2020 Colorado New Play Summit casting includes first Native American Oscar winner for acting

DeLanna Studi, left, and her Oscar-winning uncle, Wes Studi, are coming to the upcoming Colorado New Play Summit.

The region’s largest new-play festival will gather dozens of actors, directors, playwrights and crew

The DCPA Theatre Company has announced casting for the 2020 Colorado New Play Summit under the leadership of Artistic Director Chris Coleman, who will bring both familiar and new names to Denver and the Rocky Mountain region’s largest new-play festival.

The Summit, which will take place over two weekends February 15-16 and 21-23, will feature readings of new plays by Benjamin Benne, L M Feldman, Yussef El Guindi, Colorado native Jessica Kahkoska, and co-writers Suzan Shown Harjo and Mary Kathryn Nagle. Festival visitors also will attend previously announced, fully staged word-premiere productions by Bonnie Metzgar (You Lost Me) and Tony Meneses (twenty50).

The eclectic lineup includes Wes Studi, a Cherokee American actor who last year received an honorary Academy Award for his portrayal of Native Americans in films such as Dances with Wolves and The Last of the Mohicans. Studi, who became the first Native American to receive an Oscar for acting, will appear here in Reclaiming One Star, a DCPA Theatre Company commission that shatters the myth behind the story of how Washington’s NFL franchise came to adopt its racist nickname. Studi’s niece, DeLanna Studi, also will appear in the reading. She previously performed in Denver in the first national touring production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County in 2009. Her one-woman play And So We Walked retraces her family’s footsteps along the 900-mile Trail of Tears with her father.

Hailed as a “must-see stop for new-play development” by American Theatre, the Colorado New Play Summit is the DCPA’s signature festival dedicated to supporting playwrights and developing new work. Participating playwrights are given two weeks with professional directors, actors and dramaturgs to workshop new plays. Industry professionals and the public are invited to meet the artists, experience staged readings and provide feedback on the work as it is being developed.

Read our full report from the 2019 Colorado New Pay Summit

The 2020 Summit will feature many artists who will be familiar to Colorado theatre audiences. Among them:

  • Kate MacCluggage recently starred in the title role of the DCPA Theatre Company’s Anna Karenina
  • Tara Falk (Sweat) and Gareth Saxe (Macbeth) are currently performing in the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere play You Lost Me
  • Zeus Mendoza and Valentina Guerra are currently performing in the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere play twenty50
  • Iliana Lucero Barron was in the cast for the 2019 Summit reading of twenty50, and is a Shakespeare in the Parking Lot Teaching Artist, and recently appeared in both Su Teatro’s Northside and Vintage Theatre’s Frost/Nixon
  • Ryan Omar Stack is a DCPA Education Master Class student who is currently appearing in Benchmark Theatre’s regional premiere of Airness
  • Seth Dhonau just played Valentine and Alex Purcell played Sebastian in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night
  • Jerry Ruiz directed the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere of Fade in 2016
  • Chelsea Frye has performed in several previous Summits and was recently one of the “dates” in Off-Center’s on-on-one experiment called Blind Date
  • Lenne Klingaman starred in the DCPA Theatre Company’s world-premiere production of Appoggiatura, as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and played Hamlet for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival before landing a leading role in the national touring production of Waitress and later Broadway
  • Timothy McCracken is the Head of Acting for DCPA Education and recently appeared in the Theatre Company’s Anna Karenina
  • Leigh Miller and Brian Shea are longtime DCPA Teaching Artists who have appeared in many Theatre Company productions, most recently Anna Karenina

All casting by Grady Soapes, CSA.

Just a few of the familiar Denver Center faces who will be appearing in the DCPA’s 2019 Colorado New Play Summit, top row from left: Iliana Lucero Barron, Seth Dhonau, Tara Falk, Chelsea Frye and Valentina Guerra. Second row: Lenne Klingaman, Kate MacCluggage, Tim McCracken, Zeus Mendoza and Leigh Miller. Third row: Alex Purcell, Gareth Saxe, Brian Shea, Ryan Omar Stack and Colorado New Play Summit Producer and Casting Director Grady Soapes.


