A 'Gruesome' introduction to self-producing live theatre

DCPA Teaching Artists Mackenzie Sherburne and Kevin Lowry in Passage Theatre Company's 'Gruesome Playground Injuries.'
Self-producers and stars Mackenzie Sherburne and Kevin Lowry in ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries.’ Production photos by Eli Carpenter.

Creating live theatre is hard enough. Creating and self-producing live theatre can be gruesome.

Local theatre lore is filled with horror stories of, say, those married parents who refinanced their home to produce a play – and lost it.

Kevin Lowry (Instructor) Mackenzie Paulsen (Instructor) The Denver metro theatre community has about 35 companies that stage full annual seasons of theatre programming. Twice that many are nomadic troupes that pop up whenever they scrape together the resources to put on another play.

Then there are those naïve and noble creative souls who decide to form a company to stage a specific play from scratch. They have no money, no theatre space, no equipment and, most dauntingly – no audience.

They pool their meager financial resources. They beg, borrow and steal from their artistic brethren. And they put on a show. It’s a romantic and often financially suicidal creative pursuit. They almost always lose their shirts. Along with next month’s rent.

And they almost never regret it.

That is just what DCPA Teaching Artists Mackenzie Sherburne and Kevin Lowry are undertaking right now by self-producing Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer-nominated play Gruesome Playground Injuries through Aug. 9 in a developing multimedia arts warehouse in LoDo. The play is a series of vignettes that trace the accident-prone relationship between two friends from age 8 through 30.

This whole self-producing thing is going to leave some scars. And they know it.

“We know we are going to lose money,” Sherburne said. “We just hope we don’t lose too much money.”

So why do they do it? Not just Sherburne and Lowry … but generations of foolhardy artists who have come before them?

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