First rehearsal: Forecast calls for 'A Snowy Day' at DCPA

Making of 'The Snowy Day'

Photos from the first day of rehearsal for ‘The Snowy Day Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats‬‬‬‬‬,’ featuring a cast of, from left: Zak Reynolds, Rachel Kae Taylor and Robert Lee Hardy. To see more photos, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Up to 20,000 area children will experience what Director Allison
Watrous calls ‘the largest pop-up book ever.’

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

DCPA Education is fully launching its new Theatre for Young Audiences program on Sept. 21 with the opening of The Snowy Day and Other Stories in the Conservatory Theatre. It is estimated that 20,000 children from around the metro area will see the fully interactive production sometime this fall. 

The Snowy Day, written in 1962 by Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, tells the simple story of a boy named Peter and the wonder of his first encounter with snow. The stage production also will include Keats’ Whistle for Willie, Goggles and A Letter to Amy, each representing one season of the year.

The Denver Center production, staged in full partnership with the design team from the DCPA Theatre Company, will include multimedia, puppets, projections and, of course … lots of snow. “We are approaching this as the largest pop-up book ever,” said Allison Watrous, both the DCPA’s Director of Education and the Director of The Snowy Day. Added Scenic Designer Lisa M. Orzolek: “We’re excited for this opportunity to bring the same quality of theatre to little people that we regularly offer on our main stages.”

The cast, which gathered for the first time Tuesday, will feature Robert Lee Hardy as Peter, along with Zak Reynolds and Rachel Kae Taylor in ensemble roles. Hardy played Carl Lee Hailey in Vintage Theatre’s recent production of A Time to Kill. Taylor, who also will assist in designing shadow puppets for the play, is a DCPA Teaching Artist and At-Risk Coordinator.

“I am excited for students to walk into the Conservatory Theatre and say to themselves, ‘I can see myself as the hero of a story. I can see myself inside a story. And I can create my own story,’ ” Watrous said. “What Ezra Jack Keats is saying to them is, ‘Yes, you absolutely can create a story.’ And we want to help them to discover their authentic voice in that process.”

Story continues after the photo:

The Snowy Day. Photo by John Moore.

Watrous promises a brightly colored world that will depict the simple beauty of discovery in singular childhood moments such as learning how to whistle, discovering snow and the art of the first jump-rope. Keats’ series was considered revolutionary for its time because he chose to make a black child his protagonist. Keats’ stories also address the challenges of growing up, from social interactions to bullying to how to properly ask a girl to a second-grader’s birthday party.

School groups will be invited to stay after each performance and participate in complementary (and complimentary!) 45-minute workshops presented by DCPA Teaching Artists. “That will give them the opportunity to really dive into the tactile world of the show inside our studio classrooms,” Watrous said.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

The creative team includes many family connections, including Stage Manager Rachel Ducat and her husband, award-winning Sound Designer Jason Ducat. “We have 3-year-old twins and we are excited to expose them to theatre,” said Rachel Ducat.

The goal of the Theatre for Young Audiences program is not only to expose children to theatre at a young age, but to give them an boost in their overall childhood development as well. According to the Denver Great Kids Head Start Community Assessment 2016, early exposure to the arts reduces dropout rates, improves standardized test scores, increases graduation rates and increases the likelihood of a student receiving a college degree (the latter by 165 percent).

The Snowy Day. Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski, Photo by John Moore. “If you cultivate the wonder of the arts at an early age, then that becomes part of the fabric of the learner – and the human being,” Watrous said. “Theatre makes you a stronger reader. Theatre makes you more collaborative. Theatre makes connections in your mind that can change how you look at a book, how you look at a painting, how you look at a sculpture and how you look at difficult issues in our world. Of all the beautiful transferable skills you can develop through live theatre, perhaps the most important is that it can make you more empathetic in how you view the world.”

(Pictured right: The DCPA’s Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski has developed the classroom curriculum that accompanies the ‘Snowy Day’ experience. Photo by John Moore.)

Most of the 100 performances will be held on weekdays for schools taking field trips to the Denver Center. Saturday performances will be open to the public. Tickets are $10, but the DCPA will make 9,000 “scholarships” (free tickets) available to teachers whose students need financial assistance to attend.

“I am just beyond excited for our community,” said Denver Center President and CEO Janice Sinden. “This is why we are here. It’s all about the children. This is our future.” 

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.

Cast and creative team:

  • Actors: Robert Lee Hardy, Zak Reynolds and Rachel Kae Taylor
  • Director: Allison Watrous
  • Music Direction: Robyn Yamada
  • Scenic Design: Lisa M. Orzolek
  • Costume and Puppet Design: Kevin Copenhaver
  • Projection Design: Matthew Plamp
  • Composer: Victor Zupanc
  • Lighting Design: Shannon McKinney
  • Stage Manager: Rachel Ducat
  • Sound Design: Jason Ducat

The Snowy Day and Other Stories: Ticket information

  • Written by Ezra Jack Keats; adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston
  • Sept. 21-Nov. 18
  • School performances: Weekdays 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. (except Thursdays are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.)
  • Public performances: 1:30 p.m. Saturdays
  • Conservatory Theatre, located in the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education, 1101 13th St.,
  • Tickets $10 (discounts and scholarships available)
  • Best suited for: Pre-K through third grade
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Teachers: Inquire by clicking here or calling 303-446-4829

Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Snowy Day

DCPA Education to launch Theatre for Young Audiences

The Snowy Day. Allsion Watrous. Photo by John Moore. Director Allison Watrous, with her cast behind her, at the first rehearsal for ‘The Snowy Day.’ Photo by John Moore.

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