(*subject to change)


  • By Benjamin Benne
  • Directed by Catherine Maria Rodriguez
  • Dramaturgy by Xiomara Cornejo

For Alma, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, and her 17-year-old daughter, Angel, a study session uncovers the dreams and despair over their future. As Alma quizzes Angel with vocabulary for the SATs, Angel tests Alma on American History for the citizenship exam. Feeling both an overwhelming excitement over the possibilities their tests can offer as well as the dread about the laws and loopholes stacked against them, they encourage each other to find hope in the uncertainty. But will the American Dream cost them a life together? Benjamin Benne’s touching family drama won the Arizona Theatre Company’s 2019 National Latinx Playwriting Award and American Blues Theater’s 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award.

Cast and crew:

  • Alma: Danaya Esperanza
  • Angel: Amandla Jahava
  • Stage Directions: Iliana Lucero Barron

Feldman,_L_MAnother Kind of Silence

  • By L M Feldman
  • Directed by: Bevin O’Gara
  • Director of Artistic Sign Language: Lewis Merkin

Balancing work, love and everything in between doesn’t come easily for two artistic couples living in Greece. Chap’s artwork lines the walls of her partner Ana’s café while Peter’s successful career as a composer overshadows his wife Evan’s struggle to write. When Evan and Chap spark an intimate friendship, the two couples and their four “shadow-souls “must confront the challenges of communication and the transformative nature of desire. A bilingual play unfurling simultaneously in English and American Sign Language, this breathtaking ensemble piece was a finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and received Honorable Mentions from both The Kilroys List and the FEWW Prize. Note: Another Kind of Silence will be read on Friday, February 21, and Sunday, February 23 only.

Cast and crew:

  • Evan: Kate MacCluggage
  • Evan’s Chorus: Beth Applebaum
  • Chap: Alexandria Wailes
  • Chap’s Chorus: Thomas DellaMonica
  • Ana: Monique Holt
  • Ana’s Chorus: Lenne Klingaman
  • Peter: Deven Kolluri
  • Peter’s Chorus: James Caverly
  • Interpreters/Stage Directions: Natalie Austin and JaCee Branch

El_Guindi,_YussefHotter Than Egypt

  • By Yussef El Guindi
  • Directed by Chris Coleman
  • Dramaturgy by Nakissa Etemad

No matter where you live, the ups and downs of married life are universal. For a middle-aged American couple traveling to Egypt on a business trip-slash-vacation, their relationship is put to the test when an old connection leads to new temptation. Drawing from the political, cultural and religious realities of living in the region, this fiery drama set in the heat of Cairo pits loyalty against attraction as its characters grapple with the ever-changing realities of staying committed to their partners. Middle East American Distinguished Playwright Award winner Yussef El Guindi specializes “in cultural and geographical displacement, from alienated couples to the promises and frustrations of immigration, and the ways people maneuver through foreignness and belonging” (Seattle Times).

Cast and crew:

  • Paul: Gareth Saxe
  • Seif: Wasim No’Mani
  • Maha: Monika Jolly
  • Jean: Kirsten Potter
  • Boatman/Museum Guard/Doorman: Alex Purcell
  • Stage Directions: Ryan Omar Stack

Suzan Shown Harjo and Mary Kathryn NagleReclaiming One Star

A DCPA Theatre Company Commission

  • By Suzan Shown Harjo and Mary Kathryn Nagle
  • Directed by Madeline Sayet
  • Dramaturgy by Doug Langworthy

The truth proves stranger than fiction in the story behind the racist name of the football franchise the Washington R*dsk*ns. Team owners have long maintained that the name honors Native Americans because it pays homage to an early coach, allegedly a “full-blooded Sioux.” But when Tony One Star sets out to uncover the facts behind his granduncle’s life and mysterious death, he shatters the myth behind the mascot. Equal parts detective thriller and courtroom drama, DCPA commissioned playwright/lawyer Mary Kathryn Nagle and 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and policy advocate Suzan Shown Harjo’s new work draws from their experiences and real-life legal intrigue to give you an insider’s look at the multifaceted case, including perspectives of attorneys defending the team’s name and the people they want to keep quiet about the slur.

