School and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. She has been a company member with the Creede Repertory Theatre for five summers. Last year, she was chosen to be among the inaugural class of actors in the Arvada Center’s new repertory company. So, she’s actually been killing it for quite some time.

    Last winter, in fact, she killed it as a woman who already had been killed in the Arvada Center’s exquisite staging of The Drowning Girls, which posed an entirely different kind of acting challenge.  

    A Emily Van Fleet She Loves Me Creede. Photo by John Gary BrownThe Drowning Girls tells how three wives of serial killer George Joseph Smith met their watery demise between 1912 and 1914. The stories are told by three actors who must play the wives (and every other relevant character) with great narrative and physical precision, and Van Fleet, Kate Gleason and Jessica Robblee executed the challenge with complete (sorry) fluidity. It’s not easy to act while sopping wet but, as Westword’s Juliet Wittman put it, the three actors committed to it with gusto.

    “The trick for all three of them was to be both choral and incredibly specific and unique in their performances, and I think Emily was brilliant in both regards,” Director Lynne Collins said. “She played a hunchbacked old landlady so precisely, you could almost feel the curvature of her spine and the arthritis in her hands. And two seconds later, she was back to being lovely young Alice. To be that specific and clear in all your characters is incredibly difficult to do.”

    (Photo at right of Emily Van Fleet in Creede Repertory Theatre's 'Arsenic and Old Lace' by John Gary Brown.)

    Just as impressive, one might say, was her performance in Bus Stop as Cherie, the doe-eyed role made famous by Marilyn Monroe in the 1956 film. Van Fleet’s take on the profoundly innocent woman was virtually unrecognizable from Monroe’s take in the famous film.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Van Fleet glides easily from light musicals to romantic comedies to dramas with uncommon ease. But there was something fundamentally “next level” about her star-making turn in The Wild Party. Van Fleet stripped everything from her inhibitions to her clothes while hosting a corker of a party fueled by cocaine, bathtub gin and uninhibited sex.   

    “Queenie is a sexually ambitious, morally dubious, low-rent vaudeville performer who is promiscuous and probably an alcoholic,” Wilson said. “And through the course of the play she falls in love and consummates that love right then and there — with a man who is not her husband. Emily somehow kept that up for two hours in very close proximity to the audience — and that requires a level of being present that not every actor has. That’s what I think made it such an amazing performance.”

    A Emily Van Fleet I Mackers Creede Repertory Theatre Photo by John Moore 800Off-stage, Van Fleet and her husband, Nathan Jones, wrote an ingenious modern adaptation of Macbeth that was performed by and for teens last summer in Creede, located 250 miles southwest of Denver in Mineral County I, Mac(kers) uses spoken word and cell phones to tell the story of an aspiring but morally compromised high-school thespian who succumbs to the temptation of social media, technology and cyberbullying to fuel his ambition by spreading rumors and manipulating his fellow students.

    (Photo at right: Audiences greet the teen cast of Creede Repertory Theatre’s youth production of 'I, Mac(kers)' after a performance. Photo by John Moore.)

    “Emily Van Fleet is a magical unicorn,” said Creede Rep Artistic Director Jessica Jackson. “Yes, she’s an incredible actor and musician, but Creede audiences also get to experience her as this passionate community member and leader in our company as well. And in some unquantifiable way, that makes what she does on stage even more compelling.”

    And she’s finishing the busiest year of her life by performing in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's Yuletide Celebration.

    There’s a simple reason Van Fleet is enjoying the level of success she attained in 2017, said Collins. She’s earned it.

    “She hit her stride in every area of her work this year," Collins said, “and she works harder than any other actor I know.”

    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.


    A Emily Van Fleet The Drowning Girls M. Gale Photography 800

    From left: Emily Van Fleet, Kate Gleason and Jessica Robblee in the Arvada Center's 'The Drowning Girls.' M. Gale Photography 

    Emily Van Fleet 2017

    • Cherie, Arvada Center’s Bus Stop
    • Alice, Arvada Center’s The Drowning Girls
    • Amalia, Creede Repertory Theatre’s She Loves Me
    • Elaine, Creede Repertory Theatre’s Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Performer, Creede Repertory Theatre’s Boomtown
    • Director and Playwright, Creede Repertory Theatre’s youth production of I, Mac(kers)
    • Queenie, Off-Center’s The Wild Party

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

    Video bonus: Emily Van Fleet talks The Wild Party

  • 'A Christmas Carol' still brings playwright to laughter, tears

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017
    Making of 'A Christmas Carol' 2017

    Photos from the making of 'A Christmas Carol' from Friday's opening night and going back to the first rehearsal. 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.

    'One of the things I love so much about this Denver Center production is its humanity,' the playwright says at opening.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Richard Hellesen's 1987 stage adaptation of Charles DickensA Christmas Carol has become a holiday standard for theatre companies across the country including the Denver Center, which opened its 10th seasonal staging of Hellesen’s script last Friday — with the playwright in the audience.

    Hellesen doesn't track how many productions his sweeping adaptation, with music by David de Berry, has enjoyed over the past 30 years. But the number of performances here at the Stage Theatre since 2006 is now nearing 500, with attendance topping 300,000. Hellesen said he was moved to tears by Melissa Rain Anderson’s take on the story.

    Richard Hellesen quote A Christmas Carol“I know the words, but sometimes the performances and the direction surprise me,” Hellesen said after the performance. “I was laughing tonight, I was crying — and I wrote the damn words. How does that work?”

    Well, it starts with Sam Gregory, who is playing Scrooge for a second straight season. Hellesen was taken by Gregory’s evident youth, which while uncommon for actors playing the role of the grizzled old skinflint, is actually consistent with Dickens’ novel.

    Hellesen said Gregory presents a Scrooge who has an opportunity to make a more lasting impact on his Victorian community after his conversion — and a greater emotional impact on audiences — because he still has a significant amount of time left to improve himself and his community. 

    “My favorite line from the whole play is: ‘Best of all, Scrooge knew he had the time before him to make amends — and he started that very day.'

    “One of the things I love so much about this Denver Center production is its humanity, because it's extremely easy to make Scrooge one-dimensional, or a stereotype. I think the harder challenge for the actor is to humanize him to the point where you are sitting in the audience saying to yourself, 'You know what? I kind of … sort of … actually see where he is coming from. And that moves us a little closer in his direction.

