Grander Opening

Capital campaign envisions ‘A Grander Opening’ for DCPA

The Stage Theatre will be renamed The Marvin and Judi Wolf Theatre upon its reopening in November 2020. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Stage Theatre will be renamed Marvin and Judi Wolf Theatre upon its reopening in 2020; effort already 75 percent to goal

For the first time in its 40-year history, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is mounting a public capital campaign to fund the renovation of the Stage and Ricketson theatres, the overhaul of backstage and support areas, and the redesign of the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby.

DCPA Chairman Martin Semple today announced 100 percent participation from the Board of Trustees in the campaign, called “A Grander Opening,” including an undisclosed lead gift from long-time DCPA supporters Marvin and Judi Wolf. The Stage Theatre will be renamed The Marvin and Judi Wolf Theatre upon its reopening in November 2020.

(Pictured at right: A student enjoys the snowy finale of 'A Christmas Carol' in the Stage Theatre in 2016. Photo by Amanda Tipton.)

A student enjoys the snowy finale of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in the Stage Theatre in 2016. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Semple also named Hassan Salem, Regional President of U.S. Bank, as Chair of the effort. He will be joined by Judi Wolf and retired Denver Post Chairman Dean Singleton as Honorary Campaign Co-Chairs. The two have served on the DCPA’s Board of Trustees for a combined 30 years.

Salem said the campaign already is 75 percent of the way toward its $36 million goal. He said $19 million will come from voter-approved General Obligation bonds, $8 million from DCPA Trustees and $9 million from future contributions.

“The Denver Center is overwhelmed with gratitude,” said Semple. “First, to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, the Denver City Council and our voters for their support of the General Obligation Bond initiative. Second, to our trustees who have collectively pledged $8 million toward our goal. And last, but by no means least, to Marvin and Judi Wolf, whose signature gift reflects their commitment to the DCPA, to theatre and to our community.”

Judi Wolf, who was named Colorado’s Citizen of the Arts in 2012, said the naming gift is an elaborate Valentine’s Day gift from her husband of 30 years, an oil-and-gas man who came to the theatre when he met his wife. “Judi is so engrossed with it, and does so much for it that I had no option other than to go along with her.”

It has been Marvin’s “tough problem,” as he describes it, “to come up with a gift for Judi that I thought she deserved.” But, his wife said, he nailed this one.

“How many women get a stage for Valentine’s Day?” she said. “This is a gift that he gave me from the heart, and the idea that there will be people who will enjoy long after we are gone gives me goosebumps.”

Funds from the capital campaign will be used to:

  • Rebuild the Stage and Ricketson theatres and back-of-house areas
  • Install new seating, improved sightlines and state-of-the-art technology
  • Connect The Ricketson Theatre to the main lobby and add an elevator to improve accessibility
  • Increase energy efficiency of lighting and mechanical systems
  • Update critical fire detection and suppression systems
  • Provide new levels of physical accessibility to all seating and backstage areas
  • Improve assistive listening systems and audio description capabilities

“We are so fortunate to have a community that supports the performing arts, and we look forward to engaging donors far and wide to ensure we meet our fundraising goal,” said DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden. “We look forward celebrating the culmination of A Grander Opening with the reopening of the Ricketson Theatre in 2021.”

A Grander Opening is a continuation of the DCPA’s facility master plan, which most recently included the renovation of The Space Theatre. The Denver Center manages the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex (including its four theatres, Seawell Ballroom, Directors Room, lobby and office areas), the Garner Galleria Theatre, and the Newman Center for Theatre Education (including its administrative offices, education classrooms, and theatre design and production shops). Over the past 10 years, the DCPA has invested $32.5 million in capital improvements.

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Photo gallery: The Stage Theatre through the years

The Stage Theatre through the years
Photos from productions at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Stage Theatre. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of downloadable photos.

“From its Broadway tours to its original plays, the DCPA has provided world-class theatre that has helped make Denver a world-class city,” said Salem. “Now we need to ensure that its venues match the quality of the productions on its stages so that we continue to attract top talent, book first-run shows and deliver entertainment options that are second to none.”

Stage Theatre. 'Sweeney Todd.' Photo by Adams Viscom. .

Stage Theatre. ‘Sweeney Todd.’ Photo by Adams Viscom. .

The Stage Theatre will be closed following the spring production of Anna Karenina (Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019) and reopen in November 2020 in time for the return of A Christmas Carol. The Ricketson Theatre will be closed in April 2020 and reopen in Spring 2021. Work on backstage support areas, offices and the lobby will occur concurrently with the theatre renovations.

The DCPA is working with Semple Brown Design on plans for the project, which will honor the vision of the original design team: Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kevin Roche of Roche Dinkeloo and Associates, theatrical scenic and lighting designer Jo Melziener; Gordon Davidson, Artistic Director of L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum, and DCPA founder Donald Seawell. Additionally, the construction contract is expected to be awarded in mid-June.

“We’re going to replace seats, improve sightlines, enhance acoustics and improve the state-of-the-art technology for productions in the theatre,” said Chris Wineman of Semple Brown Design.

The major structural change to the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex will be a new staircase and elevator bank that will provide access to the Ricketson Theatre directly from the main lobby that already connects the Stage and Space theatres.

“We think this is going to make the whole building work together and make it much easier for patrons to navigate their arrivals whether they are coming to the Bonfils Theatre Complex for first time, or the thousandth time,” Wineman said.

“Beyond the physical improvements,” said Sinden, “this renovation also will allow our spaces to accommodate artists’ imaginations, inspire students’ creativity and welcome guests to stories that reflect their lives. By preserving these facilities, exceeding accessibility standards and equipping the spaces with new technological advances, we will continue to provide world-class theatre experiences in world-class facilities.”

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Watch as Chris Wineman, principal at Semple Brown Design, gave those who attended today’s press conference an animated video tour that shows many of the improvements to both The Stage and Ricketson theatres and their lobbies.

For Judi Wolf, the reopening of The Stage Theatre in 2020 will have special significance because she was in attendance when the Denver Center opened on New Year’s Eve 1979. “Time magazine called the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex ‘the Crown Jewel of the Rockies,’ ” Wolf said.  “It gives us such great pleasure not only to renovate a space, but also to reinvigorate its possibilities, unleash artistic potential and set the stage for memories that will last another 40 years and beyond.”

Judi Wolf has been a staunch supporter of the DCPA since its beginning, and she has taken a particularly keen interest in the craft of costuming, often attending opening nights in attire that reflects the accompanying story.  For example, she wore a toga to the opening of the 10-hour epic Greek cycle Tantalus in 2000. She arrived at The Little Mermaid in 2007 dressed as Ariel’s mother where she held fish-shaped balloons while her household manager blew bubbles in her wake.

She is just sorry, Wolf said, that Seawell is not still here to see this next chapter in DCPA history.

“Donald Seawell had a vision, which was to create a theatre for the community where dreams were realized and imaginations soared,” she said. “We are proud to continue his legacy and ensure that this crown jewel is enjoyed for generations to come.”

How to contribute to A Grander Opening

To contribute to A Grander Opening, please contact Janice Sinden at or 303-893-4000. For ongoing updates and opportunities, please visit and follow #GranderOpening on social media.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Photo gallery: From today’s press announcement

2018 DCPA Capital Campaign

Photos from productions at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Stage Theatre. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of downloadable photos..

Stage Theatre. Photo by John Moore.

Stage Theatre. Photo by John Moore.

Stage Theatre. Photo by John Moore. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.