Cast and crew:

  • Tunkasitku James One Star/Tony One Star: Kenny Ramos
  • Ateya Uncle One Star/Leksi Albert One Star: Wes Studi
  • Sallie Eagle Horse /Tashina (Tash) One Star: Nathalie Standingcloud
  • Angel De Cora/Sage: DeLanna Studi
  • William Dietz/Daniel Snyder: Leigh Miller
  • Richard Henry Pratt/Attorney: Tim McCracken
  • White Chorus Woman: Tara Falk
  • White Chorus Man: Brian Shea

Kahkoska,_JessicaIn Her Bones

  • By Jessica Kahkoska
  • Directed by: Jerry Ruiz
  • Dramaturgy by: Lynde Rosario

Colorado’s San Luis Valley is world-renowned for its beauty, but the area holds a deeper clandestine heritage: The legacy of Sephardic Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition five centuries ago. When Mia returns to the region for her grandmother’s funeral, she’s forced to confront a past that she is both fleeing and seeking out. As she looks back on family memories, another world creeps in — one of shadows, forgotten prayers, and secrets hiding right in plain sight. Unearth the complicated legacy of Crypto-Judaism in the Southwest through this unlikely alpine tale of faith, fear and how we pass on culture when written records are too dangerous to keep. Kahkoska, a native of Black Forest and a graduate of Rampart High School in Colorado Springs, received the 2019 Powered by Off-Center Residency at the DCPA to develop this play.

  • Raquel: Laura Crotte
  • Lea: Zilah Mendoza
  • Mia: Valentina Guerra
  • Moises: Zeus Mendoza
  • Outsider: Seth Dhonau
  • Stage Directions: Chelsea Frye


twenty50 | by Tony Meneses

  • Directed by Henry Godinez
  • World Premiere
  • DCPA Theatre Company Commission | Developed at the 2019 Colorado New Play Summit

Andres Salazar is running for office. By this time, Latinx people have been assimilated into the majority of the United States, but race issues are far from resolved. In this tricky political environment, Andres must decide whether identifying himself as a Mexican American will help or hinder him on Election Day, and whether losing some of his own identity is worth the potential social benefits. When a mysterious stranger appears at their house, Andres’ family rallies around him to save his imperiled campaign in this insightful drama from rising playwright Tony Meneses, “a distinctive voice worthy of attention” (New Jersey Star Ledger). On the brink of our upcoming presidential election, this suspenseful thriller peels back the façade of campaign-trail craziness to reveal how power and shifting identity blur our truths with those of the greater whole.

Read more: Take a deeper dive into twenty50

You Lost Me | by Bonnie Metzgar

  • Directed by Margot Bordelon
  • World Premiere developed at the 2019 Colorado New Play Summit

In 1828, 17-year-old Ann Harvey saved 160 Irish people from a wreck off of Newfoundland’s Shipwreck Coast, making her an instant hero. Almost 200 years later, the Harvey family homestead has become the Shipwreck Inn, where present-day proprietress Ann Harvey attempts to leave her own mark (and get some new customers) with a tourist blog. Her nephew Joe-L, on the other hand, would do anything to leave his hometown and start a new life somewhere else. Freely flow through time as unexpected guests and echoes of the past leave their indelible mark on the people that hold vigil along their remote and rocky shore. A memory house for all those lost at sea, this Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Festival finalist is a poetic, wistful and bright new drama that reminds us that every moment holds the opportunity to change everything.

Read more: Take a deeper dive into You Lost Me

The 15th Annual Colorado New Play Summit

  • Launch Weekend: February 15-16
  • Festival Weekend: February 21-23. All-inclusive Festival Weekend packages include five play readings and two fully staged world premieres, plus meals and special events
  • Details and packages available at denvercenter.org

The 2020 Colorado New Play Summit is presented by AT&T, Sheri & Lee Archer/New Wave Enviro, The Joy S. Burns Commission in Women’s Playwriting, Daniel L. Ritchie, Semple Brown Design, Robert & Carole Slosky, and Transamerica.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Photo gallery: 2019 Colorado New Play Summit

Photos by Adams VisCom and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Check out our complete gallery of more than 300 Colorado New Play Summit photos

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