    Lisa Kennedy on why we circle back to A Christmas Carol

    “I know when the emotional parts are coming,” he said, “and yet I am just floored whenever I see an actor who is giving it something new like Sam Gregory.”

    A Christmas Carol 2017 Peyton GoosenAdded Anderson: “What I love about this adaptation and the way Sam plays it is that it works on all levels,” she said. “There's the bitter, there's the sweet, there's the political, there's dark humor and there's frivolous humor. Sam really hits every single scope that a man can hit in one night.”

    Part of the enduring power of the source story, Hellesen said, is its ever-relevant decrying of injustice in all its forms. Audiences may not realize it, he said, but Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843 as a demand for societal change.

    “I think certain lines in the script will suddenly resonate anew with any present-day audience depending on what is going on in the world,” he said. “For me tonight, that was when The Ghost of Christmas Present made his speech about how some men commit acts of envy and pride and bigotry and prejudice in the name of Christmas. That's in Dickens’ book, and I put that in my adaptation for a reason. It's because I want people to hear that today. We are at an interesting time. There is want, and there is ignorance. But there is also hope for redemption.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    (Pictured above and right: Peyton Goossen, who plays Tiny Tim, at the opening party. Photo by John Moore. Below: Goossen with Brian Vaughn and Latoya Cameron. Photo by Adams Viscom.)

    A Christmas Carol 2017. Peyton Goossen Brian Vaughn and Latoya Cameron. Photo by Adams ViscomHellesen said the Denver Center’s various stagings have always ranked among his favorites for their production values and the quality of the acting. This year he was particularly impressed to see a multi-racial Cratchit family on the stage.

    “I absolutely loved that,” he said. “Yes, this is a very specific story written in 1843 London, but it's obviously a much more universal story than that. And so to expand the casting in terms of ethnicity and age just adds to the universality of the piece.”

    Hellesen took a moment after the opening performance to thank the cast and crew directly.

    “When you sit at your computer and you adapt something, you just hope that somehow it has a life,” he told those gathered. “To see all of you people who are so talented giving so much to something that I wrote  — I am incredibly humbled to be in the room with you all, watching you do this.”

    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.


    A Christmas Carol: Video


    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.


    A Christmas Carol: Ticket information
    A Christmas CarolAt a glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Through Dec. 24
    • Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol 2017:
    Photos, video: Your first look at A Christmas Carol 2017
    Video: Governor, Carol cast send Colorado National Guard thanks and hope
    A Christmas Carol: A timeline to today
    DCPA's 25th A Christmas Carol brims with mistletoe and milestones
  • Video: 'Waitress' cast members shout-out to Denver

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017

    To watch all nine cast testimonials to Denver audiences, press play above.


    Lenne Klingaman is among nine cast members who recorded short video messages from the Waitress road

    DCPA Theatre Company favorite Lenne Klingaman is among nine cast members returning to Denver for the holidays with the national touring production of Waitress playing at the Buell Theatre from Dec. 19-31. And they share their thoughts on that subject in a series of short videos above, which you can see by simply clicking the play button above. 

    Klingaman last appeared here as the title character in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘Hamlet’ and twice performed with the DCPA Theatre Company as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and two roles in the world premiere of Appoggiatura. Ensemble member Grace Stockdale grew up in Steamboat Springs. Others talking Denver include Charity Angél Dawson, Nick Bailey, Ryan G. Diunkin, Jeremy Morse and Bryan Fenkart.

    With original music and lyrics by six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, Waitress is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    waitressWaitress in Denver: Ticket information
    Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna — a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. This is an uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 19-31
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
      Selected NewsCenter coverage of Waitress:
    Waitress. Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman. Waitress. Photy by Joan MarcusFrom left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman of the first national touring production of 'Waitress.' Photo by Joan Marcus
  • 2017 True West Award: Kenny Moten

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017
    2017 True West Award Kenny Moten. Photo by John Moore

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 7: Kenny Moten

    Motones vs. Jerseys
    Miscast 2017
    Aurora Fox Cabaret Series
    Owner, Narrative Creative Consulting

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    If you think being a performer is hard, try being a performer and the owner of your own entertainment and consulting company. Kenny Moten makes the transition from actor to producer to businessman and back again in same manner that often describes his rich singing voice: Smooth as silk.

    Moten is among the very few performers who also knows how to run a business.

    Kenny Moten“It’s rare because owning an entertainment business is brutal in a way that is very different from the way performing is brutal,” said Moten’s frequent creative partner — and employee — Jalyn Courtenay Webb. “When you’re the boss, you are not only responsible for yourself, but for the people you hire and the team you put together. But Kenny has just the right temperament for it. He does everything with integrity. He’s a solid human being.”  

    Moten is the creator and owner of Narrative Creative Consulting, which presents entertainment events and uses various art forms to help clients ranging from National Jewish Hospital to Snooze Eatery to the Denver Center shape their narratives, customer service, employee training and brand strategies.  

    Moten is also the co-creator, director, writer and a featured performer of a clever new musical form called Motones vs. Jerseys. In July, it was up for three Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards, including Outstanding Musical, for its nearly sold-out run at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins.

    In September, Moten lent his support (and that smooth-as-silk singing voice) to the Denver Actors Fund by appearing in Miscast 2017 as one of the three Fionas singing I Know It’s Today from Shrek the Musical. In October, the Aurora Fox turned to Moten to launch its risky new monthly cabaret series with 12 O’clock Tales: An Evening of Songs and Stories. Both shows sold out, which Webb said is further indication of Moten’s popularity as a performer — and his business acumen. Both come from more than 20 years as a professional performer, Webb says.

    Kenny Moten Miscast 2017“Kenny’s name is synonymous with excellence, and people know that in our community and beyond,” she said. “He was not going to do his show in an empty house — and he certainly did not.”

    Moten caps a remarkable 2017 with a return next week to Motones vs. Jerseys as part of a unique new creative partnership with BDT Stage in Boulder. "MvJ," as the kids call it, is a feel-good, nostalgic evening featuring the music of Motown and The Four Seasons — along with their many ancestors and descendants — in a good-natured competition. After two teams of four performers each rock out a playlist spanning Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bruno Mars and many more, the audience chooses a winning team using their cell phones to vote.

    (Pictured right: Kenny Moten with his 'Miscast 2017' co-stars, Margie Lamb, left, and Hope Grandon. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter,)

    It’s a concept Moten first developed with Chris Starkey, now of Imprint Group DMC. After several refinements, Moten unveiled a slick new version of the show last year at the Midtown Arts Center, where it received a standing ovation “every single night,” said Webb, who is both the show’s Music Director and nightly emcee. “And let me tell you, I’ve never seen that happen at any dinner theatre before in my life.”

    Motones vs. Jerseys opens on Dec. 10 and will play on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights through Jan. 23, playing in rep the rest of the week with BDT Stage’s holiday staging of Annie.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Moten, who is originally from Hagerstown, Md., graduated from Highlands Ranch High School and the University of Colorado Denver. He transitioned from Barnstormer to leading man with a remarkable 2005 performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the late Country Dinner Playhouse opposite now Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee. Westword’s Juliet Wittman called Moten not only “a wonderful singer with a voice full of poignancy and power,” but also “a charming and seductive performer who brings impressive precision and a smooth, lean elegance to the stage.”

    Other major credits include Swing at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Altar Boyz at the Clocktower Cabaret, but it wasn’t long before Moten was off to New York. He re-settled in Fort Collins a few years ago and has since been on a roll that has not only furthered his personal and professional interests, but has gainfully employed dozens of local actors and crew members on his many public and corporate projects.

    “The thing I love about Kenny is that he’s so fun, but he’s also completely no-nonsense when it comes to the work,” said Webb. “He expects the highest quality and the highest level of performance possible from his performers, and we respect that. He knows what he wants — and he goes out and gets it."

    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.

    Motones vs. Jerseys: At a glance

    • Dec. 10-Jan. 23
    • BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
    • Performances Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Dinner seating begins at 6:15, with the show to follow at 7:45
    • Featuring Brian Cronan, Will Hawkins, Brian Jackson and Jacob Villareal as The Jerseys, and Christian Mark Gibbs, Anthony McGlaun, Kenny Moten and Alejandro Roldan as The Motones.
    • Call 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

    Video bonus: Motones vs. Jerseys at the 2017 Henry Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Claudia Carson

    by John Moore | Dec 06, 2017
    True West Awards. Claudia Carson. Photo courtesy Jimmy Awards

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 6: Claudia Carson


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Claudia Carson loves her job to her core. That job is to help high-students love theatre to their cores. And she’s pretty good at her job.

    There’s far more to it than that. Carson is also a stage manager, choreographer, director and teaching artist. But what really fuels her fire is coordinating two profoundly meaningful student programs for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts: The annual Bobby G Awards, which celebrate achievements in high-school musical theatre, and a year-round, statewide teen playwriting competition.

    “Claudia is just so joyful, so inspirational and so hungry to make an impact with students,” said DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous. “She makes those programs possible with her year-round passion and commitment.”

    Claudia Carson True West BGA 2017The Bobby G Awards, which served 42 high schools and nearly 7,000 students last school year, are Carson’s true labor of love. She manages all operational elements of the wide-ranging, 5-year-old  program, including coordinating in-school workshops, professional adjudications of every production and a big, culminating Tony Awards-style party attended by nearly 2,000 each May at the Buell Theatre.

    Participating high schools have the opportunity to be mentored by DCPA Teaching Artists, and last year 24 schools signed on for 70 workshop classes. Once their school musicals go up, they are judged by a field of professional artists and educators who not only score each show for awards consideration, they provide detailed, constructive feedback that teachers can use to make their programs better.

    The awards ceremony itself is a remarkable celebration of the high-school theatre community. Carson not only directs the slick show, she choreographs sophisticated, original medleys that are performed by all of the male and female leading actor nominees. The two students ultimately named Outstanding Actor and Actress move on to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City, also known as The Jimmys. And Carson chaperones them every step of the way.

    “I think the magic of Claudia coordinating the Bobby G Awards program is that she cares so much about theatre in Colorado, and she cares so much about teachers,” Watrous said. “Claudia is a full-on champion of high-school theatre in Colorado.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This past year, the DCPA’s fourth High School Playwriting Competition drew 132 one-act submissions from budding writers in 14 Colorado counties. That after Carson sent DCPA Teaching Artists to 46 high schools, where they conducted 138 workshops for more than 2,800 students. Four of the resulting scripts were chosen to be read by professional actors at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit in February, and two were ultimately given fully staged productions through DCPA Education’s summer academy.

    Claudia Carson True West BGA 2016If that weren’t “job enough,” Carson also returned to her roots as a Stage Manager this year for the recent return engagement of Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women. And as a summer Teaching Artist for DCPA Education, she and a group of ambitious teens created an entire original musical from scratch — in just two weeks.

    If that sounds like a lot, you should know this about Carson: It's in her DNA. Her mother, Bev Newcomb-Madden, is a pioneer of  children's theatre in Denver and has directed more plays than any other woman in Colorado theatre history. Her sister, Glenna Kelly, is an accomplished actor who for a long time ran Kaiser-Permanente’s acclaimed Educational Theatre Programs for Colorado. And her daughter, Claire Carson, studied at Denver School of the Arts and SMU, and is now an actor in Dallas. That’s three generations of accomplished Newcomb women — and counting. And brother Jamie Newcomb performed in the DCPA Theatre Company's recent productions of Benediction and All the Way

    Pictured above and right: Claudia Carson with 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actors Curtis Salinger and Charlotte Movizzo, and DCPA  Senior Manager of Press and Promotions Heidi Bosk).

    “Claudia is a sensitive, caring and compassionate person, and she really has an innate ability to connect with teenagers,” said DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg. “But at the same time, she is also a quintessential stage manager and mother, which is probably why she is so good at both jobs. Part of being a good mom is being a good stage manager.”

    Carson graduated from Denver East High School and studied journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She came to the Denver Center as a stage manager for all Galleria Theatre shows for a five-year stretch starting in 2003 with the longest-running musical in Colorado theatre history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. She later took charge of the global expansion of the runaway hit Girls Only and then served as Executive Assistant to DCPA President Randy Weeks, who died in 2014. She has also worked as a stage manager at Curious Theatre and the Arvada Center.

    But she seems to have found her sweetest spot working with students.

    “She’s doing what she loves with the people she loves the most,” Ekeberg said. “For someone who has done so many things, that’s a pretty cool culmination of a pretty cool career.”

    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.


    True West Claudia Carson 2017

    The four finalists from the DCPA's fourth statewide High School Playwriting Competition had their plays presented as readings at the 12th annual 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, including 'Dear Boy on the Tree,' above, written by Jasmin Hernandez Lozano of Vista Peak Preparatory Academy in Aurora. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards


    Video bonus 1: The 2017 Bobby G Awards




    Video bonus 2 Student playwriting:

  • How ELF became an instant holiday tradition on stage and screen

    by John Moore | Dec 05, 2017
    Elf The Musical Jeremy Daniel Photography
    The cast of 'ELF The Musical,' which comes to Denver's Buell Theatre from Dec. 13-17. Jeremy Daniel Photography.

    Director: 'ELF The Musical on tour is really its own entity, and we’re very proud of that.'

    Elf, the 2003 Christmas movie, is America’s newest holiday classic. It ranks up there with It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street. When Buddy, a 6-foot-plus man raised by elves, sets out to find his father, his rosy, optimistic and endearing outlook on humankind thaws even the coldest heart — his dad’s. Director Sam Scalamoni discusses how collaborators brought this iconic movie to life for the tour of ELF The Musical, visiting Denver's Buell Theatre from Dec. 13-17.

    Tell us about your experience directing ELF The Musical on tour.

    When they were planning the tour, the original Broadway director was unavailable. So they passed it to me and I brought on my choreographer and design team. We re-imagined the whole show from scratch. It was an amazing experience. We were able to work with the original writers: Matt Sklar [music], Chad Beguelin [lyrics], Bob Martin [book] and Tom Meehan [book]. They were incredible collaborators and they continue to work with us each year to refine it. ELF The Musical on tour is really its own entity, and we’re very proud of that.

    Did the writers resist the changes you wanted?

    Not at all – in fact, they really embraced our ideas. They see the tour or a run-through in the studio every year. So Tom will see it and might say, “This isn’t funny. This joke is working – this isn’t.” They had some strong opinions not only about things they wanted to keep, but some they wanted to change. For example, the second year the show was on Broadway they added a new song called “Happy All the Time.” It’s a very funny opening number Santa sings about how happy the elves are all the time and how he just needs a little break.

    Whose idea was it to put the elves at the North Pole on their knees?

    We came to the idea together. When we came to Gregg Barnes [the original Broadway costume designer who redesigned the show for the tour] with it he said, “Oh great, because I designed these amazing things; they’re called ‘knee shoes’” that wrap around the actors’ knees with a built-in kneepad. The actors are as comfortable as they can be and the shoes lay flat on the floor. It’s really brilliant.

    Why do you think both the movie and now the musical have become such instant classics?

    It’s one of the few contemporary films about the holidays that really connects with audiences. The fact that the story is present day with current content really strikes a
    chord with people. 


    ELF The Musical: Ticket information
    elfAt a glance: Based on the beloved 2003 film, ELF The Musical is a modern day Christmas classic that is sure to make everyone embrace their inner ELF. Variety proclaims, “ELF is happy enough for families, savvy enough for city kids and plenty smart for adults."

    • National touring production
    • Performances Dec. 13-17
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    • ASL Interpreted, Audio-Described and Open Captioned Performance: Dec. 16, 3 p.m.

    ELF The Musical. Jeremy Daniel Photography.
  • 2017 True West Award: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

    by John Moore | Dec 05, 2017
    2017 True West Awards. Haley Johnson. Sydney Parks Smith

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 4: Haley Johnson and Sydney Parks Smith

    August: Osage County
    Vintage Theatre, Aurora
    OpenStage Theatre, Fort Collins

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    "I'm in charge now!"


    It's one of the most visceral, gut-scraping lines you'll ever hear in a theatre, and it marks a dramatic turning point in Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-winning family fracas August: Osage County. In that one moment, the eldest daughter of perhaps the must acidic matriarch in the American theatrical canon forcibly wrests that crown right out of her mother's clenched fingers. Only the crown, in this case, is a pill bottle. But Barbara is not rescuing her mother. Not by a long shot. She's becoming her.

    True West Haley Johnson Sydney Parks SmithThe mother is Violet Weston, a pained and profane Okie with cancer of the mouth — medically and metaphorically. Violet pops out furious epithets — most aimed at her three daughters — as quickly as she pops in pills. Her spawn all bear varying degrees of the inherited burns they surely will pass down to their own children. Seriously, Violet is a sniper on par with a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. It's a bucket-list role for any seasoned female actor.

    But the part of Barbara, a Boulder mom whose marriage is crumbling, presents a plum challenge all its own. And in 2017, we got to see two highly accomplished area actors tackle it in different but effective ways: Sydney Parks Smith for OpenStage & Company in Fort Collins and Haley Johnson for Vintage Theatre in Aurora. And they had formidable scene partners in Colorado legends Denise Freestone and Deborah Persoff, respectively, as their poisoned Vi's.

    Parks wears Barbara's accumulating disappointments like a suit of armor, and she's just itching to take it into battle. Johnson, who has made her mark for a decade playing wounded birds, grew teeth here that eventually sprouted into fangs. The mother-daughter conflict builds to a battle of ill-wills that left audiences gasping from Fort Collins to Aurora. All culminating in that one haunting line — "I'm in charge now!" — that can be delivered every which way from a declarative whisper to a savage declaration of war. We're witnessing a brutal metamorphosis where Barbara becomes the unshrinking Violet.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The two actors have more than Barbara Fordham in common: Smith is the Associate Artistic Director of OpenStage and Johnson is the Producing Artistic Director of the new Benchmark Theatre, which is finishing up its first season with the world premiere of a freaky-fun new play called Smokefall, playing through Dec. 23 at the Buntport Theater.

    Haley Johnson Sydney Parks SmithSmith won the Colorado Theatre Guild's Henry Award and the OpenStage OPUS Award for Outstanding Actress for her performance as Barbara. Northern Colorado theatre critic Tom Jones called her performance "dynamite."

    Says OpenStage Director Dulcie Willis:
    "Sydney is a highly passionate, focused and dynamic actor. Her work as Barbara perfectly illustrated her deep commitment to nuanced character development. She understood the play inside and out and never, ever stopped working to find the most effective moment-to-moment choices in each scene. Her natural strength and intense zest for life served her thoughtful approach to Barbara while leading the entire cast through a beautiful and challenging piece of theatre. She really was the family heroine of our production."

    (Photos above: Sydney Parks Smith, left and Haley Johnson. Photos by Joe Hovorka and RDG Photography.)

    Says Vintage Theatre Director Bernie Cardell: "The magic of Haley Johnson is that not only can she tap into the broken heart of her characters, she can also find their humor.  She is not afraid to reveal her own wounds in order to find the deepest expression of truth on stage. Plus, she's kind of cool."

    The origin of the poison: Our interview with Tracy Letts

    Said Denver Theatre Perspectives reviewer Michael Mulhern: "Haley Johnson showed incredible range from fragile and bitter to powerful matriarch, and from defeated daughter to hopeful independence."

    Haley Johnson: 2017 at a glance

    Johnson is a graduate of Florida State University and the University of Colorado Denver. She has worked all around the metro area, including the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Edge Theatre, Miners Alley Playhouse and Spotlight Theatre Company. Notable roles include Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Harper Pitt in Angels in America, Becca in Rabbit Hole and Jessie in 'Night, Mother. She is also the producing artistic director of the new Benchmark Theatre.
    • The Nether, Morris, Benchmark Theatre
    • August: Osage County, Barbara Fordham, Vintage Theatre
    Sydney Parks Smith: 2017 at a glance

    Smith has performed and directed with OpenStage Theatre in Fort Collins for the past 20 years and serves as the company's  Associate Artistic Director. Notable roles include Claire in Proof, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, Belinda in Noises Off and Hermia in Dead Man’s Cell Phone. As a director, her credits include Stage Kiss, True West, The Book of Liz and Dirty Blonde. She received the Founder’s Award for her outstanding contributions to OpenStage & Company.

    • The Flick, Director, OpenStage
    • Don’t Dress for Dinner, Production Manager, OpenStage
    • Bright Ideas, Production Manager, OpenStage
    • August: Osage County, Barbara Fordham, Production Manager, OpenStage

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

    by John Moore | Dec 04, 2017
    True West Award BDT Stage. Photo by Glenn Ross

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 4: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

    Rock of Ages
    BDT Stage

    Anyone who has attended a show at Boulder's BDT Stage in the past two decades would have gotten a kick out of the clever casting twist this year in Rock of Ages.

    First, there was fresh-faced Olyvia Sydelle as Sherrie (thank you, Journey) in this unapologetically silly musical homage to big-hair 1980s rock bands. In the story, fresh-off-the-farm Sherrie quickly falls on hard times after arriving in L.A. to pursue her dreams. Broke, doe-eyed and desperate, Sherrie ends up at a strip club where she encounters a modern-day Mother Courage. (Go with me on this.) Justice Charlier, owner of the Venus Club, takes Sherrie undOlyvia Sydelle Rock of Ages. Photo by Glenn Rosser her wing and puts her to work as a stripper. It's all a tough-love, mildly exploitative excuse to hear the two power balladeers riff out a medley of Quarterflash's Harden My Heart and Pat Benatar's Shadows of the Night

    OK, so it's not exactly Brecht. But here's the punchline: Cast as Justice was the adored and adorable BDT Stage veteran Joanie Brosseau, who happens to be Sydelle's real-life mother. Blonde-to-the-bone Brosseau will never be mistaken for Mary J. Blige, who played the role in the 2012 film — but it worked for Boulder.

    You gotta admit: It's funny: Watching a mother encouraging her daughter to toughen up and take her clothes off for leering men? (Oh my goodness, I just realized — Rock of Ages is a total rip-off of Gypsy!) No wonder there was such obvious chemistry between the two.

    Furthering the bloodlines: The man responsible for this clever casting twist was Director Scott Beyette, who happens to be Sydelle's father — and Brosseau's ex-husband.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    OutFront theatre critic Addison Herron-Wheeler said the BDT production lived up to the Broadway hype, and that Sydelle "definitely stole the show. She is gorgeous, and has an intense belt that meshed incredibly well with all the songs she sung." Beki Pineda of GetBoulder.com concurred that "Sydelle knocks it out of the ballpark as the naive girl who becomes disillusioned by the world she enters but never loses her sweetness."

    Olyvia Sydelle: At a glance

    As the daughter of two longtime Boulder actors, Olyvia Sydelle has grown up in front of BDT audiences, first playing child roles such as Liesl in The Sound of Music, and now as a grown-up in shows like Rock of Ages. She graduated from Standley Lake High School in Westminster and studied psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

    Joanie Brosseau: At a glance
    Joanie has appeared in dozens of productions on the BDT stage over the past 21 years. She attended Heritage High School. Favorite roles include Evita (Eva Peron), Peter Pan (Peter), Chicago (Roxie Hart), Sweet Charity (Charity Hope Valentine), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Mrs. Meers). She has also performed at The Arvada Center, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Lone Tree Arts Center, PACE Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and Heritage Square Opera House.

    Read more: At 40 BDT Stage celebrates its just desserts

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Cory Sapienza

    by John Moore | Dec 03, 2017
    True West 2017 Cory Sapienza Miners Alley Hir

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 3: Cory Sapienza

    Hir
    Miners Alley Playhouse

    This time last year, we here at the True West Awards were acknowledging Buntport Theater for adapting transitioning novelist Miriam Suzanne’s Riding SideSaddle for the stage. Because for all its presumed inclusiveness, the theatre at large has made very little room in the storytelling canon for those whose chromosomes straddle that crumbling boundary between strictly male and female. There have been virtually no stories about people whose gender identities either vary over time, or have come to include a combination of identities.

    And so, despite the 2016 award, Buntport ensemble member Erin Rollman was quick to point out that telling one trans person’s story was just a step, no more. “And the next step includes getting more trans actors on-stage and fully participating in the storytelling,” she said.

    So it was a big deal when Miners Alley Playhouse took one decisive step in that direction in February by casting high-school sophomore Cory Sapienza to play Maxine, a character who is transitioning into Max, in Taylor Mac’s absurd and disturbed comedy Hir. It’s the grossly exaggerated story of a dysfunctional family scarred by war, patriarchy, sexual abuse, racism, PTSD, sadism, and drug abuse. ... And then there's Max, whose unprecedented storyline is just one piece of the larger family dynamic at play.

    Oldest son Isaac is a troubled Marine whose job in Afghanistan was collecting body parts to send back home. He returns to a Durang-worthy family that has turned into a twisted clown show – literally. Sapienza, who identifies as a transguy, plays Isaac’s trans-masculine younger brother who, thanks to pills he buys off the internet, is starting to sprout some impressive facial hair.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Safe to say: This is not the kind of play Miners Alley Playhouse audiences are used to seeing. Meaning: It ain’t Neil Simon. And maybe that’s the point.

    Cory Sapienza Spotlife. Photo by Sarah RoshanDirector Josh Hartwell wasn’t all that interested in staging this play if he could not find a gender-appropriate actor with the depth the pull off the tricky role of Max. To Hartwell, it wasn’t just a matter of creating an opportunity for an invisible class of local actors. It was about creating a play with artistic credibility. And he had guidance from the playwright, who strongly urges anyone staging Hir to find a transgender actor to play Max.

    Enter Sapienza, who identifies himself in his Facebook profile as: "Actor. Artist. Transgender. Hufflepuff!” He was coming off an ensemble appearance in Performance Now’s Bye Bye Birdie. But Hartwell saw much stranger things in his immediate future.

    (Pictured above and right: Cory Sapienza and Royce Roeswood in the Miners Alley Playhouse's 'Hir.' Photo by Sarah Roshan.)

    “It’s a challenging script because it’s so dark and frankly hard to live in,” Hartwell said. “But Cory was prepared every day. He showed up every day with a great attitude, was willing to take direction and go to the places I asked him to go to. And it helped that he really understood the role.”

    Westword’s Juliet Wittman said Sapienza, who benefited greatly from a stellar supporting cast of Royce Roeswood, Martha Harmon Pardee and Marc Stith, made for “a convincing and sometimes touching Max.”

    In the Spotlife: Our full interview with Cory Sapienza

    Sapienza said Max has had a very different trans experience from his own, because he comes from what he calls a loving, stable and supportive home. What he loved most about this play, he said, “is that it focuses on issues that are so common, and yet so often overlooked. I loved playing a character who helped bring visibility to the transgender community.”

    It was a small step forward — but a daring one.

    "That playwrights are starting to write parts for trans actors is progress," Hartwell said. That smaller theatres like Miners Alley Playhouse are choosing a play like Hir out of the thousands of scripts they could stage is progress. That audiences in Golden were open to seeing it is probably the greatest progress of all.

    “But it’s not enough yet.” 

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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • 2017 True West Award: Silverthorne Performing Arts Center

    by John Moore | Dec 02, 2017
    True West Award 2017 Silverthorne

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 2: Silverthorne Performing Arts Center

    Lake Dillon Theatre Company Artistic Director Christopher Alleman
    Lake Dillon Theatre Company Executive Director Joshua Blanchard
    Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland

    The Lake Dillon Theatre Company struck gold in Silverthorne this summer when it opened the new $9 million Silverthorne Performing Arts Center in partnership with the town best known for its sprawl of irresistible outlet shops about 70 miles west of Denver.

    The new 16,000 square-foot jewel made up of three performing spaces has brought cultural and economic heft to a beloved, risk-taking theatre company that spent its first 23 years performing in "shoeboxes and storefronts," Artistic Director Christopher Alleman said. "It’s just so lovely to be producing theatre in a building that was actually designed to produce theatre."

    2017 True West Award Silverthorne Chris Alleman The deal called for Silverthorne to kick in $6.3 million and the theatre company $2.7 million. “This was the smartest thing we could have ever done,” Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland said. “It is supporting arts and culture, which is such an incredibly enriching tool for our community, particularly our youth. But it is also absolutely an investment in economic development."

    (Pictured from left: Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland, Lake Dillon Theatre Company Artistic Director Christopher Alleman and Executive Director Joshua Blanchard.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    It’s not some wild idea to say that if you bring culture to a downtown, you can generate economic activity. It’s been proven (again) in Silverthorne. “Before the first shovel went into the ground, we secured a 32-unit condo development that I can attribute directly to this partnership,” Hyland said. After the theatre opened in the Town Center, the town finally moved forward on the long-discussed "Fourth Street Crossing," a 3.8-acre redevelopment across the street from the theatre that will include a brewery, restaurants, high-end condos and a hotel. "And this performing-arts center is the catalyst," Hyland said.

    The Silverthorne Performing Arts Center is anchored by a still-intimate 165-seat mainstage theatre called The Flex, a 60-seat studio theatre and a small classroom performing space. The theatre company already has presented nine shows in the five months since opening, compared to six for the entire year preceding. The company has drawn 11,875 audiences to the new facility, outpacing the full year before by 1,720. Season passes have doubled.

    Read our full report on the Silverthorne opening

    Alleman has announced a robust and unafraid nine-play slate for 2018 that is filled with challenging dramas including the politically charged Building the Wall, Ugly Lies the Bone and the Pulitzer-winning Topdog/Underdog. Notably, the schedule only calls for one musical (Rock of Ages), but only, Alleman says, because the company is gearing up for its big 25th anniversary season in 2019. 

    Alleman and Executive Director Joshua Blanchard have turned Lake Dillon Theatre Company into a destination facility both for audiences and actors. And their spectacular success is easily one of the biggest stories of the year in Colorado theatre. 

    SILVERTHORNE Even more substantially, the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center is evolving into a town hall with education programs and meeting spaces available to the public. The theatre company finds itself hosting topical community forums on issues such as immigration, which has allowed it to broaden its community reach far beyond the performing arts. And even the business community has taken notice.

    "We are proof of how art can invigorate commerce and growth," Alleman said, "and you see it everywhere."

    Lake Dillon Theatre Company 2017
    (since opening the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center on June 23):

    • Sister Act
    • Buyer and Cellar
    • Ghost
    • Noises Off
    • Grounded
    • Pretty Fire
    • Through Dec. 17: Murder for Two
    Lake Dillon Theatre Company 2018:
    • Jan. 19-Feb. 11, 2018: Building the Wall
    • March 2-18, 2018: Ugly Lies the Bone
    • June 18-June 17, 2018: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
    • June 15-July 15, 2018: Rock of Ages
    • July 13-29, 2018: Topdog/Underdog
    • Aug. 3-Sept 2, 2018: The Underpants
    • Aug. 17-Sept. 2, 2018: Mr. Joy
    • Sept. 7- 23, 2018: I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 16, 2018: Constellations
    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

    SILVERTHORNEThis was the opening-night curtain call for 'Sister Act,' which christened the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center on June 23, 2017. Photo by John Moore for teh DCPA NewsCenter.
  • Video, photos: Your first look at 'A Christmas Carol' 2017

    by John Moore | Dec 01, 2017
    A Christmas Carol: Video


    Video above by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

     

    Your first look in video and photos at the seasonal staging that has come for a 25th time 'to save us everyone.'

    Here is your first look in video (above) and photos (below) at the DCPA Theatre Company's 2017 staging of A Christmas Carol, directed for the second time by Melissa Rain Anderson and starring Sam Gregory as Scrooge.


    Now in its 25th seasonal staging at the Denver Center, A Christmas Carol is a joyous and opulent musical adaptation that traces the money-hoarding skinflint Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 24 in the Stage Theatre. Ticket information below.

    A Christmas Carol: Production photos

    A Christmas Carol 2017

    Our full gallery of photos from the DCPA Theatre Company's 'A Christmas Carol. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by Adams Viscom for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    A Christmas Carol:
    Ticket information
    A Christmas CarolAt a glance: Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations.

    • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through Through Dec. 24
    • Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Carol 2017:
    Video: Governor, Carol cast send Colorado National Guard thanks and hope
    A Christmas Carol: A timeline to today
    DCPA's 25th A Christmas Carol brims with mistletoe and milestones
  • December theatre listings: Broadway abounds in Denver

    by John Moore | Dec 01, 2017
    Mannheim Steamroller. Matt Christine Photography

    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.


    December is ... well, Christmastime for Broadway fans, who have five touring titles to choose from this month.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    A serious Broadway fan will not have to go to New York to bathe in Broadway this month. Denver audiences have the unusual opportunity to see five national touring productions at the Buell Theatre over the next 32 days. Seriously. There's Chicago (through Sunday), Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, ELF The Musical, Waitress and, opening Jan. 2: Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King & I. Just pop a tent under the arches.

    Arvada Center Joseph Sarah Rex M Gale PhotographyElsewhere, there is as always a plethora of holiday-themed fare to choose from, ranging from annual offerings such as the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble's Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum and the DCPA Theatre Company's 25th staging of A Christmas Carol, to more subversive titles such as The Avenue Theatre's Santa's Big Red Sack and The SantaLand Diaries, an annual partnership between Off-Center and the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. This year also marks the return of the Arvada Center's once seasonal tradition, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

    There's also a surprising number of, you know ... plays on area stages. Here are five intriguing titles, followed by a complete list of all your Colorado theatregoing options for December:

    Five intriguing titles for December:

    NUMBER 1Colorado Gives Day is the most important day of the year for hundreds of Colorado non-profits, especially those in the arts. And the clever kids as Buntport Theater are turning "giving day" into a "show day" on Tuesday (Dec. 5) by staging a reading of one of its early favorites: Donner: A Documentary. That's a 2001 "live documentary" about the reindeer (not the, ahem ... party). Freshly baked cookies will be available as well as, no doubt, electronic gizmos for easy internet giving. Tickets $25 at buntport.com. It's an early start time of 7 p.m. because there is a pizza party after at the Pizzeria Locale on Broadway and Sixth Avenue. The pizzeria will donate 50 percent of your purchase to anyone who mentions Buntport that day. 

    NUMBER 2 Jason Spina Phil Luna Red RDG PHOTOGRAPHYMotones vs. Jerseys. BDT Stage no doubt will be packing them in this month with the timeless family friendly musical Annie. But you know what? That adorable little red-headed munchkin is not, in fact, for everyone. So BDT is smartly also offering the "now for something completely different" audience participation 1960s pop music battle Motones vs. Jerseys on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights starting Dec. 10. It's an evening of song and dance from the Motown and Four Seasons songbooks, along with Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Beach Boys, Rick James and even Bruno Mars. At the end of each  night, the audience will vote on a winner. 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    NUMBER 3Smokefall. Last month we told you The Edge Theatre is going on hiatus after  Josh Hartwell's world premiere comedy Resolutions (Dec. 1-31) in Lakewood. The new Benchmark Theatre, which will takes over The Edge's performance space next year, finishes its first season at Buntport with the world premiere of Noah Haidle’s Smokefall. It's an unusual family drama that combines everything from vaudeville to magical realism. So get ready for fetuses swapping philosophy, a daughter who eats dirt and an apple tree that grows through the walls of the house. Dec. 1-23 at 717 Lipan St., benchmarktheatre.com.

    NUMBER 4Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum. Cleo Parker Robinson Dance's nomadic, 47-year holiday tradition returns to its original home in Denver’s Historic Five Points for this year's spectacle of dance, live music, spoken word and ornate celebrations of seasonal customs from around the world. The story centers around a Granny whose memories are her gifts to those she loves. Dec. 2-17 at 119 Park Avenue West, 303-295-1759 x13 or go to cleoparkerdance.org.

    NUMBER 5The Gnome in the Room. This is not your traditional Christmas fare in Colorado Springs, where the Springs Ensemble Theatre wraps up its eighth season with a campy horror story involving decoration, death, divorce, relatives, mythological beings who can't keep their noses out of other people's business — and a Nintendo Entertainment System, Written by locals Jenny Maloney and Jessica Weaver, The Gnome in the Room follows a 10-year-old whose family has decided they will not celebrate Christmas this year, leaving the boy stuck in a cabin with no hope of getting what he wants. Enter the Weirdo and the Gnome. Dec. 7-17 at 1903 E. Cache La Poudre St. 7:30 p.m.  Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Call 719-357-3080, or go to  springsensembletheatre.org.

    A Christmas Carol 2017. Michael Fitzpatrick and Leslie O'Carroll. Photo by Adams Viscom


    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Dec. 1-31: Edge Theatre Company's Resolutions
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheater.com

    Dec. 1-23: Benchmark Theatre's Smokefall
    At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., benchmarktheatre.com

    Dec. 1-16: Funky Little Theatre Company's The Couple Next Door
    2109 Templeton Gap Road, Colorado Springs, 719-425-9509 or funkylittletheater.org

    DecemberSantasBigRedSack Dec. 1-24: The Avenue Theater's Santa’s Big Red Sack
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

    Dec. 1-9: StageDoor Theatre's Cinderella
    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819 or stagedoortheatre.org

    Dec. 1-30: Jesters Dinner Theatre's Scrooge, Bah Humbug!
    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com

    Dec. 1-23: OpenStage's Christmas Chaos: Ralphie Gets Scrooged
    At ArtLab, 239 Linden St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or www.openstagetheatre.org

    Dec. 2-17: Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre’s Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum
    119 Park Avenue West, cleoparkerdance.org or 303-295-1759 x13

    Dec. 7-24: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Every Christmas Story Ever Told
    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or boulderensembletheatre.org

    A Su Teatro Juan Diego PerfilDec. 7-23: Su Teatro's The Miracle at Tepeyac
    At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    Dec. 7, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College's Annie

    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Dec. 7-17: Lone Tree Arts Center's Home for the Holidays
    10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, lone tree’s home page

    Dec. 7-17: Thunder River Theatre Company's Constellations
    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com

    Dec. 7-17: Upstart Crow's Dear Brutus
    At the Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or upstart’s home page

    Dec. 7-23: Millibo Arts Theatre's Fa-La-La
    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, www.themat.org

    EmoryJohnCollinsonBobMorschandCyndiParrinGNOMEINTHEROOMDec. 7-17: Springs Ensemble Theatre’s The Gnome in the Room
    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 80909, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org

    Dec. 8-17: Longmont Theatre Company's Harry Connick Jr’s The Happy Elf

    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    Dec. 9-10: National touring production of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 13-17: National touring production of Elf The Musical
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 19-31: National touring production of Waitress
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Dec. 10, 2017-Jan. 23, 2018: BDT Stage's Motones vs. Jerseys
    (Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays only)
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Dec. 14-29: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s A Rocky Mountain Christmas
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Dec. 14-23: Denver's Dangerous Theatre's The Perfect Gift
    2620 W. 2nd Ave, No. 1, Denver, 720-989-1764 or dangeroustheatre.co

    Dec. 17-23: Evergreen Players’ A Christmas Carol (costumed staged readings)
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.org

    Dec. 30-31: Vintage Theatre's I’ll Eat You Last: A Conversation with Sue Mengers
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Jan. 2: National touring production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King & I
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through Dec. 2: Equinox Theatre Company's Disaster!
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page

    Through Dec. 3: National touring production of Chicago
    Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through Dec. 9: Curious Theatre's Body of an American
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org  READ MORE

    BEAU JESTThrough Dec. 10: Cherry Creek Theatre's Beau Jest
    At the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver, 303-800-6578 or cherry creek theatre’s home page

    Through Dec.17: Bas Bleu Theatre's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    Through Dec. 17: Vintage Theatre Productions' Honeymoon In Vegas

    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Dec. 17: Lake Dillon Theatre Company's Murder for Two
    Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Pkwy, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    Through Dec. 17: Anansi: The Itsy BiTSY Spider Stories
    1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com

    Through Dec. 23: Arvada Center's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org





    Through Dec. 23: Aurora Fox's Hi-Hat Hattie (see video above)
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org READ MORE

    Through Dec. 23: TheatreWorks' The SantaLand Diaries
    At the Bon Vivant Theatre, 3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    Through Dec. 23: Miners Alley Playhouse's A Christmas Carol
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through Dec. 23: Miners Alley Playhouse's The Story of the Nutcracker (children’s)
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    Through Dec. 23: Firehouse Theater Company’s The Miracle Worker
    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehousetheatercompany.com 

    Through Dec. 24: DCPA Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol
    Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Santaland Diaries Michael BouchardThrough Dec. 24: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and DCPA Off-Center's The SantaLand Diaries
    Jones Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    Through Dec. 29: Arvada Center's A Year With Frog and Toad (children’s) 
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Through Dec. 30: Town Hall Arts Center's Seussical
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.com

    Through Dec. 30: Thin Air Theatre Company's Angel of the Christmas Mine
    Butte Theatre, 139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com

    Through Dec. 31: Midtown Arts Center's A Christmas Story
    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    Through Dec. 31: Avenue Theater's Comedy Sportz (late nights in December)
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com READ MORE

    A Josh Hartwell Jason Maxwell. Photo by Sarah Roshan 400Through Jan. 14, 2018: Vintage Theatre Productions' Red
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

    Through Feb. 14, 2018: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's Beauty and the Beast
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    Through Feb. 24, 2018: BDT Stage's Annie
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    Through April 22, 2018: DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    Garner Galleria Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through May 2018: Buntport Theater's Siren Song (ongoing children's series, second Saturdays of every month)
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com

    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE

    AURORA FOX ARTS CENTER

    • Dec. 31: Central City Opera’s Winter Song, a mix of favorite tunes from jazz standards to light opera, performed by crossover classical theatre artists Jennifer DeDominici, Chad Reagan, Amanda Raddatz and Deborah Schmit-Lobis. Includes a champagne and dessert reception.

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

    BUNTPORT THEATRE


    DENVER ACTORS FUND
    • A RyanChrysRoughCuts 400Monday, Dec. 11: Screening of the film Elf, starring Will Ferrell, with live pre-screening entertainment from The Longmont Theatre Company's Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7.
    At Alamo Drafthouse Sloans Lake, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    • Tuesday, Dec. 19: The Nightly Met Christmas Special at the D.L. Parsons Theatre in Northglenn, hosted by  Avery Anderson and Annie Dwyer, featuring Anna High, and Ryan Chrys and Rough Cuts. Tickets $8-$10. All proceeds to the Denver Actors Fund.  BUY TICKETS
    EQUINOX THEATRE COMPANY
    Sunday, Dec. 10: Equinox: The Season is Slaying (A drag benefit show)
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page
       
    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
    • Saturday, Dec. 16: Making Merry (at Dairy Arts Center, Boulder)

    • Sunday, Dec. 17: Making Merry (at the King Center, 855 Lawrence Way, Auraria campus)

    303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org

    Stories on Stage has renowned actors bring stories to life by combining literature with theater. This month, Jamie Horton reads from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, GerRee Hinshaw reads Crimble Wocky by Graham Potter (a Lewis Carroll-inspired variation on The Night Before Christmas), Anthony Adu reads from "The Goldfish” by Simon Van Booy. Music provided by award-winning composer/pianist Gary Grundei.

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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.